Three months shy of his 68th birthday, Butch Davis looks nothing like a guy who’s ready to start slowing down.
In fact, as he walked off the practice field following the final day of FIU’s training camp, Davis was downright giddy.
“Hey! Did you see the toys I got the guys, they’re going to love these,” Davis yelled as he emerged from the West tunnel of Riccardo Silva Stadium.
The “toys” that he was referring to were swimming goggles, floaties, and a few other pool items for his players to wear as they entered the dreaded cold tub following practice.
“I stopped off at Walmart on the way in today, my guys enjoyed the trip to the (Fontainebleau) hotel, so I know they’re not afraid of the water,” said Davis. “I got some stuff I’m going to make them wear when they hit the cold tub,” said Davis.
With the team 11 days from the 2019 season-opener at Tulane, it’s full speed ahead for the Panther coaching staff as they turn their attention to the Green Wave.
“We still have a few special teams’ guys we’re looking at and a few packages on both sides of the ball that we’re installing, but outside of that, we’re looking at Tulane and it’ll start being a game week for us,” said Davis.
Whether it’s practice or game days, one of the loudest and most distinct voices that’s heard on the field is that of FIU offensive line coach Allen Mogridge.
The Sevierville, Tennessee native has a southern drawl that stands out amongst the rest and he’s not shy about being vocal.
“I was out there telling the guys to take advantage of this because anytime you have a chance to go play in the living room, go full speed,” said Mogridge.
The 42-year-old’s offensive line unit helped engineer the most successful scoring offense in school history last season.
Now, he’s tasked with replacing four members of that group who graduated last season.
“I tell them, you guys are going to tell me whether you’re ready to play or not,” said Mogridge. “The rotation is about set, but it’s all going to be about between the ears and can these guys execute what we’re asking of them?”
Speaking of the aforementioned offensive line rotation, based on recent scrimmages and practice time, here’s who I expect will be the primary offensive linemen heading into Tulane.
Starters: Left tackle - D’Antne Demery, Left Guard - Shane McGough, Center - Dallas Connell, Right Guard - Shacquille Williams, Right Tackle - Devontay Taylor
Rotation: Mershawn Miller, Logan Gunderson, Danny Corbett, Sione Finau, Jason Jean, Lyndell Hudson Jr.
A wildcard is true freshman Julius Pierce.
The Sanford, Florida product was considered somewhat of a project player coming into his first camp. However, he’s seen extensive time as the backup center.
Whether or not he’s part of the rotation truly depends on if the veteran in Connell comes off the field.
While Connell is capable of playing guard, I expect him to be a constant with the Panthers’ offense.
Last season, FIU did use both Connell and Neal Mars at Center, but Mars was a senior, opposed to the relative inexperience of Pierce.
The backup quarterback battle hasn’t been officially decided, but Kaylan Wiggins should be the QB2, as he’s taken the majority of the second-team reps.
The 6-2, 205-pound redshirt sophomore was a high school teammate of Pierce’s at Seminole High.
Learning from UCF’s Mistake
The Panthers have aspirations of building a program that resembles what UCF has been able to do in the past decade. The Knights’ 78 wins is the most among in-state programs.
Allen Mogridge has a unique perspective as he was part of the UCF staff for three seasons (2012, 2014-2015).
While he was part of 19 of those wins and two bowl appearances, he was also part of their infamous 0-12 season in 2015.
“We had a lot of success there and then all of a sudden, the bottom just fell out. To be honest with you, it was one of the darkest and most tough years in my life,” said Mogridge.
When asked how he relates that to the Panthers’ recent success, he offered, “It’s simple. Be where your feet are and that’s in the here and now. Don’t look behind and don’t look ahead, because everything you worked for can be gone just like that. That’s what caused that year to happen and we’re not going to let that take place here,” Mogridge said.
He continued, “It was a huge learning experience for me because I’d never been a part of anything like that in my time around the game of football. It’s worked out well for them and I’m happy for their community, but it definitely is something I take with me here.”
- The wide receiver group is virtually set for the opener. Expect Austin Maloney on the outside and Maurice Alexander in the slot, with Shemar Thornton and Tony Gaiter IV to split the reps as the other outside receiver. Bryce Singleton, Darrius Scott and Cadarius Gaskin will fill out the rest of the group. “We’re all capable of making plays, people are going to see that this year,” said Gaiter IV.
- FIU has added three opponents to their future schedules in the past month: UCF in 2020 and 2022, Arkansas in 2023, and a game with Texas Tech. KLBK in Lubbock is reporting that it's scheduled for 2021.
- Kicker Jose Borregales has been under the weather for the past few days. The junior missed FIU media day and came off the field in street clothes with special teams coach James Vollano following practice.
- The running backs are also set for opening day. Anthony Jones will be the starter, with Napoleon Maxwell and D’Vonte Price sharing the second reps. Look for Shaun Peterson Jr. to get the next set of carries.