After Alex McGough’s graduation in 2018, Butch Davis turned to the transfer portal for quarterback help. That search yielded James Morgan - who subsequently led the Panthers to consecutive bowl games.
Now, following Morgan’s graduation, Davis has again turned to the portal to bolster his quarterback room.
Heading into 2020, FIU finds themselves in similar waters as they did two seasons ago - choosing between a veteran grad transfer and a group of talented, yet unproven signal-callers.
Let’s take a look at the players tasked with replacing the highest-drafted quarterback in program history.
All stats listed are for the 2019 season. Projected starter(s) are in bold.
Returning: Kaylan Wiggins (R-Jr)- 6-2, 200, 15-27, 172 passing yards, 49 carries for 323 rushing yards and 3 TDs
Caleb Lynum (R-Soph)- 6-2, 190, zero statistics
Stone Norton (R-Fr.)- 6-3. 200, zero statistics
Newcomers: Max Bortenschlager (Grad)- 6-3, 210, 137-266, 1,522 passing yards, 11 TDs - 5 ints (Career statistics at Maryland)
Haden Carlson (Fr.)- Three-star recruit - Tampa Steinbrenner HS
Heading into Fall: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every program in America.
However, there’s no denying that teams looking to settle their quarterback spot are the ones most hurt by the lack of spring practice.
“We’ve been doing remote meetings like every team and all of the guys have done a great job, so I’m confident that they’re doing the best they can given the restrictions,” said offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky in May.
Butch Davis has emphasized the importance of the 12 spring practices throughout his tenure at FIU concerning position battles.
His most important spot on the field will come down to three inexperienced players and a grad transfer who has much to prove.
The positive for Panthers’ fans is that all of the quarterbacks on the roster are talented - and Skrosky is still the offensive coordinator.
At FIU, he's taken McGough and Morgan from being benched under previous coaching regimes to NFL draft selections and put another quarterback in the league (Keith Wenning) while at Ball State.
Summary: The team will be less than two months away (until told otherwise) from opening the season against Jacksonville State before any of the QBs take a single snap in practice.
As a result, the staff will be forced to decide on a starter much quicker than normal.
“We have to see how many opportunities we have and how we’re going to go about those reps, because we’ve got to do a great job of giving them all ample opportunities - You can’t practice 9,000 plays a day, so you got to make the most of it,” said Skrosky.
The quarterback room isn’t lacking potential.
However, with a compressed schedule to decide a starting quarterback, it may come down to the players with the most experience.
In 2018, Davis gave both Morgan and Christian Alexander snaps for the first four games. Especially given the time constraints - it wouldn’t be surprising to see something similar in 2020.
Position Grade: C+ - The three returners and Bortenschlager each are capable of leading the Panthers to success in 2020.
Wiggins’ athleticism is undeniable and was on full display against New Hampshire.
However, there were moments against Conference USA opponents where he was contained as a runner. As a passer, he’s yet to prove himself on the collegiate level, but showed ability during high school.
Bortenschlager is the most veteran of the group having nine starts, all of which came against Power Five opponents.
While he doesn’t have quite the arm strength that Morgan possessed, he’s shown the ability to make throws against top-level talent.
Bortenschlager and the Panthers got in contact with each other shortly before the COVID-19 shutdown in March, which at least gives him a few months with the program.
The wildcards could be Norton and Lynum.
Norton has drawn rave reviews going back to his prep career about his intelligence and attention to detail, while Lynum’s physical tools make him a factor in the competition.
“Kaylan’s very talented and he’s been in the program the longest, which gives him somewhat of an advantage - I’d be ignorant to say otherwise. But at the same time, I see Caleb Lynum, going back to workouts and the arm talent is really good. Then you take Stone Norton - we’ve been doing these virtual meetings, film studies, and whatnot - Stone’s mental makeup and understanding the offensive side of the football is impressive,” said Skrosky.
Carlson is a raw talent, having only started playing football as a freshman in high school.
What’s on his side is that he’s the son of a NFL quarterback in former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and New England Patriot, Jeff Carlson.
While he has an excellent upside, expect him to be holding the clipboard this year.