With under a month until the Panthers begin their season at Liberty, here’s our look at the tight ends in our position-by-position look at the 2020 FIU football team.
Under position coach Drew Davis, the tight ends have enjoyed great success since Butch Davis’ arrival in 2017.
This year’s unit will again be led by Sterling Palmer, who’s considered one of the top tight ends among the Group of Five ranks. Behind him are group of talented players who will look see playing time in offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky’s system, that will use multiple players at the position.
All stats listed are for the 2019 season. Projected starter(s) are listed in bold.
Returning: Sterling Palmer (Jr.) 6-6, 250, 22 catches for 205 yards
David O’Meara (Jr.) 6-5, 250, one catch for 11 yards
Kamareon Williams (So.) 6-3, 245, three catches for 27 yards
Joe Hocker (Fr.) 6-5, 245, redshirted in 2019
Jackson McDonald (Fr.) 6-5. 220, redshirted in 2019
Newcomers: Rivaldo Fairweather (Fr.) 6-4, 233, three-star recruit Fort Lauderdale Boyd Anderson HS
Heading into Fall: Butch Davis’ history of having talented tight ends on the roster stretches back to his time at Miami, where he coached NFL’ers Jeremy Shockey, Bubba Franks and Mondriel Fulcher. Since arriving at FIU, he’s already sent one tight end to the professional ranks (Pharoah McKever) and the next one could be Sterling Palmer.
After bursting onto the scene as a true freshman, the 6-6, 235-pound Virginia native appeared posed for an excellent sophomore season. However, his numbers dipped in 2019.
This season should provide an opportunity for the Palmer to showcase the athletic ability that helped him the all-freshman team in 2018.
Behind him is another veteran in junior David O’Meara and sophomore Kamareon Williams, who played in 12 games with four starts.
Keep an eye on redshirt freshman Joe Hocker. The former two-sport athlete in high school is another sizable and athletic body, who could provide FIU another receiving tight end.
“We’re looking to create mismatches and we feel that we can do that with some of the guys we’ve been able to recruit,” said Drew Davis. “Ideally, we would be able to go two-tight (ends) at times and take advantage with our guys.”
Summary: With the injuries to last year’s leading receiver in Shemar Thornton and true freshman Teddy Richardson, expect Palmer to see more targets than he saw last season. In 2018, Palmer saw 35 targets and hauled in 25 passes.
However, last season his number of targets 29, with a season-high six of those coming in the final game of the year.
O’Meara and Williams are excellent in the run game, but neither are targeted in the passing game. Of the combined 410 snaps between the two, only 71 were passing plays — compared to 180 for Palmer alone.
Hocker missed most of last season with an injury, but if he is able to see significant playing time in the passing game, FIU will have two athletic tight ends that most Conference USA opponents won’t be equipped to match up with.
Final Grade: A- There’s a litany of C-USA tight ends who could make the argument that they’re the best. However, there’s not a Harrison Bryant-type that’s clear-cut above the rest.
Palmer has all of the tools to be that type of player and could be considered the top player at the position currently.
Between O’Meara, Williams and Hocker, the Panthers have the type of tight end depth that the rest of the conference would desire.
With FIU bringing in a new quarterback and the aforementioned injuries at receiver, Palmer will be the second or third option in the passing game behind Jeremiah Holloman.