College football’s version of free agency is in full swing with over 650 players choosing to enter the transfer portal since the end of the 2021 regular season.
As a result, recruiting players out of the portal — and recruiting your own players from entering the portal has become as equally crucial as high school recruiting in today’s landscape.
January 1st Portal Cup update (scholarship players to portal since 8/1)— NCAA Transfer Portal (@RivalsPortal) January 1, 2022
Virginia - 19
Syracuse, Indiana - 16
FSU, Michigan St - 15
Texas, MD - 13
Iowa State, Arizona, Kentucky - 12
Nevada - 20
Buffalo - 18
UConn, FIU, Colorado State, UCF, Hawaii - 15@rivalsmike
Coming off a 1-11 record in ‘21 coupled with the departure of Butch Davis and the hire of Mike MacIntyre, it’s not a surprise to see FIU’s roster undergoing a massive turnover this offseason. The team has added a pair of FCS standouts as transfers in former VMI offensive lineman Jacob Peace and Eastern Tennessee State linebacker Donovan Manuel.
Let’s take a look at the Panthers’ gains and losses to date as we’re less than one month from the February signing day period.
Note: This list will be updated as additions to/from the transfer portal are announced.
1. Miles Frazier
After earning the start in the final game of the 2020 season, Miles Frazier became a bookend left tackle for the Panthers in 2021. The former three-star prospect started all 12 games for FIU last season and was graded by Pro Football Focus as the team’s top offensive lineman and among one of the top players in Conference USA. At 6-5, 315 pounds, Frazier was just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential as a freshman — leading to the New Jersey native receiving several Power Five offers and now a member of the LSU Tigers.
2. Sione Finau
Finau was a bit of a late bloomer in his initial high school recruitment, but similarly to Frazier, Finau blossomed into a dependable FBS-level offensive lineman with plenty of upside. The Keller, Texas native played in the final seven games of his true freshman season and followed that up by starting the 14 games at guard for the Panthers before entering the portal following the Old Dominion contest. Finau also found a Power Five landing spot, signing with Purdue in mid-December.
3. Shemar Thornton
Miami native Shemar Thornton patiently waited his turn and fought through injuries during his first two collegiate campaigns before emerging to lead FIU in receiving in 2019. However, he missed the entirety of the 2020 season due to an offseason injury and was never fully healthy in 2021. He made his first appearance of the season in the Central Michigan game following a case of tonsillitis, but only recorded five receptions for 27 yards. Thornton takes his talents to the defending MAC champion Northern Illinois Huskies.
4. Dontae Keys
Dontae Keys arrived at FIU in 2020 as one of the top offensive linemen among the FCS and HBCU ranks after four seasons at North Carolina A&T and instantly became a starter for the Panthers. The 6-5, 310-pound Keys earned the start in every contest this season and will play his final collegiate season at Colorado State.
5. Benny McCray
After spending the majority of his first four seasons as a reserve defensive back and special teams player, defensive back Benny McCray flourished in his final season as a Panther. The Clermont, Florida native finished third on the team in tackles with 49 last season. McCray was somewhat of a surprise entry to the portal, but has found a home at Southern University.
6. Tommy Zozus
Long snapper Tommy Zozus spent his entire career in the shadows at FIU, but was undoubtedly one of the top specialists in Conference USA during his time with the Panthers. A four-year starter as the snapper, Zozus earned honorable mention recognition three times at FIU and made Phil Steele’s third team as a snapper in 2020. Zozus currently holds offers from North Texas, East Carolina and UCONN.
7. Jason Mercier
I want to say thank you to all the schools who reached out and offered me. I am Blessed and very thankful to be in this position! With that being said l'd like to say that I am 1000% COMMITTED— Jason Mercier (@Mercier801) December 15, 2021
TO THEE JACKSON STATE UNIVERSITY⚪️ #Believe" pic.twitter.com/xSWl7J5zXC
Boynton Beach native Jason Mercier was a constant fixture on the defensive line for FIU, but had somewhat of a seesaw career as a Panther. A former three-star recruit, Mercier arguably had his best season as a true freshman, totaling 31 tackles and earning Conference USA All-Freshman team honors in 2018. He started 14 out of his final 15 games, racking up 41 tackles and five tackles for loss, but was never able to turn into a consistent threat across a defensive line that struggled against the run and rushing the passer. Mercier will play for Deion Sanders at Jackson State University in 2022.
8. Katravis Geter
Three-star recruit Katravis Geter Jr. turned down Power Five interest to sign with FIU in the 2021 cycle. Geter impressed in the team’s spring showcase and looked to be in line with Kejon Owens and Eric Wilson Jr. to compete for playing time with the impending graduation of D’Vonte Price. However, Geter chose to enter the portal in early November. As of this writing, the Carol City High product hasn’t found a home.
9. Jakovi Bryant
Central Florida native Jakovi Bryant’s true freshman campaign was somewhat of an enigma. He earned immediate playing time on special teams and saw time in the defensive back rotation. However, a postgame dustup at Florida Atlantic, Bryant didn’t see any further time in 2021 — being removed from the roster shortly after the Central Michigan game. While Bryant was present at Mike MacIntyre’s introductory press conference, he is still in the portal and has an offer from UMass.
10. David Reynolds
Nashville native David Reynolds saw early playing time as a true freshman defensive end in 2019, suiting up in nine contests and recording seven tackles and an interception. However, his playing time evaporated as a sophomore in 2020, entering the portal at one point in the season before removing his name and playing in the final game of the year. His playing time didn’t increase in 2021, appearing in only five games. The former three-star recruit has announced that he’ll play at FCS Eastern Kentucky next season.
11. Donovan Georges
Local product Donovan Georges was the fifth-highest rated recruit in FIU’s 2018 recruiting class, according to 247 Sports. Despite the billing, Georges was never able to see real playing time as a Panther. After playing in nine games as a true freshman, Georges would only appear in eight games in his final three seasons.
Note: Jacob Peace, Donovan Manuel and Samuel Hill are not considered additions from the transfer portal as the players transferred from FCS/NAIA programs.
1. Tyrese Chambers
There are no two ways about it — the biggest win to date for Mike MacIntyre has been convincing wide receiver Tyrese Chambers to remain with the Panthers. The FCS transfer made an immediate impact at FIU, hauling in a touchdown in his debut with the team against Long Island. What followed was the most prolific season by a receiver in program history, breaking T.Y. Hilton’s records for receiving yards and touchdowns in a season. After entering the portal shortly after the season, Chambers announced that he would return to FIU one day after Christmas, giving MacIntyre and Panthers’ fans a late Christmas gift.
2. Gunnar Holmberg
The former Duke quarterback was the primary starter for the Blue Devils last year, throwing for 2,358 yards with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions on the season. A three-star recruit out of high school, Holmberg battled injuries early in his career before seeing action in 18 games.
3. Willie Reid
Reid was a standout safety at Central Michigan in 2019 and 2020, earing all-MAC first-team honors in ‘20 after a 34-tackle, three-interception season that saw the 6-1, 210-pound safety become one of the top coverage safeties in the league. He missed all of 2021 with an undisclosed off-the-field issue. Reid’s status for ‘22 is currently unknown at the moment, but would provide an instant presence in the secondary.
4. Pierce Withers
The son of former defensive coordinator Everett Withers, Pierce Withers turned in a solid season as safety/star for FIU. He split time with several players at the position and also missed a chunk of time with an injury, but recorded 32 tackles including seven against Texas Tech and nine in the season-finale against Southern Miss.
5. Shaun Peterson Jr.
Peterson Jr. entered the portal in early December, but announced that he would return to FIU later in the month. The 6-3, 225-pound running back was a highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school, but turned down several Power Five offers to play defense in college in order to stay on the offensive side of the ball at FIU. After a torn ACL and meniscus cut short a promising 2020 season, Peterson Jr. served as the RB2 in 2021. He’ll be in the mix for the starting role in 2022 with Flex Joseph and Eric Wilson Jr.
6. Sharod Johnson
South Florida product Sharod Johnson was a three-star recruit coming out of Booker T. Washington HS before landing at Syracuse. He appeared 32 games with nine starts last season and recorded 25 catches for 305 yards in four seasons with the Orange.
7. Jacolby Hewitt
MacIntyre earned a commitment from former Indiana wideout Jacolby Hewitt, giving the Panthers a much-needed addition in a receiving room that loses several players. A former three-star recruit from suburban Memphis, Hewitt appeared in 18 games over the past two season in Bloomington, catching 13 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown.
8. Latarie Kinsler
Kinsler was offered by FIU coming out of Pahokee High in the 2020 cycle, but chose to head north and join Syracuse over offers from the Panthers along with Nebraska and Louisville. A three-star recruit, Kinsley did not see action in a game for the Orange. However, he should be in the mix to contribute immediately with the losses on the defensive line from last year.
9. Josiah Miamen
The former Iowa Hawkeye was a highly-regarded tight end prospect coming out of Peoria, Illinois in 2019. The 6-5, 245-pounder had offers from Michigan and Illinois before choosing Iowa. He appeared in three contests last season, catching one pass for 22 yards. Miamen will provide depth in a talented tight end room that features Rivaldo Fairweather.