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FIU Football: Young Talents Production Levels Provides Reason for Hope

A deeper look at the FIU roster shows a high clip of production — with a few possible standouts.

Michael Berlfein/FIU Athletics

FIU’s 2-4 start to the season has been met with various responses from the Panthers’ fanbase.

The major achievement through the halfway point of the season undoubtedly has to be the program finding its first FBS win since 2019 and first FBS road victory since 2018.

If one wanted to find “disappointments”, they would look no further than tough losses against a pair of rebuilding programs in Texas State and UConn.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve been on the record throughout the season that expectations for this season should be tempered and put in their proper context. I won’t outline all of those reasons, but feel free to read part one of this “series” here.

For those of you who vocally emphasize that the past is a rearview mirror unworthy of further time spent looking into — here’s part two of the series — a look at the the past two recruiting classes for FIU and why they’re the key to unlocking hope for the future of Panther football.

As stated in the article above, an inordinate amount of player attrition over the past four seasons is the main culprit for this year’s FIU team being one of the youngest and most inexperienced in the nation. Looking at the program’s success from 2017 and 2018, the vast majority of the contribution comes from players that Butch Davis inherited from Ron Turner’s time — with major exceptions being quarterback James Morgan (transfer from Bowling Green), receiver C.J. Worton (transfer from Florida), D’Antne Demery, Richard Dames and Teair Tart.

In order for Mike MacIntyre’s rebuild at FIU to work, he’ll have to have greater success at recruiting and keeping said recruits on the roster and getting valuable production from those players — another struggle at the end of Davis’ tenure (see article above).

During Davis’ time with FIU, only seven of his signees became all-conference honorable mentions and two (Tyrese Chambers and Rishard Dames) became all-conference players. While Davis certainly deserves credit for the turnaround from 2017-2019, there was a struggle to find starters or key contributors amongst players he signed.

While there’s not a full season’s worth of games to assess MacIntyre on, a deeper look into the production reveals that there’s almost an entire campaign’s worth of games to assess underclassmen (or first-time starters) who are key contributors on this year’s team. Of the last two classes for FIU, 18 are now starters for MacIntyre — including 11 from his first recruiting class.

Players such as Donovan Manuel, Demetrius Hill and Gaethan Bernadel on defense should find themselves on all-conference lists come the end of the season.

As FIU continues their rebuild, finding players who can start immediately or provide depth will be a crucial factor that has been missing over the last three years for the program.

Savion Collins

About Collins: Arguably the biggest surprise of the 2021 recruiting class, Miami Palmetto DT Savion Collins had legit Power Five interest before signing with FIU. However, Collins’ Panther career over two seasons has been marred by injury. He’ll look to find a role in the rotation in 2023 as he’s currently out for the 2022 season.

Demetrius Hill

About Hill: A former three-star recruit, Hill has stepped into a starting role and is tied for the team-lead in tackles this season with 52. The Miami Springs product would be the first defensive back to lead FIU in tackles since Johnathan Cyprien and has shown potential to be a future all-conference performer in the secondary.

Katravis Geter Jr.

About Geter Jr.: Katravis Geter Jr. had Power Five offers from several SEC programs before signing with FIU as part of the 2021 class. After spending one season with the Panthers, Geter Jr. declared his intention to enter the portal last offseason.

Grayson James

About James: A rising prospect out of quarterback-rich Texas, Grayson James signed with FIU in 2021 after a decorated prep career that saw him throw for over 9,000 yards. He spent 2021 as the backup quarterback before taking over this season following an injury to opening-day starter Gunnar Holmberg. James has thrown for 1,100 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions in five starts.

Artez Hooker

About Hooker: The versatile slot wideout was a three-star prospect coming out of the Tampa Bay area in 2021. Hooker joined a crowded receiver room and is still finding his role amongst the group. He’s recorded two receptions in 1.5 seasons as a Panther.

Gaethan Bernadel

About Bernadel: South Florida native Gaethan Bernadel was forced into a starting role during the second half of the 2021 season and has responded by being one of Conference USA’s leading tacklers over the last 10 games. In a season’s worth of play, Bernadel has recorded 94 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Travonte O’Neal

About O’Neal: The 6-3, 240-pound Vero Beach native is still finding his way into the defensive line rotation. He’s recorded five tackles over two seasons with the Panthers.

Daniel Pilgrim

About Pilgrim: A three-star recruit from Fort Myers, Pilgrim redshirted in 2021 — and is no longer with the Panthers.

Amahri McCray

About McCray: Similarly to Pilgrim and Geter Jr., McCray was a three-star recruit who redshirted in 2021 — and is no longer with the Panthers.

Jordan Guerad

About Guerad: The younger brother of former UCF defensive tackle Tony Guerad, Tampa native Jordan Guerad has found steady playing time over the last season and change. He appeared in five contests last year, recording 11 tackles and this season has appeared in five games as part of the defensive line rotation.

Wyatt Lawson

About Lawson: Tampa-area product Wyatt Lawson was a three-star recruit as part of the class of 2021 and has appeared in three games this season. Lawson should see more action with the departure of Rey Burnett and other injuries across the offensive line.

Jakovi Bryant

About Bryant: The former three-star product appeared in six games with the Panthers as a true freshman before entering the transfer portal over the offseason.

Keegan Davis

About Davis: After spending time on both sides of the ball in 2021 as a true freshman, defensive end Keegan Davis has earned a starting spot at defensive end in 2022. The 6-3, 245-pound Davis has 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack this season.

D’moir Jean-Baptiste

About Jean-Baptiste: The North Miami Beach product hasn’t seen action during his first season and a half with the Panthers.

Baba Conate

About Conate: The JUCO transfer from Michigan and Independence Community College has appeared as a reserve linebacker on special teams during his time at FIU.

Jay Barry Jr.

About Barry Jr.: A Colorado product, Jay Barry Jr. has seen time sparingly as a receiver this season following a redshirt season in 2021.

Jeramy Passmore

About Passmore: After appearing in three games over two seasons at Indiana, the Miami native has been a full-time starter over the past season and a half for FIU. Passmore started 10 contests last season at defensive tackle and now is a starting defensive end in Mike MacIntyre’s 3-4 scheme.

Tyrese Chambers

About Chambers: All Tyrese Chambers has done during his time at FIU is rewrite the Panthers’ record book and become the face of the program. The 6-1, 190-pound wideout broke T.Y. Hilton’s records for receiving yards and touchdowns in a season during his first year with the team and currently leads the Panthers in receptions this year.

Deyavie Hammond

About Hammond: The highest-rated offensive line signee in FIU program history, JUCO transfer Deyavie Hammond has appeared in two of the first six contests for the Panthers this season.

Mike Jackson

About Jackson: A speedy prospect from Miami Palmetto, three-star wideout Mike Jackson is among several young receivers who will look to break out in the receiver room during their FIU career. Jackson has appeared in one contest this season.

Antonio Patterson

About Patterson: One of the first signees for MacIntyre, three-star running back Antonio Patterson will have to wait his turn behind veterans Flex Joseph and E.J. Wilson amongst the backs. The Tennessee native showed flashes of potential during camp, but hasn’t appeared in a game this season.

DJ Aiken

About Aiken: Another one of MacIntyre’s signees from his deep south pipeline, Aiken is a sizable defensive end who will look to crack the rotation in 2023. The former three-star prospect has appeared in one game this season.

John Bock

About Bock: The son of former Miami Dolphin John Bock, John Bock II arrived at FIU as a three-star prospect from South Florida power Cardinal Gibbons High School and earned a starting spot on opening day. Bock has started at guard and center during his true freshman season.

Percy Courtney

About Courtney: Three-star linebacker Percy Courtney is another of the true freshman who will look to earn more time in 2023 with development. The 5-11, 200-pounder has appeared in two contests on special teams this season.

Amari Jones

About Jones: Three-star quarterback signee Amari Jones has served as a reserve quarterback during his first season in Miami. He’ll look to work his way up the depth chart next year.

Steven Shannon

About Shannon: The son of former Miami head coach Randy Shannon, Steven Shannon earned a spot on the opening two-deep for FIU as a reserve defensive end and has appeared in two contests this season.

Jordan Doelling

About Doelling: With Tommy Heatherly’s graduation, MacIntyre added to the special teams with room with Aussie Jordan Doelling. He’s currently serving as a backup as Marshall transfer Daton Montiel is handling the punting duties.

Naeer Jackson

About Jackson: The Philadelphia native will look to bolster the offensive line in 2023 with a season of college football under his belt. Jackson hasn’t appeared in any contests this season.

Hezekiah Masses

About Masses: A lightly-recruited two-star prospect from Deerfield Beach, Hezekiah Masses was named an opening-day starter by Mike MacIntyre and has started in all six contests either at left cornerback or in the slot.

Larry Preston

About Preston: Central Florida native Larry Preston was a two-star signee for the Panthers during the last recruiting cycle. The cornerback hasn’t appeared for FIU this year.

Jalen Bracey

About Bracey: A JUCO transfer, Bracey has been a targeted player in the offense since arriving at FIU in the offseason. The Mississippi native has started as the slot wideout in all six games this season. Bracey has 23 receptions for 151 yards and one touchdown this year.

Will Prendergast

About Prendergast: Another arrival from the JUCO ranks, Texas native Will Prendergast cracked the two-deep on opening day as a reserve end and has been a solid part of the defensive line rotation. Prendergast has six tackles and a tackle for loss this season.

Jackson Lee

About Lee: With Tommy Zozus’ transfer to UConn, MacIntyre went to Arizona to find a long-snapper and true freshman Jackson Lee has handled all of the snapping duties since arriving at FIU.

JaDarious Lee

About Lee: Nashville native JaDarious Lee is another offensive lineman who will look to find time in the rotation in 2023. The true freshman hasn’t appeared this season.

CJ Christian

About Christian: Iowa Central transfer C.J. Christian quickly rose up the FIU depth chart and was named a starter at the bandit role for the Panthers on opening day. The safety started the first four games and racked up 17 tackles from his secondary spot before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

Khaya Wright

About Wright: Former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Khaya Wright has appeared in two contests this season, seeing his first extended time last week against UTSA.

Andrew Robison

About Robison: With Max Bortenschlager and Isaiah Velez leaving in the offseason, depth was needed at the quarterback position and Louisiana native Andrew Robison arrived this offseason. The Nicholls State transfer has been a reserve this year.

Donovan Manuel

About Manuel: A transfer from the FCS ranks, linebacker Donovan Manuel was brought in as a player with several years of experience in the 3-4 scheme at East Tennessee State University. Manuel’s experience paid off as he’s been the starting middle linebacker since arriving and is third on the team with 47 tackles.

Gunnar Holmberg

About Holmberg: The Duke transfer arrived at FIU with two years of eligibility left after beginning his career in the Tar Heel state. He opened the season as the starter, but has battled a concussion and a shoulder injury during the first half of the season.

Latarie Kinsler

About Kinsler: Latarie “DJ” Kinsler is one of several South Florida natives who arrived at FIU during the offseason after spending time at Power Five programs to start their career. The Syracuse has been one of several players to see time on the edge for FIU this year and has nine tackles with two tackles for loss and a sack this season.

Adrian Cole

About Cole: Another Syracuse transfer, Cole has appeared in all six contests with two starts this season and has 13 tackles with two pass breakups this year, playing both outside and slot corner.

Sharod Johnson

About Johnson: The final Syracuse transfer, Sharod Johnson saw extended time during training camp at the receiver spot before choosing to end his football career prior to the season-opener.

Josiah Miamen

About Miamen: A former three-star prospect, Josiah Miamen arrived at FIU after spending three seasons at Iowa and has become a key part of the Panthers’ offense. The 6-4, 245-pound Miamen has 14 catches for 131 yards in six games this season.

Willie Reid

About Reid: Former All-MAC Safety Willie Reid announced on Twitter in January that he would commit to FIU and was announced as one of 27 signees during February’s National Signing Day. However, Reid was charged in June of this year for criminal sexual misconduct.

It should be noted that the charges stem from an off-campus incident in 2019 as a member of Central Michigan and outside of the signing day announcement — Reid never made Miami and wasn’t formally a member of the Panthers’ program — not appearing on the roster to open spring or fall.

Jacolby Hewitt

About Hewitt: After beginning his career at Indiana, Junior Jacolby Hewitt has appeared in five games so far, hauling in four catches including three during the UConn game.

Jacob Peace

About Peace: Peace began his career at FCS Virginia Military Institute before arriving at FIU in the offseason. The 6-5, 315-pound Peace has been a constant on the offensive line this year, opening the season at right tackle with Lyndell Hudson Jr.’s injury and has played across the line this year in all six games.

Semaj Flagg

About Flagg: Listed among the signees on National Signing Day, the local three-star prospect never made it to FIU.

Sam Hill

About Hill: After beginning his career at NAIA Reinhardt University, Sam Hill has been pressed into duty with injuries across the offensive line this year. The sophomore has appeared in three contests this season.