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FIU Football: Pre-Spring Notebook

The UCF ties continue, a tentative schedule is released and Pierce Withers remains a Panther.

Michael Berlfein/FIU Athletics

With the addition of 27 players to the FIU roster on National Signing Day, Mike MacIntyre and the FIU football program can focus their sights on the start of spring practice, which will culminate with an April 9 spring game at FIU Stadium.

The Panthers’ roster currently sits at 88 players, with all 14 transfer signees on campus and taking part in the 15 spring practices.

Most notably among the transfers are former Duke quarterback Gunnar Holmberg and Central Michigan safety Willie Reid. Holmberg was the primary starter for the Blue Devils last season, throwing for 2,358 yards with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also rushed for six scores in 2021.

Reid started 20 games in three seasons with CMU, including a 2020 season that saw the Detroit native named to the All-MAC first-team after leading the conference with three interceptions. He missed all of 2021 due to an off-field issue.

As the start of spring sits on the horizon, here’s a look at some news at notes before the start of practices.


UCF Connections

In Scott Carr’s introductory press conference, he made repeated mentions to his time spent at UCF and how his tenure in Orlando shaped who is — and wants to be as an Athletic Director. While it still remains to be seen whether FIU can achieve the astronomical heights that the Knights have reached, the Panthers have tapped into some of the resources that helped their program to success.

Four members of Mike MacIntyre’s first coaching staff at FIU have UCF ties. Defensive Coordinator Jovan Dewitt, who interviewed for the head coaching role, spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons at UCF, the latter being a 13-0 campaign. Cornerbacks coach Corey Bell spent 2018-2020 in Orlando, offensive line coach Greg Austin was with UCF from 2016-2017 and analyst Luke Ebbesmeyer played for the Knights from 2015-2017.

“Coach MacIntyre and I talked, but obviously he put together the staff, but certaintly there’s some folks on the staff who I’m very familar with and as a whole I’m very impressed with the staff,” said Carr.

MacIntyre noted the instant continuity that comes with having a level of familiarity with the staff.

“It’s a matter of finding great coaches who want to be here, but obviously having those guys who know each other and already have great working relationships is a huge plus and we think that will help us hit the ground running,” said MacIntyre.

Pierce Withers

With the departure of Butch Davis from FIU also culminating in the tenure of the entire previous coaching staff coming to an end, it may have been fair to speculate that Pierce Withers’ time in Miami would also come to a close.

Withers’ father, Everett, served as Panthers' defensive coordinator last season and now is at Temple as “Chief of Staff” for the Owls.

However, after initially entering the transfer portal, the younger Withers chose to remain at FIU, taking many by surprise. MacIntyre, who’s also the son of a coach himself, spoke about his push to keep Pierce Withers as part of the program.

“I know the situation that Pierce is in (being the son of a coach) — I watched the tape on him the year before and he was a good player and I wanted to keep him, watching him in the weight room and physical activities outside, he’s a guy I really wanted to keep,” said MacIntyre.

Withers missed five weeks with an arm injury, but tallied 32 tackles, including a season-high nine tackles in the final game of the year against Southern Miss, excelling in the safety/star position. For those efforts, Withers was put on scholarship by MacIntyre.

Schedule

As the never-ending saga between Conference USA and three of its member institutions continues, the Panthers’ 2022 schedule was released on Tuesday.

First reported by UDD, FIU will open next season against FCS Bryant University — a slot that was previously held by an opening-night matchup with in-state foe UCF before that series was called off due to contractual stipulations.

Following the home opener, FIU won’t play on its home turf for over a month, embarking on a three-game road trip that takes the Panthers to Texas State, followed by a bye week and then games at Western Kentucky and New Mexico State.

The final three games of the season are scheduled to be home contests against Southern Miss and Marshall, with a road contest at Old Dominion in-between the two. However, with those three schools making their intentions known that they will not participate in Conference USA athletics past June 30, there’s a high likelihood that those games will not take place as scheduled.

Misc

  • When asked if the Panthers’ defense would deploy a 3-4 look, similar to the one that MacIntyre used as Memphis’ defensive coordinator or a 4-3 scheme, MacIntyre noted that he expects FIU to be “Multiple” on defense. “You can’t just stay in a three or four-man front in today’s college football, you have to be multiple and you have to be able to adapt.”
  • Of the 27 signees, none of the high school signees are early enrollees. Also, MacIntyre expects to be able to use the remaining four scholarship players to get FIU to 83 scholarship players.
  • Former three-star recruit Leo Parker transferred to FIU shortly before the NSD period. Parker rushed for 98 yards on 27 carries as a short-yardage back for USF during his redshirt freshman season with the Bulls.
  • FIU’s assistant salary pool under Mike MacIntyre is a minimum of $2.25 million dollars, per FOIA request — an increase of $625,000 from the $1.6 million dollar floor under Butch Davis. MacIntyre’s yearly salary is $750,000, $150,000 less than the minimum of Davis’ $900,000.