After everyone within a 100-yard radius of the FIU practice fields was on cloud nine following the open of fall camp last Monday, a different type of cloud greeted the Panthers as they opened week two — classic South Florida rainstorms.
Under grey skies, Mike MacIntyre’s group took the field in full pads for the first time and whether it was a case of the Monday’s or the weather — MacIntyre called a halt to FIU’s sixth fall practice roughly 57 minutes in to remind his young group of what they’re working towards and why consistency is of the utmost importance.
“The second half of our practice was a lot better, it’s Monday morning and their first time in pads, but the last hour was a very good and really physical football practice for our guys,” said MacIntyre following the session.
On the third-to-last play of Monday’s session, the physical play was on display as wideout Kris Mitchell took a hard shot from the linebackers after a pass was intercepted and Mitchell was in pursuit heading the other direction. While the effort was encouraged, members of the staff also made sure temper the energy, given the friendly fire.
During the impromptu stoppage midway through the practice, MacIntyre challenged his group to remember what they went through last year, proclaiming that the difference between going 1-11 again and being a team that is competitive on Saturday’s starts with their practice habits.
His team responded on Tuesday with noticeably more crisp outing, taking the field in shells and spending the bulk of the day working on red zone, four-minute and end-of-game situations.
“Today was a good day, getting a chance to work on situational football, things that play a major factor in deciding games, red zone, four-minute situations, I thought they came out with a lot of energy and did really well,” said MacIntyre.
MacIntyre notes that halfway through week two, each position group has had their moments of success but it’s still a work in progress.
“I can go up and down the list, quarterbacks, running backs, DBs, linebackers, etc, were seeing improvements among the groups and they’re responding well to the things that were trying to teach them,” said MacIntyre.
Here are some observations during the opening sessions of the week, which have been made fully accessible for viewing by MacIntyre.
As has been the case throughout the fall, an emphasis on playing fast and with tempo has been consistently reiterated to the team. Multiple times after receivers made catches, offensive coordinator David Yost shouted at them to remain inbounds, opposed to running out of bounds — emphasizing that he’s fine with a defender tackling them out of play, but otherwise keeping the clock moving and keeping the defense at the mercy of the offense is imperative.
“The more we’re able to dictate the pace of play and remain in 11 personnel, that allows us to be successful on offense because they have to react to us,” said Yost.
With the change to a 3-4 defense, several players have had opportunities in different roles across the defensive line. Jeramy Passmore started eight games at defensive tackle alongside Davon Strickland last season, but has seen time at end lined up with Strickland as a zero technique tackle.
Despite being listed as a linebacker, redshirt freshman Keegan Davis has seen a large amount of time at end and looks noticeably larger than he did at the end of last season.
One name that keeps coming up from players and coaches alike is Shaun Peterson Jr. The former three-star recruit at running back was a hotly-recruited player on the defensive side of the ball coming out of Nova High School in Davie. After four years on offense, the redshirt junior made the switch to back to defense in the offseason and has stood out.
“Shaun (Peterson) has kept improving everyday, we made the right move in moving him to OLB,” said MacIntyre. Strickland and North Carolina transfer Alex Nobles both noted Peterson Jr.’s burst off the edge during their post-practice availability.
“Shaun P is a force off the edge, I can’t wait to see what he’s gonna do this year,” said Strickland.
The tight end position is one that Panthers’ fans have yearned to see more production from in previous years. Yost, a former tight end himself has featured the position heavily during his stops at Missouri, Texas Tech and Utah State. He notes that the size and athleticism of the players in FIU’s tight end room provide the offense with another dynamic.
“Having multiple guys on our roster at tight end who are 6’5, 6’6 and 245 pounds who can run, that’s a huge plus for us because we can line them up in the slot, line them up out wide or on the line and they can play anywhere,” said Yost.
Position coach Josh Eargle spoke on Monday about his tight end room on Monday, starting with returnee Rivaldo Fairweather and transfer Josiah Miamen.
“Rivaldo Fairweather is doing a really great job of playing the ball in the air and his improvement in the run game from spring to now has been really significant,” said Eargle. “Josiah Miamen is doing a phenomenal job of being a hammer for us, but he’s also got great hands and he can go up and make plays,” said Eargle.
The quarterback battle wages on into the second week with neither MacIntyre nor Yost providing any insight as to where the three competitors may fall, but for the first time we heard from Grayson James and Haden Carlson — as both were not made available for media last season.
“The competition has been really good, we’re all trying to push each other and work on the things that we need to in order to get better as quarterbacks,” said James.
For Carlson, the third-year freshman is playing in his third offensive system at FIU in as many years. However, he noted that it’s been a relatively easy transition to what Yost is trying to implement.
“Adjusting to Coach Yost’s offense has been smooth, it might be somewhat simple in it’s base but we have a lot of options to do a lot of things,” said Carlson.
Several younger defensive backs have had moments during the second week of camp, including freshmen Larry Preston and Hezekiah Masses. Preston picked off two passes during Monday’s session, while Masses intercepted a pass on Tuesday and was involved in multiple pass breakups.
Specific special teams’ situations were worked on during Tuesday’s session, with freshman Nick Easters and redshirt sophomore Daton Montiel handing punting duties. Montiel had multiple kicks with extended hangtime — kicking to redshirt freshman wideout Dean Patterson and true freshman Mike Jackson.