During Mike MacIntyre’s weekly presser before the season-opener against Bryant, he made note of the fact that his team is the third-youngest team in FBS football this season — wielding only 23 upperclassmen on an 110-player roster — and 14 of the 23 have never been full-time starters at the FBS level.
“We’re an extremely young group, we’ll still be figuring out how we’re going to warm-up while Bryant has a group that’s played together for 3-4 years,” said MacIntyre.
Exactly how has FIU become one of the youngest teams in college football in an era that sees veteran players enter the transfer portal seemingly daily — and players are older than ever before because of the COVID-year eligibility rules?
In order to understand the current FIU youth movement, you have to dive into the Panthers’ previous recruiting classes.
Because of the COVID-year eligibility, players from the 2017 recruiting class who took a redshirt year are entering their final year of college football, outside of a handful of players from previous years who took medical redshirts being exceptions. In theory, this year’s FIU roster could feature players stemming as far back as from Butch Davis’ first crop of signees in 2017, that included names like Bryce Singleton, Shemar Thornton and Kaylan Wiggins.
When looking at the 2017-2020 recruiting classes (players who would all be upperclassmen for the 2022 season), FIU signed 76 players who would have eligibility left for the 2022 season. Of the 76, 43 either have transferred to different programs, chose to leave the program with Davis’ contract not being renewed or left football altogether.
Additionally, four players from the 2021 recruiting class have chosen to leave the program (Katravis Geter, Jakovi Bryant, Ah’Mari McCray, Daniel Pilgrim).
As MacIntyre’s rebuild starts with the 2022 season, Panthers’ fans should get comfortable with the fact that the roster being fielded this season is not only one of the youngest, but most inexperienced in the nation — in large part due to the 43 players who for various reasons are not with the program.
Here’s the list of players who would either be sixth-year players/upperclassmen who are not with the program:
- Shemar Thornton: FIU’s leading receiver in 2019 chose to transfer following the conclusion of last season and is currently starting for Northern Illinois.
- Danny Corbett: A member of the 2019 class, Corbett arrived as a JUCO transfer with expectations of playing on the offensive line. Corbett appeared in one game and left the program after four games. He’s currently with FCS Campbell.
- Willa Pierre: The Miami native was a three-star recruit, but never appeared for the Panthers. He later transferred Coahoma Community College in 2019 and is now out of football.
- Romelo Brooks: Another three-star recruit from Miami, Brooks appeared in 16 games for the Panthers before choosing to pursue a career outside of football and currently is working in Seattle, Washington.
- Rashad Colson: A presence on the FIU defensive line, Colson started several games during his time at FIU. He chose to transfer following Davis not being renewed and is currently at Alabama A&M
- DeAndre Williams: The South Florida native appeared sparingly for FIU and transferred to Florida Memorial in 2019.
- Kaylan Wiggins: A veteran of several quarterback competitions at FIU, Kaylan Wiggins chose to transfer at the end of last season and is currently the starting quarterback at Southeastern University in Lakeland.
- Bryce Singleton: After battling injuries, Bryce Singleton had a breakout 2021 season, recording 46 catches for over 800 yards. He chose to turn pro following the year.
- Mershawn Miller: Miami native Mershawn Miller was a starter in 2019 and was with the team in the 2020 offseason, but entered the portal after violating FIU’s COVID campus policies. He’s currently out of football.
- Tevin Jones: Another Miami native, Jones recorded 3.5 sacks in four seasons at FIU and chose not to return following Davis’ not being renewed.
- Jacob White: The forgotten member of the 2017 recruiting class from Charlotte High, White is currently a starter for Robert Morris University.
- Jordan Underwood: An Orlando native, Underwood spent time as a receiver and defensive back at FIU and chose not to return following last season.
- Donovan Georges: A three-star recruit at linebacker, Donovan Georges appeared on special teams throughout his career and chose not to return following last season.
- DeMarcus Townsend: The Southwest Florida native was highly recruited before suffering an injury in high school He chose to enter the portal in 2019 and is at Duquesne University.
- Maurquel Dillard: Wideout Maurquel Dillard chose to transfer for the 2019 season and landed at Quincy University.
- Ivan Thomas: South Florida native Ivan Thomas was part of a talented tight end room for the Panthers, but chose to transfer with the emergence of Kamareon Williams. After becoming a JUCO All-American, he’s currently with C-USA foe Louisiana Tech.
- Jason Mercier: A starter over two seasons for FIU, Miami native Jason Mercier is currently playing for Deion Sanders at Jackson State and recorded a sack last week.
- Jamal Anderson: Homestead native Jamal Anderson had a solid 2020 season during the COVID year, but was injured in a drive-by shooting while at his childhood home. He’s currently out of football after not playing last season.
- John Bolding: Three-star offensive lineman John Bolding is the half-brother of Tayland Humphrey, who was one of the highest-rated recruits in FIU history. When Humphrey left after the 2018 season for Louisiana, Bolding went the JUCO route and is now at Southern Miss.
- Jesson Walker: Talented cornerback Jesson Walker played for four seasons at FIU, but chose to leave once Davis wasn’t brought back.
- David O’Meara: Reliable blocking tight end David O’Meara battled injuries over four seasons at FIU and chose to leave following last season.
- Kam Burns: Burns played for two seasons before leaving in 2019 and is currently out of football.
- Shamar Munroe: Miami native Shamar Munroe never found a full-time position at FIU and transferred to Hutchison Community College in 2019. He’s currently out of football.
- Ni’Kendrick Carter: One of the more hyped recruits of the 2019 recruiting class, three-star linebacker Ni’Kendrick Carter chose FIU over Oklahoma State. However, the Louisiana native went AWOL from the program during his true freshman — twice. He’s currently out of football after leaving for good six games into his first year.
- Deshaun Davis: Jacksonville native Deshaun Davis was the first signee of the 2019 class, but chose to leave after one season. He’s currently with FCS Bethune Cookman.
- Stone Norton: The prize recruit of the 2019 class, Nashville native Stone Norton was expected to be the natural successor to James Morgan at quarterback. However, he was rotated in and out of the lineup by Davis in 2020 and he currently is at Southern Illinois.
- Nate White: Three-star Orlando native Nate White chose to leave the program following the 2020 season and landed at FCS Chattanooga, but didn’t play with the team.
- Logan Gunderson: Another JUCO OL transfer, Jacksonville native Logan Gunderson was a three-star recruit but appeared sparingly. He chose not to return following last year.
- Alexy Jean-Baptiste: One of several Power Five transfers who joined the program, Alexy Jean-Baptiste burst onto the scene in 2019 and was arguably the team’s best pass-rush threat. However, he chose to enter the portal following 2020 and landed at Campbell.
- Maleek Williams: A high-school teammate of White’s, Williams transferred from Arkansas in 2019 but didn’t see much action. He chose to leave following last season.
- Brian Dillard: A three-star recruit, Brian Dillard signed with FIU, but never made it on campus due to academic issues. He started at cornerback last season for West Georgia before entering the portal.
- Sione Finau: The Keller, Texas native became an starter midway through his freshman year and held onto his spot for three seasons. With two games left in the 2021 season, Finau entred the portal and is now a a starter for Purdue.
- Kendre’ Gant: Another prized recruit, Gant redshirted during his first season with the Panthers and then entered the portal. He’s currently a linebacker at Louisiana.
- Jose Mirabal: Miami native Jose Mirabal was the highest-rated offensive line recruit in program history at the time of his signing. However, he never appeared for the team and entered the portal in 2021. He’s currently out of football.
- Jecoryan Davis-Hamilton: Davis-Hamilton suffered an injury during his high school career, derailing his recruitment that had seen him earn interest from major SEC programs. He signed with FIU in 2020, but was never able to be cleared. He left after Davis’ departure.
- Xavier McGriff: Jacksonville native Xavier McGriff was expected to contribute at wideout for the Panthers, but entered the portal in 2020. He’s currently with future C-USA member Sam Houston State.
- Maljon Joor: Joor was an early enrollee in the class of 2020 as a JUCO OL, but transferred following the season to Jackson State.
- Miles Frazier: Lightly-recruited in the 2020 cycle, New Jersey native Miles Frazier started the final game of the 2020 season before becoming a full-time starter in 2021. After entering the transfer portal, Frazier became one of the most highly sought-after players of last year’s offseason and is now starting for LSU.
39. Theodore Richardson: Miami native Teddy Richardson suffered an injury before his first season and wasn’t able to continue his career, choosing to retire prior to this year.
40. Kameren Williams: Texas native Kameren Williams was a three-star recruit, but was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and he was forced to retire entering the 2021 season.
41. Dontae Keys: Former North Carolina A&T OL Dontae Keys arrived at FIU in 2020 and became an instant starter on the line. Keys chose to enter the portal following the season and currently is a starter for Colorado State.
42. Chris Whittaker: Former Kentucky Wildcat Chris Whittaker transferred to FIU in 2019 and along with Jean-Baptiste helped form a formidable pass-rush presence. However, he chose to enter the portal following the 2020 season and after a season with Nevada, currently has seven sacks for FCS Incarnate Word.
After sitting in the transfer portal through 2021, DE Chris Whittaker landed at UIW as one of a few key newcomers in an overhauled defense. Now at his fourth school, Whittaker has six sacks in just two games with the Cardinals, helping them rise to their highest ranking at No. 6. https://t.co/9MhuNNUZq1— Greg Luca (@GregLuca) September 16, 2022
43. Jeremiah Holloman: JJ Holloman was one of the most ballyhooed signees in FIU history following his short but tantalizing career at Georgia. The former five-star wideout arrived at FIU in 2019 and after sitting out the season, started in 2020 — but managed only eight catches and one touchdown in five games. He hauled in six catches for 56 yards and a touchdown for FCS Tennessee State last weekend against Middle Tennessee State.