Dont get them wrong, they loved T.Y. Hilton.
Hilton was from the same Miami neighborhood as some, a high school teammate of one and its hard to overstate what his Road Runner speed did for FIUs football program statistically and in visibility.
But the receivers still at FIU dont regard Hiltons graduation (with a liberal arts degree) to the NFL as something to wring hands over. (Hilton caught three passes for 25 yards, ran once for 9 yards and returned one punt for 6 yards in his NFL preseason debut Sunday with Indianapolis.)
Changes get made every day, senior wide receiver Wayne Times said. One spot open now. Guys are showing theyre willing to fill in spots and make more plays.
Jacob Younger concurred: I think its going to open up a lot of things. We loved T.Y. We loved having him on the team. Now that hes gone, a lot of opportunity opens up. Guys can get the ball who never really saw the ball that much.
FIU coach Mario Cristobal called the wide receivers the biggest plus for how far theyve come so far in camp and credited offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tim Cramsey and wide receivers coach Frank Ponce for synchronizing meetings to help the communication between the groups.
For now, Times, fifth-year senior Younger and junior Glenn Coleman are the first-team receivers, followed closely by junior Willis Wright, redshirt junior Jairus Williams and sophomore Dominique Rhymes. They caught a combined 110 passes last year for 1,215 yards and five touchdowns.
Hilton caught 72 passes for 1,038 yards and seven touchdowns last season and the attention paid to him accounted for who knows how much other offensive yardage.
He was responsible for the majority of the production in the passing game, and it was geared toward him, as it should be when you have a player like that, Cristobal said. But you have a bunch of guys who have busted their butts and theyve really improved their physicality of their game as well. A lot of times, you want to talk about receivers in the passing game. But in the running game, their blocking is just as important. If you take pride in that, youre going to take extra pride in the other stuff.
But its not as if FIUs receiving personnel suddenly dictates lining up in the I-formation and pounding the off-tackle play. Of FIUs 10 longest pass plays last year, Hilton had six, but the other four were caught by players still on the roster. If Hilton was a Ferrari, what remains are Camaro ZLIs and Shelby Mustang GT500s.
Also, what little they lose in zoom with Hilton, they gain in size. Among that top six, only the 5-11 Times is under 6-2. That especially should help in the red zone, where FIU can throw out 6-2 (Coleman, Younger, Wright) 6-4 (Rhymes) and 6-5 (Williams) receivers and pick the fade.
We want to pride ourselves on that. Weve got some height out there and we really want to do jump balls this year, said Younger, who expressed pride in putting muscle on his formerly skinny legs (It was embarrassing.) during the offseason.
The coaching staff awaits an emergence from Wright, a four-star recruit out of Miami Springs, and Coleman in the manner of a technie waiting for the latest iProduct from Apple.
The guys kind of limitless, as big as he is and as fast as he is, Cristobal said of Coleman. He goes anywhere from 208, 215 and he was a legitimate track guy in high school (sixth in Louisianas state 5A 200 meters). Hes got great hands and hes a good route runner. We can do all kinds of stuff [with him]. He creates matchup problems with opponents as big as he is and as physical as he is.