FIU Football

Depth not an issue for Panthers’ defensive line


FIU coach Mario Cristobal expects eight to 10 players to play on the defensive line this season.

Offensive acceleration of college football game pace — 90-100 plays by some teams, only 10-15 seconds between plays — came with expansion as far as searching for holes sideline to sideline.

The combination means you better bring a Mystery Machine full of defensive linemen to games. Otherwise, at some point, you will get punked (and not in the MTV “ha-ha, you got me” way).

“I think we’re gotten to the point where we can play eight to 10 guys,” FIU coach Mario Cristobal said.

FIU came into camp knowing they could play seniors Tourek Williams and Joshua Forney; juniors Isame Faciane, Greg Hickman, Jerricho Lee and Paul Crawford; and fifth-year senior Andre Pound. All except Forney, who played 12 games, got a start last season. Hickman led the team in sacks and tied linebacker Jordan Hunt for second in tackles for loss while starting only two games.

A couple of linemen short of being flush, the kiddie bus rolled up and dealt the Panthers three more cards: sophomore Giovani Francois, freshmen Fadol Brown and Darrian Dyson. They’ve buffaloed their way into more practice snaps with the first two units and should see significant time in Saturday’s season opener at Duke.

“You need eight who can play,” Cristobal said. “If you don’t [have that], you’re playing right into their hands. All they’ve got to do is move the chains one time, fresh set of downs and you’re going against your second or third defensive line and offenses can have their way. It’s critical to develop valuable and effective depth because they’re going to play.”

“Let’s say they throw a negative hitch out to the field,” he said. “That entire defense has rushed the passer up front, then sprinted to the sideline. They just ran 65 to 70 yards. Four or five plays later, they’ve run equivalent of three football fields and the drive’s just getting going.”

Francois got into four games last season and, this camp, quickly grabbed attention for increased burst off the edge. Despite having a name with a Cajun sound and FIU’s affinity for Louisiana big men, Francois comes from Maryland.

Dyson, on the other hand, comes from the New Orleans area, like Faciane and freshmen defensive linemen Leonard Washington and Marques Cheeks. In fact, Washington and Dyson were teammates at New Orleans Edna Karr High. Dyson’s officially the biggest of those three, a mountainous 6-3, 315, but with enough mobility that he played defensive end in high school.

As Francois was getting first team snaps early, Brown got installed with the second team. He enrolled at FIU during the spring after a year at North Carolina Tech prep school.

“Explosive. Long. He can play inside, he can play outside,” Cristobal said. “Fadol’s very smart. Good young man. He’s got a good heart about him. He’s still learning the game. He played on the offensive side of the ball in high school (Charleston (S.C.) Burke) and prep school as well. Played tight end and H-back as well. He’s going to help us win football games.”

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