FIU football

Coach Jason Brooks, CB Sam Miller lead FIU’s inexperienced secondary

 

FIU secondary coach Jason Brooks and senior cornerback Sam Miller are leading a unit filled with players who are eager to learn.

 
Wide receiver Richard Burrows, left, and cornerback Sam Miller go up for a pass during the spring game at FIU Stadium on April 20, 2013.
Wide receiver Richard Burrows, left, and cornerback Sam Miller go up for a pass during the spring game at FIU Stadium on April 20, 2013.
Gregory Castillo / Miami Herald Staff

More information

Looking ahead

Saturday will be FIU’s fifth game against a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponent and second game against an FCS opponent since moving to FBS in 2005. The Panthers are 2-2 against the MEAC, losing to Bethune-Cookman in 2002 and 2003 and beating Florida A&M in 2004 and 2005. Both FIU wins against FAMU would be vacated because of NCAA violations.

On the plus side

Though Bethune’s an FCS school, a win by FIU Saturday against the 2-0 Wildcats would be the Panthers first against a team coming in with a winning record since they beat 2-0 Central Florida in 2011 on Sept. 17.


mkelley@MiamiHerald.com

In a young season in which nothing has come easy for the FIU, the defensive secondary has seen as much hardship as any group on the team. Now the challenge for the coaching staff is to pick up the pieces and quickly build chemistry with a younger core of cornerbacks and safeties.

In FIU’s first two games, opponents completed 39 of 50 pass attempts (78 percent) and tallied a pass efficiency of 196.8, making FIU the fifth worst in Football Bowl Subdivision pass defense.

The series of setbacks began the week after a 43-10 loss at Maryland, when coach Ron Turner announced junior Richard Leonard, widely regarded as the team’s best cornerback, would not play in 2013 because of academic issues. In 2012, Leonard recorded 55 total tackles and broke up seven pass attempts.

In FIU’s home opener on Sept. 6, sophomore cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon was benched for poor performance, and redshirt junior safety Demarkus Perkins didn’t play because of a knee injury.

All the attrition has resulted in an influx of inexperienced players, most notably first-year junior college transfer Randy Harvey, freshman Brad Hyman-Muhammad and senior Mitch Wozniak, who played wide receiver his first three years at FIU.

Largely responsible for integrating the young talent, along with defensive coordinator Josh Conklin, is secondary coach Jason Brooks.

Brooks, an offensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens the past four years, said that he has seen progress with his group, but he hopes communication and chemistry will continue to improve as the group gets more game experience.

“Especially with the secondary, communication is a major piece of the puzzle,” Brooks said.

Brooks said the secondary is young, hungry and eager, and its attitude makes the group easy to coach.

“They come in a lot on their own and watch tape. That’s what you like to see as a coach,” Brooks said. “It makes it easy as a coach when you have a good group like that, that’s fun to coach and will work hard.”

According to Brooks, this attitude comes in part from the influence of senior cornerback Sam Miller, the group’s leader.

“Sam is a tremendous person and a tremendous leader,” Turner said of Miller. “He’s smart, hard working and everything you’d want in a leader.”

Brooks noted that coaching has its limitations, and players often need an upperclassman to lead by example and put in extra time after practice helping others.

“[Miller] has really taken on the leadership of this position group as a player,” Brooks said. “He’s really been able to lead not just the young guys, but the group as a whole. He’s been really focused not just on his job, but on other guys as well.”

Miller has recorded 12 tackles this year, second on the team, and leads in pass breakups.

Turner said he expects the secondary to improve on its performance against Bethune-Cookman on Saturday. While the Wildcats may be more known for their defense so far, Brooks isn’t taking the Football Championship Subdivision opponent lightly.

“They have a lot of speed and they’ll pose some challenges to us,” he said. “But I think our guys are locked in and prepared.”

Read more FIU stories from the Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category