The FIU Panthers have two of the better football families in South Florida.
There’s running backs coach Tim Harris Jr., whose brother, Brandon, starred as a cornerback for the University of Miami and was the Houston Texans’ second-round pick in 2011. Their father, Tim “Ice” Harris, has built Miami’s Booker T. Washington High into a four-time state champion.
FIU also has running back Anthony Jones, whose family members include Florida State star running back and likely first-round pick Dalvin Cook; and Miami Central running back James Cook, who is an FSU recruit. Only DeAndre Burnett, a former Miami Hurricanes basketball standout, went a different path.
“Every time you step on the field, it means something,” Jones said when asked what he’s learned from Dalvin Cook. “You have to have a purpose out there.”
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NEAR MISS FOR FIU
It’s not widely known, but oh what might have been. NFL star wide receivers Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers and T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts were nearly teammates at FIU.
Mario Cristobal, who was FIU’s coach at the time, signed Brown out of Miami Norland in 2007 and Hilton from Miami Springs in 2008.
Brown, according to reports and sources, was booted off FIU’s team after an altercation and ended up at Central Michigan. He never got to team with Hilton.
But even with just the one superstar receiver in Hilton, FIU made the only bowl games in program history in 2010 and 2011.
SOUTH FLORIDA’S IMMENSE TALENT
SOUTH FLORIDA’S IMMENSE TALENT
Whether interim coach Ron Cooper returns next season or whether FIU goes elsewhere for its next head coach, that person, to be truly successful, will need to do a better job of recruiting the immense amount of talent in Dade and Broward.
Here are some other out-of-state players with local ties who are doing well in college football this season:
▪ Alabama sophomore wide receiver Calvin Ridley (Monarch) is projected to go among the top 10 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. He caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman. This year, he has 43 catches for 504 yards and five TDs.
▪ Georgia has two prominent South Floridians on its roster. Junior running back Sony Michel (American Heritage) is its second-leading rusher with 376 yards and a 4.9 average. And freshman wide receiver Riley Ridley (Calvin’s brother) from Monarch has seven catches for 126 yards and one touchdown.
▪ Western Kentucky’s Mike White, a 6-4, 215-pound junior from University School, is one of only seven quarterbacks in the nation with four or more games with at least 340 yards passing. He has completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,476 yards, 20 TDs and just five interceptions.
▪ South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers, a 6-0, 210-pound junior from Miami Jackson, leads his team in rushing (825 yards, 6.9 average, 8 TDs). He has also completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 1,722 yards, 15 TDs and five interceptions.
▪ Michigan has several freshmen from local schools, including ex-Flanagan linebackers Devin Gil and Devin Bush; former American Heritage tight end Nick Eubanks; former Miami Columbus linebacker Josh Uche; and former Flanagan safety Josh Metellus.
Meanwhile, former Aquinas quarterback John O’Korn, a 6-4, 215-pound senior, is the Michigan backup and has completed 11 of 15 passes for one touchdown and no interceptions this season. Before Michigan, he made 16 starts at Houston.
Michigan has also raided South Florida for coaching talent. Jedd Fisch, a former Hurricanes assistant, is Michigan’s passing-game coordinator and was ranked No. 2 on Lindy Magazine’s list of assistant coaches likely to get a job as a head coach soon.
Also, Devin Bush Sr., father of Devin Bush, is a defensive analyst on Michigan’s staff.