There are “Under Construction” signs seemingly everywhere on FIU’s campus, and that certainly holds true for the football program, which is, as they say, under new management.
Butch Davis, the former Miami Hurricanes, Cleveland Browns and North Carolina Tar Heels coach, ran his first practice since 2010 on Tuesday as FIU opened spring drills.
“It would be an understatement to say it was awesome,” Davis said when asked about his first FIU practice. “I love being around these kids. I love how they have worked in preparation for spring practice.”
The practice was held on FIU’s soccer field instead of the football stadium because, well, there’s work getting done. A new turf field is being installed in the stadium, and two new football practice fields are being constructed just outside the soccer complex.
“I don’t care if we’re on concrete,” FIU linebacker Anthony Wint said with a smile. “As long as we’re out here on a field, grinding, competing, I’m happy with that.”
Wint, who made second-team All-Conference USA last season as a junior, figures to be one of the building blocks for Davis’ planned reconstruction.
Davis, asked which of the 93 FIU athletes looked good, gave his “first impression rose” to one player on each side of the ball.
“I was very impressed with [rising senior quarterback] Alex McGough,” Davis said. “Here’s a kid who has a lot of experience. I know he’s coming off an injury, but his ability to throw the football and get it out of his hand and his decision-making were very good.
“I also liked [rising junior defensive lineman] Fermin Silva. I watched him in the pass-rush drills — he’s an explosive kid. He can get off the ball really well.”
Because quarterback is such an important position, the fact that Davis mentioned McGough first when asked about players who impressed him was telling.
McGough, who is bidding to become a fourth-year starter, could face challenges from players such as incoming freshman Kaylan Wiggins, who is due to arrive this fall, and rising sophomore Christian Alexander. Another rising sophomore, Maurice Alexander, no relation, could also challenge.
For McGough, he will have to learn another system after starting his career under Ron Turner. After Turner was fired four games into the 2016 season, McGough played under interim coach Ron Cooper.
Davis is McGough’s third head coach in less than six months.
“I wouldn’t say it’s difficult,” McGough said. “Football is football. It’s the same stuff — just different words. All of our guys have gotten in our [play]books and studied hard so that when we get out here, we know what we’re doing.”
Tuesday’s practice lasted two hours, 15 minutes, and the players will be back at it on Wednesday morning. In all, the team will practice six times before its first scrimmage on March 25. And the annual spring game is set for April 7 at 7 p.m. inside the football stadium — new turf and all.
“We’re all excited,” Wint said. “Not just to be on the field, but to have a new message. I feel like we’ve always had the talent. Butch Davis is the guy to push us to the next level, push us to championships.”