FIU’s football team is on its bye week, but recruiting, it seems, rarely takes a day off.
Coach Butch Davis said there is one specific trait he and his staff are looking for on the recruiting trail.
“We want to dramatically continue to change the overall team speed,” Davis said. “We want the players we bring in to be faster than what we have on our team right now. And next year, we will be saying the same thing.
“Speed is something that will give us a chance to have success on game day.”
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So far, FIU’s 2017 recruiting class — the first under Davis, although he had to scramble to put the group together once he was hired on Nov. 15, 2016 — has not made a major impact.
When asked to name his standout freshmen, Davis lauded the special teams play of running back D’Vonte Price, linebacker Brandon James of Miami Southridge and safety Daniel Jackson.
Davis also said wide receiver Bryce Singleton, who has three catches for 29 yards, “has done a really good job.”
At least part of why this freshman class hasn’t done more is that Davis inherited an experienced team. Of the team’s top six tacklers, five are seniors, including second-team All-Conference USA linebackers Anthony Wint and Treyvon Williams.
On offense, FIU’s quarterback, Alex McGough; top runner, Alex Gardner; leading receiver, Thomas Owens; and starting tight end, Pharoah McKeever; are all seniors.
Translation: FIU will have a lot of holes to fill in for 2018, and Davis said he might plug a couple with junior college players.
“We have created lists of guys to look at in the Juco ranks,” Davis said. “It’s never been my philosophy to sign more than two or three Juco players each year. But if we can find immediate plug-in starters, we’d be happy to take them.”
Here’s a look at what FIU will face in the second half of the season as it looks to get to six wins, which would make the Panthers bowl eligible for just the third time in program history:
▪ Oct. 28 at Marshall — The Thundering Herd (5-1, 2-0) are the first Conference USA program in 22 years to not allow a touchdown in their first two league games of the year. They beat Old Dominion 35-3 last week, allowing just 45 yards after halftime. Last year, host FIU beat Marshall 31-14. But Marshall, which beat FIU 52-0 in 2015, is 4-1 in the series.
▪ Nov. 4 vs. Texas San Antonio — The Roadrunners (3-2, 0-2) have lost two games in a row, both in Conference USA, by a total of just five points. They lost last week to North Texas on a 22-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left. FIU is 0-1 in the series, losing 16-13 in 2014.
▪ Nov. 11 vs. Old Dominion — The Monarchs (2-4, 0-2) have lost four games in a row — all of them by at least 30 points. Old Dominion leads this series 2-1, but neither team has a road victory in those games.
▪ Nov. 18 at Florida Atlantic — Suddenly hot FAU (3-3, 2-0) has won two straight games, by a total of 48 points. The Owls lead this annual rivalry 10-4, but FIU has won two of the past three, including last year.
▪ Nov. 24 vs. Western Kentucky — The Hilltoppers (4-2, 2-1) have won four straight in this series, including a 49-21 victory last year and a 63-7 rout in 2015. WKU quarterback Mike White, a former Broward prep star at University School, is coming off a win over Charlotte in which he threw five touchdown passes.
▪ Dec. 2 vs. Massachusetts — UMass (0-6) has lost all six of its games by 10 points or less. The Minutemen lead this series 2-0, surprising FIU in each of the past two years.