Unlike Ron Turner’s first two seasons as FIU football’s coach, he reached the end of spring knowing who will be his starting quarterback, top three running backs and eight or nine defensive starters.
That allowed Turner to give the less-established long looks during Friday’s spring game.
And that’s how the few hundred at FIU Stadium got introduced to 6-4 walk-on wide receiver Shawn Abrams, a 2013 graduate of Neptune Beach Fletcher High, the same high school that sent FIU three Medlocks.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Guest made an interception and recovered a fumble. Redshirt freshman cornerback Mark Bruno, playing often in star cornerback Richard Leonard’s spot, picked off a pass and caused the fumble that Guest recovered.
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Of quarterback Alex McGough’s backups, Bud Martin had the best night with two touchdown passes.
But it was Abrams, the receiver on Martin’s two longest completions of the night, who grabbed everyone’s attention.
“It’s been a lot of work. I started off kind of slow, but it’s been picking up lately,” Abrams said. “Now that I’ve started understanding [the offense] more, it’s just kind of flowed.”
Abrams made several short, possession catches but FIU has tight ends Jonnu Smith, Ya’keem Griner and Akil Dan-Fodio to move the chains. They need a field stretcher who can beat a cornerback on speed for a 28-yard touchdown pass up the right sideline, as Abrams did against Bruno. That pass came from Martin, as did a ball on which Abrams made a juggling catch along the right sideline for 29 yards.
Abrams has known the Medlocks since elementary school.
In high school, he used to catch deep balls from FIU sophomore backup quarterback and punter Luke Medlock, younger brother of long snapper Sam Medlock and former FIU quarterback Jake Medlock.
“They told me they need some wide receivers down here, so I made that commitment,” Abrams said.
Turner said FIU recruited Abrams as a walk-on in 2013. Off-the-field problems followed by injuries sustained in an auto accident put Abrams football career on hold while he attended FIU anyway.
“He had to grow up,” said Turner, who has shown little tolerance for player misconduct at FIU.
Abrams kept after Turner in pursuit of just a chance. Finally, this spring, Turner agreed to let him play on a tryout basis.
“He kept getting better each day in the spring,” Turner said. “He had a very good spring. [Friday night] wasn’t a fluke. He’s been doing that the last half of spring. We wanted to give him an opportunity [Friday night].”
Martin’s other touchdown came on a fade to 6-1 sophomore Thomas Owens. Martin was 10 of 21 passing for 101 yards.
The three early enrolling freshmen — Miami Central wide receiver Anthony Jones, defensive end Fermin Silva and Lakeland Christian quarterback Christian Alexander — also received extensive playing time.
Unsurprisingly, FIU lined Jones up in the slot and ran him on an end around and threw him a couple of bubble screens. Alexander threw the interception to Bruno on a telegraphed pass but made some other throws that better displayed his raw talent.
The game’s scoring system gave the offense the normal points for a touchdown and field goal; one point for consecutive first downs; two points for a 10-yard run or 20-yard pass. The defense got one point for a stop; two points for a three-and-out; two points for a fourth-down stop; three points for a turnover; and seven points for a defensive touchdown. The offense won 34-22.