FIU’s football program got a head start on its 2018 recruiting class Wednesday, signing 21 players — including three that are ranked four stars by 24/7 Sports.
The class, which includes 14 players from Florida, is ranked 75th in the nation but second in Conference USA.
Panthers coach Butch Davis said FIU has four more scholarships that could be awarded on Feb. 7 in the traditional National Signing Day. Davis said another option is to keep some of those “bullets” for coveted players who come available this coming summer.
One example of that was tight end Pharoah McKever, a graduate transfer from North Carolina State who became an immediate starter in Davis’ first FIU class, which was completed last summer.
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Davis could also hold back a couple of scholarships for walks-on players who emerge. Two examples from last year: cornerback Brad Muhammad and safety Bryce Canady.
As for the players signed Wednesday, FIU appeared to get the most help on its defensive line, signing four-star junior college transfers Teair Tart (6-3, 290) and Tayland Humphrey (6-5, 350).
FIU’s other four-star recruit is D’Ante Demery, a 6-5, 320-pound offensive tackle from Georgia.
“His nickname is ‘big,’ and he probably can’t get in that door,” Davis joked during Wednesday’s signing ceremony. “We got dramatically bigger, and we got a lot faster.”
Some of that speed Davis was referring to is at wide receiver with Miami Booker T. Washington’s Zahir Turner, Fort Lauderdale Stranahan’s Marquell Dillard and Orlando’s Jordan Underwood.
Turner is one of four Miami Dade County players in this class. Dillard is one of two from Broward. Both will try to fill the void left by FIU senior and leading receiver Thomas Owens.
FIU will also lose senior standouts such as quarterback Alex McGough, running back Alex Gardner, McKever at tight end, defensive end Newton Salisbury, linebackers Anthony Wint and Treyvon Williams and most of its secondary, including Muhammad, Canady and Niko Gonzalez.
The Panthers answered most of those issues Wednesday, including adding 6-2, 195-pound, pro-style, three-star quarterback Caleb Lynum of East Ridge High.
At running back, FIU signed DeMarcus Townsend (5-10, 215) from Naples and Shaun Peterson Jr. (6-3, 210). Davis compared Peterson to former NFL back Najeh Davenport.
FIU signed three tight ends, including 6-3, 225-pound Miami Palmetto wide receiver Ivan Thomas.
“He will outgrow wide receiver by noon tomorrow,” Davis said.
Of the defensive ends, Davis had high praise for the sack abilities of Rocky Jacques-Louis, a 6-2, 220-pounder from Fort Myers Dunbar.
At middle linebacker Donovan Georges, a 6-1, 240-pounder from Champagnat, will get a shot to replace Wint.
Two local players who could fill the holes left by Canady and Gonzalez are tall safeties Jamal Anderson of South Dade High and Shamar Munroe of Coral Gables.
Davis seemed to have just one regret about the recruiting class.
“I’m just mad,” he said, “that 12 of them couldn’t play for us tomorrow night [in the Gasparilla Bowl].”
Name, Ht., Wt., Pos., Hometown, School
D’Antne Demery; 6-5; 320; offesnive line; Brunswick; Brunswick.
David O’Meara; 6-5; 245; tight end; Tallahassee; Chiles.
Demarcus Townsend; 5-10; 215; running back; Naples; Palmetto Ridge.
Ivan Thomas; 6-3; 225; running back; Miami; Palmetto.
John Bolding; 6-3; 315; offensive line; Spring, Texas; Klein Oak.
Jordan Underwood; 6-0; 180; receiver; Apopka; Olympia.
Lyndell Hudson Jr.; 6-6; 300; offensive line; Brooksville; Central.
Maurquel Dillard; 6-0; 185; receiver; Fort Lauderdale; Stranahan.
Shaun Peterson Jr.; 6-3; 215; running back; Fort Lauderdale; Nova.
Sterling Palmer; 6-6; 235; tight end; Richmond, Va.; Benedictine College Prep.
Zahir Turner; 5-11; 160; receiver; Miami; Booker T. Washington.
Caleb Lynum; 6-2; 195; quarterback; Miami; East Ridge.
Donovan Georges; 6-1; 240; linebacker; Hialeah; Champagnat.
Jamal Anderson; 6-2; 180; defensive back; Homestead; South Dade.
Jesson Walker; 6-1; 170; defensive back; Southwest Brevard County; Rockledge.
Joshua Sanders; 6-5; 225; defensive line; Waxahachie, Texas; Life.
Rocky Jaques-Louis; 6-2; 220; linebacker; Fort Myers; Dunbar.
Shamar Munroe; 6-1; 190; defensive back; Palmetto; Palmetto.
Tayland Humphrey; 6-5; 350; defensive line; Spring, Texas; Hutchinson C.C.
Teair Tart; 6-3; 290; defensive line; West Philadelphia; Elsworth C.C.
Kameron Burns; 6-4; 270; defensive line; Crawfordville; Wakulla.