As of Monday’s start to fall practice, FIU football has 26 days to finish making up 21 points on Bethune-Cookman University.
FIU’s season opens Aug. 30 at home against Football Championship Subdivision B-CU, which rolled over FIU 34-13 last season at FIU Stadium.
This year’s training camp opens without the uncertainty that permeated every facet of last year’s camp.
No uncertainties about eligibility, according to FIU coach Ron Turner. Less uncertainty about the offense and defense, as the Panthers will run the same schemes they were just getting familiar with last year, which were departures from the schemes run under former coach Mario Cristobal.
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Less uncertainty about experience as the entire offensive line returns; the prospective starting secondary has a combined 45 starts; and the probable starting wide receivers, tight ends and defensive ends all have started games.
The main questions revolved around the middle of the offensive backfield, the middle of the defensive front seven and the special teams (kicking and punting).
Junior quarterback E.J. Hilliard started seven of the 16 games in which he played over his first two seasons. He will start practice with the first team, but Turner said at Conference USA Media Day freshman Alex McGough will get a chance to compete for that spot.
Of the potential running backs, three are coming back from injuries (sophomore Alfonso Randolph, sophomore Silas Spearman, walk-on transfer Anthon Samuel). Two others are freshmen (Alex Gardner, Napoleon Maxwell). Shane Coleman’s a redshirt junior but has only 19 carries in eight games. Junior Lamarq Caldwell, last year’s rushing leader with 504 yards, averaged only 3.5 per carry.
On defense, last year’s two defensive tackles, Isame Faciane and Greg Hickman, toil in NFL training camps now.
Replacing last season’s leading tackler, middle linebacker Markeith Russell, will be either junior Luis Rosado or sophomore Treyvon Williams.