The midseason watch list for the Mackey Award, given to the nation’s best tight end, includes junior Jonnu Smith, who was on the preseason list, and senior Ya’Keem Griner.
That makes sense since Griner’s numbers exceed Smith’s. Griner has 20 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns, while Smith has 21 receptions for 152 yards and two scores. FIU is the only school with two players on the list.
FIU often uses a two-tight end set, and teams started paying extra attention to Smith after his impressive sophomore year.
Panthers quarterbacks and receivers coach Kort Shankweiler said Griner is benefitting in various ways.
“[Griner’s] benefitting in that he’s been a guy who has completely bought in to the system,” Shankweiler said. “He’s at a position where, in this offense, you’ve got a chance to be really successful. He’s practicing as hard as he ever has, and he’s competing as hard as he ever has. That’s showing up on game day.”