Florida International U

Experience will count for FIU football team

FIU quarterback Maurice Alexander (12) sets up to pass during spring football game at FIU Stadium on April 7, 2017.
FIU quarterback Maurice Alexander (12) sets up to pass during spring football game at FIU Stadium on April 7, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

FIU’s spring football practices — its first under new coach Butch Davis — end Tuesday.

And when the team gathers for fall practices, the Panthers’ projected offensive starters will include four seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and one redshirt freshman. On defense, they project five seniors, four juniors and two sophomores.

Junior running back Napoleon Kaufman, who missed the past two years after a knee injury, took his first hits since 2014 this spring. He adds depth to a backfield that is set at the top with senior Alex Gardner and junior Anthony Jones. Kaufman had an 88-yard game against Rice in 2014.

Davis has been impressed with right tackle Daquane Wilkie, saying he might be FIU’s most athletic offensive lineman. Davis also called senior James Cruise “our John Havlicek,” a reference to the 1960s- ’70s-era Boston Celtic who was a top reserve who would play starter’s minutes because of his versatility.

FIU is also experimenting with using 6-4, 220-pound linebacker Jordan Guest at defensive end. Guest, a senior, was a district triple-jump champ at Columbus and provides added speed for FIU.

Redshirt freshman Jose Borregales, a former Booker T. Washington standout, booted a 30-yard field goal in Friday’s spring game and is set to be the starting kicker this fall.

ELSEWHERE

▪ The 2017 WNBA Draft is Thursday. Draftsite.com projects Miami Hurricanes guard Adrienne Motley as an early third-round pick, although she had been listed as a late-first rounder a couple of months ago.

▪ Miami Dade College baseball standout Alex Valverde has committed to Alabama. The 6-2 sophomore right-hander is majoring in Criminal Justice.

▪ On the NSU softball team, freshman third baseman Lexie Storrer had a thrill recently when she had walk-off singles in both ends of a doubleheader. Storrer, who is from Kansas and played club ball under former MLB catcher Mike MacFarlane, went 5 for 8 in the two games.

▪ Barry sophomore Verena Schmid was named the Sunshine State Conference Women’s Tennis Player of the Week. Unranked, the native of Germany knocked off Lynn’s sixth-ranked Diana Bogolii 6-2, 6-4. Third-ranked Barry (22-0) finished a perfect regular season and is a legit threat to win a national title.

▪ NSU’s women’s basketball program is coming off its fifth consecutive NCAA tournament Division II appearance. However, the team has been trending down since reaching the Final Four in 2014. Last season, the Sharks finished 17-12 and got bounced in the first round, snapping a four-year streak of 20-win seasons. The Sharks will look to go further next season with key returnees, such as 5-9 senior guard Christen Prasse, who made second-team all-conference; and 6-2 sophomore forward Maria Bardeeva, the league’s reigning Freshman of the Year.

▪ FIU’s men’s basketball team, coming off a 7-24 season, is hoping to find some overlooked gems this month in recruiting. Meanwhile, one of its Conference USA rivals, Western Kentucky, has already signed 7-foot center Mitchell Robinson, ranked the No. 6 overall prospect in the nation for the Class of 2017. In addition, Western Kentucky also signed the No. 43 prospect in 6-4 senior guard Josh Anderson.

FIU graduated five key seniors, has no top 150 recruits and just one signee from November, Darius Brown of South Broward.

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