Florida International U

FIU’s depth chart becomes clearer even as the quarterback battle has not been settled

FIU football coach Butch Davis watches his team’s first practice.
FIU football coach Butch Davis watches his team’s first practice. Erua@miamiherald.com

With the season opener looming on Saturday night against the visiting Indiana Hoosiers, the FIU Panthers revealed their first official depth chart of the season on Tuesday.

There’s still no announced decision on a starting quarterback — it’s listed as Christian Alexander OR James Morgan on the sheet.

“We will make a decision on Saturday,” FIU coach Butch Davis said. “We’re going to play both of them in this game and probably both in the first half. [It’s been] a phenomenal competition.”

Other than quarterback, here are 10 key facts following the release of the depth chart:

1: Napoleon Maxwell, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry last year, will get the first crack at replacing FIU’s all-time leading rusher Alex Gardner. Anthony Jones, who was injured last season, is listed on the second team.

2: FIU graduated leading receiver Thomas Owens, and sophomore Bryce Singleton, who flashed at the end of last season, was seen after practiceon Tuesday, running routes and trying to get over an unspecified injury.

Singleton and Austin Maloney are listed as starters, but Florida Gators transfer CJ Worton could move up to first team due to the injury issue. Shemar Thornton is listed at second team behind Maloney.

3: At tight end, FIU graduated 6-6, 260-pounder Pharoah McKever, who signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent. Freshman Sterling Palmer is now the No. 1 tight end, and Christian Vinson is the backup.

4: FIU returns all five 2017 starters on the offensive line, from left to right, redshirt senior Daquane Wilkie, graduate student Jordan Budwig, senior Neal Mars, third-year sophomore Dallas Connell and redshirt senior Kai Absheer. But the current depth chart lists Connell moving over to center ahead of Mars and junior college transfer Shacquille Williams as the starting right guard.

The second-team offensive line, from left to right includes former Georgia Bulldog D’Ante Demery, Mershawn Miller, Mars, Shane McGough (brother of ex-FIU QB Alex McGough); and Devontay Taylor.

5: Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson leads the line and has been paired up on the first team with junior-college transfer Tayland Humphrey. The starting ends are Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Woods and Kansas State transfer Josh Little. Noah Curtis and Kevin Oliver are the backup ends, and junior-college transfer Teair Tart-Spencer and Jermaine Sheriff are second-team tackles.

Humphrey and Tart-Spencer were FIU’s only four-star recruits in the Class of 2018.

6: FIU is largely untested at linebacker, especially once you get past Fermin Silva on the outside and Sage Lewis in the middle. Silva is a converted defensive end. Lewis is a former outside linebacker. Freshman Rocky Jacques-Louis is the third starter.

The backups are graduate student Ed Freeman and sophomores Jamal Gates and Josh Powell, a converted running back.

7: As expected, the starting cornerbacks are Ike Brown, who missed eight games last year due to a broken collarbone, and Emmanuel Lubin. Davison Tuesday once again raved about backup corner Stantley Thomas, an ex-receiver.

8: Olin Cushin and Richard Dames are the new starting safeties. Dames’ twin brother, Rishard, is a backup cornerback. The reserve safeties are Dorian Hall and T.J. Johnson.

9: FIU may have an advantage over Indiana — which does not have an experienced kicker — in special teams. Kicker Jose Borregales, punter Stone Wilson and kickoff specialist Sean Young all return. The long snapper is new — Tommy Zozus.

10: The 10th entry here regards FIU’s first opponent, the Hoosiers. Indiana coach Tom Allen prefers a mobile quarterback for his spread attack, and that is what he has in 6-2, 210-pound redshirt sophomore Peyton Ramsey, who beat out three other competitors to win the starting job this fall.

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