Florida International U

These former quarterbacks have found their calling as receivers for the FIU Panthers

FIU Panthers receiver Maurice Alexander (1) gets ready to return a punt against Arkansas Pine-Bluff at Ricardo Silva Stadium in Miami on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018.
FIU Panthers receiver Maurice Alexander (1) gets ready to return a punt against Arkansas Pine-Bluff at Ricardo Silva Stadium in Miami on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Cadarius Gaskin might be the new Maurice Alexander, which would suit FIU football coaches just fine.

FIU (3-2, 1-0 Conference USA) is off this Saturday but will host Middle Tennessee on Oct. 13.

Alexander, who was a dual-threat quarterback at Miami’s Booker T. Washington, switched to wide receiver after this year’s spring practices had ended, and he is now FIU’s second-leading pass-catcher.

He took a bubble screen and went 76 yards for a touchdown in this past Saturday’s 55-9 win over lowly Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Alexander’s score, which was FIU’s first after surprisingly falling behind 3-0 to Pine Bluff, was built on speed but also knowledge.

“[Having played quarterback], it’s kind of easier for me to read the coverages and know when will I be open and how I need to get open,” said Alexander, who finished with five catches for 144 yards against Pine Bluff.

“The rest is just me getting the ball in my hands — that’s really the easy part. I’m pretty sure nobody’s going to run me down [from behind].”

Gaskin showed his speed when he beat Pine Bluff on a 75-yard touchdown pass over the top of the defense.

Similar to Alexander, Gaskin was a dual-threat quarterback in high school.

A 6-3, 215-pound freshman, Gaskin starred at Delray Beach Atlantic and was FIU’s top freshman recruit and top offensive recruit in the Class of 2018.

Gaskin didn’t have any collegiate catches before Saturday, but now he has two for 86 yards.

Florida Gators transfer C.J. Worton leads FIU wide receivers in catches (15), yards (346), average (23.1) and touchdowns (four, including a 52-yarder on Saturday). Alexander is next with 11 catches for 236 yards, a 21.5 average and three touchdowns. Alexander also has a 69-yard punt return for a score.

Austin Maloney is third on the list with five catches for 116 yards and two scores, although his 36-yard fumble recovery on Saturday is factored into those stats.

Tony Gaiter IV has been a possession receiver with 11 catches for 100 yards.

Gaskin is next in yardage, and noticeably missing on this list is sophomore Bryce Singleton, who has four catches for 62 yards but has been limited to two games due to injuries.

THIS AND THAT

FIU’s running back position, already down a man after Anthony Jones was injured in a drive-by-shooting on Sept. 6, received a boost this past Saturday with the collegiate debut of Shaun Peterson, a 6-3, 215-pound freshman from Fort Lauderdale Nova.

Peterson was a linebacker at Nova at well as a key running back in its triple-option attack, but he got off to a slow start at FIU.

“He had a hamstring injury, and he started practicing full speed just two weeks ago,” Davis said of Peterson, who had 10 carries for 38 yards against Pine Bluff. “He ran powerful and strong. It was good to get him back.”

With Jones out, junior Shawndarrius Phillips leads FIU running backs in yards (274) and touchdowns (four). He is averaging 4.5 per rush.

Senior Napoleon Maxwell is second with 257 yards. He is averaging 5.1 and has three touchdowns.

Sophomore D’Vonte Price might be FIU’s most intriguing running back. He has rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns and leads the Panthers in average per rush (7.1).

“We try to play three and four running backs,” Davis said. “The key is to keep guys fresh.”

Worton, who was on Conference USA’s All-Offense team after his performance against the Miami Hurricanes, was one of five FIU co-captains for the Pine Bluff game. The other captains were guard Jordan Budwig, defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, outside linebacker Edwin Freeman and punter Stone Wilson.

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