FIU and FAU — separated by one letter and 36 miles — have a rivalry that stretches from the football field to the living rooms of prospective recruits.
Both programs have big-time coaches — Butch Davis at FIU and Lane Kiffin at FAU. Davis is 17-9 in two years at FIU, including 1-1 in bowl games. Kiffin is 16-10 in two years at FAU, including 1-0 in bowls.
Over the past two years, FAU has one conference title to zero for FIU, and Kiffin’s bunch is 2-0 against Davis’ group with a lopsided combined score of 101-38.
However, the argument can be made that the trajectory of the programs favors FIU, which won a school record nine games in 2018 … while FAU slumped to 5-7 and no bowl bid.
The battle for new talent also favors FIU, according to recruiting expert Charles Fishbein.
“FIU is out-recruiting FAU right now,” Fishbein said. “Butch has always done a good job of identifying diamonds in the rough. Lane is looking more at graduate transfers and junior-college kids.
“Butch gets on kids early and doesn’t care if they have better offers elsewhere. If they decide to stay close to home, his hard work pays off.”
On Wednesday, when the second signing period begins for the Class of 2019, both schools will give their fans a fuller look at their recruiting hauls.
So far, FIU has signed 15 players in this class, including five transfers. There is a junior-college kicker as part of that group.
On offense, FIU has signed a quarterback, running back, tight end, guard, tackle and two wide receivers, but more help is needed on the offensive line.
Defensive recruits include two ends, two linebackers and two backs. More depth is needed on the line and more quality and quantity are required at linebacker.
On Wednesday, FIU is hoping to sign 6-2, 190-pound wide receiver/safety Brian Dillard, a versatile high school player from Lake Weir in northern Florida.
Dillard had a big senior season, catching 14 touchdown passes with 1,250 yards in receptions. On defense, he had 20 tackles for losses, five forced fumbles and four interceptions. He decommitted from the South Florida Bulls on Dec. 14.
FIU is also expected to add a much-needed offensive lineman in Sione Finau, a 6-3, 295-pound guard from Central High in Texas. Finau also had offers from Hawaii, Army, Air Force and Cornell.
In addition, Kendre Gant, who led Port St. Joe to an 11-1 record and a berth in the Class 1A state semifinals, committed to FIU on Sunday.
Gant, a 6-3, 200-pounder, played tight end and outside linebacker at Port St. Joe but is being projected as a wide receiver at FIU. In his prep career, he caught 47 passes for 960 yards (20.4 per reception) and 12 touchdowns. On defense, he had eight sacks, five forced fumbles and three interceptions.
Of the players so far committed, Fishbein is perhaps most enthusiastic about Miami Central running back Lexington Joseph.
“I like him a lot — he’s a sleeper who should make an immediate impact,” Fishbein said of Joseph, who has been listed at anywhere between 5-6 and 5-9.
“He runs hard with pretty good top-end speed. He could’ve been a Power Five (Conference) kid but was overlooked because of his size.”
Here are Fishbein’s viewpoints on other FIU recruits:
▪ Wide receiver Nate Jefferson: “He’s more of a slot kid who will take some time to develop.”
▪ Offensive guard Logan Gunderson: “He’s not super athletic, but he’s a big kid — a road grader run-blocker.”
▪ Offensive tackle Julius Pierce: “He’s an athletic kid who has converted from tight end. He will block the heck out of you. He has length (6-5, 265 pounds), but he may have to redshirt to grow into a true offensive lineman.”
▪ Defensive end Nathan White: “I like his film a lot. He flew under the radar, but I think he will give FIU speed and pass-rushing off the edge.”
Adding Dillard would be a big pickup for FIU, Fishbein said.
“He can play wide receiver or defensive back,” Fishbein said. “He’s the best player to come out of Lake Weir in 10 years.”
Contact Walter Villa at email@example.com.