Florida International U

FIU plans on improving the defense. Assistants Jerod Kruse and Jeff Copp have a plan

FIU Panthers assistant coaches Jerod Kruse, left,  and Jeff Copp look during spring football practice at Florida International University on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 in Miami.
FIU Panthers assistant coaches Jerod Kruse, left, and Jeff Copp look during spring football practice at Florida International University on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 in Miami. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Let’s start with how to pronounce the last name of new FIU co-defensive coordinator Jerod Kruse.

It’s KRU-zee, and it rhymes with Suzy.

“It’s German,” Kruse said of his name, “so you pronounce the ‘e’.”

After Brent Guy stepped down as FIU defensive coordinator recently, FIU coach Butch Davis promoted Jeff Copp, who was already on his staff as a defensive backs coach. Then Davis brought in Kruse from the Cleveland Browns.

Copp and Kruse will share d-coordinator duties.

“Coach Kruse came highly recommended,” said Copp, who is now coaching FIU’s linebackers. “We’re thrilled [Kruse] is here.”

Kruse, who is coaching FIU’s safeties, spent the past two years working with Cleveland’s defensive backs.

He arrived in Miami shortly before FIU began spring drills, so he’s still getting familiar with the Panthers players and their strengths and weaknesses.

“Coach Copp and I spent two or three days grinding on film,” Kruse said. “[Copp and I] are like-minded.

“It’s a blend of trying to learn new players and new terminology. Football is football anywhere you go, but the terminology is different.”

Kruse said he’s hoping to bring a “fresh perspective” to FIU personnel but added that there are “nuances” to those players he is still understanding.

Ike Brown, FIU’s senior cornerback, said “everything” is new on defense this spring.

“Our technique is different,” he said. “We’ve changed some things on coverages. Coach Kruse is a technician. Without technique, we are nothing. [Kruse] makes sure we have it right every play.”

Meanwhile, Copp is building his unit around senior middle linebacker Sage Lewis, a 6-1, 240-pounder from Monsignor Pace.

“Working with Sage is rewarding,” Copp said. “He gets it — he’s a self-starter.”

Daniel Jackson, a junior from North Carolina listed at 6-2 and 200 pounds, has been moved from safety to outside linebacker, where he is running with the first team.

“It’s a natural fit for him,” Copp said of the move from safety.

Jamal Gates is the starter on the other side, and Copp is trying to figure out the rest of the depth chart.

Outside linebacker Rocky Jacques-Louis, nicknamed “Mr. Pick Six” for his two defensive scores last season, has been training some at defensive end, rushing the passer in a hybrid role similar to what Fermin Silva had before he suffered a knee injury and eventually put his name into the transfer portal.

Asked about the learning curve, Copp said: “Rocky’s carburetor is full right now.”

THIS AND THAT

Ex-Panthers punter Stone Wilson said the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets were the two NFL teams who showed the most interest in his services after FIU’s pro day last week.

Wilson said he was nervous about pro day “until I got to the facility, and then I flipped the switch.”

Punters don’t typically get drafted, but Wilson, according to Davis, was highly impressive during the workout.

Brown on teammate Austin Maloney, a senior who could emerge as FIU’s top wide receiver this season: “He’s a speed guy,” Brown said. “You have to get your hands on him. If you don’t, you might as well strike up the band.”

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