Florida International U

FIU Panthers defense backing up its tough rep

Gang tackle: FIU’s Richard Leonard (3) and Anthony Wint (53) take down Pitt wide receiver Manasseh Garner during the football game last Saturday.
Gang tackle: FIU’s Richard Leonard (3) and Anthony Wint (53) take down Pitt wide receiver Manasseh Garner during the football game last Saturday. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Sometimes, experience is valued more than talent and sometimes its the other way around.

Take FIU’s linebacker corps, which came into this season relatively light on game time as a group. But they can move at the pace associated with Florida football and arrive with an enthusiasm for the violence associated with the position.

“It so happens our defense, I don’t want to say it’s simple, but it is a reactionary deal,” FIU linebackers coach Rob Harley said. “So, I knew there was a chance all those guys could come in and play early, even our redshirt freshmen who haven’t gotten a ton of reps. We opened up the competition.”

“The best players are going to play and the best players are going to get reps. There’s no favorites. No politics involved. The guys who get to the ball the fastest … are going to play.”

That is how you get the nation’s No. 25 overall defense and No. 4 red-zone defense — one built around young, gifted and fast guys who aren’t going anywhere. Of the linebackers listed on the two-deep depth chart, none are seniors and only two are juniors.

One of the juniors, redshirt junior Luis Rosado moved to a new position, middle linebacker, where he spells the starter, sophomore Treyvon Williams. The only linebacker with six starts in six games is freshman Anthony Wint, officially second on the team in tackles and unofficially first among the linebackers in pain distribution.

“My last year of playing Pop Warner, I got moved to linebacker,” said Wint, a Homestead High graduate. “I just loved it. It’s the best part of the game, hitting somebody.”

Harley said, “You definitely saw he has the makeup, physically. He’s a thick kid. He’s got speed.”

They all have speed. Ask who the two fastest linebackers are and you get these responses:

Wint: “I’d say maybe Jordan [Guest] and maybe Fred Russ.”

Redshirt freshman Jordan Guest: “I’d say Davo [Colimon] and Fred Russ.”

Harley: “Anthony Wint. Fred Russ. Maybe throw Davison Colimon in there.”

And Colimon won the 110-meter high hurdles Class 2A state title at Riviera Beach Suncoast, which defines speed and athleticism. He got converted from safety to linebacker at FIU and spent most of last season on and off of FIU coach Ron Turner’s bad side.

Now, Colimon is one of FIU’s captains and started the last three games at the outside spot Guest started for the first three. Both starters and subs get 30 to 40 snaps a game.

“His ability to get to the ball, especially when plays get to the edge, is huge,” Harley said of Guest.

Russ, a freshman out of Tampa Bay Tech, didn’t play the first three games. In his second game, he caused a fumble on an Alabama-Birmingham kickoff return, which FIU turned into a field goal.

Mercurial movement forms the foundation of FIU’s run defense.

“It’s really gap control. There’s no guessing,” FIU defensive coordinator Josh Conklin said. “It’s really defined for them. We want them downhill. We don’t want them standing, reading stuff. It’s get your read and go.”

Harley said, “It’s a belief we’re going to suffocate the offense with pressure. That’s on normal defense. That’s when we’re blitzing. At all times. Really, both of those should look the same. When we blitz and when we play normal defense, they should look exactly the same.

“We’re going to dictate the flow and the tempo of the game rather than the offense dictate to us. That’s more of a belief than it is a coaching technique.”

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