High School Recruiting

Adding depth at QB a priority for FIU Panthers

FIU has received 18 oral commitments. If all those make it to Wednesday, National Signing Day, that leaves the school holding seven scholarships.

Bet on one or two getting used on the quarterback position.

They added a running back last week with Seminole Ridge’s Silas Spearman, who ran for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns last season and possibly a second running back with Orlando Jones’ speedster Wilkerson Myrtil. Myrtil, who can play running back, linebacker or safety, finished sixth in the Class 2A state final 100 meters, 11th in the 200 and ran a leg on Jones’ third place 400 meter relay team.

FIU coach Ron Turner wants to build depth at every position, but the Panthers are two hits from being in deep trouble at the game’s No. 1 position.

Starter Jake Medlock returns for his redshirt junior season. When able to take snaps, Medlock completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 2,127 yards and 13 touchdowns against only two interceptions. FIU averaged 27.8 points and 414.6 yards per game and got all three wins with Medlock at quarterback.

While Medlock’s toughness and willingness to play through injuries never waver, his health’s been a sometime thing over the past one-plus seasons. Since earning the starting job late in the 2011 season, three injuries have caused him to miss starts in five of 16 games and significant time in two others.

As Medlock’s backup last season, E.J. Hilliard started three games as a true freshman, all against bowl teams, and played the second half of a 28-21 loss to Sugar Bowl-champion Louisville. Hilliard completed 69.1 percent of his passes for 645 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions. While Hilliard lacked Medlock’s running ability or experience for decision-making — the offense averaged 19 points and 320.7 yards per game under Hilliard — his style actually fits Turner’s pro-style offense than the spread that FIU ran under Mario Cristobal.

Behind Hilliard as far as game experience? The abyss.

Lorenzo Hammonds’ accuracy, one for six last season in relief of Medlock and Hilliard, makes him an ill fit as anything more than an in-game stop-gap. Favian Upshaw got redshirted. Both eventually could wind up as defensive backs or wide receivers, particularly if academic ineligibilities start to thin FIU at those positions (The Miami Herald has learned through FIU sources that several starters from 2012 and expected contributors in 2013 sit in grave danger of being academically ineligible for at least the first four games of the 2013 season).

So, for now and the future, Turner needs a quarterback. Louisville Trinity’s Travis Wright and Southridge’s Troy Cook both visited FIU last week.

Cook, operating out of a run-based offense, completed 44.5 percent of his throws for 1,109 yards in 2012. Wright completed 64.2 percent of passes for 3,529 yards and 39 touchdowns with 11 interceptions as Trinity won its third consecutive Class 6A state title with Wright at quarterback. Both are rated at two stars by various recruiting analysts.

It’s been nine years since Turner drove the recruiting roads. It’s not just the outside temperature that’s different than what he saw while recruiting as University of Illinois coach.

“The biggest difference is you don’t have to go nearly as far to find players,” he said. “I think there were only two or three high schools in Champaign-Urbana [where Illinois is located]. Here, there are so many good athletes, so much skill and they really love football. You get in the car and just drive to see all the quality athletes, the good high school coaches and programs.”

Sean Avant, WR, Miramar, 6-0, 180

Jordan Budwig, OL, Davie University School, 6-3, 290

James Cruise, OL, Palm Beach Gardens, 6-5, 275

Jeremy Derrick, LB, Hallandale, 6-1, 175

Chris Flaig, OL, Vero Beach, 6-5, 272

Jordan Gibbs, LB, Killian, 6-2, 220

Jordan Guest, LB, Columbus, 6-4, 190

Xavier Hines, CB, Belen, 5-11, 175

Sandley Jean-Felix, OT, Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson, 6-5, 285

Wilkenson Myrtil, 6-1, 190, RB/LB, Orlando Jones

Shug Oyegunle, WR, Tampa Gaither, 5-11, 175

Jonathan Pavlov, TE, North Palm Beach Benjamin, 6-4, 220

Alphonso Randolph, RB, Ocala West Port, 5-11, 180

Jonnu Smith, TE, Ocala West Port, 6-3, 210

Willie Smith, DB, Bradenton Manatee, 6-1, 176

Silas Spearman, RB, 5-10, 190 Seminole Ridge

Vontarius West, CB, Bartow, 6-0, 180

Treyvon Williams, LB, Norland, 5-11, 185

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