Larry Blustein

FIU needs to stock up in backyard

There are so many reasons why a football program like FIU should never be lacking talent. Not with the area the Panthers have to recruit in.

In a region where there will be nearly 200 Football Bowl Subdivision-level football prospects roaming the fields from south Palm Beach to the Florida Keys, FIU needs to start to lay down the gauntlet and fight the programs who have been picking the Panthers clean for several years.

This is a school that has everything to offer, from location, to an always-competitive schedule to an education curriculum that specializes in many areas of business and industry.

From the first day this football program took hold when former Dolphins quarterback Don Strock was named the coach, there was always optimism. People who had followed recruiting through the years figured that after the major schools were finished in this region, there would be an abundance of talent left over. That has not been the case.

Even though there have been some quality prospects who have come through FIU, there’s a feeling that until the Panthers can continue to rake in the local talent and not lose them to schools such as Louisiana Lafayette, Troy and other programs throughout the country, this team will be hard-pressed to compete with deeper and more talented opponents.

Local high school coaches have never really gotten into the flow of FIU. While there are some relationships that have remained solid between the school and South Florida programs, many coaches have waited to see what Ron Turner and his staff are going to do with this program.

In a world where you cannot have every athlete available, South Florida athletes can’t be ignored. If you don’t infuse your roster with players from this region, you will never win and, most importantly, you won’t attract a fan base.

Having covered, evaluated and promoted just about every player on the spring roster, this is a program that will need to continue recruiting locally — like the class that Turner and his staff brought in this year, loaded with promising talent and big-game experience.

FIU is a work in progress, with prospects from all over the map. I looked at the players who have been infused from Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Those are the players, for the most part, who have had big-game experience and come ready to play.

Looking at some of those players who are currently on the roster from South Florida and watching them play, it was great to see that so many familiar faces have been part of the process.

Quarterbacks E.J. Hilliard of Northwestern and freshman Bud Martin from Dillard, who did well in his first college game, are going to be huge positives. FIU has to be very happy with its current relationship with Miami Northwestern. The Panthers have four Bulls on the team.

To FIU’s credit, it has really stocked the shelves of this team.

Receivers Clinton Taylor and Dominque Rhymes, senior Donald Senat and sophomore defensive tackle Imarjaye Albury are Northwestern players who have elevated the program. Among the many local standouts is Miami Jackson’s DeAndre Jasper.