2013 Pre-Season Preview: FIU Golden Panthers

2012 Record: 3-9 (2-6 in Sun Belt)

Head Coach: Ron Turner (first year at FIU, 42-61 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2011 Beef O'Brady's Bowl: lost to Marshall 20-10

Stadium: FIU Stadium in Miami, FL (capacity = 19,000)

Home Field Advantage: ranked 49th out of 55 mid-major teams

Conference Affiliation: moves to C-USA for 2013 season 

Schedule Glimpse:

2013 Schedule Link

Revenge: 9/7 at UCF, 9/21 at Louisville, 11/9 at Middle Tennessee

Swing Games: 10/12 vs UAB, 11/16 at UTEP, 11/29 at FAU


Statistical Snapshot:

2012 Statistics Link

Stats to Fear: Allowed opponents to score TDs on 73.08% of trips to red zone (last in Sun Belt), allowed 37 sacks (last in Sun Belt)

Stat to Cheer: we will let you know when we find one

Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 85th out of 124 teams



Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 8, Defense 3, Special Teams 0

Key Defensive Returnees: CB Sam Miller (62 tackles), CB Richard Leonard (55 tackles), DL Giovani Francois (4.5 sacks)

Key Offensive Returnees: RB Kedrick Rhodes (714 yds rush), QB Jake Medlock (2127 yds pass, 13 TD, 2 INT), WR Willis Wright (25 rec, 25.3 ypc, 5 TD)

Top 2013 Recruits: CB Vontarius West, CB Xavier Hines


Inside Scoop with David J Neal of the Miami Herald:

CFBZ: Mario Cristobal was fired after a disappointing season but on the heels of two bowl births. He has been replaced by Ron Turner. What is the feeling about Turner around campus so far?
David J Neal Wait and see, give the man a chance is the general attitude. He's coming into a tough situation and he knows it. Cristobal was highly respected by some players. But many of those players like that Turner and the staff bring NFL experience, which does catch the attention of those with NFL dreams, no matter how thin they might be.
CFBZ: The Golden Panthers were never really able to replace T.Y. Hilton last season. Who will be the primary playmakers this year?
David J Neal: Running back Kedrick Rhodes, if he's healthy. Wide receiver Willis Wright, if he's eligible.
CFBZ: What are the biggest concerns for FIU as they head into the summer and then fall practice?
David J Neal: FIU's offensive line lacks experience and depth. Quarterback Jake Medlock's been injured each of the last two seasons. You do the math.
CFBZ: What will make the 2013 season a success in your eyes?
David J Neal: If they escape this season at 6-6, Ron Turner should be a contender for national coach of the year. If they set the stage for a strong 2014, that makes this season a success.
Mario Cristobal and the rise of the FIU football program was a great story. In 2007, he took over an FIU team that had never had a winning season and had just gone 0-12. It was a process, but they went 7-6 in their fourth year under Cristobal and 8-5 in their fifth making bowl games for the first time in school history. The bottom fell out last season as the Golden Panthers went 3-9. FIU fired Cristobal and went after Butch Davis but came up short and then hired veteran coach Ron Turner. 
Turner wants to run an aggressive offensive that has multiple looks. QB Jake Medlock and RB Kendrick Rhodes provide a nice starting point for Turner but both had injury issues last season (missing multiple games). Keeping them healthy is a big key for the Golden Panthers. A guy to keep an eye on could be Jakhari Gore. He's a small, fast back who transferred from LSU and is also a cousin of a famous NFL player (I'll let you figure that one out). The offensive line gave up 37 sacks last year and this year they lose five starters who combined to start 142 games. FIU will go into 2013 with only three players with game experience (and a combined eight starts).
Former Tennessee Safeties coach Josh Conklin takes over as DC and will run a 4-3 with principles of the 4-2-5. The DL loses their top performer (Tourek Williams) but does have some experience coming back (Greg Hickman, Isame Faciane, Giovani Francois). One of the star performers of the spring, DT Fadol Brown, has just made it known that he wants to transfer to a JC so that will hurt.  Winston Fraser and Jordan Hunt are gone and with them they take 89% of tackles made by LBs last year. FIU does have some 3-star and 2-star recruits that could step up here. Patrick Jean (soph), who picked FIU over Louisville, will take over at MLB. In the secondary, FIU must replace S Jonathan Crypien and that won't be an easy task. The good news is that the corner position seems to be under control with Sam Miller and Richard Leonard. Based on recruiting rankings, there is a lot of talent on this defense. It will be interesting to see how Conklin puts it all together.
This FIU squad has some definite talent but with the loss of so much on the OL and the change of scheme on offense, will they be able to be successful in their move to C-USA? And can the defense bounce back from a disappointing season? Those are the big questions. The schedule will be very tough at the beginning playing at Maryland, against UCF and then at Louisville in three of their first four. The do have open dates in both September and October before playing five games in the month of November so maybe that will help them stay healthy early in the season. I look at this as a three or four win team but based on talent they could be a good bit better if the stars align.

Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:

Independent: ArmyGeorgia StateNavyOld Dominion
MWC- Air ForceSDSU
The American- MemphisTemple


Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Student Section and founder of College Football Zealots