#102 Florida International 2018 Football Preview

Florida International Panthers

Overall Rank: #102

#10 Conference USA

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Coach Butch Davis did an amazing job during his first season at Florida International. The Panthers went 8-5, reached a bowl game and followed it up with a very strong recruiting class. While that bodes well for the future, the Panthers have a ton of talent to replace on both sides of the ball. Getting back to eight wins will be a tough task.
2017 Record: 8-5, 5-3
2017 Bowl: Gasparilla Bowl vs. Temple (L 3-28)
Coach: Butch Davis (8-5 at FIU, 87-48 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Rich Skrosky
Defensive Coordinator: Brent Guy
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Shawndarrius Phillips, RB, 453 yards
Passing: Stone Wilson, P, 24 yards
Receiving: Tony Gaiter IV, WR, 293 yards
Tackles: Sage Lewis, LB, 55
Sacks: Fermin Silva, DL, 7.0
Interceptions: Olin Cushion III, DB, 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Napoleon Maxwell, WR Darrius Scott, DL Anthony Johnson, OL Jordan Budwig,
Key Losses: RB Alex Gardner, QB Alex McGough, WR Thomas Owens, TE Pharoah McKever, DB Brad Muhammad, LB Anthony Wint, LB Treyvon Williams, DB Bryce Canady
Four year starting quarterback Alex McGough will be difficult to replace. Last year he threw for 2,791 yards and 17 touchdowns. Christian Alexander, Maurice Alexander and Kaylan Wiggins competed for the job in the spring and that will continue into the fall. However, Bowling Green graduate transfer James Morgan is expected to get the starting gig after starting 13 games for the Falcons. The new signal caller will also be without top receiver Thomas Owens, who easily led the team with 59 receptions for 887 yards and six touchdowns. Bryce Singleton and Florida transfer C.J. Worton will be asked to help pick up the slack. The ground game should be solid despite the loss of leading rusher Alex Gardner. Napoleon Maxwell averaged 6.1 yards per carry in 2017 and there is plenty of depth behind him with Shawndarrius Phillips and D’vonte Price.
FIU has some work to do on the defensive side of the ball too. The front seven has some very talented players returning, but some of them are working at new positions in 2018. End Fermin Silva is moving to outside linebacker, sending former outside linebacker Sage Lewis to the inside. All of that movement is mostly to help create space for a talented front four. Jordan Wood, a transfer from Georgia Tech, will join fellow sophomore Noah Curtis at the end spots. Anthony Johnson is a superb defensive tackle and this could end up being a very impressive front seven. The pass defense was atrocious in 2017 and the hope is some younger players will be able to step up and help the Panthers do a better job of containing the passing attack.
The Bottom Line:
There is some work to be done on both sides of the ball with so much experience lost at key positions. The recruiting class may not be ready to help out too much quite yet, but this is a program heading in the right direction. For now though, FIU should be happy to remain competitive, win a few games here and there and build towards the future.
Projected Bowl: None
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 159.2 (72nd in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 233.2 (66, 6)
Total Offense: 392.3 (73, 7)
Scoring Offense: 25.6 (86, 7)
Rushing Defense: 171.3 (71, 7)
Pass Defense: 243.6 (95, 13)
Total Defense: 414.9 (83, 9)
Scoring Defense: 28.5 (80, 9)
Turnover Margin: -0.23 (85, 6)
Sacks: 1.77 (93, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.23 (75, 10)