#55 Florida International Football 2012 Preview

Florida International Golden Panthers

2012 Overall Rank: #55
#1 Sun Belt
Florida International College Football 2012 Team Preview
Florida International Team Page


FIU is a relatively new team in the FBS picture, but they have found their spot in the Sun Belt and keep getting better and better. Much like South Florida and UCF before them, the Golden Panthers have taken advantage of the ripe recruiting grounds in Florida. The result has been two straight bowl appearances and a third likely coming this season for Coach Mario Cristobal and his FIU squad.

2011 Record: (8-5, 5-3)
2011 Bowl: Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl vs. Marshall (L 10-20)
Coach: Mario Cristobal (24-38 at Florida International, 24-38 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Cramsey
Defensive Coordinator: Todd Orlando

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kedrick Rhodes, RB, 1,149 yards
Passing: Jake Medlock, QB, 376 yards
Receiving: Wayne Times, WR, 540 yards
Tackles: Winston Fraser, LB, 108
Sacks: Greg Hickman, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Justin Halley, S, 4

Other Key Returnees: OT Rupert Bryan, CB Jose Cheeseborough, S Jonathan Cyprien, DT Isame Faciane, K Jack Griffin, OT Caylin Hauptmann, LB Jordan Hunt, CB Richard Leonard, CB Sam Miller, G Giancarlo Revilla, C Shae Smith, S Terrance Taylor, DE Tourek Williams

Key Losses: G Curtis Bryant, QB Wesley Carroll, WR T.Y. Hilton, DE James Jones, RB Darriet Perry

Besides giving up some big plays at inopportune times, the FIU defense played wonderfully in 2011. With just about everybody back, this is a defense that should dominate the league and, perhaps, learn how and when not to allow the opposition to get big fourth quarter touchdowns. It starts up front where Isame Faciane, Jerrico Lee and Andre Pound will rotate in the middle of the line. On the ends FIU will rely on sophomore Tourek Williams, who tallied 8.5 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks in a great freshman campaign and Gregory Hickman, who led the squad with five sacks. Linebacker Jordan Hunt will join in on attacking the quarterback. This team ranked 15th in the nation in sacks totaling 2.69 per game and that number could actually go up this year. Winston Fraser and Kenneth Dillard are senior leaders who will hold the defense together from the linebacker corps. Fraser led the team last season with 108 tackles. The secondary is not full of seniors like the group of linebackers, but they could be more talented. Jonathan Cyprien and Justin Halley anchor the secondary from the safety positions and stopping the big plays will partially fall on their more than capable shoulders. The cornerback position may be the strongest, and that is saying a lot. Sam Miller and Jose Cheeseborough are fine players and Miller may emerge as a superstar this season. With depth that includes sophomore Richard Leonard, the FIU secondary will be tough to beat in 2012.

FIU has a little retooling to do on offense, but they have opted to do some major retooling instead. This is a team that lost quarterback Wesley Carroll, who threw for 2,374 yards and 14 touchdowns during his senior season, and do-it-all wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who caught 72 passes for 1,038 yards and seven touchdowns. Hilton also had 19 carries and was one of the best punt and kickoff return men in the nation. So FIU is now going to run an up-tempo spread offense and it remains to be seen how well that will work. Sophomore quarterback Jake Medlock earned a couple starts late last season before injuring his shoulder. He is a decent passer and can make some plays with his feet as well. There will be a lot of pressure on receiver Wayne Times as well. He caught 54 passes for 540 yards last season, but he needs to have a big senior season in order to help replace Hilton. The passing game could be decent, but the ground game is where FIU should thrive. Kedrick Rhodes had a superb sophomore season, rushing for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns. There is little depth behind him, but Rhodes is a workhorse.

The Bottom Line:
The defense is so good that the offense just needs to be average and avoid turnovers. That could be enough for FIU to win the Sun Belt Conference. However, the offense should be interesting to watch. Rhodes is the best running back in the conference and if somebody else can emerge as a change of pace back, the offense might be able to move the ball more than most expect. Certainly Medlock and the receivers will need to step up their game, especially in the fast paced spread offense. A deep and talented offensive line will help the offense tremendously. Caylin Hauptmann is one of the best tackles in the conference and fellow tackle Rupert Bryan is no slouch either. Add guard Giancarlo Revilla and center Shae Smith to the mix and the offensive line will make the offense at least average.

Projected Bowl: New Orleans Bowl

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 145.62 (72nd in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 214.92 (70, 6)
Total Offense: 360.54 (82, 6)
Scoring Offense: 25.00 (74, 3)
Rushing Defense: 118.08 (22, 3)
Pass Defense: 226.62 (65, 4)
Total Defense: 344.69 (30, 3)
Scoring Defense: 19.46 (14, 1)
Turnover Margin: .38 (30, 2)
Sacks: 2.69 (15, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.15 (20, 2)