Because I can, I’m going to shove Florida International tidbits down your gullet until kickoff and you’re going to like it. Onto the list:
1.) They fired a really good coach for Norv Turner’s brother
Florida International was supposed to be pretty good last year. They had about 30 seniors on their squad, were pegged by most everyone to finish first in the Sun Belt, had a quarterback and running back combo that seemed pretty decent, and a highly-respected head coach in Mario Cristobal. Then their quarterback and running back combo got hurt, their defense looked about as dangerous as a Nerf gun, and they found themselves on the losing end in 9 games (with a nasty seven-game slide that saw them not win a game for about two months).
Needless to say, last year got Cristobal fired in what a lot of people felt was a very harsh and premature move. Actually, it just didn’t make any sense given how solid a recruiter is and how familiar with Florida the guy is as well (he played offensive line at Miami). Well, Miami scooped up Cristobal really quickly, but he eventually landed with Alabama. Talk about upgrading. To replace him, the Golden Panthers brought in Ron Turner, brother of former NFL coach Norv Turner. I’m not saying that Ron is a bad head coach at all; he’s a guy with plenty of collegiate and professional experience (he’s the reason you might have heard of Kurt Kittner). But I will say that his college track record isn’t too great.
His eight year stint at Illinois (’97 to ’04) landed him with two of the worst season’s in the school’s history and a .380 winning percentage. Turner produced two winning season’s while there; in 2001 when he got to the Sugar Bowl and in 1999 when he got to the Micron PC Bowl. Other than that, his team’s were high scoring, defensively inept squads that were cellar dwellers of the Big Ten.
Who knows how he’ll do for Florida International, but there’s a good chance that a defense which gave up 28 points per game last year won’t be any better this season.
2.) FIU used to play in the Sun Belt, now they’re picked to finish last in Conference USA.
The Panthers tenth year in existence was a terrible one, but that’s more on par with what they’ve been historically — 39-79 overall. FIU started out as an independent with Don Strock as their coach (you might remember him as the Ravens QB coach from ’96-98) before heading to the Sun Belt and eventually hiring Mario Cristobal in 2007.
Cristobal has produced the team’s only two winning season’s: in 2010 when they finished first in the Sun Belt at 7-6, then in 2011 when they finished 8-5. Of course, they fired him.
3.) Their best offensive player was kicked off the team following an arrest.
Running back Kedrick Rhodes was kicked off the team in July of this year after his arrest for discharging a firearm on campus, which equates to a violation of team rules. Rhodes was injured last year, but still managed to lead the team in rushing with 717 yards on 167 carries. He probably would have eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark (as he did in 2011) were he not hurt.
Without Rhodes, the team is reliant upon a lot of unproven commodities. Given that their offensive line loses basically every starter from last year, that’s not a good recipe.
4.) Their QB may actually be pretty good
Jake Medlock, the Golden Panthers junior QB, put together a pretty decent season last year. Despite his team going 3-9, their offense scored less than 20 points only once last season (against Western Kentucky) as Medlock threw for 13 TDs to only 2 INTs. His first game of the season last year he eviscerated Duke, throwing for 348 yards and two touchdowns, so it’s clear he can play against decent competition (even if it’s still Duke).
Medlock is a solid quarterback, and one can only imagine that an QB coach like Ron Turner will do some pretty good thing with him. Unfortunately, Medlock ran the offense that Cristobal ran, which was the spread. Turner runs a more pro-style oriented attack, and that might end up causing some issues for the kid.
Still, he’s a dual threat quarterback who can make plays and not turn it over (in 319 attempts he’s turn the ball over three times). If Turner’s history counts for anything, it could mean a big year for him.
5.) Their lone NFL-caliber player is Isame Faciane
That’s the name you need to know, and he’s their hulk defensive tackle. At 6’5, 245-pounds, Faciane is a pretty big dude who is a relatively effective pass rusher (despite only recording one sack last year). He’s considered an NFL level player, and may wind up being drafted in the 2014 draft at some point.
Expect his name to be talked about a good amount in the upcoming week.