While Butch Davis is certainly the main attraction at Florida International University these days, the veteran football coach is only a part of what’s new at a school that has truly floundered long enough.
What has happened to the Panthers is they hit a huge crossroad with the program.
Perhaps a lot of losing and missing out on key local recruits has put this team in a position that is gotten too used to.
We can talk about Don Strock, Mario Cristobal and Ron Turner all you want and look at a 52-112 all-time record, but the fact is – this program has never had that perfect storm – if you will.
In Davis, they have something brewing.
A coach and staff that come in with loads of experience and start getting high-level local players to come in their very first recruiting class.
It is a head coach who has indeed been there and done that – and he has surrounded himself with those very same people.
The mark of a good coach to have quality assistants, and during the spring game last Friday night, you could see it. Coaching going on all over the field; progress.
It is also a head coach that could very well do what Howard Schnellenberger did and become the face of the program over the long haul. Davis wanted to coach, teach and recruit – and at FIU, he will do just that.
While the Golden Panthers are not going to run all over people this coming year, they do have talent.
Plenty of that talent was on display on Friday at the newly named Riccardo Silva Stadium.
Taking nothing away from those gifted athletes this team has on its roster, and there are outstanding players who will indeed help, but that ratio of local prospects to outsiders cannot be the way it is and expect local support.
This spring, there are 52 football players on this roster who come from north of Palm Beach County. That is a recipe for open seats and potential recruits not wanting to come.
But before you get ready to jump off that ledge FIU fans, the first recruiting class of the Davis era was impressive, and fed that local need.
Another aspect of what Davis brings are local coaches. Tim “Ice” Harris, Jr., who was part of the last staff, and Aubrey Hill, fresh off a Class 6A state championship with his alma mater, Miami Carol City, are part of what will continue this South Florida pipeline.
So are former UM standouts Kenny Holmes and Earl Little, who recently joined the Panthers.
LOCALS STANDOUT IN SPRING GAME
Last year, Austin Maloney was one of the recruits that many couldn’t wait to see. Things never went the way the former Christopher Columbus standout receiver expected. But things changed.
When Coach Davis and his staff came in, more attention was paid to this gifted athlete, and judging from an outstanding spring and impressive spring game, he was one of the local prospects that caught everyone’s eye.
Also, Miami-Dade and Broward prospects that are expected to make an impact in 2017 include freshman kicker Jose Borregales (Miami Booker T. Washington), veteran lineman Jordan Budwig (Fort Lauderdale University School), Coral Gables linebacker Shakur Cooper, versatile Tony Gaitor IV, (WR, Miami Westminster Christian), veteran Hialeah safety Niko Gonzalez, Miami Central running back Anthony Jones and defensive lineman Fermin Silva.
Other South Florida athletes to keep an eye on as well:
Kai Absheer, OL, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
Maurice Alexander, QB, Booker T. Washington
Wendell Ashley, DB, Coral Gables
Trayvon Blake, S, Fort Lauderdale
Olin Cushion III, DB, Miami Central
Jean Estinor, LB, North Miami
Jordan Guest, LB, Miami Christopher Columbus
Pol Guzman, OL, Hialeah
Xavier Hines, DB, Miami Belen Jesuit
Brandon James, LB, Miami Southridge
Tyree Johnson, LB, Miami Carol City
Chris Judge, LS, Coral Springs Charter
Emmanuel Lubin, DB, North Miami Beach
Giovanni Menocal, LB, Miami Belen Jesuit
Kyle Perez, DB, Plantation American Heritage
Shermarke Spence, S, Miami Northwestern
Khairi Reaser, DB, Miami Westminster Christian
Darrius Scott, WR, Booker T. Washington
Jermaine Sheriff, DL, Hialeah
Scott Wade, PK, Plantation American Heritage
Trayvon Williams, LB, Miami Norland
Anthony Wint, LB, Homestead
RECRUITING GAME IS WORKING
To show what Davis has already meant to this school, all you have to do is go back to February – and National Signing Day. What happened in the short period of time that he had on the job, Davis went to work and knocked on enough doors and rekindled old friendships to come away with a very good LOCAL class.
At the spring game, many of those Class of 2017 signees attended along with plenty of outstanding local high school players, who were showing their support to Davis and FIU, but the very fact that area coaches have a place in this program, is exciting as well.
Among those 2017 prospects (Dade, Broward and Palm Beach) who figure to add to what’s already aboard include:
Cody Bowes, OL, Miami Sothridge
Romelo Brooks, OLB, Miami Killian
Rashad Colson, DL, Miami Norland
Noah Curtis, Athlete, Delray American Heritage
Richard Dames, DB, Miami Booker T. Washington
Rishard Dames, DB, Miami Booker T. Washington
Jamal Gates, OLB, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer
Dorian Hall, Athlete, Hollywood South Broward
Tevin Jones, DE, Miami Norland
Mershawn Miller, OL, Miami Central
Kevin Oliver, DE, Davie Western
Willa Pierre, OL, Miami Booker T. Washington
Shemar Thornton, WR, Hallandale
DeAndre Williams, WR, Miami Booker T. Washington