Confused? Check out the glossary here.
Here is a list of things that are either true or mostly true.
- Mario Cristobal was, in all, a rousing success at FIU, the best coach this young program has ever had. He took on a program that had gone 8-25 in three years at the FBS level and was coming off of an 0-12 campaign known mostly for a brawl. After a 1-11 season in his first year, he won eight games in Years 2 to 3 and 15 games in Years 4-5. He was a damn strong recruiter who took full advantage of FIU's South Florida location, and he built a base of athleticism at FIU that should fit in immediately in Conference USA.
- Cristobal was fired after one bad season. In January 2012, Cristobal, one of the hottest young coaching prospects in the country, turned down the Rutgers job. A 3-9 year would have been considered a marginal success in the time before Cristobal arrived, but after a single poor season, one that featured quite a bit of bad turnovers luck among other things, Cristobal was let go. FIU athletic director Pete Garcia called the 2012 season a "total collapse," and while it was in a way ... it also wasn't. Expectations are important, yes?
- Pete Garcia also once thought hiring Isiah Thomas as its head basketball coach was a good idea. You know, the same Isiah Thomas who, since his playing days ended, has left a path of destruction -- Toronto Raptors, Bob Costas, the CBA, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, FIU, and maybe the Knicks again one day -- that makes him the sports version of a third-world dictator.
- It seems FIU thought it could land Butch Davis, the architect of the early-2000s Miami powerhouses.
- FIU didn't land Butch Davis.
- Ron Turner went 4-19 in his final two seasons at Illinois. When FIU couldn't land Davis, it eventually zeroed in on Turner, a former college assistant at Pacific, Arizona, Northwestern, Pitt, Texas A&M, and Stanford who has spent most of the last two decades in the NFL, aside from an eight-year stint at Illinois that included just two winning seasons, an 0-11 campaign, and a 1-11 campaign. He was also fired as the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator not too long ago.
- FIU has been tied to a whipping post for most of the last four months for this series of moves.
- "Whipping Post" is the best Southern rock song ever.
2. Also True:
- You'd get tired of having to fight to keep your coach every year, too. Cristobal was linked to seemingly every open job over a two-year span, and while it was incredibly admirable that he stayed, he almost certainly wasn't going to stay too much longer. That he took an assistant coaching job with his alma mater Miami in January, then left it for a similar job at Alabama six weeks later, suggests he doesn't have a problem jumping when the right opportunity presents itself. And it would have eventually.
- This might actually be a good time for some new blood. Yes, Cristobal's 2012 team was pretty unlucky, in ways we'll discuss below. But it was still a disappointment overall, with a loaded, experienced defense struggling to find fourth or fifth gear until later in the year, and with an offense loaded with star recruits (stars at a Sun Belt level, anyway) unable to overcome a couple of injuries (and with a ridiculously experienced offensive line playing ridiculously bad football). And while we're at it, the 2011 team was disappointing as well, going 7-6 after looking like a 10-win team, both on paper and in September. Cristobal loaded the cupboard but hadn't done a lot with it. That doesn't mean he should have been fired -- FIU deserves most of the flogging it received -- but it could mean that things work out pretty well for FIU if Turner can press the right buttons.
- Turner won a conference title at Illinois, one of only three Illini titles in 50 years. No, he could not maintain success in Champaign. But who does? That Turner was able to craft even two good teams at Illinois suggests it is within the realm of possibility that he can do it again.
- Pete Garcia also hired Richard Pitino. And Mario Cristobal. He has earned most of his bad reputation so far, but it does bear mentioning that he has made a couple of good hires, too. Pitino cleaned up quite a bit of Thomas' mess in a single season (before leaving to take the Minnesota job), and Cristobal turned FIU football into something after a few years of, basically, being nothing.
Turner inherits a FIU squad that a) has underachieved for two straight years, and b) has more raw athleticism and talent than much of its C-USA competition. Anything from 3-9 to 9-3 in 2013 won't surprise me.
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 6-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 89|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|1-Sep||Duke||26-46||L||24.5 - 36.9||L|
|8-Sep||Akron||41-38||W||24.2 - 22.1||W|
|15-Sep||Central Florida||20-33||L||24.7 - 26.2||L|
|22-Sep||Louisville||21-28||L||33.3 - 23.3||W|
|29-Sep||UL-Lafayette||20-48||L||18.6 - 31.5||L|
|4-Oct||Arkansas State||20-34||L||21.6 - 30.4||L|
|13-Oct||Middle Tennessee||30-34||L||29.5 - 31.2||L|
|20-Oct||Troy||37-38||L||30.8 - 22.1||W|
|27-Oct||Western Kentucky||6-14||L||24.2 - 19.7||W|
|3-Nov||South Alabama||28-20||W||25.1 - 37.6||L|
|16-Nov||Florida Atlantic||34-24||W||27.2 - 25.8||W|
|24-Nov||UL-Monroe||17-23||L||20.4 - 12.3||W|
|Points Per Game||25.0||86||31.7||90|
|Adj. Points Per Game||25.3||90||26.6||54|
3. The defense came around a little later than expected
Now, make no mistake: FIU's biggest problems were on the offensive side of the ball in 2012. Starting quarterback Jake Medlock missed three games (Adj. Points Per Game with Medlock: 27.1; without: 20.2), starting running back Kedrick Rhodes missed three games, and the Golden Panthers just couldn't ever generate any sort of offensive attack. This was to be expected to some degree, simply because of the loss of all-world receiver T.Y. Hilton following the 2011 season; but the injuries didn't help, and the complete and total collapse of the line was unexpected.
It also didn't help, though, that the defense wasn't quite as good as it could have been. A unit absolutely loaded with interesting seniors looked great late in the year (last five games: 23.5 Adj. PPG allowed) but was slightly below average at first (first seven games: 28.8 Adj. PPG allowed). And by the time it rallied, the damage to the 2012 campaign had already been done. FIU began the year 1-8 with four tight losses.
|Q1 Rk||80||1st Down Rk||105|
|Q2 Rk||102||2nd Down Rk||76|
|Q3 Rk||112||3rd Down Rk||106|
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Jake Medlock||6'3, 220||Jr.||*** (5.5)||152||263||2,127||57.8%||13||2||24||8.4%||6.9|
|E.J. Hilliard||6'2, 185||So.||*** (5.5)||65||94||645||69.1%||4||3||13||12.1%||5.3|
|Loranzo Hammonds, Jr.||6'1, 200||So.||** (5.4)||1||6||20||16.7%||0||1||0||0.0%||3.3|
|Akil Dan-Fodio||6'3, 225||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Favian Upshaw||6'2, 175||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
4. Jake Medlock might be a bit too tough (or maybe his line was just terrible)
It isn't difficult to see why Jake Medlock gets hurt a lot: He doesn't exactly shy away from contact. Medlock injured his right shoulder late in 2011, fractured a foot and missed two games early in 2012, left the Western Kentucky game early with a head injury, and missed the final game because of his foot, too; while some of that might not be because of the number of hits he takes ... he does take a lot of hits. He was sacked 24 times in 287 pass attempts, and he rushed seven times per game outside of the sacks. He clearly doesn't avoid hits, even if some of them (the sacks) were not necessarily of his initiative.
When Medlock was down, Cristobal was forced to shuffle between a load of freshmen, all pretty highly-touted, none quite ready for action. E.J. Hilliard took even more sacks than Medlock (and didn't rush as well), and Loranzo Hammonds, Jr., was used mostly as a run threat (though he wasn't amazing at that). FIU's production depended on Medlock's health, and he was rarely healthy in 2012.
|Kedrick Rhodes||RB||5'11, 200||Sr.||*** (5.5)||167||714||4.3||4.8||4||-19.4|
|Jake Medlock||QB||6'3, 220||Jr.||*** (5.5)||63||375||6.0||6.2||3||+4.9|
|E.J. Hilliard||QB||6'2, 185||So.||*** (5.5)||31||98||3.2||3.7||1||-4.0|
|Loranzo Hammonds, Jr.||QB||6'1, 200||So.||** (5.4)||14||56||4.0||1.7||0||-1.2|
|Shane Coleman||RB||5'6, 200||So.||*** (5.5)||8||34||4.3||2.7||0||0.0|
|Willis Wright||WR||6'1, 200||Sr.||*** (5.5)||41||25||633||61.0%||15.4||11.7%||51.2%||15.5||76.0|
|Kedrick Rhodes||RB||5'11, 200||Sr.||*** (5.5)||26||19||235||73.1%||9.0||7.4%||42.3%||7.9||28.2|
|Glenn Coleman||WR||6'2, 200||Sr.||*** (5.6)||22||13||227||59.1%||10.3||6.3%||45.5%||10.7||27.3|
|Jairus Williams||WR||6'5, 200||Sr.||** (5.2)||19||9||116||47.4%||6.1||5.4%||52.6%||5.7||13.9|
|Ya'Keem Griner||TE||6'5, 230||So.||** (5.2)||12||9||113||75.0%||9.4||3.4%||50.0%||9.5||13.6|
|Akil Dan-Fodio||QB||6'3, 225||So.||*** (5.5)||12||8||88||66.7%||7.3||3.4%||41.7%||7.0||10.6|
|T.J. Lowder||WR||5'11, 185||So.||** (5.4)||8||5||72||62.5%||9.0||2.3%||50.0%||7.8||8.6|
|De'Andre Jasper||WR||5'9, 200||So.||*** (5.6)||5||4||41||80.0%||8.2||1.4%||40.0%||9.8||4.9|
|Zach Schaubhut||TE||6'2, 230||Sr.||NR||5||2||29||40.0%||5.8||1.4%||60.0%||5.8||3.5|
|Dominique Rhymes||WR||6'4, 210||So.||*** (5.5)||5||1||12||20.0%||2.4||1.4%||0.0%||1.2||1.4|
|Raymond Jackson||WR||6'2, 210||So.||*** (5.5)||4||1||5||25.0%||1.3||1.1%||0.0%||1.0||0.6|
|Johnnie Durante||WR||6'0, 170||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
5. The receiving corps is intriguing
FIU must replace 50 percent of last year's targets, which is a little scary until you realize that a lot of those targets were pretty unproductive. Wayne Times was a steady, efficient option for an offense that was mostly lacking of such a thing, but you can replace a guy who averaged 6.4 yards per target. Jacob Younger had his moments as the No. 2 receiver, but in seniors Willis Wright and Glenn Coleman, the Golden Panthers have two receivers who showed infinitely more upside, albeit in just 5.3 targets per game. The two carry a similar stature and combined for a 60 percent catch rate and a ridiculous 22.6 yards per catch. In fewer than half the targets, Wright outgained Times for the season, powered by a destructive three-game stretch: against Middle Tennessee, Troy, and Western Kentucky, Wright caught 14 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. His quantity dropped off in November, but not his explosiveness; in three games, he caught five passes for 159 yards and three scores. He needs to become more of an every-down threat, but wow, the upside here is enormous.
If Wright can make the transition to The Man -- or, in Ron Turner parlance, if he can turn into FIU's Brandon Lloyd -- then the rest of FIU's skill position lineup takes shape nicely. Coleman should be a capable No. 2, and any number of former three-star recruits could conceivably step up and become a decent No. 3. As long as Medlock is upright and in one piece, that should lead to a solid passing game. The run game, however, is still a mystery. Kedrick Rhodes was unreliable last year, both in terms of health and production, and an all new offensive line could either be a blessing or a further curse.
|Caylin Hauptmann||LT||37 career starts; 2012 2nd All-Sun Belt|
|Rubert Bryan, Jr.||RT||43 career starts|
|Shae Smith||C||23 career starts|
|Giancarlo Revilla||RG||23 career starts|
|David Istanich||LG||16 career starts|
|David Delsoin||RG||6'6, 305||Jr.||*** (5.5)||4 career starts|
|Jordan White||LG||6'3, 310||Jr.||** (5.2)||3 career starts|
|Donald Senat||C||6'2, 285||Jr.||NR||1 career start|
|Aaron Nielsen||LT||6'4, 270||So.||** (5.2)|
|Delmar Taylor||OG||6'4, 290||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Edens Sineace||OT||6'5, 310||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Trenton Saunders||OG||6'3, 275||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
6. An awful line starts over
In 2011, FIU ranked 63rd in Adj. Line Yards and 33rd in Adj. Sack Rate. The Golden Panthers returned four starters from that line, line coach Alex Mirabal returned, and from what I can tell, there were no notable injuries suffered in 2012. And this line went from one of the better units at the mid-major level to being one of the worst in the country. FIU couldn't open big enough holes for its runners and couldn't protect the quarterback. I'm willing to believe that some of these line stats are on the skill position players -- Medlock probably needs to throw the ball away quicker, and Kedrick Rhodes needs to just be a better running back -- but, well, Rhodes was the running back in 2011, too, and Medlock was only sacked five percent of the time in 2011. This was one of the most disappointing units in the country, period.
In other words, it's a pretty good time to hit the reset button. FIU returns only eight career starts, and that might not even remotely be a bad thing. New line coach Steve Shankweiler is ridiculously experienced; he'll need to call on that experience quite a bit.
|Q1 Rk||16||1st Down Rk||29|
|Q2 Rk||71||2nd Down Rk||66|
|Q3 Rk||62||3rd Down Rk||41|
7. FIU was super-aggressive in 2012
Again, the FIU defense wasn't bad last year; it's just that the expectations were quite high. For the season as a whole, FIU defended the run relatively well, but the Golden Panthers' calling card was on pass defense; they had one of the 20 most efficient pass defenses in the country, showing some cracks on passing downs but playing close to the line of scrimmage on standard downs. FIU corners logged six tackles for loss and defensed 23 passes in 2012; the aggressiveness wasn't just confined to the back line, however. Nine different linemen made at least 1.5 tackles for loss, slicing into the backfield with regularity against the run.
The D has more three-star players than a Sun Belt team is supposed to be able to recruit, and it showed. There was a potential discipline issue here, however, with the big plays allowed on passing downs, with the way the defense's performance fell off after the first quarter (and first down), and with the way it was basically a sieve in the red zone. New defensive coordinator Josh Conklin (the Citadel's defensive coordinator in 2010-11 and Tennessee's safeties coach in 2012) could have some fun here if he can cut down on the mistakes. That might be a tall order, of course, with a thinned-out depth chart.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Greg Hickman||DT||6'2, 280||Sr.||*** (5.6)||12||26.0||4.1%||9||2||1||2||2||0|
|Isame Faciane||DT||6'5, 295||Sr.||** (5.3)||12||23.0||3.6%||5.5||1||0||0||0||0|
|Giovani Francois||DE||6'1, 250||Jr.||*** (5.6)||12||17.5||2.7%||5.5||4.5||0||1||0||0|
|Paul Crawford||DE||6'8, 275||Sr.||** (5.2)||12||12.5||2.0%||2.5||1.5||0||1||0||0|
|Fadol Brown||DT||6'4, 290||So.||** (5.3)||10||6.5||1.0%||2||1.5||0||1||0||0|
|Lars Koht||DE||6'3, 255||So.||** (5.2)||7||3.5||0.5%||0.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Darian Dyson||DT||6'3, 315||So.||*** (5.7)||4||2.0||0.3%||1.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Marques Cheeks||DT||6'3, 270||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Davison Colimon||LB||6'1, 200||So.||** (5.4)||6||3.0||0.5%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Patrick Jean||LB||6'3, 205||So.||*** (5.6)||5||3.0||0.5%||0.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Michael Wakefield||LB||6'2, 235||So.||** (5.2)||10||2.5||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Derrick Jones, Jr.||LB||8||1.0||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Leroy Owens||LB||6'4, 210||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Sam Miller||CB||5'10, 180||Sr.||** (5.4)||12||50.0||7.8%||4||2||1||5||1||1|
|Richard Leonard||CB||5'10, 170||Jr.||*** (5.6)||12||47.0||7.3%||1||0||0||7||0||1|
|Justin Halley||FS||6'1, 190||Jr.||*** (5.5)||12||26.0||4.1%||1||0||0||4||0||1|
|Demarkus Perkins||SS||6'0, 205||Jr.||NR||10||10.0||1.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jeremiah McKinnon||CB||6'0, 175||So.||*** (5.5)||11||9.5||1.5%||0||0||0||1||1||1|
|Terrance Taylor||SS||6'0, 190||Sr.||** (5.2)||8||6.0||0.9%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Mitch Wozniak||SS||6'3, 205||Jr.||** (5.2)||7||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Deonte Wilson||CB||6'0, 190||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Adrian Jenkins||SS||6'2, 210||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Xavier Hines||DB||6'0, 175||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
|Vontarius West||DB||6'0, 180||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
8. Replacing Tourek and Cyprien
Both end Tourek Williams and safety Johnathan Cyprien should get selected reasonably high in this month's NFL Draft. By all accounts, Cyprien had a fantastic week at the Senior Bowl and did perfectly well at the combine. He made plays all over the field in 2012 for FIU, defensing nine passes (he had four picks and was apparently the only FIU player who could actually hold onto the ball when he got a hand on it) and logging 3.5 tackles for loss. Williams, meanwhile, was the most aggressive and effective lineman on a pretty aggressive and effective line.
Cristobal is a great recruiter, but did he recruit well enough in Miami to put FIU in position to replace two players of this magnitude?
9. Replacing everybody else
Of the 23 defensive returnees listed above, 13 are former three-star recruits according to Rivals.com. That's better than a good majority of Conference USA teams. Nine of those 13, however, are either freshmen, redshirt freshmen, or sophomores. If these players live up to their recruiting rankings, the foundation for this FIU defense is strong in the coming years. But in the short-term, inexperience could be an issue; four of the top seven defensive backs, each of the top three linebackers, and three of the top seven linemen are gone. The high-upside youth will be getting thrown into the deep end pretty early.
|Richard Leonard||KR||5'10, 170||Jr.||26||29.2||1|
|De'Andre Jasper||KR||5'9, 200||So.||16||22.5||0|
|Sam Miller||KR||5'10, 180||Sr.||6||24.2||0|
|Special Teams F/+||107|
|Field Goal Pct||112|
|Kick Returns Avg||18|
|Punt Returns Avg||73|
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|5-Oct||at Southern Miss||87|
|9-Nov||at Middle Tennessee||98|
|30-Nov||at Florida Atlantic||116|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||91|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||82|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-4 / +8.1|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||8 (5, 3)|
10. A total wildcard
Seriously, what should one make of this team? We know that Ron Turner has both some success and a lot of failure on his head coaching resume, but we also know that Turner's head coaching experience ended nearly a decade ago. We know that Jake Medlock is a pretty strong quarterback when healthy, but we also know that he's rarely healthy. We know that a terribly inexperienced offensive line is a bad thing, but we also know that you can't get much worse than last year's FIU line. We know that this defense has a lot of former star recruits on it, but we know that most of those star recruits aren't that far removed from being recruited. We know that the schedule features nine teams projected 79th or worse in the F/+ projections, but we also know both that FIU itself was only 89th last year, and that the beginning of the season features three Top 75 opponents.
This really might be a perfect year for a new coach to take over a blank canvas that has a lot of interesting features, like Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M last year. But ... is Ron Turner a Kevin Sumlin?