Today we have a special treat for you as we are joined by Pete Pelegrin of the Miami Herald. He's a good man; and thorough. Pete has covered FIU since their inception as a football program and he was kind enough to answer our questions. You can read his Miami Herald blog, Gloden Panthers Prowl, here. And pretty much any other story the Herald runs on FIU was written by Pete as well. If you see him in Lawrence this weekend, be sure to say hello.
1. Last year when FIU came to town, Wayne Younger was clearly the starter and actually had some decent success (16/33 for 133, 1 INT & 10 rushes for 58 yards) considering the outcome. Per your reports though, the team has still not settled on a starter this year, with Paul McCall giving Younger a run for his money. What are the strengths of each? Weaknesses? And finally, who do you expect to start?
Younger is the more mobile quarterback, better athlete. McCall is the better pure passer and has a stronger arm. But a funny thing happened over the summer and in camp. Each QB started getting better at the other's strength. Younger has shown a better command of the offense and a stronger arm. McCall, with the help of some speed drills from strength coach Rod Moore, seems faster and more mobile in camp. My educated guess is that McCall will be named the starter, but Younger will play as well at some point throughout the season. Younger is too good an athlete to keep on the sideline.
2. It seems that T.Y. Hilton is not only the fastest Panther, but also one of their better playmakers. Talk a little about how they like to use him and Anthony Gaitor. Also, are there any other playmakers we should know about? How are they used?
Hilton and Gaitor both possess the classic Miami high school football speed. Give them an opening and you're not going to catch them. Both will be used in the return game and Gaitor is probably FIU's best cover corner. Hilton will see plenty of action on offense too. Safeties Jeremiah Weatherspoon and Marshall McDuffie and DB Robert Mitchell all missed last season and are back in the secondary, which should be the strength of the team. Weatherspoon is also a kick returner. Freshman WR Junior Mertile is the second fastest Panther and might have earned a starting job.
3. Obviously last year was one most Panthers would like to forget. Based off the game I saw and the stats I've seen, the defense was slightly better than the offense. Would you agree with this and which unit do you expect to be better this year?
Last year was a wash between the O and D, then-1st year coach Mario Cristobal inherited a roster lacking talent from previous coach Don Strock. This season in camp, the defense seems to be ahead of the offense with all this new speed from freshmen DEs Jonathan Jackson and Kambriel Willis, plus some other defenders that have made some serious strides in the weight room like LBs Scott Bryant, Toronto Smith and Tyler Clawson. Freshmen LBs Aaron Davis and Franklin Brown have also had great camps.
4. With Gustav reaching Haiti and picking up speed, do you plan to leave the Miami area for Kansas this weekend?
My flight leaves early Friday morning at 5:40 a.m. Only Southwest flight that was non-stop to KC, that's why I'm leaving at that ungodly hour. I'm nocturnal by nature so I don't like getting up until the sun is way up there in the sky. Gustav is not expected to be near Miami until Sunday or Monday, if it does head this way.
5. Assuming the answer to the previous questions is yes, I think you owe us a thank you/apology on behalf of the weather. When many of us Jayhawks tried to escape the cold in January for the Orange Bowl we were greeted with the coldest weather Miami had seen in 10 years. And despite that slap in the face, we are welcoming you all to wonderful 80 degree weather, in our hottest month no less. Quite frankly, I think you owe us one.
C'mon. The coldest weather in Miami? That's got to be like a day at the beach for you good people up there in the land of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. For us down here, yeah last January was like the North Pole, but you guys ought to be used to the cold. Anyways, thank you for the comfortable 80 degrees for this weekend.
[Editor's Note: We may be used to it, but it's still not what we wanted (or expected) out of a trip to Miami.]
6. Weather issues aside, we loved Miami (the OB win may have had something to do with it). In particular we liked the scene at the Delano. As a Miami born & bred guy, you must have a preference: hotels or clubs? If you couldn't live there where would you choose instead?
No other place I would like to live in the world other than here. I'm not sure if I own a jacket, gotta check deep in the closet. Shorts and T-shirts all year long. Nice weather, nicer ladies and they're at both the hotels and clubs so either one will do.
7. Along that same notion, what can you tell us about the FIU coeds? Any famous alums?
All you need to know about the FIU coeds is here:
Please click on the first photo to enlarge and you will see the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders of the NCAA: The FIU Golden Dazzlers or are the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders -- the FIU Golden Dazzlers of the NFL?
Famous FIU Alums: Actor Andy Garcia (Godfather and Ocean 11 movies), Boston Red Sox 3B and 2007 World Series MVP Mike Lowell, Baltimore Ravens LB Antwan Barnes.
[Editor's Note: If you had not already gathered, we did the homework for you and you can enjoy the fruits of his link above and to the right.]
8. Before we let you go, we know next to nothing about you other than what we've read on your blog. Feel free to tell us as much or little as you want here, but specifically; how long have you been at the Herald? And do you like to drink and go bowling with Dan LeBetard?
Been at Herald for 6 years and have covered the FIU Panthers football program since its inception in 2002. Played center field and pitched in high school, but never played football, because got scoliosis as a kid and the one sport the doctor said I could never play was football, because of my back. Back has been fine since. You should ask Dan LeBatard if he likes to drink and go bowling with Pete Pelegrin.
9. And finally, is there any way the Panthers pull the upset this weekend? Score?
I'm a glass is half-full guy. There is always a way for FIU to pull an upset. It's just a matter of everything going their way. First, no turnovers, that killed FIU last year at KU. Have to keep the explosive KU offense off the field and the FIU offense has to score when it is in the red zone and not settle for FGs. Not that, that's a sure thing, because FIU's kicking game is mediocre at best right now. That's why they have kicker tryouts every week. Still, with all of the above, I don't see FIU stunning KU, unless KU just falls asleep on the Panthers. My score: KU 44, FIU 14
Again, thanks to Pete for taking the time to answer our questions. If you see him, be kind, but also be sure to give him crap for mistakenly staying in Overland Park over the weekend.