The 2018 Miami Hurricanes football season marches on with the final non-conference game of the year: a Saturday date with the FIU Panthers.
To get some answers and a better idea from the FIU side of things (yes, there is one of those), we turned to Eric Henry, FIU beat writer for our SBNation sister-site Underdog Dynasty.
I answered some of Eric’s questions, and you can see my side of the Q&A here:
FIU vs Miami: Q&A with State of the U https://t.co/85MesmXAJb— Underdog Dynasty (@underdogdynasty) September 19, 2018
Our conversation from the FIU point of view with Eric begins now.
Question 1. How has Butch Davis helped FIU move from terrible to average?
Eric Henry: Butch Davis has a proven track record of being able to recruit well and unlike what you may see at other programs, his recruits turn things around quickly. It’s not a five-year project. Last year, he got the most out of a guy in Alex McGough who had a see-saw career prior. This season it’s been all about utilizing transfers as well as a few key guys switching positions to help the team.
Question 2. What should we expect to see from FIU’s offense? (scheme, plays, players)
Henry: Expect to see a lot of the run game. Running back is by far the deepest position on this team. Quarterback James Morgan is a player who is supremely talented. However, the rap on him after his two seasons at Bowling Green is that he’s just as inconsistent. Rich Skrosky has done a great job the past two games of using the run to set up the pass and when Morgan is in rhythm he’s dangerous. A lot shallow to intermediate throws to try and open up opportunities for receivers like C.J. Worton, Bryce Singleton and Austin Maloney to go long. Also keep an eye on talented 6’5, 240-pound true freshman tight end Sterling Palmer.
Question 3. If FIU scores more than 10 points, who are the players that find the endzone?
Henry: Running backs Shawndarrius Phillips (He had 170 yards rushing and receiving last week) and Napoleon Maxwell. Through the air I’d say Palmer and Worton.
Question 4. What should we expect to see from FIU’s defense? (scheme, plays, players)
Henry: A storyline that I’ve been keeping my eye on is the role of star DE/LB Fermin Silva. He was moved from DE to weakside linebacker in the off-season with the idea in mind that he could by more dynamic as a pass rusher. However, because Indiana and Old Dominion ran a majority of their offense out of four-receiver sets, Silva was forced to play primarily DE. Outside of getting Silva going, Canes fans should keep an eye on DT Anthony Johnson, CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver and LB Sage Lewis.
Question 5. Which defender will Miami have to account for most on Saturday?
Henry: In my opinion it’s Silva. He’s the most talented player on the defense and has the most potential to cause the Hurricane offense some issues. But also look out for Johnson and Lewis.
Question 6. Miami is a 4 TD favorite. What scenario would need to happen for FIU to keep this game close for a half or 3 quarters?
Henry: Here’s the formula for FIU to keep it close and/or have a chance to win: No turnovers. Quite frankly while I believe the Panthers are a talented team, they haven’t proven that they can win a ballgame with those types of mistakes. Win the battles upfront. FIU has a deep and talented defensive line. 10-plus players could see action on Saturday. They have to be able to pressure Mailk Rozier up the middle (from the DT’s). The Panther offensive line will also play nine or ten players. They’re a veteran group that will have to rise to the occasion of playing against Miami. Lastly, the FIU secondary has been a work in progress for the past season and a quarter. Saturday is as good a time as ever to play up to their potential. Ike Brown is a very skilled corner but hasn’t looked like his 2016 form yet this year. Thomas-Oliver has drawn rave reviews from Butch Davis, but Miami is a different level than UMass or Indiana.
Question 7. Time to go on the record: what’s your score prediction?
Henry: The theme post-game for the FIU players I spoke to was that this game is a chance to show that they’re not the FIU program of the past. I believe that they aren’t. This team has a lot of young talent. However, I don’t think they’re quite ready to make this type of leap just yet. The line is 28 points and I do believe this team deserves more respect than that. Final score: Miami 45 FIU 27.
Thanks to Eric Henry for joining us and sharing his insights with us today. Be sure you check out his work, and much more, over at Underdog Dynasty.