Five to watch: FIU Offense

As the season opener looms, TDD runs down five players who could make a difference for the FIU Panthers against the Blue Devil defense.

1. QB Jake Medlock (6-3, 225, R-So): The third year sophomore entered preseason camp as the team's number one and won the job pretty easily. Medlock not only takes over the reigns as the full-time starter - replacing the departed Wes Carroll - he's learning some new tricks and responsibilities under FIU's new offensive coordinator, Tim Cramsey.

A year ago Carroll torched the Blue Devil secondary for 348 yards and three scores on 25-of-39 passing. When Duke got pressure on him, Carroll was able to pick up an additional 34 yards on eight attempts, but was sacked for 17 yards once. Much like Carroll, Medlock can run and has the ability to grind for tough yards.

Cramsey's spread attack focuses more on speed and attacking the flanks, which means Medlock will be required to make quick decisions and throws. And those throws will be to a largely unproven group of receivers as the team's most explosive player, T.Y. Hilton was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL Draft's third round.

2011 v. Duke: DNP

2. RB Kedrick Rhodes (5-10, 200, Jr): There are a number of question marks surrounding the interior of the Duke line, and those questions will get a quick answer on Saturday as Rhodes goes to work. A season ago he set the single season rushing mark for FIU with 1,149 yards, and now he is poised to further leave a mark on the FIU record books.

A Doak Walker candidate, Rhodes will also lineup in the slot as a receiver as the Panthers look to get him involved as much as possible. As season ago he added 27 catches for 252 yards to his rushing totals. Blue Devil fans will remember last year's 52 yard scoring reception as evidence.

Rhodes benefits heavily from an experienced offensive line which returns four starters.

2011 v. Duke: 12 carries for 61 yards with a long run of 19 yards. Caught two passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.

3. WR Wayne Times (5-11, 190, Sr): The loss of Hilton means the Panthers are left searching for a big play receiver. Times may very well be that guy. A season ago he caught 54 passes for 540 yards and two scores. He and Hilton combined for 126 catches - more than all other receivers combined. With Hilton now catching balls from Andrew Luck in Indy, it's likely that Times will see the number of passes coming his way increased.

In addition to being the team's top receiving threat, Times also factors in on kick off and punt returns, averaging 23.6 yards per kick return, but just 7.3 yards per punt return.

2011 v. Duke: Seven catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Long of 34 yards. Returned three punts for 22 yards with a long of 14. Returned four kickoffs for 65 yards, with a long of 29.

4. The Offensive Line: The Panthers have a new quarterback and a new spread offense that needs that quarterback to remain upright and make quick decisions. Luckily for Jake Medlock, FIU returns four starters including preseason all-conference honorees RT Rupert Bryan (6-2, 280, Sr.) and LT Caylin Hauptmann (6-4, 311, Sr.). Overall, Cramsey has eight players he believes will be able to play. Returning starters C Shae Smith (6-4, 285, R-Sr.), a converted guard, and LG Gian Carlo Revilla (6-2, 285, Sr.) will likely team with RG David Delsoin (6-6, 300, R-So) to make up the front line for FIU.

2011 v. Duke: Allowed one sack, while helping the team gain 207 yards on 41 carries.

5. K Jack Griffin (6-1, 205, Sr): has logged the two best scoring seasons in FIU history over the last two years with 96 and then 102 points. Barring injury, Girffin will set the school's all-time record for points this year. And he'll have done it in just three seasons.

A year ago he made 22 field goals, bettering his 2010 total of 17. Griffin has never missed an extra point during his career (81-of-81) and has had two long streaks for made field goals of 11 and eight respectively.

As Blue Devil fans learned a season ago, the kicking game can be the difference between winning and losing close games. Which translates into post season berths and misses.

2011 v. Duke: Made both field goal attempts. Hit a 36 yarder before halftime and then a 33 yard attempt in the third quarter.

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