Kansas Set to Open vs. Florida International

Last year, the Florida International Golden Panthers came into Lawrence with a new head coach and a relatively young team.

It showed, as the Jayhawks blasted the Golden Panthers 55-3, putting up 615 yards of total offense in the process, while scoring on a blocked punt and an 108-yard interception return as well.

But that was last year. Mario Cristobal’s Golden Panthers enter the game with a bit of momentum, some from a victory in the team’s last game against North Texas, some from the return of 17 starters on offense and defense and some more from a recruiting class that hit Miami and the surrounding areas hard. Cristobal and much of his staff have ties to either the University of Miami, or Florida at-large, so it should come as no surprise that FIU will try to tap into that same area.

There’s also excitement surrounding the opening of a new, on-campus stadium, the only on-campus FBS stadium south of Orlando. The stadium will eventually hold more than 45,000.

On the field, the Golden Panthers will use multiple looks offensively. The new defensive coordinator, Bill Legg, coached five seasons at Purdue, including a stint as co-offensive coordinator for the past two years. Last year, Purdue led the Big Ten in both total offense and scoring offense, putting up close to 436 yards and more than 34 points per game, utilizing a spread attack.

To have similar results, FIU will have to get stellar play out of one, or both of its quarterbacks. Sophomore Wayne Younger served as the starter last year up until he broke his collarbone. He led the team in passing, and was second in rushing. Paul McCall came on in relief and led the Golden Panthers to their lone victory of the season. Kansas will likely see both Saturday night – Younger is more of a runner, while McCall is a pocket passer.

They’ll have the luxury of handing off to a solid, and experienced, one-two punch in Julian Reems and all-purpose talent A’Mod Ned. Reems, listed as the starter, rushed for close to 300 yards last year, while Ned was near 600.

Despite returning multiple starters at receiver, including talented 6-foot-3 sophomore Greg Ellingson, FIU will upgrade in terms of athleticism with sophomore Marquis Rolle and true freshmen Julian Mertle and T.Y. Hilton, both from Miami. Also watch for Alonso Phillips, a former walk-on safety and special teamer with track speed.

The offensive line has been inconsistent, though it does boast an award candidate in Rimington Watch Lister Brad Serini at center. Andy Leavine and Joe Alajajian are also returning starters.

Defensively, the Golden Panthers are led by a linebacking group that returns starters Scott Bryant and Michael Dominguez on the outsides. Scott Clawson will play in the middle, and will be backed up by Toronto Smith, who had seven tackles for loss last season. Bryant finished last year with 91 tackles, including six in the backfield.

FIU will count on three returning starters on the defensive line, including Daniel Chacreton, though the pass rush may be coming from true freshmen Jonathan Jackson and Kambriel Willis. Cornerbacks Anthony Gaitor and Robert Mitchell return at both cornerback spots, though the Panthers will have two new starters at safety, likely Ashlyn Parker and Jeremiah Weatherspoon. Both weigh about 210 pounds.

Carlos Munera will both kick and punt, thanks to an injury to punter Chris Cook. Weatherspoon and Reams will return kickoffs, while Gaitor will bring back punts.

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