Currently on a 14 game losing streak, and already off to an 0-2 start, the Golden Panthers head into Saturday's match up led by former Miami offensive line coach and first year head coach, Mario Cristobal.
Leading the nation's 118th ranked offense will be quarterback Wayne Younger. The redshirt freshman enters Saturday with 198 yards passing, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions in his first two starts. The 6'3, 198 pound Cocoa Florida native is completing just 42% of his passes.
Heading the FIU rushing attack, ranked 114th in the nation, will be Julian Reams. At just 5'10, 205 pounds, Reams makes up for his small size with blazing speed. With only 13 carries in the first two weeks, he stands as FIU's leading rusher on the season with 33 yards. Sharing carries with Reams will be arguably FIU's most talented tailback, junior A'mod Ned. Only 5'9 184 pounds, Ned lacks the ideal build of an every down back, but shifty running style and quick acceleration make him a dangerous threat for the Golden Panthers. He's currently averaging 5.3 yards a carry in 2007.
At wide receiver is a pair of freshmen, Torrelt Solomon and Greg Ellingson. Solomon, a redshirt freshman, is a 5'10 172 pound burner with great quickness and acceleration. Ellingson, who was talented enough to win a starting spot as just a true freshman, brings great size and hands at 6'3 200 pounds. Also seeing time will be speedster John Houston Whiddon, a 6'0 195 pound sophomore with big play ability. Tight end Moses Hinton enters the weekends game as FIU's leader in receiving yards, all of which came on a 49 yard touchdown reception. At 6'3, 265, the Delray Beach native is a great blocker, but athletic enough to be a threat in the passing game as well.
Anchoring the offensive line will be son of Miami Hurricane's head coach, Xavier Shannon. Just 6'0 and 295 pounds, Shannon could have trouble handling the pass rush of Miami. At the other tackle position will be Tallahassee native Dustin Gibson. The 6'5 285 pound lineman returns after starting every game in 2006. At left guard is arguably the best offensive lineman, sophomore Joe Alajajian. With ideal size at 6'3 290, Alajajian is a great run blocker. Manning the other guard position will be another sophomore, Alex Szima. A 300 pounder, he gives FIU a much needed size boast on the interior line. Calling the shots in the middle of the line will be true freshman, Brad Serini. The New York native brings solid size and athleticism to the center position.
On the opposite side of the ball, the 88th ranked rushing defense is led by a pair of athletic defensive ends - Audric Adger and Cody Pellicer. Adger, the senior and Miami native, provides FIU with a speedy rusher off of the edge. But at just 6'2 230, Adger is weak against the run. Another speed end, true freshman Cody Pellicer, will handle the other side. Pellicer checks in at 6'3 235, and shows promise, already recording a sack in his young career. Defensive tackle is a thin position both size and talent for the Golden Panthers defense, featuring no player over 300 pounds. Daniel Charcreton occupies one spot, weighing in at only 255 pounds while standing 6'3. Next to him will be Justin West, easily FIU's biggest lineman at 6'1 297 pounds, West recorded 14 tackles in 2006 and enters the game with some much needed experience.
An equally small unit on defense is the linebacking unit. Led by three sophomore's, FIU does not start one linebacker over 6'0. Leading this undersized trio in the middle is Mannie Wellington, a 5'8 211 pound first year starter. Flanking him will be the top two leading tacklers for the FIU defense - Scott Bryant and MIke Dominguez. Similar in size (5'10 220, for Bryant, 5'11 225 for Dominguez) both Bryant and Dominguez are active linebackers that are very quick and strong for their size. Bryant and Dominguez are tied for the team lead with 16 tackles on the year.
The secondary, which was thought to be perhaps the strongest unit of the defense, has been an extreme disappointment for FIU. Coming into the match-up with Miami ranking 87th overall in pass defense, the Golden Panthers defensive backfield has not lived up to its preseason expectations. Senior corner back Lionell Singleton, who led the team with interceptions in 2006, is the star of the defense. Thought to be a lockdown corner, the 5'10 174 pound corner has had a rough start to 2007. Robert Mitchell, a junior from Melbourne Florida, will handle the other cornerback position. Mitchell, who recorded 45 tackles in 2006, is a strong hitter and can come up to support the run, but struggles in coverage. He's currently 5th on the team with 13 tackles.
Behind them will be safeties Cory Flemming and Alonzia Phillips. Flemming, a 5'11 187 pound senior, enters his second season as a starter. Phillips, who is in his first year as starter, has impressed with his ability to hit and play against the running game. He's 4th on the team in tackles, with 15.
The special teams duties will be handled by a pair of underclassman. At punter is sophomore Chris Cook. Thanks to FIU's offense, he's already attempted 18 punts in just two games. He ranks 53rd in the country in average yards with 40 per punt. Handling the kick-offs and field goals will be true freshman Chris Abed. He's 1 for 1 on field goals in 2007.
With an inexperienced quarterback, undersized offensive and defensive lines and a surprisingly poor secondary, FIU should be no match for Miami. Miami must use this game to bounce back from last weeks poor preformance and build confidence for the rest of the season.