The Golden Panthers are coming off a 2-10 season and desperately need to change the direction this season is heading, starting this Saturday. To be completely blunt, they haven't even come close to beating anyone this year and pulling off a major upset or at least keeping a game close could help change the season for Ron Turner.
Turner spent this offseason trying to establish the type of culture he wanted for his program. That led to him dismissing a good amount of talented players from his team. Add in the other guys that he lost to academics and he was left with one true returning starter this season. Quarterback Jake Medlock returned to lead the offense and he has pretty much been running around trying to make plays since the first drive of the season. Playing behind a line that has a total of 5 starts isn't ideal for any quarterback but when you throw in the fact that not a single skill positioned player had played before, it becomes pretty hard to do much of anything on offense. Medlock has put forth a great effort this season, but playing behind such an experience line has led to him more than likely sitting out the game this week with a concussion.
E.J. Hilliard will more than likely get the start this weekend against the guy he backed up in high school, Theodore Bridgewater. In my honest opinion, Hilliard should have been starting this weekend anyway. He played in a relief role in last years game as a true freshman and immediately showed the poise and skill that reminded some of Teddy himself. Hilliard is a guy that can escape the pressure that he's bound to see, as well as finding the open receiver if one becomes available. Medlock is a perfectly capable player and has a much more experience, but sometimes a switch at the qb spot is needed.
The Golden Panthers don't have much else going for them on offense. I could list all of the ridiculous offensive deficiencies, but I did that on Twitter the other night and it is just flat out sad. Wideout T.J. Lowder had a breakout game this past weekend with 125 yards and a touchdown, but it has to be mentioned that they played Bethune-Cookman last week. Running back Lamarq Caldwell has been bottled up so far this season, but he definitely has some quicks and legit speed if he gets loose. Outside of those two guys there's not much going for the offense so far this season.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Jake Medlock, QB E.J. Hilliard, WR T.J. Lowder
Defensive tackle Greg Hickman absolutely jumps out at you on film. He is an absolutely disruptive force and he will line up at a different spot on the line all game long. If there is one bright spot for this team (seriously, there might only be one bright spot) its that it is getting great effort from its interior line. Hickman and Nose Guard Isame Faciane have combined for 10.5 tackles for loss on the season even though they are facing routine double teams. Hickman is a guy that will more than likely end up playing on Sundays next year and Faciane wouldn't be a bad bet to do the same. The defensive line as a whole has played pretty well against the pass. The run on the other hand is literally a different story.
Louisville will again see a basic 4-3 defense that will rely heavily on zone coverage to stop Teddy Bridgewater and his receivers. The FIU back seven honestly hasn't even been tested much because teams are just running the ball down their throats. However, when teams have decided to pass the ball they have done so with ease. FIU is giving up nearly 10 yards per pass attempt. That's 10 yards whether the pass is completed or not. They have statistically made every quarterback they've faced look like Teddy Bridgewater. It's a byproduct of how inept the offense is. The defense is on the field way to often and they don't have the depth or experience to keep up. Louisville has controlled the ball so far this season and they will look to do the same this weekend.
KEY PLAYERS: DT Greg Hickman, DT Isame Faciane, CB Sam Miller
- E.J. Hilliard was Teddy Bridgewater's backup at Miami Northwestern.
- Ron Turner has two total seasons as a head coach in which he had a winning record.
- Athletic Director Pete Garcia is responsible for hiring both Ron Turner and Isaiah Thomas.
- 3rd string quarterback Travis Wright was James Quick's quarterback at Trinity the previous two years.
- I may have been wrong last week when I stated that Miami of Ohio may have the worst offense in the country. FIU is trying really hard to prove me wrong.