College FIU Panthers

Early Signing Report: FIU Panthers

The NCAA’s new early signing period for college football ended Friday, closing the three-day rush of players signing their official letters of intent.

Instead of waiting until the Wednesday of February, players all over the country signed on the dotted line – fast-forwarding past the hoopla that comes along with National Signing Day.

FIU Panthers

Even though FIU’s season of resurgence did not end the way it wanted to – suffering a 28-3 loss to Temple in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl –Panthers fans can optimistically look to the future.

Florida International welcomed the signing of 21 players through the early signing period – the school announced Friday.

Of the 21, 15 came from the state of Florida – with six of those coming from South Florida (Miami-Dade and Broward County) high schools.

FIU first-year head coach Butch Davis said he was happy with the haul of athletes that signed with the program this week.

“Our coaches went through the country and built relationships with high school coaches and programs, and identified and evaluated who could come in and be a part of this program, and I think our coaches did an absolutely phenomenal job,” Davis said.

“We actually signed someone at every position, thus far. We have signed offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, wide receivers, running backs, kids in the secondary. I think that was good for us this year, because some of these kids are going to come in and be an immediate help to this football program.”

Assistant coaches Aubrey Hill and Tim Harris Jr. used their South Florida roots and strong relationships to keep a handful of impact players at home in this signing class.

Hialeah Champagnat linebacker Donovan Georges signed with FIU Wednesday. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Under Armour All-American, who helped lead his high school team to a Class 2A state title earlier in December, chose FIU over offers from Georgia, LSU and Louisville.

In addition to Georges, the Panthers got a couple of local gems in 6-foot-4 Miami Palmetto wide receiver Ivan Thomas and 6-foot-3, 210-pound Davie Nova athlete Shaun Peterson Jr.

Thomas had double-digit receiving touchdowns for the second straight season in 2017, while Peterson – who also had offers from USF, FAU and Mississippi State – was No. 3 in South Florida in total rushing (1,234 yards and 17 touchdowns).

Miami Palmetto defensive back Shamar Munroe, Fort Lauderdale Stranahan receiver Marquel Dillard and Miami Booker T. Washington – where Harris Jr. coached before joining FIU’s staff – receiver Zahir Turner also signed Wednesday.

Keeping the recruiting lines open in South Florida is always a priority for FIU, but Davis also knows the importance of bringing in players from other areas.

“We didn’t focus exclusively on one geographic area,” Davis said. “Our coaches went around the whole state and found players in Southwest Florida, North Florida, Central Florida, and the Space Coast,” Davis said. “And I think that those players, over time, will pay dividends, so that high school coaches know that we are going to cover the entire state and bring players into this program.”

FIU went outside of Florida, too.

Also signing with FIU Wednesday was Texas Klein Oak High 6-foot-3, 315-pound offensive lineman John Golding; Virginia Benedictine College Prep 6-foot-6 tight end Sterling Palmer; 6-foot-5, 225-pound Texas Life High defensive end Joshua Sanders and JUCO signees Tayland Humphrey (Hutchinson Community College) and Teair Tart (Ellsworth Community College).

J.T. Wilcox
J.T. Wilcox is an award-winning sports journalist who has worked in South Florida for more than a decade. He authors "The Bald Predictions" blog and "The Baldcast" podcast.

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