I heard the lyrics from the song Midnight City stating, “waiting in a car…waiting for a ride in the dark.”
FIU football coach Butch Davis is the driver of a new model car, with the FIU Panthers as passengers who want to get out of the dark and fast.
Panthers football, which first began in 2002, has an all-time record of 52-112. Now Davis, arguably the Panthers biggest recruit, is a two-time Super Bowl champion as an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys, has three Big East championships with the University of Miami and a 63-43 overall record as a college head coach. He is ready to add his rebuilding touch to the Panthers program which was evident at camp to start the season.
“You have to create a culture of high expectations, you have to get players that buy in and are committed,” Davis stated. “With the access to the players we have to the entire state of Florida we are going to get that job done.”
Davis is the driver FIU football needs considering they have not had a winning season since 2011 and just two bowl appearances in school history.
He is moving this team out of the dark and it shows in practice. Yes. Practice. The players look faster and are actually coaching each other, an act found at the professional level.
“Our kids have had an excellent summer in preparation, running and lifting,” Davis stated. “The leadership on this team has really done a good job of explaining to these kids we have to get better every single day.”
There is no clear decision on what Davis will have on the field for the season opener on the road September 2nd at Central Florida. Last season, the Panthers finished 4-8 overall which led to head coach Ron Turner receiving his pink slip in the middle of the season.
Davis has tools in players such as quarterback Alex McGough, who is a fourth-year starter, and Alex Gardner, who rushed for 930 yards last season. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
The receivers group, led by senior Thomas Owens, is experienced, and the defense brings back eight players who started at least six games. Linebackers Anthony Wint and Treyvon Williams, safeties Niko Gonzalez and Xavier Hines and defensive end Newton Salisbury are all returning senior starters.
Davis has shared his concern for a lack of depth from spring practice but is not worried that he can’t bring the competiveness out of this team. “One of my biggest disappointments coming out of spring practice is that we didn’t have near enough competition at certain positions,” Davis stated. “ We have to create great competition on this football team, it is all about competing to get a chance to play, getting a chance to improve.” In the spring, the Panthers did not have competition, however now in the fall, they have added 25 incoming freshmen. Some are transfers in an environment where several of these players in practice have a man breathing down their neck to play.
From what I see at camp so far, the wait in the car may be over soon.