Well, actually—Tampa Bay is Panther Country

[LCS' Christian Alexander in 2013 vs. Tampa Catholic]
[LCS’ Christian Alexander in 2013 vs. Tampa Catholic]
We have been highlighting the trends in recruiting from the in-state schools over the past few weeks and what we have discovered is that Tampa Bay does actually have a pipeline to Miami. It might not be the most famous school in Dade County that you would be thinking of initially, but the highest representation from the six counties in the Bay Area is on Florida International University’s roster. That’s not where the influence ends, however. Four of the five quarterbacks that will be on FIU’s roster this fall call the counties of Polk and Hillsborough home. In addition, the Panthers signed eight players on National Signing Day ’16 from the area giving them twenty-two players from the area. That number increases is nine and twenty-three when you add Shawn O’Gorman’s preferred walk-on status.

Let’s take a look at that QB representation a little bit closer. Looking at the body-types of the entire corps itself–including the signees Tyson and Orem–you can see a clear pattern in the recruitment at that position for Head Coach Ron Turner and his staff. The starter is Gaither’s Alex McGough standing at 6-feet-3, 218-pounds entering his junior season. The back-ups are both redshirt freshmen. One of them is Lakeland Christian School’s Christian Alexander who is now 6-feet-3, 221-pounds. Add Robinson’s Malik Tyson who is currently at 6-feet-3, 200-pounds. Orem at 6-feet-1.5, 190-pounds joins Booker T. Washington’s Maurice Alexander–the other redshirt freshmen–who checks-in at 6-feet, 190-pounds.

[Robinson's Malik Tyson joins a long list of Bay Area representation at FIU]
[Robinson’s Malik Tyson joins a long list of Bay Area representation at FIU]
All of them together give OC and run-game coordinator Steve Shankweiler and his son Kort Shankweiler–who handles the QB’s and passing game–plenty of options even though they’ve got similar frames. What the Panthers actually have is a treasure chest of depth that has been excavated from the Tampa Bay region. Initially they also had Braden River’s Jacob Huesman signed before he switched his commitment to Appalachian State.

The tandem of McGough and Christian Alexander alone threw for 13,438 yards in high school and 157 touchdowns. Alexander threw for 8,000+ and 100+ TD’s himself, but McGough snatched the position early in his freshman season and has yet to relinquish it. The “other” Alexander–Maurice–led Booker T. to a 15-0 season and state championship after taking control of the reigns for Treon Harris. Tyson threw for 2,000+ yards as a starter and Orem–although likely to see time at other spots due to his athleticism on the defensive side–produced 1,158 all-purpose yards as a QB for Lake Gibson, and added 70 tackles and four interceptions for his career on defense.

McGough has been rock solid and downright sensational at times for the Panthers that past two seasons. He has started 23 of the 24 games including all of their games this past season as a sophomore. McGough led the Panthers in a season-opening win over UCF that sent social media circles in-state into a frenzy, but couldn’t beat their natural rivals FAU later on in the season. That loss aside, McGough and the Panthers bested their previous season’ win-total with a 5-7 record. He finished the year with 2,722 yards in all games with 21 touchdowns through the air. Within the conference, he finished with 1,856 yards and 13 touchdowns. McGough shined in his three of his four non-conference games against UCF, Indiana and North Carolina-Central with 785 yards and seven touchdowns in those contests.

The Panthers even signed another McGough on NSD as well getting younger brother Shane–an offensive lineman–to join his older sibling in Miami. With all of these ties and trends, it’s safe to say that FIU’s footprint in this area is firmly dug into the ground and prospects should be taking notice that a home-away-from-home exists down south. With all of the competition at the QB spot–and dominated by our boys at that–things are going to be fun to track in the coming seasons along with all of the other battles that will take place between ballers from the Bay.