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Quarterback uncertainty dominates state schools

Florida Football Insiders

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Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

One thing is for certain as we head towards the 2019 college football season, around the state of Florida most of the prominent programs have more questions than answers at their quarterback position.

This was magnified last Wednesday, when it was learned that UCF’s presumed starter to begin the 2019 season, Darriel Mack, Jr., had suffered a non-football injured broken ankle. And, he is now out indefinitely. That has now thrown a real curve ball into Coach Josh Heupel’s plan to have Mack be the guy, but potentially be challenged by Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush.

Now, it appears that it’s Wimbush’s job and Mack may end up being medically redshirted all together.

There is equal instability in both Miami and Tallahassee. And, in both of the cases of Florida State and the Canes, a veteran transfer may end up being in their mix immediately, as well.

For the Noles, after the January dismissal of last year’s starter Deondre Francois, junior James Blackman will apparently be the quarterback for this season. However, the pressure is on second year boss, Willie Taggart, and he secured left-handed Wisconsin graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook, who could become the guy very quickly, if Blackman falters or should get injured.

Meanwhile, in Miami the Hurricanes are excited for Ohio State transfer Tate Martell (photo above) coming to them and winning an NCAA waiver ruling to make him immediately eligible. Miami does have part-time 2018 starter N’Kosi Perry that they can go to at the beginning of the year, but it’s believed that Martell will eventually take over the offense of new coordinator Dan Enos and maybe, soon.

The other two prominent programs in the state both return an experienced starter.

In Gainesville, the Gators will turn things back over to senior Feleipe Franks for the third consecutive year. Franks improved under Dan Mullen and his staff in 2018 and even though his statistics weren’t tremendous, he won critical games at the end of the year against South Carolina, FSU and the huge “New Year’s Six” bowl win over Michigan.

Clearly, the Gators are in the best shape of all state programs and want Franks to help lead them to what they believe could be an SEC East Division winning season in 2019.

And finally, that USF Bulls will also return veteran quarterback Blake Barnett for his second season in Tampa Bay. Barnett played very well at the beginning of last season as USF and coach Charlie Strong started at 7 – 0. However, with Barnett banged up down the stretch of the year, the Bulls faltered losing their final six games.

Barnett won’t face a challenge from last year’s backup and part-time starter Chris Oladokun, as he has transferred out of the program. So, the hope is the former Alabama and Arizona State quarterback can recapture some of the form that we saw last season. Then, the Bulls should be a bowl contender again this year.

Still that’s not certain.

And in Tampa, Tallahassee, Orlando and Miami, they want QB answers, too.

CFB

Coaches and rosters finalized for East-West Shrine Bowl

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL and the newly-renamed East-West Shrine Bowl are finalizing not only their player rosters, but their coaching staffs for next Saturday’s game in St Petersburg, FL.

Late this week, the longest running college all-star game, the East West Shrine Bowl, named its head coaches, both of whom have ties to the Tampa Bay Area.

Bucs inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell will coach one of the teams, while former Buccaneers and current Falcons tight end coach, Ben Steele will be in charge of the other.

Caldwell, who came to the Buccaneers in Bruce Arians’ first season has been in the NFL for a total of 11 years and had previously served as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach for the New York Jets under Todd Bowles for 4 seasons.

Steele, who has coached in the NFL for seven seasons reunited with Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter  in Atlanta after previously having been his tight end coach in Tampa Bay last year.

Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl, said in a statement about the coaching selections,

 “We’re very excited to have Mike Caldwell and Ben Steele as head coaches for our East-West Shrine Bowl all-stars,” said Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl. “Ben was a coordinator for our 2019 game and both coaches have ties to the Tampa/St. Pete area. They will lead two strong staffs of NFL assistant coaches that will be invaluable to our players as they begin their own journey to the NFL”

Meanwhile, the rosters do have some Florida flair, as several noteworthy names will be on the East team. That’s led by speedy UCF running back Adrian Killins, Gators wide receiver Freddie Swain and USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox. On the East defensive squad, FAU linebacker Rashad Smith, Miami linebacker Shaq quarterman and UCF defensive back Neville Clark are part of the roster.

This will be the 95th playing of the East-West Shrine Bowl and it boasts 71 Pro Football Hall of Famers that have played in their game. And, they also had more than 300 players who were on an NFL roster for Week 1 last year that have played in the East-West Shrine Bowl.

The game also announced that there will be four legendary mentors working with the players in practices later this week in St Pete. Those include: Hall of Fame offensive lineman Will Shields, Super Bowl Champion defensive end Willie McGinest, as well as, long time safety Bobby Taylor and long time wide receiver Amani Toomer.

The game will be played at Tropicana Field, the home of Major League Baseball Tampa Bay Rays and televised nationally on the NFL Network at 3 p.m., Eastern Time next Saturday.

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New Year’s Day has prominent teams in Florida Bowls

Florida Football Insiders

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As the new year begins, traditional college football bowl games will be taking place. And even though there are no Florida teams battling on New Year’s Day, there are two prominent bowl games in the state.

First, two of college football’s “Blue Bloods” play Wednesday afternoon, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan Wolverines will do battle in the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Both programs come off of disappointing end to their regular-season, as they both lost to their rivals. Alabama dropping a wild 48 – 45 game in the Iron Bowl to Auburn and Michigan losing badly 56-27 to Ohio State and their finale at home.

The Tide are without All American caliber quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who suffered a fractured hip late in the year. However, Nick Saban has arguably the best wide receiving corps in all of college football to compensate for Tagovailoa’s absence.

Michigan has perennially under-achieved under coach Jim Harbaugh, but would love nothing better than to score a head-to-head win against Bama in this one.

Meanwhile across I-4 in Tampa, the 25th playing of the Outback Bowl will take place and it’s a first-time matchup between the SEC Auburn Tigers and the big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Gophers were Darlings of the Big Ten late in the year that they got to 9 – 0 for only the second time in program history before faltering with losses to Iowa and Wisconsin which knock them out of the Big Ten championship game. Their coach P.J. Fleck is the Big Ten coach of the year and has done an amazing job of making Minnesota nationally relevant.

As for the Tigers, we mentioned the victory over Alabama which was particularly sweet for Coach Gus Malzahn, who has been under fire in recent years for not living up to success earlier in the 2010s. Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix, the son of the former Auburn star Patrick Nix, leads a high-powered attack that will look to finish the season on a winning note. The Tigers lost their three biggest games of the year to Florida, LSU, and Georgia, but wins over Alabama and Minnesota will help.

The Gophers have had their most important season since they played in the Rose Bowl in 1962 and would love nothing better than to upset the Tigers in this one.

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