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Jaguars playoff run filled with Florida college ties

Olivia Stacey

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When the Jaguars face the Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday to play for the AFC title, Jacksonville’s franchise will be showcased, but also, several college football programs in Florida will be, as well.

We known for years that Florida has deepest and best college football in the country. And, the Jaguars are well-represented by former college football standouts from UCF, Florida State, Florida, and Miami.

In completing 14 of 24 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown (plus 35 rushing yards on five carries), Blake Bortles did exactly what he needed to do to advance the Jaguars to the AFC Championship. The former UCF star and third overall pick in the 2014 Draft, led the Jaguars to victory on the road against the Steelers, who were 7 point favorites.

Bortles is joined by former Canes wide receiver Allen Hurns, who has notched 39 receptions for 484 yards and 2 touchdowns this season.

Miami’s football program will also be represented by defender Calais Campbell and center Brandon Linder, who is the leader of the offensive line.

Campbell has been the anchor of a dominant Jaguars defense. A 31-year-old veteran, he set a team record with four sacks at Houston in his first first game with Jacksonville. He wound up setting the franchise’s single-season mark with 14½, and tied for second in the league with DeMarcus Lawrence of the Cowboys (the Cardinals’ Chandler Jones led the NFL with 17 sacks).

Adding to his impressive stats, the defensive end had 67 tackles and three forced fumbles. He is arguably the NFL’s most versatile D-lineman, and was Wednesday named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by The Pro Football Writers of America.

The Noles will also have reason to root for the Jags with Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith.

Only in his second season, Ramsey is making a name for himself in the NFL as one of the best corners. According to Pro Football Focus, Ramsey allowed a passer rating of 76.6 and completion percentage of 53 against his coverage as a rookie. In his second season, Ramsey improved those numbers to a passer rating of 63.9 and completion percentage of 51.

Smith, who is one of the Jags’ most experienced linebackers, had a whopping 16 tackles against the Steelers and a second quarter 50 yard fumble return for a TD.

Also in the secondary, free agent acquisition A.J. Bouye, who went to UCF like Bortles, is the other “lock down” corner on the other side of Ramsey. Just, without the same on going dialogue that Ramsey always has going. Bouye was also named to the AFC Pro Bowl team.

Former Florida defensive end and top 10 pick Dante Fowler Jr. recorded one tackle in the Jaguars’ thrilling 45-42 win against the Steelers. Fowler Jr., alongside his former college teammate outside linebacker Lerentee McCray, will take on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC Championship this weekend.

Olivia is a multi-faceted sports reporter based in Tampa Bay where she has covered events from the College Football National Championship to the Stanley Cup Final. A native Floridian, she grew up rooting for Tampa’s sports teams, and graduated from East Lake High in Tarpon Springs. Olivia continued her education at the University of Florida where she received her broadcast journalism degree.

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