The 2019 College football season kicks off tonight with one of the most anticipated games on the season, certainly within the state. Florida and Miami will be facing off in Orlando for the first time in six years.
Here are three things we’re looking forward to watching:
The redshirt freshman was named starting QB earlier this month, beating out former Ohio State Buckeye and former 5 star recruit Tate Martell and last years end of season starter, N’Kosi Perry.
Williams saw action in one game with the Canes last season, completing 1 of 3 passes for 17 yards, and running twice for 2 yards and a touchdown in a win over Savannah State. With such little college experience, no one really knows what to expect from him tonight, but we do know he’s has been praised for having the best arm of the group and used that to win this job.
Williams has got some great targets on offense that includes veteran running back DeeJay Dallas, wide receiver Jeff Thomas and Buffalo transfer K.J. Osborn. What will be key is if Miami and produce some solid protection at the line with a group of less experienced OLs.
Gators living up to high preseason expectations
Dan Mullen lead the Gators to one the most improved seasons in all of college football last season, more than doubling the amount of wins for Florida from 2017 to 2018. The pressure is even higher for the second year coach, after fans have gotten a taste of what it’s like to be back in the elite status.
Earlier this week, the Gators were ranked number 8 on the AP preseason poll, which is the first time Florida has ranked in the top 10 since the 2013 season. They are one of six SEC teams, four of which are also in the Top 10, and the only Power 5 school in the state of Florida in the preseason poll.
With the best set of offensive players they’ve had in nearly a decade, Gators QB Feliepe Franks has a wide range of solid targets including running back Lamical Perine and wide receivers Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Trevon Grimes and Joshua Hammond.
However, Franks has had an interesting run as the Gator’s signal caller. Last season was much improved form his first, throwing for 2,284 yards and 23 touchdowns last season, with six interceptions. However, his pass completion rate was just 58.5 percent, which is much lower than most QB’s at Top 10 schools.
How much improvement Franks will show tonight could be an indicator of how much of a force Florida will be this season.
New offensive lines on both sides
Tonight will be a debut of mostly new offensive lineman, which could have their hands full against two really strong defenses. Florida lost four OL starters from last season and will be debuting four first-time starters up front, including tackles Stone Forsythe and Jean Delance.
There will also be some new faces on the Cane’s offense with Freshman tackle Zion Nelson and RS Freshman John Campbell making their first career starts on the line.
How well these lineman can protect each team’s quarterback against two solid defenses could likely be the determining factor in the sunshine state rivalry this evening.
Also important to note, is the history between the two coaches, as Manny Diaz was Mullen’s defensive coordinator — not once, but twice. The two have had a repeated crossing of paths throughout their coaching careers, and tonight Diaz gets to match wits with Mullen.
Manny not only has the advantage of knowing how Mullen thinks; he has been able to see how Mullen has evolved. We wrote previously that this game will be like an intimate chess match between the two coaches.
Will Canes turn things around in home opener?
The excitement behind first year Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz is quickly losing steam as the once ACC powerhouse has now found themselves as an unranked, middle of the pack team in their conference with an 0-2 record. Granted, they have had some bigger tests than most teams in the first two weeks of play, but still, there is too much talent on this team to have had such a lackluster start.
So, today has to be the day for Diaz to see some success as he heads into his first home game as the Canes head coach. Even if it’s against an FCS team, it will give the Canes the boost they need to turn the season around. They have a lot of young talent who can certainly bring Miami back to its state of prominence and there is still a lot to be hopeful for as they head into their first kickoff in Hard Rock Stadium this season.
History is certainly on Miami’s side. In their all time series with Bethune-Cookman University, Miami has a perfect 4-0 mark against the Wildcats, winning all four games by 3o points or more. Also, Miami has not lost a home opener since 2006, and have emerged victorious in its last 12 home openers, most recently, a shoutout 77-0 victory vs. Savannah State last season.
Amidst the two early losses, RS Freshman QB Jarren Williams has looked strong. In his first ever collegiate start against Top 10 ranked Florida, Williams finished 19-for-30 for 214 yards and 1 TD. He looked even better in week two against ACC opponent North Carolina, throwing for 309 yards on 30-for-39 passing with two touchdowns and no picks. He’ll likely put up even bigger numbers today against a significantly weaker defense. He’s now the ranked fourth among ACC Quarterbacks.
Williams also has strong targets in RB DeeJay Dallas who rushed for 107 yards on 14 carries, averaging 7.6 yards per rush vs. UNC, as well as TE Brevin Jordan who leads the team with 161 receiving yards (80.5 per game).
On the defensive end, Miami has one the best linebacker trios in college football right now with Zach McCloud, Michael Pinckney & Shaq Quarterman. These three have started nearly every game together since arriving to University of Miami as early enrollees in 2016.
UM’s starting offensive line now has three freshman. True freshman LT Zion Nelson, redshirt freshman RT John Campbell, Jr. and true freshman Jakai Clark who made his first start against the Tar Heels. The young UM offensive line looked much improved in week two, but they still allowed four sacks and aren’t up to the caliber they need to be to be considered a solid offensive line. However, facing a FCS level opponent like Bethune-Cookman, the starting five on the offensive line should be able to grow confident together this week.
Should Miami be upset with the way they’ve started this season, for sure. But, the 0-2 start does not have to reflect what the rest of the year will look like. This week is the perfect opportunity for the teams nine new starters so far this season to get more comfortable and build some confidence, and get the second string guys playing time to give the team more depth all around.
Even with defeat Canes legend Irvin passionate about future
MIAMI IS BACK!!!! Well, at least they are, according to Hurricanes legendary WR Michael Irvin and a social media post Monday morning.
First, Irvin was seen getting Canes fans hyped at a rally Friday night prior to Miami’s opening loss to rival Florida in Orlando Saturday night:
MICHAEL IRVIN IS READY FOR MIAMI VS. FLORIDA
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 24, 2019
Irvin was also a guest on ESPN’s “College Gameday” show at Disney World and got very animated on Saturday morning with Gators legend/Heisman winner, Tim Tebow:
— ESPN (@espn) August 24, 2019
Well, despite the hype, the Hurricanes played a sloppy game with lots of penalties and turnovers. Some of this was to be expected with a first year head coach in Manny Diaz and a redshirt freshman QB making his first start in Jarren Williams. As we wrote though, Williams showed promise at times despite sacks and misfires, at times for the offense.
Well, Irvin was back on social media Monday (apparently after a morning workout) and wanted Canes fans to know he is encouraged and to keep that same energy even after the loss:
— Michael Irvin (@michaelirvin88) August 26, 2019
In the :60 post, Irvin made it very clear that the Canes “gave it to the Gators,” and he was so adamant about that, he even said it twice. He was also very encouraged about the way his team played, especially with multiple freshmen on the O-line and a young QB.
“If it weren’t for a few mistakes, the Canes would have walked away with the win!,” Irvin emphasized.
Irvin, who was a two time All American receiver for the Gators in the 80s, part of the 1987 National Championship team and later a Pro Football Hall of Famer with the Cowboys, was a good sport and congratulated the Gators. But, he did leave us with a great quote to end his speech,
“I don’t care what ya’ll say, we will never die. We will never quit, and we will never go anywhere. So, eat that on your breakfast, lunch, and dinner plate.”
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