Florida Gators: Miami Hurricanes
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2. Good news is that Stanford and San Jose State have christened Saturday’s game the Bill Walsh Legacy Game. Walsh played at and graduated from San Jose State. He started and finished his legendary head coaching career at Stanford. The bad news is that the two schools, only 25 minutes apart, are putting the series on the shelf after playing nearly annually since 1948. The rivalry may not be Notre Dame-Michigan, but this is one more sign that progress leaves casualties in its wake.
3. Florida-Miami is another one that should be played more but won’t be. As Pat Dooley wrote at GatorSports.com, since Florida plays one neutral-site conference game (Georgia) already, the Gators have a greater financial imperative to play home games against the three non-conference opponents that aren’t Florida State. Florida’s last non-conference road game? Miami in 2003, and the Gators lost. The last non-conference road game out of state? Syracuse in 1991, and the Gators lost. No wonder they want to play at home.
Duke Johnson gives the Hurricanes a marquee name at the position, continuing a tradition that dates back to the 1980s. Florida, on the other hand, has not had a national standout at running back since Fred Taylor in 1998.
Although it is true Mike Gillislee had a 1,000-yard season for the Gators last year -- the school's first since 2004 -- you would be hard pressed to find anybody outside the state who could name him.
For Florida, it has been a constant battle to find a consistent running back. There have been a few since Taylor left: Earnest Graham, Ciatrick Fason, DeShawn Wynn.
But in the years after Wynn, quarterback Tim Tebow and receiver Percy Harvin made the running game go. Backs such as Kestahn Moore and Emmanuel Moody merely served as window dressing.
Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey were not big backs, but coach Will Muschamp and former coach Urban Meyer tried to get a lot out of them. They were simply never big enough to truly carry the load.
The Gators, however, do have hope that they have a guy in Matt Jones who can reverse the recent trend and become a heralded standout. Jones makes his debut this weekend for the Gators, after missing last week with a viral infection. He could end up doing what Johnson has done for Miami.
The Hurricanes have a proud running back tradition, with eight backs drafted in the first four rounds since 1990. But they did not have much in the way of a marquee national player before Johnson, either. Between 2003 and 2012, Miami had only one 1,000-yard back: Lamar Miller in 2011.
Johnson came close to 1,000 yards last year, splitting time with Mike James while earning acclaim as one of the top freshmen in the country. He opened the season against FAU last week with 186 yards -- the highest rushing total in the entire nation in Week 1. He even picked up a vote in the ESPN.com Heisman Watch.
Florida recruited Johnson out of high school. Muschamp calls him a complete back.
"You have to be disciplined in your gaps. He's a guy who can take the ball anywhere," Muschamp said.
Indeed, the most intriguing matchup in this game is between Johnson and the Gators' defense, a formidable group against the run.
Consider this stat from ESPN Stats & Information: The Gators have given up just two rushes of 50-plus yards in the past 10 seasons, three fewer than any other team in FBS. Johnson, meanwhile, has six runs of 50 or more yards. None of those runs, however, came against a top rush defense. Against the top two defenses Miami played last year -- Florida State and Notre Dame -- Johnson went for a long of 7 yards.
"It’s going to be a great challenge. They’re big, physical up front," Miami coach Al Golden said. "It’s a great defense. It’s a very talented defense, and they play a lot of guys. It’s a great challenge for our offense -- our offensive line, our tight ends, our fullback. But it’s a great opportunity."
Here is a look at the leading rushers for Miami and Florida since 2002:
2012 Duke Johnson
2011 Lamar Miller
2010 Damien Berry
2007-09 Graig Cooper
2006 Javarris James
2005 Tyrone Moss
2004 Frank Gore
2003 Jarrett Payton
2002 Willis McGahee
2012 Mike Gillislee
2011 Chris Rainey
2010 Jeff Demps
2007-09 Tim Tebow
2005-06 DeShawn Wynn
2004 Ciatrick Fason
2003 Ran Carthon
2002 Earnest Graham
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The 24-6 win over the Rockets lacked the panache many fans were hoping for, but that was by design. All in all, the game was a victory for the coaching staff: Jeff Driskel was decisive under center, completing 17 of 22 passes with no interceptions; the running game was effective in spite of Matt Jones' absence; quality depth emerged on both sides of the football; and the defense did its job against a high-paced Toledo offense, limiting the Rockets to 3.8 yards per play and no touchdowns.
Against the Hurricanes, the Gators will have to do more. Playing vanilla worked in Week 1, but it won't in Week 2. Miami might be unranked in the AP poll, but coach Al Golden has his team knocking at the door.
"Certainly they know it's an important game for the University of Florida," Muschamp said on Wednesday, speaking to the rivalry between the two in-state schools. "We talk about it all the time. Our players understand the importance of the game. ... Any time they play against guys they know and are familiar with, it's obviously very important."
Miami will test Florida's ability to stop the run on Saturday with its stout, veteran offensive line and a tailback many consider to be among the best sophomores at his position. Duke Johnson, a first-team All-ACC choice this preseason, was third in the conference in rushing last year with 947 yards on the ground. He'll have a slew of talented linemen blocking ahead of him with Brandon Linder, Malcolm Bunche and Seantrel Henderson clearing the way.
"You have to be disciplined in your gaps," Muschamp explained. "He is a guy that can take the ball anywhere. They do a nice job of showing the stretch look and him cutting the ball back and heading north and south.
"He is an extremely tough and competitive guy. We recruited him. ... He catches the ball well, he protects. He's a complete back."
Florida should feel confident on defense, though, with as talented and deep a group of athletes as any in the SEC. Getting middle linebacker Antonio Morrison back from suspension should help slow Johnson. And cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy will return from his one-game suspension to give the Gators an anchor in the secondary against Miami quarterback Stephen Morris, whose 160 passing yards against FAU in the season opener put him over the 5,000-yard mark for his career.
Rather, what the Gators do on offense could determine the outcome of this game. All offseason we've heard how offensive coordinator Brent Pease would open up the playbook and bring more production to Florida's attack. Against Miami, we'll get to see if those words can be put into action.
Florida has the skill and depth at running back to control the tempo with Jones healthy once again and Mack Brown helping shoulder the load. But Driskel, who is now into his second year starting in the system, must make smart decisions with the football. He fumbled the ball twice against Toledo and has a history of poor pocket awareness. He can a Miami defense that had five sacks in its opener to come at him ready to knock the ball loose on Saturday.
"We're going to miss a block here and there," Driskel told reporters in Gainesville this week, "but I have to take care of the ball."
In a rivalry games like this, turnovers are everything. Limiting takeaways and sustaining momentum will be vital for Florida to walk away with a win. If the Gators try to do too much and give the ball away, the results could be disastrous.
Wake Forest (1-0) at Boston College (1-0), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2. The Eagles opened as an early favorite, which is somewhat surprising considering the Deacons have the better team. Both squads had some ups and downs in their openers against FCS competition last week, but from my seat, the Wake defense looked much better than BC's. The Deacs produced six turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown. That is why I give Wake the advantage in this game.
AA picks: Wake Forest 20, Boston College 17
HD picks: Wake Forest 24, Boston College 20
No. 12 Florida (1-0) at Miami (1-0), noon, ESPN. The Hurricanes have an excellent opportunity to make a statement against their former archrivals in the final scheduled regular-season meeting between the programs. Miami has the best offensive player on the field in Duke Johnson, but he will be playing against a formidable defense -- perhaps the best he will see all season. I do not think Miami can physically match up on the offensive and defensive lines and will get worn down as the game goes on. Florida might not have as many explosive players on offense, but its defense will rise to the occasion.
AA picks: Florida 23, Miami 17
HD picks: Florida 31, Miami 24
Middle Tennessee (1-0) at North Carolina (0-1), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. The Tar Heels had a disappointing performance in a loss to South Carolina, especially from their defense. UNC's defensive front got no pressure on the quarterback and could not stop the run. The secondary got beat on several long passes downfield. Middle Tennessee upset Georgia Tech last season, but I don't see a similar outcome in this one. North Carolina will get a much better game out of Bryn Renner and its defense.
AA picks: North Carolina 44, Middle Tennessee 20
HD picks: North Carolina 42, Middle Tennessee 21
South Carolina State (0-1) at No. 4 Clemson (1-0), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. The Tigers have to guard against the letdown factor after such an emotional win over Georgia last week. They now have their highest ranking since 1988, and the nation will be expecting a blowout against an FCS team. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris wants the offense to play faster, so that is one key to watch.
AA picks: Clemson 63, South Carolina State 7
HD picks: Clemson 55, South Carolina State 0
Western Carolina (0-1) at Virginia Tech (0-1), 1:30 p.m., ESPN3. The Hokies have all sorts of issues to work out on offense and special teams. Coach Frank Beamer promises changes to correct the mistakes that allowed Alabama to score twice on kick returns last week. Receivers have got to do more to help out Logan Thomas. One injury note: Virginia Tech hopes to have running back J.C. Coleman available. This is a team the Hokies should dominate. Now, they have to do it.
AA picks: Virginia Tech 41, Western Carolina 3
HD picks: Virginia Tech 35, Western Carolina 3
No. 2 Oregon (1-0) at Virginia (1-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC. Oregon makes its first trip to ACC country on Saturday, becoming just the third top-three nonconference team to play in Charlottesville. The UVa defense looked strong in its Week 1 win over BYU, but the Ducks present quite a different challenge given the pace and production they get out of their offense. Oregon rolled up 772 yards last week in a win over Nicholls State. Gulp. Simply put, the Hoos just do not have the personnel on offense and defense to keep up.
AA picks: Oregon 45, Virginia 17
HD picks: Oregon 45, Virginia 17
Old Dominion (0-1) at Maryland (1-0), 4 p.m., ESPNews. The Terps hope to build off an impressive performance in Week 1. C.J. Brown was terrific in his return to the field, and we all saw what this offense is capable of with Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Taking a peek ahead, the schedule sets up for Maryland to go 4-0 in nonconference play.
AA picks: Maryland 48, Old Dominion 10
HD picks: Maryland 42, Old Dominion 7
Duke (1-0) at Memphis (0-0), 4:30 p.m., ESPN3. This is not going to be a walk-over for the Blue Devils. Memphis is a much improved team than it was several seasons ago. And much improved over the team Duke beat at the start of last season. The Tigers have a new quarterback but return a majority of their starters, including two standouts on the defensive line in Johnnie Farms and Martin Ifedi. This will be a good early road test for the Blue Devils.
AA picks: Duke 35, Memphis 20
HD picks: Duke 38, Memphis 24
Syracuse (0-1) at No. 19 Northwestern (1-0), 6 p.m., Big Ten Network. The Orange dropped a heartbreaker to Northwestern to open last season. Now they hit the road to face them again after a disappointing loss to Penn State. Syracuse has some problems to fix on offense, and it needs a better effort out of quarterback Drew Allen in this game. The Orange also have to do a better job of establishing the run if they are going to have any chance to win.
AA picks: Northwestern 28, Syracuse 21
HD picks: Northwestern 35, Syracuse 17
Richmond (1-0) at NC State (1-0), 6 p.m. ESPN3. The Spiders are one of the best teams in FCS and have notched wins over Duke in the past, so this is not a team that should be taken lightly -- especially after the FCS upsets in Week 1. Quarterback Pete Thomas gets his shot to start, but keep an eye on the running back rotation now that Shadrach Thornton returns to the lineup. Freshman Matt Dayes had a big game last week against Louisiana Tech, so coach Dave Doeren says he will use a three-man rotation with Tony Creecy, Thornton and Dayes.
AA picks: NC State 38, Richmond 13
HD picks: NC State 41, Richmond 10
1. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 9
Not much else needs to be said about why this game is so important. LSU and Alabama will go head-to-head for many targets, including Leonard Fournette, Cameron Robinson and Laurence "Hootie" Jones and this game could play a big role in determining where these elite players will wind up.
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It could be a long time before we see No. 56.
Barring a meeting in a bowl game or the impending four-team college football playoff, this season’s matchup is the last between the Gators and Hurricanes for the foreseeable future. Officials at both schools have said there have been no talks about resuming the series and it will be several years before the Gators would be able to consider another meeting with the Hurricanes because of the uncertainty surrounding the SEC’s future scheduling.
"There’s nothing in the books for the future," said Chip Howard, UF’s executive associate athletics director for internal affairs. "I won’t say it won’t ever happen. You never know."
This season’s matchup with Miami is the second game of a home-and-home series that began in 2008 in Gainesville. It’s a departure from Florida’s normal scheduling formula, which is devised to ensure that the school plays seven home games annually for financial reasons. UF prefers to play smaller FBS or FCS schools in the early non-conference games and play a Division I-AA school in the week between the final SEC game and the annual Florida State game. It’s done that way to ensure that the Gators will get the revenue from seven home games every year, which roughly comes out to $18-21 million annually ($2.5-$3 million per game).
That formula might need to be adjusted in the future, though, depending on whether the SEC decides to add a ninth conference game. The league is expected to make that decision in time for the 2016 schedule, but Howard said the Gators have already lined up non-conference opponents through that season.
With rival Florida State on the schedule each year, Howard said it would be tough for UF to justify adding Miami on a semi-regular basis. However, he did add that the school understands that fans want to see better games. Plus, there’s television to consider as well, he said.
"Our model may not necessarily work the way it has specifically in the past, although it has worked pretty good for us," Howard said. "Certainly playing in the SEC is a challenge,” Howard said. “Playing FSU every year, that creates even more of a challenge. But moving forward with the new schedule and the expansion of the league, we know that the league and television is going to want to look for matchups from the first week to the last week.
"Also we want to try to get the best matchup we can going forward because our fans are asking for that. It’s a balance. We want to be able to give them what they would like and still maintain a competitive balance."
It’s a shame the series, which Miami leads 28-26, is ending. The schools played every year from 1938-1987 (except for 1943, when UF didn’t field a team) and there have been some memorable moments from those games, including:
• In 1971, Florida’s defensive players dropped on the field to allow Miami to score a touchdown late in the game so Gators quarterback John Reaves could get back on the field and set the NCAA career passing record. That became known as the Florida Flop.
• Florida fans pelted Miami players with oranges late in the Hurricanes’ 31-7 victory in 1980. Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger got so mad he called a timeout to kick a 25-yard field goal on the game’s final play.
• In 2003, former UF quarterback Brock Berlin rallied Miami from a 33-10 deficit to a 38-33 victory by leading the Hurricanes to four touchdowns in a 17-minute span in the third and fourth quarters.
Miami has won seven of the last night meetings, with the only UF victories in that span coming in 1985 and 2008. That last meeting ended with some hard feelings on the part of Miami coach Randy Shannon, who was upset that UF coach Urban Meyer elected to kick a field goal with 25 seconds to play and the Gators leading 23-3.
The Hurricanes got some payback three years later, however. In 2011, the UF student government approved a resolution asking Miami to return the Seminole War Canoe Trophy, which is a canoe carved from a 200-year-old cypress tree and given to the winner of the game between the schools since 1955, since the Gators had won the most recent game. The resolution was sent to the head of Miami’s student body. It was passed along until it reached Brandon Mitchell, then the president of Miami’s Category 5 spirit club, who said the Gators don’t deserve the trophy -- which quit being passed between the schools in the 1970s -- because the schools no longer play annually.
His response, according to the Miami Herald: "The War Canoe was intended for the yearly rivalry and ... Miami won the final game of that yearly rivalry."
Sept. 7 may be the last chance for either school to stake a claim to the trophy.
As the Gators begin preparations today for the Aug. 31 season opener against Toledo, the depth chart looks like this:
Projected starter Matt Jones has yet to practice because of a viral infection.
The next player in line is sophomore Mark Herndon, a former walk-on special teams player who was awarded a scholarship on Tuesday.
Behind Herndon is redshirt sophomore Valdez Showers, who was a safety until last week.
Then you finally find Kelvin Taylor, the nation’s No. 1 running back recruit and the son of former UF standout Fred Taylor, and fellow freshman Adam Lane.
It’s that last part that’s the most surprising considering there was some thought that Taylor, who enrolled in January, was going to beat out Jones for the starting job during the spring. Instead, he and Lane will get just scraps of playing time because they have yet to prove their reliability.
"No. 1 is ball security," Muschamp said. "You’ve got to take care of the football. That’s the number one thing. They’re very talented runners [but] so much more goes into it other than just running the football. … We like to make sure the quarterback is protected.
"They’ve got to take a step. Very pleased with both guys. They’re going to help us this year. How much, their role, will depend on how they continue to develop. It’s a long season."
Obviously the Gators want the 6-foot-2, 226-pound Jones back as soon as possible. He underwent blood work on Monday and was out on the practice field for 10-15 minutes on Tuesday but still has not been cleared to practice. Muschamp said UF is preparing to play the Rockets without Jones, who had a fantastic spring and was named a preseason All-SEC third-team selection.
"All I know is he is progressing very well," said Muschamp, who is scheduled to meet with the media on Friday and provide another update. "I get a daily update. He feels good. He’s doing more and more every day from a workout standpoint, and that’s all I know. We’re playing it by ear and every day we have a staff meeting, we have an injury report and he [the trainer] gives me an update."
Brown has been a disappointment since he signed, mainly because he was hobbled by a hamstring injury and a broken ankle. His biggest contribution came in last season’s game against Texas A&M when he carried the ball four times for 11 yards to help the Gators run out the final 3:13 and preserve a 20-17 victory.
Herndon is the surprise considering he has played in just six games (all last season) on special teams. He ran for 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns as a high school senior and Muschamp mentioned him as a standout in the spring, but to be the No. 2 back heading into the season opener is not something for which Muschamp would have hoped.
"Coach Muschamp always talks about ‘man down, man up’ and I just felt like it was an opportunity," Herndon said. "It (Jones’ viral infection) was really unfortunate. Me and Matt are teammates, so we talk and hang out. I was sad, but if he’s down, I’ve got to step up because the team needs me.
"That’s what I did. I tried to push Mack Brown. He’s the No. 1, so I tried to push him and keep him on his toes. I didn’t want anybody slacking."
Showers fell behind junior Jabari Gorman and redshirt freshman Marcus Maye in the battle for playing time at safety and was moved to running back last week. It’s not unfamiliar territory because he was a running back and cornerback at Detroit Madison, where he rushed for 3,596 yards and 49 touchdowns in his final two seasons.
Showers was heavily involved with the first-team offense, especially in the passing game, during UF’s open practices and Muschamp said the move is permanent.
"He's got great top-end speed. He's got really good ball skills," Muschamp said. "He can do a lot of different things for us as far as lining up at receiver, lining up in the backfield. A tough guy to account for a defensive coordinator. Been very pleased with what he's added for us offensively."
Muschamp will be more pleased when Jones returns. If that doesn’t happen within the next day or so, it might be too late for Jones to be prepared to play against Toledo. His season debut might then have to come against Miami on Sept. 7.
"Any time you have something like this and you’re in uncharted waters and you’re uncertain of it, you always plan without the player," Muschamp said. "If the player’s there, it’s great. That’s gravy for everybody."
Headlined by Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche and Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg, RecruitingNation takes a look at the Class of 2013 members who can make the biggest impact as freshmen.
To take a look at the team, click here .
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ESPN 300 defensive end Trent Harris (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park) committed to Miami (Fla.) on Monday afternoon. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound athlete announced his decision on a live webcast with the Orlando Sentinel. The No. 114-ranked player in the country also had offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, among many others.
Harris said he was relieved to make his decision.
"It's a big relief now," he said on the webcast. "I just want to go play football now."
The four-star end admittedly grew up a Florida fan, but he said the Hurricanes presented a better opportunity for him.
"It was difficult," he said. "That was my dream as a kid. But I grew up and I got to realize what's going to help me the most in my future and that's the University of Miami.
The Hurricanes are picking up an explosive pass rusher.
"Harris is a prospect with some good natural tools," his Recruiting Nation scouting report reads. "He has the ability to explode off the ball and good things can come with that. Can be a tough run defender and with some development and refining can be a disruptive pass rusher. Lacks in ideals in some areas, but initial quicks and strength will catch attention and could allow him to be a very productive college defender. "
The Hurricanes have 24 commits, including 10 in the ESPN 300. Miami is No. 7 in the RecruitingNation class rankings. Harris will join Miami Booker T. Washington teammates Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson as defensive end commits for the Hurricanes.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida received its fourth commitment in the last three days, as ESPN Junior 300 wide receiver Da'Vante Phillips (Miami/Central) gave his pledge to Florida head coach Will Muschamp after Florida's Friday Night Lights camp.
The 6-foot-1, 189-pound athlete chose the Gators over offers from Miami, Florida State, Alabama and Clemson.
Phillips, the No. 11-ranked player in the country and top-rated receiver for 2015, said he chose Florida because of the atmosphere and also because of his Central teammate and 2014 Florida running back commit Dalvin Cook.
"It just feels like home," Phillips said. "I just liked everything about it and the atmosphere with the lights on. Dalvin was a big influence. Every day, he sends me messages. Any way he can get to me, he always is doing stuff."
Phillips said Muschamp was excited to learn of his commitment.
"He was happy. He was very excited," Phillips said. "I already knew he wanted me to be a Gator when I got here, so he was excited."
The hometown Hurricanes have always been near the top of his list, but Phillips said right now Florida is where he wants to be.
"I don't know," he said when asked about Miami. "Right now the Gators are on my mind."
In his ESPN scouting report, Phillips is compared to a wide receiver who enjoyed tremendous success on the college level:
"[Phillips] is a strong, physical player -- a Dez Bryant type. A versatile, big-play receiver with good size, competitiveness and athleticism. Possesses a good frame and playing strength for the wide receiver position and should continue to fill out and develop functional strength. Flashes good playing speed and foot quickness needed to separate as a route runner. Catches the ball extremely well and does a good job of turning upfield after the catch.Being physical and exploding off the ball, and also blocking with power."
Phillips is Florida's first 2015 commitment.
The 5-foot-10, 171-pound athlete said he is looking forward to getting back to UF to see what all the Gators have to offer.
"I went to Friday Night Lights last year and I've been back, so this time, I'm looking forward to seeing the other players and talking to the coaches again," Lammons said. "I'm just looking forward to seeing some of the stuff I haven't seen the other times I've been there."
Lammons has narrowed his choices to five: Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Miami and talked about each of his top schools.
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