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Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Rivalry Week: UF, FSU future stars, part 1

By Michael DiRocco and David Hale

The heroes and villains of the Florida-Florida State rivalry are well documented, and in the battle for state supremacy, there's no bigger stage to cement a legend.

But rather than look back at the players who have defined the rivalry over the years, we're taking a look ahead to the next three meetings and projecting which Gators and Seminoles could possibly land on that list.

James Wilder Jr.
James Wilder Jr. could exploit some of Florida's defensive weaknesses in the 2013 matchup.
On Tuesday, we’ll highlight the FSU offensive players and the UF defensive players. On Wednesday, we’ll flip it.

2013
FSU RB James Wilder, Jr.

Jameis Winston will have had 11 games to get his feet wet before heading to Florida, but there's still ample cause for concern about a freshman QB getting the start in the Swamp, but the 6-foot-2, 226-pound Wilder could offer a nice alternative. The junior is primed for a career year, and his punishing, between-the-tackles style could exploit one of Florida's weaknesses on D.

UF LB Antonio Morrison
Morrison has already made his mark in the series with his bone-jarring hit of QB E.J. Manuel that caused a fumble and sparked the Gators’ fourth-quarter come-from-behind victory in Tallahassee last season. Now the 6-1, 230-pound sophomore is the Gators’ starting middle linebacker. He’s a smart, extremely physical player and the staff believes he’s the next in a long line of very good middle linebackers.

2014
FSU QB Jameis Winston

Today, the 6-4, 218-pound Winston has yet to take a snap in a college game, but he's already gotten ample hype. By the time the 2014 FSU-Florida game rolls around, however, it's not unreasonable to think the immensely talented quarterback -- who will be a redshirt sophomore -- could be making a final Heisman push or burnishing his resume to become the top player in the NFL draft. That's all a long way off, of course, but it feels like the script for Winston's first (and potentially only) showcase against the Seminoles' in-state rival in front of the home fans is already being written with him playing the starring role.

UF buck Dante Fowler Jr.
Fowler has all the makings of an elite pass rusher: size (6-3, 265), speed, athleticism, and a high motor. He had a solid freshman season (30 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks) and is poised for a breakout season in 2013. By 2014, he and DE Jonathan Bullard will form UF’s best pair of pass rushers since Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap in 2009. And UF will need that kind of pressure to keep Winston from wreaking havoc.

2015
FSU WR Levonte Whitfield

The dynamic, undersized and lightning-quick Whitfield (5-9, 176) -- who will be a junior -- is just the type of player former Florida coach Urban Meyer loved -- and used with precision to often dismantle FSU. This time, though, the shoe is on the other foot, and the Orlando native could be a major thorn in Florida's side as both a slot receiver and return man for FSU.

UF CB Vernon Hargreaves III
The 5-11, 185-pound Hargreaves was the most heralded recruit in UF’s 2013 signing class and was pegged as UF’s next elite defensive back. He’s got that rare mix of size, speed and athleticism that allows him to cover bigger, physical receivers and smaller, quicker receivers equally well. Plus, he’s a tough tackler. He’s the complete package and someone capable of shutting down an entire side of the field.