This thought popped in my head last night: If you combined the Miami and Florida State rosters, who would start at each position? There is always an argument of “how many players from (rival team) would start on (person’s favorite team)”, and it’s always engaging and fun.
So, here’s my take on each position on the field, with a sentence or two for my rationale.
Quarterback: Brad Kaaya (Miami)
Kaaya is the franchise for Miami, and the best QB on either roster BY FAR. He’s got elite accuracy, an incredible mental grasp of offensive concepts, and the combination of talent and skills to be a high NFL draft pick whenever he chooses to go to the next level. Easy pick.
Running Back: Dalvin Cook (FSU)
Cook is one of the most dynamic backs in America. He can grind you between the tackles, or gash your defense for 80+ on any play. He’s single-handedly beaten Miami in each of his 2 career games vs the Canes, so that influenced this pick as well. He’s just damn good, period.
Honorable Mention: Mark Walton (Miami). Way better than people think, and this is his chance to show it.
Wide Receivers: Stacy Coley (Miami), Travis Rudolph (FSU), and Ahmmon Richards (Miami)
Coley, Rudolph, and Richards are the 3 most talented WRs in this game. Coley has a strong history in this rivalry, Rudolph is the most reliable receiver for FSU, and Richards already owns the record for receiving yards in a game by a Freshman. With Richards on the outside, Coley and Rudolph could alternate between outside receiver and slot. And those 3 would be a dangerous combination, to be sure.
Tight End: Christopher Herndon IV (Miami)
Herndon is a traditional tight end with elite athleticism. He can block, catch, run, and be used at TE, H-Back, Fullback, or even slot receiver. He might not be a household name, but he’s the best player at this position in this game.
Honorable Mention: David Njoku (Miami). He’s more of a flex-TE/Slot than traditional TE, but he’s an athletic FREAK and way better than anybody FSU has at this position. He’s essential a co-starter with Herndon, and would maintain that position if the rosters were combined.
Offensive Tackles: Roderick Johnson and Brock Ruble (FSU)
Miami needs players at Offensive Tackle, and FSU has 2 good ones, so they’re the clear starters. Johnson was the ACC Blocker of the Year in 2015, and Ruble is a big body (6’8” 320lbs) with developing skills. Even if you think Sunny Odogwu (Miami) should be the guy at RT, I’ve seen too many lapses from him in his Miami career to put him as a starter.
Offensive Guards: Kareem Are (FSU) and Danny Isidora (Miami)
FSU’s offensive line struggled without Are, a perfect compliment to Johnson at LG. Isidoria is a 5th year senior and has been one of the best blockers along Miami’s line. This is your starting pair of Guards.
Offensive Center: Nick Linder (Miami)
Linder is one of the best Center’s in America. And his close relationship with Brad Kaaya — being his real-life Center — would ensure that this compilation team would have no issues with the QB-Center exchange.
Defensive End: DeMarcus Walker (FSU)
A top talent who figures to be a 1st round NFL draft pick in April 2017, Walker is a vicious edge rusher who routinely disrupts opposing offenses. Walker already has 6.5 sacks through 5 games in 2016, and 17.5 for his career. He should easily surpass his previous career-high of 9 sacks, set a year ago.
Defensive tackles: Kendrick Norton and R.J. McIntosh (Miami)
While FSU has the recruiting ranking edge at DT, Miami has the performance edge. Norton and McIntosh have both blossomed in 2016 as sophomores under the tutelage of new DL Coach Craig Kuligowski. To illustrate that, the Canes DL, led by this talented pair, has 20 sacks through 4 games, and has the #1 Havoc Rate (TFLs, Sacks, Turnovers Forced) in America. Yeah, that’ll work.
VIPER/BUCK: Trent Harris (Miami)
Same position, different name — Miami calls it VIPER, FSU calls it BUCK. But, no matter what you call it, Trent Harris would be the starter. Now, I know that this isn’t the sexiest or flashiest pick considering the talent and recruiting rankings of players along the DL for both teams, but Harris does his job, and does it well. He was the ACC DL of the Week after a strong performance against GT. We joke about “Trusty Trent” and cite his steady play for lack of elite athleticism or talent....but the man just keeps making plays. That’s good enough for me.
Linebackers: Mike Pinckney (Miami), Ro’Derrick Hoskins, and Matthew Thomas (FSU)
Pinckney is one of the top true freshmen in America, so he starts at SAM. Hoskins is the steady leader of the FSU defense, so he starts at MIKE. Thomas, a Miami native, has FINALLY tapped into his 5-star talent and is playing to a level that hasn’t been seen since he was a senior at Booker T. Washington HS. He’s making 1 out of every 9 tackles for FSU, and would be the experienced star power in this group at WILL.
Cornerbacks: Corn Elder (Miami) and Marquez White (FSU)
Elder and White are the leading cover guys for their respective teams. Are there more protypical CBs on each roster than Elder? Yes. Are there any playing better than Elder? Absolutely not. White is a Senior with size and speed. And, in today’s college football landscape, having 2 seniors at CB is a luxury few teams would have. So that’s an advantage.
Safeties: Derwin James and Trey Marshall (FSU)
I know James is hurt. I know James plays a lot of LB in FSU’s defense (just got watch the film from last year and early this year). I also know Derwin James is the best player on FSU’s defense, bar none. His tandem partner Marshall is the prototype Safety, and the two together is an impressive group.
Honorable Mention: Rayshawn Jenkins (Miami). He’d be the pick to replace James in the starting lineup.
Nickel: Jaquan Johnson (Miami)
Johnson has been a super sub for Miami this year, playing Safety, Nickel, and even some Linebacker. He lacks optimum size, but his technique and instincts are elite. Johnson is starting to put everything together, and is the perfect player for this very important, but situationally used, position.
Kicker: Michael Badgley (Miami)
Badgley was a Groza Award finalist, and has added to his range in 2016. He’s only 2/4 on FGs so far this year, but FSU’s kicker missed 3 in a quarter in their last game, so Jersey Mike gets the nod.
Punter: Justin Vogel (Miami)
Quite simply, he’s among the best punters in America. 43.25 yard average, improving on his 2015 number. And he’s a master at pinning teams deep in their own territory with his high arching kicks.
Kick Returner: Kermit Whitfield (FSU)
This diminutive speedster is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Kick return is perfect for him: speed + space = points. Whitfield has improved as a receiver, but the return game is where he really shines.
Punt Returner: Jesus “Bobo” Wilson (FSU)
Another Receiver lacking optimum size, Wilson uses good speed and change of direction skills to find space as a punt returner. Wilson averages 23 yards per return, and has already taken 1 punt back for a touchdown this season.
Mascot: Sebastian The Ibis (Miami)
C’mon fam. Easy choice. Sebastian all day!
Miami Hurricanes Starters: 14
Florida State Seminoles Starters: 13
In my estimation, as far as starters are concerned, a composite team of Hurricanes and Seminoles is basically even. Miami has a 1 starter edge, though, to be clear.
Agree? Disagree? Love my list? HAAAAAAAATE my list? Hop in the comments below and tell me why I’m wrong. (I’m not wrong, but hey, you can try to convince me anyways)