I’ve done this piece the last few years, and it was generally well received. So hey, it’s Miami-FSU again, so let’s bring this piece back for another year.
Here’s the general premise: 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.
With that being said, here’s how I see things at each position on the field heading into the 2018 installment of the Miami-Florida State rivalry:
Quarterback: N’Kosi Perry (Miami)
New year, same thought: I like Miami’s QB more than FSU’s. No, Perry doesn’t have the history of performance of Deondre Francois or even Malik Rosier (my pick at this spot last year), but he’s more athletically talented than either player by a substantial margin. And, if what we’ve seen from him in 2 games is a glimpse into what he can do this week and into the future, this pick is going to be super right in retrospect. But I’m ahead of the game and being right now, too.
Backup: Deondre Francois (FSU)
Running Back: Cam Akers (FSU)
I know Miami fans are going to gripe at this pick, but Akers was a 5-star recruit, has all the talent in the world, but is stuck on a bad team with a terrible offensive line. Same as the Perry pick above, this is on talent, but there’s performance in Akers’ case as well (even if it’s more from last year than this).
The next 2 (maybe 3) players at RB would be Canes for me — Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, and probably Lorenzo Lingard, too, but RB1 on a combined roster would be Akers. To me.
Wide Receivers: Ahmmon Richards (Miami), Jeff Thomas (Miami), Tamorrion Terry (FSU)
The first thing everybody is going to say is “Richards is injured”. Yes. I know. But if not injured, he’s a starter on a combined roster hands down. Jeff Thomas is a dynamic playmaker with electric speed, and Terry has gone from recruiting steal to premium player for FSU. That’s the starting unit.
If we extend things to a second unit, I’d go with Nyquan Murray (FSU), Lawrence Cager (Miami), and Brian Hightower (Miami) as that group. There’s a case to be made for Mike Harley on either group as well.
Tight End: Brevin Jordan (Miami)
Yes, I’m picking Miami’s freshman TE over Tre’ McKitty at this position. But, McKitty would be TE2 and the pair would be used on the field at the same time. But this is my team and I get to pick the starters and I’m picking Jordan. Deal with it.
Tackles: Tyree St. Louis and Navaughn Donaldson (Miami)
This is a pick of the best of some bad to average options. Miami’s tackles aren’t great, but FSU’s tackles are among the worst in America. Can’t have that, so we go with Miami’s guys at this key spot.
Guards: Hayden Mahoney (Miami) and Landon Dickerson (FSU)
Mahoney is the better of Miami’s 2 guards at this point, and Dickerson has been good in the past, even if he’s injured and playing poorly now. I think this pair would start on the interior of the combined-team OL, but I’m not as enthusiastic about this group as I am with RB or WR by a long-shot.
Center: Tyler Gauthier (Miami)
Gauthier has stepped his game up ever since being thrust into the starting role in 2016 and that’s continued this season. Combine that with his familiarity working with our combined-team QB Perry, and this is an easy choice for him to start IMO.
End: Jonathan Garvin (Miami)
While not as heralded as others on Miami’s defensive line, Garvin is stepping up as a sophomore and has the look of a future 1st round draft pick. He’s beaten good and bad blocking across from him and destroyed plays all year long. Garvin is “9th” in the country with 9.5 TFLs, but 3rd if you remove the players tied above him. Elite player. He starts.
Backup: Joshua Kaindoh (FSU)
Defensive Tackles: Gerald Willis III (Miami) and Marvin Wilson (FSU)
Willis III has returned to the field this year and is playing like a man possessed. He’s tied for the national lead with 10.5 tackles for loss and has dominated every game he’s played. Wilson was a 5-star recruit, is GIGANTIC at 6’5” 321lbs and would be a great fit next to the penetrating Willis III. Wilson’s numbers are eye popping, but his size and athletic ability are.
Backups: Pat Bethel (Miami), Demarcus Christmas (FSU), Nesta Silvera (Miami)
VIPER/BUCK: Brian Burns (FSU) or Joe Jackson (Miami)
Both are now juniors. Both wear #99. Both have alliterative names. Both have great athleticism and physical skill to go along with top tier performance on the field. This is the position where starter is the least clear, and you could really go either way, based upon preference or rooting interest. I’m listing them as co-starters and you can debate who gets the first snap in the comments section.
Linebackers: Dontavious Jackson (FSU), Shaquille Quarterman (Miami), and Michael Pinckney (Miami)
Quarterman and Pinckney are integral parts to Miami’s highly rated defense. The pair is in their 3rd year starting, and they’re very battle tested. Jackson is another former 5-star recruit for the Noles so he has size and athleticism. He’s also one of their better LBs, so he’d slide in next to the Miami pair in this group.
STRIKER/STAR: Jaiden Woodbey (FSU)
Elite athleticism is needed at this hybrid OLB/S position utilized by teams to neutralize the spread. Woodbey has that in spades, and that makes him my pick for this position. Romeo Finley (Miami) would be the backup, and would likely see plenty of snaps at this position as well.
Cornerback: Michael Jackson (Miami) and Levonta Taylor (FSU)
One of these guys is the best CB in the State, and the other is Levonta Taylor. In any event, these are the starters by a pretty clear margin at CB for this combined team.
Safeties: Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine (Miami)
These two have been teammates for literally their entire lives, and while different in the defensive backfield, work together like Andre 3000 and Big Boi on a track. Johnson is an All-American caliber player, and Redwine has developed into a nice partner for him in the secondary. Yes, there are other more physical, more highly recruited players on both Miami and FSU’s rosters at Safety, but these are the guys I’m taking if we’re building a team to win.
Nickel: Trajan Bandy (Miami)
While Bandy has stepped up well into a starting role at CB, he still bumps inside for Miami in the nickel package and on most 3rd downs. This is where I think Bandy is best, although he’s stepped his game up as a boundary corner as well.
Kicker: Ricky Aguayo (FSU)
Aguayo has done well and is proven over time. Bubba Baxa might have a bigger leg, but I have to go with the proven commodity with Aguayo here.
Punter: Logan Tyler (FSU)
Tyler is one of the top punters in conference in average yards per punt. Zach Feagles is not. Easy choice.
Kick Returner: Jeff Thomas (Miami)
Starting at WR and KR is the electric Thomas. He hasn’t broken a KR yet, but he’s always dangerous in open space, so he’s the pick.
Punt Returner: Jeff Thomas (Miami)
Averaging 42 yards per return, and that would be higher if not for the fact that a TD return was wiped off the board due to penalty earlier this year. Again, electric in space, but consistent in securing the ball via fair catch when necessary.
Miami Hurricanes Starters: 19
Florida State Seminoles Starters: 10
In 2016, Miami had the lead on starters 14-13. But, FSU had Dalvin Cook and that was the difference.
In 2017, Miami’s lead grew to 17-11. But, Miami had Malik Rosier, and that kept things close.
This year, that has disparity has ballooned even further to 19-10 in favor of Miami. And, let me be clear: this is not due to a lack of TALENT on the FSU roster. But, the talent that they have has not been utilized or developed in the best way possible, while many of Miami’s players have reached or exceeded the ceiling for performance many thought they had as incoming recruits.
I anticipate this being closer to 2016 (or at least 2017) when we revisit this next year. But, for now, there is a clear and sizable advantage for Miami, and it is my personal hope that that plays out on Saturday afternoon.
Agree with my Miami-FSU merged roster starting lineup? Disagree with one (or more)? Hop in the comments and state your case.