Welcome back to rivalry week! The Miami Hurricanes face off against the rival Florida Gators to kick off the 2019 season, College Football’s 150th year. And, with Miami-UF on deck, we convened the SOTU crew for another roundtable discussion about, well, pretty much everything heading into the game.
Here starts part 1 of our 3 part look at Miami-UF. Part 2 runs tomorrow, with part 3, our game predictions, up for Friday.
QUESTION 1: What is your feeling about Jarren Williams making his first start in a game of this magnitude?
Cam Underwood: I feel good. I am excited to see what he’s able to bring to the field. This is a player who was a HS All-American, and had more than 6,500 yards of offense in his last 2 years of HS. The talent is there, but let’s see how he’s able to show it on Saturday.
Marshall Thomas: I feel confident. You’ve got to remember, he’s practicing against a top 10 defense every single day in practice, so it’s not like he’s going to be seeing anything better against UF. Jarren has quiet confidence, and I believe he’ll be ready for Saturday.
Matt Washington: Jarren is going to make his first career start on a neutral field against one of the best defenses in the SEC. Yet, I feel good about his ability to stand tall under pressure come Saturday. If he plays within himself and trusts his teammates, I’m confident that we’ll be able to look at his first start as a significant positive for both player the UM’s offensive outlook this season.
Gaby Urrutia: Talking to his high school coach made me feel much better about him. I felt he was clearly the best quarterback throughout the spring and fall, which I have noted on multiple occasions on SOTU, so I believe he’s going to be ready.
Justin Dottavio: Of course I’m nervous for him. Much like for Coach Diaz, it would’ve been nice to ease Jarren into the season with an FCS team or CMU but it’s Florida so go out and win the day.
John Camera: Jarren Williams has thrown 3 passes in his college football career. That worries me. However, I trust OC Dan Enos & co. and, if what they say about Williams’ calm under pressure is true, then the RS frosh should be alright.
John Michaels: Jarren Williams will be just fine. I think early it will be important to get him a couple of easy throws to build confidence, but once he makes a couple of completions the game should slow down. In High School he played in one of the tougher regions in the Metro Atlanta area, so he knows what its like to go up against stacked competition. I think Jarren will shock a lot of people Saturday.
KappaCane: I’m not worried because Williams won the starting role for the Miami Hurricanes by competing against a Top 10 defense day in and day out on Green tree practice fields. Ultimately, a win only offers us momentum and bragging rights, and a loss does absolutely nothing to our goal of winning the Coastal and challenging for the conference title.
Todd Forrest: I want to believe that Williams distanced himself from Perry and Martell, otherwise, Coach Diaz and Coach Enos would have chosen experience if it were an even battle. For someone to win the job that, for all intents and purposes, entered the spring/summer as the No. 3 QB, he must have balled out to overtake two other guys. With everything that’s riding on the QB-1 decision, I believe Williams must have showed the coaching staff something.
Carl Bleich: It’s extremely tough to answer this question because we have seen so little of Jarren Williams in game action. The best way I can answer is that if Dan Enos trusts Williams, we should too. I personally wish Williams was making his starting debut against a program like Bethune-Cookman rather than in a nationally televised game on a day that 99% percent of other programs aren’t playing, but here we are.
John Reynolds: There’s no doubt that Florida is a big challenge for Jarren Williams in his first collegiate start. However, it’s not the first time a Miami QB has made their first start in a big game, as recently as 2014 Brad Kaaya made his first start in a conference game against Louisville. Hopefully, Jarren can have better fortunes in his first game than Kaaya did, but have the same long term success as the previous #15.
Dylan Goldman: Well, he needs big game experience at some point right? As I mentioned earlier, Miami still has a lot of question marks going into this game, and QB is one of them. Look, is Williams is a talented QB? Absolutely. But his first game will be quite the test. I’m excited about Williams but I’m anxious to see how he does in this environment.
Candis McLean: The weight of a first start at quarterback in college football always creates pressure. The fact that it’s Miami vs Florida compounds that immensely. We can only hope that Williams trusts the system, gets the ball into the hand of playmakers, and doesn’t start pressing.
Kevin Fielder: I’m concerned about Jarren Williams, especially with his first career start coming against a top-10 ranked rival, who will play aggressive and punish any mistakes Miami has. With the strong playmakers Miami has, I think Williams has the ability to finish the game with a comfortable scoreline for a first-year starter. However, I don’t expect Williams to dominate the game in any way.
Dylan Sherry: Honestly, I feel a bit bad for him. On a national scale, bad performance can quickly tarnish your image reputation. I honestly wish we were playing Bethune-Cookman first. According to our coaches though, he gives us the best shot to win, so he better be ready to lead the ‘Canes.
QUESTION 2: Does Florida’s 2018 season (10 wins) and continuity heading into the 2019 season give the Gators a clear edge in your mind?
Underwood: From a national conversation perspective, yes. But, UF is replacing 4 starters along the OL, has a starting CB coming back off a torn ACL, and more. Even with that, I think UF has more answers than questions heading into the game on Saturday.
Thomas: An edge, yes. A clear edge, I don’t think so. Florida has had a very rocky offseason, and I think they’re a little like Miami was heading into 2018, overrated. You look at the Gators in 2018 and yes they won 10 games, but it wasn’t as impressive as they make it out to be.
Washington: It does. They return plenty from last year’s team. Yet, they have their own questions entering the opener as well — e.g., Replacing Jachai Polite, Jordan Scarlett, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and dealing with turnover on the O-Line. UF has a slight edge, but not a significant one in my opinion.
Urrutia: Wins are wins and yes, they mean a lot. If you go back and watch the film, this 10-win team could have easily been an 8-win team. They looked really good at some points and not very good at others. I don’t think there is a clear edge by any stretch of the imagination.
Dottavio: Florida’s 2018 would’ve given them an edge if guys weren’t getting suspended / portal’ed left and right. I think there’s a huge culture / locker room issue in Gainesville and Coach Mullen has to prove he can silence that while still focusing on winning. UF takes a dip because of cohesion and chemistry this season.
Camera: I think it does. Miami is the underdog, maybe not by double digits as some are saying but certainly by 3-7 points. The way Florida rebounded last year and had a streak of good QB play makes them a very formidable team.
Michaels: No, Florida reminds me a lot of Miami from a year ago. Felipe Franks feasted on mediocre competition and typically played poorly against better teams. They lose 4 starters on the Offensive Line and the 2 best pass rushers from a year ago. They are overhyped to me at #8 in the preseason polls, and the talent is very equal.
Kappa: No, I don’t believe in living off of a prior season or the idea of continuity. There are always changes on a team from season to season, and there will be challenges unique to each season.
Forrest: On paper, yes. But like I said previously, we saw what happened vs LSU last year. Now, if there was a significant talent edge, the record would only cement my prediction, but talent-wise these teams are very close. Records and rankings are nice measuring sticks in October and November, but at this point in the year, it’s just a guessing game and the teams that performed better the previous year will always receive the benefit of the doubt in games like this.
Bleich: The Gators do have a clear edge in my mind in Saturday’s game and I think that can be seen with the oddsmakers setting the point spread where they have. That doesn’t mean Miami isn’t capable of winning, underdogs win games all the time. But I absolutely believe Miami is an underdog on Saturday because of Florida’s continuity, NOT because the Hurricanes have significantly less talent.
Reynolds: Yes it gives the Gators a clear edge, if for no other reason than they have more confidence in their ability to have success than Miami does. UF’s roster has a fresh memory of a successful season and big games, and that gives them an edge, especially if they get punched in the mouth in the early going on the 24th.
Goldman: It definitely helps. While UF had some bumps last year, they were a much better team than Miami last year. The offense was much more functional, and their coaching continuity helps since the game is being played so early. I would say they definitely have the edge right now.
McLean: It’s an advantage to have consistency in anything you do. However, I don’t think that necessarily translates to an edge in victory. Football is the ultimate team sport. There’s a lot more that factors into winning a game than chemistry.
Fielder: In short: yes, the Gators have the clear edge in my mind. The Gators finished last season with wins over LSU, South Carolina, and Michigan in the Peach Bowl. They return their quarterback (Feleipe Franks), leading rusher (Lamical Perine), and Van Jefferson, who had 503 receiving yards and six touchdowns for the Gators. On defense, CJ Edwards is one of the best cornerbacks in the nation and Jabari Zuniga will take another leap after finishing last season with 6.5 sacks.
Sherry: Frankly, Miami has a championship-caliber roster, so there isn’t a disparity in talent. I see Miami’s failure possibly coming in unpreparedness and confusion in terms of running the offense. So Florida’s continuity is definitely an ‘edge.’
QUESTION 3: What is your impression of Dan Mullen as Florida’s head coach?
Underwood: He good but not great. A decent recruiter, a very good QB developer, and solid game-day offensive playcaller. But, there’s something about him that keeps him from being in the upper echelon of coaches to me. IDK what it is, but that’s how I feel about it.
Thomas: I like Mullen, and I think he has a great history at developing college quarterbacks. Though, I believe his record against the top 25 is 2-15 or 3-15, something like that, which makes me think Miami has a good chance.
Washington: He’s a good offensive mind that is able to scheme towards the strength of his roster. He’s not going to ask his players to run plays that they’re not comfortable making. Instead, he uses what they have to the offense’s advantage.
Urrutia: Dan Mullen has proven to be a solid coach. He took over at Mississippi State and turned them into an extremely respectable program. He took Florida from 4 to 10 wins in 12 months. The proof is in the pudding.
Dottavio: I think Mullen is a great game day and scheming coach, however, much is left to be desired about his morals and ethics in the game of football. He’s a chip off Urban Meyer’s block minus the national titles (yet?).
Camera: I think Mullen did a solid job in his first year - but UF is a team that is always going to recruit well and win a few games. I don’t think he had a signature win in his first season (Michigan was/is grossly overrated don’t at me). Games against UGA and LSU will tell just how good UF and Mullen are.
Michaels: 4. I think he’s a good coach, but I don’t think he’s elite. Mullen is an offensive wizard at times, and he’s got an edge to him. 10 wins seems to be his ceiling.
Kappa: Dan was able to escape his first season with 10 wins. I expect that luck will run out this year and he will not have a double-digit win total this season.
Forrest: A guy that would rather be at Miami but was passed over twice by the Hurricanes. That’s what comes to mind first when I think of Dan Mullen. Nothing in his past tells me he can continuously win 10-games a season. The only thing he’s been consistent at is being inconsistent.
Bleich: Mullen went 10-3 with Florida in his first season at the helm in 2018. Prior to that, in nine seasons at Mississippi State, Mullen won 10 games once and that was in 2014 when quarterback Dak Prescott passed for nearly 3,500 yards. Mark Richt won 10 games on nine different occasions 15 years at Georgia, he and often was slandered with the notion that he was an underachiever. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison obviously but Mullen managing 10 wins just twice in 11 seasons as a head coach makes him no better than an average head coach in my mind. If Florida wins 10 games this year with the tough schedule it plays, I’d be willing to reconsider my position.
Reynolds: In football sense he is a talented coach who can develop a QB. He’s energetic, organized, and coaches smart teams who play well on the field.
Goldman: I think Mullen is a good coach, he doesn’t wow me per se, but overall he did a very good job with the program last season. I think he did a very good job of scheming the offense around QB Feleipe Franks, and I think he is overall a solid head coach.
McLean: He wasn’t the first choice for Florida went he got the job but he’s turned the program around during his time there. Mullen’s offense hasn’t done much to spark fear into opponents. Collectively, the team is well-coached and defensively led.
Fielder: I am a huge fan of Dan Mullen, and have been for a while. I think he has the Gators on the right track, both on the field and on the recruiting trail. What he did while at Mississippi State was even more impressive. I think he’s one of the better coaches in college football, and when Miami was looking for a head coach before they hired Mark Richt, he was near the top of my list.
Sherry: Mullen was solid at Mississippi State, and he’s helped Florida become somewhat of a powerhouse again. He’s a good coach, plain and simple. The Gators will be prepared.
QUESTION 4: Florida fans are high on QB Feleipe Franks. What are your impressions of the UF signal caller?
Underwood: Like I said about his coach, good but not great. Franks has all the physical tools you could want in a QB at 6’6” 240lbs with a strong arm, but he’s been average to this point in his career. The next time he has a 300 yard passing game will be the first time. And his record and performance against good defenses hasn’t been great, either. Solid player, good runner, but not a pinpoint passer at all.
Thomas: I think he has clear talent, and is a great athlete. He’s very dangerous running the football, and has wonderful size. Though, I don’t fear him as a passer. He’s not very accurate, and if Miami can put pressure on him, Franks will make a mistake.
Washington: Franks was fairly raw when he arrived to Gainesville. Recently, he’s flipped the switch, settling down as a passer. I don’t believe he’s one of the best throwers in the country, but he has enough arm talent to make necessary throws and has a strong collection of receiving targets to help him out. His threat as a runner is what makes him truly dangerous. When UF needs a first down, he’ll tuck the ball and lower his shoulder on anyone and everyone.
Urrutia: With a clean pocket, Franks can be as good as any quarterback out there. His size and his ability to run and fall forward when he runs are great advantages. But when the pressure is on, he is as inefficient of a passer as you will find. Getting in this face early and often could be the difference in this ball game.
Dottavio: Franks has the same stat line as Joe Burrow. I don’t think anyone is going crazy over Joe Burrow as a future NFL starting QB or even an all-conference QB. Franks is a good athlete with a strong arm.
Camera: Franks is alright, he has some flashes, but I want to see him do it consistently against better teams than Idaho and Florida State (wink). I don’t know if he can hold up if the Canes get constant pressure.
Michaels: Felipe Franks is a bigger Malik Rosier. In games against ranked opponents a year ago Franks averaged 14.75 completions on 25.5 attempts, which is 57.8% completion percentage. In those games he threw for 164.5 ypg and had 3 Tds vs 3 Ints. Not exactly Tim Tebow standing in the pocket for UF.
Kappa: Felipe is a liability under pressure, and although he is mobile, he doesn’t scramble with his eyes downfield. He has been wildly inconsistent, and you can see the issues he has when the pressure is on and the pocket isn’t clean.
Forrest: He’s never thrown for 300 yards or rushed for 100 yards in a game. He’s someone that isn’t going to beat you by himself. At the same time, he was interception-free over the final five games of 2018 and only threw six picks over the course of the season, so he’s probably not going to shoot himself in the foot unless Manny and company dial up the pressure.
Bleich: Franks completed 58.4 percent of his passes in 2018 while passing for 2,457 yards and 24 touchdowns with six interceptions in 2018. Franks also rushed for 350 yards and seven touchdowns. For comparison sake, Malik Rosier passed for 3,120 yards and 26 touchdowns with 14 interceptions his redshirt junior year in 2017 while completing 54 percent of his passes. Rosier rushed for 468 yards and five touchdowns that season. Fairly similar numbers quite honestly. I do believe Franks to be a more talented player than Rosier but the two remind me of each other in a way because there seems to be a general nervousness when they are in passing situations because of a lack of accuracy throwing the ball.
Reynolds: I think Feleipe Franks is just an above-average QB. Fans of the Gators seem to think he is a clear Heisman favorite who is one of the best signal-callers in America, but I just don’t see it. However, there’s no doubt Franks can still have a great season with the talent around him.
Goldman: My impressions are that I’m not really scared of him, as I think he’s a middle-of-the-pack QB in the SEC. However, he performed pretty well in 2018, and I think he benefited from Head Coach Dan Mullen a lot. Franks is a very capable playmaker, but in general he doesn’t frighten me.
McLean: Franks is the quintessential “if you get pressure on him, he folds” type of quarterback. This is something that can be said for a lot of quarterbacks in college football. He’s not a star or playmaker. From what I’ve seen, he doesn’t have the ability to put a team on his back and win games.
Fielder: Feleipe Franks is an interesting quarterback for me. He’s a good player, but he has massive concerns that make me debate internally on where to rank him among some of the top quarterbacks in the nation. I think he has a great feel in the pocket, and is a great natural playmaker. However, he has accuracy issues and isn’t always the most consistent player. I think he’s an NFL quarterback, but I don’t think he’ll ever be a starter at the next level.
Sherry: Before Mullen touched-down in Gainesville, UF had a pretty decent team outside of the fact that their quarterbacks couldn’t throw past 5 yards accurately. Franks gives them mobility, solidity, and leadership. I respect him, and I know how he can shred a defense.
QUESTION 5: Like Miami, Florida has a strong defense. How do you think that will affect Miami’s offensive performance in the opener?
Underwood: In some instances, yes. Florida’s defense is solid at every level, with plenty of blue-chip talent, so there will be plays where they win the down. But Miami can’t let setbacks define them, and continue to work to find ways to create matchups they can win.
Thomas: I’m a lot more confident with Dan Enos calling the plays against UF’s defense. They have a strong DE, which is why I believe we’ll see a lot of quick slants from Jarren, and matching Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory up against their linebackers.
Washington: The Gators defense will be the biggest test for UM’s offense. From their standout corners to their front-seven, it’s an impressive group. For the Hurricanes, the offense is going to have to take what the Gators give them. I think UF will dare Williams to beat them with his arm as opposed to UM gashing them on the ground.
Urrutia: Florida’s defense is concerting, but not as concerning as the defense they’re going up against on Greentree every single day. Manny has allowed the ones to go against the ones up until this past Friday and I don’t think they should run into anything they haven’t already experienced at any given point of practice.
Dottavio: Of course it will, playing any really good defense hurts scoring chances. Williams will have to be prepared for the speed and power of the UF defenders but I think he’s used to seeing that speed at Miami practices. It’s not like Dan Enos wasn’t at Alabama last year seeing these same defenders in the SEC.
Camera: Florida’s defense will be the best Miami faces this regular season. I think expecting the Canes to break 30 points isn’t realistic - but there is some weakness in the middle of the field that can be exploited.
Michaels: It will be a struggle for Miami to move the ball especially if the O-Line struggles. I expect Todd Grantham to load the box and send pressure from everywhere, which Jarren will have to decipher pretty quickly for Miami to have a chance.
Kappa: I think that Florida will challenge Miami’s offensive line early, but I think that Miami has a slight advantage having had to face their own Defense Since the spring. Miami’s OL struggled against the first team defense, as many other teams will this season, and the front 7 for Florida is NOT better than Miami’s front seven.
Forrest: Early momentum will be determined by which defense can force a few mistakes and who prevents the big play. Facing a stingy defense, it might be a slip screen to Deejay Dallas that goes for 70 or a punt return by Jeff Thomas that sparks the Canes. But at the end of the day, after both OC’s have thrown everything they have at the opposing defense, the offensive lines will ultimately decide this one by generating a run game and avoiding third-and-long situations.
Bleich: The thing I am probably most excited and/or nervous about for Saturday’s game is to see if Miami’s offensive line can block Florida’s pass rush. I’m pretty confident that offensive coordinator Dan Enos can scheme Miami into opening up some holes in the run game with our solid interior line but Miami’s inexperience at the tackle positions is concerning to me. If Zion Nelson, John Campbell and Kai-Leon Herbert can give Jarren Williams time to throw, I’m not overly concerned about Florida’s thin back seven on defense. If Jarren is constantly under pressure, that is when Miami will be at a big disadvantage.
Reynolds: I think Florida’s defense will have a huge impact on Miami’s offense, especially at the start of the game. If the Gators can force an early three and out or turnover out of the Hurricanes offense it will force the ‘Canes to get up off the mat and respond, something the offense couldn’t do last year. A young Miami offense will have to grow up quick under the lights at Camping World Stadium
Goldman: It will affect Miami’s offense because the game is going to be a slug fest. I don’t think it’s a reach to say first to 20 wins. Between two fantastic defenses, and two offenses with a lot of question marks (OL, Williams, Miami’s new offense), there will be a real struggle for points, and UF’s defense will play a big part in that being the case.
McLean: Florida’s defense is the calling card of the team. In the two games that they won against ranked opponents last season, the defense shined. The Canes will have to be on the same page and diminish mistakes when going up against them.
Fielder: Florida’s strong defense will cause fits for the Hurricanes offense early. True freshman Zion Gilbert and redshirt freshman John Campbell are both set to start on the offensive line, and only four games of experience sits between them. The Gators have one of the best cornerback tandems in college football, with Marco Wilson and CJ Edwards possibly causing a lot of problems for the Hurricanes. The Gators were also able to keep defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who runs a 3-4 scheme that has a lot of wrinkles with both hybrid positioning and different coverage and blitz schemes.
Sherry: Definitely, which is why I (sort of) wish we were playing Bethune-Cookman or Central Michigan to start the season. Miami’s defense will be strong, as well as Florida’s, but the togetherness of the offense will undoubtedly be the deciding factor. With that said, if Florida is able to stop Miami’s running game and force Jarren into stressful possessions, Miami doesn’t stand much of a chance.
Whew. Okay. That’s the end of the first part of our season opener roundtable. Share your thoughts in the comments and come back tomorrow for the next part of our conversation.