I’ve done this piece the last few years for FSU week, and it a favorite thought exercise of mine. So let’s bring back this content but change the focus to Miami vs Florida, and see how things shake out, shall we?
In case you’re new here, this is the general premise: If you combined the Miami and Florida 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 2019 installment of the Miami-Florida rivalry:
Quarterback: Feleipe Franks (Florida)
Though he’s not a super elite player, Franks has more of a history at the QB position than anybody on Miami’s roster. He’s big at 6’6 240lbs, has a strong arm, and good running ability when he’s willing to run. It’s fair and reasonable for Franks to start on a combined UM-UF roster.
Backup: Jarren Williams (Miami)
Running Back: DeeJay Dallas (Miami)
An athlete with a variety of skills coming out of HS, Dallas has developed into a very nice RB for the Canes. He runs well featuring elite quickness and better-than-average speed, is a natural receiver both out of the backfield and in the slot, and has been an asset in the return game and as a wildcat QB, as well. There’s plenty of RB depth on this combined roster, but Dallas gets the starting nod to me.
Backups: Lamical Perine (Florida), Cam’ron Harris (Miami)
Wide Receiver: Jeff Thomas (Miami), KJ Osborn (Miami), Van Jefferson (Florida)
Again, there is so much skill talent on this combined roster that there are many more players who are in the conversation to start. Thomas is the best WR on either roster, so he starts. Osborn is a polished veteran who may not have had the recruiting profile of others, but he’s performed at the D1 level already so he starts, too. Jefferson has a combination of size and skill that’s different than Thomas and Osborn, and is the best WR on Florida’s roster, so he rounds out the starting group.
Backups: Trevon Grimes (Florida), Josh Hammond (Florida), Brian Hightower (Miami)
Tight End: Brevin Jordan (Miami)
The #1 TE recruit in the 2018 recruiting class. Nearly unanimous freshman All-American TE in 2018. Arguably the best TE in America. And Miami actually uses their TEs. Jordan is a no-brainer to start.
Backup: Will Mallory (Miami)
Tackles: Zion Nelson (Miami), Stone Forsythe (Florida)
Forsythe is a returning player with size and skill, so he starts. I’m sure the pick of Nelson is eye-opening for some, but there’s no other player on either roster that’s clearly better than the true-freshman, so I’m starting him on this combined roster just like Miami is starting him on Saturday.
Guards: Navaughn Donaldson (Miami), Brett Heggie (Florida)
Donaldson was an All-American in HS and a freshman All-American in 2017 for Miami. He’s started more than 20 games in his career, and is the best OG prospect on either roster. Heggie is a returning player who will step up into a big role for Florida’s OL this year, so he earns the other starting spot.
Center: Nick Buchanan (Florida)
The only returning starter on Florida’s OL, Buchanan gets the nod on the combined roster at Center.
I know there’s a mismatch in scheme here, with Miami running a 4-3 multiple system and Florida running a 3-4 scheme. I’m gonna count the BUCK position as a DE, and go with 4 linemen for this chart. And if you don’t like it, well, tough.
End: Jonathan Garvin (Miami), Jabari Zuniga (Florida)
Garvin and Zuniga are among the best DEs in the country. Each will be the star player at the position for their respective team, and with a strong season could be in line to be selected very early in the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s really an embarrassment of riches for this combined roster to be able to start both of them opposite each other. And that’s what we’re gonna do.
Backups: Trevon Hill (Miami), Gregory Rousseau (Miami), Jonathan Greenard (Florida)
Tackle: Adam Shuler (Florida), Jonathan Ford (Miami)
Simply put: the best DT from each roster. Shuler is a 5th year senior who UF will rely on at the point of attack. Ford is a junior with all the talent in the world, and looks to step up after a year apprenticeship behind Gerald Willis III.
Backups: Kyree Campbell (Florida), Pat Bethel (Miami)
Linebacker: Shaquille Quarterman (Miami), Michael Pinckney (Miami), David Reese II (Florida)
Quarterman and Pinckney are 4 year starters for Miami’s defense, and among the best LBs in the country. Reese II is the leader of Florida’s defense and a top-tier talent as well. Easy choice to start these 3 together at LB.
STRIKER/Star: Romeo Finley (Miami)
A breakout player at this LB/S hybrid position in 2018, Finley is the pick to start here.
Cornerback: CJ Henderson (Florida), Trajan Bandy (Miami)
Henderson and Bandy get to team up together on this combined roster just like they did in their HS days at Miami (FL) Columbus. Each player is the best CB on their roster, so putting them together to start makes the most sense. I know UF fans are gonna push back on this bc Bandy is only 5’9”, but this is my article so tough cookies.
Nickel: Marco Wilson (Florida)
So, I kind of cheated here. Bandy would slide inside to nickel and Wilson would be the CB opposite Henderson if this combined roster went with 3 CBs, but since I listed Bandy as a starter (which is the right choice, btw), I’ll put Wilson at Nickel. But, like I said, I’d put him outside and move Bandy inside if we went with 3 CBs on a given play.
Safety: Gurvan Hall (Miami), Brad Stewart (Florida)
Stewart is Florida’s best Safety, so he gets the 1st starting nod. Hall is a burgeoning superstar for Miami, and his combination of size, speed, skill, and potential make him the clear choice to join Stewart in the starting lineup.
Kicker: Evan McPherson (Florida)
McPherson is one of the best kickers in the country. Need I say more?
Punter: Tommy Townsend (Florida)
Like his brother Johnny who played at Florida before him, Townsend has a strong leg and is among the best punters in America. Again, what else is there to say?
Punt Return: Jeff Thomas (Miami)
Thomas is a player who can (and has) impact games as a return man. He gets the nod at PR.
Kick Return: Jeff Thomas (Miami), Kadarius Toney (Florida)
Ditto what I just said about Thomas re: PR. Toney is another speed-merchant who I’d like to get touches in space, so he teams with Thomas in the kick return game.
Miami Hurricanes: 15
Florida Gators: 14
For teams so close in talent — Florida is at 53% blue chip ratio, and Miami is at 51% BCR — it makes sense for the starting lineup to be basically split 50/50. Sure, each fanbase will probably complain about 1 or 2 of the picks in this piece, but I think it’s fair and right. We want the best of the best to start on our combined roster, and I think that’s what we have with the group listed.
So there you have it. The starters (and selected backups) on a combined UM-UF roster. I KNOW you have thoughts on this, so hop in the comments and let them be known.
It’s almost Saturday, you guys!