I’ve done this piece in past years, (not the last couple though, my bad) and it was generally well received. So hey, it’s Miami-FSU again, so let’s bring this piece back.
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 2023 installment of the Miami-Florida State rivalry:
Quarterback: Jordan Travis (FSU)
FSU’s quarterback has their team undefeated, already secured a spot in the ACC Championship game, in the hunt for the College Football Playoff, and has 19-2 TD/INT ratio, as well as 7 rushing touchdowns himself. Miami’s QB has thrown 10 interceptions in the last 4 games. This is a no-brainer.
Running Back: Trey Benson (FSU)
Benson is averaging 6.61 yards per carry and has 8 TDs on the year. His ability to find running room and make explosive plays on the ground has been a boon for the FSU offense. One of Miami’s RB-by-committee — Henry Parrish, Donald Chaney Jr. and Mark Fletcher Jr. — figures to be the backup over Benson’s actual backup at FSU, Lawrence Toafili, on this combined roster.
Wide Receiver: Keon Coleman (FSU), Xavier Restrepo (Miami), Johnny Wilson (FSU)/Colbie Young (Miami)
Coleman is one of the most explosive skill position players in the Country. Restrepo is a technician and steady option in the slot. Wilson and Young are big bodied receivers who both have talent but also some flaws and they would split the 3rd spot in this lineup.
Tight End: Jaheim Bell (FSU)
Bell is the 2nd leading receiver (by catches) for FSU with 31 catches on the year, Miami’s TEs have 12 catches on the year. COMBINED. But, Miami’s 8th year veteran Cam McCormick is a dynamic blocker, so he’d probably be the backup on this roster, since he adds a different style than Bell.
Offensive Line: Jalen Rivers, Javion Cohen, Matt Lee, Anez Cooper, Francis Mauigoa (Miami)
Miami’s offensive line is one of the best in America, and was nominated as semi-finalists for the Moore Award for best OL group in the Country. They start as a unit on this combined roster for continuity, performance, and potential.
EDGE rusher: Jared Verse (FSU), Rueben Bain (Miami)
Verse is a probable top 50 NFL draft pick in April. Bain is likely the ACC’s Rookie of the Year, and Freshman All-American. Those are your starters. But, Patrick Payton, Akheem Mesidor (if he were healthy, but he hasn’t played in 7 games), and others would see time off the bench at this spot.
Defensive Line: Leonard Taylor, Jared Harrison-Hunte (Miami)
Taylor is the sure starter, and I paired him with Harrison-Hunte, who also starts for Miami. However, If you wanted to go a bit bigger and start Fabian Lovett (FSU) next to Taylor, I wouldn’t be mad at that. Miami backups Thomas Gore and Branson Deen would play rotation snaps off the bench, as would Braden Fiske and Dennis Briggs Jr. from FSU.
Linebacker: Kiko Mauigoa (Miami), Kalen DeLoach (FSU)
This is a position of more strength and athleticism for both teams than I initially thought. Mauigoa and DeLoach are the leaders of their respective units so they start. Guys like Tatum Bethune (FSU), DJ Lundy (FSU), Wesley Bissainthe (Miami), KJ Cloyd (Miami), and Corey Flagg Jr. (Miami) would find playing time in various situations.
STAR/NICKEL: Jarrian Jones (FSU)
Jones has more size than the other option for this spot, Te’Cory Couch (Miami), so I’m going with him to start. Couch has been lights-out as a blitzer from the STAR position for Miami this year, so finding ways to get him on the field to leverage that skill would be on the radar as well.
Cornerback: Fentrell Cypress (FSU), Darryl Porter Jr. (Miami)
The best corner from each team starts. Past that, I’d take Renardo Green (FSU) and Azareye’h Thomas (FSU) before another Miami corner (Jaden Davis, Davonte Brown, Damari Brown).
Safety: Kamren Kinchens, James Williams (Miami)
Let me lead this segment off with this statement: THEY’RE NOT PERFECT!!!! But, Kinchens is playing at an All-Conference level, and Williams is playing at a very high level as well. They’re better than what FSU has at this spot. So they start. EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE NOT PERFECT. Yes, they start.
Kicker: Andres Borregales (Miami)
One of the best kickers in America. Easy choice.
Punter: Alex Mastromanno (FSU)
One of the best punters in America. Easy choice.
Kick Return: Brashard Smith (Miami), Deuce Spann (FSU)
Smith is the nation’s leading KR by average yards per return (of qualified players). Spann doesn’t have the sheer number of reps, but he has also had a KR-TD this year. With their forces combined, teams would never kick deep to this team.
Punt Return: Keon Coleman (FSU)
Most explosive offensive player on either team, in space to return punts. Easy choice.
Miami Hurricanes: 16
Before we get to this year’s numbers, let’s look back in the history of this piece:
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.
In 2018, Miami’s lead grew again to 19-10. But FSU played their best game of the year and hopped out to a 27-7 lead before Miami stormed back for a 28-27 win. (SHOUTOUT KOSI!!!!!)
In 2019, things slid back slightly with Miami holding a 17-11 lead, same as 2017. And, same as 2017, the Canes went into Doak Campbell Stadium and beat the Noles, this time for a 3rd consecutive season.
In 2020, Miami extended the number with a dominant 19-9 lead. And that was proven true with a 6 touchdown Miami win.
I didn’t do this the last 2 years, but safe to say that the numbers would have been more towards even. I know, Miami got BLOWNNNNN OUUUUTTTTTT last year, but that was a matter of things falling apart more than an overwhelming talent advantage for FSU (though they would have had more starters on this combined roster exercise, had I done it last year).
This year.....I have Miami with a 16-12 lead. This is skewed slightly because I have Miami’s entire starting 5 OL atop this list. This is honestly pretty even to me, with each team having top-end talent that would start on a combined-team roster.
THAT BEING SAID, the fact that FSU has nearly the entire skill position group on offense starting here speaks to what I think is going to happen in this game. There’s 1 Miami starter and a co-starter at the skill positions on offense, so FSU has a huge, gigantic, MASSIVE advantage on that side of things.
And, like I noted in the narratives above, if FSU fans/bloggers/journos/supporters wanted to push back on Jared Harrison-Hunte and/or Darryl Porter Jr starting in favor of one of the listed FSU options instead, I wouldn’t argue. Those were coin-flip choices to me.
Agree with my Miami-FSU merged roster starting lineup? Disagree with one (or more)? Hop in the comments and state your case.