After 230 days, college football is back and ready to roll! After Clemson’s 44-17 dismantling of Alabama in Santa Clara, California, all football fans had to put up with no on-field action for nearly eight months. Well my friends, the wait is over. On Saturday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m., the Miami Hurricanes and Florida Gators will begin the 2019-20 NCAA Division I football season in Orlando, Florida.
Here at Sideline Blitz, we will provide a weekly preview of upcoming games. These preview will include a look at the team itself, but also to highlight NFL draft prospects that all draftniks should be looking at on these teams.
Kicking off the season is a compelling matchup between the Miami Hurricanes of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Florida Gators of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Coming off of a disappointing 7-6 season including an embarrassing defeat in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at the hands of Wisconsin, Miami looks to improve with a new quarterback at the helm, redshirt freshman Jarren Williams. Williams beat out incumbent starter N’Kosi Perry and Ohio State transfer Tate Martell to lead the Hurricanes into battle against the Gators.
Behind Williams, will be Deejay Dallas, a junior from Brunswick, Georgia. Dallas, a 5-10, 215 pound running back, returns after compiling 1,260 all-purpose yards with six touchdowns and even a punt return touchdown a season ago. With a young quarterback under center, Miami should use Dallas as a bell-cow back and he should have plenty of opportunities to impress.
Navaughn Donaldson will lead the offensive front for Miami. With experience playing guard and tackle, Donaldson will start the season at right guard and projects to stay inside at the next level.
On the defensive side of the ball, Miami has three prospects, one at defensive end and two at the linebacker spot. Jonathan Garvin, broke out with an impressive 2018 season. Garvin finished with 60 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, five pass break ups and two fumble recoveries. He finished fourth in the ACC in tackles for loss. Garvin is on the smaller side for a DE at the next level, but has plenty of time to develop his body as a true junior.
At the linebacker spot, Miami has two premier prospects in Michael Pinckney on the outside and Shaquille Quarterman on the inside. Pinckney finished 2018 with 74 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and one interception. He was an honorable mention All-ACC selection and moves into his senior season ready to anchor the outside for the ‘Canes. Shaquille Quarterman has been a staple of the Hurricane defense since he stepped foot on campus in 2016, starting 39 consecutive games. Quarterman was named to the All-ACC First Team with 82 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, six sacks and an interception. Quarterman is one of the top inside linebacker prospects going into the 2019 season. He flashes all over the field and looks to be the next in a long line of Hurricane linebackers who have had successful careers in the NFL.
Across the field will be the Florida Gators, who are coming off a 10-3 season and a win in the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines. The three losses on the season, Kentucky, Missouri and Georgia can all be chalked up to inconsistent quarterback play. Feleipe Franks had a very good season in 2018, including 2,457 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 350 yards and seven touchdowns. He led the team to a final ranking of sixth for the season. Florida will kick off the season as the eighth-ranked team in the nation.
On the offensive side of the ball, Franks joins two running backs and two wide receivers as potential NFL draft picks. The two running backs, Lamical Perine and Malik Davis, return to the Gators and hope to develop into a potent duo. Davis is returning after back-to-back injury shortened seasons, only playing three games last season and seven the year before. Davis led the nation in rushing and touchdowns his senior year in high school in 2016 and came to the Gators with high expectations, but the injury bug has not allowed that. Perine on the other hand, has played two full seasons with the Gators and split carries with Jordan Scarlett a season ago. Perine finished with 826 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Both look to improve their stocks while sharing carries in the Gator backfield.
At wide-out, Tyrie Cleveland and Van Jefferson are two mid-level NFL prospects entering the season. Cleveland, played and started in all 12 regular season games and collected 18 catches for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Cleveland also served as the gunner on the punt team. Jefferson was the Gators leading receiver in 2018 with 35 catches, 503 yards and six touchdowns. He is also the most veteran wide receiver on the team.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Gators have prospects at all three levels. Up front, the fifth-year senior Jabari Zuniga returns at defensive end after an impressive 2018 season. Zuniga collected 45 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks, teaming with now NFLer Jachai Polite. Zuniga hopes to rise to the occasion and step up as the Gators top pass rushing force in 2019.
At linebacker, David Reese flashed, after missing the first three games. Reese registered 77 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and recovered one fumble. Reese is the senior leader on this level and should be able to inflate his stock with another solid season.
Three of the starting four secondary members are prospects of note, corners CJ Henderson and Marco Wilson as well as safety Brad Stewart. All three are higher level prospects and with good 2019 season could rise up draft boards come April 2020. Of the three, CJ Henderson is probably the most NFL ready. Wilson is coming off a season ending injury and Stewart had a very solid 2018.
As far as the game goes, the eighth-ranked Florida Gators should have little issue defeating the Miami Hurricanes. Miami is just too inexperienced at quarterback and the Gators defense will be too much. The current line has the Gators favored by seven points. There should be no reason why the Gators would not be able to cover the spread against the Hurricanes.