The state of Florida is famously intense when it comes to its college football rivalries. The three-way rivalry between Florida, Florida State, and Miami is one that is fought all year long in recruiting, not just during the season on the field. However, what team is the most talented?
In this two-part series, I rank the three main football programs at each position group, the way I see it at this point in the offseason. This is based off of the talent left at each position and how they compare to the other schools heading into the spring.
Many of the position groups are pretty close in talent between the Gators and the Hurricanes, but the Seminoles struggle to match the talent level at this point. That isn’t really a surprise, since Florida is a top-10 team, and Miami has had the talent of a top-10 team other than at quarterback.
Some of the ways I ranked these could be switched a bit on preference, but these are the way I see each position group ranked on the offensive side of the ball. All three teams have struggled on offense over the last few seasons, with the Gators just recently improving under head coach Dan Mullen.
1. Florida Gators (Franks/Jones)
2. Miami Hurricanes (Perry/Williams/Martell?)
3. Florida State Seminoles (Blackman)
Miami fans might be upset about this because there may be more talent in their QB room than either of the other two schools. My reasoning for putting the Gators on top is because they have the only quarterback with a decent amount of experience, other than James Blackman from FSU.
Feleipe Franks, though a little inconsistent, has shown flashes of brilliance and has two seasons of starting in the SEC compared to a season, at most, for any other quarterback in the state. Do the Hurricanes have a quarterback who could be better than Franks? It is possible but hasn’t been seen yet. This could completely change after the season-opener, but right now, I know Franks is a solid quarterback who can win games.
Technically, Franks may not be the starter for head coach Dan Mullen. Emory Jones has a chance to take the starting job with Mullen announcing all positions are open this off-season. Jones was a big recruit and a dangerous threat in the run game.
Outside of N’Kosi Perry, Jarren Williams, or Tate Martell (if he is ruled eligible), one of them should at least be to the level of Franks, but Perry didn’t show it often enough last season, Williams never got the chance, and Martell didn’t show much at Ohio State either.
The Seminoles have a solid quarterback in Blackman, but have no one behind him. With how bad the offensive line has been over the last three seasons for Florida State, it is scary to think the tall, skinny starting quarterback is the only player available before they have to start a walk-on at quarterback.
1. Florida Gators (Perine/Pierce/Davis)
2. Miami Hurricanes (Dallas/Davis/Lingard/Martin/Burns)
3. Florida State Seminoles (Akers/Laborn)
This may be one of the toughest positions to rank because each team has a bunch of talent here. I can understand any argument for all three teams on this one, but it came down to a few little things for me. Florida has their top rusher returning in 2019, they have Malik Davis returning from a foot injury after a really good freshman season in 2017, and Dameon Pierce returns after a really solid sophomore season.
Miami has a stable of really good backs, but they now have to turn to another player as the leading rusher since they lost their leading rusher from the last two seasons, Travis Homer. Deejay Dallas should be a really good running back and I have all the faith that he will do a great job, but we will just have to wait and see. On 109 carries last season, he rushed for 617 yards and six touchdowns.
Cam’Ron Davis, who was extremely important down the stretch for Miami last season, returns for his sophomore year, and Lorenzo Lingard is back from a knee injury. Davis had a two-game stretch where he showed he can produce if given the chance. Against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, he had 15 touches for 144 yards and three touchdowns. They also added a transfer in Asa Martin from Auburn. Robert Burns is another name to watch, entering his redshirt-sophomore season after being a four-star recruit out of high school.
Florida State may have the most talented running back of these three teams in Cam Akers. One of the top recruits from 2017, Akers showed why as a freshman with 930 yards and seven touchdowns on 181 carries. But as a sophomore in 20018, he struggled to consistently gain yards, picking up just 706 yards and six touchdowns on 161 carries.
The Seminoles do have Khalan Laborn returning this season after an injury at the beginning of last season and should be a difference maker. But with one really good running back and a player who has yet to make a lasting difference, it is tough to put them ahead of some really good, all-around backfields.
1. Miami Hurricanes
2. Florida Gators
3. Florida State Seminoles
Miami and Florida each have really good receiving cores led by a great number-one target. Jeff Thomas and Van Jefferson are wildly different types of receivers, but both great in their own ways. Thomas (35 catches, 563 yards, 3 touchdowns) is a threat to score on any play. Jefferson (35 catches, 503 yards, 6 touchdowns) is a big target that can always be relied on. However, neither team relies on just their top guy, with both teams going five or six deep with talent.
The main issue with choosing which group is better is neither has had a consistent player delivering them the ball. With Malik Rosier and Perry throwing the ball over the last two seasons for the Hurricanes, there is no way of knowing how great the receivers are. The same goes for the Gators, with Franks being up-and-down over the last two years.
I will say the quarterback play at Miami has been worse and offensive schemes also awful, yet the receivers have still done a pretty good job and made plays. And with the additions of K.J. Osborn from Buffalo and Jeremiah Payton, a top recruit, the ‘Canes have eight guys they can call on to make plays in the passing game, and that’s not counting the tight ends.
The Seminoles are in pretty rough shape at this position, losing their top receiver in Nyqwan Murray, though they do have Tamorrion Terry (35 catches, 744 yards, 8 touchdowns) returning and should make some improvements as the top receiver.
1. Miami Hurricanes
2. Florida State Seminoles
3. Florida Gators
This may have been the easiest position group to decide on with Brevin Jordan being the best tight end in the state as a true freshman. With Will Mallory, Michael Irvin II, and Larry Hodges rounding out that group, it is deep and extremely talented.
Tre’ McKitty, who has yet to become the weapon many hoped, is still a pretty talented tight end and may be the second best in the state at this point. But he is the only real threat at the position for the Seminoles right now.
Florida has a group of guys who could step up at tight end after losing their top guys from last season. Lucas Krull, who had six catches for 75 yards last season, is the top returning receiver. Keon Zipperer was a highly-touted recruit out of Lakeland who could make an immediate impact.
1A. Miami Hurricanes
1B. Florida Gators
3. Florida State Seminoles
Honestly, this is an impossible position to just pick from. The only thing I know is that Florida State is last. The Seminoles have had one of the worst offensive lines in the country over the last three seasons, and at this point, I wouldn’t trust them much.
The Gators and Hurricanes each last some of their best lineman, so it is tough to say which group will be better. Miami has Navaughn Donaldson returning, so I put them at 1A, but I don’t think that is really enough to say they are any better than Florida, even though they basically lost their entire starting line.