Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunshine State - A Return to Dominance?

Florida State (8-5, 5-3)
Offensive Starters Returning: 5
Defensive Starters Returning: 4
Last 5 Years Win Totals: 8-9-10-9-8

Since 2001, the Seminoles have averaged just 8.8 wins and only seen one 10 win season. Many of FSU's troubles could be pointed back to the offense with the QB play and lack of running game. Bobby Bowden should be able to look at the QB position this fall with confidence as FSU has Drew Weatherford back with a season under his belt. Weatherford threw for over 3,000 yards last season en route to being named a Freshman All-American by several news sources. When Weatherford is not throwing the ball, he will be handing it off to the speedy Lorenzo Booker. Booker was highly recruited out of California, but has had a somewhat disappointing career thus far. He could be pushed for time by sophomore Antone Smith who had the highest yards per carry on the team last year. At wideout, Greg Carr and his 6'6" frame are back hoping to out leap even more DB's this season. Chris Davis and De'Cody Fagg will bring quality depth to the receiving corp. However, the situation is different along the offensive line, which was riddled by injuries last season. Just seven scholarship lineman return, but Bowden thinks he has five quality starters if the unit can stay healthy and out of trouble.

One area that should not be of concern is the defensive line despite the loss of some key players to the NFL. It seems FSU can just plug in the previous years backups and have two first round draft picks and this year should be no different. The coaching staff believes this years crop of linebackers may be better than last seasons. Buster Davis returns and will be joined by sophomores Geno Hayes, Rodney Gallon, and Derek Nicholson (brother of departed AJ Nicholson). The secondary lost three starters from last year and may be a weak point early in the season. True Freshman Myron Rolle, who participated in spring practice, could be the starter at SS in Miami on Sep 4. Junior Roger Williams started three games last season and is penciled in at FS as of now. The lone returning starter is CB Tony Carter who led the team with 12 pass breakups a year ago. On the other side, J.R. Bryant hopes to hold onto his starting position he gained in the seventh game of last season.

Gary Cismesia returns as the kicker while the punter will be a new face this season; Graham Cano leads for the postion in the preseason. Kick returning duties will be up for grabs after Kenny O'Neal was dismissed.
Schedule:
Sep4@MiamiW
Sep9TroyW
Sep16ClemsonW
Sep23RiceW
Oct5@NC StateW
Oct14@DukeW
Oct21Boston CollegeW
Oct28@MarylandW
Nov4VirginiaW
Nov11Wake ForestW
Nov18W. MichiganW
Nov25FloridaL
Prediction: 11-1, 8-0


Florida (9-3, 5-3)
Offensive Starters Returning: 6
Defensive Starters Returning: 6
Last 5 Years Win Totals: 10-8-8-7-9

Year two of Urban Meyer at Florida brings expectations of an SEC Title, something has not seen since the Spurrier era. The Gators definetly have the talent, but a brutal schedule could derail their train en route to Atlanta. Chris Leak returns at QB, but talk is occuring of a true freshman Tim Tebow replacing him by mid year. Leak is not the optimal fit in an Urban Meyer offense, but he proved adequate enough for the Gators to beat their three biggest rivals last season. The area of biggest concern is at running back where Florida struggled mightily last year. Meyer hopes the triumvirate of DeShawn Wynn, Markus Manson, and Kestahn Moore can improve on the 3.9 yards per carry last season. Andre Caldwell is back at WR after a season ending injury vs Tennessee last year. Joining him is senior Dallas Baker and junior Jemalle Cornelius. An interesting player to watch will be freshman Percy Harvin, the top WR recruit of 2006. The offensive line lost four starters from last season; Steve Rissler will anchor the line at center after starting three games at right guard a year ago.

The defensive line may be the deepest position on the Gator team. Jarvis Moss will be an all-star candidate at one end wreaking havoc on SEC QB's this season. The tackles also have a bevy ofexperience with two seniors returning. Whomever gets through the d-line will then have to face linebackers Earl Everett and Brandon Siler who are both All-SEC candidates. The Gators also boast depth here due to good recruiting over the past several years. The unexpected departure of Dee Webb in the secondary left a sizeable hole to fill at cornerback. Reggie Lewis and Avery Atkins seperated themselves in spring ball at the corner positions. Reggie Nelson and Kyle Jackson both had up and down seasons last year at safeties, but are the best options as of now for those positions.

Both kickers return for their seinor seasons. The return game will be by committee with Termain McCollum likely getting the first crack.
Schedule:
Sep2So MissW
Sep9UCFW
Sep16@TennesseeL
Sep23KentuckyW
Sep30AlabamaW
Oct7LSUW
Oct14@AuburnL
Oct28Georgia (Jax)W
Nov4@VanderbiltW
Nov11South CarolinaW
Nov18Western CarolinaW
Nov25@FSUW
Prediction: 10-2, 6-2


Miami (9-3, 6-2)
Offensive Starters Returning: 5
Defensive Starters Returning: 6
Last 5 Years Win Totals: 12-12-11-9-9

After the 40-3 loss to LSU in the Peach Bowl, Larry Coker cleaned house showing six assistants the door. A tough early season schedule will show right away how far along the Canes are in adjusting. Kyle Wright returns at QB and despite grumbling from the Cane faithful produced one of the best seasons statistically in the ACC last year. Charlie Jones will be the starter for the FSU game because of Tyrone Moss' suspension, but Moss will more than likely reassume that position vs FAMU. The Miami receiving corp has shown flashes of brilliance, but not enough consistency. The most consistent receiver, Ryan Moore, has been suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules. The offensive line lost some key talent from last year, but it is not as if they proved to be world beaters last year. Against FSU and LSU, Wright spent much of the game picking himself hit after hit. This group must give him more time in order to realize his potential.

Defensively, the Canes should shine this season with maybe the best defense in the country. Baraka Atkins is the headliner on the d-line and will push for All-ACC honors. The situation at LB is solid due to Jon Beason who is arguably Miami's best defender. Joining Beason will be Glenn Cook, Darryl Sharpton, and Tavares Gooden. The secondary will be one of the best in the nation led by safeties Brandon Merriweather and Kenny Phillips. Meriweather led the Canes with 115 tackles last season, a number that hopefully goes down this season though. The corner spots are up in the air, but Randy Phillips and Bruce Johnson have the inside track going into the opener.

Kicking was an unusually sore spot for Miami last season, but both kickers return hoping to perform better in their senior season. Whomever returns kicks and punts will have a tall order to live up to; Miami leads the nation with 57 returns for TD since 1999.
Schedule:
Sep4Florida StL
Sep9Florida A&MW
Sep16LouisvilleL
Sep30HoustonW
Oct7North CarolinaW
Oct14Fla IntlW
Oct21@DukeW
Oct28@Georgia TechW
Nov4Virginia TechW
Nov11@MarylandW
Nov18@VirginiaW
Nov25Boston CollegeW
Prediction: 10-2, 7-1

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