Florida used to be the state than ran the college football world having three schools annually compete for national championships. The state has seen a drop-off over the last decade, but with seven schools now in FBS and arguably the most high school talent of any state in the country, the state can become formidable once again. Each week, the Florida 15 will look at highlighted players, coaches and schools. Get ready, the college football season is just two weeks away!
It’s no surprise that the biggest stories among the seven schools from the state involve quarterbacks and coaches. Florida State comes into the year with the most expectations. The Seminoles began the year last season ranked in the top 10, but a 2-3 start put an immediate halt on FSU’s hopes of returning to prominence. Florida State has the most proven quarterback in the state in redshirt senior (1) E.J. Manuel. Manuel passed for 2,666 yards a year ago with 18 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. In his career as a starter, Manuel is 13-4.
A little further south in Gainesville, it remains unclear as to whom will start for the University of Florida. True sophomores (2) Jacoby Brissett and (3) Jeff Driskel will duke it out for the starting job. Brissett received most of the reps last season, but Driskel was more highly touted coming out of high school. In Miami, Hurricanes’ fans had already had their fill of quarterback Jacory Harris, last year’s starter and have long awaited (4) Stephen Morris getting his chance to be the quarterback full time.
(5) B.J. Daniels will be a fourth year starter for South Florida, but is still waiting to have that breakout season for the Bulls. Daniels has talent and is one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the country, but Daniels has never had a high completion percentage and has proven to be turnover prone.
Florida State not only has the most proven quarterback in the state, but the Seminoles may also have the most proven head coach in (6) Jimbo Fisher. Fisher has compiled a 19-8 record in two seasons at FSU. Both Florida head coach (7) Will Muschamp and South Florida’s (8) Skip Holtz may be on the hot seat. Florida finished the regular season just 6-6 a year ago before defeating Ohio State in the Gator Bowl while USF missed making a bowl game for the first time since 2004. Miami will likely have a little more leniency with second year man (9) Al Golden. Golden inherited a program facing major NCAA sanctions and all things considered had a decent first season leading Miami to a 6-6 record with a few very competitive losses to the likes of Kansas State, FSU and Virginia Tech.
Miami will not be the only school in the state facing NCAA sanctions however. (10) UCF received a one-year bowl ban during the offseason, so the Golden Knights will not be able to atone for their disappointing season a year ago. After winning Conference USA in 2010, UCF finished just 5-7 last season. The Florida school with the third longest bowl streak in the state believe it or not, is (11) Florida International. FIU has been to bowl games in two straight seasons and will be gunning for a third in the Sun Belt Conference this season. The two Florida schools with longer streaks (Florida and Florida State) each began its streak long before FIU was playing football. The worst team in the state last season was without a doubt (12) Florida Atlantic. The Owls went just 1-11 and didn’t win its lone football game until the final Saturday of November.
While the state of Florida’s schools are headlined by quarterback battles, coaches on the hot seat and unfortunately NCAA sanctions, there seems to be a lack of offensive play-makers in a state with so much talent. Florida, who has had guys like Percy Harvin and Jeff Demps over the last few years, will be hoping that someone can emerge to help out its young quarterback. Wide receiver (13) Andre Debose and running back (14) Mike Gillislee look to be the two leading candidates for the Gators. Debose has battled injury during his Gator career while Gillislee has spent most of his career sitting behind Demps and Chris Rainey. Miami and South Florida will also be looking for a standout skill player on offense. For USF, it may actually be Daniels, the quarterback. Miami loses a lot with Lamar Miller, Travis Benjamin and Tommy Streeter all in the NFL. Florida State seems to have depth at running back and receiver, but its most high profile player comes on the defensive side of the ball in defensive end (15) Brandon Jenkins. FSU has been one of the best pass rushing teams over the past two seasons and there is little reason as to why Jenkins can’t be an All-American.
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