Welcome back draft fans to another season of college football! Today’s slate of games functions as sort of an hors d’oeuvre to the true opening weekend of college football next week. However, that doesn’t mean tonight’s games are any less rousing. The big game is a Floridian turf war between an up-and-coming Miami squad and eighth-ranked Florida. Then for some late-night action out west, Hawaii’s prolific air attack faces Arizona’s back-breaking ground game.
As always, let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on
WR K.J. Osborn (Miami)
The former University at Buffalo player transferred to Miami, ostensibly to improve his pro prospects, and so far it’s been ‘mission accomplished’ for the young wideout. Osborn stood out during the Hurricane’s spring game and was recently named to the Biletnikoff Award watchlist. This is where the rubber meets the road, however, for the speedy deep threat, as he’ll be facing off against the Gator’s CJ Henderson—perhaps the best college corner in the country. If he can have even a moderately productive game, his stock will skyrocket.
Other prospects to watch
LB Colin Schooler (Arizona)
Schooler was one of the lone bright spots for Arizona on defense, finishing with 119 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles-for-loss and an AP First-Team All-Pac-12 selection. By all accounts, Schooler has dedicated himself to improving and was able to shed ten pounds in order to pick up some speed. He’ll need that speed against pass-happy Hawaii, as he’ll likely get matched up against a pair of diminutive slot receivers.
DE Jabari Zuniga (Florida)
Florida is going to miss Jachai Polite’s pass-rush ability, but the hope is that Zuniga can help ameliorate some of that damage. More of a tackle/edge rusher hybrid, the senior had 6.5 sacks last year. Luckily for him, true freshman left tackle Zion Nelson will be making his starting debut on the left side of the Miami offensive line, so Zuniga should be able to bully the inexperienced Nelson into submission.
QB Cole McDonald (Hawaii)
The Rainbow Warriors’ starting quarterback last year, McDonald was a revelation after he helped his team to a 6-1 start. Unfortunately, the Warriors then limped to an 8-6 finish. The 6’4”, 220-lb quarterback has the necessary body type for the position and when he’s on fire, big completions come in bunches. Hawaii’s run-and-shoot offense depends on accuracy at all levels of the field, though, and McDonald isn’t there yet in his development. Arizona’s rushing offense will likely be too much for the Hawaii defense to handle, so it’ll be crucial for the junior to run up the score early.
RB J.J. Taylor (Arizona)
The 5’6”, 180-lb, scatback is competing to be a top-five running-back prospect and is highly effective in Arizona’s wide open zone rushing attack. It’s surprising, though, that a player of his stature and quickness doesn’t see more targets in the passing game. With only 16 catches for 133 yards in the 2018 season, he’ll need to pick it up against Hawaii, who’s defense shouldn’t scare him in the slightest.
Game of the week
No. 8 Florida vs. Miami
Saturday, 7:00 PM, EST
Not much of a choice this week but, even so, the Miami-Florida game should be a treat.
Florida has a couple offensive prospects in running back Lamical Perine and receiver Van Jefferson, the true strength of the Gators is their defense. Besides the aforementioned Jabari Zuniga, that side sports perhaps the best corner in the country in CJ Henderson.
Despite being unranked, Miami is a team on the rise that has NFL prospects on both sides of the ball as well. Shaquille Quarterman is an enforcer linebacker in the middle, although some analysts like his running mate, Michael Pinckney, even better. On offense, look for some big plays by the Hurricane’s wide receivers Osborn and Jeff Thomas. Thomas has the raw athleticism to be a factor on deep balls and running-back sweeps.