In perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the weekend, highly touted senior quarterback Stephen Morris leads the Miami Hurricanes against a talented Florida defense that returns multiple starters from suspension. Most notable of the suspended parties is cornerback/wide receiver Loucheiz Pourifoy. You definitely read that correctly, Pourifoy will play snaps on offense and defense, in addition to covering and returning in the kicking game.
Pourifoy is athletically gifted a player you will find in terms of movement skills, hip fluidity, open field elusiveness and ball skills, but his greatest trait on the football field is his competitiveness. Fighting hard to support the run, getting to the quarterback on corner cat blitzes and forcing turnovers on special teams, Pourifoy just has a knack for coming up with the big play. Going back to the matchup with Florida’s secondary, other notable defensive backs include junior corner Marcus Roberson and safety Jaylen Watkins. Roberson is similar to Pourifoy in that his closing burst to the football, ball skills and instincts as a player help mask his technical deficiencies at the moment, while safety Jaylen Watkins is a good bet to be selected on the third day as a developmental cornerback thanks to fluid hips, quick feet and good speed. All three of these DBs, Pourifoy, Roberson and Watkins pose a significant challenge to Morris.
For Miami’s offense, the afore mentioned Stephen Morris brings a unique, Donovan McNabb-type talent set that features both the athleticism to extend the pass and the exceptional arm talent to take the top off the secondary. Morris can truly make all the throws in the book and is a better athlete than even he gives himself credit for. With all that in mind, he’ll require protection from his senior offensive tackle Seantrell Henderson to fully utilize that arm. Henderson may be the only tackle in this class with rare qualities, such as blue chip power and punch at the point of attack. If he gets his hands on the defender, the snap is generally over, and beyond simply having strength, it’s important not to look past Henderson’s above average movement skills and kick slide range.
At receiver, junior Phillip Dorsett is the Canes’ primary threat while senior Allen Hurns will work the short and intermediate levels as a possession target. Dorsett is a dual sport athlete with Miami as a track athlete, but don’t let his long speed and smallish frame fool you –he can and will attack the ball in-air, while showing outstanding body control to finish contested receptions.
To counter, Florida has a hybrid end/backer in Ronald Powell that can crank up pressure from a variety of alignments. Whether lined up as a 7-technique, standup rush linebacker or walked up blitzing backer in Florida’s 3-3-5 look, Powell gives the Gator’s defense the ability to be versatile in fronts and alignments. Showing full functionality and 100% health after multiple knee surgeries following a torn ACL that kept him out all of last season, Ronald Powell jumped off the tape week one versus Toledo as the definition of versatile. More often than not,
Powell stunted or looped with senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley to apply pressure a week ago, a tactic I fully anticipate seeing this week against a talented passer in Stephen Morris. As for Easley, we’re talking about an explosive, instinctive interior pass rusher that is quick as a cat. Able to time the snap with incredible consistency, Easley is almost always the first Florida defender out of the gate. Understanding his limitations a shorter armed defensive lineman, Easley has developed an array of counter moves to disengage himself and will be counted on to continue his disruptive ways this weekend.
Offensively for the Gators, expect the same physical rushing attack Brent Pease has worked in seasons past. Junior tailback Mack Brown is your traditional, one-cut and go, no nonsense ball carrier that will gain every yard in front of him. Brown wastes no time dancing in the hole, makes his cut, gets vertical and pounds his feet through first contact. Senior center Jonotthan Harrison anchors the middle of a developing offensive line that is still without senior road grader Jon Halapio. Harrison isn’t an overpowering blocker or special athlete, but he’s a consistent performer that doesn’t miss time due to injury, takes proper cutoff angles to the second level and latches onto his opponent’s chestplate for sustained blocks.
Do-it-all WR/H-Back Trey Burton figures to be involved in the gameplan, and you can expect a few Wildcat snaps in short yardage and goal line situations. Burton lacks plus speed but is a very coordinated, smooth athlete that plays the game faster than he’ll time due to ball carrier instincts. Figuring to take advantage of Florida’s injuries upfront will be defensive end Anthony Chickillo. Perfectly suited to play a 5-technique position at the NFL level, Chickillo is a thick, country-strong defensive end that defeats blockers by locking out his arms, anchoring at the point of attack and keeping his eyes up to locate the football. Against a run-first team, Chickillo’s play will play a critical factor in whether or not Miami can shut down Florida’s rushing attack.
Others to watch:
(JR) Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida - #6, 6’4, 239
(JR) Quinton Dunbar, WR, Florida - #1, 6’1, 194
(JR) Clay Burton, TE, Florida - #88, 6’4, 257
(JR) Max Garcia, OG, Florida - #76, 6’4, 311
Damien Jacobs, DT, Florida - #4, 6’3, 300
(JR) Leon Orr, DT, Florida - #44, 6’5, 303
Darrin Kitchens, OLB, Florida - #49, 6’2, 233
Brandon Linder, OG, Miami - #65, 6’6, 317
(JR) Olsen Pierre, DT, Miami - #91, 6’4, 305
(JR) Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami - #52, 6’1, 240
Jimmy Gaines, OLB, Miami - #6’3, 235