How Florida’s team talent compares to Miami

Florida has a very important game coming up in Week 0 against Miami. Any game against the Hurricanes takes on real importance given how infrequently the teams play, but there is nothing else on the TV schedule going up against this one. It will matter for bragging rights, of course, but also for recruiting battles this year and in seasons to come.

The recruiting aspect is no insignificant matter considering how close in talent these two teams are. If one can get an edge on the trail from this game, it could make a significant difference. I’ll show you just how close they are by breaking down the team’s rosters by the recruiting rankings of the players on them.

First, a couple notes. I use the 247 Sports Composite, which takes into account all of the major recruiting services. This year 247 has begun re-ranking players upon transferring, so I’ve taken those new rankings. You can see which ones changed and how much in the transfer sections of the 2019 commit lists for Florida and Miami. This matters more for UM since it had eight players transfer in.

Also, one of Miami’s transfers is former UCLA defensive lineman Chigozie Nnoruka. He never got a rank coming out of JUCO to UCLA or upon going from UCLA to Miami. He was a productive player for the Bruins in 2017 but not in 2018 in a different defensive scheme. In lieu of the Composite ranking him, I’ve assigned him a rating of 3 stars and .8435, the latter being the exact midpoint of 3-star ratings in 247’s scale.

Complete Teams

Florida has 80 recruited scholarship players including scholarship transfers; Miami has 77 of those, plus some walk-ons who’ve been awarded scholarships. I’m only focused on these 80 and 77 players, respectively.

The averages for the teams are very close. UF’s roster averages 3.51 stars, while UM is at 3.49. The average player rating for the Gators is .8962, which would correspond to a low 4-star rating for a single player. The Hurricanes’ average rating is .8936, which again is like a low 4-star rating.

These averages work out this way because the teams have a lot of 3-star guys who are close to the 4-star cutoff point of .8901, which makes their average ratings look better than their average star values. The ratings are more precise than stars, so you should pay more attention to them anyway.

Having said that, Florida has more players north of the 4-star line. Though Miami has the only 5-star on either roster, UF has 42 4-star players compared to Miami’s 37 combined 4-star and 5-star players. A little over half of the Gators’ roster, 42 of 80 for 53%, therefore were considered to be blue chip recruits. The Hurricanes are slightly under water here at 37 of 77 for 47% of the roster being blue chips.

[Note: the numbers for Florida in the original draft of this article did not include punter Tommy Townsend, who was on scholarship last year and presumably will be again this year. UF’s star average declined 0.01 and its rating average declined 0.0011 from that original draft. The blue chip percentage fell slightly but its rounded figure didn’t change.]

By Position

Here are the teams’ average stars and ratings for the various position groups.

I will note that Miami’s defense employs a hybrid position called “striker”, which is like an outside linebacker/defensive back combination. Florida has its versatile defensive back who does other things in its “star” position, but guys who play that are still listed as “DB” on the official roster. Miami has a separate striker listing on its roster, but for comparison’s sake, I’ve grouped them in with the linebackers.

Florida has three players listed as athletes. Two have obvious slots to go into, Kadarius Toney at wide receiver and Amari Burney at linebacker. The third is 2019 signee Trent Whittemore, who may get a look at both wide receiver and safety. I put him in at wide receiver for now, but that could change at basically any time.

Position UF Avg. Stars UM Avg. Stars UF Avg. Rating UM Avg. Rating
QB 3.67 3.75 0.9097 0.9095
RB 3.60 3.83 0.8938 0.9053
WR 3.58 3.75 0.9214 0.9261
TE 3.80 3.40 0.9144 0.9007
OL 3.44 3.31 0.8851 0.8777
DL 3.44 3.36 0.8811 0.8882
LB 3.57 3.42 0.9003 0.8926
DB 3.43 3.67 0.8948 0.9004

Each team wins four star averages and four ratings averages. Again: the teams are close.

The largest gap in average rating is Florida’s win at tight end, followed by Miami’s edge at running back. The latter can be explained in large part by the fact that the one 5-star guy the Hurricanes have is RB Lorenzo Lingard.

The running backs also show how using recruiting ratings as a proxy for talent can fall down in limited scopes. Lingard is far and away the highest-rated back on either team, but as a true freshman last year he had 17 carries that all came against either Savannah State, Toledo, or FIU. The leading rushers in the game at hand will likely be DeeJay Dallas, a low 4-star recruit and Miami’s second-leading rusher from last year, and Lamical Perine, a middle 3-star recruit who’s proven much better than his ranking.

Recruiting rankings work best in the aggregate, but they can easily fail when looking at a small number of players.

Depth Chart Comparison

I will spoil a small portion of something else I’m working on by looking at the depth charts for the two teams. After all, the players who matter most are the 44 on each side who are 1s and 2s.

I used the projected depth charts in this year’s Athlon magazine for this section, and I had to make two adjustments. Because the magazine has to go to print so early, it had Chris Steele and Brian Edwards as the backups at corner for Florida. Steele is gone, obviously, and Edwards is not participating in team activities following an arrest. So, I took them out and slotted in C.J. McWilliams and 2019 signee Kaiir Elam in those spots instead.

Miami has a bit of a raw talent edge with its starting offense having an average rating of 0.9171 versus Florida’s 0.9062. The Gators’ second string beats Miami’s 0.9198 to 0.9058. Almost the entire differences here come down to the offensive lines. Miami’s first string line has three 4-star guys while its backups have just one among them. The opposite is true for Florida.

On defense, Florida wins out on the top of the depth chart 0.9198 to 0.9058. This is the largest gap between any of the comparisons here. The backups are nearly the same, though, with UF’s average being 0.8986 and UM’s being 0.8974.

Of course, there are some considerations to be had. For instance, Feleipe Franks is heading into his third season as a starter and second in Dan Mullen’s sysem, whereas Miami’s projected starter Tate Martell has barely played in the past and not at all in Dan Enos’s offense. Projected backup N’Kosi Perry is in a similar spot to where Franks was coming out of 2017, having only a below-average year under bad coaching to his name with an uncertain future.

Further, Florida’s offense is far more of a veteran unit. Only two underclassmen show up on the Gators’ starting lineup in OL Chris Bleich and TE Kemore Gamble. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have only six upperclassmen on the entire offensive two-deep. Among those veterans are grad transfers WR K.J. Osborn from Buffalo (re-rated a 4-star) and OT Tommy Kennedy from FCS Butler (re-rated a 3-star). Miami’s defense has plenty of experience, but its offense is far less tested than Florida’s offense is.

In terms of sheer talent, Florida and Miami are very close to each other. We won’t see one team beat the other simply by fact of having better players across the board. It’ll come down to matchups, execution, and scheme, and at the very least in the latter two of those, Florida is likely to come out ahead.

David Wunderlich
David Wunderlich is a born-and-raised Gator and a proud Florida alum. He has been writing about Florida and SEC football since 2006. He currently lives in Naples Italy, at least until the Navy stations his wife elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @Year2