The 2019 college football season finally arrived on Saturday, and with the opening of the sport’s 150th season came a reminder of why everyone loves tuning in every week.
An in-state rivalry battle between the No. 8 Florida Gators and unranked Miami Hurricanes provided plenty of thrilling moments and even a few surprises. Florida came into the game as favorites and ultimately came through when it mattered. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes proved that while the program might not be back quite yet, the future is bright.
Here are the top takeaways from college football’s season openers.
QB Jarren Williams shows promise, confidence on the big stage
Jarren Williams entered camp as the underdog in Miami’s quarterback competition but won it in the end. He proved himself to the coaching staff throughout the summer and he showed what he is capable of against a strong defense.
Miami eased him into action with a lot of play actions and quick passes. It helped, even if his offensive line never allowed him to ever get comfortable standing in the pocket. Williams’ 90-yard, go-ahead drive was a masterpiece and he showed some confidence after the touchdown by motioning Florida’s fans to shush.
Williams still needs to work on identifying blitzes quick before the snap and getting rid of the football more quickly. Fortunately, those things can be worked on and Miami should feel great about its future with this youngster leading this program.
Gators’ LBs Jonathan Greenard, Ventrell Miller will be a thrilling duo
Even as questions remain surrounding Florida’s offense and its secondary, the front seven wiped out the Hurricanes and won the game. Specifically, the duo of Greenard and Miller deserve MVP honors for the night and should be stars on campus moving forward.
Miller, a redshirt sophomore, demonstrated his athleticism and instincts throughout the night as a nuisance on the blitz with two first-half sacks. Greenard, who missed the 2018 season and transferred to Florida this offseason, caused chaos off the edge as well. These two linebackers are going to be a fun duo to watch in 2019.
Miami’s inexperienced offensive line is worse than we thought
An inability to protect your quarterback, even an experienced one, is a major issue at every level. The fate of Miami’s season and the success of its young quarterback will require the offensive line to show a lot more than what everyone saw on Saturday.
Redshirt freshman John Campbell Jr. turned in one of the worst performances you’ll ever see from an offensive lineman. He racked up three penalties, including two false starts, and looked like a turnstile on the edge. Meanwhile, true freshman Zion Nelson was routinely bullied by Florida’s pass rushers all night. If things don’t improve quickly, Jarren Williams won’t be healthy in October.
CB Trajan Bandy is a playmaker in Miami’s secondary
While NFL teams might covet defensive backs with great size, Bandy keeps showing that size doesn’t measure talent and toughness. The 5-foot-9 cornerback left his mark on opponents with one crushing hit after another.
Bandy’s big hits come in big moments too. He delivered the hit stick to break up a pass on third down and popped running back Lamical Perine in another big moment. After receiving All-ACC third-team honors in ’18, he’ll climb even higher this season.
Gators show they aren’t ready to compete with nation’s best
If Florida’s fan base entered the season with hope of this team competing for an SEC crown or a spot in the College Football Playoff, that should be fading away after tonight.
This team’s issues go beyond simple jitters in an opening game. It’s about an egregious lack of discipline, poor tackling and horrendous execution of simple plays. The Gators struggled to hold onto the ball offensively and their defense kept giving Miami chances to win the game. If this same team shows up against SEC completion, the Gators won’t even reach last season’s 10-3 mark let alone sniff an SEC title.
Feleipe Franks is not the answer at quarterback for the Gators
Even if Florida cleans up its issues defensively, Franks is proving he isn’t the quarterback to take this team over the top. Teams competing for the CFP need consistency at the position and that’s something Franks doesn’t offer.
Yes, he delivered a big throw on a go-ahead touchdown drive and ran in the score that sealed the game. He also threw two brutal interceptions in the fourth quarter and holds some responsibility for the first-half fumbles. If there is not be a better option on the roster, then the Gators need to be essentially perfect in every other aspect to compete with the kings of the SEC.