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January 2, 2005MIAMI - Both teams are loaded with talent in this year's CaliFlorida Bowl, but one of the two teams holds the advantage in each category. Football is a game of match-ups and it's hard to say who holds the overall advantage for this year's game. After watching both teams practice this week, here is how Rivals.com feels the game breaks down:
This one is not even close. If California had just one of Mark Sanchez or Derek Shaw the California squad would still have the advantage. No offense meant to Harrison Beck or Jonathan Garner, but they are simply not on the same level as the California quarterbacks. Garner has had the better week, but he started off slow earlier in the week and Beck has continued to struggle. Both of the California quarterback's ran the offense with ease and looked very comfortable in doing so in yesterday afternoon's practice. Beck and Garner still have the tools and they certainly have talented enough wide receivers to throw for some big yards.
Anytime you have a guy like Pahokee, Fla., running back Antone Smith on your team you are going to hold an advantage, no matter who is on the opposite side. Smith is not ranked as the nation's No. 1 all-purpose back for no reason. Miami (Fla.) Monsignor Pace running back Conredge Collins has looked great in practice all week as well. He nor Seffner (Fla.) Armwood fullback will probably be breaking a 70-yard run in tonight's game, but it's very, very difficult to limit them to anything under four yards a touch. Lompoc (Ca.) Cabrillo running back Lydell Sargeant looked solid in practice yesterday and according to Rivals.com west coast analyst Greg Biggins has been one of the bright spots for the California offense. Look for Dorsey, Ca., running back Jeremiah Johnson too get a number of carries as well tonight.
No state in the country could bring a better wide receiving corps than the Sunshine State, but California comes close. It's a good thing both sets of wide receivers are top-notch because both secondarys are absolutely amazing. The Florida squad boasts the nation's top wide receiver in Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln product Fred Rouse. Tampa (Fla.) Middleton wide receiver O.J. Murdock is a national top 50 player and Rivals.com No. 7 wide receiver. Perhaps the wide receiver who has been most impressive for Florida this week is Coconut Creek (Fla.) North Broward Prep's Mike Moore, who is the nations No. 13 ranked wide receiver and Clemson commitment T.J. Williams has also been solid for the Florida team all week. Long Beach (Ca.) Poly wide receiver is the star for the California team. He may not be the biggest guy on the field at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds but displays excellent quickness and super break away speed. Los Angeles (Ca.) Jefferson wide out Austin Usher is a big, physical kid who could cause match-up problems for the Florida secondary, as is Oak Park's Gavin Ketchum. Los Alamitos and UCLA commit Jeremy Childs had a solid day yesterday and may not be the big play threat like DeSean Jackson, but has great hands. Look for defensive back Bret Lockett to play some wide receiver for the California squad as well. Look for tight end Richard Gordon to be a difference maker for the Florida team as well.
While the Florida line is solid with guys like A.J. Trump, Christopher Barney, Chris DeArmas, Eddie Tabasky, Ian Bustillo and the surprise of the week Michael Johnson, the comparison in the size of the two lines isn't close as the California squad will tower over the Florida lineman. Bullard, Ca., offensive tackle is a mammoth 6-foot-6, 255-pound USC commitment who looked great in practice. The star of the California offensive lineman has been Crenshaw and UCLA commitment Aleksey Lanis, who is a huge 6-foot-5, 315-pound, who was nothing short of dominate in practice. Canyon Springs, Ca., and Nebraska commitmet Rodney Picou played guard this week and is another monster at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds. Guys like Thomas Altieri, Eben Britton, Devin Head and Tevita Stevens are all big kids who move well.
It's a good thing that the California offensive line is so good, because the Florida defensive line is flat out nasty. These guys have made life difficult on the Florida offense all week. They are big, fast and physical. Guys like Ricky Jean-Francois, Kendrick Stewart, Jeff Owens, Kerry Bonds, Vladimir Richard, Letroy Guion and Neefy Moffett have all cause match-up problems for the Florida offensive line all week. In all honesty there is no need to point out a stand out on the Florida defensive line because they have all looked great. For California Michael Shelton was a beast during Saturday's practice. Averell Spicer, Chase Moline, Matt Kopa, Fevaea'i Ah Mu should provide match-up problems for the Florida offensive line. The California team has moved tight end Erik Lorig to the defensive line for added depth as they don't use the tight end very much in their offense.
Rey Maualuga, Prince Hall and Luther Brown of the California team are enough to give any offensive coordinator headaches. All three of these guys are as good as anyone linebacker on a great Florida linebacking corps that includes Eugene Hayes, Gerald Williams, Eric Houston and Elijah Hodge. Guys like Kevin Ellison, Zack Follett and Jimmy Miller add more depth to an already impressive California defense. After watching the Florida linebackers all week, it was hard to imagine the California set could be more impressive, but they certainly proved to be and by a good bit. The three headliners in this unit for the California team are as good as any linebackers in America.
This will be the most fun unit to watch for both team's throughout the game. Both units are chock-full of Rivals 100 members and super-star players and are nothing short of spectacular. Miami commitment Randy Phillips and Tennessee commitment Demetrice Morley have been the stars for the Florida squad this week, but guys like Clarence Ward, Dorian Munroe, Guesly Dervil, Bruce Johnson, Avery Atkins and Tyller Roberts have also been impressive all week long and add depth to an amazing unit. The headliner for the California team is USC commitment Will Harris who leads this big, physical unit of defenders. Gardner McKay looked amazing in Saturday's practice. Syd'Quan Thompson, Robert Peele and Aaron Ware are all shut down defensive backs that will be an interesting match-up for the talented Florida receivers.