ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, who calls Saturday’s UM-UF game with Chris Fowler, said he needs to watch UM in a game to know whether this is a top 25-caliber team but believes there’s not a large disparity in talent between the Hurricanes and eighth-ranked Gators.
“The talent is comparable,” Herbstreit said in a phone conversation Wednesday. “We have a chance to have a competitive game. Both teams have concerns with unproven players. Florida has some depth issues; they’ve lost a lot of players. They have a lot of true freshmen in their two deep. There’s a ton of athletic ability and skill on both these rosters. Jarren Williams has to be a good decision-maker, good distributor to give Miami any chance at all.”
Herbstreit makes a good point in noting how staggering it is that Miami “hasn’t had championship-caliber quarterback play since Ken Dorsey, and that’s mind-boggling to me. Over 15 years ago to not be at the level they need to be at quarterback. Hopefully Jarren can change the course of the last 15 years.
“I’m excited to see Jarren, see what he can do throwing the football. We have seen he’s a great distributor but this will be his first real test. He’s fortunate to come in as a young starter with talent around him with [DeeJay] Dallas, [Cam’Ron] Harris, a one-two punch until Lorenzo Lingard gets back. And with K.J. Osborn, you have a real veteran presence in that receiver room.
“[But] you have a true freshman at left tackle and new faces who have never played. You are going against Todd Grantham, as aggressive a defensive coordinator as you will meet. You have to get the ball out quickly because pressure is coming.”
He said the objective of the UF defense will be to “confuse the young quarterback, confuse the young line, disguise and affect their communication and create some negative plays. That’s what Florida is going to try to do. This [Miami] offense was so bad a year ago, not just lack of production in the passing game but turning the football over. [But] they have a lot of new pieces in place.”
Herbstreit likes UM’s defense.
“You get caught up in the linebacker play,” Herbstreit said, praising Shaq Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud. But “they also have a real ability to rush the quarterback, with Jon Garvin. And I’ve watched [Virginia Tech transfer] Trevon Hill throughout his career, and he’s an outstanding edge rusher. They will have a formidable defensive line and get to the quarterback.
“[The defensive question] is who will play with [Trajan] Bandy [in the defensive backfield] and who can step up because [Gators quarterback] Felipe Franks ended playing his three or four best games to end last season. That kid can throw it and has a great group of receivers.”
Herbstriet sees other things to be optimistic about with Miami, including a schedule that doesn’t feature another preseason top 25 team beyond Florida.
“The exciting thing is they have a tough game with Florida in Orlando, but then you start to look at their games, they’ve got a chance depending on if they win or lose to have a really good year. You tell me who they will be a heavy underdog against.”
“It’s a manageable schedule regardless,” he added.
Noting that Miami was a fragile team at times last year, Herbstreit likes that “everything I’ve heard and read is Manny Diaz understands” the need to “build a culture... as well as anybody, understands the Miami traditions. He’s trying to teach those kids who Miami used to be. Miami was Alabama. It’s healthy to teach those guys that.”
A year ago, could anyone have envisioned Mark Richt analyzing UM’s opener against the Gators on television, instead of coaching in the game?
Besides the traditional telecast of Saturday’s UM-UF game on ESPN (with Fowler and Herbstreit announcing), ESPN is offering what appears likely to be a UM-flavored secondary telecast that will air on ESPN-operated ACC Network, the new channel that debuts on Thursday.
For the ACC Network telecast, Richt and former UM linebacker Jon Beason will be in the Bristol, Connecticut, ESPN studios with Mark Packer and Wes Durham, hosts of the network’s daily morning show Packer and Durham, reacting to the live game action. Former Hurricane All-American and current ESPN college football analyst Jonathan Vilma will contribute from the sidelines of Camping World Stadium.
One big problem for South Florida viewers: ACC Network doesn’t — at this point — have carriage agreements with the market’s two largest cable distributors: Comcast/Xfinity and AT&T Uverse.
ESPN officials hope that changes in the coming days and weeks, with the Canes scheduled to have two games exclusively televised by ACC Network next month (Sept. 7 at North Carolina and Sept. 14 home against Bethune-Cookman).
Distributors with subscribers in South Florida that have struck deals with ACC Network: DirecTV, Fios, Google Fiber, Optimum, Vue and Hulu TV.
Meanwhile, ESPN also will offer a UF-flavored telecast of the UM-UF game on SEC Network, with Dari Nowkhah joined by SEC Network analyst Chris Doering and guest Danny Wuerffel (both Florida greats) along with former Auburn coach Gene Chizik. That quartet will be joined by guests throughout the game including former UF great and current Mets minor-leaguer Tim Tebow live from the sidelines. That broadcast will originate from ESPN’s studios in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This game was moved from Labor Day weekend to Aug. 24 partly to promote ESPN’s ambitious College Football 150 endeavor, designed to commemorate the sport’s 150th season.
ESPN’s CFB-150 programming this season will include more than 1000 game telecasts (beginning with Samford-Youngstown State at 3 p.m. Saturday), plus more than 35 hours of original CFB-150 programming including two documentaries, two weekly docu-series, an eight-part film and an ongoing digital series naming the best coaches, games, players and teams.
The eight-part film will chronicle the history of SEC Football and will air on SEC Network.
The first of the two documentaries -- Football is US: The College Game - will air on ESPN following UM-UF and try to answer the question: What sets football apart from every other sport?
The special will feature several of the sport’s luminaries, including Jerry Rice, Heisman winner Andre Ware and national championship coaches Nick Saban and Barry Switzer exploring the sport from 1869 to the present day. Among the subjects covered:
The coach as a central figure in the sport
The tension between the dangers of the game and the beauty of it
Race and the journey of Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Oligarchs and Innovators in the sport
The other CFB-150 ESPN documentary will air in January, but details haven’t been released.
Also, ESPN’s “College GameDay” will originate from Disney World’s Magic Kingdom at 9 a.m. on Saturday, 22 miles from the UM-UF game. You will need a day pass to the Magic Kingdom to attend Saturday’s GameDay telecast.
This will be the 85th venue used for “College GameDay” in the program’s 26 seasons. Rece Davis will host, with Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, David Pollack and Maria Taylor alongside.
Taylor’s prominence at ESPN keeps rising. As was reported elsewhere last week, Taylor and Rachel Nichols will share NBA host duties for ABC and ESPN this season, replacing Michelle Beadle, who was removed from the job.
Here’s my Wednesday piece with details on what Jimmy Johnson told UM players on Wednesday and his thoughts on the state of the Canes program.
Here’s my Wednesday Heat 6-pack with where the Heat stands with Bradley Beal and other notes.
And please check back later for a Dolphins post.