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December 31, 2004
Defensive backs dominate in Miami
MIAMI - The first few days in Miami during the CaliFlorida Bowl was all about adjusting and to the new teammates and scheme's for the Florida squad. Today, it was all about business for the boys from the Sunshine State as things really began to come together for the Florida offense and the defense continued to look great as they have all week long.
The rave all week has been about the Florida defensive line, but during Sunday's game the difference makers for the Florida team could be the talented corps of defensive backs. They have been equally as impressive all week long in coverage on some of the nation's top wide receivers.
"Boy I tell you, Bruce Johnson and Randy Phillips have really looked good all week long," Florida defensive backs coach Mike Bennett said. "I didn't know too much about them before this week, but they have sure looked the part this week. Of course Demetrice Morley is just an outstanding player, I just can't say enough good things about that kids abilities and Avery Atkins is a lot like that too."
While those players have stood out all week long, it took others a few days to get going, but now that they have they are going blow for blow with guys like Fred Rouse and O.J. Murdock.
"Clarence Ward started off kind of slow the first few practices because we had him playing corner and he is a much better safety," Bennett said. "We moved him back to safety after the first few practices and that is where he is going to play Sunday night. Ever since we moved him back to safety he has looked considerably improved. Dorian Munroe is a guy that started off a little slow that has really come on the past two or three practices."
Bennett and his crew of defensive backs will be as well prepared for any set of wide receivers as they can be after facing the likes of the Florida standouts. Bennett knows the task has been tough this week, but feels his guys have stepped up to the challenge and will be more than ready on Sunday.
"Fred Rouse is the real deal, I will tell you that much," Bennett said. "He is as good as he is advertised. He is a big, lean kid who can real well and has really soft hands, he is going to be a difference maker for somebody. Mike Moore is another guy that I have been really impressed with all week. He has caught some really good balls and he goes hard every play."
PROSPECTS MAKING A BIG IMPRESSION ON ONE ANOTHER
It's always nice to hear us recruiting analysts give our opinions on who has looked good this week and it's great to hear who the coaches have been impressed with, but what people really want to know is who do the players think is doing really well. Who have they had a difficult time going head to head with in practice? Which guys are impossible to stop? Well after today's practice we went straight to the source.
"I have been really impressed with Jeff Owens," said Neefy Moffett. "He has just been killing people up front all week. All of those offensive lineman have been having trouble with him in practice. He is real playful and is always cutting up at practice and stuff, but when he gets out there on the field he turns that switch on."
Well since the defensive backs great week have been a hot topic on the message boards we decided to find one of the nation's best wide receivers and asked him to give us his impressions on who he thought was the most impressive all week.
"I would have to say that Demetrice Morley is the best defensive back that I have faced," said O.J. Murdock. "He just does everything well, just and all around great player. He has good feet and good eyes, but it's his instincts that sets him apart from some of the others. It's like he knows the exact right moment to break on the ball or make a cut or something."
This week's game has also brought in a large guy of highly celebrated wide receivers and the defensive backs have done a very good job in coverage on them. The battles won between wide receivers and defensive backs have seemed to be split down the middle. We seeked out two of the nation's best defensive backs and got their thoughts on who has been tough to cover.
"I think Fred Rouse is all he is cracked up to be," said Avery Atkins. "You can see that he isn't ranked as the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation for no reason. I have been guarding him a good bit this week and he is tough to deal with. He is real tall and real fast and he has great leaping ability. Sometimes you can go stride for stride with him, but with his size and athleticism makes it tough for you to win the battle."
"A lot of people may not be talking about him, but one guy that I think that has impressed me the most is Cedric McGee," said Randy Phillips. "He is real physical and likes contact and you don't see that in many wide receivers. He is a big guy too and bigger than most defensive backs and I think that is going to allow him to be really good in college. Mike Moore has been as good as anybody out here too. He just finds ways to go up and get the ball. There times that he has been covered and you wonder how, but he still manages to make the catch."
Monsignor Pace running back Conredge Collins knows how to give a good quote and stay politically correct. Perhaps he learned it from his dad, who spent a number of years in the NFL, as he was careful not to single out any guys, but still give props to his teammates.
"Everyone out here is good," Collins said. "When you come to one of these all-star games you can expect that though. I'm not used to sharing time in the backfield with anybody, but when you come out here in an all-star game you know your going to get your carries and the other guy is going to get his. I tell you this much, I would hate to have to face this defense in a game. They are all just big time play makers and that defensive line is huge and can cause you all kinds of problems."
QUICK, FAST AND IN A HURRY
In today's early practice both Johnathan Garner and O.J. Murdock suffered injuries sidelining them at one point. However, neither was serious as Garner was back in action later in the practice and Murdock came back for the day's second practice.
The California squad was supposed to have their first practice in Miami today after practicing the first part of the week in California. The team fly to Miami today, but after a long flight and inclement weather the team decided to cancel today's practice and pick back up in the morning.
Tonight's Peach Bowl between Florida and Miami was the big talk among the Florida squad as both teams have several players representing in their school in the CaliFlorida Bowl. Also many kids committed to other schools in the state grew up cheering for one of the two schools.
The California and Florida squads met for the first time today as they had dinner at the legendary Shula's Steakhouse in Miami. The two teams will get a first hand look at Shaq as they will attend tomorrow night's Miami Heat-Charlotte Hornet's game on the eve of the big game.
The CaliFlorida Bowl is a huge event, but is not even the biggest football event of the week in the city of Miami. The National Championship will be played Tuesday night between Oklahoma and USC in the FedEx Orange Bowl and fans from both schools are beginning to filter in to time. The city is pumping up the game on TV, Billboards, the sides of taxi's and busses and just about every where else they can.
The weather in Miami has been just what you would expect of a tropical climate all week with short and heavy rain showers followed by an hour long burst of heat and sunlight before the next rain shower. The weather for Sunday night's game is expected to fall right in line with the weather we've seen all week.