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First round hopefuls highlight sparse college football Saturday

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College football watching guide.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 27 Pinstripe Bowl - Miami v Wisconsin Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

College football is here!

Sorta…

On this day, the 24th day of August, there are two college football games for us all to enjoy. Hopefully it will hold us over until next Thursday when the festivities really begin.

Despite there only being two games on deck, there is plenty of intrigue for those draft-minded college football watchers. First there is a loaded “Civil War” style game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Florida Gators (7 PM on ESPN). Then, for those who can stay up, there is a match up between an underrated Hawai’i squad and an exciting Arizona Wildcats team (10:30 PM on CBSSN). While the former match will have the big draft names, both the Warriors and the Wildcats have plenty of players worth watching between them.

Miami v. Florida Players to Watch

  • CJ Henderson, Cornerback, Florida: CJ Henderson is arguably the best player on any team playing today. The 6’1” cornerback is athletic, physical and flashes impressive ball skills. He will have prime time to make his opening statement for this season.
  • Jabari Zuniga, Edge Defender, Florida: While Jachai Polite made all the headlines last year, Jabari Zuniga quietly turned in a very impressive season. With Polite off to the NFL, Zuniga becomes Florida’s top defensive linemen. The 6’4”, 240 pounder is a great athlete, but needs polish. Will he be able to fill the hole left by Polite?
  • Lamical Perine, Running back, Florida: Cousin of former Oklahoma star Samaje Perine and Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack, Lamical Perine has roots in the NFL. The 5’11”, 215 pound back does not have any outstanding physical traits, but he has a well rounded game and is dependable down to down. Perine runs hard, with great vision and he can contribute as a receiver. The type of balanced game that NFL teams see a lot of value in.
  • Shaquille Quarterman, Linebacker, Miami: Shaquille Quarterman is Miami’s best player heading into the season. Quarterman is a smart, physical linebacker who makes up for athletic mediocrity with great football IQ and a high motor. He will be all over the field against Florida.
  • Trajan Brandy, Cornerback, Miami: Trajan Brandy tied to lead the Canes in interceptions last season with three. The diminutive cornerback is quick as lightning and hits just as hard. He is physical, scrappy and has very good ball skills. Teams will worry about his 5’9” stature, so he will need to show against Florida’s athletic receivers he can hold his own.
  • Trevon Hill, Edge Defender, Miami: After being dismissed from Virginia Tech last year, Trevon Hill ended up with the Canes. A bit smaller, Hill has good burst at the position and can make noise on passing downs.

Arizona v. Hawai’i Players to Watch

  • Khalil Tate, Quarterback, Arizona: After an electric sophomore season where he rushed for over 1,400 yards, Tate “regressed” last year to only rush for around 200. However, Tate’s lack of rushing dominance overshadowed serious improvement as a passer. The 6’2” quarterback is a real NFL prospect at the position and if his rate of improvement continues, he could have a meteoric rise this season.
  • J.J. Taylor, Running Back, Arizona: Khalil Tate’s lack of rushing production last year was due in part to J.J. Taylor having a breakout season. Standing only 5’6”, Taylor has waterbug level quickness and is tough to get a grasp on for defenders. Taylor is also a hell of a kick returner.
  • Colin Schooler, Linebacker, Arizona: Colin Schooler has a nose for the ball. The 6’0”, 230 pound linebacker had 21.5 TFLs last year and forced three turnovers. He is a high motor, smart player who can defend the run and blitz well. He is not great in coverage but he is a banger at the position.
  • Cole McDonald, Quarterback, Hawai’i: Cole McDonald was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country last year. You don’t know that though. The 6’4” passer had 40 total touchdowns (36 through the air, four on the ground) and was a great duel threat for the warriors. McDonald will have the media bias mountain to climb this season considering he’s playing a few thousand miles away and a few hours later than most of his competition. But he is a legit quarterback prospect this season.
  • Cedric Byrd, Wide Receiver, Hawai’i: With John Ursua in the NFL, it’s Cedric Byrd’s turn in the Hawai’i offense. The 5’9” receiver missed the 1000 yard mark by thirty yards last year and scored nine touchdowns in the process. He is an agile, precise route runner with good hands and the toughness to make catches in traffic. He will likely be the featured player in the Hawai’i offense and tomorrow will kick off a senior campaign where he will likely catch a LOT of passes.