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Monday, July 15, 2013
Rivalry Week: Gators-Noles trading stars

By Michael DiRocco and David M. Hale

It’s probably hard for Florida fans to admit, but there are players on Florida State’s roster that are better than ones on the Gators roster.

And vice versa, too.

So what if trades could happen in college football? What if UF coach Will Muschamp and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, because of their long-standing friendship, could work something out? You know, during an afternoon at their shared beach house in the Florida panhandle they hammered out a couple of deals to exchange players.

Here are two we think they could work out, and the ramifications for each team:

Florida vs. Florida State
If Dante Fowler Jr. were to switch sides he would fill a big need and give the Seminoles' pass rush a boost.
Florida State defensive tackle Demonte McAllister for Florida offensive tackle Chaz Green
Florida State perspective: It's tough to part ways with an established veteran who has offered three years of consistent production, but for the Seminoles, this is a simple matter of dealing from strength to address a potential weakness.

McAllister is coming off his best season in Tallahassee, racking up 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks, but even before fall camp opens, he's being pushed by a slew of talented, younger players at his position. With Timmy Jernigan entrenched at one tackle spot, McAllister is battling sophomore Eddie Goldman, sophomores Nile Lawrence-Stample and Derrick Mitchell and fellow senior Jacobbi McDaniel, among others, for playing time. McAllister might be the best of the bunch right now, but the future is bright for Goldman in particular, and FSU could withstand the loss.

Meanwhile, Green was a freshman All-American just two years ago, and his combination of talent and experience could bolster Florida State's tenuous depth on the line. Bobby Hart had a solid spring, but he's no lock at right tackle, and Green offers the perfect supplement -- a talented veteran who will fight for the starting job and, at worst, push Hart to stay on the right path. He's coming off an injury, but he's got 19 games of starting experience, and that would be a huge boon for the Seminoles line.

Florida perspective: The Gators really needed some experienced help at linebacker, but Florida State is loaded with unproven players there as well. So it made more sense to get some help at defensive tackle because the Gators don’t have much experienced depth there.

Dominique Easley nearly left for the NFL after his junior season but decided to return and is UF’s top tackle. There isn’t much after him, though. Senior Damien Jacobs and redshirt junior Leon Orr have a combined 35 tackles and 4.5 sacks in their careers and Darious Cummings is a junior college transfer. After those guys is a group of freshmen.

McAllister is a proven player who had more tackles and nearly as many sacks last season than Easley (26 tackles, 4.0 sacks) despite the fact that Easley was a starter. He’ll beef up the Gators’ tackle rotation significantly, which should keep everyone fresher as the season progresses.

Green has started 19 of the 20 games in which he has played over the past two seasons, but he is expendable because of the addition of Nebraska transfer Tyler Moore. Green did not participate in spring practice because he was still recovering from off-season ankle surgery and that allowed Moore to settle in at right tackle.

The two were expected to battle for the starting job throughout August but Muschamp seemed to hint that Moore, who played started four games and played in nine as a freshman at Nebraska in 2011, was in the lead.

Florida pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr., for Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin
Florida State perspective: This one might be tough for some Seminoles fans to stomach because Benjamin's potential has had them so excited for so long. But the reality is, through two years in Tallahassee, Benjamin has yet to really blossom and has been hindered by maturity issues throughout.

Benjamin figures to play a key role in the receiving corps this year, but in spite of some recent losses -- including senior Greg Dent -- it's still a position with some depth for Florida State. The same can't be said at defensive end, where the Seminoles lost three regulars to the NFL draft following the 2012 campaign.

Fowler could potentially provide three years of service at the position with his versatility -- he's worked at the buck linebacker position -- a nice bonus in new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's defense. This spring, Pruitt used more 3-4 schemes and asked ends Giorgio Newberry and Chris Casher to work as stand-up rushers and handle coverage on passing downs more. Fowler could fit that scheme perfectly.

Florida perspective: The Gators’ biggest need is clearly at receiver -- as it has been for the past three seasons -- and while Benjamin hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, he’s still more of a proven receiver than the Gators have other than Quinton Dunbar.

Plus, Benjamin has the size (6-foot-5, 242 pounds) that Muschamp wants in his receivers and he runs exceptionally well for someone that big. It’s hard not to see him quickly establishing himself as UF’s top red-zone target as well as being the consistent downfield threat that’s been missing from the offense since Riley Cooper graduated after the 2009 season.

Losing Fowler, who had 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a freshman last season, is certainly a blow, but the Gators are getting a completely healthy Ronald Powell back. Plus, the coaching staff is very excited about redshirt freshman Alex McCalister’s potential at the buck position.