South Florida will be well-represented in Orange Bowl
Alabama, Oklahoma have roster loaded with South Florida talent
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – When top-ranked Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma take the field at Hard Rock Stadium for Saturday night's College Football Playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl, they'll do so with plenty of South Florida talent on display.
Alabama (13-0) and Oklahoma (12-1) have a combined 10 players on their rosters from South Florida, including the two leading receivers from both teams.
"That's the fun thing about an Orange Bowl," ESPN's Chris Fowler, who will be calling the game alongside Kirk Herbstreit, said Thursday. "It's a massive game where so many guys from this recruiting hotbed get to play in front of friends and family, get to play in a place where they grew up, where their dreams were first fostered."
Of the five Alabama players representing Broward and Miami-Dade counties, two of them -- Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy (Deerfield Beach High School) and cornerback Patrick Surtain II (American Heritage School) -- are starters.
"I'm very excited," Jeudy said about getting the chance to play in front of his family and hometown friends.
Jeudy is the nation's top receiver, catching 59 passes for 1,103 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide this season.
Surtain, who is the son of retired Miami Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain, has 33 total tackles (24 solo), one interception and one forced fumble.
"Patrick has done a really, really good job for us this year," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "He's got a maturity about him that's beyond his years, and he's been a really, really consistent player. He's bright. He's smart. He's got very good football intuition. He understands what you're trying to get done and what you're trying to do and goes out there and executes it fairly well, especially for his experience and his age."
The true freshman has played in all 13 games for Alabama and has started every game since the Sept. 22 win against Texas A&M.
"You know, we sort of brought him along in the first couple games," Saban said. "We just played him about half the time, and then he became a starter, and he's just done a really good job, and he's a phenomenal person. Really never been in my office since he's been there for not doing what he's supposed to do. He's really conscientious, good person, cares about other people, cares about his teammates and is very conscientious in his work. I think all those characteristics have helped him to be able to play early on and play very effectively."
Surtain said he's "really excited" to be playing on the same field where his father once played.
"I know it's going to be an awesome feeling, but we know what task we have at hand," Surtain said.
Defensive back Josh Jobe attended Christopher Columbus High School before spending his senior year of high school playing football in Connecticut. He has six tackles in 12 games this season.
Freshman receiver Xavier Williams, who came to Alabama from Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory in Hollywood, played in the season opener against Louisville.
Sophomore safety Daniel Wright, who graduated from Boyd H. Anderson High School in Fort Lauderdale, played the first four games before undergoing season-ending surgery.
Oklahoma's standout receiver is Marquise Brown, who was a teammate of Williams at Chaminade-Madonna.
Brown transferred to Oklahoma from the College of the Canyons in California in 2017, starting eight games and hauling in seven touchdowns for the Sooners last season. He's bested those numbers in 2018, catching 75 balls for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns headed into the showdown against Alabama in front of family and friends in South Florida.
"I'm just looking forward to Saturday and I'm going to do my best to give them a good show," Brown said.
Brown, who was wearing a gold chain that read "HOLLY5WOOD" (he wears No. 5 for the Sooners), said he's spoken to Jeudy and Williams since learning of their bowl destination, "but we didn't talk about the game."
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said Brown and the other South Florida natives are happy to be playing at home.
"We've got a couple of guys from the South Florida area that are certainly happy," Riley said. "We don't play a ton of games over here, and so to be back home for them is great. But he's been in big games, kind of like the team. I think he's ready to handle it."
The rest of Oklahoma's South Florida players are either or true or redshirt freshmen.
Defensive back Miguel Edwards, who hails from Deerfield Beach, has played in three games. So has linebacker Nik Bonitto, who played at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale.
Linebacker-defensive end K'Jakyre Daley (Suncoast High School in Riviera Beach) and defensive tackle Caden Blanchard (St. Thomas Aquinas) have yet to play for the Sooners.
"There's a whole bunch of guys, I think, who could make an impact from South Florida," Fowler concluded.
Copyright 2018 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.