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Florida State vs. Miami is a special game to players involved on both sides, but there is no question that it means a little something more the players that grew up in south Florida.
FSU has over a dozen scholarship players who either grew up or played high school football in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. or Miami, Fla. Meaning on Saturday when they line up against the Hurricanes they will see plenty of familiar faces.
"Growing up in the community playing with these guys, playing against these guys, you have rivals," safety Lamarcus Joyner, who graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas high school said. "You have guys saying 'I'm going to this program and going to be better.' You just look and see what the guy that you grew up with is doing at another program. Now that you're facing each other it's about bragging rights. Who's going to win? 'This is why I came here. My team is better than you.' Just little personal things like that are just going to make this game that much more fun."
For most of the south Florida natives the game is about bragging rights, and the ability to show your face around town during the offseason.
"I think it means something to everybody that plays at Florida State, but to South Florida kids it does (mean a little more)," head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Because that's walking around, they gotta hear it every day, 365 days a year when they go home when they go visit and things like that."
For junior wide receiver Rodney Smith that is especially true because his cousin is Lamar Miller, the Hurricane's starting tailback.
"I couldn't say anything my first year because we lost," Smith said. "But last year I could go home with my head held high because we beat them pretty good."
Miami Norland high grad Xavier Rhodes said leading up to last year's game 'Cane fans did plenty of trash talking, but no so much after FSU came out on top. The rivalry is a special one for him, because he grew up a Miami fan and remembers always wanted to check the score of the FSU-Miami games growing up.
"I was big UM fan when I was young," he said on Monday. "During (youth league) games the coaches would have the TVs on the sideline and I used to run and look at what the score was during the game, and now I'm in it so it's a big thing."
Joyner said that while the community down south definitely supports the Hurricanes the majority of the time, there is no animosity towards himself and the other south Florida 'Noles.
"It's not a hate thing," he said. "For those 60 minutes they may not like me, but at the end of the day I do represent Liberty City so it's all love."
A true test for the secondary
The past four weeks the FSU secondary hasn't seen much work as the defensive line has dominated opposing offenses. On Saturday though the Seminoles expect to be a little busier in the secondary.
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has had a drastic turnaround during his senior season. After throwing 15 interceptions last year, Harris has thrown just four picks this season compared to his 18 touchdown passes and ranks sixth nationally in passer efficiency ratting.
The Hurricanes have scored seven times this season on pass plays of 27 yards or more.
"It's been awhile since we've been tested in the secondary," Joyner said. "When you have a great quarterback, running back and wide receivers like Tommy Streeter-a big threat guy-you have to gameplan for these guys pretty well. We love the challenge, that's why we're FSU, you have to take a stand, it's great."
Streeter, a 6-foot-5 junior has hauled in 32 passes for 666 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He is averaging 20.8 yards per grab.
"His height plays a big part in his game," Rhodes said. "Just throw it up and he can go up and catch it. He's more of a jump ball player."
As FSU is all too aware Streeter isn't the lone pass-catching threat for Miami. Senior Travis Benjamin is also a deep threat. The senior has 32 catches for 460 yards and four touchdowns this season. In three career games against FSU, Benjamin has hauled in 11 passes for 258 and two scores.
"They're both definitely big weapons, and they're a problem," Fisher said during the ACC teleconference on Wednesday. "When you've got two guys on the field like that at one time, they create such a deal that you have to know where they're at all the time and make sure you're accounting for them."
Joyner said the key for FSU against the Hurricanes will be to take away the deep ball and try to make Harris uncomfortable early in the game.
"Jacory is a big play guy," Joyner said. "We want to gameplan against that and make sure we keep him under control with the ability he has. Our main thing as a defense is we want to rattle that guy from the beginning of the game."
After missing both Monday and Tuesday's practice Bryan Stork returned to practice on Wednesday. David Spurlock (knee also practiced for the third straight day.
Rashad Green (ankle and achilles) also practiced for the second straight day.
Miami safety Ray-Ray Armstrong will not travel with the team and play on Saturday as the school looks into a possible NCAA violation. He has 25 tackles, 1 interception, and 1 fumble recovery in five games this year.
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