Readers’ Choice: Lack of depth at offensive line, linebacker could hurt Florida Gators in 2015

For six days from March 5-10, OnlyGators.com has handed a guest editor role over to you, the loyal reader. This is the first in six Readers’ Choice posts covering topics you want to know more about concerning the Florida Gators athletics program.

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There is simply no hiding the fact that Florida has massive holes at two important positions on its roster entering the 2015 campaign, ones that will make it difficult for head coach Jim McElwain to turn things around in year one.

The Gators will enter spring practice with eight scholarship offensive linemen on the roster, two of which have NFL potential – sophomore offensive tackles Roderick Johnson (redshirt) and David Sharpe – and another with starting experience in redshirt senior left guard Trip Thurman. The other five have either seen limited action or never stepped on the field.

Though Florida has plenty of bodies immediately across the line of scrimmage on defense, the linebackers backing them up make for an even thinner position group. Returning for his senior season and leading the way is Antonio Morrison, and the steady improvement of junior Jarrad Davis should help mitigate some losses. The other four scholarship players have spent the vast majority of their time on special teams.

Continue Reading » Readers’ Choice: Lack of depth at offensive line, linebacker could hurt Florida Gators in 2015

FOUR BITS: Okine, McElwain, Noah, Arnold

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive lineman Earl Okine signed with the Indianapolis Colts this week after spending time in both the Arena Football League and Fall Experimental Football League last season. Okine, who was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans last May, did not make the team’s regular-season roster. He picked up 28 tackles and 5.5 sacks for the AFL’s Orlando Predators.

2 » Florida head coach Jim McElwain made a statement with his 2015 recruiting class, proving that the Gators were not only able to close strong but also add some out-of-state commitments to the fold. Overall, UF locked up five players from the state of Georgia – including rising athlete Chris Williamson – last cycle after not grabbing a single Peach State prospect in 2014. McElwain this week told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Michael Carvell why he has made Georgia such a priority. “I think [it was due to a] couple things,” McElwain said of why UF had success recruiting the area. “There were pre-existing relationships with some guys on our staff who recruited the area in the past. That obviously helps. But for us, our thought is [to lock down] a five-hour radius around Gainesville. And with that being said, that goes up into Georgia, and that will be something that we’ll try to continue to make Gator Country.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Okine, McElwain, Noah, Arnold

Fastbreak: Florida edges Texas A&M 66-62

Florida Gators basketball (15-15, 8-9 SEC) won back-to-back games for the first time in over a month and returned to .500 with a 66-62 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies (20-9, 11-6 SEC) on Tuesday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Three days after picking up his 500th career victory, head coach Billy Donovan won his 200th Southeastern Conference game, making him just the third coach ever to reach that milestone in league play.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s action with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: Five-straight points by redshirt junior guard Eli Carter (two free throws and a three-pointer) put Florida ahead 58-42 with just over three minutes to play and looked to put the game firmly in the Gators’ grasp. Instead, the Aggies began fouling and chipped away at that lead with a 20-7 run, cutting their deficit to three with 6.3 seconds left. UF went 8-for-18 from the charity stripe over the final two minutes.

“I think that, in the second half in particular, has been a real microcosm of our team mentally. We’re not a mentally-strong team,” Donovan said of the free throw shooting issues. “At the end of the game, you can’t just take two point guards off the floor from a ball-handling standpoint. So at some point, those guys got to make free throws. You look at those guys’ free throw percentages, calling it like it is, those guys felt a lot of pressure. They felt a lot of pressure. That’s what’s happened to our team a lot this year is we have these mental lapses.”

Significant stretch: Leading by two, the Gators put their foot on the gas and exploded on a 14-0 run, boosting Florida ahead of Texas A&M 47-31 with eight minutes to play. Redshirt junior forward Alex Murphy scored nine points (including seven-straight and six as part of the run), adding a block and a steal during the extended scoring stretch. “I really felt the last couple days here we’ve had some really good practices, in particular on the defensive end of the floor,” Donovan said. “For us I thought, defensively, all the way around … we did a much better job. I thought we made some strides defensively.”

Continue Reading » Fastbreak: Florida edges Texas A&M 66-62

Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Texas A&M Aggies – Super walk-on Jacob Kurtz set to be honored

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPNU (Rich Hollenberg, Dino Gaudio)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 136/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS TEXAS A&M AGGIES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Billy Kennedy
Record: 14-15 (7-9 SEC) Record: 20-8 (11-5 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -4

SUPER WALK-ON WALKS OFF

The origin story for Florida super redshirt senior walk-on forward Jacob Kurtz is well-known by now.

Once a mild-mannered student at Florida who asked to watch practice inside the Gators’ facility, Kurtz was granted the opportunity to do so by Donovan and quickly became a constant presence around the team. Seeing Kurtz was extremely interested and undoubtedly persistent, Donovan let him begin contributing to the program as a glorified custodian who mopped the floors and took care of the laundry. “The Snake” then slithered his way into a role as an official team manager. Then one day, Florida was short on bodies for a practice, so Donovan asked if Kurtz wanted to run around with the team. That’s when everything changed.

“Then it was like, ‘Wow, this guy is not that bad. Would you like to play?’ ‘Oh yeah, I would love to play,’ [Kurtz replied]. Then he is in practice every day and all of a sudden he is playing and he was very, very cerebral and he was smart and pays attention,” Donovan recalled on Monday.

“I give him a lot of credit for perseverance, patience and resiliency and being really smart and always being ready. He took advantage of his opportunity and was prepared for his opportunity.”

Continue Reading » Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Texas A&M Aggies – Super walk-on Jacob Kurtz set to be honored

Florida baseball sweeps, moves to No. 2 in nation

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

Florida Gators baseball (10-1) went a perfect 4-0 on the week, sweeping the Florida Atlantic Owls and Stony Brook Seawolves by a combined score of 31-13 as head coach Kevin O’Sullivan notched the 300th win of his career on Friday night.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore’s stellar outing on Friday night was the first of three quality starts from the Gators’ rotation in the series against the Seawolves, and opposing pitchers struggled to retire senior third baseman Josh Tobias as he tied a school record with eight consecutive hits over the weekend.

Continue Reading » Florida baseball sweeps, moves to No. 2 in nation

Chaz Green – Path to the 2015 NFL Draft: Taking steps to becoming a professional

Through the 2015 NFL Draft from April 30 to May 2 in Chicago, Illinois, Florida Gators offensive lineman Chaz Green will keep you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft with exclusive comprehensive blog entries here at OnlyGators.com.

Green checks in for the first time following the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine as he returns to Gainesville, Florida to continue the pre-draft process. In this entry, he takes you inside his journey from the conclusion of the 2014 season through the combine.

Coming out of the bowl game, my first priority was finding the right agent because I know that could make a difference for me. The process started right away, and my father really helped that along. I narrowed it down to a few guys and went with Sports Entertainment Group and Adisa Bakari. He had a body of work that I felt like spoke for itself.

After getting to know Adisa and understanding how committed he is to my life after football, the next step in the process was figuring out where to train ahead of the combine. I knew that if I signed with him I would probably head down to Bommarito Performance Systems down in Miami. Neiron Ball, who is with the same agency as me and was a former roommate of mine at Florida, Trenton Brown and Andre Debose are all training down here in Miami with me, so it was a comfortable situation from the beginning. It made the transition a lot easier, and we all developed a bond that allowed us to push each other just like we did with the Gators.

Continue Reading » Chaz Green – Path to the 2015 NFL Draft: Taking steps to becoming a professional

Ex-Gators S Chris Johnson’s death ruled suicide

Former Florida Gators football player Chris “Juice” Johnson died Friday night near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the age of 22.

The Ocala Star-Banner was able to confirm Johnson’s death after speaking with Duquesne associate athletic director David Saba and Trinity Catholic High School athletic director Tommy Bond late Saturday night.

On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Johnson’s death was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. An Allegheny County medical examiner determined that Johnson committed suicide in his car.

Continue Reading » Ex-Gators S Chris Johnson’s death ruled suicide

Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan becomes second-youngest to 500 career wins

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan on Saturday became the second-youngest coach in Division I college basketball history to reach 500 career victories.

Donovan (49 years, 271 days) joins former Indiana coach Bob Knight (48 years, 81 days) as the only other man in D-I history to achieve win No. 500 before his 50th birthday.

The vast majority of Donovan’s wins (465) have come with the Gators as he’s led Florida to four Final Fours, three appearances in the national title game and back-to-back NCAA National Championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07.

“You’re only as good as the people around you. It’s really the players, it’s the coaches that I’ve had here. I think people lose sight, a lot of times, that Jeremy [Foley]’s been here since I started. As an athletic director, there’s an incredible bond that he and I have in terms of a shared vision. Not to say we get along and agree on everything, but I think we’re always moving together in the right direction. So there’s been a lot of stability [with Foley and my assistant coaches]. … And there’s been a lot of really, really good players that have come through,” said Donovan after the game.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan becomes second-youngest to 500 career wins

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