FOUR BITS: Miller, Young, Bre. Beal, J. Powell

1 » When Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James came together over the summer and decided to play for the Miami Heat, each made concessions in their maximum contracts in order to sign two others players – former Florida Gators power forward Udonis Haslem and guard/forward Mike Miller. Haslem, who injured his foot early in the season, has yet to play since and is a much-needed piece for Miami in the middle. Miller, who recovered from an offseason injury and has been seeing plenty of minutes with the Heat, is simply not playing up to snuff. His 5.6 points per game, 39.9 field goal percentage and 69.7 free throw percentage are career lows, and he is also hitting only 36.4 percent of his three-point attempts (second-worst of his career). What Miller has done is stepped up his rebounding and defense, but Miami will need his shooting stroke to improve if they hope to make a title run.

2 » There is no doubting Florida defensive line coach Bryant Young’s 14-year NFL career. He’s played in the Super Bowl, been named to multiple Pro Bowls and has garnered numerous other honors throughout his career. But as a football coach? Young is just getting started and told University of Florida senior writer Scott Carter that he specifically wanted to coach in college rather than the pros. “Being on this level, you really have a chance to help shape and mold a young man,’’ Young said. “That was really intriguing to me. The game is a little different but still competitive. We are all trying to win, but the message could be a little different in terms of steering a young man in the right direction and helping them realize they have a bright future ahead of them. They are able to go to school and their athletic ability has afforded them a free education. I think the message that needs to be clear is that it’s important that they understand that they need to secure their future by getting their degree.’’

You can check out the rest of the feature story by clicking here, though some choice quotes from Young have been republished below:

Q: What have you learned in your first two years as a college coach that’s different from the NFL?
A: Definitely patience [laughter]. I think on any level you need patience, more so in high school than in college, but on the college level you still have to have patience. In the league, you expect the guys to know it a little bit more. But in college you are really teaching them some things they may not already know or reinforcing some things they might know a little.

Q: What’s your initial impression of the Gators’ defensive linemen?
A: Young and not a veteran group. The guys are eager to learn and they are doing everything that you ask them. They are coachable and they want it. I’m excited for them. It’s a fresh start for them and just learning each guy in the group and understanding who I am and building that trust. It’s a fun group.

3 » Transferring from the Gators after last season, linebacker Brendan Beal immediately found a home with the Minnesota Gophers and is getting ready to finally step on the field this fall. In an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Beal said his experience at Florida will help him at Minnesota. “I was around the best,” he said. “I’ve been around guys like [Tim Tebow] and Brandon Spikes. I was there for the national championship. I know what it takes. I know we have the ingredients to be successful. I just want to fill that middle linebacker role and be the quarterback of the defense.” He also spoke about trying to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Gainesville, FL. “I had never experienced a traumatic injury like that; I never got hurt in high school,” Beal said. “I was doubting myself. I didn’t know what I was going to do. So, yeah, a sports psychologist helped me out a lot. I took a whole new different approach to life.”

4 » According to Rivals Florida recruiting analyst Chris Nee, the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban are heavily pursuing Gators four-star 2012 linebacker commitment Jeremi Powell (Largo, FL). Powell is also receiving a lot of interest from the Tennessee Volunteers and will probably take trips to both schools even though he remains solid to Florida at this time.

Late Wednesday, Powell spoke with Mark Wheeler of InsideTheGators.com and had this to say about his commitment: “I’m about 99% committed to Florida. I’m going to go to Alabama to see a game, because they want me to, but like I told them, I’m Florida, I’m all Florida. I’ve never been out of the state of Florida in my life. Ever. I’m going to go on my visits if they are going to pay for them. Why wouldn’t I go on a free trip? It’s an opportunity to travel and see other places.”

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Beal wins Gatorade National Player of the Year

Florida Gators five-star signee Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) was named the 2010-11 Gatorade National Player of the Year on Monday.

Standing 6’4” and 205 lbs., Beal averaged 32.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game this season while shooting 73 percent from the field for Chaminade College Preparatory School. He led his team to a 27-1 record in his senior year and concluded his career with 2,634 points.

In addition to being a fantastic basketball player, Beal is also a model student. He has a 91.7 average in the classroom and does plenty of volunteer work when he’s not studying or playing.

“This was a year full of outstanding candidates for Gatorade Player of the Year, so Bradley Beal winning says a lot about how perfectly he exemplifies everything the award is about,” said ESPN’s national director of recruiting for basketball, Paul Biancardi, in an official release. “As a player, he’s one of the best shooters in all of high school basketball, and beyond that, he’s improved his game so he can use dribble-penetration to shake defenders, he’s rebounding at a high margin, his passing is improved and, as a result, he’s become one of the best all-around guards in the country. When you look at his makeup, he has a unique ability to help his team win. There’s not a greater complement than that.”

Beal, who won the Gatorade Player of the Year award for the state of Missouri in 2009-10 and 2010-11, is the first Florida commitment to earn the national honor.

Photo Credit: Wiley Price/The St. Louis American

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McCall a top candidate for vacant assistant job

Florida Atlantic Owls assistant coach Matt McCall is a top candidate for the vacant position on Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan’s coaching staff, two sources close to the team told OGGOA over the weekend.

The University of Florida’s director of basketball operations from 2004-08, McCall spent seven years under Donovan also serving as a team manager, head manager and graduate assistant. Donovan, who said last week that he wanted a young assistant to fill the spot vacated when Larry Shyatt departed for the head coaching job with the Wyoming Cowboys, has always held McCall in high regard.

Back in 2008, Donovan called him “a tireless worker and a first-class person” who “knows the state of Florida,” brings “the energy and passion necessary to be successful” and is someone he views “as one of the bright young minds” in coaching.

McCall has worked at FAU since 2008 and is one of head coach Mike Jarvis’s top assistants. He is responsible for bringing in the Owls’ best player, Gainesville native Greg Gantt, who averaged a team-high 14 points per game as a sophomore.

Should McCall be the one chosen for the position, the Ocala native and former all-area player would be returning home to North-Central Florida. If he joins the team, he would likely be Donovan’s third assistant on the bench with Rob Lanier taking over Shyatt’s duties and Richard Pitino continuing in his role.

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TWO BITS: Brissett the baller, Robinson’s journey

1 » A four-star quarterback coming out of high school who received a full ride to play on the gridiron for the Florida Gators, Jacoby Brissett has stated on more than one occasion that he also hopes to play basketball at the collegiate level. Why? Because of a promise he made his mother when he was younger. “My mom told me to keep my options open,” Brissett told The Washington Post. “I can’t go back on what she said. […] I came to Dwyer to play basketball and I made a promise to my [football] coach that whichever sport I got my first scholarship offer from, I would stick to.” The Post reports that Brissett was initially offered a football scholarship from Boston College as a freshman in high school. He also confirmed what Florida’s coaches have said, that playing basketball is a decision he is free to make for himself.

2 » Continuing his series of feature stories about the newest members of the Gators coaching staff, University of Flordia senior writer Scott Carter sat down with defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson for a one-on-one interview. Robinson told Carter that he would have committed to and played for Florida (if they had offered him a scholarship) and has a great appreciation for Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and its intimidating atmosphere for opponents. “I’ve been on the wrong side of this stadium before. It’s a pretty hostile environment, a tough place to play,” Robinson says he tells prospective players. “It’s one of the best stadiums I’ve ever been in. It’s just nice to be on this side.” He also discussed how head coach Will Muschamp has helped him navigate his young coaching career including giving him an ultimatium early on. “It’s a tremendous honor to be a part of his first staff,” Robinson said. “It means a lot to me and my family to work with a guy who we share the same beliefs. He taught me everything I know pretty much about this coaching profession.”

Below is a portion of Carter’s interview with Robinson. To read the rest, just click here.

Q: Since he has been such a huge influence, what is the most prominent lesson you have taken from Coach Muschamp?
A: The biggest lesson I take from Coach Muschamp is to work at a level that your opponent is unable and unwilling to match. That’s what we talk about all the time. We want to outwork guys in recruiting, we want to outwork guys in preparation, we want to outwork guys in teaching technique. We work, work, work.

Q: You played defensive back and now you coach them. What makes an ideal defensive back?
A: The No. 1 criteria and pedigree for a successful defensive back is confidence. Often times, especially for a corner, you are going to be out on an island. There are 90,000 people in the stands – and assuming everyone has two eyeballs – that’s 180,000 eyeballs watching you, so when the ball goes up, all the attention is on you. You are on the grand stage. When you think of it like that, you’ve got to have guts. If you have the fundamentals and the mentality, you can be successful.

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Shyatt agrees to become Wyoming head coach

Returning to a team he led for one season over a decade ago, Florida Gators assistant basketball coach Larry Shyatt has agreed to become the new head coach of the Wyoming Cowboys. Florida head coach Billy Donovan‘s longest tenured assistant, Shyatt met with Wyoming officials in Atlanta, GA on Wednesday and hammered out a deal Thursday to pull him away from the university after a successful seven-year run.

“I’ve spent seven great years at the University of Florida helping to build a championship-caliber program, and this is one of the only places I would have considered leaving for,” Shyatt said in a Wyoming press release. “I’m excited about the commitment of the administration, and the passionate fan base I remember at Wyoming, and I can’t wait to meet, work with and develop a great relationship with the current team.”

Serving as an assistant across the country for 24 seasons, Shyatt accepted the head coaching gig with Wyoming in 1997 but only stuck around for a year. Clemson, where he was an assistant from 1994-97, nabbed him with a more lucrative contract and the allure of a higher-echelon program in a top-tier conference.

The Cowboys sued Shyatt for breaching his five-year contract, but the parties settled out of court when he agreed to pay back $286,000. Compiling a 70-84 record as a head coach, Shyatt was fired in 2003 and picked up by Donovan in 2004.

After Shyatt joined the team as an assistant, the Gators captured three Southeastern Conference Tournament Championships (2005-07) and back-to-back NCAA National Championships (2006-07). His praiseworthy recruiting efforts and outstanding defensive coaching made him a prominent reason for the team’s overall success.

“For me personally there’s both an excitement and sadness,” Donovan said in a statement. “Larry is one of my closest friends and his impact here at Florida over the last seven years has been immeasurable.”

Taking the job with the Cowboys, Shyatt will have the opportunity to work with his son, North Florida assistant coach Jeremy Shyatt, if he chooses to bring him along for the ride. Another coach Shyatt could add is UCLA’s Scott Duncan, who worked under him as an assistant previously at both Wyoming and Clemson.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports Shyatt has signed a five-year contract worth upwards of $700,000 per season plus incentives.

Check out this collection of articles from the Star-Tribune over a decade ago about Shyatt during his first stint with the Cowboys.

In related news… Florida assistant Richard Pitino, thought to be a front-runner for the Florida Gulf Coast head coaching job, was passed over when the university instead decided to hire Florida State assistant Andy Enfield on Wednesday. Pitino is still being considered for other head coaching gigs across the country.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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TWO BITS: Baseball falls, Haden goes all out

1 » Starting hot out of the gate, No. 3 Florida Gators baseball (21-5) was outscored 5-0 from the fourth inning on and defeated 5-2 by the No. 7 Florida State Seminoles (19-5) on Tuesday in Jacksonville, FL in front of a crowd of 10,078. Florida rallied for runs in the first and third as junior right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani tossed three scoreless frames. Then, to start the fourth, he gave up back-to-back hits and sophomore left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez (1-1) failed to keep them on base. Tied at two runs a piece, Florida State scored what would be the game-winner when senior second baseman Josh Adams dropped a popup in the sixth; FSU added two more on a home run in the bottom of the eighth. The Seminoles now lead the season series with the Gators 2-1. UF has a chance to even things up when the teams face in Tallahassee, FL on April 12. Florida has lost three of their last four games.

2 » The Cleveland Cavaliers may have lost forward LeBron James, but they have gained a major supporter in Cleveland Browns and former Gators cornerback Joe Haden. Appearing at a number of games this season, Haden has shown his support with a variety of jerseys and by cheering hard from the front row. He took his game to another level Tuesday, dressing up like point guard Baron Davis from head to toe…including a fake beard. A for effort; D for the toy basketball.

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3/29: Brown hurt, Brantley leads, Demps around

Eight days into spring football practice, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp is starting to get a feel for his team. On Tuesday, he provided some injury updates, talked about the quarterback situation, updated the status of a missing player and provided a bunch of information about the team in general.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt freshman running back Mack Brown (broken fibula): “Mack Brown sustained an injury Friday in practice. Broke a fibula, which is a non-weight bearing bone. It is a three-month procedure, and he will be in fine.” Brown will have surgery on Wednesday and should be active in July.

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (sprained ankle): Muschamp called his injury “nothing serious,” indicating that he will be back at full speed sooner than later.

Brown and Debose join junior RB Mike Gillislee (stress fracture in foot – limited for spring), redshirt sophomore defensive end Kendric Johnson (sprained knee – out for spring) and defensive tackles redshirt senior Jaye Howard (ankle scope) and redshirt junior Earl Okine (wrist) on Florida’s injured list.

BRANTLEY STEPPING GAME, LEADERSHIP UP

Coming off a rough first season as the starter, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley is doing well in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis‘s system. While Brantley is proving to be ahead of his primary competition – redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy and freshman Jeff Driskel – he still has a way to go in order to be 100 percent comfortable.

“John, in the sense of learning a new offense, is a freshman again as far as the different ball handling and different things Charlie has him doing,” Muschamp said. “I’ve been very pleased with how he’s managed our football team and made plays down the field vertically.” Asked if he was already anointed the team’s starter, Muschamp deflected the question. “John’s had a good spring. He’s playing well right now. He’s doing a nice job managing our offense. We’re in practice eight, and we’ve got a lot of time to go,” he said.

DEMPS WITH TEAM – JUST NOT PRACTICING

Though senior RB Jeff Demps is spending the vast majority of his time practicing with the men’s track and field team for their outdoor season, Muschamp explained that he has been around the football practice facility often, is doing what he can to get engrained with the new program and will get to work with football as soon as track ends.

“He’ll work through the whole summer. He’s been a part of all of our meetings and all of our walkthroughs, so he’s been our building. He’s been working on football,” he said. “He’s been a part of what we’re trying to do. Mentally he has an idea of what we’re going to ask him to do in the fall. This summer, after the outdoor season is over, our players will conduct seven-on-seven and team drills throughout the summer on their own without coaches. He’ll be involved with that. When we start camp in August, he’ll still be competing for the starting job.”

Muschamp also discussed his philosophy about dual-sport athletes like Demps and incoming freshman QB Jacoby Brissett. Specifically of Demps, he said, “If a young man wants to play two sports here, as long as he handles what he’s supposed to off the field and academically, I’m 100 percent for it as long as it helps the University of Florida.”

TEAM NOTES & QUOTES

» Redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey continues to separate himself from the pack, impressing his coaches as well as his teammates. “[He] has really had a good spring. He’s a guy that makes an awful lot of plays. Getting the ball deeper to him in the backfield helps him. He’s got great vision, cut-back ability and bounce ability. You got to be really gap-sound on him and the run game.”

» Muschamp said the offensive line has “progressed well” overall.

» A number of players were listed as having standout performances on both sides of the ball. “[Tight end] Jordan Reed did some really nice things last Friday as far as catching the ball vertically down the field. [WR] Quinton Dunbar made some plays Saturday in the scrimmage.” Muschamp also pointed out sophomore defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley as well as junior linebacker Jon Bostic, redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins, redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray, sophomore safety Matt Elam and redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown as players who have impressed him.

» Muschamp said senior kicker Caleb Sturgis played well on Saturday and that he is “very pleased with his progress.” He also noted that freshman punter Kyle Christy was strong over the weekend.

» On how quickly the team is picking up the new systems: “We feel comfortable with where we are. It’s all relative. I’ve been pleased so far with retention on both sides of the ball and in special teams.”

» On Murphy and Driskel: “Both of them have made some plays. As far as the ability, the athleticism, the arm talent, the mental capacity to learn and to do things the right way – are all there [for Driskel]. He’s in his eighth college practice, and he’s in an offense where there’s a lot on the quarterback. […] There’s been some bright spots in both of those guys and a bright future in both of those guys.”

» On position flexibility: “We’re going to play the best players. Play the best players that give us the opportunity to be successful and win football games. […] You’ve got to be able to move guys around to find out if they can to do it because you don’t even know until you try a guy at a different spot. […] We’re just trying to experiment to build depth on our football team to get the best 11 on the field instead of just plugging a guy in because he’s a backup.”

» In addition to Dunbar, Muschamp said four other receivers have stood out: Debose, redshirt senior Deonte Thompson, redshirt junior Omarius Hines and redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr.. He believes the team is in need of consistency past those five.

» On if he has any concerns about the size of sophomore CB Cody Riggs: “Cody’s a good football player. He’s got a tremendous heart [and] all the ability as far as playing hard and playing fast and doing the things you got to do to be a good football player. […] It’s not about how tall you are. It’s about if you make plays or not.”

» On the health of sophomore LB Neiron Ball: “He had a procedure done today and he’s going to be fine. We’re just working through that with him right now and his family. It’s an unfortunate situation but he’s a fine young man. Things happen in life sometimes that you don’t understand, but he’s handled this as well as you can handle it. We’re all praying for him and his family right now. He’s going to be fine; the prognosis is very positive and we feel very comfortable about where he is right now. […] I’m not worried about his football future. I’m worried about his overall health right now. The least part of my mind right now is worried about his football future.”

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Taylor, Bullock, Macklin

1 » Due to his migraines and a coaching change mid-season, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin did not end up performing up to where he did when he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie one year earlier. When If the 2011 season begins, Harvin will be more involved in the offense, according to head coach Leslie Frazier. “I still think there are more things that can be done with Percy [Harvin],” he told the Minnesota Star Tribune. “We did some things toward the end of the year where we definitely tried to isolate him, and that’s one of the reasons I pulled him off kickoff at times. I wanted to feature him more than we were. I wanted him to be a featured part of our offense. There’s different things we can do with him, and hopefully, Sidney [Rice is] in the fold and he’s healthy and there’s some things that we can do with him. Because of Adrian [Peterson], there are opportunities that we can do on the perimeter that a lot of teams can’t. But you still have to account for him on every single play. So, we have to be able to exploit in that sense and I think what we’re trying to do is build to be able to do that. Adrian creates a lot of good situations for our perimeter people.”

2 » Two months ago, veteran running back Fred Taylor sounded like he was going to call it quits after a 13-year NFL career including 10 as a featured rusher. Having amassed 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns (as well as 290 receptions for 2,384 yards and eight more scorers) over his career, Taylor has noted that being healthy enough to spend quality time with his family is important going forward. On Monday, Taylor told Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union that being injured in 2010 may have “bought him some extra years.” At 35-years-old, it remains to be seen if he will decide to continue and what time, if any, would sign him.

3 » Former Florida right-handed pitcher Billy Bullock was traded from the Minnesota Twins – who drafted him in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft – to the Atlanta Braves on Monday in order to complete an long-standing deal. Bullock has spent his time as a professional in the minor leagues and pitched for AA squad New Britain last season, striking out 60 batters in 36 2/3 innings.

4 » Wrapping up Gators basketball for the 2011 season is this story from The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway on a tattoo redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin has on his forearm. Though he has 40+ tattoos, Macklin has one that means a lot more to him the rest – a memorial to his deceased grandmother. Read more about Macklin’s tattoo here.

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