Gator Bites for Tuesday, January 5th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» A rumor making its way around the Web over the last few days states that former Florida Gators running backs coach Stan Drayton may return to the program if Kenny Carter bolts for the Louisville Cardinals. This is the same Drayton that left Florida for the Tennessee Volunteers and took this shot at the Gators and head coach Urban Meyer on his way out the door: “If you’re going to be a running backs coach, you want to be part of a system that involves the running back.” Not gonna happen.

» Another option at running backs coach could very well be former Florida RB Terry Jackson. A Gator great who was a member of the 1996 National Championship team and played seven years in the NFL, Jackson was named Director of Player and Community Relations at UF in March 2008. Jackson, whose father Willie Sr. and brother Willie Jr. also played at Florida, has thought about getting into coaching since finishing his pro career. Hiring Jackson could be a very smooth transition for the Gators.

» Speaking of Carter, four-star RB commit Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA) made news last night when he told two reporters that Carter was leaving the program for Louisville. However, Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel also spoke with Brown, who told him that Carter did not say he was leaving and that he “didn’t talk to him about it.” Perhaps Brown said something he wasn’t supposed to and is now being sush-ed about it?

» UPDATE: Brown provided more information about his feelings on Carter’s switch to Rivals Monday night. “I understand he had to do what he had to do,” he said. “I know he has a good relationship with coach Strong and he’s going to have a better position with more money coming in for his family. I’m still committed to Florida. I’m going to wait it out and see what happens. I’m confused. You’re supposed to commit to a school, but you get to know the coaches and they feel like family. All the coaches that I got to know over the last year, that I dealt with over the summer, they’re all leaving. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m going to have to talk about it with my family.”

» Brady Ackerman is reporting that Gators assistant defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chuck Heater turned down an offer from new Marshall Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday to be his team’s defensive coordinator. Heater wants the UF job badly. OGGOA continues to project him as the team’s next defensive coordinator.

» Ackerman also confirmed an OGGOA report that assistant head coach and defensive line coach Dan McCarney would only leave Florida if he was offered a head coaching position – presumably with the South Florida Bulls. Jim Leavitt has not been removed from his position there, and McCarney told reporters last week that he is not interested in the Gators’ defensive coordinator position.

» Five-star safety recruit Matt Elam (West Palm Beach, FL), a former Gators commit who spurned the team for the Florida State Seminoles, ignored two phone calls placed from Meyer last week. However, Elam finally picked up recently and said Meyer attempted to sway him back to UF. “He tried, but it didn’t work,” Elam said. Elam is expected to make his announcement at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday.

» OGGOA has heard a rumor from two very different sources that Meyer was either offered a contract or spoken to by ESPN about working for the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” should he eventually decide not to return to coaching. Not a shocker.

» Think Florida losing to the South Alabama Jaguars last week was a tough pill to swallow? Try being the No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels who fell Monday night to the College of Charleston Cougars.

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What’s the deal with Bedford and Carter?

Though both are denying this seemingly inevitable fact to one source or another, Florida Gators cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford and running backs coach Kenny Carter are likely headed to the Louisville Cardinals to join head coach Charlie Strong‘s staff. Even Strong, who told the Gainesville Sun after the 2010 Sugar Bowl that Bedford had already agreed to become his defensive coordinator, backtracked on his comments. He also said Carter “hasn’t told me that” he was joining his staff.

Bedford explained to anyone who asked him that he would be recruiting for the Gators in South Florida this week, and he is currently doing just that. However, Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun reports that Bedford’s hiring out of Gainesville, FL, “will happen this week.” This falls in line with what four-star cornerback commitment Demar Dorsey (Lauderdale Lakes, FL) said a few days ago. Bedford has even told the Miami Herald that he is “open to working with Coach Strong. He’s one of the reasons I’m here.” Though he added that his “opportunity to stay is also good, and I’ve talked with Coach Addazio about that.”

On Dec. 14, Bedford claimed he was staying put in Gainesville and concentrating on recruiting the incoming 2010 class. “I’m a Gator,” Bedford exclaimed when asked if Strong had contacted him to be a member of his new staff. “I’m trying to do everything I can to recruit well. I’m trying to get to Dade County.” Bedford said at the time that he had neither been contacted by Strong nor any other coach about a position.

Similarly, four-star running back commit Mack Brown (Lithona, GA) told Mark Wheeler of Rivals on Monday night that Carter has already informed him he is leaving the program. This is an unconfirmed report as only Brown has mentioned it thus far, but Carter does have an outstanding offer to join the Cardinals staff. Even though Strong has already hired an offensive coordinator, Carter could be given an expanded role on offensive. When asked after the Sugar Bowl about his future, Carter said, “I’m not talking about anything but this game. I’m not talking about any of that crap. It doesn’t mean anything to me.”

UPDATE: Robbie Andreu of the Sun is now reporting that Bedford is “expected to leave official[ly] later in the week.” He also reached out to Strong Monday evening, who said Carter is “expected to reach a decision on whether or not to take the job or stay at Florida by the weekend,” according to the paper. It was indicated that Carter would be hired as running backs coach – a lateral move and not a promotion.

Strong has mentioned to the press on numerous occasions since leaving Florida that he would not be hiring coaches from the Gators’ staff as not to shake things up or raid the program of its staff. Apparently he has changed his mind about that pledge.

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TWO BITS: Peter King on Tebow, Bedford in Miami

1 » At the end of this his Monday Morning QB column this week, Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King spoke at great length about Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow. Here is an excerpt from his diatribe on NFL scouts’ opinions of Tebow: “The NFL team that can’t find a spot for Tebow to help it win games is close-minded,” King writes. “I don’t know if he can be an every-down quarterback, but I do know 28 teams passed on Joe Montana through two rounds because he was too small, 31 teams passed on Tom Brady through five rounds because he was just another guy, and Kurt Warner went undrafted and twice went knocking on doors as an unwanted free-agent even after he won a Super Bowl in the NFL. [I would pick Tebow and] pop the champagne corks.”

2 » Mark Wheeler of Rivals is reporting that Florida cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford is indeed down in Miami, FL, recruiting today just as he said he would be last week. Bedford’s comments were met with skepticism as it is widely held that he will eventually become Charlie Strong‘s defensive coordinator with the Louisville Cardinals.

Extra Bit » Though rumors that he might decommit flurried over the weekend, four-star running back commitment Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA) has reaffirmed his decision to numerous sources. Five-star defensive end recruit Ronald Powell, who is expected to announce his commitment soon, is still leaning toward joining the Gators.

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Poll Reviews: Tebow, All-Decade, Meyer, moments

Over the past two weeks, OGGOA asked you to participate in six polls. Ranging from how senior quarterback Tim Tebow will fare in the NFL to what present you wanted for the holidays, your responses were quite varied and interesting. 1,753 combined votes (292 average – our highest ever) were cast, and the results are in. Here is a quick review:

How will Tim Tebow fare in the NFL?
Starting QB (42%, 137 votes)
Starter at different position (28%, 92 votes)
Bust (16%, 52 votes)
Pro Bowl QB (14%, 47 votes)

Which SI All-Decade honors should Florida Gators basketball also have been awarded? (May pick one or more.)
School of the Decade (55%, 95 votes)
Best Single-Season Team (47%, 82 votes)
Coach of the Decade (30%, 52 votes)
None of the above. (6%, 10 votes)

What present do you want for the holidays?
No. 1 football recruiting class (48%, 101 votes)
2010 Sugar Bowl victory (37%, 77 votes)
March Madness appearance (8%, 17 votes)
No more UF legal issues (7%, 14 votes)

Things were obviously light-hearted before last week, with Florida fans most concerned about Tebow’s future, where the SI All-Decade lists (basketball | football | overall) overlooked the basketball team and what gift would best be suited for Gator Nation over the holidays. To see that 84 percent of respondents believe Tebow will be a successful NFL player was interesting, especially the 28 percent who think he will play a different position. Also surprising was that fans would have preferred a No. 1 football recruiting class to a win in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Looks like the Gators have a great shot at both.

How does coach Urban Meyer’s resignation amid health concerns make you feel?
Concerned (31%, 96 votes)
F***ed (27%, 83 votes)
Sad (23%, 73 votes)
Depressed (19%, 60 votes)

Urban Meyer is taking a leave instead of resigning. Did he make the right decision?
Yes – glad he’s back! (73%, 350 votes)
No – decision puts UF in limbo. (19%, 92 votes)
No – shouldn’t risk his health. (8%, 39 votes)

Sweetest 2010 Sugar Bowl moment…
Tebow’s performance (52%, 132 votes)
Overall team effort (36%, 91 votes)
Saying goodbye to seniors (6%, 16 votes)
Meyer’s hope to return (6%, 14 votes)

Last weekend brought two polls to OGGOA concerning Meyer. A total of almost 800 votes were cast, the vast majority over a 48-hour period. Emotions were obviously split across the board when Meyer first resigned, but the response was overwhelmingly positive when he changed his mind just 12 hours later. After the Sugar Bowl, it was all smiles and few frowns for Gators fans, as evidenced by the 88 percent who thought the sweetest moment was Tebow’s performance and the overall team effort.

On a side note, OGGOA purposely did not hold a poll for Sugar Bowl MVP. We have automatically awarded it to Tebow for obvious reasons.

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FOUR BITS: Brantley, Azzanni, Riley, Tebow

1 » Known as “The Future” and “The Next Tom Brady” by redshirt junior guard Carl Johnson and many of his Florida Gators teammates, redshirt sophomore quarterback John Brantley’s time is now. “He’s going to be really good,” Johnson said when asked about Brantley by the Orlando Sentinel. With everyone focusing on who is departing Gainesville, FL, perhaps it is time to focus on the bright future ahead for some younger Gators. Though he will likely never match what senior QB Tim Tebow has done, Brantley doesn’t have to in order to be successful in Orange and Blue. “I’m not really trying to match [Tebow’s legacy],” Brantley said. “I just want to come out and not miss a beat when my number’s called and hopefully win championships as a starter if I get that opportunity. I don’t have to go in there thinking I have to do everything and make every play.”

2 » Brand new Florida wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni has removed his name from the candidate list for the Central Michigan Chippewas head coach job. “I will be staying in Florida and coaching with the Gators next year,” Azzanni told the Morning Sun. Azzanni did not tell the paper if he was contacted for an interview or offered the position, “but there was a possibility for him to go to Cincinnati with Butch Jones following Urban Meyer’s retirement talk last week,” according to the paper. “We’re always staying busy,” Azzanni said. “There is never a day off in college football. [Winning the Sugar Bowl] felt good. There are so many talented players on the team and everyone really welcomed me in. It was a great experience.”

3 » Now that five-star safety Matt Elam has decommitted from the Gators and joined the Florida State Seminoles, Florida is putting the full court press on four-star defensive back recruit Dietrich Riley (La Canada, CA). Participating in the Under Armour All-America game, Riley heard from plenty of UF commitments that he was wanted in the Orange and Blue next year. “Coach Meyer is still recruiting me hard and they told me I’m their safety to get now after Elam,” Riley told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. “They’ve been recruiting me since October and they’ve been telling me to sit tight and be patient and we’ll let you know which guys to go the NFL.” Meyer’s recent announcements have not swayed Riley from including the Gators in his top three. “I understand that he has to take care of his health first […] that’s primary, his family and his health. He’s doing what’s best for the program,” he said. “I talked with him and he said he plans on returing to the school and he’s going to be a Florida Gator no matter what. He’s not going to go to any other school, so I’m happy about that.”

4 » Speaking of Tebow, he should retire and never play football again. Well, that’s the opinion of at least one man – national columnist Gregg Doyel. Yup, Doyel believes Tebow will never reach a higher point in his career than he already has, is destined to fail in the NFL and should not even try to make it on the next level. Chomping: I guess I should have quit writing when I got my first article published by a major newspaper or when I won my first writing award, based on Doyel’s logic. At least there is one college football writer who refuses to bet against Tebow.

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Four-stars Dunkley, Easley commit to Gators

The Florida Gators may have lost their prize commitment of the 2010 cycle in five-star safety Matt Elam (West Palm Beach, FL), but the Orange and Blue gained declarations from two of the top players in the country on Saturday during the 2010 Under Armour All-American Game. Four-star wide receiver Chris Dunkley (Pahokee, FL) and four-star defensive tackle Dominique Easley (Staten Island, NY) both put on Gators hats to the delight of Gator Nation.

Though Dunkley had long been considered a Florida lean and possible silent commitment, he had been toying with the idea of committing to the Alabama Crimson Tide and was slightly taken aback by the announcements from Gators head coach Urban Meyer this week. Instead, he said that he was a mama’s boy, wanted to stay in-state and loved the program. “I was real, real, real happy and revealed to make my decision to play for the University of Florida,” Dunkley said after the game. “There was a moment [I wavered],” Dunkley said. “I know [Meyer]‘s working to take care of himself. I’ve got to do what’s right for me.”

“I’ve built a relationship with almost everybody on the team,” Dunkley told ESPN. So it’s like me going, basically, back to a home away from home. All the teammates are like my brothers, so everything feels comfortable there. I have been waiting to get this off of my chest for a long time. I fit in perfect. [Freshman WR Andre] Debose and I both do. I have gotten to know him well and we talk all the time. I talk to John Brantley all the time, too. Like I said, it’s like I’ve been on the team for a while. I am going in to compete. All the coaches at Florida know that. All of the players know that.”

Easley, who decommitted from the Penn State Nittany Lions on Wednesday, was the real shocker of the day. Named one of the game’s most valuable players after recording a sack, forced fumble and three tackles for loss, he was believed to be choosing between recommitting to Penn State or joining the Miami Hurricanes or Oregon Ducks. The Gators were not even on Easley’s list of final choices, though he was originally planning to commit to Florida during his visit to Gainesville, FL, for Friday Night Lights camp in July. “I’m a Gator, baby, Gator Nation,” Easley said, before doing one of numerous Gator Chomps on the day. Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio was Easley’s main recruiter, and his appointment to interim head coach for Florida may very well have had some pull on Easley.

“I knew that no matter what, whether it’s Coach Addazio or Coach Meyer, they’re good coaches and they coach the same way,” Easley told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. “I’ve known I wanted to be a Gator for a while now.” Easley also spoke with Rivals. “I always wanted to be a Gator,” Easley said. “I always wanted to be a Gator in this recruiting class but something happened but me and the coaches talked through it and I am back where I want to be, where I should be. We are going to do some great things.”

Also participating in the Under Armour game on Saturday were the following Gators four-star commitments: running back Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA), four-star safety Demar Dorsey (Lauderdale Lakes, FL), four-star athlete Jonathan Dowling (Bradenton, FL), four-star defensive tackle Leon Orr (New Port Richey, FL), four-star WR Solomon Patton (Mobile, AL), four-star cornerback Cody Riggs (Fort Lauderdale, FL), four-star cornerback Joshua Shaw (Palmdale, CA) and four-star offensive tackle Ian Silberman (Fleming Island, FL). Dowling nabbed two interceptions in the game, Dorsey grabbed one of his own and Patton scored a receiving touchdown.

Though he has been committed to Florida for a while, Dorsey said earlier in the week that he was only 65 percent going to play for the Gators. That has since changed. “I’m a Gator. I’m a Gator,” Dorsey told Hays. As to the part he played in convincing Dunkley and Easley to join him in Gainesville, Dorsey knew it was a done deal. “Awe we knew [Dunkley] was coming,” he said. “We knew he was going to be a Gator but we were on him hard. And Dominique and me, we became like brothers, we’d be in each other’s rooms and hanging out a lot.”

Five-star DE Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA), who did not participate in the Under Armour game, was planning to commit to the Gators earlier this week on ESPN but decided to postpone his announcement after Meyer’s flip-flop so he could reconsider his options. It is unknown if Easley’s commitment is an indication that Powell is now leaning toward the USC Trojans (his other choice) or if it is mutually exclusive.

Photo Credits: Sun-Sentinel, Davide De Pas

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Matt Elam drops Gators, commits to Seminoles

Five-star safety recruit Matt Elam (West Palm Beach, FL), formerly the prize of the Florida Gators 2010 recruiting class, has decommitted and pledged to play for the Florida State Seminoles. Elam, who appeared to waiver about his commitment throughout the entire recruiting process, reaffirmed his decision to play for the Gators numerous times over the last few months, most recently sporting a Florida jersey and declaring that he could not wait to enroll early in January. Now his jersey is garnet and gold.

“I just see better opportunity to come in and play and to have an impact as a freshman,” Elam told “They have two of the best cornerbacks in the country and I just feel like I can go in there and help make that secondary even better. They got three two of the best players in the country and I see along of things changing. It was on my mind, but today I really made the decision. I was sitting down thinking like I can make a difference, if I go to Florida I really can’t make a difference at Florida I can just jump on the bandwagon. I want to make a difference and I see a lot of good things there.”

Head coach Urban Meyer was the main reason Elam planned to attend the University of Florida, as he has been close with the coach ever since Meyer recruited his brother Abram Elam (now with the Cleveland Browns) to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. When Meyer briefly resigned on Saturday before deciding to take a leave of absence from the Gators instead, Elam became very upset.

“I feel like he knew before Saturday that he wanted to step down,” Elam Orlando Sentinel. Dorsey will visit the Tennessee Volunteers on Jan. 14, a trip scheduled before Meyer’s announcement. He has long been considered one of the most likely Gators commitments to decommit.

Photo Credit: Ray Graham, Palm Beach Post

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Commit Brown: Meyer back coaching in August

Four-star running back commitment Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA), who has reaffirmed his decision to play for the Florida Gators a number of times since head coach Urban Meyer announced his decision to take a leave of absence, was interviewed by ESPNU Wednesday afternoon. In the interview, Brown said Meyer told him Monday morning that he would be “back coaching by August,” according to Rivals.

Though this timetable is obviously not confirmed, Brown’s revelation lends credence to the belief that many have held since Meyer’s announcement – that he would take six-to-nine months off, missing summer and spring practice while still being around the program, before returning to the staff when the 2010 season begins. Or, that could just be what Meyer is telling recruits.

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