8/15: Muschamp updates injuries, evaluations and competitions after Florida’s 15th practice

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday following his team’s second-to-last open practice of the offseason. The Gators are now 15 practices deep and will spend Saturday only wearing helmets during a one-hour Fan Day showing.

INJURY UPDATES

Freshman offensive tackle David Sharpe, who worked his way into being the fourth option at his position, suffered a high-ankle sprain during practice Friday morning and is currently day-to-day.

“We need to get him back. He’s a really good football player,” Muschamp said. “He’s very athletic, 6-foot-6, 330 pounds. He moves his feet extremely well. [He's] a guy that’s going to help us this year.”

The news is better for some other players. Junior running back Matt Jones (knee swelling) and redshirt junior guard Trip Thurman (shoulder) will return to action on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore defensive end Bryan Cox, Jr. (shoulder) could already be back in practice but will instead return on Monday after spraining his AC joint.

Continue Reading » 8/15: Muschamp updates injuries, evaluations and competitions after Florida’s 15th practice

8/14: Keanu Neal impressing, Durkin evaluating

Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Thursday for the first time this fall and had an opportunity to provide some insights on his players. Earlier this week, head coach Will Muschamp listed one safety as standing out from the rest of the pack in practice.

IT’S HIS TIME

Much like Loucheiz Purifoy did early in his career, sophomore safety Keanu Neal earned his stripes on special teams. A hard hitter and quick learner, he earned time as a backup in the secondary but was understandably unable to crack a starting lineup filled with veterans.

With only one set starter in the defensive backfield returning this year, Neal had every opportunity to go out and win a job in spring practice and fall camp. And that is exactly what he did.

“Keanu Neal, right now, is our best safety,” Muschamp said on Monday.

That compliment from his head coach was huge for Neal, though he is determined not to rest on his laurels.

Continue Reading » 8/14: Keanu Neal impressing, Durkin evaluating

FOUR BITS: Daigenault, Hayden, Murphy

1 » A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball staff since, Mark Daigenault is on the verge of being hired as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s NBA D-League team, according to ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman. Daigenault, who served as “assistant to the head coach” under Billy Donovan, is 29 years old and never coached on the court at Florida. Instead, he was tasked with a variety of tasks including helping players with their off-the-court needs and scouting prospects. “If you work with [Donovan], whether you are a player or his staff, there is a connection that he has with you,” he told the Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise back in March. “He’s just one of those people that are extremely genuine and authentic. He’s about as normal a person that you can be around for someone who has experienced as much success as he has. He is very grounded and doesn’t see himself above anyone else.” Daigenault previously served as an assistant coach at Holy Cross for three seasons.

2 » The Gators basketball team participated in “strongman”-style workouts again this offseason. Some of the exercises were caught on camera and compiled below.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Daigenault, Hayden, Murphy

Snell’s Slant: Roper, Summers have impressed

By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist

Last week’s column was spent mostly on a couple of current Florida Gators players that I had interactions with this offseason. While it was intriguing to see how these guys responded during spring practice and summer workouts, I was much more interested in how head coach Will Muschamp planned to respond following one of the worst seasons in program history.

At this point, I’m most encouraged by Muschamp’s decision to hire Kurt Roper as Florida’s new offensive coordinator. David Cutcliffe gets a lot of the credit, but Roper is a big reason why Duke, once the doormat of the ACC, jumped up and won the Coastal Division title and nearly took down Texas A&M in the Chik-fil-A Bowl. He did that with nowhere near the talent he has inherited at UF.

The first time I got to see Roper’s offense up close in practice, I noticed the fast tempo right away. Players were not standing around waiting or looking to the sideline for instruction. Coach Roper was all over them screaming, “Make something happen! Make something happen!” It is good to see an offensive coordinator get that involved with his players. He is not just expecting execution but demanding it while showing that he has a beating heart.

It is in this way that Roper is very much like Muschamp. Having an equal intensity on both sides of the ball is refreshing coming off Charlie Weis and Brent Pease, two offensive coordinators that may have been passionate but certainly did not show it. This has been missing on offense the last few years.

Continue Reading » Snell’s Slant: Roper, Summers have impressed

OG Brandon Sandifer commits to Florida

Continuing to add mass to their already-sizable offensive line, the Florida Gators on Wednesday received a verbal commitment from 6-foot-4, 335-pound offensive guard Brandon Sandifer (Warner Robins, GA).

Unanimously rated as a three-star prospect, Sandifer committed to Florida over Alabama and South Carolina, announcing his decision on his Twitter account at 7:30 p.m.

“I am proud to say that next year I will be playing at the University of Florida. #GatorNation,” he wrote.

Sandifer visited Gainesville, Florida, for the Gators’ Friday Night Lights camp on July 25 but did not participate in the workout. Instead, he chatted with the coaches, players and other prospects before heading up to see what the Gamecocks had to offer in Columbia, South Carolina, that Saturday.

Originally prepared to make a decision after those visits, Sandifer instead pushed back his commitment date. In the end, UF was the choice with offensive line coach Mike Summers playing a major role in pulling in the big prospect.

Sandifer is now the 11th member of Florida’s 2015 recruiting class and either the third or fourth offensive lineman commit depending where three-star Mike Horton (Atlanta, GA) lines up once practice begins.

Only four of the Gators’ 11 verbal commitments are from the state of Florida; all are three-star prospects. UF’s other seven pledges hail from Georgia (three), Ohio (two), California (one) and Louisiana (one).

Four Gators commitments are rated as four-star prospects with the other seven listed as three-star athletes. Florida does not have a prospect rated above three stars from within its home state.

8/13: Fowler breakout, Leak coaching, Jones ready

A handful of Florida Gators met with the media on Tuesday to discuss both how fall practice is going and how the team is coming together ahead of the 2014 season. Others met with the media last week to discuss similar topics.

BREAKOUT TIME

Junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. had his share of moments during his sophomore campaign. He looked strong at times and explosive at others but had little help around him to stop the double teams and allow him to be truly dominant.

With 2014 now approaching, Fowler has the opportunity to step up and be the dominant name on Florida’s defense, even more so than sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. According to some of his teammates, he’s on his way to earning that type of recognition.

“He’s been relentless,” said sophomore safety Keanu Neal. “Effort, that’s what he’s bringing. He’s bringing a lot of effort and continuing to work on his technique to get better.”

Fowler has also taken over Dominique Easley’s role as a leader on the Gators’ defense. That baton was ceremoniously passed when Easley relinquished his Chucky doll and allowed Fowler to be the adoptive father. Fowler tried to fill in for his role model last year, but even with Chucky in tow, he had a ways to go. This year, it seems he is putting it together on the leadership front.

“He’s one of my best friends. Me and him were roommates last semester, so we’re pretty close. Every time I’m on the field with him it’s like playing next to one of my good friends. He pretty much brings me up, tells me to work hard. He’s definitely a good guy, definitely a good role model,” explained sophomore defensive tackle Joey Ivie.

Fowler is doing all of this without Chucky in the locker room, at least for now.

“I haven’t seen the doll yet. I don’t know if I will,” redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor said. “I wasn’t scared of it; it was just a matter of fact that you got a little doll that kills people in movies. Besides that, no, I haven’t seen it. We might see it soon, but I don’t know. We’ll have to see at the first Gator Walk.”

Continue Reading » 8/13: Fowler breakout, Leak coaching, Jones ready

The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 13

SEC Network debuts on Thursday

Though fall practice for the Florida Gators is in full swing and there is plenty of football to discuss, let’s start this week’s TSL with a quick look at the SEC Network, which debuts nationwide on Thursday.

The list of cable and satellite providers is long. The talent signed to broadcast games, events and studio shows is strong. And the fact that the SEC Network will air three football games every Saturday, not to mention a ton of contests from the dozen other sports played by Southeastern Conference teams, means most of the time you tune in, there will be something exciting going on.

There are some that think the channel will fail to live up to its hype but there is not much to support that assertion. The SEC Network is better positioned to succeed than any of the other conference-only channels have been at the time of their debut. It has the strongest partner possible in ESPN and enough unique programming to give it some substance at launch.

All of that, coupled with the tremendous amount of live sports programming it will carry (especially in the spring during basketball and baseball season), gives the SEC Network every chance to be a major success right out of the gate.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 13

TWO BITS: Tebow to interview Driskel, Kansas set

1 » The SEC Network on Tuesday announced that the channel will kick off with a three-hour edition of SEC Now that will feature a number of segments of interest to Florida Gators fans. Starting at 6 p.m., the show will open with an essay featuring 31 familiar Southeastern Conference voices including former Florida swimmer Dara Torres. The program will then air live from the network’s home in Charlotte, North Carolina, with Dari Nowkhah and Maria Taylor hosting the program. As part of the broadcast, SEC Now will have “live whip around reporting” from all 14 schools with former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and SEC Nation host Joe Tessitore live in Gainesville, Florida. (Tebow, of course, will serve as an analyst on SEC Nation during the season.) While on campus, Tebow will have a sit-down interview with Florida redshirt junior QB Jeff Driskel (likely taped earlier in the day). The Gators and head coach Will Muschamp will also be featured as one of three programs in all-access segments with an exclusive look at spring practice. The program will air until 9 p.m., at which point the network will debut its latest SEC Storied documentary, “The Stars are Aligned.”

If fans would like to participate in the broadcast, UF announced Wednesday that they can be a part of live shots featuring Tebow and Tessitore at 6:05 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. outside the Heavener Football Complex next to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

RELATED: First two weeks of the SEC Network’s schedule

2 » ESPN announced on Tuesday details of Florida basketball’s showdown with the Kansas Jayhawks as part of the 2014 SEC/Big 12 Challenge. UF and KU will square off on Friday, Dec. 5 at 9 p.m. in the featured game of a doubleheader set to air on ESPN. Florida took down Kansas 67-61 in the first challenge in 2013, so the Jayhawks will certainly be looking for some revenge on their home court.

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