The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (19-10)

With just 10 days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the ninth part of OGGOA‘s new series, The Countdown, takes a look at those players expected to contribute on the field wearing jersey numbers ranging from 19-10.

19 – Caleb Sturgis (St. Augustine, FL)
Redshirt junior kicker
5’11” 183 lbs.

Quick Bio: An Under Armour High School All-American entering his fourth year at Florida, Sturgis majors in sport management and hopes to continue leading the Gators special teams unit as the starting kicker. A kickoff specialist during his freshman year, he became the primary place kicker in 2009 and hit 73.3 percent of his field goals (long: 56) and 44-of-47 extra points to score 110 points for Florida.

2010 Season: Sturgis did not get an opportunity to flourish like he wanted in his second season as the Gators’ starter. Suffering through back pain early in the season, he was forced to undergo surgery after just four games and was eventually awarded a medical redshirt by the NCAA. Sturgis hit just 2-of-4 field goal attempts and 19-of-21 extra points before being sidelined for the remainder of the year.

2011 Outlook: With an extra year of eligibility in his back pocket, Sturgis feels like his back is 100 percent healthy and enters the season as the team’s only scholarship kicker. Head coach Will Muschamp confirmed that he was doing well in camp two weeks ago. “He is strong; he had no issues in the summer as far as his workouts,” he said. “We changed his routine a little bit [he’s not doing squats anymore] as far as the things he did, but he’s been kicking the ball extremely well thus far in camp.”

17 – Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL)
Freshman quarterback
6’3” 239 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit coming out of high school who was considered one of the best players at his position nationally, Brissett participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and enrolled at Florida over the summer after deciding to play high school basketball in the spring. A graduate of Dwyer High School, he is good friends with sophomore safety Matt Elam and was also teammates with redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian and sophomore wide receiver Robert Clark in high school.

2011 Outlook: A bit behind the eight ball considering fellow freshman QB Jeff Driskel enrolled early and got a handle on the offense months before him, Brissett is currently competing with redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy to be the No. 3 quarterback. Praised for his mobility and quick grasp of the playbook, he will probably be competing with Driskel throughout his entire career with the Gators but is unlikely to pass him for the back-up quarterback job this season.

16 – Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL)
Freshman quarterback
6’4” 235 lbs.

Quick Bio: An early enrollee who joined Florida in January, Driskel is a former five-star recruit who was the Gatorade Florida Player of the Year and considered by most to be the No. 1 quarterback in the country in 2011.He threw for 1,819 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 1,333 yards and 20 touchdowns during his senior season and earned an Under Armour All-American nod for his efforts.

2011 Outlook: With redshirt senior QB John Brantley firmly implanted as the team’s starting signal caller, Driskel’s goal this offseason was to earn the back-up quarterback job. Though he started fall camp behind Murphy, he recently supplanted him as Brantley’s back-up and is beginning to pull away from the pack. “His growth process from spring, obviously he has worked extremely hard through the summer dedicating himself to the playbook and learning what to do and how to do it and why we’re doing it that way,” Muschamp said. “He’s had a very good camp at this point.”

15 – Loucheiz Purifoy (Pensacola, FL)
Freshman cornerback
6’1” 183 lbs.

Quick Bio: It’s a pretty gutsy move to don the No. 15 in the orange and blue, especially as a freshman, but the former four-star recruit hopes he can be just as impressive as his predecessor in that jersey. Purifoy was one of the best players at his position coming out of high school and chose to play for Florida over Alabama, Auburn and Miami (among others).

2011 Outlook: Though he is not likely to contend for a starting role this season, Purifoy has been impressing Muschamp during practice and is making a case to get some legitimate playing time during his first season. “I’ve been very pleased with Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifoy and what they can do. They’re very good athletes; they’re learning our system,” he said. “They did a good job studying this summer.”

14 – Jaylen Watkins (Cape Coral, FL)
Sophomore safety
6’0” 187 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A U.S. Army All-American and four-star recruit, Watkins is a social and behavioral sciences major who played in 10 games last year and had a career-high three tackles in the last contest of the season. Watkins worked primarily on special teams in 2010 but also saw some time in the secondary.

2011 Outlook: With Elam and junior Josh Evans pretty much set as the Gators’ starters at safety, Watkins will begin the 2011 season in a reserve role alongside redshirt freshman Joshua Shaw. He is enjoying Muschamp’s defense and hopes to continue following his instructions on how he can succeed in it. “[He tells me] just to be a football player. Everything is not going to be what it is on paper – just be an athlete out there,” Watkins said.

13 – Dee Finely (Auburn, AL)
Redshirt sophomore linebacker
6’2” 203 lbs.

Quick Bio: Originally a commitment in the 2008 recruiting class, Finley chose to attend prep school for a year in order to get his grades up so he could enroll. The Under Armour All-American and four-star recruit, who signed as a safety, joined the team in 2009 and notched seven tackles (five solo) in 10 games.

2010 Season: Moved from safety to linebacker, Finley saw the field the vast majority of the time on special teams. He was a primary fixture on the kickoff coverage and kickoff return units and accumulated seven tackles (five solo) over the course of four games. Finely missed the final seven contests of the season after fracturing his collarbone against LSU and was awarded a medical redshirt by the NCAA.

2011 Outlook: Called “solid” as a linebacker but “outstanding” as a special teamer by Muschamp, Finley will play a reserve role at the latter position in 2011 but should get plenty of playtime at a very shallow position. He missed a few days of training camp due to an undisclosed injury but has returned to action and is even drawing praise from his teammates. “He’s done very well,” junior LB Jon Bostic said. “He’s picked up a lot of things in these two-a-days.”

12 – John Brantley (Ocala, FL)
Redshirt senior quarterback
6’3” 219 lbs.

Quick Bio: A five-star quarterback, U.S. Army All-American and the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2006, Brantley was one of the most highly recruited players currently on Florida’s roster. The humanities and letters major redshirted as a true freshman but played quite well as a reserve during his second and third seasons. Combined, Brantley completed 54-of-76 pass attempts for 645 yards with 10 touchdowns and just one interception as Tim Tebow’s back-up.

2010 Season: Stepping into a starting role for the first time in his career, Brantley hoped the offense would be tailored to better suit his talents. Instead, the pro-style quarterback was asked to run a spread offense and struggled mightily. He completed only 60.8 percent of his passes (200-of-329) for 2,061 yards with nine TDs and 10 INTs over the course of the season. While Brantley remained the “starter” throughout the year, he ended up becoming part of a three-quarterback rotation halfway through the season and played mostly on third down, when the team was behind or in obvious passing situations.

2011 Outlook: After seriously considering transferring in the offseason, Brantley decided to stick with the Gators and (according to those who actually get to see him daily) has had a resurgence under new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Coaches and players have unanimously lauded his ability, consistency, improvement, leadership, arm strength and overall understanding of Weis’s offense. Muschamp has noted on numerous occasions that Brantley is not only his starter but significantly ahead (in terms of development) of the other passers. He has added that the offseason goal is to improve the protection in front of him and playmakers around him, insinuating that he is as solid a player as the offense has on its roster.

11 – Jordan Reed (New London, CT)
Redshirt sophomore tight end
6’3” 239 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A four-star quarterback coming out of high school, Reed dressed for five games in 2009 but did not see any action. The social and behavioral sciences major officially transitioned over to tight end in 2010 but wound up only starting four games at that position as he instead played more of a hybrid role and saw plenty of time at quarterback. Reed caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown last year but also rushed 77 times for 328 yards and five scores and completed 26-of-46 passes for 252 yards with three TDs an interception.

2011 Outlook: With Brantley (again) taking over at quarterback and two incoming freshman filling in the depth at that position, Reed has officially moved to tight end full-time and will start at that position for Florida in 2011. He recently missed a few days of practice with a sore hamstring but has been impressive on the field. With freshman A.C. Leonard missing 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery on a torn meniscus in early August, Reed will be counted on even more to be a receiving threat from the tight end position. “I’m excited about being the tight end,” Reed told The Gainesville Sun. “It’s been a lot easier on me than last year, knowing that I’ve just got to worry about one position.”

10 – Tyler Murphy (Wethersfield, CT)
Redshirt freshman quarterback
6’2” 209 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A two-star recruit , Murphy spent last year as a member of the scout team that helped the Gators prepare for their opponents. One of four quarterbacks on scholarship in 2010, the social and behavioral sciences major was the only one who did not end up seeing some game action.

2011 Outlook: Murphy is once again one of four quarterbacks on scholarship this year; however, the other two he is competing with for the back-up job have changed. With Reed now at tight end and sophomore Trey Burton listed as a running back, Murphy is the second most experienced passer on the Florida roster. Unfortunately for him, Driskel was recently promoted to be Brantley’s back-up ahead of him and he is now competing with Brissett for the No. 3 job. “Tyler Murphy has done a really nice job of managing the offense,” Muschamp said on Aug. 10. “We did a move the field today where the coaches got off the field and let the players play. Tyler took us on a nice drive down the field.”

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

FOUR BITS: Taylor, Jeroloman, Sidner, Demps

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Travis Taylor recently returned to the University of Florida to finish his degree in sports management and has simultaneously decided to work for the football program as an undergraduate student assistant. According to UF senior writer Scott Carter, Taylor contacted former teammate and now Gators WR coach Aubrey Hill about the opportunity and is excited about how he can help the team going forward. “I had not talked to Aubrey in 10 years,” Taylor said. “He was like, ‘Man, whatever I can do for you just let me know. I’ll definitely run it by Coach [Will] Muschamp.’ Everything kind of fell into place. I came over to learn about the process and got it done. They embraced me to come in and I’m having a great time.”

2 » Former Florida catcher Brian Jeroloman, who has spent approximately five years toiling in minor leagues throughout the country, was called up by the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday potentially for the remainder of the season. He will officially be the seventh former Gators baseball player in the MLB this year.

3 » As noted by the Twitter account for Florida volleyball, anyone who has been watching CNN’s coverage of unrest in Libya has undoubtedly seen reports from network correspondent Sara Sidner. On-site in Tripoli as rebels attempt to usurp power from dictator Muammar Gadhafi, she was actually inside a compound still controlled Gadhafi on Tuesday. “We have had to run from Gadhafi Compound,” she tweeted at approximately 6 p.m. (ET). “Gun fire coming towards us from outside compound.” A former Gators volleyball player, Sidner is CNN’s New Delhi-based international correspondent covering India and South Asia and has been with the network since 2008. She graduated from UF in 1992 with a bachelor of science degree in telecommunications.

3 » Florida senior running back Jeff Demps learned Tuesday that his name was placed on the candidate list for the 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, given each year to numerous student-athletes who achieve greatness in four key areas: community, classroom, character and competition. Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is the only football player representing Florida to ever win the award (2009), which has only been presented since 2008.

All healed, former Gators safety Dorian Munroe plans to make most of opportunity in Toronto

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas Edison

For every college football player who spends his career bellyaching about playing time or feels his coaching staff is not doing enough to help him move on to the next level is a guy who remains humble, keeps his head down and fights to earn his keep.

You usually see this type of gusto from walk-ons who are thrilled to have a place on the team and hope to earn a scholarship by proving they can work as hard and perform as well as the highly recruited players who intend to use their college careers as a springboard to the NFL.

But what happens when a four-star recruit listed as one of the top players at his position nationally works just as hard as any other player, earns the starting role he sought his whole career and is injured – not once but thrice – and told to kiss his career goodbye?

Those unfortunate circumstances are what former Florida Gators safety Dorian Munroe faced. Rather than fall by the wayside as another talented athlete who could not escape injury and wound up giving up on his dream, he has kept his head in the game, searched for the right opportunity and realized that any chance you are given to succeed is better than no chance at all.

Entering his redshirt junior year with Florida in 2008, Munroe was set to start and play extensively in the secondary. While doing voluntary workouts in Gainesville, FL on July 7, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and was forced to miss the entire season.

He rejoined the Gators in 2009 with his knee healed and his mind set on returning to form. After going through an extensive rehabilitation process, Munroe shined in the Orange & Blue Debut, grabbing an interception and proving that he was ready to play once again as part of a four-man rotation at safety.

His comeback would not be without another bump in the road, however, as he tore the meniscus in his right leg in August and missed the first seven games of the season. Munroe made his triumphant return to the field against Georgia on Oct. 31, starting on special teams and taking home the Special Teams Player of the Game award.

Little did he know that the first game he participated in after nearly 16 months on the mend would also be the last time he ever put the full Florida uniform.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s feature on Dorian Munroe…after the break!
Continue Reading » All healed, former Gators safety Dorian Munroe plans to make most of opportunity in Toronto

Florida to hire Greene as new strength coach

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan is set to hire the fourth new member of his basketball staff this offseason.

A source close to the team told OGGOA Tuesday morning that Donovan will hire Preston Greene as the the Gators’ basketball program’s new strength and conditioning coach.

Greene will replace veteran strength and conditioning coach Matt Herring, who left Florida to take the director of athletic performance job with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs last week.

A Clemson graduate, Greene has spent the last three seasons with his alma mater as its assistant strength and conditioning coach who led the efforts for the men’s basketball team. He has 10 years of experience running strength and conditioning programs with prior stops at both Stanford (2008-09) and Charlotte (2003-08).

Herring was the fourth member of Donovan’s staff that he has been forced to supplant in the last few months. All three of his assistants left after the 2010-11 season for other jobs and were replaced with former Gators assistant and Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey, former St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts, and former Florida director of basketball operations and Florida Atlantic assistant coach Matt McCall.

Did implicated players receive NCAA immunity?

When Yahoo! Sports released its extensive report on the illegal benefits scandal surrounding the Miami Hurricanes, seven players who were neither current nor former members of the team were also implicated. Among them were Florida Gators redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose and redshirt junior right tackle Matt Patchan.

On Thursday the University of Florida, after receiving approval from the NCAA, announced that both players were eligible for the 2011 season even though they were named in the report and may have received some form of improper benefits.

“We have been in communication with the NCAA and there are no eligibility issues with Andre Debose and Matt Patchan as it relates to recent reports. Andre, Matt nor the University of Florida will have any additional comments regarding this matter.”

According to CBSSports.com, the NCAA’s decision to approve the eligibility of Debose, Patchan and a number of other players named in the report may have been due to the organization using it’s “limited immunity” clause.

“Limited immunity” is a little-known procedure granted to NCAA investigators to get information from a player “when such an individual otherwise might be declared ineligible for intercollegiate competition,” according to the NCAA Manual.

The NCAA’s vice president of enforcement Roe Lach, without being overly specific, told CBSSports.com‘ Dennis Dodd that her organization did take a special step in order to move forward with its investigation.

“The enforcement staff has been given, by the membership, a pretty important investigative tool,” Lach said. She added that they are able to use said tool “when we think that’s really our only shot of getting that information.”

While no one at the NCAA will confirm that limited immunity has been used in this case, one source close to the investigation told CBSSports.com that “apparently they chose to give these guys limited immunity … which means they’re all eligible.”

It is unknown whether or not the NCAA specifically used this concept with Debose and Patchan or if the organization simply determined that neither was involved to an extent that was worth pursuing considering the extreme breadth and depth of its investigation.

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason 2/4

With the 2011 NFL preseason officially underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 2 action, some of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the second exhibition week of the 2011 campaign.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Three receptions for 42 yards, touchdown (long: 16)

VETERANS
LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Tackle
LB ANDRA DAVIS, Buffalo Bills: Three solo tackles, pass defense
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Played as a reserve
OL JASON WATKINS, Buffalo Bills: Played as a reserve
FS MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears: Four solo tackles
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals: Two receptions for a team-high 50 yards (long: 39, targets: 4)
S REGGIE NELSON, Cincinnati Bengals: Solo tackle for loss, pass defense
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Three solo tackles, pass defense
OT PHIL TRAUTWEIN, Cleveland Browns: Played as a reserve
DE DERRICK HARVEY, Denver Broncos: Solo tackle
QB TIM TEBOW, Denver Broncos: 1/2 for 10 yards, rush for seven yards
DL JEREMY MINCEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Team-high three solo tackles
LB BRANDON SILER, Kansas City Chiefs: Three tackles (two solo)
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots: Solo tackle for loss
DE ALEX BROWN, New Orleans Saints: Two tackles (one solo)
G COOPER CARLISLE, Oakland Raiders: – Started at right guard
WR CHAD JACKSON, Oakland Raiders – Played as a reserve
DE JARVIS MOSS, Oakland Raiders: Two solo tackles, sack
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Reception for 16 yards (targets: 3)
C MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers: Started at center
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers: Two tackles (one solo for loss)
FB EARNEST GRAHAM, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Two receptions for 12 yards (long: 7, targets: 3)
WR JABAR GAFFNEY, Washington Redskins: Reception for 19 yards (targets: 2)
QB REX GROSSMAN, Washington Redskins: 7/12 for 88 yards and an interception

DRAFTED ROOKIES
C MIKE POUNCEY, Miami Dolphins: Started at center
OT MARCUS GILBERT, Pittsburgh Steelers: Played as a reserve
SS AHMAD BLACK, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DNP (high-ankle sprain)
OG MAURICE HURT, Washington Redskins: Played as a reserve

UNDRAFTED ROOKIES
LB DUKE LEMMENS, Arizona Cardinals: Played as a reserve
LB BRANDON HICKS, Buffalo Bills: Tackle
DE JUSTIN TRATTOU, New York Giants: Three tackles (two solo)
P CHAS HENRY, Philadelphia Eagles: Punt for 53 yards

INJURED – DID NOT PLAY
DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals: Knee
DT MARCUS THOMAS, Denver Broncos: Pectoral
WR PERCY HARVIN, Minnesota Vikings Ribs
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Undisclosed
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Undisclosed (ankle)
WR LOUIS MURPHY, Oakland Raiders: Hamstring

PRESEASON: Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

FOUR BITS: Martin transfers, Haden, Caquatto

1 » For the third time in his post-high school career, former Florida Gators defensive end/linebacker Chris Martin is putting on a different uniform. According to the Palm Beach Post, Martin joined the Navarro College Bulldogs over the summer and is set to play defensive end for the team this fall. The former five-star recruit, who first enrolled at California before transferring to Florida and choosing to leave the team following his redshirt season in June, will likely look to go the Cam Newton-route and spend a year at Navarro before moving on to a more prominent program.

2 » The word “fan” is derived from the longer term “fanatic,” and perhaps no individual can stake a greater claim to that title than Don Crews, who was profiled by Florida Today in a piece over the weekend. Set to attend his 500th Florida game on Sept. 3 when UF takes on Florida Atlantic, Crews lives 171 miles away from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium but has managed to attend nearly every game since 1963.

3 » Much has been said about Cleveland Browns second-year cornerback Joe Haden truly embracing the city of Cleveland, OH ever since he was selected by the Browns with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. A recent story by The Cleveland Plain Dealer dives into the topic even deeper. “What else would I be doing — sitting at home by myself?” Haden joked when asked why he does so much for his fans. “It’s all about giving back, and at the same time, it’s so much fun. [...] It’s really easy to do, honestly. Even if I didn’t play football, I’d be doing all this stuff. I’m just trying to have a good time and make sure everyone knows I care about this city and appreciate the fans.”

4 » Congratulations are in store for Florida sophomore gymnast Mackenzie Caquatto, who finished in fourth place at the 2011 Visa Championships in the senior all-around competition and second place in the uneven bars on Saturday. Due to her placement in the all-around portion of the event, Caquatto earned a spot on the U.S. Senior National Team for the fourth-straight time.

Florida soccer starts 2-0 with two wins in Miami

With the triumphs of last year now in the rear-view mirror, it was up to No. 9 Florida Gators soccer to get the 2011-12 athletic season off with a bang. Florida (2-0) accomplished this feat over the weekend, defeating the Miami Hurricanes (0-1) and Florida International Golden Panthers (0-2) with a pair of 2-0 victories in Miami, FL.

The Gators opened the season on Friday against the Hurricanes and took it to their in-state rivals right from the get go. Sophomore forward Taylor Travis scored Florida’s first goal of the season at 37’, and freshman midfielder Havana Solaun tacked on another at 51’ to lead the Gators to victory.

Junior MF/F Erika Tymrak got the assist on both goals, setting up a cross for the first score and passing it from the top of the box to the left side for the second.

Before returning to Gainesville, FL for a week of practice, Florida stayed in town, took a day off and faced FIU on Sunday. Like their first match of the season, the Gators scored once in each half and came away with a 2-0 win.

Freshman F Tessa Andujar placed the first one in the net, converting a cross from senior defender Jazmyne Avant in the 40th minute. Joining her on the scoreboard was senior MF/F Tahnai Annis, who corralled a through pass from freshman MF Annie Speese and struck it in from 12 yards out at 63’.

Florida split up the goalkeeping duties over the weekend with senior Brooke Chancey (five saves) and freshman Taylor Burke (three saves) each registering a shutout while playing the full 90 minutes.

The Gators will continue their road trip with a pair of contests next weekend in Knoxville, TN. Florida will take on Texas A&M on Friday and UCLA on Sunday before returning to the University of Florida for a three-game homestand.

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