Donovan’s UAB post-game, SEC teleconference

The No. 13/14 Florida Gators ended their 2011-12 non-conference schedule with another double-digit victory, defeating UAB 79-61 on Tuesday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media and shared his thoughts on the victory. He also spoke to the media Wednesday as part of the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly teleconference.

HOW FLORIDA CAN BECOME A TRULY “ELITE” TEAM

Following Tuesday’s game, Donovan was open and honest about what the Gators will have to do to be an elite this year, saying Florida must learn to sacrifice, appreciate their opponents and respect each other as capable, talented players.

“When you’re talking about being a really elite team, it means you have talent on your team. And we have talent on our team. So the first thing that needs to happen is they need to sacrifice. There is always a level of sacrifice. Any of the teams that go really far understand that there’s a level of sacrifice, that they can do more but they understand that them doing more creates less for the team and them actually doing a little bit less creates more for the team. There needs to be an appreciation for who you’re playing with and the fact that there’s good players around you and really admiring, respecting the job that they have in front of them and how they go about doing their job. And then I think there needs to be a level of emotion and passion and excitement and thankfulness for the opportunity to compete. People that can embrace those areas and those aspects have a chance to end up being very elite provided they have the talent level in place to be elite. Those are hard things to deal with.”

YOUNG IS A KEY BUT HE’S ALSO JUST DOING HIS JOB

As a team with a plethora of talented guards and a relatively thin frontcourt when it comes to size and strength, Florida is seen nationally as a squad that depends on sophomore center Patric Young to give them a low-post presence. That may be the case, but Donovan was quick to point out that Young – like every other player – is just doing his job and whatever he can to help the Gators win each game.

“We’re a team and everybody’s got to do their job and their part. Patric’s certainly has got a job and a part that he plays. There’s no question that his size and strength and things that he can do helps our team,” he said.

“We need Patric to play with the energy he’s always played with and continue to develop and get better. I think he’s in an entirely different role than he was a year ago because our frontcourt was so deep and he was a freshman last year and there was a learning curve he had to go through. Patric has been a great kid to coach because he’s eager to get better, he’s eager to improve. The team is important to him as is winning. We just need him to continually do his job night-in and night-out, and I think he’s committed to doing that.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan from Tuesday on heading on the road to Tennessee: “There’s a process that these guys need to go through in order to understand the level they need to play at and compete at. I think our non-conference schedule has been difficult, has been challenging. I feel good about going into Knoxville from the standpoint of playing at Rutgers, playing at Syracuse, playing at Ohio State. We’ve played at some difficult venues and our guys understand what it’s like playing on the road.”

» Donovan from Wednesday on having a few days off before the UT game: “Everybody right now is excited about league play starting. I know our guys are, too. At least playing last night we get a little bit of time here with the break to get prepared to play against Tennessee on the road. Obviously in this league I think every game, home or away, is a battle, and we know we got a great challenge ahead of us in Knoxville.”

» Donovan from Wednesday on if not playing for a division title anymore impacts him as a coach or the players who compete on the court: “One of the emphases that have decreased over the year is when you do win a conference championship and you win your league. Because of all the expansion and because of all that’s going on with schools moving into different leagues and so many teams in so many different leagues, there never really is anymore a true champion. I don’t think an East champion and a West champion alters our minds going into the season, but I think we’re all as coaches on board with trying to do what’s best for the league to help our league. Whoever wins the league this year, in a lot of respects none of our schedules are exactly the same. The only way to have a fair league champion is to play everybody twice, once home and once away. That’s certainly not going to happen with the amount of games that need to be played for people with what they’re trying to do with their non-conference schedule. The feeling was to move to one league and not have divisions was the best thing for the league. The coaches agreed that would be a good thing to do. Although we don’t have divisions, we still are playing divisional play so-to-speak with the way the schedules are set up. I don’t think we’ve ever gone into the season saying, ‘Let’s win the East.’ Certainly all of the schools are competing for a SEC championship and trying to compete for postseason play to continue to move forward, grow, develop and get better as the course of the season unfolds.”

» Donovan from Wednesday on how he feels about there not being a “true” champion anymore: “Things evolve and change. I remember when I was an assistant at Kentucky when it was still you played everybody twice, there was truly a champion and a lot of emphasis placed on that. Among the coaches and the players its important, but once you get through the regular season, a lot of the focus even goes beyond your conference tournament right into whose on the bubble, whose off the bubble, whose going to be a number one seed, how’s the seeding going to be. It’s almost as if everything is geared towards the NCAA Tournament. And I understand that. It certainly creates a lot of excitement for college basketball. I still think for the coaches and the players, competing for a league championship, playing for a league championship is very important. I don’t know if nationally in terms of fans and people, if people look at that as necessarily being a big deal.”

Walker, Boynton shoot lights out as UF tops UAB

Half of the lights going out in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center was an obvious coincidence, but the stellar shooting of senior point guard Erving Walker and junior guard Kenny Boynton led the No. 13/14 Florida Gators (12-3) to a 79-61 victory over the UAB Blazers (5-8) Tuesday evening in Gainesville, FL.

Walker and Boynton each earned their stripes from beyond the arc. The former hit 7-of-9 shots from downtown for a game-high 23 points, while the latter was 6-of-10 from three for 20 points. Walker’s seven treys were a career-high for most in a game, while Boynton’s six tied his own career-high.

UAB took it to Florida early, using a 12-3 run to jump ahead one point more than midway through the first half. However, Walker soon answered with a three to put the Gators ahead 18-16, and Boynton hit a trey with seven seconds left to cap a 10-2 run that gave UF a 37-26 lead at the break.

Florida opened up the second half in a similar fashion, taking a 15-point lead thanks to a quick 6-0 run; the Gators then used a 12-3 scoring stretch that included three treys by Boynton to jump ahead of the Blazers 55-34 with 12:17 left in the game.

Minutes later, half of the lights at the top of the dome went out as did one of the video boards. The coaches met with the referees at midcourt and both sides agreed to continue playing under less-than-ideal lighting conditions.

UF junior forward Erik Murphy made the block of the night when action resumed and Walker quickly hit a three from the corner, but UAB was undeterred, scoring eight-straight points to cut their deficit to 12 with 7:43 to go in the contest.

The Blazers reduced the Gators’ advantage to single digits with just over six minutes remaining, but Boynton and Walker each hit their sixth trey of the game in consecutive fashion to once again put Florida ahead 15 points and lead UF toward the victory.

The Gators had 21 assists on 31 baskets and shot 50.8 percent from the floor as well as 55.6 percent from downtown. Florida did not take a single foul shot in the first half and was just 2-for-5 in the second half. UAB outrebounded UF 36-34 on the evening with 14 offensive boards but shot just 36.4 percent from the field and was 5-of-17 from three.

Walker added six dimes to his stat line, which moved him into third in school history for assists (456), passing Nick Calathes. His nine tries from downtown brought him into a tie with Lee Humphrey for third all-time in three-pointers attempted, while Walker’s seven makes inched him closer to third all-time in that category (Anthony Roberson, 267).

Boynton also had five assists, and his six threes moved him a game closer to No. 2 on Florida’s all-time list for consecutive games with a trey (Brett Nelson, 33).

Sophomore center Patric Young posted 15 points and seven rebounds (four offensive) for the Gators, and sophomore F Will Yeguete registered a team-high 11 boards.

Freshman G Bradley Beal had six assists but posted his worst shooting performance of the season, hitting just 2-of-15 baskets while also not grabbing a single rebound.

Beal will have plenty of time to work the kinks out of his shot as UF does not take the court again until Saturday when they begin SEC play on the road at Tennessee. The game will air live at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.

Jeff Dillman hired as Florida strength coach

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp has chosen Jeff Dillman as his team’s new strength and conditioning coordinator, the University of Florida announced on Tuesday.

Two sources close to the program told OGGOA last month that Dillman was considered a top candidate for the position and the likely successor to Mickey Marotti.

The former director of strength and conditioning at Appalachian State, Dillman met Muschamp when both were assistants at LSU. The former was a strength coach, while the latter was a linebackers coach and later a defensive coordinator under Nick Saban.

“What I like about Coach Muschamp is his intensity and his fire and his directness,” Dillman said. “That’s the same way I coach. I believe in coaching kids. I don’t believe in crossing your arms and putting your hands in your pockets. I’m a big, big believer in if you coach them hard in the weight room, and you coach them hard in running, when they get out on that field, it’s easy for them. It’s all about eliminating that gray area.”

During his three years at LSU, he worked with teams that have won BCS National Championships, competed in the Final Four and played in the College World Series.

“The strength coach is such an important part of your program,” Muschamp said in a school release. “Jeff has a championship pedigree. He’s been a part of several championship teams and that’s what we’re trying to be here at the University of Florida. He is my voice in the weight room when the coaches can’t have contact with the players. It’s very important for someone to share the same philosophies and approach as I do on how to build a championship program.”

He played football at Elon and Appalachian State and also served as an assistant strength coach at Louisiana-Monroe before taking the job at his alma mater. He has worked since 2009 as the head of physical conditioning at IMG Performance Institute.

In addition to earning bachelor’s of science degrees from Elon (exercise science) and Appalachian State (exercise science, concentration strength & conditioning), Dillman is in progress of completing a master’s of education from Louisiana-Monroe.

He is also a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) and American Football Coaches Association (AFCA).

Dillman does not, however, hold the Master of Strength and Conditioning classification that Marotti did, which made the former Florida assistant one of only 100 strength trainers in the country who possess that designation.

Muschamp and Dillman will also look to replace Florida’s former assistant director for strength and conditioning (football) Scott Holsopple, who left the program to take the top job at Kansas, according to CoachingSearch.com.

VIDEOS: Jeff Dillman speaks to the Manatee High School football team (1-2-3-4-5-6)

Photo Credit: Appalachian State University

2012 Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Ohio State post-game

The Florida Gators (7-6) capped their lackluster 2011 season with a rousing victory against the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-7) in the 2012 Gator Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL on Monday. After the contest, head coach Will Muschamp and some Florida players were made available to the media to discuss some of the notable occurrences before, during and after the game.

MUSCHAMP’s TWO POST-GAME STATEMENTS

Accepting the trophy on stage after the team sang the school alma mater and fight song, Muschamp delivered the following statement to his players, their families and the fans remaining in the crowd after the game:

“I can’t talk real well right now. I’m proud of these players, fighting through a tough situation, a tough transition, but they hung with us all the time. I appreciate the Gator Nation. We’re building a program, not a team, and it takes time, and I appreciate your patience. I’m going to tell you what. We’re going to have a better football team next year because of these young men you got right here. And you’ve got an outstanding staff. Go Gators.”

He began his post-game press conference in a similar fashion:

“[This was about] sending the seniors out the right way. We got a lot of good kids in that locker room. We got some guys that have had a very frustrating year. The realization of this whole thing, if you really want to see big picture, is in the last two years at the University of Florida we’re 15-11. That’s unacceptable. That’s what we are. We’re one game’s difference from last year. We’re 7-6; we were 8-5 last year. Sometimes I think you got to put your realistic glasses on of where you are and what you are as a program right at this point. And it’s not where we’re going to be very long, I can assure you of that. We’re moving in the right direction.

“I’m very pleased with the attitude and the effort and the drive of our young men. They kept fighting in the game and kept playing; they did it the entire season. I don’t think you could turn the tape on and watch a team that wasn’t giving effort, wasn’t trying to play with the right kind of toughness. It wasn’t always what we wanted at times. It was frustrating at times, and I appreciate the backing of our administration in what we’re trying to do. I’ve said it before and I mean this sincerely: We’re not building a team, we’re building a program. That takes a foundation to start, it really does. You stay the course with what you’re trying to do and what you believe in and the hardcore values of what you want. It isn’t always what you want. You get criticized and those sort of things, and that’s part of the deal. That’s part of being the head coach at the University of Florida, and I fully accept that.

“[I’m] excited for our football team. We need to get better and that starts with me. For our entire organization, 7-6 is not acceptable at the University of Florida. We’re looking forward to getting started on January 9. When we start school, we’re going to have a good team meeting that day and get these guys ready to go. That’s when our season starts for next year. It’s good momentum. There are a lot of guys out there knowing their opportunity to come a place like Florida, get an outstanding education, play for a great staff and be a part of a winning tradition..”

HIRING PROCESS WILL NOW BEGIN
Continue Reading » 2012 Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Ohio State post-game

Special teams, defense lead Florida to 24-17 win over Ohio State in 2012 Gator Bowl

Offense was not the Florida Gators’ strong suit this season, but Florida (7-6) got just enough of it Monday to compliment a sterling effort from their special teams and defense en route to a 24-17 toppling of the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-7) in the 2012 Gator Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL.

The Gators and Buckeyes were tied at a touchdown apiece minutes into the second quarter until a kickoff return and punt block were each brought back for touchdowns to give UF a 21-10 lead and help the team pull out a much-needed victory to end a tough first season under first-year head coach Will Muschamp.

Florida started out at their own 40-yard-line after the opening kickoff fell out of bounds at the one. The Gators got two quick first downs before redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was hit from behind and, after a review that overturned an incomplete pass, the loose ball was ruled a fumble and given to the Buckeyes. OSU moved down the field but consecutive sacks by UF sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd forced a punt.

The Gators took over on their own 20, and Brantley began leading his team down the field once again. On first-and-10 from the Buckeyes’ 22-yard-line, junior left tackle Xavier Nixon (knee) and Brantley (right forearm) both went down with injuries when the latter was sacked. Brantley would return to the game and two plays later threw a 17-yard strike on third down to redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thomspon for the first touchdown of the game.

Thompson’s reception was questioned by Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell as it appeared the ball came loose when he hit the ground, but Florida got on the field to kick the extra point before he could call a timeout to force a review.

A review wound up being called on the ensuing possession when OSU running back Dan Herron fumbled the ball on first down. UF recovered and won the challenge but coughed it back up to the Buckeyes just two plays later when Brantley mishandled a snap.

Ohio State took advantage of the miscue by tying the game. QB Braxton Miller, who did not attempt a pass in the first quarter, completed three throws for 41 yards as part of an eight-play, 72-yard drive that ended in a touchdown with 11:25 left in the first half.

Florida responded even quicker as redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, going down the field untouched and putting his team ahead 14-7 while setting a school record for longest play in a bowl game and a Gator Bowl record for longest play. He was named the contest’s Most Valuable Player after the game.

Two possessions later, the Gators were stopped for a three-and-out, but a shanked punt by freshman Kyle Christy allowed the Buckeyes to take over at midfield. After gaining two first downs, Miller was sacked for an 11-yard loss as redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard broke through the offensive line. OSU kicked a 47-yard field goal to reduce their deficit, heading into the half down four.

Forcing Ohio State to punt on their first possession of the second half, Florida had both redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey and sophomore WR Solomon Patton break through the formation. The former blocked the punt, which was picked up by freshman linebacker Graham Stewart and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown. It was the sixth blocked punt of Rainey’s career, setting a SEC record.

The Gators got another defensive stop and began moving the ball once again until Brantley’s third down pass was intercepted by LB Tyler Moller at Florida’s 47-yard-line. However, just three plays later, Miller completed a pass to Posey that was quickly fumbled (forced by freshman cornerback Louchiez Purifoy), recovered by UF, fumbled again and picked up by junior safety Josh Evans.

Brantley made up for his pick with a great 32-yard pass to redshirt junior TE Omarius Hines on his next play, starting the Gators off on a eight-play, 53-yard drive that stalled a half-yard short of the end zone. Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs netted a 17-yard field goal to provide Florida with a two-touchdown advantage.

Though the Gators stifled the Buckeyes’ offense much of the second half, Miller led Ohio State on a seven-play, 88-yard drive in just 2:08 that ended in an 11-yard touchdown pass to WR Jordan Hall, who made several players miss on his way to the end zone.

Florida, however, recovered the onside kick and kneeled the ball to end the game and earn the hard-fought victory.

Brantley finished his final contest in orange and blue 12/16 for 132 yards with a touchdown, interception and two fumbles. Rainey had team-highs in carries (16), rushing yards (71) and receptions (three) while also coming through with the game-changing punt. Thompson’s touchdown was his first of the season, and Demps was also efficient with eight touches for 34 yards.

Miller was also quite efficient, going 18/24 for 162 yards in the air and two scores; he also carried the ball 15 times for 20 yards, losing a lot of ground due to the number of times he was sacked.

OSU outgained UF 299-263, passing and rushing for more yards, but was held to just 2-of-10 on third down conversion attempts. The Buckeyes also forced one more turnover (3-2) than the Gators and held the ball for slightly under five minutes longer. Florida, however, converted 50 percent of their third downs (6-of-12) and scored twice on drives of one play or fewer.

The Gators avoided a losing season but handed the Buckeyes their first seven-loss campaign since 1897. Florida now has 24-straight winning seasons and 32 consecutive years ending with a record at or above .500, two accomplishments which lead the country. UF also posted four-straight bowl wins for the first time in school history.

Ohio State is now 0-10 all-time against SEC teams in bowl games due to a victory in 2010 being vacated. The Gators also improved to 2-0 all-time against the Buckeyes with their last victory coming 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship.

2012 Gator Bowl Gameday (Jacksonville, FL): Florida Gators vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Location: EverBank Field – Jacksonville, FL [Capacity: 84,000]
Weather Forecast: 57°F, sunny, winds WNW at 13 mph
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2/ESPN2HD
SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Luke Fickell
Record: 6-6 Record: 6-6
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big 10
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -2; O/U 44

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before the bowl game? No problem. OGGOA has been here since the end of the regular season compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam.

Muschamp on Gator Bowl, coaches | Coordinators discuss players, game

HISTORY / STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Ohio State 1-0, with the No. 2 Gators defeating the No. 1 Buckeyes 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship.
» Both teams are entering the game with a 6-6 record (each are 3-5 in their conference as well) and looking to finish the season above .500. UF losing would make them sub-.500 for the first time since 1979, while OSU would not have reached that low of a level since 1897 if they drop the game.
» Both teams are starting head coaches in their first year (and in Fickell’s case his last year) at the helm.
» This is Florida’s 21st consecutive appearance in a bowl game, good for first in the SEC and second nationally. The Gators have played in 18 January bowl games in the last 20 years dating back to 1993. The Buckeyes are second in most January bowl games since 1993 with 16 appearances.
» UF is 19-19 all-time in bowl games and 6-2 in the Gator Bowl but has not participated in this event since 1992. Florida is 7-6 in bowl games against current Big 10 teams.
» Ohio State has not played in the Gator Bowl since 1978 and has not played a bowl game in the state of Florida since 2002. The Buckeyes are 19-22 all-time in bowl games and 15-19 in those played in January.
» The Gators are 4-0 this season when rushing for more than 150 yards and 6-2 when gaining more than 100 yards on the ground. Florida, however, is 1-5 when being outrushed and 0-5 when tied or trailing at the half.
» UF had 18 players make their first career start in 2011 and the 15 true freshman that have seen the field is tied for seventh-most nationally.
» The Gators have half as many upperclassmen (14 seniors, 11 juniors) as they do underclassmen (27 sophomores, 24 freshmen) seeing action this season.
» Florida offense has struggled as of late, and the Gators have had major problems putting the ball in the end zone. Florida has scored points in just 33 of 48 quarters this season and touchdowns in only 25 of those quarters.
» UF’s 13.42 yards per pass completion is No. 1 in the SEC and 16th nationally.
» The Gators are only converting 49 percent (17-of-35) of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns but have scored at least a field goal when the offense has a possession inside the 20-yard-line 86 percent of the time.
» Florida is No. 9 nationally and fifth in the SEC in total defense (299.6 yards per game). The Gators are also No. 25 nationally and fifth in the SEC in scoring defense (20.6 points per game).
» The Gators’ defense is second in the nation in preventing third-down conversions, allowing just 27.7 percent of those attempted to be successful. However, UF is 66th nationally in preventing fourth-down conversions, allowing a 52.0 percent success rate.
» The Buckeyes have allowed the third fewest 100-yard rushers among all teams nationally since 2007, giving up just 11 such performances.
» Florida was one of the least disciplined teams in the country during the regular season, ranking 114th (out of 120 teams) nationally in penalties, committing 93 in 12 games for 699 total yards lost. Ohio State ranks 45th in that category, committing 66 in 12 games for 547 total yards lost.
» The Gators have a +1 turnover margin in six victories but a -12 margin in six losses.
» Florida’s defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (315) since 2000. UF also has the most interceptions in the nation (76) since 2008.

LAST TIME OUT

On the way to the team’s second national title, Florida defeated Ohio State 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship the last time these two teams squared off. The No. 2 Gators, led by quarterback Chris Leak (25/36 for 212 yards, touchdown), routed the No. 1 Buckeyes by outscoring them 41-7 after OSU wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Florida led 34-14 at halftime and stifled Ohio State’s offense, holding the team to just 82 yards over the course of four quarters. UF linebacker Earl Everett’s helmet-less sack on OSU QB Troy Smith is one of the most memorable moments from the game and the 2006 season.

FLORIDA’S PRE-GAME THOUGHTS

Muschamp on the team’s improvement: “We’ve made some progress, and I think a lot of that has to do with not having to get ready for a game in a game-week situation, being able to go back to a lot of fundamentals, a lot like training camp or spring practice to be able to work on a lot of those things.”

Muschamp on his team this year: “Coaching at the University of Florida is a dream of mine to be in this opportunity that I’ve been presented. I’m excited about work every day. I’m frustrated at the results maybe at times, but from the standpoint of how our players have worked, how they’ve committed themselves and these guys up here I think have done a good job. Is it the results we want? No. Are we where we want to be? No. But have I seen improvements and improvements within our program sometimes inside the building that maybe people don’t see? We’ve made tremendous strides as a team. It was a tough situation what we inherited, quite honestly. We’ve made tremendous strides.”

Muschamp on if the perception of being sub-.500 is worse than the reality: “It would be disappointing, obviously. It’s not something that we want to have happen. These players and myself and us as a staff don’t want to be saddled with that. Certainly is that a motivating factor? It certainly should be.

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley on playing his last game: “I grew up as a Gator. Now that I’ll be exiting this program after this game, I’ll always be a Gator. Through thick and thin. I’ll always be wearing the orange and blue and watching them on Saturdays for years to come.”

Brantley on if he would have done things differently: “I’m just fortunate enough to wake up every day and put on the Gator uniform. To be able to have this opportunity to play major college football at such a great university and one that I’ve loved my entire life was a dream come true, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

INJURIES / ABSENCES

FLORIDA
» Active: Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (head)
» Game-time decision: Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder)
» Inactive: Redshirt sophomore tackle Matt Patchan (back), redshirt sophomore defensive end Kedric Johnson (undisclosed), sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley (torn ACL), redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), freshman CB Marcus Roberson (neck)

OHIO STATE
» Active: Linebacker Andrew Sweat (head, shoulder)
» Game-time decision: Tight end Jake Stoneburner (knee)
» Inactive: Running back Rod Smith (undisclosed)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 58.9 percent of his passes (132-of-224) this season for 1,912 yards and 10 touchdowns but has also thrown six. He had a career-best game against Furman, throwing for 329 yards and four touchdowns, but followed it up with a career-worst performance against Florida State, throwing for 104 yards with three interceptions.
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 1,140 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 12.5 yards per reception and leads Florida in rushing this season. He became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, achieved the school and SEC record for career punt blocks (five), and is the active leader in that category nationally. He also rushed for 100 yards or more in three-straight games, the first UF player to do so since Fred Taylor last accomplished that feat 14 years ago.
» Senior RB Jeff Demps (#28)…who is second on the Gators in carries (91) and rushing yards (539) this season but leads Florida in touchdowns scored (six). Injuries and poor run blocking have limited Demps’s effectiveness in 2011, but he continues to do whatever he can to help the team each week.
» Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (#4)…who jumped to first on the Gators’ receiving list with a career-high 151 yards and two touchdowns two games ago against Furman. Debose had mirror image 65-yard touchdowns against Alabama and LSU earlier in the season. Fans have been waiting for Debose to emerge for some time, but his 423 receiving yards now lead the team. Additionally, his 28.2 yards per catch is the highest average in the SEC and third nationally.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary. He is second on the team in tackles (72) and at one point created turnovers in three-straight games (fumble-INT-INT). His 12 tackles against LSU a month ago marked a career high, and his nine tackles for loss this season are a team-high.
» Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard (#6)…who has helped solidified the interior of the Gators’ strongest unit. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (29 starts) and has registered 8.5 tackles for loss along with four sacks and two recovered fumbles this season. He is fourth on the team in total tackles (60) and has even broken up two passes).
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who are 1-3 on the team in tackles. Bostic (86) and Jenkins (71) have each excelled in different areas for Florida. The former has six tackles for a loss and three sacks while the latter has one sack, seven pass breakups and two interceptions (one pick-six) on the year.
» Sophomores DT Sharrif Floyd (#73) and Buck LB Ronald Powell (#7)…who are each looking to make a statement in Monday’s game. Floyd moves back to his more natural position after spending all season at end and registering 44 tackles and just five for a loss with no sacks, while Powell wants to build on his solid performance against FSU. He has registered 30 tackles (eight for a loss), five sacks and a forced fumble.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who has returned for Florida after missing eight games one year ago with an injured back. He is 21-for-25 in field goal attempts on the season (long: 55) and is perfect with 28 extra points, leading the Gators with 91 points scored this season. Sturgis is fourth in the nation with 21 field goals made but tied for 22nd in kicking points.

OHIO STATE
» QB Braxton Miller (#5)…who was named the Big 10 Freshman of the Year after completing 50 percent of his passes for 997 yards with 11 touchdowns and four picks on the season while also leading Ohio State in rushing with 144 carries for 695 yards and seven more scores. All of this and Miller did not start until the fourth game.
» RBs Dan Herron (#1) and Carlos Hyde (#34)…who are also toting the ball quite often for the Buckeyes with over 100 carries each this year. The duo has combined for over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns.
» WR Devin Smith (#15) and tight end Jake Stoneburner (#11)…who are two of three players on the team with double-digit receptions on the season. Smith (12) leads the team with 247 yards and has four touchdowns, but Stoneburner (who may not even play due to injury) has a team-high seven touchdowns on just 14 catches.
» LB Andrew Sweat (#41) and DL John Simon (#54)…who are two of OSU’s best defenders. Sweat has totaled 68 tackles along with five for a loss, an interception and a forced fumble this season. Simon is even more dominant with 50 tackles including 15 for a loss and seven sacks.

Loss to Rutgers drops Florida in top 25 polls

The eighth editions of the regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Syracuse Orange maintained their spot as the No. 1 team in the country for the fourth week in a row.

The Florida Gators fell to No. 14 and No. 13 in the respective polls on the heels of a double overtime loss on the road at Rutgers and a victory at home against Yale. Florida is one of three Southeastern Conference teams listed in the respective rankings.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: Syracuse (30), Kentucky (1), Duke, North Carolina, Baylor
6-10: Missouri, Ohio State, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville
11-15: Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Florida, Kansas
16-20: Mississippi State, UNLV, Murray State, Wisconsin, Marquette
21-25: Harvard, Kansas State, Virginia, Creighton, San Diego State

Last Week 1-5: Syracuse (30), Ohio State (1), Kentucky, Louisville, Duke
6-10: North Carolina, Baylor, Missouri, Connecticut, Florida
11-15: Wisconsin, Georgetown, Marquette, Mississippi State, Indiana
16-20: Michigan, Michigan State, Kansas, Creighton, UNLV
21-25: Murray State, Pittsburgh, Harvard, Virginia, Kansas State

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: Syracuse (60), Kentucky (5), North Carolina, Baylor, Duke
6-10: Ohio State, Missouri, Connecticut, Georgetown, Michigan State
11-15: Louisville, Indiana, Florida, Kansas, Mississippi State
16-20: Michigan, UNLV, Wisconsin, Murray State, Marquette
21-25: Virginia, Harvard, Kansas State, San Diego State, Gonzaga

Last Week 1-5: Syracuse (54), Ohio State (5), Kentucky (4), Louisville (2), UNC
6-10: Baylor, Duke, Missouri, Connecticut, Florida
11-15: Wisconsin, Georgetown, Indiana, Marquette, Mississippi State
16-20: Michigan State, Kansas, Michigan, UNLV, Murray State
21-25: Creighton, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Harvard, San Diego State

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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Four Gators coaches strap on the pads in practice

Call it a fun exercise to get the players hyped for the game or a moment to try to rekindle some glory from their playing careers but there were smiles all around during practice for the 2012 Gator Bowl when four Florida Gators coaches threw on pads and jerseys and went head-to-head on the field.

In the video below from the University of Florida’s GatorVision, wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill takes on defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and defensive line coach Bryant Young competes with tight ends coach Derek Lewis.

“[Lewis] threw on 82 and I threw on 97 and we had helmets and shoulder pads on,” Young told the school’s website. “Both of us realized, ‘What are we doing?’ Thank God nobody got hurt. We had some pretty tough physical practices and it was kind of way to get juiced up before we got started and even got the coaches going a little bit.”

(Interim offensive coordinator Brian White gets left hanging for a high-five for nearly six seconds starting at 1:52.)

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