Florida F/C Chris Walker suspended three games; G Brandone Francis will not play in 2014-15

Florida Gators sophomore forward Chris Walker will miss the first three games of the season, including two regular-season contests, while serving a suspension for violation of team rules, head coach Billy Donovan announced on Wednesday.

Donovan also noted that four-star freshman guard Brandone Francis, who OnlyGators.com first reported was cleared academically to enroll at Florida, will sit out the 2014-15 season while he works to improve his grades in order to get approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Walker, who missed the first half of his freshman campaign while working to become academically eligible to compete, is projected to start in the frontcourt for the Gators once he is able to play in his first game. He decided to return for his sophomore campaign rather than try his hand at the NBA Draft a year ago.

“He has worked very, very hard in the weight room. I think the biggest thing, his biggest challenge this year, in my opinion, is going to be his ability to manage expectations,” Donovan said.

“The one thing I admired about him a year ago is here comes a highly-profiled kid coming into our season in the middle of January. … He was an unbelievable teammate last year in terms of understanding the fact that he had missed so much of the summer, non-conference [games], and when he came here, he never once complained about playing time. He wanted to do whatever he could to help. …

“You hear all these expectations and people look at the fact that he has gotten physical stronger and everything else, [yet] he has such a long way to go in terms of being reliable, accountable and disciplined. Those would be the three things that I would say I don’t have a real good grasp on right now, but we’re going to find out.

“Him being reliable on the court to be able to do his job, him being responsible as it relates to his work ethic each and every day and understanding his role. Those are going to be some things where I think he’s going to have to battle some of those expectations because certainly he’s been built and hyped up. …

“I don’t know what kind of impact he’s going to make. I think that he’s going to have to be able to be able to handle that where maybe he’s got his own personal expectation of where he thinks he should be and if he’s not at that level, how is he going to handle that? I think that’s one of the most difficult things to deal with as a coach, when you have players with individual expectations that don’t’ get met with how they’re performing. He’s got to have a realistic expectation. He’s got a long way to go.”

Francis was expected to serve a reserve role at guard.

Florida opens up the 2014-15 campaign at home against William & Mary on Friday, Nov. 14. UF then hosts Miami on Monday, Nov. 17 and Louisiana-Monroe on Friday, Nov. 21.

Walker will be eligible to return for the Louisiana-Monroe contest as he will serve one part of his three-game suspension during UF’s exhibition game against Barry University on Thursday, Nov. 6.

He averaged 1.9 points, 1.3 boards and 0.4 blocks in just 4.8 minutes per game during his freshman season but should see a huge uptick in minutes and opportunity during his sophomore campaign.

“I think, offensively right now, he’s got a long way to go. I don’t necessarily know if he has an offensive go-to game, so to speak,” Donovan said. “He’s a terrific athlete. He’s got a really good motor. He tries to go rebound and chase balls on the glass. He’s a good shot blocker. I think he’s very quick off the dribble, he actually can dive the ball some from the perimeter. But he’s not a great jump shooter, he’s not a great back-to-the-basket player; he’s not a guy you can just throw the ball to and he can go get you a bucket. But I do think there’s a lot of value he can bring into our team.”

Driskel ‘going to start’ as Gators ready Harris

Photo Credit: Butch Dill/Associated Press

Those pining for freshman quarterback Treon Harris to replace embattled redshirt junior Jeff Driskel as the starter will have a bit longer to wait as Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper indicated Tuesday that the veteran will get the nod as the team’s primary signal caller on Saturday.

“Jeff’s going to start,” Roper said, “but this week obviously is an important week to see how each guy prepares and does all those things. Hopefully, we do get a ‘hot hand’ and do well the whole game. I’d like to get a ‘hot hand’ for sure.”

Though Driskel appears to be in line to take most of the snaps against the Missouri Tigers, Harris will undoubtedly have a role to play as head coach Will Muschamp confirmed Monday that Florida would be using both quarterbacks in the game.

How exactly the Gators will utilize the two signal callers remains to be seen.

According to Roper, what truly sets Driskel apart from Harris at this time is his experience as a game manager. Driskel understands the entire playbook, communicates the plays well and helps a number of Florida players get lined up properly – all things Harris simply does not know how to do at the same level at this time.

Continue Reading » Driskel ‘going to start’ as Gators ready Harris

10/14: Roper explains Florida’s rushing approach

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday to provide some thoughts on Florida’s second loss (at home against LSU) and the Gators’ upcoming contest against the Missouri Tigers, which is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

RUNNING THINGS

To say that Florida’s approach to running the football last Saturday was questionable is an understatement. The Gators entered the game with their starter, junior running back Matt Jones, injured (ankle) and questionable. UF planned to run redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel a lot in the contest, too.

Despite Jones’s health and the prospect of overworking a quarterback who had not carried the ball that much in any other game this season as very real concerns, Florida did not appear to have a power rushing backup plan.

Sophomore Kelvin Taylor and redshirt senior Mack Brown, who combined to tote the rock 259 times for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013, touched the ball early in the contest but were not used late when it mattered the most – on 1st and Goal at the 2-yard line, 2nd and Goal at the 1-yard line, and 3rd and Goal at the 1-yard line.

Instead, the Gators ran 5-foot-9, 177-pound freshman tailback Brandon Powell on first down, gave Driskel a chance to run it in out of the shotgun on second down, and ran a triple option on third down (that would have succeeded had the pass not been dropped).

Continue Reading » 10/14: Roper explains Florida’s rushing approach

Gators 2015 football schedule released; Florida to host Ole Miss for first time since 2008

The Southeastern Conference on Tuesday announced the league’s 2015 football schedule, which for the third-straight year features a 6-1-1 format of six inter-division games, one permanent cross-division rival and one rotating cross-division opponent.

In addition to playing the rest of the SEC East, the Florida Gators will go head-to-head with permanent cross-division rival LSU for the 45th consecutive season (dating back to 1971) and host Ole Miss, marking the first meeting between the programs since the Rebels took down the Gators in 2008.

Ole Miss defeated Florida 31-30 that year. It was the Gators’ only loss of the season and the catalyst to Tim Tebow’s “The Promise” speech; Florida won 10-straight games and closed the season with both the SEC and national titles.

The Rebels will not get a return date with the Gators until 2020, the first time Florida will play a game in Oxford, Mississippi, in 13 years dating back to 2007.

UF will play four of its first five – and three of its last four – games at home. Florida will also play seven-straight games to open the season before its lone open week. The NCAA only allows double bye weeks on years in which Aug. 30 or Aug. 31 falls on a Saturday.

Sept. 5 – vs. New Mexico State
Sept. 12 – vs. East Carolina
Sept. 19 – at Kentucky
Sept. 26 – vs. Tennessee
Oct. 3 – vs. Ole Miss
Oct. 10 – at Missouri
Oct. 17 – at LSU
Oct. 24 – BYE WEEK
Oct. 31 – vs. Georgia (Jacksonville, FL)
Nov. 7 – vs. Vanderbilt
Nov. 14 – at South Carolina
Nov. 21 – vs. Florida Atlantic
Nov. 28 – vs. Florida State

Florida will not open its SEC slate against Tennessee for just the third time in the past 14 seasons^. The Gators and Volunteers are scheduled to go head-to-head as the second league game on Sept. 26, continuing the end of a trend of playing each other on the third Saturday in September that dated back 22 years to 1992*.

^ Florida opened its league slate in Week 2 against Texas A&M in 2012 and against Kentucky in Week 3 in 2013.
* UF-UT was scheduled for the third week of the 2001 season but delayed due to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mike Slive to retire as SEC commissioner in 2015

The Southeastern Conference on Tuesday announced that Commissioner Mike Slive, who will have served in the role for 13 years, will retire on July 31, 2015. Slive also personally announced that he will be “beginning treatment for a recurrence of prostate cancer for which he was treated in the late 1990s.”

“I have been blessed in more ways than I can count and I will have as much passion for this job on my last day as I did on my first,” said Slive in a press release from the league.

“I consider my health situation a temporary detour in a remarkable road that has allowed me to meet amazing people, experience incredible events and celebrate historic victories. I will relish my final year in this position and look forward to being the biggest fan of the SEC for many years to come.”

The prognosis for the Slive to recover is “good,” but he will nevertheless leave his post at the SEC six days after his 75th birthday. At that time, he will “serve in the role of consultant to the conference for a period of four years.”

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Snell’s Slant: Gator Nation deserves better

By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist

You do not need me to tell you that losing sucks. Watching uninspired football? That sucks, too. There is a problem in Gainesville, Florida, and the most frustrating thing in my life right now is the realization that the Gators, a top-tier program in the nation, are currently a bottom-tier team in the Southeastern Conference.

It may be tough to realize sometimes when reading this column, but I am a positive person and try to look on the bright side of things when writing about Florida. Part of that is from being a former player, caring so much about the program and wanting to give the Gators the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible.

I would love to tell you about the progress Jeff Driskel is making at quarterback, but he’s not. This is as matter-of-fact as I can make this statement: he is not the answer behind center. He may have a strong arm, but he cannot consistently connect down the field. He may be athletic, but he does not get the opportunity to showcase that often enough. He may be a leader in the locker room, but turning the ball over three times in a single game – like he did on Saturday – is not an example to set for your teammates.

When I played for Steve Spurrier, he made it perfectly clear that if you didn’t play well in games, your ass would be benched. And one of the things that I respect most about him – to this day – is that he never played favorites.

Continue Reading » Snell’s Slant: Gator Nation deserves better

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: 2014 Week 6

The 2014 NFL regular season continued this week with 38 former Florida Gators spread out over 22 of the 32 teams in the league.

Eleven teams had multiple Florida players on their rosters including Miami (four); Philadelphia and Tampa Bay (three each); and Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh and St. Louis (two each).

Below are full game statistics for all 27 players (19 starters^) that saw action along with select status and injury updates on some Gators during the sixth week of the regular season.

Three players were on their bye week.

^ Kickers and returners not counted as starters.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
S REGGIE NELSON, Cincinnati Bengals: Started | 11 tackles (nine solo, one for loss), two pass defenses, interception (31-yard return)

PLAYS OF THE WEEK

Check out how the rest of the Gators in the NFL performed…after the break!

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10/13: Muschamp says Gators will play two quarterbacks – Driskel and Harris – on Saturday

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-2 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team continues to recover from its latest loss while preparing for the Missouri Tigers (4-2, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday evening. Florida will host Mizzou at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida; kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the agme will air live nationally on ESPN2.

INTRODUCING THE TWO-QUARTERBACK SYSTEM

In what was likely to be the original plan last week against LSU, Muschamp confirmed Monday that Florida will employ a two-quarterback system this week against Missouri with redshirt junior Jeff Driskel likely to take the first snaps in the contest.

“They both will play this week. We’ll work through the week and see how things go. We’ll see how it goes there,” he said. “Right now, Jeff would probably start, but they’re both going to play.”

Driskel, who learned of his demotion to part-time player when Muschamp made the announcement, said he has no qualms with the decision because he knows he needs to pick up his play going forward. Freshman Treon Harris, of course, will be the other signal caller taking reps with Driskel.

Continue Reading » 10/13: Muschamp says Gators will play two quarterbacks – Driskel and Harris – on Saturday

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