Loss on Saturday keeps Gators outside Top 25

Having won five-straight games in impressive fashion, the Florida Gators were making a case to hop back into the ESPN/USA Today and Associated Press Top 25 polls…that is until they fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks 72-69 in Gainesville, FL on Saturday. Instead of cracking the Top 25 for the first time in a month, Florida (13-4, 2-1 SEC) was once again on the outside looking in when the latest polls were released on Monday.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 10 (1,048)No. 8 (550)-
2W 77-69 vs. North Florida1-0No. 11 (995)No. 10 (535)-
3L 53-59 at No. 20 Wisconsin
W 86-56 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock
2-1No. 16 (619)No. 14 (359)-
4W 67-53 vs. Southern
W 79-59 vs. MTSU
4-1No. 15 (729)No. 13 (395)-
5W 86-60 at Jacksonville
W 67-66 vs. Florida State
6-1No. 15 (758)No. 12 (426)-
6L 64-65 at No. 12 UConn6-2No. 19 (434)No. 19 (258)-
7W 67-61 vs. No. 13 Kansas7-2No. 16 (699)No. 17 (296)-
8W 77-75 vs. Memphis
W 66-49 vs. Fresno State
9-2No. 13 (881)No. 14 (383)-
9W 76-34 vs. Savannah State10-2No. 12 (915)No. 13 (413)-
10W 67-58 vs. Richmond11-2No. 10 (1,052)No. 11 (473)12
11W 74-58 vs. South Carolina
W-OT 84-82 at Arkansas
13-2
(2-0 SEC)
No. 7
(1,205)
No. 7
(573)
8
12W 72-50 vs. Georgia
W 68-61 at Auburn
15-2
(4-0 SEC)
No. 6
(1,303)
No. 6
(639)
8
13W 68-62 at Alabama
W 67-41 vs. Tennessee
17-2
(6-0 SEC)
No. 3
(1,436)
No. 4
(694)
5
14W 62-51 at Mississippi State
W 69-36 vs. Texas A&M
19-2
(8-0 SEC)
No. 3
(1,482)
No. 4
(720)
3
15W 68-58 vs. Missouri
W 78-69 vs. Alabama
21-2
(10-0 SEC)
No. 3
(1,477)
No. 4
(711)
5
16W 67-58 at Tennessee
W 69-59 at Kentucky
23-2
(12-0 SEC)
No. 2
(1,543)
No. 2
(752)
4
17W 71-66 vs. Auburn
W 75-71 at Ole Miss
25-2
(14-0 SEC)
No. 1
(1,606)
No. 1
(791)
3
18W 57-54 at Vanderbilt
W 79-61 vs. LSU
27-2
(16-0 SEC)
No. 1
(1,606)
No. 1
(793)
3
19W 72-46 at South Carolina
W 84-65 vs. Kentucky
29-2
(18-0 SEC)
No. 1
(1,610)
No. 1
(793)
2
Post-
season
W 72-49 vs. Missouri
W 56-49 vs. Tennessee
W 61-60 vs. Kentucky
32-2
(18-0 SEC)
(3-0 SECT)
No. 1
(1,610)
No. 1
(794)
1
FinalW 67-55 vs. Albany
W 61-45 vs. Pittsburgh
W 79-68 vs. UCLA
W 62-52 vs. Dayton
L 53-63 vs. UConn
36-3
(18-0 SEC)
(3-0 SECT)
(4-1 NCAAT)
-No. 3
(735)
-

ESPN/USA TODAY
Last Week 1-25: Duke (31*), Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Villanova, Purdue, Connecticut, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisville, Washington, Georgetown, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Central Florida, Temple, Michigan State, Minnesota
+ Florida received 20 voting points, good for 33rd overall

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (28*), Kansas (2*), Syracuse (1*), Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Villanova, Connecticut, Brigham Young, Texas A&M, Texas, Kentucky, Purdue, Missouri, Louisville, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota, Washington, Saint Mary’s, Illinois, Georgetown, Kansas State, Arizona
+ Florida received eight voting points, good for 38th overall

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-25: Duke (65*), Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Villanova, Purdue, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Brigham Young, Texas, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Missouri, Illinois, Washington, Louisville, Temple, Wisconsin, Kansas State, Georgetown, Central Florida, Georgia, Cincinnati
+ Florida received 110 voting points, good for 29th overall

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (49*), Kansas (6*), Syracuse (8*), Duke (1*), Pittsburgh (1*), San Diego State, Villanova, Connecticut, Brigham Young, Texas, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Missouri, Purdue, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Louisville, Washington, West Virginia, Saint Mary’s, Georgetown, Illinois, Cincinnati
+ Florida received 42 voting points, good for 35th overall

* Numbers represent first-place votes.

SIX BITS: Blakely, Hounshell, Jernigan, Brissett

1 » Florida Gators four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL), an early enrollee already on campus at the University of Florida, is scheduled to have shoulder surgery this week that will keep him out of spring practice but hopefully allow him to be available in the summer. It is not known how Blakely injured his shoulder except that it occurred before he enrolled in January.

2 » Three-star offensive lineman commitment Chase Hounshell (Kirkland, OH), originally scheduled to join some of his future teammates as an early enrollee this month, instead decided to return to high school and take his time making his final decision. Hounshell announced Sunday that he received an in-home visit from Gators head coach Will Muschamp and offensive line coach/running game coordinator Frank Verducci, men he described as “first class” and “just great people.” He will be visiting Florida this upcoming weekend in what appears to be a reaffirmation trip.

3 » The Gators coaching staff, barring a packed suitcase and plane ticket to Gainesville, FL, is now complete. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the defensive line coach of the Seattle Seahawks until they lost to the Chicago Bears in the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday, has now fulfilled his commitment to his team and should be ready to hit the ground running any day now. A Scout.com report from Friday noted that Quinn’s assistant DL coach at Florida, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Bryant Young, was already hard at work recruiting. He was in the home of five-star DT Tim Jernigan (Lake City, FL), convincing him to take a trip and give UF some serious consideration.

4 » Though former Gators safety Will Hill decided to leave school early and declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, his classmate and teammate in the secondary, junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, chose to stick around for his senior season. Hill was shocked by this occurrence, especially considering Jenkins was expected to be a first-round selection, and told the Orlando Sentinel his thoughts on the subject. “He was talking about leaving,” Hill said. “I haven’t heard or spoke to him for two months. Last time I spoke to him, he said he was leaving. That he’s coming back is kind of a surprise.”

5 » After meeting with four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) at his high school on Friday, new Florida offensive coordinator and QB coach Charlie Weis invited him to take an unofficial visit to campus over the weekend. Brissett obliged, watched most of the game with Weis and met up with some of his former Dwyer High School teammates including freshman S Matt Elam. Brissett, also a high school basketball player who could be in a unique position to play both sports at UF, reportedly came away from the visit impressed though he still has plenty of thinking to do. Muschamp extended a scholarship offer to Brissett after Weis left on Friday, something he had not been given under former head coach Urban Meyer.

6 » The Gators’ two basketball programs have had a pretty rough go of it this week. In addition to the men falling 72-69 at home to South Carolina, the women lost a pair of gut-wrenching games on Thursday and Sunday. Routed 83-40 at home by the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers on Jan. 13, Florida blew a 16-point lead with 14:17 remaining in the game to fall 70-64 to the Georgia Bulldogs on the road in Athens, GA on Jan. 16. After getting out to a good start this season, the women have lost three of their last four games including a 73-56 throttling by Auburn on Jan. 6.

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Divisional

With the 2010-11 NFL regular season having come to a close, a number of Florida Gators participated in Divisional Round action during the NFL Playoffs. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the second week of the playoffs.

LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Six tackles (four solo, two for loss)
S MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears*: Two tackles (one solo), pass defended
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Two tackles (solo, for loss)
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Reception for four yards
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Solo tackle
RB FRED TAYLOR, New England Patriots: Inactive
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots: Solo tackle
C MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers*: Started and played the entire game

* Team remains active in the playoffs.

REGULAR SEASON: Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17

PLAYOFFS: Wild Card

1/15: Donovan on Florida’s home loss to USC

Fighting back from a double-digit deficit to take the lead late in the second half, the Florida Gators (13-4, 2-1 SEC) failed to finish their comeback attempt against the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-5, 2-1 SEC), falling to their Southeastern Conference foe 72-69 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Saturday. Florida head coach Billy Donovan had plenty to say about his team’s performance after the game. We have compiled some of the key notes and quotes.

FREE THROW WOES PLAGUE GATORS

The Gators defense failed to get necessary stops at the end of the game Saturday, but ask anyone who was watching the contest and they will tell you it was Florida’s poor free throw shooting that took away every opportunity that presented itself. UF missed their final five free throws including three inside the final four minutes of the game. “The thing that killed us the last four or five minutes of the game was we didn’t make free throws. The free throw shooting hurt us,” Donovan admitted. “I try to create some level of pressure when they’re shooting free throws [in practice]. And we’ve been doing it for a while. You try to do it in practice.”

Though junior point guard Erving Walker uncharacteristically missed the front end of a one-and-one, it was the Gators’ frontcourt that really struggled from the charity stripe. “When you look at your frontcourt and those guys go 6-for-14 from the free throw line, it’s hard,” he said. “A lot of times being a great free throw shooting team has to do with how well your frontcourt players are shooting because they have the most opportunities to get fouled because they are playing closer to the rim more often than not.”

OFFENSE HAS IMPROVED AS DEFENSE WILTS

Struggling to post at least 70 points for seven-straight games over approximately a month, Florida found some offense as the year came to a close and a new one began. Since Dec. 31, the Gators have posted totals of 71, 84, 77, 81 and 69 points in consecutive games. While their offensive improvement has garnered much attention, their defensive struggled have been overlooked for the same reason. Florida has allowed opponents to score at least 70 points in three-straight games after only permitting that many twice in the previous 14 contests.

“The one thing that was being lost in [the offensive slump] was the fact that we were really defending people. We were keeping people in the 50s and low 60s,” Donovan said. “Ever since we started making some shots, our defense has really, really dropped off. People didn’t notice because the ball was going in the basket.”

Donovan added that the Gators “defensive intensity” was the most disappointing thing to him about his team’s performance in the first half, something that led to them being in a double-digit hole that was tough to fight out of throughout the remainder of the contest.

QUOTES

On if the team appeared laid back after a big win like they have been previously: “I didn’t feel that way in this game.”

On first half struggles: “I think they blocked eight shots in the first half. And then we come into the half and [Alex] Tyus and [Vernon] Macklin are 3-for-13 from the field. Our lack of understanding about how we needed to attack them offensively… We had way too many shots blocked. We had guys driving down the lane without a purpose, getting caught up in the air. We didn’t make the right decision with the ball.”

On why sophomore F Erik Murphy (foot) did not play: “He was available. He practiced sparingly the last two days. With the way the game was going, I didn’t want to put him in that situation. This is a better week for him going into the Auburn game because we got Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday where he can get back. It was probably better for his health that he didn’t play.”

Free throws doom Gators in loss to Gamecocks

Rallying back from a double-digit deficit they were stuck in most of the game, the Florida Gators (13-4, 2-1 SEC) eventually fell 72-69 to the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-5, 2-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL after missing three free throws inside the final four minutes of the game.

The Gators were only 12-for-22 from the line as a team and failed in their bid for a come-from-behind win even though they were provided ample opportunities as the second half drew to a close. Florida missed five-straight free throws including four on three-point plays, and junior point guard Erving Walker uncharacteristically missed the first shot of a one-and-one.

The team’s leading scorer and best free throw shooter, Walker finished the game with a team-high 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting but missed two key free throws. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, the team’s second leading scorer, was an anemic 3-for-10 (1-of-4 from downtown) with nine points.

Tied at 18 in the first half, South Carolina went on a 15-2 run over five minutes to take a game-high 13-point lead. The Gamecocks did a great job of keeping Gators redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin out of the paint in the opening half, limiting him to two baskets on seven shot attempts.

South Carolina kept their double-digit lead for most of the second half, that is until Florida went on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 59. Senior forward Chandler Parsons and Boynton hit back-to-back treys, Walker followed up with a layup, and senior F Alex Tyus added one of his own to complete the run.

The Gamecocks responded and went back up 63-59, but Walker drained a three from the corner to bring the game within one with 1:40 remaining. South Carolina F Sam Muldrow hit a dagger trey, and G Bruce Ellington connected on a runner to force fouls and free throws with the clock winding down.

Ellington led the Gamecocks with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Three other South Carolina starters, including Muldrow, scored 10, and the team connected on 73.3 percent of their free throw attempts.

Gators freshman C Patric Young, who played 19 minutes off the bench, scored a career-high 12 points while going 5-for-6 from the field. Macklin finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Tyus added 10 points.

Florida, which had won five-straight games and eight of their last nine contests, had both streaks snapped while losing their third home game of the season. The Gators failed to score 70 points for the first time since Dec. 22, 2010, and were out-rebounded (36-32) for only the third time this season.

UF hopes to rebound from their tough home loss as they travel to Auburn for their next game on Thursday at 7 p.m. The contest will air live on ESPN.

TWO BITS: Weis high on Brissett; surgeries

1 » Friday marked new Florida Gators offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Charlie Weis’s first day on the job, and he spent it in West Palm Beach, FL trying to recruit four-stars quarterback Jacoby Brissett and linebacker Curt Maggitt of Dwyer High School. Former Florida head coach Urban Meyer had previously offered Brissett the opportunity to greyshirt, but a visit by Weis followed by a phone call to new head coach Will Muschamp after the meeting netted Brissett an official scholarship offer on Friday. Maggitt already had an outstanding offer to join the Gators.

Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels told the Palm Beach Post that Weis showcased one of his Super Bowl rings and told “a ton of stories about what he’s done and situations he’s handled.” Brisset will take an unofficial visit to Gainesville, FL over the weekend to get a look at the school and watch the Florida-South Carolina basketball game (a former schoolmate plays for USC). The Gators hope to convince both Brissett and Maggitt to take an official visit to Florida before the recruiting cycle closes. [Read more of what Daniels had to say from the Post.

With Gators freshman QB Trey Burton expected to move to the defensive side of the ball (possibly safety), Florida would have five quarterbacks on its roster should Brissett commit. Redshirt junior John Brantley announced he is not transferring, five-star frosh Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) is already enrolled, and both redshirt freshman Jordan Reed and freshman Tyler Murphy are currently listed as QBs. Reed is also a tight end and could permanently switch to that position, and Murphy could theoretically change positions as well though he has come out and said he only wants to play quarterback.

2 » Muschamp announced Friday that freshman LB Neiron Ball and redshirt sophomore guard David Young both underwent surgery this past week. Ball, who played in all of Florida’s contests on special teams in 2010, had surgery to repair a sports hernia. Young had hardware cleaned out of his left knee from a prior surgery and only participated in two games this past season. Expectations are that Ball will be able to get work in during spring practice, but Young will most likely have to wait until the summer.

Pro Bowler Bryant Young added to Gators staff

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp had one final position to fill on his initial coaching staff after hiring Seattle Seahawks defensive line coach Dan Quinn as his defensive coordinator on Jan. 3. He made that decision Friday by bringing in 14-year NFL veteran and former San Francisco 49ers four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Bryant Young as Quinn’s assistant defensive line coach.

“Bryant is a great addition to our coaching staff,” Muschamp said. “We want to be a program built on toughness – both physically and mentally, and there are not too many people tougher than Bryant. He was a leader, blue-collar player and a winner. He will demand his players to have the same attributes.”

The No. 7 overall pick in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame, Young compiled 620 tackles and 89.5 sacks while playing professionally from 1994-2007. Named to the Pro Bowl in 1996, 1999, 2001 and 2002, he was a member of the 49ers’ Super Bowl XXIX championship team, was honored as a part of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team, and won the 1994 NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year and 1999 Comeback Player of the Year awards.

He is also a former teammate of Florida football’s director of player and community relations Terry Jackson, a running back with San Francisco from 1999-2005.

Quinn was Young’s defensive line coach at the 49ers from 2003-04. He is still coaching the Seahawks as they participate in the second round of the NFL Playoffs and will join the Gators when his team’s season ends.

Since retiring, Young worked as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in January 2009 under then-head coach now Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and was hired by San Jose State to coach the team’s defensive line in 2010. When

The University of Florida confirmed Young’s hiring on Saturday.

Position20102011
Offensive coordinatorSteve AddazioCharlie Weis
Quarterbacks coachScot LoefflerCharlie Weis
Defensive coordinatorTeryl AustinDan Quinn
Defensive line coachDan McCarney*Dan Quinn
Assistant: Bryant Young
Running backs coach
Recruiting coordinator
Stan DraytonBrian White
Offensive line coach
Running game coordinator
Steve AddazioFrank Verducci
Wide receivers coach
Recruiting coordinator
Zach AzzanniAubrey Hill
Tight ends coachBrian WhiteDerek Lewis
Linebackers coach
Special teams coordinator
D.J. DurkinD.J. Durkin
Defensive backs coachAustin/Chuck Heater*Travaris Robinson
Strength & conditioningMickey MarottiMickey Marotti

*McCarney was also assistant head coach; Heater held the role of co-defensive coordinator. Muschamp has not named an assistant (or associate) head coach as of press time.

Photo Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Father says John Brantley staying put at Florida

Redshift junior quarterback John Brantley will play his senior season with the Florida Gators after deciding not to transfer from the University of Florida, his father John Brantley III told the Palm Beach Post on Friday.

“He’s not transferring unless something goes wrong between now and the end of the spring semester,” Brantley III said. “He’s a Gator.”

Brantley, who was considering leaving after a rough first season, is excited to play in a pro-style offense under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis after being a square peg in a round hole in former head coach Urban Meyer‘s spread offense.

“[A pro-style offense] is what we would have sought out if we had looked to move on, but it came to us,” Brantley III told the paper. “Johnny’s looking forward to the challenge. Once they said there was going to a pro-style, transferring wasn’t even a question.”

Though he threw for over 2,000 yards in his first year as a starter, Brantley tossed 10 interceptions compared to only nine touchdowns and was relegated to mostly third-and-long duty in the 2011 Outback Bowl.

Brantley has not yet met with Weis – something he and his family said he would do before making a decision – but plans to in the near future. Weis is expected to be in Gainesville on Saturday.

Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

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