Florida officially announces Hill headed to NFL

The Florida Gators officially announced on Friday that junior safety Will Hill has decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and declare for the 2011 NFL Draft.

OGGOA first reported Hill’s decision on Jan. 5.

“Although I didn’t have a chance to coach Will Hill, we certainly wish him the best of luck in the NFL,’’ head coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. “Like all of our players, we hope he understands the value of his education and returns to get his degree.”

OGGOA RELATED 1/5: Will Hill to forgo senior season, enter NFL Draft

Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press

TWO BITS: Weis checks in, Tebow-Fox future

1 » With National Signing Day fast approaching and the Kansas City Chiefs eliminated from the playoffs, new Florida Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is officially on the job as of Friday. Currently in South Florida at Dwyer High School visiting four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) [and possibly four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL), too], Weis plans to set foot in Gainesville, FL this weekend as a number of prominent recruits will be visiting the University of Florida campus. In addition to speaking with recruits, Weis will also be trying to convince redshirt junior QB John Brantley (and perhaps other offensive players) to stick with the Gators and the new coaching staff.

Uncommitted recruits visiting Florida this weekend include five-star LB Curtis Grant (Richmond, VA) and three-star LB Denzel Perryman (Coral Gables, FL).

2 » Though there were concerns about whether or not a new head coach would believe in Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow as his future starter, those questions seem to have been put to rest (at least temporarily) with the hiring of John Fox. In addition Fox speaking highly of Tebow before the 2010 NFL Draft, the Denver Post reports that Tebow is still in his good graces. “He’s got a lot of intangibles I look for,” Fox said Wednesday. “Where that goes it’s hard to predict. He’s in a developmental stage for sure, but I think he has the makings to be as good as he wants to be.” Perhaps even better news for Tebow is that his offensive coordinator last season, Mike McCoy is expected to be retained as he has a long history coaching under Fox. Though he is drawing interest from other teams, McCoy worked with Fox as his QBs coach with the Carolina Panthers from 2003-07 and passing game coordinator in 2008.

FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Hill, Trattou, All-Rookie

1 » A reliable source told OGGOA on Thursday that Florida Gators junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who announced on Monday that he would remain enrolled at the University of Florida for his senior season, is having second thoughts about his decision not to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Prior to his announcement Monday, Jenkins was told that, due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder, he would most likely be selected in the second round of the draft. After doing some additional research into the matter throughout the week, Jenkins was given a first-round grade by a handful of NFL front office executives he contacted, according to our source. The deadline to declare for the draft is late Friday afternoon, leaving Jenkins with less than 24 hours (as of press time) to make a final decision he is comfortable with.

2 » As first reported by OGGOA on Jan. 5, Florida junior safety Will Hill was never confused about his decision – he will declare for the draft and officially submit his paperwork to UF on Friday. Speaking with the Palm Beach Post on Thursday, Hill explained that he made his decision mostly due to financial and family issues and hopes he will be selected in the first two days of the draft. “It took a while to come to that conclusion, but the thing that made me come out and try to go pro is I have a family,” Hill told the Post’s Jason Lieser. “It’s a priority of mine to help my family. I have [three] little ones to look after. I feel like this was the best decision for me and them.”

He also admitted that he did not perform up to his capabilities this past season with the Gators. “I had an up and down season. I was hurt, which people fail to realize. I had a bad shoulder and groin that was keeping me from competing,” he said. “I wish my junior year went better. Everybody wants to have that elite season. I learned a lot from it. I learned don’t take things for granted, every play counts. I know I missed tackles here and there due to injuries, but I put everything on the line.” The Post also reports that Hill has signed with Metro Sports Agency, is 30 credits away from graduating and is currently working out 48 hours per week at the TEST Football Academy.

3 » Florida senior defensive end Justin Trattou has decided to play in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game set to be played on Jan. 22 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL. A captain for the Gators in 2010, Trattou finished the season with 57 tackles including 35 solo and a team-high 12 for a loss of yards. He is the fifth Florida senior to agree to play in a pre-draft game. Senior S Ahmad Black, senior center/guard Mike Pouncey, senior punter/kicker Chas Henry and redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will all participate in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Jan. 29 in Mobile, AL.

4 » Three former Gators – Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunalp – were named to the Sporting News 2010 NFL All-Rookie Team earlier in the week. Haden finished the season with 64 tackles, six interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack, while Dunlap contributed 24 tackles, 9.5 sacks (a Cincinnati rookie record) and recovered a fumble. Pouncey started every game at center for Pittsburgh.

FOUR BITS: Crowder, Gonzales, Fox, Andrews

You can view the rest of the pictures from this photoshoot right here.

1 » Before returning to coach in college, new Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp spent a season coordinating the defense under Nick Saban in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. As a rookie third-round draft choice, former Gators linebacker Channing Crowder played for Muschamp and was thrilled to learn he was hired to lead his alma mater. “He’s an energetic dude. I’m excited for him,’’ Crowder told MiamiDolphins.com writer Andy Kent, who related his thoughts to the University of Florida senior writer Scott Carter. “He’s a proven defensive coordinator and he knows defense. When he was here I want to say we were the No. 3 or No. 4 defense in the league. He’s just a smart dude and he’s going to be a young head coach. He’s going to bring energy to the team. Urban [Meyer] was a great coach but he was more of that laid-back, dictator type. Will’s going to get in there and get dirty with the guys and I think he’s going to be great for Florida. […] Now he’s going to be in the spotlight at Florida, especially coming into the situation he’s coming into with a proven program. I think it was a great hire and I think he’ll bring a lot of excitement.’’

2 » Passed over for Steve Addazio for the open offensive coordinator position with the Gators, Billy Gonzales left his post as wide receivers coach under Meyer to join the LSU Tigers staff for the same position with the enhanced title of “passing game coordinator.” Though the Tigers are now searching for a new offensive coordinator, ESPN‘s Bruce Feldman reports that head coach Les Miles will be looking to fill the position with someone outside the program. It should be noted that, contrary to Feldman’s report, there are rumors that Gonzales is the frontrunner for the position. Those have not yet been confirmed.

3 » Denver Broncos president John Elway announced Thursday afternoon that he and the organization have decided to hire veteran John Fox as the team’s next head coach. Fox, who will be faced with a number of important decisions in his first year including deciding whether or not Tim Tebow is his starting quarterback, had glowing things to say about the Heisman Trophy winner before the 2010 NFL Draft. “[Tebow] had a very, very good workout,” Fox said last March at Florida’s Pro Day. “He doesn’t lack in the work ethic department, so whatever needs to be done, he’ll do. I definitely saw some adjustment and I thought he executed very well.” He said later that Tebow is “a guy that has a great work ethic … that if there’s something that needs to be fixed, he can fix it.” Asked about his talent compared to his intangibles, Fox referenced another quarterback who was overlooked by some. “Did you ever watch Bernie Kosar play?” Fox said at a league meeting last year. “Bernie might not appreciate it, but I call it as I see it. He won a lot of games. So it’s not all just how pretty they are [or] how big.”

4 » Former Florida dazzler and current ESPN reporter Erin Andrews has signed an endorsement deal with Reebok to promote the company’s ZigTech brand. Joining names like Peyton Manning, Chad Ochocinco, John Wall and Sidney Crosby, Andrews will pitch the company’s footwear and apparel while helping to expand the ZigTech brand’s reach to a female audience. “I’m very excited to be the first female to become part of Reebok’s ZigTech campaign,” she said in an official statement. “I have been athletic all my life, and I’m thrilled to be working out in the same footwear and apparel that helps these athletes perform at the top of their game.”

Photo Credit: Reebok

Heater to join Addazio as defensive coordinator

Former Florida Gators co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater has joined head coach Steve Addazio’s Temple Owls staff and taken the reigns as the team’s defensive coordinator, sources confirmed to the Philadelphia Daily News.

A career assistant coach who has coached in the NCAA since 1976, Heater’s only prior defensive coordinator experience was with Colorado State from 1991-92 before he was given an enhanced role with Florida last season. He is known as a terrific secondary coach and recruiter who has helped bring in major defensive talent for the Gators.

The Daily News reports that Heater joined Addazio at Temple’s basketball game Wednesday evening and will be announced as his defensive coordinator shortly.

Addazio has also hired two former Florida graduate assistants who currently work as coaches for the Marshall Thundering Herd under head coach Doc Holliday (himself a former Gators assistant), according to the paper.

Defensive line coach Sean Cronin served as a defensive graduate assistant at Florida from 2005-08, while wide receivers coach Zach Smith (hired as the Owls’ special teams coach) was a offensive/special teams quality control assistant, recruit evaluator and offensive/special teams graduate assistant at UF from 2006-09.

FOUR BITS: Demps and track, Driskel, Applewhite

1 » Florida Gators sophomore/junior running back Jeff Demps had a tough go of it in 2010. After carrying the ball a career-high 26 times against the Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 18, Demps sat out or played sparingly the rest of the season with an injured foot but still led the team in rushes (92) and rushing yards (551). Florida track head coach Mike Holloway, who helped Demps win the 60-meter indoor (6.57 seconds) and 100-meter outdoor (9.96 seconds) National Championships last year, said his star will sit out the first competition and may not run until midseason. “Jeff has never run in the first competition, so our goal with Jeff is we’re going to take it day by day and see how he progresses,’” said Holloway during a press conference Monday. “He’s doing fine right now. Our goal is for him to open up in the middle of the season like he did last year. He’s come off a long football season. He’s human and I’m not just going to throw him out there when he’s not quite prepared for it just yet.”

2 » Though he will likely miss a portion of the season, Demps was named to The Bowerman’s 2011 preseason watch list on Wednesday. Awarded by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), The Bowerman honors the sport’s best overall athlete each year. Joining Demps as a preseason watch list member is Gators junior jumper Christian Taylor. Sophomore jumper Will Claye also received honorable mention from the USTFCCCA.

3 » OGGOA reader Austin Hittel sent in a personal video he made of new Florida five-star 2011 quarterback commitment Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) after watching him play a few games this season. Driskel actually sat down with Austin and helped him film some additional scenes for the short, which is both well-produced and executed nicely. With National Signing Day less than a month away and Driskel already on campus, we figured this is something you, our readers, would be interested in. If you have any thoughts for Austin, leave them in our comments section.

4 » Texas Longhorns co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, believed to be a candidate for the Gators’ offensive coordinator position immediately after Will Muschamp was hired as the team’s new head coach, said on Monday that leaving the Longhorns was never a consideration for him. “People called, but I wasn’t interested in anything,” he told The Dallas Morning News. “I’m going to be here. This is my university. I want to help get this fixed.”

Donovan, former assistants share common bond

During a media availability in November, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan discussed how a common bond will unite him forever with two former assistants – Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey and Alabama head coach Anthony Grant.

“Not to get too personal or morbid, but I lost a daughter. Anthony Grant lost a son. John Pelphrey lost a son. They’re all buried out on 43rd [Street] together. All their graves are right there together,” Donovan explained. “So there are things that have happened over a 13-14-15-year period for the four of us that, no question, we will be ever interwoven in terms of relationships, things that have happened.”

Yahoo! Sports’ Jason King ran with the topic and put together a fantastic feature story published in the organization’s new online magazine on Wednesday.

“No staff,” Grant says of the trio’s related struggles, “has ever experienced what we experienced. What happened with all of us … I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”

King takes a deeper look at the story behind each coach’s loss and how the pain helped bring them together in a way few things in life can. Below are selections from the story.

November 2, 2000

Donovan stopped at a red light.

“I’m sitting there,” Donovan says, “and I look over at this church, and there’s a sign on the marquee that says, ‘God is Good All of the Time.’ I kind of shook my head and thought, ‘What’s good about this?’
“But then I sat there a little longer, and I said to myself, ‘I’ve got an incredible wife, and right now I’m going home to three healthy kids.’ A lot of times, when bad things happen in your life, you fail to remember all the good things that are in your life, too.

“At that moment, a calm came over me, a peace that made me realize that, although this was a terrible loss, I was still very, very blessed.” […]

February 6, 1999

“When you’re young, you think it’s easy to have a baby,” says Grant, who was 29 at the time. “Your wife gets pregnant and you assume there aren’t going to be any issues. Then something happens like what happens to us, and your whole world changes.”

“God doesn’t make mistakes,” Grant says. “All things work for the good. All things happen for a reason. Maybe what I went through enabled me to help Billy.”

Indeed, nearly two years later, Grant was in his office when Donovan’s secretary notified staff members about Jacqueline’s death. Grant said he darted to his car, picked up his wife at the tennis court and drove straight to the hospital to offer support. […]

August 22, 2003

But it certainly helped to have friends like Donovan and Grant. Other than his own father, Pelphrey calls Donovan the most influential male in his life. His daughter’s full name is Anne Marie Grace Donovan Pelphrey. And his oldest son, Jackson, was born on the same day as Brian Donovan, Billy’s youngest son.

“My wife and his wife were in the hospital at the same time,” Donovan says. “John and I drove up there right after my first SEC game (as Florida’s head coach) and they induced labor on both of them at the same time. We’ve been through a lot. We were together when life was brought into this world. And we’ve both experienced tragedy, too.” […]

Under the shade of a large pine tree, in graves about 50 yards away from the noise and traffic on NW 23rd Avenue, rest the children of three Division I head basketball coaches, three SEC competitors, three best friends forever bound by the most tragic of circumstances.

When Jacqueline died in 2000, Donovan suggested that Grant move his son, Brandon, from a different part of the cemetery to an available grave just a few feet away. Three years later, it seemed right for Pelphrey to bury John Patrick in the same location.

“I’m not sure what term to use,” Pelphrey says, “but it’s certainly humbling when you walk out there and see all those headstones so close together.”

Grant says: “It’s special to have them all together like that. It’s very special.”

Read on ThePostGame: Billy Donovan’s Secret Sorrow

Team effort propels Florida to OT win in Knoxville

The Florida Gators won their fifth-straight game and eighth in their last nine contests with a 81-75 overtime victory against the Tennessee Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN, Tuesday evening.

The Gators (13-3, 2-0 SEC), who had all five starters score in double figures and only four points from their bench, held off rally after rally from the Volunteers (10-6, 0-2 SEC) on the way to winning their first overtime game in two tries this season.

Senior forward Alex Tyus, who scored a team-high 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots in his best performance of the season. Classmate F Chandler Parsons was equally efficient for Florida, hitting 4-of-5 attempts from downtown and 5-of-7 overall for 16 points.

Down five early, UF used a 10-1 run to take a 19-15 lead thanks to two stellar dimes from freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin. Tennessee responded with a 14-2 run to take a game-high eight-point lead (29-21) with over five minutes remaining in the half.

Back-to-back threes from Parsons fueled an 11-0 run for the Gators, who held the Volunteers to one basket in the final 5:46 of the half and took a 32-31 lead at the break.

Florida jumped ahead to their own game-high eight-point lead on Parsons’ third trey, though a 7-2 run by Tennessee tied the game at 64 with less than four minutes to go.

Tyus, stepping up to the line for a one-and-one with 42 seconds remaining, missed his free throw and the chance to put UF ahead late in the game. He redeemed himself with a game-saving block on the next possession.

Junior PG Erving Walker received an inbounds pass from Parsons with five seconds left but air-balled a fadeaway three with time running out to send the game into overtime.

The Gators put their foot on the pedal in the extra period, scoring six-straight points to open overtime and using a 9-2 run fueled by a pair of three-pointers by sophomore guard Kenny Boynton to take a 77-70 lead with 45 seconds left. Florida missed three free throws during the stretch but held off five quick points by Tennessee to prevail.

Parsons added six rebounds to his point total, while redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin contributed 11 points and five rebounds as the team’s third frontcourt starter. Boynton and Walker finished with 17 and 15 points, respectively.

UF’s starters scored 77 of the team’s 81 points on Tuesday, but freshman C Patric Young posted a stellar performance with seven rebounds including four off the offensive glass and all four of the Gators’ bench points. Wilbekin added three dimes and three steals, played stellar defense and did not turn the ball over once.

Volunteers Gs Cameron Tatum and Scotty Hopson combined for 41 points on 50 percent shooting with eight total rebounds. Tatum turned the ball over a game-high five times but also handed out four assists. Tennessee also benefited from a strong presence inside the paint as F Tobias Harris accounted for a double-double with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds.

UT was without head coach Bruce Pearl, who was suspended from participating in the first eight Southeastern Conference games of the season after being caught committing numerous recruiting violations.

Florida’s fifth-straight victory set a season-long streak and was their first in Knoxville since 2005. The Gators have scored 71 points or more in each of their last four games after failing to do so in their seven prior contests.

Photo Credit: Wade Payne/Associated Press

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