1/6: Donovan speaks before SEC schedule begins

With the Florida Gators set to begin Southeastern Conference competition on Saturday at home against Ole Miss, head coach Billy Donovan, senior forward Chandler Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker spoke with the media about their collective 11-3 start to the season and where they can go from here.

PREPARED FOR TOUGH SEC SCHEDULE

Donovan and his players believe that a difficult out of conference slate has set Florida up quite well for SEC competition this year. “Because we’ve played against a lot of different styles and a lot of different teams, I feel like our team is prepared, competitively, going into the SEC now,” Donovan said. “How well we perform and how well we play remains to be seen. But I do think we’ve had a lot of learning experiences, experiences we have been able to grow from.”

Though the team struggled with consistency up until the last week, Parsons believes the Gators are raring to go. “I think we’re ready,” he said. “We’ve played some really good teams. We’ve been in some battles and it has really helped us prepare for conference play.” Walker thinks the last two games have done plenty to help Florida’s confidence. “Definitely. We got a long way to go. We just got to keep going, but I think it’s finally starting to come together,” he said.

WALKER’s MILESTONE, TURNOVER PROBLEMS

Depending whether you are an optimist or a pessimist probably determines how you feel about Walker as a basketball player. On one hand, he has easily been the most consistent scoring threat for the Gators this season. On the other, his assist-to-turnover ratio (which should be 2:1 for a PG) is nearly even. Donovan sees both sides of Walker, who will likely reach 1,000 career points in one of the next two games.

“Point or turnovers?,” a laughing Donovan said when asked his opinion about Walker hitting 1,000. “The one thing I’ve always admired about Erving – and you can say this about any really good player whose got a high competitive level – is they don’t get wrapped up in who is in the program. They realize that wherever they got to go at this level they’re going to have to compete and earn playing time. Erving came in here and really earned his way. […] He’s a great kid to coach. He works very, very hard. I think he has a toughness about him and a competitiveness about him that I love.

“He’s got to make better decisions. I don’t think there’s any question about that. It’s a fine line with any aggressive player. He’s shooting the ball well and he’s been playing with a level of confidence. There’s good turnovers and there’s bad turnovers. We got to eliminate his bad turnovers where he’s down the lane, he’s two deep and he leaves his feet. He’s got to keep his dribble alive and dribble the ball back out. Those are the kind of decisions that I think he’s got to get better at. When you look at the fact that he’s got one more assist than turnover on the year going into SEC play, that’s not a good thing for your point guard. You’d like your point guard to be two-to-one.”

Walker is not really concerned about the milestone. “It really doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. I’ve played a lot of minutes on the court since I was a freshman, so that kind of comes along with the territory,” he said. “It’s nice to have, but it’s not a big deal.”

INJURY UPDATES

Donovan announced that only sophomore F Erik Murphy (mid-foot sprain) would miss Saturday’s game as he’s classified as doubtful. Everyone else – including Walker (hip pointer), Parsons (sore ankle), redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin (strained pectoral) and freshman F Will Yeguete (unknown) – is expected to be active. He added that the team was concerned about Macklin because he was having chest and rib pain; the MRI and X-rays both came back negative (for a torn pectoral or fractured ribs, respectively) and Macklin will be able to play as long as he can tolerate the pain.

Read additional quotes from Donovan and the players …after the break!
Continue Reading » 1/6: Donovan speaks before SEC schedule begins

TWO BITS: Tebow and Meyer all over ESPN

1 » Doing promotion for his documentary Tim Tebow: Everything in Between, Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow was everywhere you looked if you turned on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS or ESPN Radio on Thursday. Below are just a few clips and quotes from his appearances.

Tebow on SportsCenter:

Tebow on the Colin Cowherd radio show:
On changing his game for the NFL; running quarterbacks don’t survive: “I’m going to always try to improve my game. Yes, I want to be that guy that sits in the pocket and throws darts. At the same time, if I have to, to be able to also be a football player and make a play, I think that just adds to be able to help. If it’s an added dimension, if it’s another attribute, then I don’t see how it hurts. But I definitely do want to focus on being a pocket passer and just throwing from the pocket. Throwing those darts.”

On if he is too “collegiate” and his positive attitude rubbing people the wrong way: “To be honest, I don’t necessarily think so. I think I got a great relationship with a lot of my teammates, especially the veterans. When they understand that you’re not about college anymore, you’re about trying to make it this league and trying to help the broncos, when you’re able to earn that respect and they see your work ethic and then they see your passion and love for the game very day and they say its real and not fake and not a show you put on and it’s the actual person you are…then I think they respect you and then they look up to you and begin to like you.”

On whether he is worried about the new head coach not liking him as a player: “To be honest I’m not really apprehensive or anxious right now. I still consider myself extremely blessed to be a Bronco and to be in this great Broncos organization. I also consider myself very blessed that John Elway has taken the position that he has. It’s a great opportunity and a great situation for me. I’m not apprehensive or anxious about anything right now.”

On Cowherd’s opinion of Tebow: “I’m going to try to prove you wrong for what you think of me in the NFL. I don’t think you’re a bad guy at all, but I appreciate you having me on.”

Tebow and Michelle Beadle talking behind the scenes:

2 » Though OGGOA has previously reported this news item, ESPN confirmed in an official release Thursday that former Florida head coach Urban Meyer will be joining the network for coverage of the 2011 BCS National Championship. Along with Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, Meyer will be an on-site analyst leading up to and through the contest. He will provide his thoughts and opinions on SportsCenter, College GameDay, ESPNEWS, College Football Live and during the pre-game, half-time and post-game coverage for the event.

As expected, Janoris Jenkins to enter NFL Draft

Florida Gators junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins has decided to forgo his final season of NCAA eligibility and will declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, a source “close to the decision” told ESPN’s Joe Schad on Thursday.

Jenkins, arguably Florida’s best defensive player in 2010, totaled 106 tackles, eight interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), two sacks and two forced fumbles in three seasons with the Gators. He earned All-SEC honors from both the Associated Press (first team) and coaches (second team) this year.

Only the second true freshman in school history to start at cornerback on opening day (Joe Haden), Jenkins was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2008 helped Florida win the 2009 BCS National Championship by registering five tackles in the game. He was equally effective in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, recording five solo tackles (one for loss) and a pass break-up in the Gators’ victory.

As a junior in 2010, Jenkins registered 43 tackles, three interceptions and one sack while playing most of the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He had surgery after the regular season to correct the injury and missed Florida’s 37-24 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions in the 2011 Outback Bowl.

Projected to be a top junior NFL prospect before the season began, Jenkins is considered the third-best cornerback and No. 11 overall player according to ESPN.

Fellow junior, safety Will Hill, has also decided to declare for the draft. The University of Florida will release statements when each player makes his intention to pursue a professional football career official.

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Muschamp speaks on recruiting, Weis, Brantley

New Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp was a guest of Joe Rose on 560 WQAM in Miami, FL on Thursday and spent time with the former Miami Dolphins tight end discussing a number of topics that fans have been waiting to hear him discuss.

Like Urban Meyer before him, Muschamp was likely informed of the importance of having a presence in the South Florida media as the area is a recruiting hotbed and Rose’s show is arguably the most notable sports talk show in the mornings. He frequently talks about high school football and picked Muschamp’s brain on recruiting in the area.

“There’s a lot of young men that are going to sign out of each state. The key is evaluation and taking the right guy,” he said. “There’s a lot of really good football players in South Florida – tremendous. You take Palm [Beach], Broward and Dade County – there’s phenomenal football players. I’d say probably over 200 kids out of those three counties are going to sign Division I scholarships. [You have to] take the right guy that’s going to do a nice job academically for you, is going to represent your university in a first-class manner and play well on the football field.”

He was also asked to describe any notable differences between the recruiting process in the state of Texas and region of South Florida.

“It’s not different. We have an evaluation process that we’re going to go through with each young man. From on and off the field, different critical factors at each position that we look at that we decide that this is a type player we want to have at the University of Florida,” Muschamp said. “Just like I did when I was defensive coordinator at Texas when I ran the defensive [recruiting] board. We’ve got certain things that we’re looking for at each position. It’s about evaluation. It’s about taking the right guy. Not necessarily taking the best player at that position; he might not be the right fit for your football team or your university. That’s a huge part of what we do as coaches, is evaluating and taking the right players because there are a lot of good football players out there.

“I’m not worried about the guys that don’t sign at Florida, I’m worried about the ones that sign at Florida. We need to do a great job of developing those players. A lot of these young men that go other places, I’m going to see them once a year. So I’m not as worried about them as I am the ones we are going to have on our campus.”

Rose noted that Muschamp must be excited about having current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis as the biggest name on his staff, something the new head coach felt comfortable enough to open up about.
Continue Reading » Muschamp speaks on recruiting, Weis, Brantley

Florida basketball remains out of Top 25 polls

Florida Gators (10-3)^ completely fell out of the latest ESPN/USA Today and Associated Press Top 25 polls two weeks ago after being upset by the Jacksonville Dolphins 71-68 in overtime on Dec. 20. Last week their game against Fairfield was canceled due to travelling conditions for the away team, but Florida did end the Xavier Musketeers‘ 30-game home winning streak with a 71-67 victory on the road.

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, Connecticut, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Villanova, Georgetown, Missouri, Purdue, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Michigan State, Louisville, Central Florida, Memphis, Baylor, Wisconsin, Illinois
+ Florida received 33 votes, good for 32nd overall

This Week 1-25: Duke (31), Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Villanova, Missouri, Connecticut, Purdue, Kentucky, Texas, Georgetown, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Central Florida, Michigan State, Illinois, Minnesota, Memphis, Louisville, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati
+ Florida received 9 votes, good for 34th overall

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-25: Duke (65), Ohio State, Kansas, Connecticut, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Villanova, Georgetown, MIssouri, Kentucky, Purdue, Texas, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Central Florida, Michigan State, Memphis, Louisville, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Temple
+ Florida received 35 votes, good for 32nd overall

This Week 1-25: Duke (65), Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Villanova, Connecticut, Missouri, Kentucky, Purdue, Texas, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Michigan State, Central Florida, Illinois, Memphis, Vanderbilt, Washington, Cincinnati, UNLV
+ Florida received 35 votes, good for 31st overall

^ Record at the time the polls were released.
* Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

Gorman commits to Gators at Under Armour game

After a difficult season and a head coaching change, the Florida Gators and their fans have been hearing some negative recruiting news for the last few weeks. The same was not true Wednesday during the 2011 Under Armour All-American Game as four-star safety Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL) committed to the Gators late in the first quarter.

Gorman, the No. 8 safety (No. 85 overall recruit) according to ESPNU and No. 10 safety (No. 174 overall) according to Rivals, chose Florida over Ohio State and Miami and was one of five Gators commitments who played in the game.

Also participating were five-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) and four-stars tight end A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL), athlete/S De’Ante Saunders (DeLand, FL) and wide receiver Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL).

Driskel accounted for one of the highlights of the night when he avoided a pass rush and took off for a 63-yard touchdown run. He finished with a team-high 80 yards on the ground and had a potential 70-yard touchdown pass dropped at the end of the first half. Leonard was instrumental in Driskel’s explosive run by coming up with a huge block on the play; the duo celebrated with Gator Chomps after the score.

The first official commitment under new head coach Will Muschamp, Gorman becomes Florida’s 16th recruit for their growing 2011 class.

Brantley to meet with Weis before deciding

Before he makes a final decision on whether or not he will remain with the Florida Gators for his redshirt senior season, quarterback John Brantley will meet with new offensive coordinator/QB coach Charlie Weis and then consult with his family, according to two reports released Wednesday.

“We hadn’t talked and probably won’t talk until Charlie Weis is here. I hadn’t even talked to him,” his father John Brantley III said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. “We want to meet Coach Weis before John does anything. That may not be for a while,” Brantley III related to The Gainesville Sun.

Brantley struggled in his first season Florida’s starter, throwing for only 2,061 yards and nine touchdowns. He also gave up 10 interceptions and appeared to lack the confidence to toss the ball down the field. In a chance to redeem himself in the post-season, Brantley threw a pick on UF’s first offensive play of the 2011 Outback Bowl.

Even though the Gators held a team meeting on Wednesday, Weis was not in attendance as he is still fulfilling his current duties as offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City will face Baltimore on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the first round of the NFL Playoffs.

Known for his proficient offenses and ability to develop quarterbacks, Weis may be just what Brantley needs to turn his career around at Florida.

The Sun reports that Brantley is enrolled in spring classes and attended the meeting. Juniors cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Will Hill, both of whom have decided to but have not officially declared for the 2011 NFL Draft, were not in attendance.

Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
 

Will Hill to forgo senior season, enter NFL Draft

Florida Gators junior safety Will Hill has decided to forgo his final season of NCAA eligibility and plans to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, a source close to the team and a separate source close to the player confirmed to OGGOA on Wednesday.

Hill – a five-star recruit and PARADE All-American who was a consensus top-five high school football player in the country in 2007 – totaled 132 tackles, four interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack in three seasons at Florida.

He was chosen to the SEC All-Freshmen Team in 2008 after leading the Gators with 22 special team tackles including three in the 2009 BCS National Championship. Hill made five starts at safety in 2009 and once again led UF in special teams tackles (13).

As a junior in 2010, Hill caught two interceptions against Georgia including one in overtime that helped lead Florida to victory. (He also grabbed another on a two-point conversion attempt in the same contest.) He was suspended for the first two games of the season (disciplinary reasons) and sat out the beginning of the 2011 Outback Bowl.

OGGOA first reported following the bowl game that Hill left the field immediately after the final whistle and did not celebrate with his teammates or outgoing coaches. Most around the program did not expect him to remain with the team in 2011.

Projected to be a top junior NFL prospect before the season began, Hill was named to the 2010 Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list but failed to live up to the expectations of both draft analysts and fans. ESPN grades Hill as a 68 in its “draftable defensive backs” projections, eight points below teammate and senior S Ahmad Black (76). His rating could improve significantly with a nice showing at the combine.

Fellow junior, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, is also expected to declare for the draft. The University of Florida will release statements when each player makes his intention to pursue a professional football career official.

UPDATE (1/10/11 at 5 p.m.): Since we first reported this story, Jenkins has decided to remain at UF and will not be entering the draft.

Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press

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