2/1: Donovan on Florida’s fight and survival

No. 23 Florida Gators (17-5, 6-2 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability after Tuesday’s hard-fought 65-61 overtime win against the No. 24 Vanderbilt Commodores (15-6, 3-4 SEC).

12 13 ROUNDS

If you thought Florida looked punch-drunk following their double overtime defeat of Georgia on Jan. 25, Donovan believes that was nothing compared to the physical effort the team had to put forth to defeat Vanderbilt in overtime on Tuesday.

“That was by far the most physical game we have played all year long. In a lot of ways, I felt terrible for the officials because it was a very, very difficult game to officiate,” he said. “The game was as well officiated as it could have been with all the contact. It was a hard game.”

Many fans on both sides might disagree with Donovan’s praise of the officiating, noting that the Gators were abused most of the game and the Commodores were dealt a blow by not having a foul called on sophomore guard Kenny Boynton on a three-pointer from G John Jenkins near the end of the contest. Commenting on the missed foul, Donovan said it was just part of the game.

“Yeah, you know what, and it was probably about 25 fouls by us and them throughout the game. I didn’t get a clear look on it. I don’t know if he did or didn’t,” he said. “To me, if that foul would have been called, that would have been very, very disappointing with all the contact that was going on.”

How much contact was there? “It reminded me of the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks back in the day with [Jeff] Van Gundy and Pat Riley and Alonzo Mourning and fist fights,” Donovan quipped.

SURVIVING A “LATE COLLAPSE”

Florida once again squandered an opportunity to win a close game in regulation, something Donovan chalks up to the game of basketball in general and not the Gators’ ability to handle a lead late in a game.

“I don’t look at it as a late collapse. There [are] good teams out there with good players,” he said. “We got a pretty resilient group. They try to battle back and they fight.”

With that being said, Donovan points out that Florida has improved in these types of situations compared to how they would have handled them the last two seasons.

“Two years ago, in a game like this, I think we would have had a hard time winning the game. We’re getting better in these kinds of games,” he said.

“I think our guys have grown up, in particular our older guys. They don’t have it figured out. They probably think they do, but I can tell you right now they don’t. We’ve gotten better responding to the things that you need to respond to [in order] to put yourself in a position to win the game.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 2/1: Donovan on Florida’s fight and survival

Will Muschamp on Florida’s 2011 recruiting class

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp held a press conference after his coaching staff received 18 National Letters of Intent on National Signing Day. The following are some key thoughts Muschamp divulged.

Opening statement: “Real pleased with the 18 signees for today. The Gators got better today. [I’m] excited about bringing these young men into our program in a short period of time. Recruiting is all about developing relationships and trust, and it’s tough to do that in a short period of time. Recruiting has changed so much over the years. You’re starting to recruit guys when you see guys coming their sophomore, junior seasons. You start recruiting. You’re building that relationship for a year, two and three years. And to come in – in the short term – we did a nice job of securing the class we had, which we had to re recruit all of those guys because of all of the changes, the mass changes with the staff. And our staff did a nice job of securing those guys. Just really pleased with what we had, and Urban [Meyer] and his staff did a great job with those guys that were already committed to the university. And then coming back and supplementing some other guys to our football team.”

On evaluating the 2011 class: “We’ll know about this entire class in two or three years, and I’m going to say the same thing next year. In two or three years, we’ll know about what kind of class this was. Not today. Today’s not the day to judge anything we do, and you can put that in your tape recorder because I’m going to say the same thing next year. Football’s a developmental game. We have an outstanding strength staff and an outstanding coaching staff. It’s our job, when we get these young men on campus, is to develop them on and off the field to be good football players and good citizens and good students of the University of Florida. And that’s what we plan on doing.”

On only signing 18 players: “We have a smaller senior class for next season. So I didn’t feel like at the end of the process, to make an emotional decision in offering guys that I didn’t think could play at, on or off the field, a championship level at the University of Florida. And I’d rather have held those scholarships to the next season to give our staff a whole year to evaluate and recruit. We could have signed 25 initials, and I held it at 18 there with some other possibilities. But excited about that, our signing class coming in. […]

“I was more interested in the quality of player and the character of the player that we’re going to sign at Florida as opposed to going out and signing a class of 25 and regretting three or four or five of those guys. That’s not what we were going to do. We were not going to make an emotional decision to go out and make an emotional decision and sign guys just to sign guys. That’s not the purpose of what we’re going to do. We got a small senior class, and we’re going to take those scholarships to next season when we’re going to sign a full class.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say about his class…after the break!
Continue Reading » Will Muschamp on Florida’s 2011 recruiting class

Florida Gators 2011 National Signing Day notes

Courtesy of the University of Florida‘s University Athletic Association:

EARLY ENROLLEE BIOS

Mike Blakely • Running back
5-9 • 205
Bradenton • Manatee H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect rated the No. 6 running back in the nation and the No. 10 overall prospect in the state of Florida and No. 40 in the country according to Rivals.com… Also rated No. 74 in the ESPNU 150 class… Finished his junior season with 1,400 yards rushing and 227 yards on kick and punt returns with a total of 23 touchdowns… Added another 1,000-yard season as a senior, with 19 touchdowns on the ground… Was a first-team all-state running back in 2009… Participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2011… Chose Florida over Auburn, Clemson, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and USC… Coached by Joe Kinnan.

Clay Burton • Defensive Line
6-4 • 245
Venice • Venice H.S.
Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A three-star prospect rated the No. 35 linebacker according to Rivals.com… Ranked the No. 19 weakside defensive end in the country by Rivals.com… Finished his junior season with 80 tackles and 13 sacks… Participated in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl… Chose Florida over LSU, Mississippi, Tennessee, Notre Dame and West Virginia among others… Coached by John Peacock.

Kyle Christy • Punter
6-1 • 185
Brownsburg, Ind. • Brownsburg H.S.
Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A three-star prospect rated the No. 2 punter nationally according to Scout.com… Completed 31 of 37 extra points and five of eight field goals with a long of 45 yards his junior year… Participated in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in 2010… Named AP Indiana 5A All-State Honorable Mention… Chose Florida over LSU… Coached by Brett Comer.

Jeff Driskel • Quarterback
6-4 • 238
Oviedo • Hagerty H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Maxwell Football Club National High School Player of the Year… Gatorade Florida Player of the Year… Rated the No. 1 quarterback nationally according to Scout.com and Rivals.com… Threw for a career 4,844 passing yards and 36 touchdowns and helped lead the Huskies to their first winning season in their fourth year as a varsity program… Had 1,819 yards and 15 touchdowns passing, 1,333 rushing yards with 20 touchdowns and caught two touchdown passes his senior year… Threw for 1,427 yards with 11 touchdowns and ran for 170 yards with five touchdowns his junior year… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game in 2011… Chose Florida over Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Mississippi and Clemson, among others… Coached by Nate Gierke.

A.C. Leonard • Tight End
6-3 ● 245
Jacksonville ● University Christian H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect and No. 5 tight end nationally according to Rivals.com… Member of the ESPNU 150 class and Rivals100 class… Averaged 20 yards-per-catch as a tight end… On defense, he recorded 21 sacks and 60 tackles with 10 for a loss… Also had two blocked punts, one blocked extra point, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game… Chose Florida over Alabama, Miami, Nebraska, UCF and FIU… Coached by Heath Nivens.

Javares McRoy • Wide Receiver
5-8 ● 170
Lakeland ● Lakeland H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect according to Scout.com… First-team All-State wide receiver for 5A classification in his junior year… Averaged 20 yards-per-catch… Listed as the No. 28 wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com… In his sophomore year, he posted a 10.65 100-meter time at the FHSAA 4A Regional Track meet… Chose Florida over Auburn, California, Florida State, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas Tech… Coached by Bill Castle.

De’Ante “Pop” Saunders • Defensive Back
5-8 ● 173
DeLand ● DeLand H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Rated a three-star prospect according to Scout.com and Rivals.com… In 2010, the 6A Florida Athletic Coaches Association Player of the Year for Seminole and Volusia counties… In his junior year, ran for 1,634 yards and 23 touchdowns… As a kick returner, had 580 yards and three touchdowns and led the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball to 6A state title game in his junior year… First-team All-State defensive back for 6A classification and named All-Central Florida Defensive Player of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel in 2009… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game in 2011… Chose Florida over South Carolina, Mississippi, Clemson, Cincinnati, USF and FIU… Coached by Kevin Pettis.

SIGNEE BIOS (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Florida Gators 2011 National Signing Day notes

Muschamp shakes up staff with TE coach hire

With running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton departing for the Ohio State Buckeyes last week, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced Wednesday during his National Signing Day press conference that some changes have been made to his first coaching staff.

Muschamp hired Derek Lewis to coach tight ends and shifted former TE coach Brian White‘s responsibilities to coaching running backs. Additionally, wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill will take over Drayton’s recruiting coordinator duties.

Lewis, Minnesota’s tight ends and assistant special teams coach since 2007, was a graduate assistant with the Texas Longhorns from 2005-06. He had a solid career as a four-year letterman at Texas from 1995-98 and spent two seasons in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams (1999-2000), with whom he earned a Super Bowl ring.

“A lot of Gator fans will remember him,’’ Muschamp said of Lewis. “He caught the pass against Nebraska [in 1996] that won Texas the Big 12 Championship and vaulted Florida into the national championship game. He has helped the Gators in the past.”

A running backs coach from 1991-92 with UNLV and 1995-2006 with Wisconsin (where he was also offensive coordinator from 1999-2006), White takes over a job he has plenty of experience doing. Some of the players White has seen succeed under his tutelage as RB coach include Ron Dayne, Michael Bennett, Anthony Davis and Brian Calhoun – all four of whom were selected in the NFL Draft. He also produced eight 1,000-yard rushers in his first eight seasons with Wisconsin.

As projected by OGGOA on Jan. 27, Hill steps into the recruiting coordinator role after holding the position for the Miami Hurricanes in 2010.

“I’m really pleased with the job he did recruiting and what he brings to the staff, especially as a former Gator,” Muschamp said of his decision to give Hill the added responsibilities.

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

Urban Meyer, Gators mutually sever financial ties

Announced as ESPN’s newest college football analyst on Monday, former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer said at the time he would continue working with the University of Florida in a to be determined capacity. Just two days later, Meyer and Florida have mutually agreed to end their financial agreement..

Fueled by concerns over potential NCAA recruiting violations (and likely a perceived bias on his part), Meyer will no longer be paid by UF; it is unknown if he will be allowed to retain his office inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

“The University of Florida has been a big part of my personal and professional life for the past six years and while I will no longer be able to continue a professional relationship with the University, I will continue to support the many friends I made during my time there,” Meyer said in a statement released by the university.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley also shared his thoughts on the decision.

“We are happy for Coach Meyer that he is getting a chance to stay involved with college football – he has so much passion for the game and the players. He will provide great insight and background for ESPN’s audiences,” he said. “We were pleased to provide Coach Meyer with an opportunity within our athletic department, but the chance to work for ESPN was a perfect fit for him and his family. He will always be welcome here and we are forever indebted for what he accomplished and how he represented the University of Florida. He gave every ounce of energy to this program for six years and we certainly share a special bond with him. We will always remain close friends and I look forward to seeing him enjoy the next chapter in his life. Coach Meyer will always be a Gator.”

Meyer’s agent and former Gators star Trace Armstrong went more in-depth with the Orlando Sentinel on the mutual decision.

“Jeremy did it as a favor; he wanted Urban to understand that he was still a part of the program,” Armstrong told Mike Bianchi. “Nobody anticipated this would a problem with the NCAA. Usually, when a former coach is on ESPN, he has been fired and has broken ties with the school. This was a unique situation. In the end, we just thought this was the best resolution and the cleanest way to do it. This way, it removes any questions.”

DB Roberson ends up in Florida orange and blue

It didn’t take long for Florida Gators fans to breathe at least a mini sigh of relief on Wednesday as four-star defensive back Marcus Roberson announced that he has committed to the school and sent in his National Letter of Intent.

A former commitment to Texas Tech, Roberson decided to change his pledge to Auburn on Monday before completely pulling out of that commitment on Tuesday. Florida, which had been in the mix for a beginning, ends up the recipient of his services.

Roberson is the Gators 18th commitment for the 2011 cycle and the team’s fourth defensive back. He is listed as the No. 2 cornerback (No. 37 overall player) available by Rivals and No. 9 safety (No. 112 overall player) in the nation by ESPNU.

His commitment was first reported by 247Sports.

OGGOA will update this story as the day goes on.

Photo Credit: Unknown

No. 23 Florida edges No. 24 Vanderbilt in overtime

Winning after suffering a loss for the fifth time this season, the No. 23 Florida Gators (17-5, 6-2 SEC) clawed their way to 65-61 overtime victory against the No. 24 Vanderbilt Commodores (15-6, 3-4 SEC) on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons posted a team-high 18 points and game-high 11 rebounds on the way to his fourth double-double of the season and the 11th of his career. With 15 seconds remaining in the game and Florida up three, Parsons (shooting a career-low 51.7 percent from the free throw line this year) hit two foul shots to ice the contest and help the Gators capture their 12th victory in the last 15 games.

Florida and Vanderbilt both shot poorly in the first half, combining to go 21-for-59 from the field, 6-for-18 from three and 1-for-5 from the charity stripe. Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, also struggling with his shot, hit a trey at the halftime buzzer to give UF a 25-24 lead going into the locker rooms.

A 6-0 run by the Commodores put them ahead early in the second half as redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin headed to the bench with three fouls. That is when sophomore guard Kenny Boynton took over and scored five points as part of a 7-0 run to put the Gators up a game-high eight points, 43-35.

Florida would match their game-high lead with 4:53 to go; however, everything fell apart from there. Vanderbilt took off on a 9-1 run and tied the game at 56 with two free throws from G John Jenkins (a 90.6 percent foul shooter) with 25 seconds remaining in the contest. UF had two opportunities to extend their lead just seconds earlier, but Walker missed a floater and senior F Alex Tyus was rejected by the rim on a put-back dunk.

Walker, holding the ball for the entire final possession, missed a long three as the buzzer sounded and regulation ended The Gators failed to score a single field goal in the final 6:19 of the half, a drought which continued through the first 2:12 of overtime.

With 1:10 to go, Boynton nailed a trey to put Florida ahead two. He fouled Jenkins on a three-pointer of his own on the next possession, a miscue the referees missed.

Vanderbilt, which saw two starters and a key reserve foul out down the stretch, played most of the overtime period with a reduced roster. Jenkins led the Commodores with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting and tied a team-high with six boards.

Supporting Parsons’ 18 points were Walker and Boynton with 15 a piece on a combined 9-of-27 shooting. Boynton went 3-for-8 from downtown and was once gain a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.

Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field, but the Gators out-rebounded their opposition 42-29 (12-6 offensively) for their third overtime win in four opportunities already this season.

Florida hopes build on their latest victory as they host No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday at 9 p.m. The game, which will be preceded by College GameDay being broadcast live from Gainesville, will air live on ESPN.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandin/Associated Press

Seven Gators invited to 2011 NFL Combine

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive has learned that seven former Florida Gators players have been officially invited to participate in the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) in Indianapolis, IN, at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The event, which is held for six days from Feb. 23 to March 1, consists of more than 300 players being put through a series of drills, tests and interviews while more than 600 NFL personnel in attendance including coaching staffs, executives, player personnel and medical staff look on and evaluate each of them. It amounts to the final job interview these athletes will participate in before the 2011 NFL Draft commences on April 28.

The seven former Gators student-athletes participating in the combine include:

Strong safety Ahmad Black – Group: 10; Camp: DB3
Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert – Group: 02; Camp: OL27
Kicker Chas Henry – Group: 01; Camp: PK7
Free safety Will Hill – Group: 10; Camp: DB22
Guard Maurice Hurt – Group: 02; Camp: OL24
Guard Carl Johnson – Group: 01; Camp: OL16
Center/guard Mike Pouncey – Group: 02; Camp: OL39

Read about each player’s day-to-day schedule in Indianapolis after the jump!
Continue Reading » Seven Gators invited to 2011 NFL Combine

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