Murphy, Yeguete look to fill Florida’s frontcourt

With the departure of three senior starters from their frontcourt due to graduation, the Florida Gators are hoping to support what is being called one of the best backcourts in the country by solidifying the area around the hoop.

That task falls primarily into the hands sophomore center Patric Young, who showed flashes of dominance in 2010-11 while averaging 3.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 17.8 minutes per game. Young will be a major presence in the paint for UF all season, but the Gators also need some players to compliment Young down low.

Junior forward Erik Murphy has earned a spot in the starting five and hopes to do what he can to ensure Florida goes far this year.

“I’m just going to try to play my role, do what coach asks and do whatever I can for the team to help us win,” he said on Wednesday.

At 6’10” and 230 lbs., Murphy has added some much-needed weight in the offseason in order to be more physical down low and stay healthy for the duration of the season.

“A couple times both seasons I got banged up a little bit. The weight [gain] has definitely helped me,” he said. “I’m in the best shape of my life. It feels good, and I feel comfortable right now.”

Sophomore F Will Yeguete may have only played 7.1 minutes per game last year, but his average of 2.6 rebounds was second-best off the bench only to Young (3.8).

Yeguete has been told by head coach Billy Donovan that he is being counted on to be a rebounding machine, a role he embraces tremendously. “I know that’s my first thing – defensively getting rebounds,” he said.

Though he is comfortable with that assignment, Yeguete has also been trying to improve his offense in order to stay on the floor longer and contribute even more to the team.

“I’ve tried to be more aggressive offensively. I can’t just play defense,” he said. “Coach D wants me to be a fixture on offense and not turn the ball over. I’ve been working on it a lot lately and the whole summer, so I think it’s coming along pretty good.”

Both Murphy and Yeguete are excited for Thursday’s exhibition game at home against Catholic University. The former believes it will be a great tune-up before regular season action begins next Thursday.

“Coach is really focusing on defense, playing well together, which we’ve been doing in practice every day,” Murphy said. “We’re just trying to come together and fine tune a little bit before the season starts.”

Yeguete is ready and raring to go. “We’re really excited to start the season,” he said. “It has been a long way since last year. We worked hard during the summer and the conditioning has come a long way. We’re really excited about the season and have high expectations, so it’s going to be fun.”

Florida hosts Catholic in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at 7 p.m. The game will air live on GatorVision.tv only, but OGGOA will have live coverage of the game on Twitter.

Update: Florida basketball’s new uniforms

Most of the following post was originally written on Oct. 20.

In addition to the Florida Gators roster being adjusted for the 2011-12 season, the team will also be sporting new uniforms when they step out on the court this year.

Florida provided a sneak peak of their updated threads at the team’s media day last month as players donned the new blue away uniforms featuring a bold orange font for the letters and numbers. OGGOA learned on Oct. 20 that the Gators will also have new home uniforms as well as an alternate jersey this year.

All three designs are the same general style with different color combinations. The home kit is white, while the alternate uniform is orange. OGGOA made some mock versions of the uniforms on the original post but has now acquired pictures of all three jerseys seeing as the alternate jersey is now being sold in stores.

You can purchase either of the jerseys below through OGGOA by clicking here.

Florida released a sneak peak of the official home jersey:

UF will play an exhibition game against Catholic University on Nov. 3 before beginning the regular season Nov. 11 against Jackson State. Tip-off for both games is 7 p.m.

Chandler Parsons talks Gators basketball

With Florida Gators basketball season approaching, OGGOA sat down with forward Chandler Parsons to discuss the team heading into the 2011-12 season. We spoke with Parsons while he was overseas in France playing with Cholet Basket of the Ligue Nationale de Basketball – the top men’s French professional basketball league.

Parsons was signed through Oct. 31 and has since returned to the United States as he waits for the NBA lockout to come to a conclusion. When it does, he will suit up for the Houston Rockets, which selected him with the No. 38 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Fans have not gotten the chance to see Mike Rosario play in a Gators uniform yet. What was it like to go against Rosario in practice, how talented do you think he is and how will he fit in with Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker?
CHANDLER PARSONS: “Mike Rosario is going to be a fun player for fans to watch. Last year in practice he really pushed the starting five and can really shoot the ball. He’s one of the best shooters I’ve seen and will play well off Erv and K.B. He’ll ensure that his defender doesn’t help because the way he can shoot the ball gives Florida more ability to get in the lane and create. If his defender helps, he will knock down the open shot and give them many assist possibilities.

AS: Same question in regards to Cody Larson. What did you see from him in practice and what can he bring to the team?
CP: “Cody is a big body who can rebound and run the floor and step out and knock down jumpers. He just has to bring it every night and provide energy and whatever else the team needs. He could really help out down low this year if he earns the opportunity.

AS: With yourself, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin all having graduated, Florida is obviously lacking the experience inside that the team has had for the last few years. In what areas do you think Patric Young needs to improve in from the start in order to step up and be a consistent presence for the team?
CP: “Pat is an absolute monster. Watching him work out this summer, he really impressed me. He competes and plays so hard and has a great motor and is all about the team and winning. He’s going to have to play big all year long and lead the way rebounding with me, Alex and Vernon gone. He’ll also have to step up and block shots as well as finish everything around the rim. I believe in him and think he has the potential to be one of the best centers in the conference.”

AS: Obviously Erik Murphy is going to start as a forward, but he was also working on his perimeter game a bit last year. Who do you see stepping up and being the No. 2 “big man” presence for the Gators?
CP: “All the other bigs have potential and can help them out in different ways. I heard Erik had a great summer and looked a lot bigger than the last time I saw him. He can really shoot it for his size and can space the floor, too. The same goes for Walter [Pitchford]. With those guys having the ability to shoot the three, they could really cause problems. Will [Yeguete] and Cody can also help out rebounding and providing us with another big body to throw at you. Everyone knows our guards can score, so our bigs have to rebound, block shots and just play physical for however long there in the game.”

AS: Knowing Billy Donovan as you do, how often do you think Florida might play with four guards? Do you think he’ll be using any different offensive/defensive principles with a smaller lineup?
CP: “I could definitely see them going four guards depending on who they’re playing, but I don’t see them starting that way. Our guards are going to have to really help out rebounding when we go small, especially Brad [Beal] and Casey [Prather]. Whatever coach does, the guys just have the understand it doesn’t matter who starts, it matters whose on the floor at the end of the game. With this team, it could be anybody’s night on any given night. As long as they stay together and play unselfish, they could be special.”

Photo Credit: Associated Press

FOUR BITS: Hilliard, soccer, Wambach, drugs

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Ike Hilliard (1994-96) was announced Thursday by the Southeastern Conference as a member of its 2011 Football Legends Class. Hilliard and 11 other former players will be honored during the SEC “Weekend of Champions,” which culminates with the SEC Championship on Dec. 3.

Ike Hilliard finished his college career with 126 catches, which is seventh-best in UF history, for 2,214 yards, fourth-best in school history, and 29 TDs, third-best total in SEC history. He tallied a TD/catch ratio of 4.34 (29TDs/126 catches) which ranks second in Gator history. He was named a first-team All-SEC selection and an All-American as a senior in 1996. Hilliard was selected in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, Hilliard went on to play 12 NFL seasons, recording 546 career receptions for 6,397 yards and 35 TDs. The Patterson, La. Native, played his first eight seasons with the Giants and finished his NFL playing career playing four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a “Gator Great” in 2009.

2 » No. 23 Florida soccer (15-6, 7-4 SEC) took its first step toward making up for a disappointing finale to their regular season with a 2-0 win over the Georgia Bulldogs (12-6, 6-3-2 SEC) in the opening round of the 2011 SEC Tournament on Wednesday. Senior midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis scored both of the Gators’ goals, one at 26’ and another at 45’. Florida advances to face Alabama on Friday for an opportunity to advance to the event’s finals.

3 » Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mahr is touting former Gators striker Abby Wambach as his pick for Sportsman of the Year, an honor that SI will announce on Dec. 6. In this piece, Mahr refers to her as a “soccer luminary” and one of the “most prolific scorers in U.S. history.” He even says her header in the quarterfinals against Brazil was “arguably more enthralling” than Landon Donovan’s last-second goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup and notes that her other big-time headers against France and Japan propelled the United States to the finals and gave them a chance to win the whole thing. Mahr makes a strong argument for Wambach to win the award but with so much competition she may have a rough time ranking above the other nominated athletes.

4 » Tackling the drug policies of most major college football programs, CBS Sports’ Brett McMurphy submitted public records requests to each school (or looked up an institution’s policy on its own website) and compiled this list. Florida falls in line with many programs nationally and hold separate policies for marijuana and other drugs.

Florida: For marijuana/synthetic marijuana: (1) none; (2) 10 percent of games; (3) 20 percent of games; (4) dismissal. For all other drugs: (1) 50 percent of games; (2) dismissal.

Extra BIT » Former Gators basketball star Craig Brown will return this year as a permanent broadcaster for the Gator Basketball Radio Network. Brown, who is famous for being a part of Florida’s run to the Final Four in the 1994 NCAA Tournament and retiring as the team’s all-time leader in three-pointers, will provide color commentary alongside play-by-play man Mick Hubert this season, a role he held on occasion one year ago.

11/2: Quinn on regrouping, Floyd, playmakers

As the Florida Gators prepare for their next home game on Saturday, Nov. 5 against the Vanderbilt Commodores on homecoming, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media late Wednesday to discuss the last game and his team’s upcoming contest.

REGROUPING AND MOVING FORWARD

After yet another tough loss in which the defense looked good early but faltered late, Quinn admitted the team was down in the dumps but still believe something positive can come from the experience.

“Certainly you sensed a group of men that played extremely hard and fought hard. The thing I can take out of that is that you got to look at yourself as a player and know you competed as hard as you could. There’s something to gain from that,” he said.

“There are now guys who have been through some tough times as players and competitors. There is a sense that you can come out a little bit hardened from the experience and know that you got to compete and be on your stuff all the time. The mood of the team is workman-like. They all sense the frustration. ‘Let’s all pull together and work to get it done.’ That’s the encouraging part that you like.”

Three players in particular continue to stick out in Quinn’s mind as playmakers and leaders of the defense. Those include sophomore safety Matt Elam, junior linebacker Jon Bostic and sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley.

Asked who stands out to him each week, Quinn started by saying he “always goes back to Elam” in his mind. “He’s the one to me that, as a playmaker, I’ve always been impressed by him. When you add the fact with how competitive he is, he’s one that really shows up to me,” Quinn continued. “I thought Bostic is one, although you may not see it in the numbers or that kind of thing, there’s a calm about him. He has a good sense about where the ball is where his instincts can kind of take over. Easley, I would say is one of the most disruptive guys for us up front.”

HELPING FLOYD IMPROVE AT END

Speaking on Wednesday about his transition from defensive tackle to defensive end (at least for this season), sophomore Sharrif Floyd said he is finally becoming more comfortable with his role and believes it will pay dividends as far as on field production in the near future. Quinn agrees with his assessment and is looking forward to seeing his hard work pay off.

“It’s true with all players. You hope that as we go on and they gain some experience and gain some playing that their skills will improve. I think he’s an example of that,” he said. “As the season has progressed, he’s getting better and his skills are improving. As you know, he moved to defensive end. We did that in training camp and then he missed a couple of ball games. For him, he’s kind of coming into his own at that position, and we’re excited about that.”

Floyd also mentioned staying after practice to get in some extra work with Quinn, a former NFL defensive line coach. Quinn said the two spend 15 minutes or so at a time just doing a little bit more analysis about his game.

“Sometimes you can have a tendency to try and look at too much. There’s been an old saying, ‘If you see a lot, sometimes you see not much, but if you see a little that can really lock you in.’ That was really the main thing [with Floyd],” he said. “We went back through and looked at some tape. Some from his first and then some other guys that we’ve coached through the years playing the technique. It was a combination of his wanting to come and do the extra and us kind of leading him in the right way to play.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Should redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray be unable to play Saturday due to injury, Quinn said his primary replacement would be sophomore Darrin Kitchens. At least four other players could figure into the rotation as well if Florida is playing in its nickel set.

» From a depth standpoint, Quinn said it would be ideal to have six defensive tackles, six defensive ends and six outside linebackers – all capable of playing – on the roster along with “a player or two you develop to come along” in the future.

» On how additions are made to the defense each week: “It’s a lot of the same package and then each week there might be a small adjustment that you make. It would be pretty rare for us [to make a big change]. We have a pretty big package [so there is not much of a need] to go out and find something new.”

» On defending a mobile quarterback: “We haven’t faced a lot of mobile QBs here. Certainly they pose a little bit of a challenge to you. There’s a little more style maybe in terms of the play call. You have to be cognizant of it as opposed to a team that’s just a straight drop-back passer who doesn’t move the pocket. It’s more the awareness that you have to talk about with the team.”

» On if he is starting to build a foundation for next year rather than focus on this season: “We’re in season and really the focus is all on Vanderbilt and how we can play our best. […] For us the challenge is right here, right now, today and then we’ll move forward week-to-week.”

» On if there will be a different approach next year: “I don’t know if the time would be any different but now that you have all our guys playing our techniques, it’s easier to pull from the [footage]. It’s a little easier to say these are all the plays for this particular player, let’s talk about the technique and go that way.”

» On what has changed the most since the last time he coached in college: “The biggest difference is in recruiting. The use of social media and that aspect as opposed to a phone call where you call the guy at his house. It’s the age of internet and cell phones – that’s the biggest change for me as opposed to before. It still comes back to building relationships – whether it be with a player or a coach and getting to know a guy.”

» On if the college game is faster now than it used to be: “I don’t know if it’s any faster. One of the cool parts about coaching is the competition. When you’re out there on the grass – whether it’s practice or the game – that competition to me. Whether it’s college or the NFL or high school – when you’re out there competing it’s just coaching it as hard as you can and doing it. It’s one of the things you love about being involved in it. When you get out on the field and into practice and into the games and trying to get into that competition, that’s really why you do it. I love it.”

11/1: Weis on the Gators’ roster, miscues, Brantley, Rainey, tight ends, Nixon, Burton

As the Florida Gators prepare for their next home game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Nov. 5 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the bye week and his team’s upcoming contest.

WORKING OUT THE ROSTER’S KINKS

Following Saturday’s loss, head coach Will Muschamp admitted that Florida is struggling with its running game because the team does not have the type of players on the roster to run a power system. Asked to elaborate on those comments Muschamp made, Weis agreed but said it is his job to make due with what the Gators do have.

“When you come in to any new circumstance, what you have to do is see what you do have and work around that,” he said. “Obviously the resource at this level is recruiting. As you bring in recruits that are different types of players, you do different types of things. That doesn’t mean you don’t like the players you have and don’t try to utilize what they do. You don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole.

“If somebody’s a certain type of player, that’s what you have to do. In college football it’s an evolution. It’s all based on when you bring in recruits and what they can do and then you adjust and tweak what you do based on who you have then.”

This is a stance contrary to what Weis’s replacement at Notre Dame – head coach Brian Kelly – said in October about the players he inherited before being forced to apologized.

“You got to be careful not to be disrespectful to the guys that are already here. Alls I know is, every year we’re going to try to recruit one of the best classes in the country. Hopefully some of those guys can challenge to get on the field early,” Weis said. “That’s all you can do. It might be a little bit general, but I think it’s really important not to sell out the guys that are currently on your own roster because then you’re placing the blame on them or placing the blame on the last coaching staff.”

Read more about the Gators offense…after the break!
Continue Reading » 11/1: Weis on the Gators’ roster, miscues, Brantley, Rainey, tight ends, Nixon, Burton

Gators DE Sharrif Floyd striving to improve

When Sharrif Floyd committed to the Florida Gators two years ago, he did not expect to be playing under a head coach not named Urban Meyer. A standout defensive tackle, he probably did not count on starting at defensive end as a sophomore, and he was most certainly unprepared for the NCAA eligibility issue he faced in the offseason.

Perhaps most of all, Floyd could not have imagined that Florida would lose four-straight games and potentially have their bowl eligibility hinging on defeating a worthwhile opponent in Vanderbilt on Saturday during homecoming weekend.

“The losing streak obviously has taken a toll on all of us,” Floyd said Wednesday, “but we’re all focusing on Vandy, the next game and getting the streak over with.”

Floyd lost his first homecoming game as a member of the Gators in 2010 when Florida was upended 10-7 and embarrassed by Mississippi State in The Swamp.

That fact has not been lost on him, and he hopes to celebrate win on Saturday with not only his teammates but all of the fans, too.

“It’s still a big week; it’s homecoming,” he said. “We win – we go and have fun out in Gainesville. We lose – we’re in our dorms and we’re sleeping, thinking about what happened. It’s a big week. It’s homecoming, and we want to be out having fun.”

In order to have that celebration, Floyd and UF’s defense will have to overcome a VU offense playing better than it has in recent memory. He said that improvement became apparent to him and the defense during film study this week.

“From watching film, honestly, I think that they have a more aggressive offense and they’re playing with a little bit more heart in my eyes,” Floyd noted. “It seems like they want it instead of just coming out and playing. It seems like they want it more this year.”

A converted defensive tackle, Floyd does not know where he will wind up playing in 2012 though he hopes he will return to the position he feels most comfortable at. This year he is stuck playing defensive end but feels he has improved each week.

Defensive coordinator and long-time NFL defensive line coach Dan Quinn has been working with Floyd closely, teaching him which moves he can best utilize to be an effective pass rusher.

“I’m a big guy. I’m not going to be a slim D-end,” Floyd said. “I got to do big guy moves. That’s what I’ve been doing and it’s been working. I’ll keep adding on to it.”

Now that he’s getting more and more pressure off the edge, Floyd hopes to become even more of a threat. He only has three tackles for loss in six games and has not registered a single sack this season.

“As I moved to the end that was something I really wanted to work on. I actually have been improving at that position, and I’m starting to feel more comfortable,” he explained.

If he can showcase his newfound comfort on the field Saturday, Floyd could play a big part in a much-needed Gators victory and post-game homecoming celebration.

11/2: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators coming off their fourth-straight loss and set to face the Vanderbilt Commodores on homecoming this Saturday at 12:21 p.m., head coach Will Muschamp spoke during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at heading into the contest.

A TOUGH LOSS FOR BRANTLEY

In his fifth year with the team, even after earning a tough win one year ago, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley sincerely wanted to beat Georgia on Saturday and put another great Florida memory away before leaving the team he grew up rooting for. After the Gators fell 24-20 over the weekend, Brantley appeared down in the dumps by his locker and Muschamp was able to process what he has been through over the course of his career at Florida.

“It really kind of hit me Saturday night in the locker room after the game – an unfortunate defeat. He was really hurting – more than physically – mentally. I walked over to his locker and saw a guy that’s father played at Florida, his uncle played at Florida, he’s been a Gator his whole life. He’s over there hurting, and he’s fought through adversity, handled adversity like a true class person does,” Muschamp explained.

“To see him hurt like that was very disappointing for me. I’m very proud of John and how he’s handled everything and how he’s pushed through everything. He’s been our leader of our football team, certainly our offense. I saw his parents when I was getting on the bus leaving the stadium and told them how proud I was of him and they ought to be proud parents for the type of young man they raised.”

Though the big game against Georgia is over, Brantley still has at least four more weeks to leave a lasting mark on his Gators legacy.

RAINEY HOBBLED THIS WEEK

Fans may have believed that redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey injured his hands by the way he dropped passes and has fumbled the ball over the last two games, but the player actually sprained his ankle Saturday against Georgia and has been seen on camp this week in a walking boot. Muschamp said the boot is standard operating procedure whenever a player has swelling in that area but also noted that Rainey is not guaranteed to play against Vanderbilt as of right now.

“Hopefully we’ll get him out [Wednesday] and run him a little bit and see how he feels,” he said. “I would say probable-to-questionable at this time. He’s not full speed at this time, but again we’ve got Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and hopefully we’ll get him back in the fold.”

TEAM DISCIPLINE ROOT OF PENALTY ISSUES

Considering Florida is last in the nation in penalties, it is quite obvious that the Gators have a major discipline problem at this point in the season. Muschamp was asked about this development on Wednesday and went on to explain that he is also frustrated with the miscues but is certainly not ignoring them and how detrimental they are to the team.

“I divide penalties into a couple different areas, but you got discipline issues and you got guys who can’t stay onside and jump offsides on defense. Those are discipline issues. If you hit a guy late that’s an aggressive penalties but that sot mimes can be looked at, in my opinion, as a discipline issue,” he said. “Aggressive penalties sometimes are judgment calls, and those are the ones you’re kind of at the mercy of if they throw the flag or not. Certainly we’ve been on our end of those shares. We got to be a better disciplined football team. Those are the procedural issues and again we had them last week against Georgia. Charlie Weis was in the box and we had some issues as far as getting the play down at times, misalignment at times.

“There’s multiple issues but it goes back to focus and discipline and it comes back on my shoulders. I got to do a better job of making sure that we are where we’re supposed to be, the communication is what it’s supposed to be, because those can’t be tolerated and put us in a very ought situation. There’s a lot of reasons for it, but all they are is excuses in my opinion. I just got to do a better job.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On his thoughts going into the game: “We had a couple good days of preparation here as we get ready for a Vanderbilt team that is really playing well. James Franklin has done a great job with his football team. They’re well-coached, play hard, multiple on offense, press you on defense, really attack you there in special teams. They pose a lot of issues and have played extremely well this year.”

» On how he compares Alabama and LSU: “They’re very similar teams. They’re big, physical teams. They’re both very physical on both lines of scrimmage. They run the ball like you need to in this league. That’s why they are where they are and the rest of us right now this year are trying to catch up. They both play really good defense, but they play well as an entire team from a standpoint of ball possession offensively and defensively taking advantage of opportunities when they have them. They’re very similar makeups as far as when you look at their rosters.”

» On what he thinks the Alabama-LSU game comes down to: “Both lines of scrimmage – this one is going to be won up front. That’s the matchup I’d be interested in watching. Both of them have very good defensive fronts. Both of them are very physical on the offensive lines. They have talented backs. Again, you come down to turnovers obviously in the game, but who is able to consistently run the ball and play well up front [will win]. Certainly neither team can get into a one-dimensional game against the front they’re going to face. I do know that. I think the line of scrimmage matchup is the one I’d be interested in watching.”

» On the biggest challenge he’s faced as a first-year head coach: “More than anything time management as far as just I’m very involved in the defense and special teams and recruiting. Being able to manage my time being the head coach, making some of the appearances and things you’ve got to do – planning practice and doing other things you got to do. I’m not a CEO guy. I’m in the meeting rooms. I’m part of what we’re doing scheme-wise and those facets. Managing that and also understanding that being the head coach, you got some other responsibilities as well not just being involved in the scheme standpoint of your side of the ball.”

» On what he thinks of Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin: “He’s a guy that I’ve been impressed with – just bright, intelligent, smart and energetic. You are what you put on tape. When you turn on the tape and your guys play hard, they play fast, they play physical. They’re well coached – that’s what you are. It’s impressive to watch the job that he’s doing, and we’ve got our work cut out for us Saturday.”

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