ESPN College GameDay in Gainesville on Feb. 5

As reported by OGGOA in December, ESPN College GameDay will emanate from the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Feb. 5 prior to the No. 23/24 Florida Gators taking on the No. 16/14 Kentucky Wildcats later that evening at 9 p.m.

The University of Florida announced on Friday that the show will air live from Gainesville, FL next week, noting that it is the first time since 2008 and third time overall that the television program will be broadcast from inside the arena.

In addition to the two hours College GameDay airs in the morning (beginning at 10 a.m. on ESPNU and 11 a.m. on ESPN), there will be a one-hour pre-game show live from the O’Connell Center at 8 p.m. The program features host Rece Davis and analysts Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and Bob Knight. Feature reporter and former Gators dazzler Erin Andrews will not be in attendance. However, head coach Billy Donovan will likely be interviewed at some point during the second hour of the show.

The first 500 students in attendance will receive complimentary breakfast, the first 3,000 fans will be given rollbannas courtesy of State Farm, and one lucky student will shoot a half-court shot for a chance at $17,500. College GameDay also wants to see more “big heads” in the crowd. Every student who brings one will win a prize with one being awarded a “VIP prize pack.”

Photo Credit: ESPN

1/27: Donovan on Georgia win, rest of season

Florida Gators 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 on Thursday.

STRUGGLES AFTER JANUARY

Over the previous three seasons, Donovan’s Gators are a combined 18-24 beginning on Feb. 1. Asked about his team’s ineffectiveness when trying to close out the Southeastern Conference slate and head into the postseason, Donovan pointed to the schedule as the main culprit, noting that Florida often plays many of its best opponents (read: SEC East) toward the end. The same goes for this year.

“You got to look at the scheduling and the way it falls,” he said. “We still have to play Kentucky twice. We still have to play Vanderbilt twice. We still have to play Tennessee again, Georgia again, South Carolina again. Not to say that our first five or six games were easy games, because I do not think that was the case in this league. There’s no question the teams that we’re playing going forward, I think everybody would say are probably better than the teams we’ve played up to this point in time.”

RECOUNTING THE DOUBLE-OVERTIME WIN

Looking back on UF’s double-overtime victory against Georgia, Donovan pointed out that – in the grand scheme of things – it may have been emotional but it was just a single win in a very long season.

“It’s only one win. They come pretty quickly from the standpoint of we have to go play a difficult game on the road Saturday,” he said. “I thought we had a great opportunity to win the game in regulation. We made some plays and missed some free throws to really put the game [within their reach].

“We left the door open for them. Our guys were teetering a little bit just emotionally. The game going into overtime, we found a way to get through it and keep it close. When Erving [Walker] made the three, it put them in an emotional thing where they thought the game was over with. We were able to capitalize and go on a little bit of a run.”

PLAYING IT SAFE VS. BEING AGGRESSIVE

Asked about the Gators propensity for taking three-pointers early in the shot clock, especially toward the end of games, Donovan dismissed the notion that it always angers him. Recounting some of the shots Florida took on Tuesday, he explained why quick shots – especially when they are good looks – are not always a negative thing.

“You have to maintain a level of aggressiveness,” he said. “There is a point in time in the game where you’ve got to look at the clock. Two minutes to go in a two possession game, you got to maintain a level of aggressiveness because there’s probably going to be another eight possessions in that game. […] There is a balance and a fine line there. I want our guys to maintain a level of aggressiveness. I’d rather have us being aggressive rather than trying to passively hold on.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 1/27: Donovan on Georgia win, rest of season

FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Westbrook, Stewart, Shands

1 » Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey was found to have a broken bone in his left ankle in addition to a high ankle sprain and is unlikely to play in Super Bowl XLV, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Though the Steelers refuse to completely rule out his participation in the game, chances are Pouncey will be watching from the sidelines along with fellow former Gator left tackle Max Starks, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this season with a neck injury. In the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Pouncey had started each of Pittsburgh’s 18 games this season.

2 » While Florida awaits commitments or denials from a number of top recruits, head coach Will Muschamp is making the rounds and getting in the ears of plenty of other players. Muschamp was in South Florida on Thursday meeting with three-star defensive end Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL), who plans to make a decision Monday, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Westbrook is also considering South Florida, Connecticut, North Carolina and Purdue but will be in Gainesville, FL for an official visit this weekend.

3 » The Hartford Courant is reporting that the Gators are also after four-star linebacker Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT), a current Boston College commitment. Apparently “Florida has made a late push” for Stewart, and Muschamp is expected to fly up for an in-home visit on Friday. “It’s a hard situation but also a good situation,” Stewart told the paper Thursday. “I took two unofficial visits to Florida this summer. I have an offer from them. It’s a great honor that they believe you can play for them.”

4 » What did Gators redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus do after arriving back in Gainesville following a double-overtime victory against the Georgia Bulldogs? They headed over to Shands Children’s Hospital and visited 19-year-old cancer patient Victor Wheeler, who is constantly undergoing chemotherapy for a recurring form of cancer known as rhabdomyoscarcoma. For more pictures of their visit, check out this Facebook link.

FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Williams, Blakely, baseball

1 » With speculation surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey’s ability to play in Super Bowl XLV with a high ankle sprain, one of his teammates has apparently let the cat out of the bag on Pouncey’s status. “We are definitely sad that he won’t be able to be with us in the Super Bowl,” guard Chris Kemoeatu told the Pittsburgh Tribune. “Definitely I feel bad for him. We just have to win it for him. It’s definitely a huge loss for us. We know how big this is for him and him not being able to play is definitely motivating for us to go out there and get that ring for him.” Since first suffering the injury Sunday, Pouncey has steadfastly denied that he will miss the game, saying he knows “how to attack” the injury because he had a similar one during his time with the Florida Gators.

2 » Third and sometimes fourth on his team’s depth chart at the position, former Florida point guard Jason Williams was waived by the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. Williams, who averaged 2.1 points, 1.5 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game, is the least productive he has been in his 12-year NBA career. There are early expectations that he will be picked up by a team in need of a back-up ball handler.

3 » As initially reported by OGGOA on Jan. 17, four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL) has officially undergone arthroscopic shoulder surgery and will miss spring practice. An early enrollee already on campus at the University of Florida, he will likely be able to return to the field in the summer.

4 » Baseball America delivered some high praise to the Gators baseball team on Thursday, ranking them No. 1 in their 2011 preseason top 25 poll. The publication notes that Florida returns eight everyday starters (including four first-team freshman All-Americans), features a power trio in the heart of the order, has two speedsters who can swipe bases, plays great defense, is “absurdly deep on the mound,” has the deepest bullpen in college , offers an excellent coaching staff and “has no discernible weakness.”

Noting that a disappointing postseason performance is the crux of the Gators’ motivation for 2011, Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt also published a feature story on the team. “For all they accomplished in 2010, the Gators’ lasting memory of the season would be the hollow feeling of playing two flat, uninspiring games in Omaha and getting ousted by arch-rival Florida State,” he writes. “After going from a regional in 2008 to a super regional in 2009 to the College World Series in 2010, the next step is for Florida to take home its first national championship.” You can read the rest by clicking here.

Photo Credits: University of Florida

Ohio State hires Stan Drayton away from Florida

Florida Gators running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton, a native of Cleveland, OH, has officially been hired by the Ohio State Buckeyes as the team’s new wide receivers coach, the school announced on Thursday. One of three assistants retained by new head coach Will Muschamp, Drayton will leave Florida before National Signing Day and begin work with Ohio State on Monday.

“Stan Drayton first and foremost is a fine person and family man. He is a Buckeye born and bred, and will add a tremendous dimension to our football family,” Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel said in an official statement. “We are fortunate to gain one of the finest coaches in America to serve our kids, school and community.”

Drayton has almost exclusively coached running backs since 1993 and has spent four years with the Gators (2005-07, 2010). He was on Florida’s staff when the team captured the 2007 BCS National Championship by defeating Ohio State 41-14.

In addition to his duties as WR coach for the Buckeyes, Drayton is also expected to coordinate Ohio State’s recruiting for the state of Florida.

Muschamp addressed the topic late Thursday. “Our focus will always be on the staff that are here, current players and the prospective student-athletes,” he said.

With the 2011 recruiting cycle coming to a close on Feb. 2, Muschamp will likely wait until it has concluded to hire Drayton’s replacement. New wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill, who coordinated recruiting for the Miami Hurricanes in 2010, may be at the front of the pack to take on those responsibilities for 2012 and beyond.

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.

FOUR BITS: spring practice set, Pouncey’s injury

1 » The Florida Gators announced Wednesday that the team will participate in its first of 15 spring practices on March 16 with the remainder coming between then and the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut on April 9. The 2011 season begins on Sept. 3 as Florida takes on Florida Atlantic at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who has started every game this season but suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship game, remains questionable for Super Bowl XLV. He was seen Wednesday utilizing crutches with a hard cast on his lower left leg, indicating that the injury is quite serious and may indeed keep him out of the big game. ESPN medical expert Stephania Bell, asked about Pouncey’s injury, said moderate high ankle sprains are usually given an “estimate of four to six weeks” though players have come back both earlier and later than that time frame depending on the severity of the injury. Bell also noted that Pouncey being only 21 will help him recover a bit faster. “I think when you look into the context of two weeks, it’s the Super Bowl, and Pouncey doesn’t have gross instability or a fracture based on what we know,” she said. “So it will come down to whether the Steelers get the pain down enough and the swelling down enough that Pouncey can have normal motion in the joint and put pressure through the foot.”

3 » Still recovering from an injured thumb, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah sat down with Comcast Sports Net in Chicago, IL for an “up close and personal” seven-minute interview. You can watch it in full below.

4 » Former Gators decathlete Steve Mesler will be inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on March 27. He will be honored after capturing the gold medal as a bobsledder for team United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada in February. “I thought it was amazing,” Mesler said when he learned about his selection. “You don’t think about putting yourself in the Hall of Fame when you’re competing and training. It’s such a surprise to be honored that way. It still humbles me to think that we did something that puts us in that classification.” Mesler joins names already inducted into the hall like Sandy Koufax, (fellow Florida alum) Dara Torres, Red Auerbach (among many others).

DT Terron Sanders: “It was a dream come true”

Former Florida Gators defensive tackle Terron Sanders has taken a bumpy road filled with injuries and setbacks to get to this point in his playing career. A redshirt senior, Sanders remains in Gainesville, FL rehabbing with trainer Marty Huegel in order to heal a torn right labrum he had surgery on after the Florida State game.

Sanders, who signed with Craig Schaeffer and Glen Lansky of Elite Sports Agency, plans to head to Sarasota, FL after his rehab is complete so he can begin training for Florida’s Pro Day in April. He spent some time over the weekend with OGGOA recounting his collegiate career and looking ahead to the future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start at the beginning. I read you were a fan of the Gators growing up but obviously had plenty of other schools vying for your services out of high school. What was it like to receive a scholarship over from Florida and how long did it take you to jump on it?
TERRON SANDERS: “It was kind of a dream come true for me, actually. Coach [Greg] Mattison and Coach [Steve] Addazio told me that Coach [Urban] Meyer wouldn’t consider offering until I came up for a camp. So I came up for the camp, did whatever I could do, and when they called me in the office after the camp and told me that I really impressed them and they were really interested in me. That made me feel good. A week later I got a call with them offering me the scholarship. It felt surreal almost. I felt like I was kind of dreaming. It wasn’t something that I really expected because I didn’t know how well I did at the camp. It took me five minutes – if that – to call them back and tell them that I was going to be a Gator. Coach Addazio called, offered me the scholarship. [I asked for] a week to think about it, got off the phone with him and told my dad they offered me a scholarship. My dad asked me what I was waiting for, so I turned around, called Coach Addazio right back and told him that I’d come. There was no question about it; it was what I wanted to do.”

AS: Between your senior year of high school and the 2008 season, you tore your meniscus in your left knee twice, the one in the right knee once and suffered a high ankle sprain. Coming back from injury so many times, what were you going through mentally and how did you prepare physically to come back the next season?
TS: “I wasn’t doing what I needed to do when I first got here. I wasn’t accomplishing my goals. I was kind of disappointed in myself. I had the motivation for myself to get better and do what I needed to do.”

AS: After going through all of that you ended up starting 12 games in 2008 including the SEC Championship and BCS National Championship. How special was it getting to play that season and seeing the end result?
TS: “That was another one of those surreal moments. You kind of had to pinch yourself afterward. To sit back, look at the turnaround I made, it felt good to know that I did everything I could to become a part of that. I knew how important it was to be a part of that. And I knew that, if I hadn’t pushed myself, and I didn’t have the people around me – the family members, the support group that I had – it wouldn’t have been possible. After it happened, I went back to my hotel room, spent some time with my family and just embraced the moment. It was something that was an amazing feeling. A lot of people say it’s an once-in-a-lifetime feeling to experience two National Championships. The second one I was a part of, and I feel like I added my contribution. It was an incredible feeling.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Terron Sanders…after the break!
Continue Reading » DT Terron Sanders: “It was a dream come true”

FOUR BITS: Drayton, Hilliard, Dwyer, O’Day

1 » Florida Gators running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton, a native of Cleveland, OH, will leave the team to take the wide receivers coach job with the Ohio State Buckeyes as early as next week, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has confirmed. One of three assistants retained by new head coach Will Muschamp when he took over the program in early January, Drayton has almost exclusively coached running backs since 1993 and spent four years with the Gators (2005-07, 2010). He will likely coordinate the Buckeyes’ recruiting for the state of Florida, a job held by the team’s preceding wide receivers coach. Drayton was on Florida’s staff when they defeated Ohio State and captured the National Championship in 2006.

UPDATE: UF has released the following statement on Drayton’s status: “Coach Muschamp is on the road recruiting and our coaching staff remains intact at this time.”

2 » Former Gators wide receiver Ike Hilliard, a 12-year NFL veteran who officially retired last July by signing a one-day contract with the New York Giants, will join the Miami Dolphins as the team’s assistant wide receivers coach. The No. 7 overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, Hilliard racked up 546 receptions for 6,397 yards and 35 touchdowns over his professional career. He has coached receivers for the Florida Tuskers of the UFL since 2009. Hilliard was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection and consensus first-team All-American in 1996, the year the Gators won their first title. He was only at the University Florida for three seasons, declaring for the draft as a junior after collecting 126 receptions for 2,214 yards and 29 touchdowns. His 2,214 career yards are good for seventh-most in team history, while his 29 career scores rank him second overall. Hilliard also holds the UF record for most receiving touchdowns in a single game (four vs. Tennessee in 1995).

3 » Though it is looking more and more like four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) will eventually head elsewhere, he is still considering traveling to Florida for his last official visit (his other choice would be Miami). Either way, Dwyer High School head football coach Jack Daniels isn’t sure Brissett, or four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) – who the Gators are also recruiting heavily – will announce their commitments on or before National Signing Day. “I think at best it’s 50-50,” Daniels told ESPN’s Jamie Newberg. “We are going to sit down [Wednesday], have lunch and talk about it. I don’t think they will be ready. We need to talk about it and try and get a feel for where they are both at.”

Brissett and Maggitt both have Florida and Wisconsin in common as schools they are considering; the former is also weighing offers from Miami and Washington, while the latter has Tennessee vying for his services as well. The goal is for both players to commit on or before Feb. 2, if possible. “I am not going to make them do it if they are not ready but it’s not looking that good,” Daniels said. “When they get back for this weekend’s visits we need to sit down and work it out if we can.”

4 » Former Gators pitcher Darren O’Day has agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Texas Rangers. O’Day, a reliever for Texas during their World Series run, posted a 6-2 record with a 2.03 ERA in 2010 and has been with the club since 2009.

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