Three top recruits still sticking with the Gators

Though four-star defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, PA) recently dropped the Florida Gators due to a combination of their performance this season, his desire to be closer to home and the departure of assistant head coach defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney, three of Florida’s current 2011 commitments have recently reaffirmed their stance to join the team next year.

Five/four-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL) and four-star cornerback Nick Waisome (Groveland, FL) each gave the Gators a vote of confidence this week on separate occasions.

“I don’t know where [rumors of my displeasure with Florida] came from. There’s all kinds of people out there that will write anything to make a buzz,” Driskel told The Gainesville Sun recently. “Those [rumors] are 100 percent false. I’m 100 percent [committed] to Florida and I’ll be there in about a month and a half. [The coaches] knew all along that I’m not going anywhere. I’m as solid as can be to Florida.”

“A lot of kids waiver in the process, but I’m 100 percent to Florida,” he said separately on the radio this week. “I have been the whole way. That hasn’t changed.”

Blakely views the Gators’ struggles in 2010 as a better way for him to get on the field sooner than he perhaps may have expected.

“I look at things like this is a great opportunity for me. They need help [on offense] and I want to do what I can next season and beyond,” Blakely told ESPN. “I look at it [Florida's record] and say, ‘Who cares?’ My top two schools were Florida and Auburn. Look at Auburn, they are undefeated. I had a chance to go there and I could change my mind if I wanted to. But I will not because once I committed to the Gators I am a man of my word.

“You know, there are a lot of recruits out there that don’t give Florida a fair look because they are usually too good or because they lost some games and they all think they are going downhill. Every team has a poor year once in a while.”

Waisome is also unfazed by Florida’s recent issues, stating that he has no plans to change his commitment or even look elsewhere.

“I’m pretty much done with where I’m going. I’m firm in my commitment to Florida and I know the chances of me playing early is certainly attainable when I get there,” he told Rivals in an interview. “I like the system better at Florida in what they run and overall have a great comfort level with all the coaches and players.

“It was a tough year for Florida, but that happens even with the best teams. They were also very young at certain positions. Obviously as a corner I do feel I can help out their defense and that’s my goal to play a lot as a freshman next year. Florida played a lot of young guys on the defensive side of the ball and now I have to work to get my chance to play early as well. I’m really excited to be a part of that family and I’m just ready to get to work with the defense. It’s an aggressive defense that is only going to get stronger with the more talent we bring in.”

So while Pagan – a commitment who has been back-and-forth about his decision since the summer – decided to jump ship for a variety of reasons, most (if not the rest) of Florida’s still-growing 2011 signing class appears to be content with their decision to play for the Orange & Blue.

Photo Credit: Thomas Bender/Sarasota Herald-Tribune

FOUR BITS: Rutgers, bowl game, Moss, offers

1 » Having last squared off on Nov. 17, 2007 in Gainesville, FL, the Florida Gators and Rutgers Scarlet Knights basketball teams will once again compete – this time at the RAC in New Jersey, according to New Jersey News Room. The game will mark a homecoming for Rutgers transfer and current Florida redshirt sophomore guard Mike Rosario, who left the Scarlet Knights after last season when head coach Fred Hill was fired. Rosario will be eligible to play next year after sitting out the 2010-11 season.

2 » Though general opinion right now has the Gators football team headed to the 2010 Gator Bowl, Garry Smits of The Florida Times-Union believes Florida still has a shot at earning a berth to the 2010 Outback Bowl. According to Smits, the Outback Bowl committee – which has certainly played to their own tune over the years – “might like the Florida vs. Penn State game that most observes thought would be the Gator Bowl match-up. The Outback might covet that game for the same reason the Gator Bowl did: strong national TV ratings for a pair of 7-5 teams that still would be a big draw from coast-to-coast.” The Gators would theoretically be chosen over the Mississippi State Bulldogs if they played in the Outback Bowl, a team they lost to at home this season.

3 » As we reported previously on OGGOA, the Oakland Raiders recently signed former first-round pick defensive end Jarvis Moss who was cut by the Denver Broncos just a few weeks ago. In an interview with FOX affiliate KDVR 31 in Denver, Moss recounts his time with the Broncos. “Off and on I felt like I had my chances, but things didn’t always work out,” he said. There were days when I thought to myself, ‘Man I wish I was out there.’ I tried my best, and I really wanted to turn things around and do better, but my number was called when it was. From the day that you come into this league they’re looking to replace you. You’re always looking over your shoulder. I got that feeling when things weren’t going as well in Denver as they should have. You kind of get to thinking maybe they might make a move or shift a guy around. But that was out of my control.”

Moss was moved to outside linebacker when defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (who has since left) took over the Broncos’ defense, but now he is back to playing his natural position with the Raiders. “Everyone has been positive. I am going to play D-end and have my hand down again,” he said. “I’m just trying to get everything on the fly. I thought outside linebacker was a good opportunity, but obviously it didn’t work out in Denver.”

4 » Though only a junior in high school, 2012 defensive end recruit Tyriq McCord (Tampa, FL) has earned his third college scholarship offer – this one from Florida. Considered Jefferson High School’s top player next year, McCord received a visit and offer from Gators recruiting coordinator and running back coach Stan Drayton on Thursday. At 6’4” and 220 lbs., McCord registered 54 tackles and 14 sacks last season and only hopes to improve on those numbers next year. The St. Petersburg Times also reports that Florida is interested in one of Jefferson’s seniors – linebacker Ramik Wilson (Tampa, FL). “[Drayton] said he wondered why [the Gators] hadn’t offered him yet,” head coach Mike Fenton said of Wilson, who registered 68 tackles, 15 sacks and six forced fumbles last year and was also visited by Drayton on Thursday.

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

FOUR BITS: Driskel, Haden, Hernandez, Pouncey

1 » Florida Gators five/four-star 2011 quarterback commitment Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) was named 2010-11 Gatorade Florida Football Player of the Year on Thursday by Gatorade and ESPN RISE. According to Gatorade, “The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Driskel as Florida’s best high school football player.” He is now a finalist for the National Football Player of the Year award, which will be announced in late December. At 6’4” and 230 lbs., Driskel went 138-for-235 for 1,783 yards and 16 touchdowns (with three interceptions) as a senior. He also rushed for 1,296 yards and 20 touchdowns on 151 carries and scored two more touchdowns on pass receptions. Florida freshman safety Matt Elam took home the same award in 2009-10.

2 » Also bringing home an award Thursday is Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden, who was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for November. Haden has grabbed an interception in three-straight games for Cleveland and is set to start the second game of his career Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. He also recorded 16 total tackles and seven pass breakups last month.

3 » Sports Illustrated published a feature story on New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez over a week ago – something we apparently skipped over. The story covers Hernandez’s love and distaste for the Patriots as a youngster, how he felt about Randy Moss being traded and how happy he is to play so close to where he grew up. “I felt like it was time to take that step and move on,” Hernandez told SI.com about his decision to leave after his junior year. “So far it’s work out pretty well.”

4 » Another good read is a feature Yahoo! Sports’ Les Carpenter on Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey. Sure to be up for NFL Rookie of the Year honors this season, Pouncey has been “forced to forge [his] own identity” away from his brother this year and has impressed everyone he comes in contact with both on the field and in the locker room. Carpenter explores the Pounceys’ decision to split, how each have handled the separation this year and why their story is such a unique one.

Photo Credit: John H. Reid III/Cleveland Browns

12/1: Donovan shares his post-game thoughts

The No. 16/18 (for now) Florida Gators (5-2) suffered a tough loss Wednesday night, falling 57-54 to the Central Florida Knights (6-0) in Orlando, FL. Though the upset loss is certainly tough for the Gators to stomach, the way they played appeared to make head coach Billy Donovan queasy. He spoke to the media after the game and had plenty to say about his team’s performance at the Amway Center.

EVEN IF FLORIDA WON, THEY LOST

Some teams steal wins and others – like Florida last year – get lucky with some buzzer beaters, but no matter what happened Wednesday in Orlando, Donovan knew that the Gators were not worthy of any positive recognition should the outcome have gone their way. “We didn’t even deserve to be in that position [to tie or win],” he said. “If we would have won the game, it would have been a complete steal. I would have felt bad for Donnie [Jones]. Nevermind how he would have felt, I would have felt awful for him. I would have gave him the win.”

Though Donovan dismissed the notion that he was “irate” after the upset, he did explain that the team’s “issues are bigger than this loss” though they can be corrected with maximum effort. He continued, “The one thing that’s good with our schedule is, when you play games like this and you play Ohio State, you play on the road at Florida State, your issues flour – they get exposed. Every team’s got issues. How you become a good team is how well you deal with your issues inside your team to get better.”

NOT SELFISH BUT CERTAINLY NOT SELFLESS

Donovan treaded carefully after Wednesday’s game to ensure he did not use world “selfish” when describing his team’s performance. However there is no question that word could certainly be used when discussing how Florida played in the contest.

“We have a group of guys – all of our older guys are way, way too wrapped up in their offense,” Donovan said. Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton – you look at their assist-to-turnover ratio last year to this year [and it’s not good].

“You look at, in this game, with the way we were scoring in around the basket, those guys should know just by playing the game [that] the ball needs to go inside. We get wrapped up when we’re not scoring or we’re not getting touches and looks and things like that. We’re not a cohesive team right now, certainly on the offensive end of the floor. The defensive part is easy because they understand if they’re not doing the things they need to do they’re probably going to come out of the game.

“They’re not playing together. They’re not utilizing each other’s individual talents. And the disappointing part is these guys played together last year.”

TEAM LACKS UNDERSTANDING, ISN’T HELPING EACH OTHER

“That’s the part to me that’s a little bit disturbing as a coach,” Donovan said of the team not recognizing that [Vernon] Macklin was on fire and could not be defended. “He got in foul trouble in the first half so he was out with two fouls, but the recognition by your team… I can’t call a play every single time down the floor because there’s transition. When they’re playing they should be seeing the fact that Vernon Macklin is having a big night offensively. The other four guys should be saying, ‘Let’s get Vern the ball.’ But we’re too wrapped up in, ‘I didn’t get a shot now,’ or ‘I missed my last one.’ They’ve got to see those things. Every time I ran a play, I kept running a play at him.

“We don’t have very good chemistry on offense with this group right now at all. And that’s the disappointing part. These are older guys that are less focused on what they can be doing to help the group get better. You always hear the thing: ‘A great player makes everyone else around them better.’ We have a bunch of guys on the floor that make nobody better. We’re less concerned about how to do that; we’re more concerned about, ‘How am I doing.’”

PARSONS FAILS TO DELIVER IN RETURN TO HOMETOWN

With approximately 70 tickets distributed to family and friends and a lot of eyes on him Wednesday, senior forward Chandler Parsons appeared to crack under pressure. Though he helped distribute and rebound the ball, Parsons simply played awful in his 32 minutes on the court, going 1-for-9 from the field (0-for-3 from downtown) for two points and 0-6 from the charity stripe (including an air ball). He played so bad, in fact, that his lack of production stood out even though fellow senior F Alex Tyus went 0-for-5 and was held scoreless in 21 minutes.

“Chandler and Vernon last year, they were really on edge about really trying to compete and do the things they needed to do. Chandler – with the way he’s shooting free throws right now – that looked like he was his sophomore year,” Donovan said. “[He’s] just not in the right frame of mind. I don’t know if we’ll be a great free throw shooting team or not, but Chandler’s certainly better than 0-6.”

A career 61.5 percent free throw shooter, Parsons was making them at a 66.6 percent clip before Wednesday’s game. Struggling more is Macklin, who shot 58.8 percent from the line in 2009-10; he is currently shooting 23.1 percent from the stripe.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/1: Donovan shares his post-game thoughts

Knights upset No. 16 Gators 57-54 in Orlando

Entering the first-ever Florida Citrus Sports Shootout at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL, the No. 16/18 Florida Gators were hoping to build momentum after pulling out an impressive defensive victory against Florida State on Sunday. Instead Florida (5-2) played their worst game in recent memory and fell 57-54 to the up-and-coming Central Florida Knights (6-0).

Led by former Gators assistant Donnie Jones, the Knights had UF and head coach Billy Donovan their heels the entire game. Though the contest was never out of reach for Florida, they failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities – specifically three in the last 30 seconds including a costly turnover by Central Florida.

UCF jumped out to a 28-20 lead in the first half and finished the period up four as guard Marcus Jordan – son of NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan – posted nine points to lead his team. UF senior forward Chandler Parsons got off to a rocky start (that would continue the entire game) going only 1-for-5 from the field and 0-for-4 from the free throw line in the first half.

The Gators got back in the swing of things at the start of the second half, tying the score at 34 on a layup from redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and quick jump shot by junior point guard Erving Walker. A 9-2 run exhibited by the Knights took them back up to their game-high eight-point advantage (44-36), but Florida answered with a 10-0 run to re-take the lead 46-44 just minutes later.

UCF went 0-for-13 from the floor during UF’s run, but while the Gators did erase their deficit, they failed to capitalize on the momentum. The game would go back-and-forth from there with Macklin tightening UCF’s lead to 53-52 with under a minute to go.

Florida got its first big opportunity on an inbounds play from Central Florida with 55.4 seconds left. Sophomore G Kenny Boynton stole the ball on a bad pass and Donovan called a timeout to draw up a play with 44.1 seconds remaining. Boynton got the ball out of the break and missed an open jumper, giving it back to the Knights who wound up with Jordan on the line shooting the one-and-one.

The Gators were still faced with a one possession game after Jordan made both free throws, but Walker and Boynton each missed wide open treys and UCF grabbed the second rebound. Two more free throws and a quick layup by Boynton passed before UF put F Keith Clanton on the line for another one-and-one.

Clanton missed his first free throw, but Macklin knocked an easily corralled rebound out of bounds with what would have been four seconds remaining for Florida.

Jordan matched his first half performance for Central Florida, scoring nine more points and finishing the game with 18 on 6-of-11 shooting. Clanton was just as effective for the Knights, going 4-of-8 for 12 points with nine rebounds.

Macklin was truly the only bright spot for the Gators, shooting an impressive 10-for-11 from the field for a game-high 20 points to go along with a team-high eight boards. Walker scored 16 points of 4-of-7 shooting (2-of-4 from downtown), but he also turned the ball over thrice and only dished it twice. Boynton went 4-of-10 for 10 points but was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc and missed some clutch shots.

Parsons and fellow senior F Alex Tyus were dreadful for Florida throughout the night. Parsons finished 1-of-9 from the field, 0-for-3 from downtown and 0-for-6 from the line (including an air ball) in front of his hometown crowd. He did, however, grab six boards and hand out five assists. Tyus finished 0-of-5 from the field and was held scoreless only taking down five rebounds in 21 minutes.

Though the Gators shot better than the Knights from the field (42.0-38.2 percent), the team – without Macklin – only made a 28.9 percent of its shots. Florida also out-rebounded Central Florida 37-30, handed out more assists (12-10) and committed less fouls (13-16). However, UF turned the ball over twice as much as UCF (14-7) and was unable to capitalize on the few miscues they did force.

Florida will look to right the ship on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. against American in Washington, D.C. The game will air live on Sun Sports.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

No. 16 Florida Gators vs. Central Florida Knights

Event: Florida Citrus Sports Shootout
Location: Amway Center – Orlando, FL [Capacity: 20,000]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (EST)

TV: FSN
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 16 FLORIDA GATORS CENTRAL FLORIDA KNIGHTS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Donnie Jones
Record: 5-1 Record: 5-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Conference USA
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -3.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is undefeated in the all-time series against Central Florida 9-0, though the two teams have never squared off in Orlando.
» The Gators are 8-1 against Conference USA opponents under Donovan.
» Donovan is also 5-1 against his former assistants.
» Florida is 77-20 under Donovan in the month of December.
» UF will play UCF in the first collegiate event at the brand new Amway Center; ironically, they also faced Stanford in the first collegiate event at the old Amway Arena.
» Donovan needs just five victories to move into sole possession of third place in SEC history for most wins as an SEC head coach.
» The Gators have out-rebounded five of six opponents thus far and are doing so by +8.2 rebounds per game.
» The Knights are No. 2 in the nation in field goal percentage (55.4), No. 9 in assists per game (18.8) and No. 10 in points per game (85.8).

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker…a backcourt duo that has combined to average 27.6 point per game and has accounted for 25 of their team’s 37 three-pointers this season.
» Sophomore forward Erik Murphy…who is really coming on this season after only seeing the court sparingly as a freshman. Murphy has posted double-digit points three times and played important minutes in Florida’s win over Florida State.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior Fs Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus…UF’s three frontcourt starters who are average 16.2 rebounds per game.
» Freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin…who has posted a commendable 15-2 assist-to-turnover ratio while running the point in relief of Walker.
» Freshman F Will Yeguete…who has been a spark off the bench for the Gators averaging 5.6 rebounds per game and 3.4 points per game in just 12.6 minutes.
» UCF G Marcus Jordan…who is the son of Michael Jordan and is averaging a team-high 16.8 points per game.
» Knights F Keith Clanton…who averages 16.2 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 68.4 percent from the field.

INJURIES

» Active: Redshirt senior C Vernon Macklin (knee)
» Inactive: Redshirt junior F Adam Allen (knee)

11/30: Donovan discusses coaching, expectations

No. 16/18 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 from his latest media availability in the following post.

COACHING, COMMON BOND UNITE DONOVAN AND FORMER ASSISTANTS

Though Donovan’s talented former assistants have been successful at Florida and been able to head coaching jobs, more than winning back-to-back National Championships unites him with Central Florida’s Donnie Jones, Alabama’s Anthony Grant and Arkansas’ John Pelphrey.

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

Even with such a history with his assistants – and friends – Donovan does not see any issue competing with them on the court. “That’s the way it is. We’re all competitive, but there’s a fairness inside of competing,” he said. “Our kids are going to go out there and compete. [Jones is] going to prepare his team; I’m going to prepare my team. It’s not like he and I are half court beating each other up.”

EXPECTATIONS DON’T BOTHER DONOVAN, SHOULDN’T DISTRACT MEYER

Asked how it feels that successful men like himself and head football coach Urban Meyer can fall under such heavy criticsm even though they recently won national titles, Donovan explained that it is a part of the business they have chosen.

“We’re in a society that is kind of a microwave. Everybody wants instant, fast results. I don’t think anything worth building or worth lasting is built like that,” he said. “The one person, to me, that puts it all in perspective is Jeremy Foley. He understands that he’s trying to build a foundation. Whether you talk about IBM or some blue-chip stock company, no one ever stays on the top forever. There are peaks and valleys in our own personal lives. Everything just doesn’t go well all the time. That’s the thing that you realize. It happens. No one’s invincible. No one stays on top forever. The days of John Wooden winning 10-straight championships – that’s not happening anymore. There’s too many early departures, guys don’t stay around long enough.”

Donovan also empathizes with where fans and critics come from when they complain (and are perhaps even ungrateful) about team – and coach – performance. “It’s the passion for the University of Florida. People want to see everything at a very, very high level, and that’s understandable,” he said.

NO WAY YOU’RE GOING TO CALL HIM A “LIAR”

While discussing his decision to toss aside his NBA dream to remain at UF, Donovan was jubilant and jovial in explaining that there is no place he would rather be right now.

“One of the hardest parts in coaching is sometimes you don’t know where you’re going to be or what’s going to happen. I’m happy where I’m at, and if I was fortunate enough to stay here for another 15 years, I would really, really be happy with that,” he said. “I’m in a unique situation that the guy that hired me is still there and it’s still a great relationship.

“Sometimes when a coach comes out and says, ‘I’m never leaving,’ and they leave… ‘Liar!’ ‘Well I’m not sure, I’m going to keep my options open.’ ‘He’s not committed there! He’s thinking about…’ All I can say is I’m really happy here, happy with our team, happy with the administration, the people I work with. I am. I’m excited. And do say that’s the way it’s going to be for the rest of my life here at Florida? Things change. God forbid something happens with Jeremy Foley or there’s a new president or there’s a change in administration or they don’t like the way we play. Things can all change in a very quick period of time in this kind of business.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/30: Donovan discusses coaching, expectations

FOUR BITS: Haden shining, Leak wins Grey Cup

1 » Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden has really turned it on in recent weeks, nabbing an interception in each of his last three games. Haden, who is technically a back-up but started his first game on Sunday in place of the injured Eric Wright (knee), is set to start once again this week. “Joe has done really well,” head coach Eric Mangini said of Haden. “He’s getting better as we go. He’s making a strong, strong case for continued playing time.”

2 » The Montreal Alouettes of the CFL won the 2010 Grey Cup on Sunday and two members of the team have ties to Florida. Former Gators National Championship-winning quarterback Chris Leak, the team’s back-up, and head coach Marc Trestman, who worked with former Florida QB Tim Tebow on his throwing motion and mechanics prior to and after NFL combine workouts, both picked up their second Grey Cup rings. The duo also participated in the 2008 Grey Cup but failed to be victorious.

Extra BIT » Former Florida running back DeShawn Wynn, a member of the San Francisco 49ers practice squad this season, was promoted to the active roster on Tuesday as a replacement for Pro Bowler Frank Gore, who fractured his hip during the team’s Monday Night Football game yesterday. Wynn is a four-year NFL veteran who saw his most action with the Green Bay Packers (203 yards and four touchdowns) in his rookie season (2007).

Photo Credit: Todd Korol/Reuters

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