SIX BITS: Trattou, Donovan, Dwyer, gym, swim

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Justin Trattou will participate in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL on Saturday. He will wear No. 84 in the game, which will air live on NFL Network at 4 p.m.

2 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan is currently participating in The Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge, a charitable contest where coaches are vying to win money for an organization they choose to represent. Donovan, who is representing the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation, could win $100,000 for the organization in the contest. Vote for him right here and remember that “inspiration is contagious.”

3 » When it comes to Dwyer High School four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL), it seems no one knows exactly what he is going to do. Though he has officially eliminated South Carolina and Florida State from contention, Brissett is being pursued heavily by a number of schools in addition to the Gators. Miami and Washington are both going hard after him, according to the Palm Beach Post. Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels believes Brissett is the “No. 1 player [Miami] target[s],” and says the player is intrigued by Washington because of their success in getting players ready for the NFL. Daniels disputed that Brissett “holds a grudge” against Florida. “He doesn’t hold a grudge because it’s a new coaching staff. He’s just proud, and he wants to show everyone who didn’t offer him early,” he said. “It wasn’t against UF; it was against the staff that was there before.” That statement aligns with the original story on the subject, the point being that the negative feelings may be too much to overcome – even with a new coaching staff in place.

Daniels also told the Post that four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) was pleased with an in-home visit from Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley. He is planning to visit the Gators next weekend and, though he may take an unofficial trip to Miami, is likely between UF, UT and Wisconsin with the first two schools out in front.

4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (3-0, 2-0 SEC) continued their winning ways on Friday, defeating the No. 24 LSU Tigers (0-3, 0-2 SEC) 196.425-194.00 on the road at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, LA. Sophomore Ashanée Dickerson won her 10th all-around title while claiming at least a share of each of Friday’s five event titles. She is the first Gators gymnast since 2000 to sweep all of the event titles in a single meet, winning the floor exercise (9.95), vault (9.90) and balance beam (9.825) while sharing the uneven bars title (9.80).

5 » Though they put together a solid performance, No. 5/6 Gators men’s and women’s swimming fell to the No. 6/12 Auburn Tigers on Friday at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center in Auburn, AL. The men (4-3, 2-1 SEC) lost 167-133, while the women (4-4, 0-2 SEC) were upended 165-135. Florida’s men had not fallen in SEC competition in almost two full years…their prior defeat also came at Auburn on Jan. 24, 2009.

In more upbeat news, three Gators swimmers were selected to the United States’ 2011 FINA World Championship Team on Friday. Senior Conor Dwyer, junior Teresa Crippen and freshman Elizabeth Beisel will all participate for USA Swimming in Shanghai, China from July 24-31. Gregg Troy, Florida’s head swimming coach who agreed to coach the United States’ men’s team at the 2012 London Olympics, will be an assistant coach on the FINA squad, which also features another former Gators swimmer, Ryan Lochte. Florida’s three selections to the team led any NCAA school.

6 » No. 9 Gators men’s tennis (1-0) took home an impressive 7-0 victory against the Furman Paladins in their season-opener on Friday at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The No. 11 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and junior Nassim Slilam won their doubles match 8-3; No. 4 Lacroix also won his singles match 6-0, 5-7 (10-4). Other ranked victories came from sophomores No. 28 Sekou Bangoura, Jr. (6-1, 6-1) and No. 52 Bob van Overbeek (6-0, 6-1) in singles action.

TWO BITS: Taylor may retire, women fall to UK

1 » After a 13-year NFL career including 10 seasons as a feature running back, former Florida Gators star Fred Taylor’s professional career may very well be over. Carrying the ball only 43 times this season for the New England Patriots, Taylor has rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns and caught 290 passes for 2,384 yards and eight more scores in his lengthy career. Injury plagued for most of his career, Taylor missed 36 games during his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars (he only played two games during the 2001 season) and has only started one game in two years with New England. Inactive for the Patriots’ sole playoff game this season, Taylor is getting an inkling that it may be time to hang up the cleats. Here is what he had to say after the game.

“I think at this point I’ve got a million things floating through my brain. It’s kind of hard to comprehend. None of it’s really clear. It’s kind of hard to play the game you love so much with the limitations [I had] last year, with the ankle, and not being able to do the things I know I can do. This year with the toes. It’s real tough and frustrating.

“I just have to take some time to be realistic. I kind of know what my body’s telling me, and what my family has been telling me, but I also know that this is what I’ve been programmed to do the majority of my life.

“I’ll probably just take some time, get the training this offseason. The camaraderie – being around the guys, it’s kind of hard to separate from that. I don’t want to be too fast in figuring [it out].”

2 » While the men were doing their best to win a close game on the road, the Florida women’s basketball team (12-8, 2-4 SEC) was at home dropping a similarly nail-biting contest to the Kentucky Wildcats (14-4, 3-2 SEC) 59-58 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Up double digits with just over five minutes left, the Gators allowed the Wildcats to take off on an 11-0 run and eventually take the lead, 55-54, with 1:13 remaining. Florida junior guard Deana Allen drained a dagger three-pointer to put her team ahead by one with 23.3 seconds left on the clock, but two free throws by Kentucky’s Victoria Dunlap (coupled with a missed buzzer beater by UF) allowed UK to claim the victory.

1/20: Confidence helps Gators overcome offense

The Florida Gators (14-4, 3-1 SEC) escaped a potentially resume-killing loss Thursday night at the Auburn Arena, defeating the Southeastern Conference bottom-dwelling Auburn Tigers (7-11, 0-4 SEC) 45-40 on their brand new home court. Though Florida shot an abysmal 28.3 percent from the field (15-of-43) and 19.2 percent from downtown (5-of-26), two late treys by sophomore guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker propelled them to victory.


Leading teams that have heavily relied on the three-pointer throughout his entire career, Gators head coach Billy Donovan has seen some poor offensive performances before. Unfortunately for Donovan, his Florida team made history Thursday evening by posting the lowest point total in his coaching career at the university. “I don’t know if I have ever been a part of a game sitting on the sidelines as a player or coach watching us struggle to shoot the ball as badly as we did tonight,” he said. “It was unbelievable.”

“Unbelievable” may not be the best word to describe UF’s shooting, especially considering they are currently 82nd in the nation in field goal percentage (45.9%) this season. Granted 28.3 percent is laughingly poor, but Florida posted a similar number in the first half of their game against then-No. 5 Kansas State on Dec. 18 and went through a seven-game stretch over a three-week period without once reaching 70 points.


Teams this year have had great success at defeating the Tigers by pounding the ball down low and out-maneuvering them in the post. The Gators, which likely set their game plan to follow a similar formula, were unable to follow suit because Auburn was collapsing inside and forcing Florida to take wide-open outside shots. With UF shooting only 34.1 percent from downtown as a team this season, the game plan worked for AU because the Gators simply could not knock anything down.

Walker, who blamed Auburn’s “sagging in the lane” as the reason “it was tough to get the ball inside and penetrate,” has had trouble doing so his entire career due to his diminutive stature. Where Florida failed on Thursday and has made a mistake this season is not forcing Boynton – or better yet senior forward Chandler Parsons – to drive the lane and at least get to the line for some free throws.

“We missed some bunnies around the basket, and [Auburn] left our perimeter guys to shoot the ball,” Donovan said. “We just could not make a shot.”

Instead of creating any opportunities inside, UF brought the ball up court, passed it around the perimeter and often times jacked up a three with plenty of time remaining on the shot clock. When the Gators did get the ball inside, redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, senior F Alex Tyus and freshman C Patric Young were surrounded by defenders who were able to stay on them due to a lack of ball movement.


Donovan has known since the beginning of the season that this year’s squad is simply not an effective and consistent shooting team. That being said, he has made an effort both in practice and while speaking to the media to explain that his No. 1 priority is helping his players remain confident in the face of adversity.

“This was a terrible shooting display by us, but we hung in there,” Walker said after the game. “We are shooters, but we need to shoot with confidence.” His teammate agreed. “I knew for our team all I needed was for one to fall,” Boynton added. “We’ve been in this position many times, and if that shot doesn’t fall, we’re in a scramble, we have to get a stop. So I just wanted to keep us in the game.”

As poor as Florida shot the ball, the confidence of their backcourt starters was paramount in the game’s final two minutes. “Give Walker and Boynton credit at the end of the game,” Donovan said. “They still had enough confidence to step up and shoot the ball and knock down two big shots, but it was a hard game sitting over there watching our team offensively.”


Pulling out the victory, the Gators hung their hat on their defense as the reason they were able to keep the game close even through an awful offensive output. “Our defense won the game for us tonight,” Boynton said. Donovan added, “The thing that gets lost in the game is the fact that we really defended. I think we talked about that. Our defensive numbers had slipped a little bit, and we knew coming in here it was going to be a grind.”

While Florida did defend well, they immediately gave up a lead (or tie) on the following possession four times in the second half and their performance in that aspect of the game was nothing special considering…

Auburn shot 37.5 percent from the floor on Thursday; they are 314th in the country in field goal percentage at 39.6 percent this season. The Tigers have scored under 60 points nine times already and only average 62.7 points per game. What actually doomed Auburn was something that UF had nothing to do with – their free throw shooting. Normally hitting 65.2 percent of their shots from the charity stripe, the Tigers were only 1-of-8 from the line (12.5 percent) on Thursday.

Special thanks to Kevin Brockway for the quotes used in the above post.

Inept offense nearly dooms Florida at Auburn

Posting the worst offensive performance since head coach Billy Donovan took over the team 15 years ago, the Florida Gators (14-4, 3-1 SEC) squeaked past the Auburn Tigers (7-11, 0-4 SEC) 45-40 on the road at the brand new Auburn Arena Thursday.

Equally inefficient in both halfs, Florida shot 28.3 percent from the field (15-of-53) and 19.2 percent from downtown (5-of-26). Luckily for the Gators, they limited a similarly poor-shooting Tigers squad to 37.5 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from beyond the arc. Auburn also failed to capitalize on their free throw attempts, hitting only 1-of-8 from the charity stripe, while Florida was a surprising 10-for-14 from the line including 6-for-7 in the first half.

The Gators led for the first 7:20 of the game until the Tigers took off on a 10-0 run to go up 18-11. Florida turned the ball over nine times in the first half, missed 14 of their last 16 shots and trailed Auburn 24-23 in what looked to be their worst start to a game this season since posting only 20 points against then-No. 5 Kansas State on Dec. 18.

UF started the second half in similar fashion, missing their first eight shots from downtown, first three from the charity stripe and 12 of their first 16 attempts.

Junior point guard Erving Walker ‘s three-pointer with 7:16 remaining in the game gave the Gators a 35-34 lead that was handed back on a wide-open dunk just one play later. Trying to keep Florida in the game with a high-energy effort, senior forward Alex Tyus was sent to the line and made two free throws to put UF up 37-36 with 4:17 left; once again the Gators handed the lead right back to the Tigers allowing them to score four-straight points to take a 40-37 lead.

Down three with 2:08 to go, Donovan took a 30 second timeout; sophomore guard Kenny Boynton nailed a trey on the following possession to tie the game at 40. Walker then stepped up with three consecutive plays that wound up sealing the game.

Stealing the ball on an inbounds play with 1:20 left, Walker drained a three. On the next possession he drew a charge in the paint to give the ball back to Florida. He wound up taking an ill-advised jump shot and turning the ball over on the next possession but would hit two free throws to ice the contest and conclude a game-ending 8-0 run.

Walker wound up leading UF with a game-high 12 points on 3-of-15 shooting. Senior F Chandler Parsons and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin each grabbed a game-high six rebounds helping their team out-rebound the opposition 34-27.

Florida hopes to turn things around on Saturday as they return home to face Arkansas at 8 p.m. The game will air live on FSN.

Photo Credit: Todd J. Van Emst/Associated Press

SIX BITS: baseball, softball, Tebow, Brissett

1 » The No. 2 Florida Gators baseball and softball programs found out Thursday that each would have four games featured live on the ESPN family of networks during their respective 2011 regular seasons. Florida baseball – which will be featured on ESPNU’s Thursday Night Baseball Game of the Week with their contest at Arkansas on May 5 at 7:30 p.m. – will also face Georgia (away) on April 16 at 2 p.m. on ESPNU, Alabama (home) on April 23 at 6 p.m. on ESPN2, and Arkansas (away) on May 7 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. Gators softball will have four home games aired live. Their back-to-back games against Alabama on April 23 (4 p.m.) and April 24 (1 p.m.) will air on ESPN2 and ESPNU, respectively, while their consecutive contests against Tennessee on May 7 (12 p.m.) and May 8 (3 p.m.) will be featured on ESPN and ESPNU. All games airing on ESPN or ESPN2 will also be simulcast on

2 » Florida softball also found out Thursday that their incoming 2011 recruiting class has been ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN/RISE. The Gators are bringing in six freshmen including pitcher Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, FL), third baseman Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, FL), infielder Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, MO), shortstop Sami Fagan (Dunnellon, FL), utility player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, AZ), UTL Brianna Little (Middleburg, FL) and SS Katie Medina (Downey, CA). Wrote ESPN: “The Gators had a lot of pressure to bring in a dynamic recruiting class with the group they have leaving this year, and they certainly pulled it off. They bring in a big class of seven athletes that includes two dominating pitchers in Lauren Haeger and Alyssa Bache, power at the plate with big hitters like Bailey Castro and Briana Little, and speed in the infield with tough players like Jessie Damico, Sami Fagan and Katie Medina. The Gators have the best recruiting class of the year, hands down.”

More on Tim Tebow, UF basketball and Jacoby Brissett…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: baseball, softball, Tebow, Brissett

TWO BITS: Dunlap’s back, Johnson’s training

1 » After a successful rookie season in which he notched 24 tackles and 9.5 sacks (second-most for a first-year player behind Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s 10), former Florida Gators now Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap has returned to Gainesville, FL to earn his degree from the University of Florida. Just 20 hours away from graduating with a degree in family, youth and community services along with a minor in business administration, Dunlap decided to take 12 credits in the spring 2011 semester and will likely complete the rest the next season his team misses the playoffs. “I felt like the longer you wait, the harder it is for you to come back,” Dunlap told The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu. “I just thought the transition would be a lot easier to do it now, to knock some of it out. The present is as good a time as any to get a degree. As hard as it was now to come back, I can imagine how hard it would be to come back a few years down the road.”

Dunlap also spoke to the Sun about his unfortunate arrest for driving under the influence before the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship game and how the mistake has adjusted his outlook on his personal and professional life. “That incident changed my whole life,” he said. “It made me respect the game a lot more. It showed me how everything can be taken from you by making one mistake, and not knowing whether you’ll be able to play again. I remember what Cris Carter once said. He said, ‘I will never again allow my life to be put in the hands of somebody else where they can make the decision whether I play football again or not.’ That’s the quote I thought of [when I was suspended]. I’m going to use that quote the rest of my career.”

2 » Though many of his former teammates will be participating in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl and 2011 East-West Shrine Game, former Gators guard Carl Johnson will be headed to the Texas vs. The Nation collegiate all-star game set to be played on Feb. 5 in San Antonio, TX. He will eventually end up participating in the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine in February with hopes of improving his stock for the 2011 NFL Draft in April. Johnson spoke with the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser and provided these notable quotes (read what else he had to say).

PBP: How does Florida’s future look after a disappointing 2010 season?
CJ: “I think the team’s going to be six times better this year than last year. Some good guys didn’t get to play. At the skill positions, you need experience. [Quarterback John] Brantley has a year now. He knows the tempo. He knows what it’s like to face a team that’s trying to decapitate you. They’re going to be better. Now all these guys have experience, which helps a lot. I mean, when I first played, I was like a duck in a dirty pond — don’t know what’s underneath those feet.”

PBP: Was the 2010 freshman class better than people thought? How much impact could those players make this season?
CJ: “From what I saw of the freshmen — [wide receiver Quinton] Dunbar, to me, he’s dynamic. He should have played this year, but I’m not a coach. They have some certified ballers, Mack Brown, the running back, he’s going to be a beast. Trust me, they’re going to be good.”

Gators putting full-court press on DT Jernigan

Currently 15 members strong, the Florida Gators 2011 recruiting class is being looked down on because of the commitments that have been lost rather than lauded for those players new head coach Will Muschamp has retained.

While three four-star commitments have departed for what they believe are greener pastures since Muschamp jumped on board, the nation’s top quarterback and a number of other integral players remain dedicated to the Orange and Blue.

Muschamp hopes his group of committed prospects grows significantly in the coming weeks, and it appears he has honed in on four-star defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (Lake City, FL) as his prime target with National Signing Day approaching on Feb 2.

Assistant defensive line coach Bryant Young visited Jernigan in his home during his first day on the job last Friday, and the Gators are doing whatever they can to get him to take one of his final two official visits to Gainesville, FL.

Craig Howard, Jernigan’s head coach at Columbia High School, said Florida is one of three schools vying for the chance to host the player on a visit. Though he will not narrow down his options, reports have Jernigan considering those three schools along with LSU; UF is coming on strong and doing the best they can to get in his ear as of late.

“I would say that Florida is semi back in it,” Howard told ESPN’s Jamie Newberg on Monday. “Coach Muschamp and those guys have done a good job with him.”

The Gators will send Muschamp, Young and defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Dan Quinn to Lake City on Thursday to meet with Jernigan, who is set to announce his commitment live on ESPN at 10 a.m. on National Signing Day, according to Howard.

Jernigan, listed at No. 17 on the ESPNU 150 and No. 29 on the Rivals 100, is the No. 2 defensive tackle in the 2011 recruiting cycle according to both scouting services. He would be the only player at his position committed to Florida for 2011, though UF did sign prominent five-star DTs Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley in 2010.

Photo Credit: Unknown

1/18: Donovan on free throw shooting, maturity

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 Tuesday.


The fact that Florida is a poor free throw shooting team (65 percent combined, 54.9 percent from the starting frontcourt) is quite evident to Donovan. That is why he had his players take over 100 shots each from the line on Tuesday and expects them to put up over 500 per person this week. Yet while he provides a punishment when they miss (running) and expects improvement by simulating game situations as much as possible, he realizes that free throw shooting is mostly mental and outside his range of power.

“When a player goes up there to the free throw line, really you don’t have any control. If I could guide the ball into the rim, I would do it. But [coaches] don’t have any control,” Donovan said. “It’s a mentality. It’s a confidence. It’s wanting to be up there on the line in those situations. You fix it by getting in the gym, by constantly working on it, by taking it serious and by having a level of competitive substance that, ‘I’m going to go up there and knock down two free throws.’ There’s a mentality walking up there saying, ‘I’m going to put the game away. I’m going to do this.’ We’re going to be in more situations like that. We’re going to have to make free throws. Guys have got to walk up, man up and make shots. They got to be able to do that.”

He also provided additional thoughts about free throw shooting.

“When a golfer swings a club, right as he hits the ball he knows whether it’s good or bad. They just know. I’ve coached players where they have no understanding or idea why they’re missing,” he said. “My biggest thing [as a player] was just to focus on what’s going on right now. [When] you miss free throws, it’s the same shot, but there’s different circumstances. That’s why I try to create as close to a game-like atmosphere in practice as I can, because I’m never going to be able to simulate the crowd [or] home court.

“So much of it is an understanding and a maturity. If you’re shooting a free throw in the gym at practice, or you’re shooting a free throw in the game, it’s the same exact shot. What happens is, mentally, young guys create a bunch of drama in their head. They’re never thinking that way when they’re practicing. A free throw in the first five minutes of the game, that people would say have no barring on the outcome of the game, is the same exact shot at the end of the game except you’re creating this element around you. Trying to help those guys see that, identify that and understand that is important.”


Though the Gators’ inability to hit shots from the charity stripe doomed them in the second half, Donovan believes the hole his team’s defense put them in to start the game made it difficult to win from the get-go. He thinks the poor defense, at least partially, stemmed from overconfidence coming out of a number of big-time victories.

“There’s been some slippage,” he said. “The one thing that has got to get better is our maturity in terms of understanding the winning aspect of what goes into it. ‘How can that be with some older guys?’ When you win, you have to look at where you got to get better. Winning is the best way you want to learn. It’s not fun having to learn through losing. Because we scored points, because we won in overtime against Tennessee, because we won on the road at Xavier, some of that stuff gets lost.

“Now all of a sudden we get into a situation against South Carolina in the first half where we shoot 30 percent from the field and we shoot a very low percentage from the three-point line. We gave up big percentages from the field. You’re going to be down double-digit points. If we would have played defense in the first half like we did in the second half, we probably could have weathered and battled that storm.”


On junior point guard Erving Walker missing his one-and-one after getting into a shoving fight: “You have to have the mentality to take a step back and move to the next play and not let that linger in there.”

On playing well enough to win: “We need to come out and play well. It’s not even about the result, because you can win a game and not play well. If we go out and play like we’re capable of playing with the passion and the intensity that we need to play with, then we got to live with the result. It’s understandable why you got swallow the result when you don’t do what you need to do to win the game.”

On getting up for a “lesser” opponent: “Every competitive challenge is totally different. You try to play as consistently or close to your potential and ability [as possible]. That’s what you’re trying to do.”

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