Taurean Green: “We knew nobody could beat us.”

Overseas in Spain starting every game for C.B. Gran Canaria 2014 of the ACB, former Florida Gators two-time National Championship-winning point guard Taurean Green took some nearly 45 minutes out of his busy schedule to sit down with OGGOA for a wide-ranging, in-depth interview late Tuesday evening.

Green, one of the four members of the Oh Fours and an integral part to the team’s success from 2005-07, discussed at length his college career and continuing relationship with his Gators teammates and coaches. He also provided some insight into what the current team is going through during their 2011 NCAA Tournament run and how they can improve going forward and make the most out of their opportunity.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: With your father being a former NBA player and college coach as your adviser, what was it about Florida and Billy Donovan that had you winding up playing for the Gators out of high school?
TAUREAN GREEN: “Obviously Coach Donovan was a huge factor, the style of play, Coach [Anthony] Grant was a huge factor, too. It was just basically the style of play, how they get up-and-down [the court], and he’s a guard’s coach. I knew that he played for a great coach in Rick Pitino at Providence, and then he played some years in the NBA. Just from what everybody told me and from what I heard, he’s a guard’s coach and you’ll definitely get better [playing for him]. He’ll give you freedom out there but along with the freedom comes responsibility in running the team.”

AS: Your first year at Florida was obviously an adjustment as there were still a bunch of upperclassmen holding starting roles on the team. How was it walking into a team with established guys like David Lee, Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson already comfortable with each other and running the show?
TG: “That was good for me. Some guys can adapt – you see freshmen get thrown into the fire right away nowadays. I felt like I needed that year to go against Anthony Roberson and all those guys just to get my feet wet. At the same time, I knew that I was going to be getting better going against Peep every day in practice. They led the way, and we just tried to contribute in whatever way we could.”

AS: You won the SEC Tournament that season and were a No. 4-seed going into the NCAA Tournament. What was it like playing at such a big stage so early in your career?
TG: “It was fun! When I was at Florida, the main thing was we just lived in the moment. We took it game-by-game. We wanted to do stuff that no other team really had done at Florida. We knew that we had David, Matt and Anthony, and we just wanted to contribute in any way we could. The main thing was just going out and playing hard, doing whatever it took to win.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Taurean Green…after the break!
Continue Reading » Taurean Green: “We knew nobody could beat us.”

Lineup choices may decide Florida-BYU game

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Columnist

In October 2005, the Villanova Wildcats received depressing news. Forward Curtis Sumpter, who had torn his ACL that April, had reinjured himself and would likely miss the entire upcoming season. At the time, head coach Jay Wright made the unconventional decision not to replace Sumpter with a forward; instead he decided to use a four-guard lineup as his team’s base set rather than just a change of pace.

Villanova began the year ranked No. 4, lost only three regular season games and advanced to the Elite Eight, losing to the eventual champion Florida Gators.

In a bit of a parallel, BYU Cougars head coach Dave Rose has also chosen to take a somewhat unconventional route to replace suspended sophomore F Brandon Davies. Blessed with a senior backcourt of all-time BYU steals leader Jackson Emery and All-American Jimmer Fredette, Rose has chosen to the duo play all 40 minutes while going with four guards and 6’8” F Noah Hartsock to round out the starting five.

The players who have seen their minutes increase the most in Davies’ absence have been the guards and wing players rather than the two taller players on the roster: 6’8” Stephen Rogers and 6’10” James Anderson. It’s interesting to compare the Cougars’ rotation and bench compared with their Sweet 16 opponent Gators, especially when you look at how the minutes have been distributed over the last seven games:

FLORIDA (minutes per game)
5’8” G Erving Walker (32.5) – 6’2” G Scottie Wilbekin (17.1)
6’2” G Kenny Boynton (32.5) – 6’6” G/F Casey Prather (6.7)
6’9” F Chandler Parsons (33.7) – 6’7” F Will Yeguete (7.1)
6’8” F Alex Tyus (24.4) – 6’9” F Erik Murphy (11.1)
6’10” C Vernon Macklin (24.3) – 6’9” F/C Patric Young (17.9)

BYU (minutes per game – season)
6’3” G Jackson Emery (32.5) – 6’0” G Nick Martineau (4.8)
6’2” G Jimmer Fredette (35.5) – 6’6” G/F Brock Zylstra (4.8)
6’6” G Kyle Collinsworth (25.4) – 6’6” F Logan Magnusson (11.4)
6’5” G/F Charles Abouo (20.7) – 6’8” F Stephen Rogers (10.0)
6’8” F Noah Hartsock (29.4) – 6’10” F/C James Anderson (7.8)

BYU (minutes per game – since suspension)
Fredette (38.7, + 3.2) – Emery (35.4, +2.9)
Hartsock (30.9, +1.4) – Collinsworth (30.1, +4.7)
Abouo (27.7, +7.0) – Magnusson (15.7, +4.3)
Rogers (8.3, -3.1) – Anderson (8.7, -0.9)
Zylstra (3.7, -1.1) -Martineau (1.5, -3.3)

The Sweet 16 match-up between the Cougars and Gators may come down to which team blinks first. Florida has three players that normally play double-figure minutes off the bench. Since Davies’ departure, BYU has only one that does so: Magnusson.

If the young men from Provo are able to maintain the top-10 national offensive efficiency and top-20 tempo going with the 6’5” Abouo and 6’6” Collinsworth, they may force UF head coach Billy Donovan to go with a smaller lineup. Conversely, if the comparatively huge front line of Florida (starters and reserves) are able to punish BYU’s smaller lineup, Rose may be have to play Rogers and Anderson more than he’d like.

The other question that immediately comes to mind is whether Emery and Fredette can continue to play effectively without being substituted. Considering their conditioning playing in high altitude, there should not be any doubt they can do so physically. No, the question is whether the 5’8” Walker and 6’2” Boynton can manage to cause any foul trouble for the BYU backcourt at all.

Fredette is notoriously uninterested in playing defense (managing, for example, to escape without being called for a single foul vs. Gonzaga), but Emery’s reputation as a defensive standout will at least be tested by the often unpredictable decisions of Walker in the lane and on the break.

3/22: Muschamp’s thoughts from spring practice

With the Florida Gators spring practice for the 2011 season underway, head coach Will Muschamp met the media Tuesday afternoon to discuss how individual players are performing, the injury statuses of others, the team’s health and how players are responding to so much information being thrown at them. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his availability.

DEBOSE’s POTENTIAL TALENT IS UNDENIABLE

From injuries and ailments to what former head coach Urban Meyer called an inability to learn the entire playbook, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose has yet to live up to the five-star billing he came out of high school with. However, when Debose did see the field in 2010, he often made electric plays including two fantastic kickoff return touchdowns in clutch situations. Muschamp explained how Debose is progressing and what he needs to do to succeed in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’s system.

“I’ve been pleased with his athleticism in the offseason,” he said. “Being a consistent worker all the time, he’s got to understand it’s a day-to-day thing. It’s not just one day here, one day the next. His consistency in his performance is what I’m stressing on, but athletically, he’s what we want at the wideout position.”

Asked if he saw Debose’s potential, Muschamp dismissed the notion. “Potential is a bad word. It means you haven’t done it,” he said. “He’s got to continue to progress to be the football player he needs to be. God’s blessed him with an awful lot of ability, but he’s got to use that ability. He’s worked hard in the offseason. He had a really good offseason program, and I’m proud of the progress he’s made up to this point. Now it’s time to be productive on the field. That’s what I’m looking for, consistent production on the field.”

OFFENSIVE LINE STEPPING UP

One of Muschamp and Weis’s immediate knocks on Florida’s returning roster was the lack of depth on both the offense and defensive lines. Though that is certainly the case, the unit performed quite well on Tuesday and showed signs of promise.

“We have some guys that can be very productive, but also we’re throwing a lot at them on their side of the ball coupled with what we’re doing defensively,” Muschamp said. “So you’ve got a lot of thinking going on right now. I’ve seen some productive things. We had some good creases in the run game today, as far as running the football. Chris [Rainey] got loose a couple times; Mack [Brown] made a couple nice runs. We’re getting a hat on a hat in the running game, and a lot of that goes to the offensive line.”

He also took a moment out to compliment the offensive line coach Weis brought with him to the Gators. “Frank Verducci is an outstanding teacher. He does a really good job coaching the players,” he said.

QUARTERBACKS STILL ADJUSTING

For redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, Weis and his pro-style offense was a godsend. Now that everything is in place, all that is left is for him to go out and win that starting job outright by setting himself apart from everyone else. There is no doubt he has the upper hand as of press time.

“John’s done some nice things throwing the ball,” Muschamp said. “We’re kind of re-learning everything as far as playing under center more. [He] threw some nice balls today. He’s been the most consistent, and [the other QBs have] been kind of spotty from that point forward – behind him.

“John’s a mature player. He’s ahead of the other guys simply because of experience and he’s very talented. We just need to continue to progress at that position.”

INJURY UPDATES / POSITION CHANGES

INJURIES
Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard (ankle): “We went ahead and did a scope on Jaye Howard Monday, to clean up some things in his ankle that have kind of been an issue for the last couple of months. His timetable is uncertain, it was just a scope.”

Redshirt junior DT Earl Okine (wrist): “He had a medical procedure, and he’s going to be fine. Could have probably gone today, but we held him for precautionary reasons.”

POSITION CHANGES
Sophomore F-position/fullback Trey Burton: “He’s doing a nice job. He’s adjusting well in what he’s doing as far as the blocking and the things. Slipping him out of the backfield, Charlie’s using him in a lot of different ways. He fits well in what we do. He’s a smart, productive football player.”

Sophomore linebacker/tight end Gerald Christian: “He’s done fine. We’ve worked some bigger personnel sets [Tuesday on] offense, and he repped at tight end as well, which we said we were going to do that from the beginning. He’s a tough, physical football player. He likes the game; he likes contact. We just need to have more guys that can be productive at that position.”

QUOTES

On the players’ weights: “Every player has got a prescribed weight. It’s [decided] through myself, the position coach and Mickey [Marotti]. Every player has a certain weight that they should meet. We have a very fit football team right now. We have very few guys that have weight issues as far as being overweight. You can probably count them on one hand, which is unusual. Most of the guys are in shape. We had a good five-week offseason program, and those guys did an outstanding job of running. They’re in good condition at this point.”

On the team’s aptitude: “It’s all new for everybody. Everybody’s a freshman a little bit, on both sides of the ball.”

On slowing down the installations: “As a staff, we need to sit down and make sure that we’re not doing so much right now that it’s slowing us down in how we’re playing and [with] the physicality we need to play with on both sides of the ball. […] We’ve got a lot of guys swimming right now. We’ve thrown an awful lot at them – on both sides of the ball. They’re seeing a lot of looks right now. Just an awful lot is going on in their mind right now. We’ve thrown a bunch at them. They won’t see as many looks throughout the season as they’ve probably seen the last four days.“

FOUR BITS: Black, Horford, Brewer, SEC b-ball

1 » Florida Gators safety Ahmad Black wishes Brian Billick was still a head coach in the NFL. Why? Because Billick, unlike some other scouts and coaches, understands exactly what Black can bring to the table at the next level. Writing a column for WNST AM1570, Billick had this to say about him:

Many NFL scouts and talent evaluator will tell you that Ahmad Black is undersized and doesn’t have elite speed or quickness. […] But what I will tell you, is that despite his lack of size and speed, Black always seems to be around the football. On the field, he plays faster than his 40-time suggests by playing smart and instinctive. You will rarely find him out of position in zone schemes and he reads WRs well in man coverage. […] He displays a smooth and fluid backpedal with an efficient transition into his break on the ball. He is a reliable tackler, but gets in trouble when he leaves his feet in an effort to make a lunging hit. While Ahmad Black may not be physically intimidating, he shows up on the field and makes big plays against the best of competition. […] Black may not be the most gifted athlete, but he is an exceptional football player.

2 » Two former Gators will be squaring off on the hardwood for the third time already in March as the Chicago Bulls travel south to take on the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Atlanta forward/center Al Horford relishes the occasions he gets to take on former teammate and now Chicago center Joakim Noah, something Horford told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday. “It’s going to be a battle, but we’re looking forward to it,” he said. The paper also spoke to Hawks forward Marvin Williams, who said the team can tell that Horford is extra enthusiastic when he gets to face Noah.

3 » Former Florida F Corey Brewer made headlines after the NBA trade deadline came to a close. After being sent from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the New York Knicks, he was waived by the latter team and was quickly snatched up by the Dallas Mavericks as a defensive specialist who is athletic and can play significant minutes. However, as ESPN Dallas’ Jeff Caplan points out, Brewer has had some difficulties in his short tenure with the Mavericks. Caplan reports that Brewer has acquired 19 fouls in 62 minutes of game action (one per 3.26 minutes), much higher than his 2.5 fouls-per-game average with the Timberwolves. The likely reason? He is pressing as he tries to fit in to a new situation and do whatever he can to succeed.

“I felt good about [signing with Dallas], but at the same time I knew it was going to be tough,” Brewer told ESPN. “These guys were playing really good basketball before I got here, one of the best records in the league. I knew coach was comfortable with the guys he already has so I’m just trying to earn some minutes any way I can right now. […] I’m not discouraged. This is a different situation. These guys have been here. They’ve been playing well. I’m just trying to find my way and just trying to get in line, whatever I can do to help right now. I’m not trying to push the issue of ‘I want to play, I need to play.'”

4 » With the Sweet 16 of the 2011 NCAA Tournament finalized over the weekend, there has been plenty of talk about the Big East being overrated while the ACC has been somewhat disrespected – simply because of the number of teams who have advanced to this stage. Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive heard the rumblings and wanted to make sure his league was not overlooked either. Speaking with USA Today, Slive propped up the SEC’s accomplishments in the NCAAs. “For 22 straight years, we have had at least one of our teams make it to the Sweet 16,” noted Slive, “and for the sixth time in the last 10 years, we have had multiple teams in the Sweet 16. With two teams in the Sweet 16 again this year, the SEC’s success in basketball does not take a back seat to anyone.”

FOUR BITS: Tebow, Parsons, Fredette, Larson

1 » With Kyle Orton as a veteran “starter,” and Tim Tebow as a second-year up-and-comer and Brady Quinn as an emergency safety valve, the Denver Broncos will not be drafting a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft…or will they? Denver has been taking a very close look at a number of athletic rookie QBs including Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick…even though they already have one in Tebow on their roster. Asked why they are paying so much attention to the position, Broncos president John Elway said the following to the Denver Post: “We’re always looking for that guy. We may already have the guy who can pull the trigger and win us a championship someday. We may have him. We don’t know. We believe in Tim, but he’s not there yet.” Elway and Denver are also taking a look at defensive tackle, a position they will likely end up drafting – or so Tebow should hope.

2 » Speaking with Chris Dortch for an article posted on NBA.com, Florida Gators forward Chandler Parsons praised the game of former Boston Celtics star F Larry Bird, someone who the writer brought up in conversation because of the way he impacted games as a facilitator. “Oh, I’m a big Larry Bird fan,” Parsons said of the player’s NBA spread. “I always thought Larry Bird played basketball the way it ought to be played.” Dortch put Parsons up against his “Bill Russell Test” to determine if he has the chance to be successful playing at the next level. He also spoke with NBA director of scouting Ryan Blake about Parsons. “One of his advantage is that he has a number of skills he does well,” Blake said. “He shoots the ball. He’s got size. He passes very well. He’s a rebounder. And he’s a hard worker and has a professional approach.”

3 » Though BYU Cougars guard Jimmer Fredette had his way with Florida in 2010 – especially in the two overtime periods – he is well-aware that the Gators are a much improved team this time around. “They’re just better because they’re more experienced and have played together for two years,” he told the Associated Press. “They won two games in the NCAA Tournament together as a team and they’re used to winning.” He also discussed how Florida might guard him. “I think they’re just going to be really tenacious…run at my ball screens hard, maybe double them and try to get the bal out of my hands,” Fredette said.

4 » Freshman F Cody Larson will be redshirting this season and has spent every game from the bench watching his teammates achieve great success. Donovan praised Larson’s contributions during a media availability at the beginning of March, but assistant Larry Shyatt expanded on those comments to The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “He’s been terrific,” Shyatt said. “He’s helped our frontline get better this year. Great work ethic, improved offensively, inside and out. We’re excited he’s going to be eligible next season.” Though Larson himself says sitting is “tough,” he understands the reasoning. “I’m looking at it like I’m not going to play if I don’t get better,” he said. “I just need to keep improving.”

3/21: Gators excited about defensive possibilities

With the Florida Gators starting spring practice for the 2011 season last Wednesday, the school made a number of the team’s defense players available to the media as the second week of action began on Monday. There was a noticeable excitement in the air about the possibilities in Florida’s new defense under head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, as evidenced by some of the notable news and quotes provided during the press sessions.

SOPHOMORES FINALLY ADJUSTED

Though sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd seemed to adjust well in 2010, the same cannot be said for linebacker/defensive end Ronald Powell and DT Dominique Easley. Powell buckled down and got more opportunities to see the field later in the year, but Easley appeared to be a problem off the field who needed to get his head on straight and get his mind in the game. Months later, all seems well with the trio of five-star players who are ready and focused to compete in 2011.

“I don’t think it was a case of us not being focused last year,” Floyd said. “New coming into a program, fresh out of high school, we had to get adjusted to things and I think we all got the gist of it.” He noted that, after the season was over, everything came together for the group. With Floyd improving his game and Powell happy in the new system (see below), the only question that remains is Easley’s level of dedication. He was not made available on Monday, and Floyd deflected questions about him when asked.

“He’s my roommate; he’s my brother. I take care of him; he takes care of me. He looks after me; I look after him,” he said, before responding to whether or not Easley is completely on board this year. “That’s a question for him. I know he’s a lot more focused than last year. He’s seeing the big picture now.”

POWELL, FLOYD MAKING STRIDES

Speaking of Powell and Floyd, both players are going to be counted on to have a major impact on the defense in 2011. Powell is already noticing the differences and is excited about the possibilities. “It’s a great fit for me. A great fit. Dan Quinn and Bryant Young, they’re great coaches. The system that they’re running is a great fit,” he said. “I’m loving it. Loving it. It’s more freedom. You don’t have to have your hand in the ground all the time. You can stand up. It’s kind of my choice.” Powell, playing buck linebacker, will have options of standing up, putting his hand down, dropping or rushing; this will allow him to take advantage of his athleticism to cover the field and cause maximum damage.

Like his teammate, Floyd has cut out poor habits (such as standing up too high, not being physical enough and not using his hands correctly) and is more focused on doing what it takes to succeed. “I had a lot of bad tendencies last year,” he said. “That was my fault, obviously. Listening to [Young] and getting in his ear, wanting to learn what he knows – that’s helping me a lot more play with my hands and stay lower, things like that.”

THOUGHTS ON THE NEW DEFENSE

Junior LB Jon Bostic: “The main thing with this defense is [that it’s] backwards and forwards. If you play Mike, you play Will. A guy may motion across; you can go from being the Mike to the Will. A lot of the stuff – you got to know everything.”

Senior DE William Green: “I like it a lot. I’m really excited about what we’re doing.”

Redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins: “I like it a lot. It seems like it really frees up the linebackers and allows us to run a little bit. […] We’re going to be the same defense that we’ve always been at Florida. We’re going to run, hit hard, keep being relentless and be aggressive. That’s kind of how we’ve always been; that’s not going to be a difference.”

Redshirt junior DE/LB Lerentee McCray*: “I love the new defense. You’ve just got to see it on the field. It’s a different concept, a different style of defense.”

QUOTES

Bostic on playing for his third defensive coordinator: “I like it because I’m actually getting to learn different types of defenses, how different coaches coach different defenses. It’s not really a change to me; I kind of see it as another learning aspect.”

Bostic on how the team is progressing: “Everybody’s picking up. It’s going pretty fast, but everybody’s helping each other out. We’re trying to talk a lot more out there than we did. Everybody’s got to help everybody.”

Green on Quinn: “I like him a lot. He’s a real good technician guy. He’s a real good high-energy guy, and a real good person, too. I’m enjoying the coaches a lot.”

Green on stepping up to be a leader: “I feel like I’m four years older than everybody out there. It’s time to be an example for all the young guys. This is my time to step up and really help the team.”

McCray on playing the buck position*: “It’s helping my career. It’s easy to adjust to both [linebacker and defensive end]. I like it. It gives me the opportunity to do the things a linebacker does, and rush and drop into coverage. I like playing it.”

Redshirt freshman Gerald Christian on moving to linebacker^: “At first I didn’t know why, but they told me it’s the best fit for the team. They need big bodies playing linebacker, so they wanted to try me out there. I’m No. 1 on the depth chart right now, but I’ve still got to earn the position. Nothing’s set in stone, but I feel like I’m going to bust my butt every day.”

Attribution: Quotes without marks were acquired by OGGOA. Those marked with * are courtesy of The Gainesville Sun, and those with a ^ are courtesy of the Palm Beach Post.

Gators pick up commitment from 2012 OL Dunker

Though he allowed the recruiting process to play out by taking visits to a handful of Southeastern Conference schools, it always seemed like four-star offensive tackle Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, FL) would end up with the Florida Gators. The 6’6”, 315 lbs. recruit made it a reality on Monday when he officially announced his intent to attend the University of Florida in 2012.

“It wasn’t hard of a choice after I really thought about it,” Dunker told the Palm Beach Post. “It’s a comfort level with the coaches, the atmosphere there and the support the sports teams get, the experience the coaching staff has.”

In addition to visiting Florida, Dunker had taken trips to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and LSU. He was originally planning to make his decision next January but decided to get it out of the way to focus on school.

“I talked to Coach [Aubrey] Hill first and as soon as I told him he started jumping up and down,” Dunker told Rivals. “I guess all of the coaching staff was there together, so they heard that I committed and they just started yelling and stuff. Coach [Will] Muschamp told me I made his year. He was really excited about it.”

Not only does Dunker have an outstanding opportunity at early playing time due to the Gators lacking offensive line depth, his big stature and frame provide him with plenty of size and strength right out of the gate.

Notre Dame C Wenger may transfer to Florida

Granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after sustaining two concussions during fall practice in 2010, Notre Dame Fighting Irish center Dan Wenger has decided he would rather spend his final season in college elsewhere. According to the South Bend Tribune, Wenger requested and received an unconditional release from head coach Brian Kelly and has his sights set on joining the Florida Gators.

Should a transfer to Florida be accepted by the university, Wenger would reunite with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and offensive line coach Frank Verducci, the two men who originally recruited him to the Irish.

Kelly accepted Wenger’s transfer because ND doctors would not clear him to play. “The young man still wants to play, and I’m not going to stand in the way,” he told the Tribune.

In order to be immediately eligible and avoid sitting out a transfer season, Wenger would have to find a graduate degree program offered at UF but not currently available at Notre Dame. He is a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Coral Springs, FL) and started 13 games at center for the Irish in 2008.

Redshirt junior Sam Robey is currently listed as the Gators’ starting center. Should Wenger transfer, he would most likely be a reserve if he is able to be cleared medically.

OGGOA will update this story when more information is made available.

Photo Credit: ChicagoNow/Unknown

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