TWO BITS: Brissett signs LOI, Murphy to Duke

1 » Four-star Florida Gators quarterback commitment Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) officially sent his National Letter of Intent to the University of Florida Monday morning, head coach Will Muschamp confirmed early in the afternoon. “Jacoby will be a good fit in our program,” Muschamp said in a UF release. “He is an outstanding quarterback and we are excited to have him join the Gator family.” Check out Brissett’s whirlwind commitment process and what he brings to the table.

2 » Five-star 2012 forward recruit Alex Murphy (Southborough, MA), the brother of Florida sophomore F Erik Murphy, committed to the Duke Blue Devils over the weekend after strongly considering UF and several others programs. Alex told FOX Sports‘ Jeff Goodman that telling Gators head coach Billy Donovan he would not be heading to Gainesville, FL like his brother was the most difficult part of the process. “They started recruiting me before anyone else,” Murphy told Goodman. “I had such a good relationship with Coach Donovan, obviously my brother, and a lot of their players. That was hard for me. It basically came down to them and Duke.”

Pair of Top 25 wins vaults Gators in latest polls

Following back-to-back home victories against Top 25 opponents in the then-No. 24 Vanderbilt Commodores and then-No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats, the Florida Gators (18-5, 7-2 SEC) not only took a slightly larger lead in the Southeastern Conference East division, they also found more respect from voters in the latest ESPN/USA Today coaches’ and Associated Press polls released on Monday.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

ESPN/USA TODAY
Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (31*), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Purdue, Kentucky, Villanova, Louisville, Georgetown, Missouri, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Washington, Minnesota, Utah State, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Vanderbilt
+ Florida received 51 voting points

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (31*), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Connecticut, Villanova, Georgetown, Purdue, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Louisville, Arizona, Utah State, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas A&M, Saint Mary’s, Vanderbilt, Minnesota
+ Florida received 243 voting points

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (65), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, Connecticut, San Diego State, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Purdue, Villanova, Georgetown, Missouri, Louisville, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, Arizona, Utah State, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, West Virginia
+ Florida received 80 voting points, good for 27th overall

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (65), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, Villanova, Connecticut, Georgetown, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Purdue, Arizona, Louisville, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah State, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Temple, West Virginia
+ Florida received 534 voting points

* Numbers represent first-place votes.

2/5: Parsons leads resilient, battle-tested team

No. 23 Florida Gators (18-5, 7-2 SEC) 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 after Saturday’s hard-fought 70-68 win against the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (16-6, 4-4 SEC), Florida’s second win against a top 25 opponent in one week.

WELCOME TO THE CHANDLER PARSONS SHOW II

Florida played quite well as a team Saturday, but if you had to pick a most valuable player down the stretch it would be no one else than senior forward Chandler Parsons. Notching his fifth double-double of the year while leading his team in points (17), rebounds (12) and assists (five), Parsons also hit a clutch free throw at the end of the game (though he did miss another). He won the SEC Player of the Week award on Monday after scoring 35 points and grabbing 23 boards while posting back-to-back double-doubles this week.

“The one guy I thought offensively was really, really good was Chandler Parsons. He had an incredible game. Kenny Boynton gave us great points in production early in the game in the first half, but Chandler was really a complete game,” Donovan said. “I don’t know since I’ve been here if I’ve ever played a guy 20 minutes in the second half. That may be the first time I’ve done that. I wanted to rest him, I wanted to try to get him out of the game, but he was doing too many things. Defensive rebounding, starting the break… I felt like I needed him to facilitate offense against their zone. He was offensive rebounding. He really had a complete game all the way through.”

Donovan continued heaping the praise on Parsons.

“Visually, the greatest growth I’ve ever seen from a player that I’ve coached here at Florida since Joakim Noah,” he said. “[Noah went] from a total enigma – ‘Who is this guy? He plays eight minutes a game.’ – to potentially being the first player taken in the NBA Draft, winning a National Championship and being the finals MVP. Visually, you can see that. Chandler has made the same kind of jumps and steps in terms of understanding what this all is about.

“He came in with a very poor understanding of competition, work ethic, all that goes into this. Where he was from the first day he arrived on campus to where he is now is as great of a jump I’ve seen from a guy in terms of just changing in every possible way. I’m really, really proud of him because he had some stretches there earlier in the year where he really wasn’t shooting the ball well. He knocked down two free throws against Vanderbilt at a crucial time; he made one out of two tonight – I know he was 3-for-6. There’s a presence there with him where he, as a player, is giving me, as a coach, a confidence of him being very reliable.”

WILBEKIN, TYUS SPLIT THE HALVES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 2/5: Parsons leads resilient, battle-tested team

Florida holds on to top Kentucky 70-68 in thriller

With ESPN College GameDay in town and an opportunity to set themselves apart from the pack in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern division, the No. 23 Florida Gators (18-5, 7-2 SEC) fought off a late surge by the No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats (16-6, 4-4 SEC) to prevail 70-68 over their divisional rival on Saturday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Up a game-high 13 points with 11:50 remaining in the contest, Florida allowed Kentucky fight back and re-take the lead with a 17-3 run over the course of six minutes. However, the Gators would hang in there and out-score the Wildcats 5-2 over the final two minutes of the game to come away with the win.

Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons registered team-highs in points (17), rebounds (12) and assists (five) for his fifth double-double of the season and the 12th of his career. He has now grabbed 10 or more boards in five-straight games and posed a double-double in back-to-back contests as well as three of the last five.

Kentucky scored the first six points of the game before redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin posted five straight to cut Florida’s deficit to one. The Gators took the lead three times in the first half, going into the locker rooms up 34-32 even though Wildcats guard Jon Hood hit a buzzer-beating jumper to end the opening period.

UF started the second half with a 7-0 run to go up nine and an 8-0 run to take their game-high 13-point lead, 55-42. UK answered in kind with their explosive 17-3 run to jump ahead 59-58 with 5:43 remaining in the contest.

The teams traded leads from that point forward with two free throws by Kentucky G Brandon Knight giving his team a 66-65 advantage with 2:05 left. After two free throws by Florida junior point guard Erving Walker, senior F Alex Tyus took over.

Tyus played great defense on Wildcats F Terrence Jones to force a missed jumper, grabbed the rebound and hit a nice jump hook from the baseline on the alternating possession to put the Gators ahead 69-66 with 1:13 to go. Jones responded with a power drive and dunk to make it a one-point game with 43 seconds remaining.

With Macklin on the bench and freshman C Patric Young in for free throw purposes, Parsons was the worst shooter on the court from the charity stripe. Walker worked the clock down before eventually passing to Parsons, who was purposely fouled with 12.7 seconds remaining. He missed the first shot but hit his second attempt from the line, putting Florida ahead two.

Kentucky immediately drove the court, but Knight missed an open three to end the game.

With a school-record 12,663 fans looking on in the O’Dome, the Gators defeated the Wildcats for the ninth time in their last 13 meetings. Florida improved to 15-1 when holding an opponent under 70 points this season and has now won 13 of its last 16 games with 10 victories against RPI top 100 teams.

Struggling from the line this year, UF shot 81.8 percent from the charity stripe. Macklin, the Gators’ worst free throw shooter, was a perfect 3-for-3 from the line and finished with 11 points. After being shut out in the first half, Tyus scored all eight of his points in the second and added four rebounds and two blocks.

Florida’s backcourt of Walker and Boynton both struggled from the field. Walker was 1-for-9 from the floor but 6-for-6 from the line, and Boynton was 4-for-12 from the field and 3-for-3 from the charity stripe; each was 1-for-6 from downtown.

Knight posted a game-high 24 points for Kentucky and hit all four of his three-pointers before missing the potential game-winner. Jones added 18 points and seven rebounds.

The Gators out-rebounded the Wildcats 28-27, dished one more dime, coughed up two fewer turnovers and committed eight less fouls. It is the sixth-straight game Florida has hit the boards harder than their opponent.

Now having defeated their second-straight top 25 team inside a week, UF has three days off before traveling to Columbia, SC to face South Carolina on Wednesday at 8 p.m. The game will air live on SEC Network; check your local listings for availability.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

No. 23 Florida vs. No. 11 Kentucky Gameday

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 9:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 23 FLORIDA GATORS No. 11 KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 17-5 (6-2) Record: 16-5 (4-3)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Kentucky -1; O/U 134

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 88-32; the Wildcats swept the Gators last season. However, Florida is 8-4 in their last 12 games against Kentucky and is 8-6 when facing them at home under Donovan.
» Calipari is 2-0 against Donovan as UK’s head coach.
» The Gators have won 12 of its last 15 games with nine victories against RPI top 100 teams. Florida is 10-3 at home this season (3-1 against the SEC).
» UF is 3-1 in overtime this season, 3-0 in SEC games that go to overtime and 7-3 this year in games decided by six points or less (4-0 against SEC opponents). Their four overtime games tie a single-season school record (1978-79).
» Florida improved to 14-1 when holding opponents under 70 points this season after holding No. 24 Vanderbilt to 61 points on Tuesday.
» The Gators have out-rebounded their last five opponents by +8.0 rebounds per game and have averaged 15.4 offensive rebounds per game in that same time frame.
» The Wildcats are winning their games by a SEC-high 15.1 points per contest. Kentucky is also the best-shooting team in the conference from beyond the arc, connecting on almost 40 percent of their attempts.
» Kentucky bests Florida in three of four major statistical categories including points per game 77.5-71.1 (29th-123rd), rebounds per game 39.5-39.2 (23rd-26th) and field goal percentage .459-.454 (77th-104th). However, The Gators dish one more assist per contest 14-13 (107th-175th) than the Wildcats and hold their opponents to fewer points per game 61.6-62.4. UK ranks 10th in RPI (.6488) and 13th in strength of schedule nationally compared to UF being 17th (.6316) and seventh, respectively.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.5 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.425) and three-point percentage (.383). Walker also leads the Gators in turnovers (57) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Senior forward Chandler Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (10.7) while leading the Gators with 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (741), No. 3 in points (1,280) and No. 4 in assists (279) and steals (117).
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.8 percent as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.1 points and 6.3 rebounds a game while being a major presence for Florida.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably UF’s most talented player but is struggling with consistency in his field goal percentage. Boynton is only shooting 35.7 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second on the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game and hits 82.5 percent of his free throws.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat Tuesday against Vanderbilt.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are the Gators primary reserves each averaging 17.1. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads Florida in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5:1), while Young averages 3.4 points and 3.4 boards off the bench.
» Kentucky G Brandon Knight…who plays a team-high 35.0 minutes as a freshman, averages 17.2 points per game and picks up nearly four rebounds and assists per contest, too. Knight and Boynton are friends who grew up and played both against each other and together in South Florida.
» Wildcats F Jeffrey Taylor …who leads his team in scoring and rebounding with 17.9 points and 9.0 boards per game.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

Visiting Gainesville for the first time since 2008 and third time overall, ESPN College GameDay emanated from the O’Connell Center Saturday at 10 a.m. and will once again with a pregame show an hour before the game begins. Donovan and Calipari were both interviewed in the morning; you can view the video below to see what they had to say.

FOUR BITS: Tebow, Dunlap, Jenkins, Horford

1 » Just because Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow earned the starting nod for the team’s final three games last season does not mean he is guaranteed to retain that job next year, new team president John Elway said this past week. “Kyle [Orton] is definitely in the equation,” he said. “It’s not a foregone conclusion that we’re going to trade Kyle Orton. At all. We still have to evaluate that. A lot of people think it’s an automatic, but it’s not.” With player trades not able to be completed until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed, Orton would not be traded any time soon no matter what Elway and new head coach John Fox decide is best for the team.

2 » ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday that Cincinnati Bengals rookie defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who concluded the 2010 season with an impressive 9.5 sacks (a franchise rookie record), has left agent Todd France and signed with Drew Rosenhaus. He currently has three years remaining on a four-year, $3.01 million contract with Cincinnati that included a $1.22 million signing bonus, $1.779 million in guaranteed cash and an additional $649,000 available through incentives.

3 » Receiving a commitment from four-star QB Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) on Friday, the Florida Gators were only awaiting word from one more potential signee. That wait is now over as four-star junior college defensive tackle John Jenkins (Perkinston, MS) officially committed to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. Florida has now finished the 2011 recruiting cycle with 19 commitments . Their class (not yet updated to include Brissett) is ranked No. 14 by Rivals, No. 18 by Scout and No. 12 by ESPNU.

4 » Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford was provided an opportunity to live up to his NBA All-Star billing as he was tested with the game on the line Friday. With nearly no time remaining and his team down one, Horford drove the lane and was met by Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, who impeded his track to the rim with a flagrant foul. Landing on and injuring his back, Horford was slow to get up but eventually reached the line and hit both free throws to propel Atlanta to a 101-100 victory.

QB Brissett announces commitment to Gators

Updated Feb. 5, 12:30 p.m.

Though National Signing Day has come and gone, the Florida Gators added another commitment to their 2011 recruiting class on Friday. Four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) of Dwyer High School committed to Florida at his school’s basketball game Friday evening.

Brissett planned to send his National Letter of Intent to the Gators via fax on Saturday; however, his mother Elicia Brown will make him delay that step until Monday as she plans to do anything in her power to convince him to change his mind and commit to the Miami Hurricanes instead. Because Brissett is under 21, a parent or guardian’s signature is required on his LOI in order for it to be official.

“It came down to UM and Florida. I just had to follow my heart, and my heart lies in Florida,” Brissett said in front of his school’s gymnasium Friday. “It came down to making the decision where I felt the best for me,” he told the Palm Beach Post. “I can’t please everybody, and I’m hurt that I hurt my mom, as you can see I was crying with her before the game. She means the world to me.”

Brown noted that Brissett’s decision to commit to the Gators was not her choice. “I’m very disappointed,” she told the Associated Press. “There’s a chance it might not be over yet, I’m going to try to talk him out of it,” she conveyed to ESPN. “He hasn’t faxed his letter yet, he is just orally committed.”

She also told ESPN, in harsh specifics, why she was disappointed in his decision to attend Florida. “I didn’t like the way Florida handled the [recruiting] process,” Brown said. “I’ve never met [head coach Will Muschamp] face-to-face and I find that very disrespectful. ‘The U’ showed respect to the mom and that’s what I had hoped would influence Jacoby’s decision.”

Brissett isn’t backing down. “I know she’s not happy and that hurts me because my mom is everything to me,” Brissett told ESPN. “But I know she has always supported me and will always support me. I had to make the decision for myself and my future. I’m very firm in my choice.”

With five-star QB Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) already in the fold as an early enrollee, offensive coordinator/QB coach Charlie Weis made a strong push to get a commitment out of Brissett almost immediately when he took the job in January.

After meeting the student-athlete, Weis called Mushcamp to request a scholarship offer for Brissett. Muschamp quickly granted one even though the player had previously only been offered a greyshirt by former head coach Urban Meyer.

Brissett, who passed for 2,743 yards, 32 touchdowns and only one interception in his senior season, plans to make Driskel earn a spot ahead of him and is confident he will succeed in the orange and blue.

“I’m not moving no positions. I’m a quarterback. [Driskel will] have to prove to me every day, every year, that he’s going to be better than me for him to win that starting spot,” said Brissett, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Though Driskel is the consensus No. 1 QB in the 2011 class, Brissett is ranked No. 5 by Rivals and No. 9 by Scout. ESPNU lists him as a three-star player and the No. 25 QB in the country. He has said on numerous occasions that he is not scared of competition and is confident he will eventually win a starting job at whatever college he chose.

A two-sport athlete, Brissett has indicated that he would like to pursue basketball at a collegiate level. Whether or not Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan will provide him with that opportunity remains to be seen. However, Brissett noted that Donovan said that he can attempt to earn a spot on the team if he so chooses.

Committing to Florida, he joins three former Dwyer teammates who decided to play for the Gators in 2010 – safety Matt Elam, tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark.

The Post reports that Elam and freshman WR Chris Dunkley both attended Brissett’s basketball game and commitment ceremony. Brown noted that Elam is the reason Brissett plans to attend UF.

“Jacoby’s best friend since he was six plays at Florida and that had everything to do with [his decision],” she said.

With his signing, it is almost a certainty that redshirt freshman QB/tight end Jordan Reed will permanently switch to TE and freshman QB Trey Burton will change positions, too. Muschamp noted on Wednesday that Burton can play either defensive back or a hybrid fullback/QB role on offense. The status of freshman QB Tyler Murphy has not been discussed, though the player has said he only wants to be a signal-caller.

The Post first reported Brissett’s decision early Friday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post

SIX BITS: Pounceys, Jenkins, Meyer, Martin

1 » Contrary to his insistence that he would end up suiting up for Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey will not be participating in the NFL‘s championship game on Sunday. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin told ESPN‘s Adam Schefter on Friday that Pouncey has yet to practice this week and, therefore, would not be ready to play. The former Florida Gators star suffered a high ankle sprain (and possibly a broken bone, too) during the AFC Championship against the New York Jets, left the game early and has yet to step on the field since. He is one of two former Gators (left tackle Max Starks) who are on the Steelers; neither will play in the Super Bowl as Starks has missed the majority of the season with an injured neck.

2 » While Maurkice watches the Super Bowl from the sideline, his brother Mike Pouncey is preparing for the 2011 NFL Draft. AOL Fanhouse interviewed the brothers this week and notes that Mike is doing whatever he can to get drafted early (perhaps higher) than his twin brother. The most interesting piece from the article, however, is Mike saying he prefers to play tackle instead of center or guard in the NFL. “You never know where you are going to play until you get to camp, but I honestly hope I get the chance to play tackle at the next level because I feel I am athletic enough,” Mike said. “When Maurkice went in [at Pittsburgh], he started at right guard before they moved him to center. I am just looking forward to the opportunity.”

3 » Four-star junior college defensive tackle John Jenkins (Perkinston, MS) is set to announce his commitment on Saturday but has already decided where he wants to go, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “At this point I feel like I have decided; I’ve picked my school,” Jenkins told the paper Friday. “But I’m just gonna get in one last prayer tonight before I go to sleep before tomorrow. I’ll just pray that I’m making the right decision, which I believe I am, and just go with it after that.” Deciding between Florida, Georgia, Auburn and Miami, Jenkins is believed to have UF and UGA as his final two schools. The No. 6 JUCO recruit in the country according to Rivals, he took his last official visit to Gainesville, FL but was favoring Georgia before taking the trip.

4 » Former Gators head coach Urban Meyer is headed back to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish…for a few hours. A former Notre Dame wide receivers coach, Meyer will be the featured presenter for the 2011 Notre Dame Football Coaches Clinic, an annual event by the university.

5 » Former Florida quarterback/punter/wide receiver Ingle Martin, who had a four-year career as a back-up in the NFL after transferring to Furman, was named the head football coach for Christ Presbyterian Academy high school in Tennessee on Friday.

6 » On Feb. 1, OGGOA first reported that seven former Gators would be participating in the 2011 NFL Combine. The University of Florida made an official announcement today, so we are referring you back to our original post.

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