A.C. Leonard decommits, opens up recruitment

Four-star tight end recruit A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL) decommitted from the Florida Gators on Wednesday and said the team no longer remains in the hunt for his services, according to Justin Wells of 247Sports. Leonard, who was Florida’s third-highest rated recruit for 2011, was also the Gators’ second commitment for that recruiting cycle.

Recently pursued heavily by the Alabama Crimson Tide, Leonard attended Florida’s 33-29 loss to LSU over the weekend during an unofficial visit to Gainesville, FL. He left Saturday’s game saying, “Yeah, I guess,” when asked by 247Sports if he was still committed to Florida. That has now obviously changed.

Leonard is now seriously considering Alabama, Miami and Nebraska but has listed his recruitment as “open” to everyone except Florida which “is out.” He originally committed to the Gators on Nov. 29, 2009.

An official visit to the Crimson Tide was called “a real eye opening experience for me” by Leonoard last week, according to BamaOnLine.com. “The whole experience was first-class,” he said just days after Alabama defeated Florida. “I talked to Coach [Nick] Saban Sunday morning at breakfast and he basically told me they really wanted me in Tuscaloosa. […] I really liked everything he had to say and the plan he would have.”

10/12: Addazio not bothered, Debose poised

Florida Gators offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio, assistant head coach and defensive line coach Dan McCarney, redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre Debose, redshirt senior running back Emmanuel Moody, redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins and freshman quarterback Trey Burton spoke to the media Tuesday as the team took a final look back on its close loss to the LSU Tigers and ahead to its match-up against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday.

BOOING DOESN’T BOTHER ADDAZIO

Addazio was booed during Florida’s final scoring drive on Saturday, something he has claims does not bother him. In fact, he has taken the incident in stride and understands what is expected of him and the offense.

“I really don’t pay much attention to any of that stuff,” he said on Tuesday. “You are locked into the game. What I really hear in that game is just the energy from the game. I’ve got so much going on; I’ve got headsets on. […] Hey, this is not a sport for the thin-skinned now. It’s a tough business and I think we’ve talked about this before here. You came here for a reason – [there are] high expectations, that’s why you’re here, that’s what it’s all about. You better embrace that. If you don’t embrace that, then you are at the wrong place.”

DEBOSE A READY FOR PRIME TIME PLAYER

Showing his playmaking ability with an 88-yard kickoff return and some other nice passing routes on Saturday, Debose has proven to coaches that he deserves more touches and should be a bigger part of the Gators offense. “He’s emerging as a guy that can make a play. You can see that. It’s really nice to see that. He’s a guy that can make plays,” noted Addazio. “[He’s improving because of] experience and getting on the field and doing it and gaining all that confidence and that trust. That’s what’s happening with him right now.”

The player agrees with his coach’s assessment. “[It was] just picking up the plays. Just feeling comfortable and making the coaches feel real comfortable with me and the ball and everything,” Debose said. “It was just the little things as far as reading coverages on the run and stuff that takes time and takes more game experience.”

POWELL MOVED TO LINEBACKER

One interesting tidbit coming out of the media availability Tuesday was McCarney confirming that five-star freshman defensive end Ronald Powell has been moved to the strong outside linebacker position for the remainder of the season. Powell, who also played tight end in high school, is more than athletic enough to play the position and coaches feel he is a better fit at linebacker right now. Expect him to head back to defensive end after the year is over.

POSSIBILITY OF A FAKE WAS BROUGHT UP

Asked whether or not the concept of a fake field goal was discussed with the field goal blocking unit prior to LSU running that exact play, Jenkins told the that it was part of the team’s conversation during the timeout. This confirms what a handful of other players said after the game.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 10/12: Addazio not bothered, Debose poised

WR Chris Rainey back practicing with Gators

Redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey will be rejoining the Florida Gators for practice this week after being suspended for a month following an arrest and third-degree felony charge (since reduced) of aggravated stalking on Sept. 14., according to the University of Florida‘s University Athletic Association.

Rainey will be reinstated on a temporary basis, being allowed to practice with the team until he meets a number of conditions established by the coaching staff and administration. He will not be active for the Mississippi State game on Saturday. With Florida’s bye week coming up on Oct. 23, Rainey will have at least three weeks to practice before potentially seeing game action.

OGGOA has learned that Rainey being active for the Georgia game is “very likely” if he meets his conditions and goals, which are focused on showing a renewed effort off the field both in the classroom and during team activities.

“Chris Rainey is working towards being part of our football team again,” head coach Urban Meyer said in the UAA’s statement. “I’m disappointed that he violated a core value of our program, but he continues to pay a price for his actions. Chris will have to meet a set of conditions to become a part of our team again and although he is practicing, he will not play this weekend. The timetable for his return will depend on his ability to follow the guidelines we have laid out for him.”

Agreeing to deferred prosecution for a reduced misdemeanor stalking charge on Sept. 27, Rainey was handed six months probation, 10 hours of community service and a number of other penalties by the state including fines. As long as he fulfills the requirements and obligations presented to him by the court, he will be granted amnesty and the charges will be dismissed in six month’s time as he was a first-time offender.

“I am embarrassed and sorry for my actions and I apologize to everyone that I affected by my behavior,” Rainey said in his first public comments contained in the UAA’s release. “I’m working towards being a part of the Florida football program again and I realize that representing this University is a privilege. I have spent the last several weeks reflecting on my actions and realized that is not who I want to be.”

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 5 recap

With the 2010-11 NFL season now underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 5 action, some of whom had an impact on their team’s performance.OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the fifth week of the season.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
WR PERCY HARVIN, Minnesota Vikings: Team-high five receptions for 97 yards, two touchdowns, 175 return yards (four kickoffs)

LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Four tackles (three solo)
LB ANDRA DAVIS, Buffalo Bills: 11 tackles (five solo, one for loss), pass defended
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Three receptions for 23 yards (long: 11)
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals: Four rec. for 33 yds (targets: 7, long: 19)
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Two solo tackles
WR JABAR GAFFNEY, Denver Broncos: Nine rec. for 87 yards (targets: 11, long: 23)
DE JARVIS MOSS, Denver Broncos: Solo tackle
DT MARCUS THOMAS, Denver Broncos: Four solo tackles
CB LITO SHEPPARD, Minnesota Vikings: Two solo tackles
DE ALEX BROWN, New Orleans Saints: Two solo tackles, sack, pass defended
DE DERRICK HARVEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Two tackles (one solo), half sack
FB EARNEST GRAHAM, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Three rushes for team-high 65 yards, touchdown
WR LOUIS MURPHY, Oakland Raiders: Two rec. for 61 yards (targets: 4, long: 58)
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers: Two solo tackles

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN — NO STATISTICS / DID NOT PLAY
G Cooper Carlisle (Raiders) — S Reggie Nelson (Bengals), DT Joe Cohen (Detroit Lions), DT Jeremy Mincey (Jaguars), RB DeShawn Wynn (Saints), LB Brandon Siler (San Diego Chargers), QB Rex Grossman (Washington Redskins)

BYE WEEK
LB Channing Crowder (Miami Dolphins); LB Jermaine Cunningham, TE Aaron Hernandez, LB Brandon Spikes, RB Fred Taylor, DT Gerard Warren (New England Patriots); C Maurkice Pouncey, LT Max Starks (Pittsburgh Steelers)

INACTIVES
S Major Wright (Chicago Bears), DE Carlos Dunlap (Bengals), QB Tim Tebow (Broncos), WR Riley Cooper (Philadelphia Eagles)

NOTES
- Brown did a Gator Chomp after a sack on Arizona QB Max Hall.

OGGOA RELATED: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

FOUR BITS: volleyball at No. 1, soccer, swimming

1 » Continuing a string of dominating Southeastern Conference performance, the Florida Gators volleyball team took home a pair of 3-0 sweeps while on the road over the weekend against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday night (25-23, 25-21, 25-20) and the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Sunday (25-14, 25-20, 25-16). Juniors outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and right-side/setter Kelly Murphy combined for 21 kills to led Florida (14-1, 7-0 SEC) on Friday over Alabama (8-8, 0-6 SEC), while Murphy was at it again with a team-high 13 kills Sunday as UF rolled over Mississippi State (10-8, 2-4 SEC). The Gators received exciting news on Monday as the American Volleyball Coaches Association moved them up to No. 1 in their rankings for the first time since 1996. UF is 8-1 against teams ranked in the top 25 this season.

2 » Contrary to volleyball’s performance, No. 6 Florida soccer (10-2-2, 4-1-1 SEC) had a rougher road trip weekend tying Alabama (8-2-2, 3-0-2 SEC) 1-1 in double overtime Friday before falling to the Auburn Tigers (9-5, 3-3 SEC) 1-0 on Sunday. Against the Crimson Tide, Gators midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis got her team on the board early with a goal from four yards out at 47’. Unfortunately on both Friday and Sunday, Florida allowed an opposing goal at 90’ which led to the respective tie and loss. The Gators remain the leaders in the SEC even after the tough weekend.

3 » Florida men’s (0-1) and women’s (1-0) swimming and diving competed against the Virginia Cavaliers at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Natatorium on Monday with the men falling short 153-145 while the women pulled off a close 150-148 victory in the first team event of the season. Freshman Elizabeth Beisel led the ladies by winning the 200-yard backstroke (1:58:.29) and 200-yard individual medley (2:00.89). Like usual senior captain Conor Dwyer was the best men’s performer winning the 200-yard IM and both 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle.

4 » As the Gators basketball team prepares for the 2010-11 season (media day is this week!), head coach Billy Donovan spoke about the expectations surrounding his squad, which is returning all five starters from a year ago. “What ends up happening sometimes in college basketball is that when you have all five starters returning from a team that went to the NCAA Tournament, the expectation is we’re going to be really, really good,” Donovan said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “But I also think we were one of those teams on Selection Sunday that had our fingers crossed. If we were left out, it would maybe be a different feel.”

10/11: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Updated 11:45 p.m. (ET)

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday after the Florida Gators participate in a game the previous Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

INJURIES CONTINUE TO MOUNT

Just as Florida was lucky enough to a number of its starters back healthy another rash of injuries has hit the team. In addition to junior running back Jeff Demps missing Saturday’s game with a sprained foot, sophomore RB Mike Gillislee appeared to hurt his ankle, redshirt freshman guard Jon Halapio broke a finger, and both redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson and freshman safety Matt Elam suffered concussions. Halapio had surgery on Sunday and will miss Saturday’s Mississippi State game, but Demps, Gillislee, Thompson and Elam are all expected to be able to play.

Speaking of injuries, redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley expressed for a second time in three days that his ribs are neither broken nor fractured nor cracked and that his thumb is just sprained. This counters rumors and a report from ESPN‘s Joe Schad that claimed Brantley was more injured than he and Meyer were letting on. Meyer did indicate that Brantley had some shoulder issues during the week because he was overcompensating for his injured ribs; however, he was fine to go on Saturday and will be starting once again this week.

HOME RUNS AND RED ZONE ISSUES TO BLAME

Meyer noted that the two biggest issues facing the Gators offense are the lack of home run plays and inefficiency in the red zone, not play calling. Those two factors, combined with unforced errors in the form of turnovers and penalties, were what limited Florida the most on Saturday.

ADDAZIO FULLY SUPPORTED

Though fans have been getting on offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio for his play calling, he received plenty of praise and support from his head coach and players on Monday. Meyer said Addazio has “a tough job, obviously I think he can handle it” while redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley said, “I trust coach Addazio and his play calling.” Senior center Mike Pouncey added that the team is “moving the ball, just ain’t making the plays when they’re there to be made” and that Addazio does not deserve the blame whatsoever.

The dive play was booed extensively during Florida almost-game-winning scoring drive at the end of the fourth quarter, something that confused Pouncey and redshirt senior wide receiver Carl Moore (and likely many others, too), both of whom said it did not bother them. Pouncey specifically noted that the Gators were “going down to win the game” on that drive, making the boos quite ridiculous.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 10/11: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Week 6: Gators post-game news and notes

Continuing a season of ups-and-downs, the No. 22/22 Florida Gators (4-2, 2-2 SEC) lost their second-straight game on Saturday, this time to the No. 9/9 LSU Tigers (6-0, 4-0 SEC) at home at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. With so much to discuss, OGGOA presents some important notes and quotes.

BRANTLEY MORE HURT THAN LET ON?

Though the coaching staff downplayed his injuries all week, redshirt junior starting quarterback John Brantley was dealing with a number of issues going into the game, reports ESPN’s Joe Shad. According to a “source close to the quarterback,” Brantley has “hairline fractures in four ribs and wore a reinforced protective vest in the game.” Apparently Brantley also has a small fracture in his thumb and was unable to throw on Thursday and Friday because of shoulder issues that resulted from him “overcompensating for the rib injury early in the week.”

Playing injured, Brantley still managed to complete two-thirds of his passes for 154 yards but did give up an interception on a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage. His offensive line did not provide him much help throughout the night, allowing him to be sacked three times and roughed up on a number of other plays.

Brantley continues to refute this report, stating that his ribs are neither cracked nor fractured and that his thumb is just sprained.

DEFENSE SHREDDED BY RUN, PASS

Going into the game LSU’s offense was labeled as questionable with a strong running game but a two-quarterback system that did not have a truly great passer. The Tigers were successful on both the ground and through the air on Saturday, rushing for 161 yards including 88 from starting running back Stevan Ridley and 50 from starting QB Jordan Jefferson; Jefferson and QB Jarrett Lee also matched Brantley’s completion percentage while tossing for a combined 224 yards and two touchdowns. Part of LSU’s success was due to the superior play of wide receiver Terrance Tolliver, who roasted Florida’s secondary to the tune of six receptions for 111 yards and two touchdowns including the game-winner. The Tigers had long scoring drives of 40, 77, 39, 38 and 62 yards on the evening.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOT-SO SPECIAL

In a game where Gators redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, one would think the special teams would be a standout unit. Unfortunately senior punter/kicker Chas Henry missed two makeable field goals on one drive (the first was negated due to a LSU holding penalty), Debose botched the handling of the game’s initial kickoff and junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins drew an unacceptable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by spiking by the ball after running a punt back out near midfield (the punt was already coming back due to a block in the back call, Jenkins’ penalty made it worse).

That is not to mention the field goal unit either being unprepared for or failing to contain Tigers kicker Jordan Jasper on his fake field goal in the waning moments of the game.

MOORE BREAKS OUT, FINALLY

Though he has been clutch all season with his third- and fourth-down conversions, Florida redshirt senior WR Carl Moore hand a standout performance Saturday. He caught four balls for 95 yards including a huge 51-yard third down conversion on the team’s final scoring drive that was the Gators’ longest completion of the season and a career-high catch for Moore.

INJURIES (AND A TURNOVER)

With junior RB Jeff Demps surprisingly being held out of the game with a sprained foot, Florida relied on redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody and sophomore Mike Gillislee to carry the load. Moody responded by giving up a fumble after a 17-yard gain as the Gators were trying to put some point on the board at the end of the first half. Gillislee ended up hurting himself and only carried the ball six times for 20 yards with a touchdown. In fact, freshman QB Trey Burton (who had 30 yards alone on one scoring drive) ended up leading the team with nine rushes for 35 yards and a score.

In another adjustment, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio shifted his starting line around sitting sophomore right tackle Xavier Nixon who has been dealing with a knee injury (and did not have a great week of practice). Redshirt freshman right guard Jon Halapio started instead with redshirt senior Maurice Hurt shifting over to fill Nixon’s tackle position. That would not last for long, however, as Halapio broke a finger in the second quarter and replaced on the line by Nixon with Hurt moving back to guard.

Redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson was also hurt early in the fourth quarter and did not return to the game. Freshman safety Matt Elam was also knocked around late into the contest. Both players are suspected to have suffered concussions.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Week 6: Gators post-game news and notes

Tigers inch past Gators, UF drops second straight

The Swamp was rocking Saturday night, orange jerseys were worn for the first time since 1989 and redemption was on their minds, but the No. 12/14 Florida Gators (4-2, 2-2 SEC) failed to stop the No. 9/12 LSU Tigers (6-0, 4-0 SEC) on their final possession. Through a fake field goal and 62-yard game-winning drive, LSU defeated Florida 33-29 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Tigers quarterback Jarrett Lee threw a three-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Terrence Toliver with six seconds left in the game for the win. The opportunity presented itself after LSU successfully converted a fake field goal attempt on 4th and 3 from Florida’s 36 yard line with 35 seconds remaining. They advanced to the Gators’ three after Tolliver caught a short pass and turned it into a 28-yard gain.

Both teams started slow in the first quarter with LSU striking first on a 45-yard field goal from kicker Josh Jasper. Florida redshirt junior defensive tackle Jaye Howard pushed LSU back a bit on its opening drive with a big tackle for loss on first down before the score. On the ensuing possession, Gators freshman WR Andre Debose mishandled a kickoff, putting the offense in a hole. Redshirt junior QB John Brantley was nearly sacked in the end zone but two LSU penalties gave Florida some breathing room.

Punting the ball after stalling on their own 42, the Gators would get it back quickly as redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins intercepted Tigers QB Jordan Jefferson, returning it 47 yards to the LSU 17. Five plays later, redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed rushed for a one-yard touchdown, giving UF a 7-3 lead to start the second quarter.

Louisiana State would answer right away, utilizing big rushes by running backs Stevan Ridley and Michael Ford to complete a 13-play, 77-yard drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by Jefferson.

Florida’s offensive line struggled to protect Brantley on the next series (as well as most of the game), forcing them to punt once again. Luckily for the Gators, Patrick Peterson muffed the punt while receiving pressure from Florida cornerback Cody Riggs; it was recovered by safety Ahmad Black and gave UF its second turn in the red zone as the result of a turnover. The Gators capitalized with a rushing touchdown from freshman QB Trey Burton to go back up 14-10.

After a defensive stand, Florida junior CB Janoris Jenkins returned a punt nearly to midfield that was called back to the Gators’ five after concurrent block in the back and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (Jenkins spiked the ball upon getting up). Stuck near the goal line, Brantley was nearly sacked in the end zone again as the offensive line continued to be overwhelmed by the Tigers.

LSU would end the first half strong, scoring on a short field via a 38-yard pass to Tolliver and capitalizing on a fumble by Florida redshirt senior RB Emmanuel Moody by kicking a 39-yard field goal to go into the locker rooms with a 20-14 lead.

The Gators started the second half with gusto, putting together a 15-play, 70-yard drive in which Burton accounted for 30 yards. However, two missed field goals by senior punter/kicker Chas Henry (the first was negated by a holding penalty) left Florida without a single point. On UF’s next possession, Brantley had a pass deflected at the line that was intercepted inside the 40. The Tigers capitalized with Jefferson rushing for his second touchdown of the game just eight plays later.

Down 12 things looked bleak for Florida, but Debose answered quickly for the Gators with an electric 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Four possessions later, Brantley hit redshirt senior WR Carl Moore for a huge 51-yard gain to get Florida inside LSU’s 30. Sophomore WR Omarius Hines ran a reverse into the end zone, but a block in the back by sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. negated the score. However, the Gators kept the pressure on and scored two plays later on a rushing touchdown by sophomore RB Mike Gillislee to complete the 10-play, 80-yard drive. Hammond would catch a two-point conversion attempt from Brantley to give Florida a 29-26 lead with 3:21 remaining on the clock.

Up three points all the Gators hoped for on the next drive was a defensive stop, but the Tigers resisted by getting over a big defensive play on 3rd and 1 from Florida’s 34 with the fake field goal and subsequent touchdown pass to Tolliver.

LSU accounted for 385 yards of total offense in the game with 111 coming from Tolliver, 88 from Ridley, 150 combined from Jefferson and 124 on 9-of-11 passing from Lee. Moore led the way for Florida’s offense with 95 yards on four receptions. Burton gained 35 yards on the ground and Brantley completed 16-of-24 passes for 154 yards as UF totaled 243 yards. The Tigers also outgained the Gators in first downs (20-9), rushing (161-89), passing (224-154), time of possession (34:08-25:52) and sacks (3-1).

Florida hopes to rebound from back-to-back losses for the first time since 2007 next week as they face Mississippi State on Saturday during homecoming in Gainesville, FL. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and the game will air live on ESPNU.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

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