1/15: Donovan on Florida’s home loss to USC

Fighting back from a double-digit deficit to take the lead late in the second half, the Florida Gators (13-4, 2-1 SEC) failed to finish their comeback attempt against the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-5, 2-1 SEC), falling to their Southeastern Conference foe 72-69 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Saturday. Florida head coach Billy Donovan had plenty to say about his team’s performance after the game. We have compiled some of the key notes and quotes.


The Gators defense failed to get necessary stops at the end of the game Saturday, but ask anyone who was watching the contest and they will tell you it was Florida’s poor free throw shooting that took away every opportunity that presented itself. UF missed their final five free throws including three inside the final four minutes of the game. “The thing that killed us the last four or five minutes of the game was we didn’t make free throws. The free throw shooting hurt us,” Donovan admitted. “I try to create some level of pressure when they’re shooting free throws [in practice]. And we’ve been doing it for a while. You try to do it in practice.”

Though junior point guard Erving Walker uncharacteristically missed the front end of a one-and-one, it was the Gators’ frontcourt that really struggled from the charity stripe. “When you look at your frontcourt and those guys go 6-for-14 from the free throw line, it’s hard,” he said. “A lot of times being a great free throw shooting team has to do with how well your frontcourt players are shooting because they have the most opportunities to get fouled because they are playing closer to the rim more often than not.”


Struggling to post at least 70 points for seven-straight games over approximately a month, Florida found some offense as the year came to a close and a new one began. Since Dec. 31, the Gators have posted totals of 71, 84, 77, 81 and 69 points in consecutive games. While their offensive improvement has garnered much attention, their defensive struggled have been overlooked for the same reason. Florida has allowed opponents to score at least 70 points in three-straight games after only permitting that many twice in the previous 14 contests.

“The one thing that was being lost in [the offensive slump] was the fact that we were really defending people. We were keeping people in the 50s and low 60s,” Donovan said. “Ever since we started making some shots, our defense has really, really dropped off. People didn’t notice because the ball was going in the basket.”

Donovan added that the Gators “defensive intensity” was the most disappointing thing to him about his team’s performance in the first half, something that led to them being in a double-digit hole that was tough to fight out of throughout the remainder of the contest.


On if the team appeared laid back after a big win like they have been previously: “I didn’t feel that way in this game.”

On first half struggles: “I think they blocked eight shots in the first half. And then we come into the half and [Alex] Tyus and [Vernon] Macklin are 3-for-13 from the field. Our lack of understanding about how we needed to attack them offensively… We had way too many shots blocked. We had guys driving down the lane without a purpose, getting caught up in the air. We didn’t make the right decision with the ball.”

On why sophomore F Erik Murphy (foot) did not play: “He was available. He practiced sparingly the last two days. With the way the game was going, I didn’t want to put him in that situation. This is a better week for him going into the Auburn game because we got Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday where he can get back. It was probably better for his health that he didn’t play.”

Free throws doom Gators in loss to Gamecocks

Rallying back from a double-digit deficit they were stuck in most of the game, the Florida Gators (13-4, 2-1 SEC) eventually fell 72-69 to the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-5, 2-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL after missing three free throws inside the final four minutes of the game.

The Gators were only 12-for-22 from the line as a team and failed in their bid for a come-from-behind win even though they were provided ample opportunities as the second half drew to a close. Florida missed five-straight free throws including four on three-point plays, and junior point guard Erving Walker uncharacteristically missed the first shot of a one-and-one.

The team’s leading scorer and best free throw shooter, Walker finished the game with a team-high 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting but missed two key free throws. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, the team’s second leading scorer, was an anemic 3-for-10 (1-of-4 from downtown) with nine points.

Tied at 18 in the first half, South Carolina went on a 15-2 run over five minutes to take a game-high 13-point lead. The Gamecocks did a great job of keeping Gators redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin out of the paint in the opening half, limiting him to two baskets on seven shot attempts.

South Carolina kept their double-digit lead for most of the second half, that is until Florida went on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 59. Senior forward Chandler Parsons and Boynton hit back-to-back treys, Walker followed up with a layup, and senior F Alex Tyus added one of his own to complete the run.

The Gamecocks responded and went back up 63-59, but Walker drained a three from the corner to bring the game within one with 1:40 remaining. South Carolina F Sam Muldrow hit a dagger trey, and G Bruce Ellington connected on a runner to force fouls and free throws with the clock winding down.

Ellington led the Gamecocks with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Three other South Carolina starters, including Muldrow, scored 10, and the team connected on 73.3 percent of their free throw attempts.

Gators freshman C Patric Young, who played 19 minutes off the bench, scored a career-high 12 points while going 5-for-6 from the field. Macklin finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Tyus added 10 points.

Florida, which had won five-straight games and eight of their last nine contests, had both streaks snapped while losing their third home game of the season. The Gators failed to score 70 points for the first time since Dec. 22, 2010, and were out-rebounded (36-32) for only the third time this season.

UF hopes to rebound from their tough home loss as they travel to Auburn for their next game on Thursday at 7 p.m. The contest will air live on ESPN.

TWO BITS: Weis high on Brissett; surgeries

1 » Friday marked new Florida Gators offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Charlie Weis’s first day on the job, and he spent it in West Palm Beach, FL trying to recruit four-stars quarterback Jacoby Brissett and linebacker Curt Maggitt of Dwyer High School. Former Florida head coach Urban Meyer had previously offered Brissett the opportunity to greyshirt, but a visit by Weis followed by a phone call to new head coach Will Muschamp after the meeting netted Brissett an official scholarship offer on Friday. Maggitt already had an outstanding offer to join the Gators.

Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels told the Palm Beach Post that Weis showcased one of his Super Bowl rings and told “a ton of stories about what he’s done and situations he’s handled.” Brisset will take an unofficial visit to Gainesville, FL over the weekend to get a look at the school and watch the Florida-South Carolina basketball game (a former schoolmate plays for USC). The Gators hope to convince both Brissett and Maggitt to take an official visit to Florida before the recruiting cycle closes. [Read more of what Daniels had to say from the Post.

With Gators freshman QB Trey Burton expected to move to the defensive side of the ball (possibly safety), Florida would have five quarterbacks on its roster should Brissett commit. Redshirt junior John Brantley announced he is not transferring, five-star frosh Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) is already enrolled, and both redshirt freshman Jordan Reed and freshman Tyler Murphy are currently listed as QBs. Reed is also a tight end and could permanently switch to that position, and Murphy could theoretically change positions as well though he has come out and said he only wants to play quarterback.

2 » Muschamp announced Friday that freshman LB Neiron Ball and redshirt sophomore guard David Young both underwent surgery this past week. Ball, who played in all of Florida’s contests on special teams in 2010, had surgery to repair a sports hernia. Young had hardware cleaned out of his left knee from a prior surgery and only participated in two games this past season. Expectations are that Ball will be able to get work in during spring practice, but Young will most likely have to wait until the summer.

Pro Bowler Bryant Young added to Gators staff

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp had one final position to fill on his initial coaching staff after hiring Seattle Seahawks defensive line coach Dan Quinn as his defensive coordinator on Jan. 3. He made that decision Friday by bringing in 14-year NFL veteran and former San Francisco 49ers four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Bryant Young as Quinn’s assistant defensive line coach.

“Bryant is a great addition to our coaching staff,” Muschamp said. “We want to be a program built on toughness – both physically and mentally, and there are not too many people tougher than Bryant. He was a leader, blue-collar player and a winner. He will demand his players to have the same attributes.”

The No. 7 overall pick in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame, Young compiled 620 tackles and 89.5 sacks while playing professionally from 1994-2007. Named to the Pro Bowl in 1996, 1999, 2001 and 2002, he was a member of the 49ers’ Super Bowl XXIX championship team, was honored as a part of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team, and won the 1994 NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year and 1999 Comeback Player of the Year awards.

He is also a former teammate of Florida football’s director of player and community relations Terry Jackson, a running back with San Francisco from 1999-2005.

Quinn was Young’s defensive line coach at the 49ers from 2003-04. He is still coaching the Seahawks as they participate in the second round of the NFL Playoffs and will join the Gators when his team’s season ends.

Since retiring, Young worked as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in January 2009 under then-head coach now Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and was hired by San Jose State to coach the team’s defensive line in 2010. When

The University of Florida confirmed Young’s hiring on Saturday.

Offensive coordinatorSteve AddazioCharlie Weis
Quarterbacks coachScot LoefflerCharlie Weis
Defensive coordinatorTeryl AustinDan Quinn
Defensive line coachDan McCarney*Dan Quinn
Assistant: Bryant Young
Running backs coach
Recruiting coordinator
Stan DraytonBrian White
Offensive line coach
Running game coordinator
Steve AddazioFrank Verducci
Wide receivers coach
Recruiting coordinator
Zach AzzanniAubrey Hill
Tight ends coachBrian WhiteDerek Lewis
Linebackers coach
Special teams coordinator
D.J. DurkinD.J. Durkin
Defensive backs coachAustin/Chuck Heater*Travaris Robinson
Strength & conditioningMickey MarottiMickey Marotti

*McCarney was also assistant head coach; Heater held the role of co-defensive coordinator. Muschamp has not named an assistant (or associate) head coach as of press time.

Photo Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Father says John Brantley staying put at Florida

Redshift junior quarterback John Brantley will play his senior season with the Florida Gators after deciding not to transfer from the University of Florida, his father John Brantley III told the Palm Beach Post on Friday.

“He’s not transferring unless something goes wrong between now and the end of the spring semester,” Brantley III said. “He’s a Gator.”

Brantley, who was considering leaving after a rough first season, is excited to play in a pro-style offense under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis after being a square peg in a round hole in former head coach Urban Meyer‘s spread offense.

“[A pro-style offense] is what we would have sought out if we had looked to move on, but it came to us,” Brantley III told the paper. “Johnny’s looking forward to the challenge. Once they said there was going to a pro-style, transferring wasn’t even a question.”

Though he threw for over 2,000 yards in his first year as a starter, Brantley tossed 10 interceptions compared to only nine touchdowns and was relegated to mostly third-and-long duty in the 2011 Outback Bowl.

Brantley has not yet met with Weis – something he and his family said he would do before making a decision – but plans to in the near future. Weis is expected to be in Gainesville on Saturday.

Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Florida officially announces Hill headed to NFL

The Florida Gators officially announced on Friday that junior safety Will Hill has decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and declare for the 2011 NFL Draft.

OGGOA first reported Hill’s decision on Jan. 5.

“Although I didn’t have a chance to coach Will Hill, we certainly wish him the best of luck in the NFL,’’ head coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. “Like all of our players, we hope he understands the value of his education and returns to get his degree.”

OGGOA RELATED 1/5: Will Hill to forgo senior season, enter NFL Draft

Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press

TWO BITS: Weis checks in, Tebow-Fox future

1 » With National Signing Day fast approaching and the Kansas City Chiefs eliminated from the playoffs, new Florida Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is officially on the job as of Friday. Currently in South Florida at Dwyer High School visiting four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) [and possibly four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL), too], Weis plans to set foot in Gainesville, FL this weekend as a number of prominent recruits will be visiting the University of Florida campus. In addition to speaking with recruits, Weis will also be trying to convince redshirt junior QB John Brantley (and perhaps other offensive players) to stick with the Gators and the new coaching staff.

Uncommitted recruits visiting Florida this weekend include five-star LB Curtis Grant (Richmond, VA) and three-star LB Denzel Perryman (Coral Gables, FL).

2 » Though there were concerns about whether or not a new head coach would believe in Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow as his future starter, those questions seem to have been put to rest (at least temporarily) with the hiring of John Fox. In addition Fox speaking highly of Tebow before the 2010 NFL Draft, the Denver Post reports that Tebow is still in his good graces. “He’s got a lot of intangibles I look for,” Fox said Wednesday. “Where that goes it’s hard to predict. He’s in a developmental stage for sure, but I think he has the makings to be as good as he wants to be.” Perhaps even better news for Tebow is that his offensive coordinator last season, Mike McCoy is expected to be retained as he has a long history coaching under Fox. Though he is drawing interest from other teams, McCoy worked with Fox as his QBs coach with the Carolina Panthers from 2003-07 and passing game coordinator in 2008.

FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Hill, Trattou, All-Rookie

1 » A reliable source told OGGOA on Thursday that Florida Gators junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who announced on Monday that he would remain enrolled at the University of Florida for his senior season, is having second thoughts about his decision not to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Prior to his announcement Monday, Jenkins was told that, due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder, he would most likely be selected in the second round of the draft. After doing some additional research into the matter throughout the week, Jenkins was given a first-round grade by a handful of NFL front office executives he contacted, according to our source. The deadline to declare for the draft is late Friday afternoon, leaving Jenkins with less than 24 hours (as of press time) to make a final decision he is comfortable with.

2 » As first reported by OGGOA on Jan. 5, Florida junior safety Will Hill was never confused about his decision – he will declare for the draft and officially submit his paperwork to UF on Friday. Speaking with the Palm Beach Post on Thursday, Hill explained that he made his decision mostly due to financial and family issues and hopes he will be selected in the first two days of the draft. “It took a while to come to that conclusion, but the thing that made me come out and try to go pro is I have a family,” Hill told the Post’s Jason Lieser. “It’s a priority of mine to help my family. I have [three] little ones to look after. I feel like this was the best decision for me and them.”

He also admitted that he did not perform up to his capabilities this past season with the Gators. “I had an up and down season. I was hurt, which people fail to realize. I had a bad shoulder and groin that was keeping me from competing,” he said. “I wish my junior year went better. Everybody wants to have that elite season. I learned a lot from it. I learned don’t take things for granted, every play counts. I know I missed tackles here and there due to injuries, but I put everything on the line.” The Post also reports that Hill has signed with Metro Sports Agency, is 30 credits away from graduating and is currently working out 48 hours per week at the TEST Football Academy.

3 » Florida senior defensive end Justin Trattou has decided to play in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game set to be played on Jan. 22 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL. A captain for the Gators in 2010, Trattou finished the season with 57 tackles including 35 solo and a team-high 12 for a loss of yards. He is the fifth Florida senior to agree to play in a pre-draft game. Senior S Ahmad Black, senior center/guard Mike Pouncey, senior punter/kicker Chas Henry and redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will all participate in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Jan. 29 in Mobile, AL.

4 » Three former Gators – Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunalp – were named to the Sporting News 2010 NFL All-Rookie Team earlier in the week. Haden finished the season with 64 tackles, six interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack, while Dunlap contributed 24 tackles, 9.5 sacks (a Cincinnati rookie record) and recovered a fumble. Pouncey started every game at center for Pittsburgh.

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