Johnson juices Gators with commitment No. 16

Just under two months after receiving their last verbal commitment, the Florida Gators received word Thursday from three-star defensive back Chris “Juice” Johnson (Ocala, FL) that he plans to attend and play football at the University of Florida next year, according to Justin Wells of 247Sports.

Johnson picked Florida over South Carolina; he also had offers from Louisville, Marshall and a handful of other colleges.

Scheduled to take an unofficial visit to Gainesville, FL, Saturday for the LSU game, Johnson decided to commit prior to the contest after finding out he received an ACT score high enough to grant him admission to the university.

He is projected to play strong safety at the next level as he is a physical player who prefers to initiate contact. ESPNU describes Johnson as “basically a linebacker in a safety’s body” who “covers the entire field and pursues with a non-stop motor.”

Photo Credit: David DePas/ESPN

FOUR BITS: Horford, Richard, Lawrence, LSU

1 » Over the last month two sources have told OGGOA that the Atlanta Hawks are working feverishly to sign former Florida Gators two-time National Championship-winning forward/center Al Horford to a long-term extension. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Horford was selected to his first NBA All-Star team last season. He averaged career-highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1%), free throw percentage (75.3%) and minutes (35.1) while starting all of Atlanta’s games in 2009-10. Horford was named a team captain this offseason and should receive a deal for more than the five years and $60 million given to former teammate F/C Joakim Noah by the Chicago Bulls early this week.

2 » On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Bulls announced Wednesday that they have waived former Gators F/C Chris Richard after re-signing him on Sept. 27. Richard filled in for Noah while he was nursing a plantar faciitis injury last season, playing in 18 games and averaging 2.1 points and 3.3 rebounds. OGGOA spoke to Richard early this summer in an exclusive interview, which you can read here.

3 » Former Florida wide receiver T.J. Lawrence, now playing for the Florida A&M Rattlers, is finally happy as he has been seeing the field and getting plenty of playing time. On Wednesday he told The Famuan that he wanted to leave the Gators a full year before he actually did. “I guess I wasn’t happy,” Lawrence said. “I wanted to leave a year earlier, but I said I’d stick it out another year. I had to make the decision to leave because I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted to.” Now Lawrence feels he is “being utilized how I want to be utilized.” He has 11 receptions for 166 yards this season, both team-highs.

4 » During the SEC conference call on Wednesday, LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles noted that starting defensive end Sam Montgomery will miss the remainder of the season after tearing ligaments in his right knee. Montgomery will likely undergo reconstructive surgery.

Photo Credit: Atlanta Hawks

10/6: Austin on Lemmens, Elam, Hill and tackling

Florida Gators defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Teryl Austin along sophomore linebacker Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter spoke to the media Wednesday as the team took a final look back on its crushing loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide and ahead to its match-up against the LSU Tigers at home on Saturday night.

LEMMENS “BETTER THAN YOU THINK”

Though he began the season as a starting defensive end, senior Duke Lemmens is now playing a hybrid role in what the Gators call their “heavy package,” where a larger player is used as a stand-up linebacker in an effort to close rushing lanes. Austin raved Wednesday about what Lemmens brings to the table and how effective he has been.

“What we’re getting from Duke is great effort. He plays in space better than you think. He’s a big guy, he’s a 250 lb. guy on the edge, and that really helped solidify some of the run lanes,” Austin said. “Duke’s done a great job with it and we’re going to keep moving forward with it. Because of his size he gives you a real stout guy at the edge of the defense to hold the edge of the defense, but he also gives you some pass rush being a former defensive end.”

YOUNGSTERS RESPOND TO VETERAN LEADERSHIP

With more than half of Florida’s players in their first or second year on the team, rebounding from a tough road loss is a difficult thing to do. Austin noted that the veteran leadership on the defense has gone a long way to making the younger players get over the loss and concentrate on the game ahead. “[There are] not a lot of losses around here to reach back and dig from and talk about, but the one thing they did [say] what happened Saturday we can’t change that so what do we have to do to get better this week? The seniors and the older guys have really led the way and they’re trying to bring the young guys [in],” he said. “We’ve had two pretty good, spirited practices, and that’s really what you’re really looking for as a coach – the guys really coming out, competing and trying to get better. Because what happened last Saturday has no effect on what happens this Saturday.”

THE TIME IS NOW FOR HILL TO IMPROVE

Over the last few weeks OGGOA has been poking and prodding around to find out what exactly has been going on with the development of junior safety Will Hill. The most anyone would tell us was that he was inconsistent in practice and not showing the same gumption he did in the offseason. Austin confirmed exactly that Wednesday when asked directly about Hill’s performances.

“No. [He has to] play better,” said Austin about Hill’s consistency. “He has the ability really to be an impact-type player because he’s big, he has range, he can tackle, he can do all the things you want a safety to do – [what] all the great safeties around here have done. He hasn’t taken that step yet so we need him to take it. It starts out there on the practice field and hopefully carries over to the game. Because he’s been working hard. We gotta get it to carry over into games, and I think hopefully it will start this week.

“Right now he’s just not playing up to the ability he has right now, and that will come. I’m not worried about him. I think he’ll play better this week and he’ll continue to play better as we move [forward] because he had an outstanding fall camp. You want him to play better, but I know he can play better and he will.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 10/6: Austin on Lemmens, Elam, Hill and tackling

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 4 recap

With the 2010-11 NFL season now underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 4 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 fourth week of the season.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Team-high four catches for 75 yards (long: 37)
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Six solo tackles, pass defended

LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Three tackles (two solo)
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals Three receptions for 15 yards (targets: 4)
S REGGIE NELSON, Cincinnati Bengals Two tackles (one solo)
WR JABAR GAFFNEY, Denver Broncos: Five rec. for 51 yards (targets: 8, long: 28)
DT MARCUS THOMAS, Denver Broncos Tackle for loss
DT JEREMY MINCEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Sack
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Solo tackle (for loss), pass def.
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Five rec. for 29 yards (long: 10)
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Solo tackle
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots Solo tackle
WR LOUIS MURPHY, Oakland Raiders: One reception for 5 yards (targets: 7)
LB BRANDON SILER, San Diego Chargers: Two solo tackles
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers Solo tackle

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN — NO STATISTICS / DID NOT PLAY
C Maurkice Pouncey (Pittsburgh Steelers), LT Max Starks (Steelers), G Cooper Carlisle (Raiders) — DE Jarvis Moss (Broncos), DT Joe Cohen (Detroit Lions), DE Derrick Harvey (Jaguars), DE Alex Brown (Saints), RB DeShawn Wynn (Saints), WR Riley Cooper (Philadelphia Eagles), QB Rex Grossman (Washington Redskins)

BYE WEEK
WR Percy Harvin (Minnesota Vikings), CB Lito Sheppard (Vikings), FB Earnest Graham (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

INACTIVES
LB Andra Davis (Bills), S Major Wright (Chicago Bears), DE Carlos Dunlap (Bengals), QB Tim Tebow (Broncos), LB Channing Crowder (Miami Dolphins), RB Fred Taylor (Patriots)

NOTES
- Cooper suffered a concussion and is out for the forseeable future.

OGGOA RELATED: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3

Grading the Florida Gators at Alabama game

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive grades the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we decided to change things up a bit when looking at how the Gators fared against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the fifth game of the 2010-11 season, which took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL.

OFFENSE: D
Florida scored six points on Saturday via the kicking game with the offense failing to post a single touchdown for only the second time under head coach Urban Meyer. In fact, the Gators’ output was the team’s lowest total since Meyer’s first game in Tuscaloosa five years ago. After Florida came out of the gates hot with four first downs, 74 yards gained and an opportunity score from the goal line on their first offensive possession, the offense stalled only posting a total of 27 yards the remainder of the first half. Just like they started the game, the Gators began the second half with gusto, posting a 69-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. Truth be told, the second half as a whole showed better execution with Florida running 38 offensive plays for 222 total yards (vs. 28 for 101 yards in the first half). But worse than the unit’s first half production was its propensity for turnovers with redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley throwing two interceptions (one returned for a TD), freshman QB Trey Burton tossing one on a jump pass and redshirt senior running back Emmanuel Moody fumbling a hand-off in the red zone.

DEFENSE: C
The defense got off to a rough start on Saturday, allowing Alabama to score three touchdowns and a field goal on its first four offensive possessions. After holding the Crimson Tide to an opening drive field goal after they drove 68 yards in 10 plays, the Gators let them put together back-to-back touchdown drives and allowed a third after Brantley’s first interception. Once that barrage ended, Florida only allowed Alabama 31 total yards on their next four possessions (including a kneel down to end the first half). In fact, the Gators only gave up three first downs in the second half, two of which came on the Crimson Tide’s final possession. QB Greg McElroy was held to 84 yards passing, Heisman Trophy winning RB Mark Ingram only gained 47 yards on 12 carries and RB Tony Richardson ran 10 times for 63 yards because of one 30-yard burst.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
Meyer loves special teams and we here at OGGOA love special teams. So when a guy like senior punter/kicker Chas Henry puts on a performance like he did last Saturday, it is our desire to give the unit an “A+” and go “on to the next one.” Unfortunately his career-long 75-yard punt, 62.3 yards per punt average and two made field goals were simply bright spots on a unit that showed a major flaw. Alabama WR Julio Jones‘ 41-yard punt return put a black eye on Florida’s special teams, a unit that had not allowed a single punt return yard in 20 of 22 previous games before giving some up in each of its last four contests.

COACHING: D+
Unlike last season, one thing that has stands out this year in regards to the Gators’ coaching staff is its ability to make halftime adjustments. On both offense and defense Florida drastically improved after the half though offensive coordinator Steve Addazio’s unit was still unable to cross the goal line. The first half was filled with errors on both sides of the ball; the offense started strong but was deflated after Burton’s interception and the defense just did not seem able to stop a motivated Alabama offense. Though execution is primarily at fault for the team’s misfortunes, coaching and preparedness was obviously not at the level it needed to be going into the game.

PLAY CALLING / EXECUTION / TURNOVERS
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida Gators at Alabama game

10/6: Florida coach Meyer’s SEC teleconference

OGGOA had the opportunity to participate in Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer’s Southeastern Conference teleconference on Wednesday (we will be doing so every week). Below are some notes from the event:

» Asked about the health of his players on Wednesday, Meyer indicated that his starting offensive line, redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley and running backs junior Jeff Demps and sophomore Mike Gillislee should all be good to go for Saturday’s game against LSU.

“Offensive line is in tact. I believe they’re 100 percent ready to rock and roll,” Meyer said. “Jeff Demps is probable, [he] did not practice yesterday [in full]. Gillislee did practice full.” As for Brantley? “Johnny practiced yesterday. He’s sore, but he practiced.”

» Coming out of the Alabama game and going into this week, Meyer noted that his top concern was the punt coverage unit, which allowed a 42-yard return to wide receiver Julio Jones last week. “No. 1. That is absolutely our No. 1 concern on our football team right now,” said Meyer of the coverage. The Gators must get that corrected this week with Patrick Peterson looking for similar big gains.

» Meyer also said that the team was confident about its short-yardage running game last week but feels much differently now. “We felt good going into the Alabama game and now we don’t feel good again,” he said. Gillislee is now the primary “downhill back to get the first down” and that redshirt senior RB Emmanuel Moody has “got to continue to improve at that position.” The youngster is Meyer’s first option, but he indicated the real improvement must come from the front as the offensive line and tight end need to block better on those plays.

MEYER QUOTES

No opening statement provided.

On LSU being Florida’s permanent SEC West opponent: “I know that every year-in and year-out we’re facing arguably the team with the most talent in the conference and one of the most difficult places to play. […] Every year they look the same to me.”

On what separates LSU from other teams: “The quality of player. The quality of athlete. I’ve always thought that stadium is one of the hardest in the country to play in. What makes it different is just when you see that team jog out of the tunnel that’s as good looking of a team as there is.”

On how the Gators’ “bloody Tuesday” practice went: “It was one of our better Tuesdays and today’s obviously a real critical day as well. Yeah, they did have a really nice day yesterday.”

On if freshman QB Trey Burton will be used Saturday: “We hope to use Trey a little bit in that game at quarterback.”

On senior punter/kicker Chas Henry: “Chas I thought did really well. … [Junior Caleb] Sturgis is still our kicker, as soon as he’s healthy. That kind of injury, they’re not sure how long that will be. But this week Chas will do both.”

MILES QUOTES

LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles on the SEC West being better than the SEC East: “The great teams play great defense. I think the great teams can run the football and they don’t make mistakes. I think really both East and West you find that to be the case. Obviously the West here seems to get tougher and tougher each year. Of course I see those guys every year. In the East, obviously we see Florida every year and that is a very capable team. I can see at times certain teams are more capable to run it, throw it and have better defenses. I think that’s really the swing. I don’t necessarily see a big difference between East and West.”

On avoiding predictability with his two quarterbacks: “Both quarterbacks will throw and run. Both quarterbacks will have a pretty balanced menu. Both quarterbacks will run the football differently and throw in a like fashion. They’re going to have to defend the run and the pass no matter what quarterback’s in. Hopefully we’ll avoid that predictability that way.”

On Florida’s secondary and ability to intercept balls: “They have great speed. You obviously have to know where you’re throwing the football. It’s a place where you have to be careful because if you put the ball up in the air and let it hang too long it can end up in the opponent’s hands. We’re going to attack them with a full view to how they predictably play their secondary.”

This post will be updated later Wednesday with more quotes.

FOUR BITS: Harvin, Boynton, Parsons, Spikes

1 » Breaking news Wednesday has future Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss being traded from the New England Patriots to the Minnesota Vikings for a third round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. One of the players his arrival in Minnesota will help most? Former Florida Gators WR Percy Harvin, who has had a slow start to the season as the team’s primary pass catcher with WR Sidney Rice out of action for more than half of the year. Harvin could flourish in intermediate routes from the slot or opposite Moss on the outside, so keep an eye out for him as the season progresses.

2 » Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton was named to the John R. Wooden Preseason Watch List on Monday. The list showcases 50 collegiate basketball players who Wooden Award Committee believes are frontrunners for the group’s player of the year award at the end of the season. Left off of this year’s initial list was Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons who was unquestionably the team’s best player last season and will be an integral piece should the team make the deep NCAA Tournament run predicted for them. Discounted by the committee, Parsons was recently profiled by Dime Magazine, which called him the “leader of the best starting five in America.” Check out this interview with Parsons that covers a number of topics.

3 » Three former Florida stars turned NFL rookies – tight end Aaron Hernandez and linebackers Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes – have been getting major playing time (most of the time as starters) this season with New England. Cunningham had to overcome injuries during the offseason, but Hernandez and Spikes each had to deal with a different personal matter that cast doubt about them in the eyes of fans and the media. For seemingly the first time in years, Spikes spoke with reporters and tried to clear the air. “I definitely was embarrassed,” he said about the online video released of him. Now his focus is on football, which is getting easier for him week-to-week. “It’s kind of been a big learning process, but I think it’s coming along,” Spikes said. “Every day is a step I need to take to try to get better.”

4 » It has been five years since former Alabama Crimson Tide WR Tyrone Prothro’s career was basically ended when he shattered the lower part of his leg while attempting to make a catch in the end zone at home against the Gators. The best game of Prothro’s career ended up being his last, something he will always remember as being a life-changing event. “I definitely think that if I didn’t get hurt, I’d be in the NFL right now,” Prothro told AOL FanHouse. “I’m not sure if I would have come out early or not, but I might have. I was a junior. Though he is able to walk – and run – again, Prothro’s physicality is not where it needs to be to play professionally. Now he is working as a bank teller at Regions Bank across the street from his former team’s football complex. “People don’t believe it’s me,” he said. “I’ve got a name tag and a nameplate. They look down, then they look back up, and I’m like ‘It’s me.’”

10/5: Addazio defends Brantley, Pouncey, option

Florida Gators offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio along with redshirt senior left tackle Marcus Gilbert, redshirt senior defensive tackle Terron Sanders and senior punter/kicker Chas Henry players spoke to the media Tuesday as the team took a final look back on its crushing loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide and ahead to its match-up against the LSU Tigers at home on Saturday.

BRANTLEY IS “GREAT” AND READY TO PLAY

With Las Vegas odds-makers pulling down the LSU-Florida line for Saturday’s game due to redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley‘s “questionable” status, his health was a topic of conversation on Tuesday. Even though Brantley said Monday that his rib injury was “nothing major” and that he was just “a little sore…just like every game,” concerns arose. Addazio did his best to squash those rumors, saying Brantley was “doing great” and would be starting as scheduled this weekend.

POUNCEY THE “BEST OFFENSIVE LINEMAN IN AMERICA”

Questioned Tuesday about senior center Mike Pouncey’s status on the interior of the line and whether or not moving him out of that role has been considered, Addazio was slightly agitated when considering his response. “Change for what? Absolutely not. Are you kidding me? We’re talking about a first-round draft pick, the best offensive lineman in America and a phenomenal football player and the leader on this football [team],” Addazio said. “Unequivocally [that concept has] never even entered the realm of possibility.” He was also asked whether or not Pouncey is more talented as a guard. “When you say ‘play better,’ are you talking about actually playing the game? He grades out a Champion every week. Absolutely not. […] You won’t want to play against him.”

Pouncey’s snaps have also been an issue of contention with fans and the media, but Addazio noted that they are much better than publicized. “I went through the film like a fine-tooth comb for us and we had one low, one wide, one high out of 60 whatever-odd plays there were. You don’t want any. You never want any. But that’s no different from last year at any given point. It really isn’t,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of focus on that right now … but that’s just the truth. You don’t want any, but there’s no more. There was opening day, we all know that. From that last game? That’s all there was.”

THE OPTION REMAINS EFFECTIVE AND WILL BE USED

Another point of contention after Saturday’s loss was the offense’s continued use of the option with Brantley as a less-effective signal caller in the formation comparative to former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Addazio, like head coach Urban Meyer insisted that the option is effective and will continue to remain a part of Florida’s offense. How big of a part, however, remains to be seen.

“You’re not going to major in it. We’re always going to operate percentage-wise a little differently based on who our guys are,” Addazio said. “Right now, just so you know in the option game right now with John Brantley, we’re averaging five yards [per] carry. You need to know that. That’s a fact. You need to have an element, an option, in your game so you can keep the defense balanced and keep the defense honest and it’s a part of who we are. That won’t change.

“How many calls…that’s going to be dictated by what we see and what’s happening. You take that element out, however many snaps that element is, you take that out and they no longer have to line up their pressures, their blitzes and you’re in a whole different kind of ball game. As Coach [Meyer] spoke about, that’s a part of who we are. That won’t change. […] It’s like everything else: Get a little better, operate a little better. The element is there, the element will always be a part.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 10/5: Addazio defends Brantley, Pouncey, option

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