11/10: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr., redshirt senior tackle Marcus Gilbert, redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins and junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins answered questions for the media on Wednesday about a variety of topics concerning the Florida Gators and their upcoming game Saturday against the South Carolina Gamecocks. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the gathering.

REDEMPTION FOR ANOTHER OFFENSIVE STARTER

Redshirt junior WR Chris Rainey getting a second chance at Florida has been getting most of the publicity, but what Hammond has done with his renewed opportunity with the team is equally as impressive. As fans may have noticed over the last two games, head coach Urban Meyer has increased Hammond’s playing time so significantly that he is actually considering reducing it overall as not to wear him out.

“With us running the no-huddle, in my opinion, I think as a receiver you should be built for it. We have to keep going and keep going and with this no-huddle offense you have to be up-tempo and you have to be in shape,” Hammond said Wednesday. “We train our tails off during the offseason and during the summer in camp, and this is what we train for. If I have to play 80 plays, I’m up for it.”

He also spoke about Meyer giving him an opportunity to prove himself off scholarship. “I believe I’m pretty fortunate because it was a second chance and right now I’m just taking advantage of it and doing what I can to help the team win,” he said. “It pushes me a lot more knowing I have that on my plate, but I just look at it as a positive and just keep going.” As far as his increased playing time? “Just exciting. I worked my tail off in practice and I’m progressing every week, so to see it happening on the field is definitely a gain and definitely a positive,” Hammond admitted.

CLEANING UP THE DEFENSE

The Gators had serious problems getting off the field against Mississippi State, something that was slightly improved two weeks later against Georgia and a non-issue last week while playing a weak Vanderbilt offense. Je. Jenkins explained Wednesday that not much has been altered with Florida’s defense from scheme perspective; instead the team is simply focusing on sticking to their assignments.

“Not much has changed for the defense,” he said. We’re just cleaning up some things. Against Georgia we weren’t as good as we wanted to be. We haven’t really made adjustments to the defense, we’re just cleaning things up, trying to make it perfect. We had to do a better job getting off on third downs, so we put a lot of emphasis on third downs – getting off the field and getting our offense the ball. Just cleaning up assignments on every play and trying to make it so we can go three-and-out more.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/10: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

Florida basketball 2010 preseason wrap-up

Joining ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive for the 2010-11 basketball season is new correspondent Malik Grady. An OGGOA reader since the very beginning and Florida Gators basketball observer for two decades, Malik will be contributing his unique views and educated takes on head coach Billy Donovan’s squad throughout the season. Please do us a favor and welcome him into the fold after reading his first offering, a review of Florida’s two preaseason games this year.

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Correspondent

BALL HANDLERS

Observers only had five minutes to evaluate freshman Scottie Wilbekin before he was injured, during which time he managed a pair of assists and two steals. He has good size for the point and looked quick with the ball, though he seemed to get a little “high school cute” with it. Last year, after the preseason, then-freshman Nimrod Tishman rarely played again, but Wilbekin seems to be much more in Donovan’s plans considering the three-guard lineup the Gators have practiced with at times.

Junior Erving Walker, last year’s starter at the point, showed a bit of the good news/bad news he did at times last season. He led the team in assists (13 in the two games) but also had six turnovers while simultaneously forcing shots at times. Donovan said he’s seen improvement overall in Walker’s decision making, and he is improving defensively in the press where his stature is actually a benefit.

Fellow junior Kyle McClanahan saw a total of 17 minutes in the preseason but showed some limitations after managing four turnovers in six minutes in his first game and no assists in either. Donovan has expressed confidence in him at times though, so it’s possible he could work himself into emergency duty.

Read the rest of Malik’s preseason wrap-up and prepare for OGGOA‘s 2010-11 season preview (published Thursday)…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida basketball 2010 preseason wrap-up

Top recruit Brad Beal signs LOI with Florida

Five-star shooting guard recruit Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) officially committed to play basketball for the Florida Gators on Wednesday, signing his letter of intent with the University of Florida on National Signing Day. He is the sole member of the Gators’ 2011 signing class.

Beal, who is considered by most analysts to be the best pure shooter in the 2011 recruiting cycle, is an impact player with a high basketball IQ, good ball handling skills and impressive defensive abilities. He has even drawn comparisons to Ray Allen.

“Clearly, I feel like we signed one of the best guards in the country,” head coach Billy Donovan said Wednesday. “We’re extremely excited about adding Brad, we believe he’s a special player and a winner, and excited that he’s going to be a part of our program.”

ESPNU, Scout and Rivals all have Beal ranked as the No. 7 overall recruit in the country. At 6’3” and 180 lbs., he could very well play right away for Florida and be part of a starting backcourt with sophomore SG Kenny Boynton and redshirt junior G Mike Rosario next season that could be the nation’s best.

Beal is the second player from Chaminade College Prep School to play for the Gators, following in the footsteps of current NBA All-Star forward/center David Lee of the Golden State Warriors, who spent four successful years with Florida.

Photo Credit: Wiley Price/The St. Louis American

11/10: 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:

GROWING RELATIONSHIP WITH SPURRIER

Upon taking the Florida job, Meyer told anyone who would listen that one of the main reasons he did so was because he loved watching head coach Steve Spurrier‘s teams in the 1990s and had great respect for the Gators. Asked Wednesday how Spurrier’s continued prescence on the campus affects him, Meyer explained the two have become quite close since he arrived in Gainesville, FL.

“We’re fairly good friends now. Him and his wife and my wife and myself, we’re good friends. I actually lean on him quite a bit about the University of Florida when we get together,” he said. “He was Florida. He’s the reason I came here. I had such admiration for the way his teams played.”

RECRUITING ANOTHER DROP-BACK QUARTERBACK

Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley has always been more of a drop-back, pro-style passer. This was known the day he was recruited and every day since. Meyer addressed whether or not he would recruit a similar player again or if he would instead simply find guys who fit his system a bit better.

“We’ve played a multitude of different styles of offense really since I’ve been a head coach. It’s all about the personnel,” he said. “To be a drop-back quarterback, you really need a 220 lb. [running] back to hand off too. You also need a very stout and experienced tight end, which [we don’t have]. We’re going to continue recruiting the best players we can get our hands on and adapt to that. [...] If we do [recruit another drop-back QB], we just have to make sure we have the pieces around him to give that guy a chance.”

ADDRESSING NEWTON QUESTIONS ONE LAST TIME

Meyer began Wednesday’s media availability with a short statement aimed to prompt against any more questions regarding Auburn Tigers QB Cameron Newton.

“I addressed recent news stories yesterday that our [sports information director]made me aware of in the early afternoon,” he said. “Those stories have absolutely nothing to do with our team and preparation for South Carolina. Our entire focus is and will always be on our team. I will say, however, that I was very supportive of Cam when he left here and Cam and his family know that and we wish him all the best.”

Asked later if he felt a statement on the Newton allegations was necessary, Meyer replied, “I didn’t. My SID thought it was important. I didn’t want to do it to be honest with you. Whatever they tell me to do, I’ll do.”

MEYER & SPURRIER QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/10: Florida coach Meyer’s SEC teleconference

TWO BITS: Starks out for season, Harvin better

1 » Two Pittsburgh Steelers offensive linemen were injured Monday night – former Florida Gators left tackle Max Starks and center Maurkice Pouncey. Though Pouncey was able to return from his right lower leg injury, Starks was not as lucky. The seven-year NFL veteran was placed on injured reserve by Pittsburgh on Wednesday with a neck injury. Starks damaged a disc in his upper vertebrae and will undergo surgery on it shortly. He is expected to be ready to begin the 2011 season (if there is one) and will continue playing on the four-year, $26.3 million contract ($10 million guaranteed) he signed with the Steelers in the summer of 2009.

2 » Playing hobbled on an ankle injury that forced him to miss most of his team’s practices last week, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin was still able to turn in an electric performance on Sunday including a career-high 126 receiving yards. On Monday, head coach Brad Childress – with whom Harvin got into a heated argument with Friday over whether or not the player would get an MRI done on his ankle – said Harvin’s ankle was “still sore” but that he should progress better over the week and be healthier before the team’s game Sunday.

Report: Newton, father wanted “pay-for-play plan”

One week after ESPN reported that Cecil Newton, father of Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton, allegedly requested money for his son’s college commitment through a third party and one day after FOX Sports reported that the son was caught cheating three times while attending the University of Florida, sources told ESPN’s Joe Schad that the Newtons each “admitted in separate phone conversations to a pay-for-play plan while Newton was being recruited late last year.”

According to Schad’s sources, a Mississippi State Bulldogs recruiter was told by Cecil Newton that his son would only join the program if he received “more than a scholarship” for his services. The recruiter was then pointed to a third party who the father said could provide further details. The school failed to comply and Cameron Newton ended up at Auburn because, as the player supposedly explained another recruiter with great emotion, “the money was too much” for his dad to allow him to go to Mississippi State.

The alleged compliance offenses were related to the Southeastern Conference by Mississippi State in January, Schad reports.

The Newtons have previously denied all allegations of requesting or accepting money but refused to entertain the questions surrounding any cheating at Florida. “I’m not going to sit up here and say anything about it, whether I did or did not do it, because I don’t want to beat a dead horse talking about it,” Cameron Newton said in a press conference Tuesday. “It’s not going to affect me in any way, shape or fashion.”

The player has previously admitted that attending Auburn was his father’s choice as he had originally desired to play for former Florida Gators offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, now the Bulldogs’ head coach.

OGGOA RELATED: Meyer denies allegations of leaking Newton info | Report: Newton’s cheating at UF led to transfer

Photo Credit: Getty Images

11/9: Addazio, players speak to the media

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, and defensive tackles redshirt senior Terron Sanders and redshirt sophomore Omar Hunter spoke to the media Tuesday as the team took a final look back on its win against the Vanderbilt Commodores and ahead to its game against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

THREE-HEADED MONSTER BEHIND CENTER

With redshirt junior starter John Brantley, redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed and freshman Trey Burton all sharing quarterbacking duties these days, Addazio was asked Tuesday if he has ever seen a team employ a similar strategy and why it happens to work for Florida. “No. Three quarterbacks? No, I have not,” he said. “For us it’s working right now, and it’s working because we have some really unselfishness guys who really want all for the team and winning. That’s very evident. It’s created a level of excitement and energy; it’s been a real positive thing for us.”

Though each player has his own specialized plays and duties, managing three signal callers with such unique skills is proving to be a work in progress for the entire coaching staff. “You’re moving a lot of checkers around and that takes a lot of time,” Addazio said. “You got to be exact in your practice time; you have to be exact in things. Systematically it’s a little different routine than what you’ve been accustomed to. Our whole deal has always been trying to get the right pieces in the right places.”

SATURDAY’s BIG GAME WEIGHING ON SENIORS IN GOOD WAY

In addition to playing for the Southeastern Conference Eastern division title on Saturday, the Gators’ senior class will be participating in their last home game of real significance seeing as Florida State is a road game this year. Sanders realizes how important the outcome of the game is not only to the team but also his classmates. “This is a make it or break it game for us,” he said. “As seniors, we don’t want to not make it to the SEC Championship game. It will hurt knowing that we had it right in the grasp of our fingertips and we let it go if we don’t come out and do what we need to do.”

Hunter, who has been wearing the orange and blue for some pretty big games already in his young career, doesn’t think Florida holds any advantage due to the game’s importance. “I think it’s irrelevant. It’s the SEC. Every week is a big game,” he said.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/9: Addazio, players speak to the media

Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

When college football fans think about Florida Gators football in the 1990s, three names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. A three-time first-team All-SEC selection (1990-92) who finished fifth in the 1991 Heisman Trophy voting as a junior, Matthews set Florida’s career passing yards record, led the SEC in passing for three consecutive years and led the Gators to their first official SEC Championship.

Finishing his college career 9,287 yards and 74 touchdowns, Matthews moved on to the NFL where he played for 14 seasons as mostly a back-up with Chicago, Carolina, Washington, Cincinnati, Buffalo and finally Miami.

Enshrined in the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2002, he spoke to us on Tuesday as a precursor to his involvement in the 90’s Gators Celebration benefiting Desire Street Ministries during this all-important weekend in Gainesville, FL (more information below).

Matthews gave us almost 30 minutes of his time; unfortunately, OGGOA experienced some technical difficulties during the interview. Even though 50 percent of the conversation was missed, we were able to recover a portion of it for publication, which you can read below along with some summary answers to our other questions.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent 14 years in the NFL, first seeing extensive playing time during your sixth season in 1999 (167-of-275 for 1,645 yards and 10 touchdowns). What did it feel when you were actually given the opportunity to show your stuff?
SHANE MATTHEWS: “The reason I lasted as long as I did in the NFL was because of my mind. I could learn plays in a second, an entire playbook in a day and never have to look at it again. I was only 6’3” 190 lbs. at the most. Didn’t have the arm strength or the size to take a pounding, but when I did get my chance, I had some good games and some good moments, but I also had some bad ones. That just comes with the position. You’re going to play well at times, you’re going to play poorly at times. I enjoyed my 14 years in the NFL. In 14 years, I think I only played in 35 games, so I knew my role on teams – didn’t rock the boat – tried help the other quarterbacks and the coaching staff knew they could count on me.”

AS: With Saturday’s game featuring two of Florida’s greatest coaches, how do you compare and contrast Spurrier and current head coach Urban Meyer?
SM: “Urban and coach Spurrier are a lot alike – extremely strong competitors. However, they run their programs differently. Urban’s a great motivator, kind of runs a tight ship and keeps everybody in line, where coach Spurrier is kind of that laid back southern personality. His practices are more laid back and relaxed by comparison. The biggest thing is, coach Spurrier is an offensive-minded head coach where Urban is a defensive-minded head coach. Both of them have done a tremendous job for the University of Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Shane Matthews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

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