Florida punter Chas Henry wins Ray Guy Award

Florida Gators senior punter Chas Henry was named the winner of the 2010 Ray Guy Award at the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards in Orlando, FL, on Thursday night. The first player in University of Florida history to win the award, Henry was also one of three finalists for the honor in 2009.

Henry, who was also named a 2010 Walter Camp All-America first team at the ceremony, punted 44 times for 2,042 yards with a 46.4 average this season. That average was not only the best in the nation this year but also set a school record. A unanimous first-team All-SEC selection, Henry beat out 2009 Ray Guy Award winner, fellow semifinalist, and Georgia punter Drew Butler for this year’s award.

Though he was not honored for the kicking duties he was responsible for after junior kicker Caleb Sturgis was ruled out for the season with a back injury, Henry’s achievements on Thursday spoke to the impact he had as one of the most valuable players on the Gators in 2010.

Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press

Frontcourt leads Florida over Kent State 65-52

Head coach Billy Donovan demanded unselfish play from the No. 24 Florida Gators (7-2) after last week’s stunning upset, and that is exactly what he got Thursday night as they handily defeated the Kent State Golden Flashes (7-3) 65-52 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida’s frontcourt dominated the contest. Senior forward Alex Tyus bounced back from a rough start to finish 10-of-15 from the field for a game-high and season-high 20 points, and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin dominated his second-straight game going 9-of-12 from the paint for 19 points.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s Florida vs. Kent State game story…after the break!
Continue Reading » Frontcourt leads Florida over Kent State 65-52

Erin Andrews on Urban Meyer’s impact at Florida

ESPN/ABC reporter and former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews was kind enough to speak with me Thursday afternoon to discuss head coach Urban Meyer’s decision to step down from his position with the University of Florida. We spoke at length about the impact he had on the football program and the school itself, and how much he meant to her on a personal level since they first met six years ago.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: In a column I wrote today, I discussed how Meyer seemed to have an impact on everyone he interacted with at Florida – even if it was not on a personal basis. How did he come across to you when you became familiar with him?
ERIN ANDREWS: “The one thing that impressed me with Coach Meyer right off the bat was: He wasn’t part of the bloodline with Florida. He wasn’t a former coach, he wasn’t involved with the program until he was hired. That kind of scared me because I was close to [Steve] Spurrier, I was close to [Ron] Zook. I was a member of the media – and as a grad – I want the inside access to my school. Especially when stuff like this happens. I had a great relationship with Zook, and Spurrier has always been wonderful to me.

“The one thing that impressed me about Urban was that he wasted no time in getting the alums involved. He’s just made us feel like we’re part of the university and part of all of it. I didn’t know him at all when he took over. But right off the bat with me it was, ‘E.A., it’s good to be a Gator!’ So I always appreciated how he made former Gators – people that weren’t involved in the program – made us feel like we were a part of everything he was doing when he was the head coach.”

AS: He seems to have made Gator Nation even stronger than it was when he got to UF. Have you noticed the same thing?
EA: “Coach and Tim [Tebow] had a lot to do with that. If you go back and you watch Tim’s Heisman [Trophy] speech, all it was is, ‘I love being a Gator. Go Gators!’ I really do. Every text message Coach would send me over the past couple of years always ended with, ‘It’s great to be a Gator!’ or ‘Go Gators!’ This new burst of energy, this new sense of pride in Gator Nation and what the community is and what the school is all about and what the football program is all about, I think Coach Meyer was perfect for that. He really adjusted and was exactly what the school needed at the time.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Erin Andrews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Erin Andrews on Urban Meyer’s impact at Florida

Five Florida freshmen earn 2010 All-SEC honors

Five Florida Gators football players were voted by Southeastern Conference head coaches as members of the 2010 All-SEC Freshman Team on Thursday.

Athlete/quarterback Trey Burton, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, redshirt linebacker Jelani Jenkins, defensive end/LB Ronald Powell and redshirt kick returner/wide receiver Andre Debose were all honored by the conference.

Floyd, Jenkins, Powell and Debose were all five-star recruits coming out of high school, while Burton was a three-star prospect and one of the main reasons Florida’s stellar 2010 recruiting class stayed together through head coach Urban Meyer‘s first resignation in 2009.

Everyone has a history with Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer. Here’s mine.

I have a history with Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer. No, he never coached me. I don’t know what it was like to play under him, have his performance demands insisted upon me or feel like his approval is the most important thing in the world.

My grades were never judged by him, the type of young man I grew up to be in college was not due to his influence, he never praised me for being a positive member of the community and he didn’t have to punish me for stepping out of line.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how he affected others – guys like Vernell Brown, Tim Tebow, Ahmad Black and Chris Rainey (just to name a few). And that doesn’t mean he had no affect on my life – because he did.

While I run this website impartially and with as little positive bias toward Florida as possible, I do have a handful of my own stories and opinions about Meyer – ones I almost shared just over a year ago when he retired the first time.

RECOGNITION AND A PAT ON THE BACK

Meyer’s tenure at Florida began as my time working in the Sports Information Department at the University Athletic Association was coming to an end. His first season (2005) was my last, and the press conference for his second National Signing Day (2006) was one of the final events I covered for the University of Florida.

The football offices were crazy the week leading up that signing day. Everyone knew the names of the players who had already provided their verbal commitments; everyone had heard how big of a deal it was to reel in Tebow and Percy Harvin. But no one knew more than Meyer – not by a long shot.

Standing, listening, watching and later transcribing Meyer’s words as he officially announced the 2006 signing class, you could tell he was excited. It was my impression that Meyer knew this class had “it,” though it was never in my wildest dreams that they could win a National Championship the following season.

Well, that’s how I felt until I bumped into Meyer at a softball game.

Days after the Gators recruiting class was signed, sealed and delivered, I was working the softball press box. A friend called to tell me she was there, and we met outside to talk for a few moments so I could take a break. Knowing my love for football, she asked me a few questions about this Tebow guy everyone was talking about, and I went on-and-on telling her that he was a special player and the way Meyer spoke about him, he’s the type of player that could win this team a title.

Whether I was speaking at a high volume or he was around me at an opportune time, Meyer saw me walking back to the press box and sidled up next to me. Smiling wide, he said he always saw me running around the offices, asked for my name and said he appreciated how passionately I spoke about the team. He added that with hard work anything was possible, including a national title. A few pleasantries and a pat on the back later, he was off to watch the rest of the game – with his family.

I saw Meyer on-and-off after that at Florida functions or even randomly around town. He remembered my name every time – and always made it a point to say hello.

2009 BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

The 2007 BCS National Championship win was great, but as someone who spent his life growing up in South Florida, having the opportunity to see the Gators play for the title at then-Dolphins Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL, was something special.

The game was exciting, it was emotional and the celebration when the clock stopped was seemingly endless. There are sporting events (good and bad) in my life that have made me teary-eyed, very few that have made me cry. I cried tears of joy that night. Not when the players celebrated on the field, not when the trophy was being presented to the team but instead when Meyer stepped down from the podium clutching the crystal football like it was a baby, looked up at the adoring crowd and finally headed off into the tunnel.

Only a day later did I found out that Steve, a close friend of mine, was on the field that night working for FOX Sports. Snapping pictures of everything he could, he happened to be back in the tunnel when Meyer walked through alone. “All right, coach! High five, coach!” Steve exclaimed. Meyer stopped, looked at him, cradled the trophy and gave him a passionate high five as his smile grew even wider.

TREATING FLORIDA LIKE IT WAS HIS FAMILY

Fans, his players, his opponents, his staff and the media respect and have a deep appreciation for what Meyer has achieved on the field. His accomplishments are many but regardless of what he did, Meyer was unable to escape condemnation.

From arrested players to altercations with the media to accusations of being disingenuous, Meyer was harshly criticized whenever the opportunity presented itself. I suppose the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” can be put into play here, but that is not a reason or excuse for how he was treated on a consistent basis.

Looking back on the criticisms tossed his way, all of them appear to stem from the very reason Meyer has decided to leave the Gators – family. Meyer treated every staff member and every player like a member of his extended family. The program he built at Florida preached family values in recruiting, in coaching and in life. He wanted to teach his players to be responsible and accountable – whether that meant posting good grades and donating time to charity or rebounding from unfortunate life mistakes.

When players were arrested under Meyer, his No. 1 priority was not getting the pressure off his back by cutting them lose, it was trying to rehabilitate them and giving them an opportunity bounce back – using football as a reward. When he felt a player of his was unfairly portrayed by a media member, he (over)reacted harshly because in his eyes it was like a family member was being attacked. And when he chose not to throw his coaches under the bus this season when many of them share in the blame for a lackluster finale to his career at Florida, he was protecting the family he built.

From close and from afar, I have always felt like a part of that family. Meyer was not just the reason the football team has been successful over the last few years, he was and remains integral in the growth and enduring strength of the Gator Nation.

Family is not something that is recently becoming important to Meyer – it always has been. The difference is that he is finally comfortable realizing which family needs his attention the most right now – and it’s not the one wearing orange and blue.

Media reacts to Urban Meyer leaving the Gators

Everyone seems to have an opinion on head coach Urban Meyer’s decision to step down from his position with the Florida Gators. Below are a number of commentary pieces posted over the last 24 hours.

Meyer ride at UF fun while it lasted – by Pat Dooley, The Gainesville Sun
“Maybe it’s because he can’t wait to be an assistant coach at Nate’s baseball games or travel to Atlanta and Fort Myers to see his daughters’ volleyball games. And watch football on Saturdays and not feel any pressure. And maybe he’s at peace because he knows this — Florida survived Steve Spurrier’s departure. It will survive Urban Meyer’s. But it was fun while it lasted. Even if it lasted a year too long.”

Urban was a legend at UF – by Pat Dooley, The Gainesville Sun
“Urban Meyer did more than win games and collect crystal trophies at the University of Florida. He changed the culture. From the Gator Walk to the Champions Dinners to the Lettermen’s Luncheons, Meyer reached out to both the past and present of Florida football. Meyer brought new traditions to Florida and restored the swagger the program enjoyed in the 1990s by embracing what Steve Spurrier had built and adding to it. He was a creature of habit and superstition, a complex man with a simple plan.”

If Urban Meyer is indeed done with coaching, his career ranks among the best in history – by Ivan Maisel, ESPN
“Meyer has retired twice in one year. Meyer, aka “The Glare,” didn’t pay heed to the voice. It told him last December to get out to save his health and his peace of mind. He changed his mind the following day. Meyer regained the former. He is retiring again in search of the latter, a search he couldn’t complete while giving football his all.”

Meyer should have left last season by Pat Forde, ESPN
“But let’s be honest: Didn’t he just waste Florida’s time for the past year? Coming back last winter assured the Gators only one thing: They would sign the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. And while that certainly is significant, the program backpedaled through a brutal 2010 season that took its toll on all involved. […] He should have walked off and become a family man last year, because the time since then has only damaged his record and his reputation.”

Even if you’re a Gator hater, there is no joy in Meyer’s departure
– by Tony Barnhart, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“And so there is no reason to celebrate when the sport burns out a talented coach. You would rather he stay so that when you finally beat him it is all the more sweet.”

Florida Gators coach urban Meyer should make resignation permanent
– by Thayer Evans, FOX Sports
“The strain of coaching was difficult enough when Meyer was winning, let alone losing. He has always put too much pressure on himself in his constant quest for perfection. A workaholic, he struggled with the delicate balance of how to control as many things as possible and not worry about the things that cannot be controlled. Some coaches worry so much about what they can’t control that they eventually lose command of what they actually can control. That can be a lonely feeling, void of family and friends. It’s also one that can become so grueling and tiresome that you just become fed up with it.”

Meyer shouldn’t have returned to Florida after resigning the first time
– by Jon Solomon, The Birmingham News
“Meyer was a workaholic last year crying for help to get out. Instead, he allowed himself to give it one more shot, believing that a leave of absence would help him. You never completely leave football behind as an SEC coach. Florida should thank Meyer for accomplishing so much in so little time. Meyer should thank God that he’s leaving alive.”

Meyer calls a timeout on career, but it’s far from over
– by Bill Bryant, The Huntsville Times
“He’ll certainly look spiffy in his sportcoat on whatever network reels him in, but to think he won’t return in time (three years? five years?) is sheer folly. He’s too good and too driven to sit, rather than stand, on the sidelines.”

Tim Tebow sends best wishes to Urban Meyer

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow, selected No. 25 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft after playing four seasons with the Florida Gators under head coach Urban Meyer with whom he won the 2007 Heisman Trophy and two BCS National Championships, released the following statement Wednesday after learning Meyer decided to call it quits on his Florida coaching career.

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime to play for a man who will be remembered as one of the greatest football coaches of all time. But Coach Meyer was more than just a coach to me: He was a father figure who cared about me as a person and taught me valuable lessons that I will never forget.

“I respect that Coach Meyer had the courage to make the decision that was right for himself and his family. He will be blessed and better off for it. I am truly glad that he’s happy and no matter what, we both will be Gators for the rest of our lives.

“While change is never easy, the University of Florida will find the right head coach to continue its proud football tradition and will have the full support of Gator Nation. I wish Coach Meyer and his family all the best going forward, and they will always be a big part of my life.”

UPDATE: Tebow spoke further about Meyer on Friday.

“I’ve talked to him pretty much every day, multiple times. I’m proud of him. It takes a lot to leave something that you love like that, like coaching, like the University of Florida, but he knew what the right thing was to do for him and no one else knew that except for him,” he said. “He just wanted to spend more time with his family, and that was the most important thing to him, and I thought that was great. I respect him even more for making a decision like that.”

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

Florida Gators Press Conference: Urban Meyer steps down as head football coach

University of Florida president Bernie Machen, athletic director Jeremy Foley and Florida Gators head football coach Urban Meyer spoke with the media at 6 p.m. on Wednesday to officially announce and discuss Meyer’s decision to resign his position with the university effective immediately. In what seemed to be a bittersweet moment for everyone involved, Meyer left the Gators because he desired to spend more time with his family and children. Below are some notes and quotes from Wednesday’s press conference from all parties involved.

PRESIDENT BERNIE MACHEN

On Meyer’s other accomplishments: “Do you know that 86 of his players have already graduated from the university and another nine will graduate this weekend in our winners’ ceremony? Our football graduation success rate is No. 2 in the SEC – something he is very proud of and something I am very proud of as well. He’s also an outstanding member of our community. He and his family have been exemplary members of the Gainesville community.”

On hiring Meyer: “Urban was hired because of his commitment to excellence, because of his integrity and his commitment to his players. In every dimension he’s exceeded everything we could have hoped for as he carried out his duties here at the University of Florida. He took us to a new level. A level that will maybe be reached again but never exceeded. He leaves a lasting legacy at the University of Florida. We’re so proud of him and what he’s accomplished and the way he’s done so. He’s a true Gator.”

On Meyer’s future and legacy with Florida: “We’re hopeful he will remain with us in some capacity after he’s through coaching, but whatever he does we’re so proud to call him one of our own, and we’re so proud to say what he’s done for this university and this community.”

HEAD COACH URBAN MEYER

Opening statement: “Thanks for coming today. I appreciate Dr. Machen’s remarks. He has been tremendously supportive of myself and my family for over the last seven years. I have great love for the University of Florida, and I am very proud of what Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley – how they have helped us what we have accomplished here at the University of Florida. I’m stepping down as football coach at the University of Florida to focus on family and my other interests away from the sidelines.”

Read the rest of Urban Meyer’s press conference – along with what Jeremy Foley had to say about the coaching search – after the break…
Continue Reading » Florida Gators Press Conference: Urban Meyer steps down as head football coach

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