TWO BITS: soccer rolls, Newton for Heisman?

1 » No. 12 Florida Gators soccer (13-2-2, 7-1-1 SEC) continued its winning ways on Thursday by defeating the LSU Tigers (6-7-4, 3-3-3 SEC) 2-0 on the road in Baton Rouge, LA. Tied atop the Southeastern Conference with South Carolina, Florida earned the win with goals from freshman forward Taylor Travis (4’) and sophomore F/midfielder Natalia Torosian (71’). Redshirt senior goalkeeper Katie Fraine also made four saves. The Gators will play their final regular season match at home in Gainesville, FL, at the James G. Pressly Stadium this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. against Arkansas. The 2010 SEC Tournament runs from Nov. 3-7 in Orange Beach, AL.

2 » Florida has a track record for producing Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks. However, this year, it looks like a former Gators QB may have the opportunity to win that award for a rival school. As if you didn’t know already, Cameron Newton (now of the Auburn Tigers) has been tabbed as a frontrunner for the award, but if it was his choice he’d be competing for it while still wearing the Orange & Blue. “If it was up to me, I would still want to be at Florida,” Newton told ESPN early this week. “My heart is still at Florida because of the long-lasting relationships I have with my teammates there. Leaving them was the hardest part.”

SIX BITS: Harvin, Haden, Miller, Wilbur, Kentucky

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin was added to the Minnesota Vikings injury report on Thursday with what is being called a hamstring injury. Minnesota did not decide to release how severe the injury is but the Vikings certainly need Harvin on the field Sunday night for their divisional rivalry game against the Green Bay Packers. Harvin has been a big scoring threat for Minnesota recently, returning a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown last week and hauling in two receiving touchdowns the previous week.

2 » Grabbing his first career interception last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden wants more playing time, and he just might get it, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. “I thought he had his best week of practice since he’s been with us,” head coach Eric Mangini said of how Haden prepared last week. “I think that he’s starting to understand what it means to be a pro. He’s starting to understand what it takes to prepare each week, and there’s no doubt in my mind that that week of preparation, the way that he was last week, led to his best performance since he’s been here. If he keeps developing, he’ll keep pushing for playing time. That’s what you want. That’s what I want. That’s what he wants, and I don’t mean I’m looking to replace anybody. I’m looking for him to get better to push those guys to replace them because that competition makes everybody better.”

3 » Miami Heat forward Mike Miller, who is currently participating in his first preseason with the team after being signed over the summer, injured and possibly broke the thumb on his shooting hand Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined for up to six weeks. Teammate and fellow former Florida player power forward Udonis Haslem told the Associated Press that doctors believe the injury is “not season ending.”

4 » Former Gators punter Eric Wilbur has been shining this season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL, and his ability to kick “high and deep angled” punts has provided his team with “a stunning field-position advantage,” according to the Hamilton Spectator. “We’re asking him to place the ball in a certain spot, so there were a couple which could have been better but overall it was excellent,” said special teams coach Dave Easley. “He gets tremendous height on the ball because he’s got a very, very strong leg.” Wilbur may be asked to kickoff as well next year for Hamilton though his eyes are still set on a bigger stage. “My ultimate goal is to be in the NFL,” Wilbur told the paper. “But I love it up here. I love the atmosphere, I love the games. If I have to stay up here, I’ll be happy.”

5 » Upsetting South Carolina last week at home, Kentucky’s fans were rightfully excited. After the final whistle blew, plenty of blue-and-white faithful stormed the field to celebrate – something that is seen all over the country after a home team upsets a top-ranked opponent. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Southeastern Conference, such celebrations are not allowed under league rules. That is why, on Thursday, Kentucky was fined $25,000 for a sportsmanship policy violation by the SEC. The policy that was violated states that “access to competition areas shall be limited to participating student-athletes, coaches, officials, support personnel and properly-credentialed individuals at all times. For the safety of participants and spectators alike, at no time before, during or after a contest shall spectators be permitted to enter the competition area.”

6 » Join former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel and Desire Street Ministries for a 90’s Gators Reunion Celebration from Nov. 12-13 in Gainesville, FL. Wuerffel and other Gator greats like WR Chris Doering, QB Doug Johnson, QB Shane Matthews, WR Travis McGriff, offensive tackle Jason Odom, safety Lawrence Wright and others will be in attendance to celebrate a great decade of Florida football while raising money for DSM. For more information on the event and how you can participate, please click here to read the invitation.

Photo Credit: Unknown

2010 SEC Media Day: Georgia better than Florida?

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan and senior forward Chandler Parsons represented the University of Florida on Thursday by appearing at a number of press conferences at the 2010 Southeastern Conference Media Day from Hoover, AL.

GEORGIA, NOT FLORIDA, THE BEAST OF THE EAST?

Though Donovan is thankful that his team is getting recognition, he believes going into the season that Georgia is the best team in the SEC East and one of the most talented in the nation. “Clearly Georgia was a team last year that was on the cusp of really having an unbelievable season,” he said. “Georgia, to me, is as good as anybody not only in our league, I think they’re as good as anybody in the country. [...] They have two [F Trey Thompkins, guard Travis Leslie] placed on the All-SEC first team. We have none.”

Donvoan continued to downplay the hype surrounding Florida pointing to how the team struggled to make the NCAA Tournament. “Would the feeling be different if we didn’t make the tournament than it is right now? We’re kind of a feel-good team,” he said. “The reality is we got knocked out in the first round, we finished fourth in the East last year.”

DEPARTURES ARE GOOD AND BAD

Being able to help players develop into future NBA stars is a talent that would fill any head coach, including Donovan, with pride. However, being successful in that regard is not without its disadvantages for the program as a whole. “It’s a positive when you can have players go through your program and have the opportunity to play in the NBA,” Donovan said. “In a lot of respects, we were constantly starting over, and the early departures were something that was very difficult to deal with.”

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QUOTES (After the break…)
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TWO BITS: volleyball wins, Crowder on helmets

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators volleyball (17-1, 10-0 SEC) improved to 9-1 against top 25 opponents this season with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-20) shutout victory over the No. 21 Tennessee Volunteers (15-5, 7-4 SEC) on Wednesday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Florida junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel led the Gators with a team-high 12 kills. Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy contributed a match-high 15 digs along with seven kills and 17 assists, while senior OH Callie Rivers added nine kills and seven digs. Florida is rated No. 1 in the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and has won 12-straight matches since falling to then-No. 1 Penn State on Sept. 10.

2 » Former Gators linebacker Channing Crowder of the Miami Dolphins, spoke out Wednesday when asked about the NFL’s decision to seriously crack down and possibly suspend players for helmet-to-helmet hits. “If I get a chance to knock somebody out, I’m going to knock them out and take what they give me,” Crowder said. “They give me a helmet, I’m going to use it. If I’m knocked out, I don’t know where I’m at, I can’t say my name, now I can’t play football. If I get hit in the head and black out for a second and now I get back up dizzy, OK, I’m ready to go.” Crowder believes the NFL is “making a big deal about nothing, adding, “They want to save the receivers and quarterbacks because they sell all the jerseys. They don’t give a damn at all about the defensive players because we don’t sell as many jerseys as them. If they want to change football to a graceful sport, change it all the way to a graceful sport. Don’t try to save the quarterbacks and receivers because they make the money, which that’s what they’re doing.”

Extra BIT » Over the summer we here on OGGOA covered former Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard‘s journey with World Wrestling Entertainment as he “competed” on the WWE NXT television program created to find the company’s next breakout star. Though he was eliminated early on, Bullard’s background as a football player and master’s degree recipient from the University of Florida was played up heavily by the producers/announcers; he even did a Gator Chomp at the top of the entrance ramp before entering the ring. As his in-ring character Titus O’Neil, Bullard returns to Gainesville on Friday, Oct. 29 as he competes with current and future WWE superstars in a Florida Championship Wrestling event at the Alachua County Fairgrounds. A member of UF’s Hall of Fame, O’Neil was also a Student Body Vice President in 2000.

10/20: Addazio, Brantley talk about execution

Florida Gators offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio, redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, senior center Mike Pouncey and senior safety Ahmad Black spoke to the media Wednesday as the team took a final look back on its close loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs and ahead to its match-up against the Georgia Bulldogs on Oct. 30.

EXECUTE ON FIRST AND SECOND DOWN

Asked about how the offense has been evaluated since the Mississippi State game, Addazio said that the process is “always intense” and “ongoing” especially during the bye week. “You’re going to sit down as a staff and evaluate what you see on tape and you’re going to move forward the next day,” he said. “On a bye week, you sit back and kind of have a chance to almost take a deeper look at everything.”

And what has that deeper look revealed? “You got to be on schedule [for] first and second down. We’re actually pretty good converting on the downs you don’t want to be in; we’re actually pretty good on those downs,” Addazio said. “Obviously, in an ideal setting, you’re looking to get four or more yards on a first down call. We’ve got to be much more efficient on first and second down.”

Addaio, like head coach Urban Meyer, pointed out that lacking healthy running backs has been a hindrance to Florida’s offense recently. “The run game is a big part on first and second down. That’s something obviously we’ve been very good at [in the past]. So that becomes a factor, yes,” he said. “The injuries to the running backs are certainly a factor on first and second down. Not having the availability to practice with them during the week [hurts].”

OFFENSE GOING THROUGH CHANGES…OR IS IT?

Wednesday morning Meyer said that the offense would be tweaked before the Georgia game with a focus on execution and making sure the right personnel were on the field to make plays. Addazio expressed a similar sentiment but did not speak about wholesale changes. “What you do is you try to make decisions to put your players in the best positions they can [be in] to make the plays they need to make,” he said.

BLITZ PROTECTION AND PICK-UP

Another topic of serious contention after Saturday’s game was how well the offensive line was picking up the blitz and whether or not Brantley was handling it correctly in the pocket. Addazio believes both are doing well though he admits they could be better. “You can always improve. We just have to improve overall in our protection as a group,” he said about the OL. “When you get a lot of pressure like that and you’re throwing the ball in third down-and-long scenarios, they’re pinning your ears back, there’s no threat of run. […] I think John’s done a great job. He’s got to do a better job picking those up and handling all that. […] He does a good job of flipping protections and trying to get the protections slid to match the numbers.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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10/20: 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:

OFFENSE EVALUATED, WILL BE TWEAKED

Obviously the most important topic Meyer covered Wednesday was Florida’s offense and how it has been evaluated following the loss to Mississippi State. Meyer said he completed a “very in-depth study of where we’re at and what the issues are,” noting that if he was to discuss what was found in full it would be a “two-hour answer.”

He specifically said that the Gators have not had a big play in the running game since the South Florida game “which is alarming” and that all three of his running backs – especially junior Jeff Demps – being injured has really hampered the offense. Meyer also pegged passing efficiency and turnovers as the other two stumbling blocks the offense has to work through. “Those are the issues, now how do we fix the issues? It’s a multitude of things, and that’s what we’re working on in practice – extremely hard,” he said.

Looking at game tape, Meyer evaluated every one of Florida’s offensive drives and came to the conclusion that the Gators have successfully moved the ball on occasion but are not scoring. He said one-third of UF’s drives end in a punt, one-third in a turnover and one-third in a score or missed field goal. Prior to this season Florida used to score on over 50+ percent of its drives; that efficiency is currently down to 19 percent. Meyer added that his evaluations are “all on paper, all up on the board” and even gave an indication that he had them in a stack right near where he was sitting.

The issues, as Meyer sees them, are “scheme and personnel.” He said, “It’s a little bit of both. I don’t want to get into too much detail because it’s not set yet, but we just have to improve. And how do you improve? It’s two the things: it’s scheme and personnel.” Meyer added about potentially changing who calls the plays, “I’ve been head coach now for 10 years, and I’ve been very involved in the game plan and play calling. [...] [Offensive coordinator] Steve [Addazio]‘s got a very strong presence in the run game and protections. We just have to get better and I’m not sure that’s the answer. If it is, that’s what I’m evaluating as well but I’m as involved in that as well as Steve is. That will be fixed if it’s broken. If it’s execution as opposed to the play calling, you can call all the plays you want if you miss your first eight passes or we drop passes and all that, we’ve just got to execute better.”

INJURED GATORS TRYING TO HEAL

With so many Gators injured, Meyer ran through status updates on the players on Wednesday providing a mix of good news and bad news.

» Demps (sprained foot) – light practice Tuesday, being “cautious”
» Sophomore RB Mike Gillislee (hamstring) – light practice Tues., being “cautious”
» Redshirt senior RB Emmanuel Moody (quad) – light practice Tues., being “cautious”
» Redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre Debose (ankle) – “He will not practice this week. We’re doing everything we can to get him back next week. It’s a rather severe ankle sprain, but he’s doing well.”
» Junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (back) – “progressing pretty good,” will know Monday if he may be available for Georgia
» Redshirt sophomore left tackle Matt Patchan (wrist) – broken bone has healed, just needs to gain strength in the arm back
» Redshirt freshman guard Jon Halapio (finger) – getting better
» Redshirt junior defensive tackle Jaye Howard (ankle) – “[He's] doing pretty good. He’s not practicing, but it’s all positive.”
» Redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion) – “[He] will be fine. He did not practice yesterday, but I’m not sure about today. We’re real cautious about concussions.”

RAINEY WILL BE ELIGIBLE. BUT ACTIVE?

Meyer said that redshirt junior WR Chris Rainey will technically be allowed to play in two weeks against Georgia. Whether or not he will is another story all together. “He’s eligible to play for this game,” he said. “That won’t be determined ‘til next week. He’s on a week-to-week [basis]. He is eligible to participate in the Georgia game. I’m not saying he will because that has not been determined yet.”

MEYER QUOTES

Opening statement: “I’m not sure if the open date came at a good time or not. We’re trying to get some skill players back and obviously we have to get this thing turned around.”

On how this open date is important for Florida: “Yes. It is [important]. Because it’s this year, that’s one reason. Number two is we’re five minutes before kickoff [against Mississippi State] and we’re being kind of told we don’t have any running backs available for the game. Jeff ended up playing, but he played at about 70 percent. […] The correlation between that and lack of production in our run game is obviously there. I thought [sophomore WR] Omarius Hines did a great job coming in and getting a few plays for us, but he’s obviously not a running back.”

On practice this week: “We had a great practice yesterday, and we’re going to have another one today.”

This post will be updated later Wednesday with more notes and quotes.

Florida commit Leonard suspended for season

Six days ago, four-star tight end recruit A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL) decommitted from the Florida Gators. Approximately 24 hours ago he changed his mind and gave a verbal pledge to the University of Florida. On Tuesday, Leonard was suspended for the remainder of his senior season by the Florida High School Athletic Association.

According to multiple reports, Leonard was involved in an altercation and perhaps other incidents during a game last Friday. Becoming increasingly frustrated after having two touchdowns called back due to penalties, he reportedly “took a swing” at an opposing player, this according to the Orlando Sentinel‘s Chris Hays, who spoke with said player’s head coach.

“Leonard, however, must have had prior altercations or questionable conduct for the FHSAA to come down so hard on the star athlete,” the Sentinel reported though it was unable to provide specifics.

Photo Credit: Harrison Diamond/The Alligator

OGGOA RELATED: Five days later, A.C. Leonard recommits to Gators
OGGOA RELATED: A.C. Leonard decommits, opens up recruitment

TWO BITS: Harvin’s returning, Tebow’s passing

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin has become a dynamic kickoff returner for the Minnesota Vikings. Only in his second professional season, the 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has three return touchdowns on his career with his latest – a 95-yarder – coming on Sunday. The St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Jeremy Fowler took a look at how Harvin’s return efficiency stacks up all-time. Hint: it’s pretty good. With three touchdowns in 58 returns, Harvin is averaging one every 19.3 touches, good for second all-time to Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers’ one every 15.16 touches (six TDs in 91 returns). Harvin’s efficiency also tops others like Leon Washington (21.66), Devin Hester (25.5), Josh Cribbs (35), Deion Sanders (51.66) and Dante Hall (71).

2 » Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels said his staff will “continue to tinker with” its package for former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow after the Heisman Trophy winner scored his first NFL touchdown on Sunday. However, in order to make his presence on the field truly effective, Dave Krieger of The Denver Post opines that Tebow needs to throw the ball. “[Passing] is the element missing so far from the Broncos’ Tebow packages, and it’s the element that will be necessary to make him more than an NFL novelty act,” he wrote. “The package could feature more weapons if [QB Kyle] Orton came out of the game, but that can only happen if Tebow is a threat to throw it himself.” McDaniels sees both sides to the situation. “We certainly can throw the ball with him out of [the package],” he said. “We haven’t yet. We can’t do the same thing with it week after week after week. […] The defense knows if it’s a quarterback back there you certainly have to be ready to play the pass, and that would certainly be the case with Tim.”

Photo Credit: Ed Reinke/Associated Press

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