Gators fall sharply in latest Top 25 polls

The Oklahoma Sooners held on to their season-long No. 1 spot in the USA Today Coaches Poll, while the LSU Tigers kept the No. 1 ranking they earned from the Associated Press last week when the latest top 25 polls were released on Sunday. The Florida Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC), fresh off a 38-10 beatdown from the Alabama Crimson Tide, understandably fell in both rankings.

WeekResultBCSUSA TodayAssociated Press
Preseason--No. 10 (930)No. 10 (894)
2W 24-6 vs. Toledo-No. 9 (974)No. 12 (875)
3L 16-21 at Miami-No. 20 (410)No. 18 (405)
4Open-No. 18 (398)No. 19 (412)
5W 31-17 vs. Tennessee-No. 19 (449)No. 20 (414)
6W 24-7 at Kentucky-No. 19 (515)No. 18 (481)
7W 30-10 vs. Arkansas-No. 17 (574)No. 17 (536)
8L 6-17 at LSU-No. 22 (240)No. 22 (249)
9L 17-36 at Missouri-NR (4)NR (17)

USA TODAY COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: Oklahoma (27), Alabama (21), LSU (10), Stanford, Wisconsin (1)
6-10: Boise State, Oklahoma State, Clemson, Oregon, Texas
11-15: Michigan, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Nebraska
16-20: Illinois, Virginia Tech, Florida, West Virginia, Michigan State
21-25 Kansas State, Florida State, Auburn, Arizona State, Texas A&M

Last Week 1-5: Oklahoma (32), LSU (20)/Alabama (7), Stanford, Boise State
6-10: Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Carolina, Virginia Tech
11-15: Oregon, Florida, Texas A&M, South Florida, Clemson
16-20: Baylor, Texas, Arkansas, Michigan, TCU
21-25: Georgia Tech, Illinois, West Virginia, Florida State, Michigan State

ASSOCIATED PRESS POLL
This Week 1-5: LSU (40), Alabama (12), Oklahoma (7), Wisconsin, Boise State (1)
6-10: Oklahoma State, Stanford, Clemson, Oregon, Arkansas
11-15: Texas, Michigan, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Auburn
16-20: West Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, Illinois, Kansas State
21-25: Virginia Tech, Arizona State, Florida State, Texas A&M, Baylor

Last Week 1-5: LSU (42), Oklahoma (12), Alabama (5), Boise State (1), Oklahoma State
6-10: Stanford, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina
11-15: Virginia Tech, Florida, Clemson, Texas A&M, Baylor,
16-20: South Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Michigan, TCU
21-25 Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Florida State, Illinois, Arizona State

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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10/1: Florida vs. Alabama post-game notes

The No. 12 Florida Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) fell at home on Saturday, dropping a 38-10 decision to the No. 2/3 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC). OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from both head coach Will Muschamp and the players.

MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP

Early in his post-game media availability, Muschamp provides his own quick recap of the game as he sees it from offense, defense and special teams.

“We got beat by a better team tonight. You look at the first half, we were able to move the ball pretty effectively in the air. You need to stay balanced versus that team. The turnover hurt us and we were inconsistent in stopping the run in the first half. They got a good football team; we knew that going in. You can’t afford to make some of the costly mistakes. [Trent] Richardson is a good back; we knew that going in. We got to clean up some tackling and some issues. I’ll look at the film and move forward.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, who threw a 65-yard touchdown to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose on the first play of the game, was playing quite well on Saturday even though he gave up a costly pick-six to Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw. In the middle of driving Florida in for another score at the end of the second quarter, Brantley’s offensive line failed him. He was sacked twice in a row, backing the Gators up from the Crimson Tide’s 13 to their 35. Even worse is that the second sack, courtesy of Upshaw, severely injured Brantley’s lower right leg and forced him from the game completely.

Muschamp said he did not have an update on Brantley after the game. “He’s in our training room,” he said. “I haven’t even talked to the doctor yet. I have no idea.” Further information may not come until Monday during the football team’s weekly media day.

Freshman safety De’Ante Saunders missed Saturdays game for a violation of team rules, Muschamp announced after the game. “He’ll be back next week,” he said.

Additionally, sophomores defensive end Sharrif Floyd and defensive tackle Dominique Easley were not a question to play Saturday. Muschamp said neither was injured, though it was obvious that Easley’s ankle had a large wrap on it during the game.

TROUBLE ON THE LINES

Throughout the week the prevailing thought was that the Florida-Alabama game would be won in the trenches. To that end, the Gators failed mightily on Saturday. Not only did UF not get any pressure defensively (zero sacks and just two tackles for loss), it also failed to stop the run at the first level. Richardson exploded for a career-high 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. Florida was unable to stop him or wrap him up, allowing UA to move the ball as they wished.

On the other side of the ball, the offensive line gave Brantley some good protection early in the game but completely failed as the contest went on. The Gators could not run the ball whatsoever (running backs senior Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey combined for eight yards on 14 carries,) and each was often tackled behind the line of scrimmage. The Crimson Tide defense earned 11 tackles for loss in the game, pushing their opponent back 54 yards while doing so.

When freshman QB Jeff Driskel replaced Brantley (after the latter was sacked due to poor protection and knocked out of the game), he received no help at all from the offensive line. “The quarterback position – you got to play well around him. We didn’t protect very well. They got pressure with four guys rushing, so Jeff didn’t have much of a chance,” Muschamp said. “Generally when you have a guy hitting you in the throat, sometimes you do overthrow it.”

STILL IN IT UNTIL BRANTLEY WENT DOWN

The Gators may have been down 14 points in the second quarter, but the game was far from over at that point. Brantley was in the middle of making up for the biggest mistake he’s made all season, leading Florida on a what started as a six-play, 54-yard drive to Alabama’s 13-yard-line…until he was sacked for losses of 12 and 10 yards, respectively, and knocked out of the game. Muschamp said after the game that he knew the Gators had a chance at that point and was understandably disappointed at how that unfolded.

“It was disappointing from the standpoint that we’re going into halftime, it’s a 24-10 and we’re in field goal range. Thought we’d get at least three there and we’re down 11 with a turnover return for a touchdown,” he said. “You feel good about where we are at that point in the game. And then you lose John and that took a little wind out of our sails there as far as offensively moving the football.

“We came out had some nice stops to start the second half defensively. We just got to find some ways to manufacture some yards offensively in the second half and then defensively just got to finish better, finish better and tackle. We had some guys in spots to make plays. You got to make plays. You got to tackle. I was encouraged from the standpoint of we’re going into halftime and it could have been an 11-point game. But it wasn’t. And that’s the bottom line.”

He also said that he was impressed with what Brantley did on the field. “I thought John played really well. He had big third-down conversions,” Muschamp said. “The deep ball to Andre to start the game. The dig there to Andre that their player made a nice play, knocked the ball off of him. I thought john played extremely ell, threw the ball extremely well, converted third downs against a good defense.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the offense’s ability to move the ball: “When the game flipped and became a two score game, and then at the half we were in a two-minute situation throwing the football. When we lost John, that took the wind out of our sails a little bit as far as some of the things we were doing in the run game. You got to give those guys credit; they played well. We got to find different ways to run the ball and stay balanced in what we do. But we moved the ball effectively in the first half. We felt very good going into halftime [until] unfortunately the injury with John.

» Mushcmap on how he felt the team responded to adversity: “Obviously we didn’t handle it very well. We’ve got to push through it. Injuries are part of the game. We got to go to the next guy and you got to play.”

» Muschamp on if Driskel was prepared: “I think Jeff played well. Again, you got to give him a chance in the pocket and he didn’t have much of a chance. Created a first down on third down there with a nice run. Didn’t have many opportunities with what we were doing.”

»Muschamp on Alabama’s long punt return: “That was disappointing. Our coverage units had been solid to this point.”

» Muschamp on if the team was frustrated in the locker room: “I don’t think there’s any question you’re frustrated. And if you’re a competitor, you should be.”

» Muschamp on not getting any pressure: “When we pressured it was not effective. It really wasn’t.”

» Muschamp on how Debose stepped up: “Andre’s done a good jbo. He’s done a good job in practice. He’s practiced hard and presented those opportunities to be in the position he’s in right now. I’m very pleased with his progress.”

» Muschamp on not running the ball well outside: “We didn’t run the inside running game very well either.”

» Debose on the game as a whole: “We started fast. Things were going good for us. I just saw the coverage that coach told us we were going to get. I saw man coverage and made the best of my opportunity. I just saw green grass and ran as fast as I could.”

» Redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson on Brantley going down: “We came out playing well. John was throwing the ball around good. The offense was clicking. We were doing everything well. He got hurt and it happens like that. This is football. It happens like that sometimes. We still control our own destiny. We just got to keep going and keep fighting. We still got a lot of tough games coming up.”

Crimson Tide drown Gators 38-10 in The Swamp

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium may have come alive for the first time in 2011 on Saturday, but the No. 12 Florida Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) were unable to take advantage of the raucous home crowd, allowing the No. 2/3 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC) to score 35 unanswered points on their way to a 38-10 victory in Gainesville, FL.

Alabama star running back Trent Richardson rushed for a career-high 181 yards on 29 carries, leading the Crimson Tide to their third-straight dominant victory over the Gators. Florida has been outscored 101-29 by Alabama since defeating them 31-20 in the 2008 Southeastern Conference Championship.

The Gators made a statement early Saturday, following an opening play false start penalty with a 65-yard touchdown pass from redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose to take an early 7-0 lead.

The Crimson Tide answered back immediately, ending a 12-play, 52-yard drive with a field goal. Florida hit a field goal on their ensuing possession, and Alabama responded with Richardson’s first score of the game, tying the contest at 10-10 with just seconds left the first quarter.

That is when the momentum changed.

On the Gators’ next possession, Brantley was faced with a third-and-four from Florida’s 49-yard-line. Rather than throwing the ball away after sensing heavy pressure, he tossed it right into linebacker Courtney Upshaw’s hands. Upshaw returned it 45 yards for a touchdown, putting the Crimson Tide ahead for the first time.

Alabama added to their lead two possessions later, ending a 10-play, 61-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run by QB A.J. McCarron.

UF threatened on their next possession, moving the ball from their own 33 to UA’s 13. Brantley was then sacked on consecutive snaps. He was pushed back 22 yards and stayed on the field long after his second sack. He wound up being carried back to the locker room with an injured right leg, and redshirt junior kicker Caleb Strugis failed to connect on a 52-yard field goal, his first miss of the season.

Brantley did not return to the game after suffering his injury, leaving freshman QB Jeff Driskel to carry the load. The Gators’ first three possessions of the second half began deep in their own territory on their seven-, 16- and nine-yard line, respectively. Five of Florida’s second half possessions resulted in a punt; the other was a fumble by Driskel.

The Crimson Tide added two more rushing scores in the second half – both in the fourth quarter by Richardson and RB Eddie Lacy – and ran out the clock as the Gators was unable to move the ball.

Alabama outgained Florida 366-222 in total yardage and 226-15 on the ground. Running backs redshirt senior Chris Rainey (11 carries for four yards) and senior Jeff Demps (three carries for four yards) were made a non-factor in the contest.

Brantley finished 11/16 for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but his absence in the second half appeared to give the Gators absolutely zero confidence offensively. Florida held McCarron to just 12/25 passing for 140 yards, but he was able to move the ball and earn first downs when necessary.

Things do not get any easier for the Gators next week as they travel to Baton Rouge, LA to face No. 1/2 LSU. The game will air live on CBS at 3:30 p.m.

#12 Florida Gators vs. #2 Alabama Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 68°F, clear, winds N-NW at 6 mph
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: CBS/CBSHD
SiriusXM: 220/199
Online Video: CBSSports.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(12) FLORIDA GATORS (2/3) ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Nick Saban
Record: 4-0 (2-0) Record: 4-0 (1-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Alabama -4.5; O/U 44

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week four action? No problem. OGGOA has been here all week compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. on the road.

Muschamp’s presser | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Alabama leads the all-time series against Florida 22-14 and is 5-2 against UF dating back to 1999. The Crimson Tide defeated the Gators in the 2009 SEC Championship game (32-13) and during the 2010 regular season (31-6).
» Florida achieved more turnovers vs. Kentucky (two interceptions, two fumbles) than they did in their first three games combined (two interceptions, one fumble).
» The Gators’ 405 rushing yards last week was the sixth-best single-game performance in team history and the most the team has accounted for since 1989.
» Muschamp, Saban and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart all worked together when Saban was head coach of LSU from 2001-04. Muschamp, Saban, Smart, Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and UA tight ends/special teams coach Bobby Williams all worked under Saban with the Miami Dolphins during his short tenure (2005-06). Muschamp and Smart previously worked together at Valdosta State in 2000.
» Saban is 4-4 in his career against UF.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Florida’s offense has been impressive early this season with only six three-and-outs in 52 total offensive drives and only 11 punts in four games.
» UF’s offensive line has only allowed two sacks this year, making them the only SEC team to give up two or fewer sacks and one of seven teams nationally to average fewer than 0.5 sacks per game.
» The Gators defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (311) since 2000. Florida also has the most interceptions in the nation (72) since 2008.
» Florida is fifth nationally and third in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing just 56.5 yards per game. Alabama is third nationally and first in the SEC in the same category, allowing just 45.75 yards per game.
» Conversely, the Gators and Crimson Tide are 1-2 in the SEC and 9-19 nationally in rushing offense with 259.0 and 230.75 yards per game, respectively.
» Florida has had a 100-yard rusher in four consecutive games, the team’s second-longest streak ever. One more game of 100+ rushing yards would tie the school record streak of five games first set in 1999.
» Though the Gators are 18-for-19 (94.7 percent) in red zone conversions, the Gators have only scored touchdowns on 11 of those opportunities.
» UF’s defense has only allowed three first-quarter points through our games.
» Florida is No. 4 nationally in scoring defense (9.0 points per game) and No. 5 in total defense (231.8 yards per game); however, Alabama is No. 2 nationally in both scoring defense (8.0 points per game) and total defense (184.0 yards per game).
» The Gators have blocked a total of two punts in four games so far this season.
» Florida has made 16-straight field goals dating back to the 2010 season, which is the third-longest streak in school history and the longest active streak in the nation. Two more made field goals will give the team its second-longest streak ever behind 28-straight makes from 1984-85.
» The Crimson Tide have the second-most wins (40) since 2008, two more than the Gators (38) in that same period of time.
» Alabama is returning 19 starters and 51 lettermen from its 2010 team.
» The Crimson Tide’s defense has surrendered just 47 first downs through four games while holding opponents to 30.43 percent (21-of-69) on third-down conversion attempts.
» Florida and Alabama are split down the middle when it comes to the four major statistical categories. The Gators top the Crimson Tide in national averages of rushing yards 259.0-230.8 (9th-19th) and points scored 40.3-38.5 (15th-21st), while Alabama leads Florida in passing 225.3-202.8 (64th-79th) and points against 8.0-9.0 (2nd-4th). The teams have not played a common opponent this season.

LAST TIME OUT

After starting out the 2010 season with a 4-0 record, Florida was brought back down to earth when Alabama trounced them 31-6 in Tuscaloosa, AL. The Gators turned the ball over four times in the contest but otherwise held even with their opponent in yards gained and time of possession, snapping their 24-game regular season winning streak as the Crimson Tide rushed for 170 yards including 63 from Trent Richardson and 47 along with two touchdowns from Mark Ingram. Florida’s John Brantley threw two interceptions in the game and fumbled the ball on Alabama’s one-yard-line in the third quarter, negating any chance of a late UF comeback.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

Aside from the first hour of GameDay being hosted by Florida alum and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, the Gators will be prominently featured during Saturday’s broadcast. There will be a live interview with Muschamp, and former head coach Urban Meyer will also be live on the program speaking about the Florida-Alabama match-up. The three hosts and guest picker Jerry Ferrara (Turtle from Entourage) will make their selections as to who will win the game, and there will also be an entire segment about the game.

INJURIES / ABSENCES

FLORIDA
» Active: Redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (lower body), redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (unknown)
» Inactive: Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee)
» To be determined: Redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail (performance)

ALABAMA
» Inactive: Starting LB C.J. Mosely (elbow)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 64.0 percent of his passes (55-of-86) this season for 752 yards and four touchdowns but also threw two interceptions in the season opener against Florida Atlantic. Brantley turned the ball over three time in last year’s loss against Alabama.
» Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 625 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and 19.5 yards per reception and leads Florida in rushing and receiving this season. He became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, achieved the school and SEC record for career punt blocks (five), and is the active leader in that category nationally. He has also rushed for 100 yards or more in three-straight games, the first UF player to do so since Fred Taylor last accomplished that feat 14 years ago.
» Senior RB Jeff Demps (#28)…who has averaged 9.4 yards per carry so far this year including a career-high 157 last week. After sitting out most of the team’s second game, Demps now has 320 yards and four touchdowns on the ground this season. He also has the second-most receptions (nine) and fifth-most receiving yards (70) on the team this year. Demps eclipsed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark against Florida Atlantic.
» Sophomore “RB” Trey Burton (#8)…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver. He has already scored four touchdowns this season and has totaled 135 yards on 22 total touches.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary in only his second year. He is tied for second on the Gators in tackles (17) and has created turnovers in three-straight games (fumble, interception, interception).
» Defensive tackles sophomore Dominique Easley (#2) and redshirt senior Jaye Howard (#6)…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (21 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard and Easley have combined for 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks (Howard) through the first four games.
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who are 1-2 on the team in tackles. Bostic (26) and Jenkins (17) have eached excelled in different areas for Florida. The former has three tackles for a loss and two sacks while the latter has one sack and four pass breakups on the year.
» Sophomore Buck LB Ronald Powell (#7)…who is tied for a team-high with 2.0 sacks and forced two interceptions via quarterback pressures against Tennessee. Powell has nine tackles on the season including two for losses.
» Redshirt junior Sam LB Lerentee McCray (#34)…who is starting for the first time in his career and is second on the team in tackles for loss with 3.5. He also has two pass breakups and eight total tackles.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. He is perfect this year on 11 field goal attempts (long: 51) and 18 extra points, leading the nation in both categories while leading the Gators with 51 points scored this season.

ALABAMA
» RB Trent Richardson (#3)…who is one of the best players at his position in the nation and is averaging 6.6 yards per carry this season. Richardson has rushed for at least 111 yards in three-straight games and started the season with eight rushing touchdowns through three contests.
» RB Eddie Lacy (#42)…who is Richardon’s back-up but is playing just as well this year. Lacy is averaging 8.9 yards per rush and has four touchdowns on the ground this year. He has only carried the ball 41 times but has amassed 365 yards already this year.
» QB A.J. McCarron (#10)…who (like Brantley) has thrown four touchdowns this season but posted two interception in Alabama’s season opener against Kent State. McCarron is completing 66.3 percent of his passes and threw for two touchdowns last week against Arkansas in his best performance of the young season.
» WR Marquis Maze (#4)…who is the Crimson Tide’s leading receiver but has fallen relatively silent over the last few weeks. Maze posted 118 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions in the season opener but has caught 12 balls for just 108 yards since. He is also the team’s punt returner and already brought back one for a score this year.
» LB Dont’a Hightower (#30)…who is one of the most feared defenders in college football this year. He is his team’s leading tackler with 25 on the season (4.5 for loss) and will be charged with ensuring Florida’s running backs do not reach the second level.

CBS SPORTS VIDEO PREVIEW

Former coach Mike Heimerdinger dead at 58

Former Florida Gators wide receivers coach Mike Heimerdinger passed away Friday evening after losing a year-long battle with cancer. He was 58.

“It is with a heavy heart, but a trust in God, that we say goodbye to our beloved Dinger who lost his courageous battle with cancer,” his wife Kathie Heimerdinger said in a statement on Saturday. “Mike approached cancer with the same vigor and tenacity that he approached any football game — to win. Even in the final minutes he never gave up — that was our Dinger.”

A college roommate of Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, Heimerdinger was a graduate assistant at Florida in 1980 and returned to coach wide receivers from 1983-87, spending his first year under Shanahan (the offensive coordinator at the time) and his tenure under head coaches Charley Pell and Galen Hall.

He won consecutive Southeastern Conference Championships with the Gators in 1984-85 and coached at three other universities before joining Shanahan as the wide receivers coach for the Denver Broncos from 1995-99.

Heimerdinger then spent four years as the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator (2000-04) and one in the same position with the New York Jets before serving as the assistant head coach back with Denver from 2006-07. He returned to Tennessee as offensive coordinator from 2008-10 and remained on the sideline last season even after being diagnosed with and while undergoing treatment for cancer.

“It was a tough deal and Dinger was a tough guy to the end, which is no surprise to those who knew what type of competitor he was,” his former head coach with the Titans, Jeff Fisher, said in an official release. “He was a man’s man. No matter how weak he looked, how weak he sounded, he never had a complaint and fought this cancer as you would only expect him to fight it.”

OGGOA sends our deepest condolences to the Heimerdinger family.

Youngblood: A career of life-changing moments

With Saturday being the two-year anniversary of ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive and considering he is releasing a brand new book the very same day, former Florida Gators defensive lineman Jack Youngblood sat down with us recently for an exclusive and extensive hour-long interview about his life and career.

Click here to read an OGGOA exclusive excerpt from Because It Was Sunday: The Legend of Jack Youngblood while learning more about the book.

The first University of Florida student-athlete to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Youngblood is also a member of Florida’s Ring of Honor, the College Football Hall of Fame and the UF Athletic Hall of Fame. He has as accomplished of a career as any player who has put on the orange and blue of the Gators after being named first-team All-SEC and All-America in 1970 and also being selected as the No. 20 overall pick in the first round of the 1971 NFL Draft.

Youngblood went on to be named to seven Pro Bowls and be selected as a first-team All-Pro five times while also winning NFC Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons (1975-76) and the St. Louis RamsMost Value Player award three times (1975-76, 1979). He played in five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl and had his No. 85 retired by St. Louis prior to being inducted into the team’s Ring of Fame in 2001.

Since retiring for the game of football, Youngblood has done some acting work, served as an analyst with numerous media outlets, and co-hosted Wal-Mart’s Great Outdoors program, which used to air on ESPN on Saturday mornings. He also wrote a biography, has held a number of football administration jobs and continues to work to this day.

OGGOA’s three-part interview with Youngblood covers his college days and professional career while also highlighting some interesting stories and moments in his life.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of high school in Monticello, FL, you were a lot closer distance-wise to Florida State than Florida. Why did you end up choosing to play for the Gators and how did that recruiting process unfold for you?
JACK YOUNGBLOOD: “First of all, there was no recruiting process. [Laughing] That’s the crazy part about it. We were 25 miles from Tallahassee and we had a pretty good little football team back in 1966. We won the state championship. You would’ve thought we would’ve had some recruiting going on there. In all honesty, [there was] very little. I had no conscious idea that I was ever going to get an opportunity to play at the next level until Florida came up to me when we were celebrating after the championship game. They asked me if I wanted to come play football for the University of Florida.”

AS: Looking at recruiting as it stands today – with so many evaluation camps, services rating kids and tons of exposure – are you envious of how much attention high school players get or are you happy with how it used to work?
JY: “It’s a totally different world today. Our media contingent is just outrageous. You start tracking kids as they’re in 9th and 10th grade. [Laughing] I guess it’s because it is so expansive that you can do it today whereas in the past, it was a physical job literally.”

AS: Do you think there is a lot more pressure on high school kids these day with such high expectations at a young age? Perhaps they don’t get as much time to develop and become better players without scrutiny from the get-go?
JY: “It does put a tremendous amount of pressure on. A lot of them see an opportunity or think there is an opportunity where they can go and be like one of the ‘idols’ they watch on television and see play on Saturdays and Sundays. I don’t know if it’s going to get larger and larger as we move forward, but it probably will.”

AS: Coming out of high school, you were primarily an offensive lineman and linebacker. When Florida’s coaches wanted to move you to defensive line right away, what did you think about that? How difficult was the transition not only from high school to college but also from linebacker to defensive line?
JY: “First of all, it broke my heart when they told me that I was not going to be the middle linebacker. We had an All-American out of Tampa – Mike Kelly – Kelly was destined to be the middle linebacker. At 6’4” and 200 lbs. by my sophomore year, I had put on about 15 pounds, that’s a little gangly to be trying to play middle linebacker. They decided to put my hand on the ground and see what kind of skills I had there. It was a significant change, there was no question. The toughest part was having to put on muscle and strength so that I could play. I had some of the natural quickness and speed – I could run – but it was the size that was the hindrance. When you line up in front of Jim Yarbrough your first time on the practice field and you line up in front of him during a stand-up defensive end simulation. I got down in a two-point stance in front of Yarbrough and I still had to look up to him. [Laughing] That’s a scary thought.”

Read the rest of part one of our interview with Jack Youngblood…after the break!

Continue Reading » Youngblood: A career of life-changing moments

FOUR BITS: Tebow’s billboard, Hill’s thoughts, Brown’s new gig, Andrews on Kimmel

1 » The billboard in downtown Denver, CO featuring words and images supporting Denver Broncos back-up quarterback Tim Tebow has finally arrived – just not by the hands of those who promised to erect it in the first place. According to the Denver Post, a company named Multiline International Imports decided to utilize a large digital sign by their business (located just east of the I-25 highway) for this purpose. Check out the Post’s story on the billboard, which also includes one additional picture of it.

2 » Former Florida Gators safety Will Hill, who signed with the AFL’s Arizona Rattlers on Wednesday, told the Palm Beach Post Friday that he did not regret leaving Florida early and he would have made the same move still knowing the path his career has taken. He also said that his use of marijuana at the University of Florida was the main reason teams did not sign him even as an undrafted free agent.

“I had smoked in college,” he told the Post. “It wasn’t about failing drug tests, but the coaches knew I smoked, and that’s what the NFL asked about. My problem was off the field. By me doing this I can stay in shape and still look at the NFL. I had off the field problems like partying and things. That’s what kept me from the NFL. If I clean up my act and show I can still play, I can still get there.”

Read a BIT on Jenn Brown and watch another of Erin Andrews…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Tebow’s billboard, Hill’s thoughts, Brown’s new gig, Andrews on Kimmel

FOUR BITS: Ingram, Warren, Hill, Cooper

1 » Unfortunate news for former Florida Gators tight end Cornelius Ingram, who was waived off the Detroit Lions practice squad Wednesday. Ingram is once again a free agent and continues to rehabilitate his knee after multiple ACL surgeries and injuries.

2 » The New England Patriots re-signed former Gators defensive lineman Gerard Warren on Tuesday, a move that had been expected most of the season. He was previously released from the team in order to make room for a third tight end but is now back with the organization he played for in 2010.

3 » Former Florida safety Will Hill, who left school a year early to turn pro and was neither selected in the 2011 NFL Draft nor signed by a team as an undrafted free agent, agreed to a deal with the Arizona Rattlers of the AFL, the team announced on Wednesday. “I’m excited to get out on the field,” said Hill in the team’s official release. “I’m ready to get out there and put people over the [dasher board] wall.”

4 » Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid confirmed on Wednesday that wide receiver Riley Cooper, who suffered a concussion against the New York Giants last week, has been cleared to return to practice. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Cooper’s concussion was his second with the Eagles (he had one in 2010) and third since he started playing college football.

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