10/27: 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:

RAINEY ON TRACK, RBs HEALTHIER…

Though Meyer will make his final decision on redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey’s status on Thursday, he is optimistic that he will be dressed and on the field for Florida on Saturday against Georgia. “As of now he’s done everything he’s supposed to do,” Meyer said Wednesday.

Also looking to get back on the field are the Gators’ running backs, all of whom have been dealing with varying degrees of injury. Junior Jeff Demps (foot), who missed one game and has been severely limited in two others, is “not quite full speed” but has been practicing and should be ready for Saturday. Similarly, sophomore Mike Gillislee (foot) is “not full speed,” though redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody (thigh) is “practicing pretty good.” Meyer also confirmed what offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said Tuesday, that Rainey “will be between running back and receiver” if he is eligible to play.

PRACTICES ARE LOOKING “FASTER”

When Meyer took over the Florida program in 2005, his number one stated goal was to make the Gators the fastest team in the country. To that end he has done exactly as promised, but injuries and outside problems this season have taken three of UF’s fastest players – Demps, Rainey and Gillislee – out of action. With all three participating in practice this week, Meyer felt better about the offense.

“It looks faster with Demps and Rainey and Gilly back out there,” he said. “It was very clear five years ago what Florida – shoot from Utah to Florida – I’ve always believed in speed, always believed in big plays. When you take that out of an offense, [it struggles]. Defenses are too talented and are too well-schemed now.”

LOOKING FOR WIN NO. 5 IN SIX CHANCES

Reminded that this would be the sixth time he is coaching in the Florida-Georgia game, Meyer was a little taken aback by the notion. “It’s hard to believe that this is my sixth one,” he said. “What makes it great is because you have two quality programs. We have to get Florida where it needs to be, that’s what we’re concerned with right now. It is a great rivalry, obviously, and it is hard to believe this is year six.”

While the Gators do have many rivalries, he has not forgotten the importance of this one. “The old Gators, this is the one that they’re most concerned with,” Meyer said. “I found that out when I first got hired here. This is a rivalry I grew up watching, so I have a lot of respect for it.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 10/27: Florida coach Meyer’s SEC teleconference

NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

The 2010-11 NBA season tipped off Tuesday night with nine former Florida Gators standouts on professional rosters. Some won National Championships while wearing the Orange & Blue, others went undrafted, but all want to prove that the Florida basketball program has and can produce legitimate NBA stars.

Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks
2009-10: Averaging career highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1), free throw percentage (78.9) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game last year. For the second-straight season he led his team to the second round of the NBA Playoffs where, like in 2008-09, they were swept.
2010-11: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta during the preseason and will be a restricted free agent when the year ends. The Hawks are believed to be making a concerted effort to resign the first-time NBA All-Star and No. 3 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft to a five-year deal worth $50-60 million.

Joakim Noah, F/C, Chicago Bulls
2009-10: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (10.7), rebounds (11.0), blocks (1.6), assists (2.1), free throw percentage (74.4) and minutes (30.1), Noah was also good for 2.1 assists per game and shot 50.4 percent from the field. He missed 28 games with a plantar fasciitis injury but regained his form before the playoffs, which saw Chicago fall in the first round.
2010-11: Noah was rewarded by the Bulls for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension in the offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and, with Chicago adding All-Star forward Carlos Boozer to the frontcourt, some of the pressure he felt to do everything for the team defensively may be relived.

David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
2009-10: Averaging a double-double for the second-straight season with the New York Knicks, Lee posted career-highs in points (20.2), assists (3.6), blocks (0.5) and free throw percentage (81.2) along with 11.7 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent. A fan favorite who was a victim of circumstance due to the blockbuster free agents available this summer, Lee was moved to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade.
2010-11: Agreeing a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State, Lee will once again play for an up-tempo offense in which he will be able to shine. Though he will not be relied upon as heavily with the Warriors as he was with the Knicks, Lee will have ample opportunities to showcase his talent on the left coast.

Profiles for six more former Gators basketball players…after the jump!
Continue Reading » NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

10/26: Addazio, players look ahead to Georgia

Florida Gators offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio, freshman quarterback Trey Burton, redshirt senior guard Carl Johnson and redshirt senior wide receiver Carl Moore spoke to the media Tuesday as the team took a final look back on its bye week and ahead to its match-up against the Georgia Bulldogs.

IF HE PLAYS, RAINEY MAY BE GIVEN HYBRID ROLE

Asked if redshirt junior WR Chris Rainey will play some running back on Saturday should he be cleared by the coaching staff for game action, Addazio admitted that it is a realistic option for Florida. “Certainly the possibility exists for that because of injuries,” he said Tuesday. “Chris is a guy that’s very talented, that’s versatile and can do a lot of things. He does give you some versatility for sure in the event that he’s ready to go.”

However, just because Rainey has run the ball before does not mean he will be able to do so without mistakes now that he is back practicing with the team. “Guys have a lot of job descriptions, and that takes a lot of practice reps. Kinks can happen. That’s always a concern,” Addazio said. “What happens sometimes is, with the injuries, that becomes the problem. You want to be at competitive excellence, but sometimes the injuries don’t allow that to happen. Maybe a guy doesn’t really get the reps that he can get on a Tuesday or Wednesday, he’s not really cleared until a Thursday. And then another guy has got to take that spot so he didn’t get the [reps] that he’s supposed to get [at his normal position]. That’s always what happens when you’re into multiple banged up people. [...] [Rainey's] getting reps in practice, obviously getting even more because of some guys that are dinged up a little bit. You just hope that everything works out right.”

Burton also shared his thoughts on Tuesday in regards to what Rainey brings to the table. “He’s a special guy. He’s real fast and the things he can do makes the defense’s head spin,” Burton said. “It’s obviously a lot easier for me and a lot easier for Jeff [Demps] and [Emmanuel] Moody to get open.”

REMEMBERING EMBARRASSMENT WON’T WIN A GAME

One of the comedic masterminds on the Gators, Johnson was asked Tuesday if Georgia charging the field in 2007 is still a motivating factor for Florida. “That happened three years ago. That still plays a big role, but we can’t look back [on] what happened three years ago,” he said. “I didn’t even play so, I was like, ‘That’s messed up. How are they going to stomp on us like that?’” Though Johnson refused to forgive the act, he will not use it as motivation to win Saturday’s game – even if it is being played on a loop in the football facility. “They playing that thing like crazy, but it’s not going to help us,” he quipped. “We have to play to win, to beat Georgia.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 10/26: Addazio, players look ahead to Georgia

FOUR BITS: Driskel, O’Day, Tebow, Final Four

1 » Florida Gators five-star quarterback commitment Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) was named Sports Illustrated’s High School Player of the Week on Tuesday. Driskel, who compares his style of play to Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, said the opportunity to play for Florida was too much to turn down. “It’s a great academic school,” he said. “They have a great football program. They’re always gonna have the best athletes and they’re always gonna be competitors.” Driskel accounted for 346 total yards and four touchdowns on Friday to earn SI’s honor; on the season he’s posted 1,205 passing yards and 10 touchdowns along with 881 rushing yards and 13 scores.

2 » Former Florida pitcher Darren O’Day, who is currently working in relief for the Texas Rangers, will play a significant role with the team during its first World Series appearance in franchise history. “You’re always confident in your ability, but it’s hard to see the major leagues and World Series from a walk-on tryout in college,” O’Day told The Florida Times-Union. “You never know what you can do. You just got to keep trying.”

3 » With the Denver Broncos set to fly to London, England, later this week to participate in the NFL’s annual game overseas, rookie QB Tim Tebow (though not a starter) was the object of the British press’ affection during a teleconference on Tuesday. Tebow touched on a number of topics during the press call including what he would normally be doing for Halloween, how he feels about sitting behind starting QB Kyle Orton and how important it is for an athlete to send positive messages to the public.

4 » Answering a number of Southeastern Conference basketball questions on Tuesday, ESPN Insider’s LaRue Cook contends that the Gators are indeed a legitimate Final Four contender this season. Citing the fact that every returning starter scores in double digits and that sophomore forward Erik Murphy will emerge as “the surprise player of the season,” Cook thinks the biggest question surrounding Florida is its defense (which allowed 94.9 points per 100 possessions, 67th in the nation last year). Freshman power forward Patric Young should help the team defensively, while freshman F Casey Prather will be able to add some much-needed depth to the bench. Cook also notes that UF has a solid chance to reach No. 1 in the country early in the season if it can go at least 3-1 in its four tough nonconference games against Ohio State, Florida State, Kansas State and Xavier.

Photo Credit: ESPN

FOUR BITS: ESPN coverage of Florida basketball

1 » With Florida Gators basketball’s 2010-11 season set to begin Thursday in the form of an exhibition match against Florida Tech, ESPN heaped some praise on the program Tuesday. First up was Andy Katz, who sees a team that is ready to return to a championship level of play after a few years of mediocrity.

“It definitely feels like the last three years, that I’ve been another player, not been able to do anything great with my teammates for the fans and the University of Florida to remember me,” senior forward Alex Tyus told Katz during a recent interview. “If we have a great year this year, hopefully they’ll remember the guys who came in after Al and Jo and left with their piece of the pie.”

Fellow senior forward Chandler Parsons recounts what happened that first season after the Gators’ best six players left. “It was as tough a time as I’ve ever been through,” he said. “We got kicked out of here [the Florida practice facility] and practiced in high school gyms two or three times a day when we were getting ready for the NIT and then after the season was over. But that’s what coach [Billy] Donovan does — he pushes you and puts your back against the wall to get the most out of you.”

Katz touches on a number of other topics in his article including junior point guard Erving Walker noticing a lack of leadership upon arriving in Gainesville, FL, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton setting his sights on the Final Four and freshman power forward Patric Young never wavering on his commitment.

2 » Also spotlighting Florida on Tuesday is ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford, who has named Young as the No. 2 overall 2011 NBA Draft prospect in the Southeastern Conference. Ford believes Young “looks like a 27-year-old NBA player in his prime” and calls him “an absolute physical specimen that has drawn comparisons to a young Dwight Howard.” Saying Young is “already an elite defender and rebounder,” Ford spoke with a NBA general manager who said “He’s one kid who could step in right now and play for an NBA team because of his defensive ability. Where he goes offensively really determines his ceiling, but his floor is already very high.”

3 » To Young’s credit, he told The Florida Times-Union in April that he plans to play for the Gators for either three of four years while earning his degree. “I’ve always wanted to play in the NBA, but I have a backup plan and that’s to have an education,” he said. “That ranks second, right behind my faith, in terms of importance. I eventually want to do something else in basketball, whether it’s to be an announcer, work for a team or have a business involved in the sport.”

4 » Former Ohio State walk-on Mark Titus, now a writer for ESPN Insider, has tabbed UF to win the SEC this year. He also took a humorous look at how Florida and its Gator Chomp still haunts his dreams. “I had nightmares about the Gator Chomp for weeks after losing the 2007 National Championship to Florida. But even though I hate it so much, there really is nothing like it in college basketball. […] Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go battle the recurring night terrors of Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer opening and closing their arm-jaws amidst a wave of confetti. Thanks, Florida.”

Gators win big: RB Mike Blakely picks Florida

One way or another, four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL) decided he would be wearing orange and blue in college next year. He made it clear on Tuesday that he would be donning those colors for the Florida Gators rather than the darker shades for the Auburn Tigers by verbally committing to the University of Florida.

“I think it was the best decision for me and my family and friends, for everybody,” he said. “It’s an exciting day for me. In my heart I felt like I made the best decision.”

Blakely, who is listed as the 34th best player in the country (No. 7 running back) by Rivals and the 69th best player (No. 6 running back) by ESPNU, fills a position of need for the Gators who will go into next season with only RBs Jeff Demps, Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown on the roster. With almost 40 Division I college scholarship offers to his credit, he becomes Florida’s fourth-highest rated recruit of the cycle thus far.

ESPNU describes him as “an electric runner and one of the more elusive to come out of the Sunshine State in 2011″ who is “on the shorter side but very well-built with some compact muscle.” Blakely is also “the ultimate space player with his elusiveness and great hands out of the backfield” who “if used creatively in an open spread offense could emerge as a major weapon at the next level.”

Dealing with a nagging ankle injury, Blakely is averaging 7.44 yards per carry this season with 15 touchdowns on the ground. He has also completed all three of his pass attempts with two of them going for touchdowns. As a high school junior in 2009, he carried the ball for almost 1,400 yards and amassed a total of 23 touchdowns.

Photo Credit: Thomas Bender/Sarasota Herald-Tribune

10/25: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, senior safety Ahmad Black, senior center Mike Pouncey, sophomore linebacker Jon Bostic, redshirt senior tackle Marcus Gilbert and redshirt senior LB Brandon Hicks answered questions for the media on Monday about a variety of topics concerning the Florida Gators. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

TEAMMATES RALLY BEHIND RAINEY

Though he was not supremely effective for the Gators early in the season, redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey is an electric playmaker whose talent could have seriously helped Florida over their last three-game stretch. No one knows that more than his teammates, who all had good things to say both about Rainey’s talent and his improved attitude after missing a month due to suspension.

“He’s practicing and he’s practicing great,” Pouncey said. “He’s one of those guys that can take it to the house on any play. Like I’ve been saying the whole year, he’s our best player.” Brantley concurred with Pouncey’s sentiments. “He looked good. He looked really determined, fast,” he said. “He’s really changed as a person. He’s changed his attitude to football. He’s working really hard. He just wants to get out on that field and play, that’s all he wants to do.”

Gilbert noticed that Rainey’s mistake not only was a blow to the team but also seriously affected the person who committed it. “He’s very explosive, like a Percy [Harvin]-type. I think he’s going to bring a lot of explosiveness to the offense, big plays,” he said. “He’s so much more mature now in practice, he’s ready. I felt bad for him because, Chris, he loves this game. For him being suspended, that kind of hurt me to see him down, walking around campus with his hoodie on. He just wants to be out here and play. I think he’s going to take full advantage of this chance this coming Saturday.”

GAME WEEK-LIKE PRACTICE ON THE BYE

Bye weeks are usually a little more relaxed practice-wise, but head coach Urban Meyer remarked early Monday that Florida’s practices last week were very much what they would be like if there was a game to be played this past Saturday. His players universally agreed with that sentiment.

“Everyone was ready to play,” Brantley said. “We wanted to practice and we wanted to succeed. To see [everyone work so hard], after especially such a hard weekend, was a great thing.” Black shared Brantley’s thoughts exactly. “It was great,” he said of practice. “You would have thought we had a game. Everybody went hard, went tough. [I’m] just excited to be out there again this week.”

Pouncey, the leader of the offensive line, felt the same way. “I seen a bunch of guys that really want to win,” he said. “We came out and practiced hard on the bye week. Most teams don’t do that, we did. We practiced [like] we had a game that Saturday.” Gilbert believes that trend will continue during preparation for Georgia and does not expect UF to lose a step. “Last week I think we came out to practice and we had a tremendous practice,” he said. “We look forward to the same this week.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 10/25: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

Venice pipeline flowing: DT Phillips commits

Just hours after three-star defensive end Clay Burton officially announced his commitment to the Florida Gators, 2012 defensive tackle recruit Omari Phillips (Venice, FL) followed suit. According to Rivals, Phillips has made his intention to play for the University of Florida known after heavy consideration and some influence from two very close friends.

“I made it official today and committed. I am a Gator,” Phillips told Rivals‘ Chris Nee. “They were my leader for a while, but the main reason I did it today is because when I moved to Venice me, Clay and Trey [Burton], I lived with them for a while during the summer time and me and Clay always talked about how if we got the same offer, that we wanted to go to the same school. He committed today and I committed today too. [...] They are like brothers to me. I can’t wait to keep playing alongside them.”

Recruited by both assistant head coach defense/defensive line Dan McCarney and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Addazio, the high school junior sports a 6’6″, 270 lb. frame and can play on both sides of the ball (though he prefers defense).

Phillips, a member of the ESPNU 150 Watch List, has received offers from well over a dozen other schools including Alabama, Miami, Florida State and Tennessee.

OGGOA RELATED: UF doubles up, Clay Burton commits to Gators

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