No. 23 Florida vs. No. 24 Vanderbilt Gameday

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 9:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 23 FLORIDA GATORS No. 24 VANDERBILT
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 16-5 (5-2) Record: 15-5 (3-3)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -4; O/U 139

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Vanderbilt leads the all-time series against Florida 63-56 and won both meetings last season. However, the Gators are 15-5 in their last 20 games against the Commodores; they are also 18-11 against them under Donovan including 11-3 at home and 8-1 in their last nine matchups in Gainesville.
» Florida has won 11 of its last 14 games with seven victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» A win Tuesday would give the Gators double-digit wins at home for the 14th consecutive year under Donovan.
» Florida is turning the ball over fewer than 10 times per game in SEC play and has turned it over in single digits in four of seven contests.
» Vanderbilt features players who, individually, lead the SEC leaders in points per game, assists per game and field goal percentage.
» The Commodores best the Gators in both points per game 78.8-71.4 (20th-120th) and field goal percentage .463-.458 (65th-81st) nationally. Vanderbilt and Florida are similar in their ability to rebound and dish the ball, averaging approximately 39 boards and 14 assists per game. UF ranks 19th in RPI (.6265) and 13th in strength of schedule nationally compared to VU being 22nd (.6214) and 24th, respectively.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.4 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (43.0%) and three-point percentage (39.5%). He has single-handedly accounted for 45 of Florida’s 122 treys this season. Walker became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points, accomplishing the feat earlier this year.
» Senior forward Chandler Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (10.3) while leading the Gators with 7.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.8 percent this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds a game while being a major presence for Florida.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably UF’s most talented player but is back in a slump after breaking out of one previously. Boynton is only shooting 36 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second on the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game and hits 81.5 percent of his free throws.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are the Gators primary reserves averaging 17.3 and 17.0 minutes per game, respectively. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads Florida in assist-to-turnover ratio (3:1), while Young averages 3.4 points and 3.6 boards off the bench.
» Vanderbilt G John Jenkins…who plays a team-high 34.1 minutes and is his team’s leading scorer (19.1 points per game). Jenkins also shoots 90.6 percent from the charity stripe, hits 41.5 percent of his three-pointers and leads the SEC in scoring average.
» Commodores F Jeffrey Taylor …who is his team’s second-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder while playing the second-most minutes.

1/31: DONOVAN PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » No. 23 Florida vs. No. 24 Vanderbilt Gameday

FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Dwyer, Beisel, Debut

1 » Contrary to a bevy of reports stating that he is definitively out for Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh Steelers starting rookie center Maurkice Pouncey considers himself probable for the game with a self-described “pretty bad” high ankle sprain. “I hope so. Right now it’s 75/25, and I’m hoping to play,” he told ESPN’s Chris Berman during media day on Tuesday. “I feel great out the cast, man. I’ve been walking around pretty good. Hopefully I’ll get on the bike today and get some pool action in later. It feels pretty good. Everybody’s been pretty positive about me. It’s a nasty little purple color, but it’s getting better. I don’t know why everybody’s trying to rule me out early. Offensive linemen don’t get ruled out until the last day.” If he is able to step on the field, Pouncey will be the only former Florida Gators player to participate in the championship.

2 » With National Signing Day set for Wednesday, some things appear to be getting clearer with the two recruits from Dwyer High School that the Gators have their eyes on. According to the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter, Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels “has a good idea” of where four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) is going and believes he will end up choosing Tennessee over Florida. Daniels also expects four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) to make his declaration at halftime of his high school basketball game on Friday. Brissett is choosing among Florida, Miami, Wisconsin and Washington and is thought to be favoring UM.

3 » For the third-straight year, Florida freshman swimmer Elizabeth Beisel has been named Rhode Island Female Athlete of the Year and will be honored as such at the state’s annual banquet on Feb. 20. Beisel also took home Female Swimmer of the Week honors from the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday. Joining her with recognition are Male Swimmer of the Week senior Conor Dwyer and Freshmen of the Week Hilda Luthersdottir and Marcin Cieslak.

4 » The University of Florida announced Tuesday that the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut spring game will be moved from 1 p.m. to noon in order to air live on Sun Sports on April 9. Last year the game aired live only on UF’s GatorVision; it is unknown if the contest will be broadcast live online as well.

DE Westbrook picks Florida before signing day

Three-star defensive end Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL) did not want to wait 24 hours for National Signing Day. Just days after taking his final official visit to the University of Florida, Westbrook has committed to the Florida Gators and will become the 17th member of the team’s 2011 recruiting class.

At nearly 6’6” and 270 lbs., Westbrook is the No. 24 defensive end in his class, according to Rivals. Scout ranks him as a two-star player and the No. 181 player at his position nationally, and ESPNU gives him a 45 rating but does not list him otherwise.

Westbrook finished his senior season with 15 sacks, eight tackles for loss, three forced fumbles (two recoveries) and two blocked field goals.

Only the third commitment secured by head coach Will Muschamp, he chose Florida over South Florida, Connecticut, Purdue and North Carolina.

OGGOA RELATED: LB Stewart becomes Florida’s 16th commitment
OGGOA RELATED: Gorman commits to Gators at Under Armour game

Photo Credit: Michael Francis McElroy/Sun Sentinel

Machen for SI: grayshirting is “reprehensible”

University of Florida president Bernie Machen, published in a feature piece for SI.com, calls offering grayshirts to student-athletes “reprehensible” and says taking away a scholarship from a player is “disgusting” and a “nefarious practice.”

Imagine the feeling if the student finds out, literally a few months before enrolling, that the institution is backing out of the contract. It is too late in the summer to go back to one’s second choice. The student is told he will have to wait until next year. Sorry, but no acceptance, no scholarship. That’s it.

In Division I college football this practice is known as “grayshirting” and, unfortunately, there are universities that sanction this activity. The universities, with full knowledge of what they are doing, extend more athletic scholarships than they have. These schools play roulette with the lives of talented young people. If they run out of scholarships, too bad. The letter-of-intent signed by the university the previous February is voided. Technically, it’s legal to do this. Morally, it is reprehensible.

What makes Machen’s comments particularly interesting are two stories that have come out over the last two recruiting cycles involving Florida Gators either offering or at the very least discussing grayshirts with high school players.

Rivals reported in Jan. 2010 that the Gators proposed the use of a grayshirt to three-star tight end recruit Michael McFarland, noting that he would not likely be strong enough to compete in the Southeastern Conference at his current build.

“When I went up there they threw out on the table the whole grayshirt thing,” McFarland said. “There have been times I wanted to do it and there were times I didn’t want to do it because I wanted to get up there and go play. […] They didn’t say they were going to do it but they gave me the option.”

Florida decided the move was not necessary; McFarland joined UF in the fall.

This year, four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett and Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels have noted that former Gators head coach Urban Meyer offered Brissett the opportunity to grayshirt, a move the player scoffed at.

It is important to note that there is a serious distinction between a team offering a grayshirt before a player has signed a National Letter of Intent and a team delaying or pulling a scholarship after that process is concluded. Machen is discussing the latter.

Entering into an agreement with a student-athlete that he or she will wait a year if they wish to play at a particular university where the player knows of the intentions and agrees to the move ahead of time is quite different than locking that player up and forcing him or her to abide by your decision after the fact.

FOUR BITS: Transfer, Noah, Weis, Dixie Grid Iron

1 » Rutgers Scarlet Knights sophomore quarterback Tom Savage, who decided to transfer after the season when head coach Greg Schiano permanently gave his starting job to freshman Chas Dodd, will be allowed to pursue opportunities with the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes, according to ESPN’s Joe Schad. Schiano had previously blocked Savage from speaking with Florida and Miami. It appears as if Savage is primarily interested in joining the Hurricanes, though the Gators could be an option for him should Miami sign a QB in their 2011 recruiting class. Considering four-star QB recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) is also considering UF and UM (in addition to Wisconsin and Washington), his decision to go to one school or the other could, theoretically, dictate where Savage winds up.

Starting all but one game in 2009, Savage threw for 2,211 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 52.3 percent of his passes. He also started Rutgers’ first three games of the 2010 season and finished the year with 521 yards, two TDs and three INTs along with a 51.8 completion percentage. Why did Schiano change his mind? Savage’s grandparents live in South Florida, hence the reason he is interested in attending college in the stat.e “I have a better understanding of his reasons for wanting to contact those schools after speaking with him,” Schiano told the Newark Star-Ledger. “Because of my relationship with Tom and everything he has meant to the program I have given him permission to contact the University of Miami and Florida.”

2 » After having a pin taken out of his injured thumb, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had a cast removed from his hand on Monday and will begin non-contact drills on Tuesday, ESPNChicago.com reports. “I just want to come back as soon as possible,” Noah said. “As soon as my hand is healthy, I want to be back there, regardless of what game it is.” He will begin traveling with the team this week and hopes to be active after the NBA All-Star break. “He’ll start the non-contact part of practice, and from there once he clears that he can practice with contact,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Once he practices with contact then he’ll be able to play. He’s still pretty much on schedule. He’s probably, the way we’re looking at it right now, right after the All-Star break.”

3 » According to the Austin American-Statesman, Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown was planning on hiring none other than new Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis for the same position prior to then-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp taking the Gators head coaching job. The paper notes that two sources believe Weis-to-Texas was “all but considered a done deal” until Muschamp took the Florida gig.

4 » Two former Gators – wide receiver Carl Moore and defensive lineman Brandon Antwine – will be participating in the 2011 Dixie Grid Iron Classic on Saturday at noon. The event, which like many of its kind allow graduating seniors the opportunity to showcase their talents for NFL scouts, is mostly made up of players from western states.

Urban Meyer signs up for on-air gig with ESPN

Less than a month after he officially ceased being the head coach of the Florida Gators, Urban Meyer has agreed to begin a new form of employment. He will start working as an on-air college football analyst with ESPN beginning Wednesday, the company announced on a conference call Monday.

“Football has played an extremely important role in my life for the past 25 years and ESPN has given me an incredible opportunity to join its world-class team and share my passion, knowledge, and enthusiasm for the game with fans across the country,” said Meyer in a press release.

Meyer, who joined ESPN‘s coverage of the 2010 Las Vegas Bowl and 2011 BCS National Championship and did on-air work for FOX during the 2008 BCS National Championship, has never been a prominently featured television personality before.

“Coach Meyer brings a fresh voice and a contemporary knowledge of the game,” ESPN executive vice president of production Norby Williamson said. “As he showed during BCS coverage, his ability to communicate the strategic aspects of the game and his incredible track record for success will serve college football fans everywhere.”

From ESPN’s press release:

Former University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer, who won two BCS National Championships in six years, will join ESPN as a college football game and studio analyst. He will make his debut Wednesday, Feb. 2 as a studio analyst during ESPNU’s 10-hour ESPNU National Signing Day Special.

As part of the agreement, Meyer will work a weekly regular-season game (specific assignment to be determined) and select post-season bowl games. He will also provide studio analysis throughout the year on ESPN’s daily College Football Live program; NFL Draft, spring games; and bowl games, including during the network’s on-site BCS coverage.

In addition, Meyer will contribute to ESPN’s popular Saturday morning College GameDay Built by The Home Depot series (from his game site), make weekly appearances on ESPN Radio, and provide analysis on SportsCenter and additional ESPN outlets.

Meyer cited spending time with his family as the main reason he stepped away from his job with Florida. He explained Monday that his duties, though they might sound broad, will only keep him away from home for short periods of time each week.

“In the offseason it’s going to be minimal. During the season it’s going to be the weekend – Friday and Saturday,” he said. “It’s going to be different than what I’m used to the past 25 years.”

Even though he resigned from his job as the Gators head coach, Meyer was given an office inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium by athletic director Jeremy Foley and is expected to continue working with Florida while holding this television job. He shed a bit of light on those responsibilities Monday.

“I’m going to work directly with Jeremy in the foundation and help in that aspect,” he said. “The depth I will assist Florida has not been finalized yet. It will have no impact on what I do with ESPN.”

When it all comes down to it, Meyer will have to analyze the Gators at times on television. However, his new responsibilities will not change his passion for the program.

“I will be very respectful of Florida, very respectful of the game,” he said when asked how it will feel to comment on his old school. “I think we have a great coach. I’m a Florida fan. And I’m not going to be ashamed of that.”

CONFERENCE CALL QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Urban Meyer signs up for on-air gig with ESPN

Recruits to watch through National Signing Day

Updated: Feb. 1 at 9:45 p.m.

Sixteen members strong, the Florida Gators 2011 recruiting class could look totally different – or exactly the same – at the end of the week. With the vast majority of uncommitted high school football players announcing their decisions on National Signing Day this Wednesday, a handful of others may wait a few days to make their intentions known. Below OGGOA breaks down who Florida is still waiting to hear from, when they might learn of their decision and some of the latest insights on each player.

Linebacker Curtis Grant (Richmond, VA)
Accolades: No. 2 player in the country (No. 1 linebacker) according to Rivals; No. 46 player in the country (No. 3 linebacker) according to ESPNU
Leaders: Florida, Ohio State
Contenders: Virginia, North Carolina
Skinny: Though his hometown school and a regional choice are both in the picture, it is believed by most that this is a two-horse race between UF and OSU. The Gators have sent head coach Will Muschamp (two weeks ago) as well as defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, linebackers coach D.J. Durkin and tight ends coach Brian White (last week) in-home to see him. With Florida’s staff only coming together recently, Grant may feel more comfortable elsewhere. Then again, the press put on by UF may have impressed him and he would likely have the opportunity to play relatively early.
Announcement: NSD at 1:50 p.m.

Linebacker Stephone Anthony (Wadesboro, NC)
Accolades: No. 1 linebacker (No. 32 player in the country) according to ESPNU; No. 3 linebacker (No. 24 palyer in the country) according to Rivals
Leader: Clemson
Contenders: Florida, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, North Carolina State
Skinny: It appears that Anthony is favoring Clemson and Virginia Tech with the Tigers edging. In fact, almost every recruiting analyst predicting where Anthony will eventually declare tabs Clemson.
Update: Anthony eliminated UF on Monday.
Announcement: NSD at 11:30 a.m.

Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (Lake City, FL)
Accolades: Consensus No. 2 defensive tackle in the country, listed at No. 17 on the ESPNU 150 and No. 29 on the Rivals 100
Leaders: Florida State, LSU
Contenders: Florida, Tennessee
Skinny: As OGGOA has previously reported, the Gators have put a full-court press on Jernigan. Assistant defensive line coach Bryant Young visited him in-home during his first day on the job, and he has also met personally with Muschamp and Quinn. Florida was thought to have a legitimate chance, but Rivals affiliate VolQuest reported that Jernigan loved his visit to UT over the weekend and it may have supplanted UF in his top three. Always in the back of Jernigan’s mind, however, may be that he and his family have been long-time Gators fans and his home is just 45 miles from The Swamp.
Update: The Orlando Sentinel reports that Jernigan is no longer considering UF.
Announcement: NSD at 10 a.m. on ESPN

Learn about eight more 2011 recruits…after the break.
Continue Reading » Recruits to watch through National Signing Day

Wild week sees Florida hold, drop in Top 25 polls

Winning a double overtime thriller at Georgia, the Florida Gators (16-5, 5-2 SEC) failed to follow up the victory with another one and fell late in the week on the road against Mississippi State. Even with a loss, Florida held on to the No. 23 spot in one poll but fell out of the other. UF faces two ranked opponents at home this week as both Vanderbilt and Kentucky come to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

ESPN/USA TODAY
Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (31*), Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Connecticut, Kansas, Villanova, Texas, Brigham Young, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Purdue, Missouri, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Washington, Minnesota, Louisville, Georgetown, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Florida, Saint Mary’s, Utah State
+ Florida received 67 voting points

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (31*), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Purdue, Kentucky, Villanova, Louisville, Georgetown, Missouri, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Washington, Minnesota, Utah State, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Vanderbilt
+ Florida received 51 voting points

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (63*), Pittsburgh (1*), Duke (1*), San Diego State, Connecticut, Kansas, Texas, Villanova, Brigham Young, Syracuse, Missouri, Purdue, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, Vanderbilt, Illinois, Georgetown, Florida State, Louisville, Florida, Michigan State
+ Florida received 169 voting points

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (65), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, Connecticut, San Diego State, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Purdue, Villanova, Georgetown, Missouri, Louisville, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, Arizona, Utah State, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, West Virginia
+ Florida received 80 voting points, good for 27th overall

* Numbers represent first-place votes.

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