Florida’s inaugural Student Town Hall a success

Special thanks to OGGOA‘s two intrepid student correspondents Jordan Rothwell and Tiffany Bowers for their significant contributions to the below post.

Florida Gators football opened itself up Wednesday, allowing University of Florida students an opportunity to ask coaches, players and support staff a wide variety of both intriguing and silly questions at the inaugural Student Town Hall Meeting held at the Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

With over 600 students in attendance, every seat in the house was filled and it was standing room (students were in front of the stadium as early as 4:30 p.m. waiting to get in when the gates opened at 7 p.m.).

On hand were head coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, director of player and community relations Terry Jackson, redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, senior safety Ahmad Black and junior running back Jeff Demps.

Each student who attended received a 2008 National Championship DVD, Student Town Hall t-shirt and the opportunity to enjoy pizza and drinks as the event came to a close. Throughout the meeting, the team aired a number of highlight videos for the crowd including the recruiting video shown to some of the top high school players in the country when trying to get them to attend UF.

Read about everything that was said at the meeting…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida’s inaugural Student Town Hall a success

FOUR BITS: Meyer, Shyatt, Pouncey, Loeffler

1 » In a piece published Thursday by FOX Sports, reporter Thayer Evans dives further into Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer’s attempts to regain his health and control of his football team. Among other notes, Evans reports that Meyer now uses his “lunch hour” each day to run and life weights. “It’s the first time he’s regularly exercised in years, but he’s so committed that he rescheduled his weekly media sessions during this season to 11:15 a.m. instead of noon like previous seasons,” the article states. There is plenty more (some of which you likely already know) on Meyer’s delegation techniques and other changes he is making to take care of himself.

2 » CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish had an opportunity to sit in on a two-day coaching clinic run by Florida assistant basketball coach Larry Shyatt, which featured a number of high-profile coaches and assistants “talking about a variety of subjects, exchanging ideas, discussing, debating,” etc. “This clinic is different,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “It’s just an exchange of ideas – coaches passing knowledge back and forth and trying to help each other, and I think that’s what’s great. This is what you get in it for, to coach and have fun and get better and help other guys get better.”

Three more BITS on Pouncey, Loeffler and Demps…after the break.
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Meyer, Shyatt, Pouncey, Loeffler

The truth about freshmen Powell and Easley

There is no mutiny, there are no threats of transfer and no lockers were cleared out, but Florida Gators five-star freshmen defensive end Ronald Powell and defensive tackle Dominique Easley are each dealing with their own separate issues that came to a head Tuesday. Despite rumors and speculation stating the contrary, Powell and Easley did not rally together to combat rough treatment from veterans and neither wishes to leave the University of Florida, a source close to the program told OGGOA on Wednesday.

Powell, who head coach Urban Meyer said had a “great practice on Monday” and was seen working with the team on Wednesday, simply could not have missed multiple practices, as rumored elsewhere. He even dressed and participated in a portion of practice on Tuesday but did leave the field early after a growing sense of frustration overcame him, our source said.

The No. 1 overall recruit in the country coming out of high school, Powell is having some trouble coming to the realization that he is not the best player on the field each day and has a lot of work to do in order to reach his full potential. This happens often when a player is the best on his team – or perhaps the best in his state – in high school and joins a college program loaded with top talent.

As our source put it, every freshman on the team – at one time or another – has a moment where they get rattled; some deal with it internally or by talking to coaches, others act out and leave practice for a day to clear their heads. It is common and happens more often than you might believe.

Easley, on the other hand, is not dealing with that same frustration – at least not publicly; his problems are not “football-related.” In his case, a “personal issue” is causing him some trouble. He did indeed miss practice on Tuesday, but returned Wednesday and participated in full. Our source added that, due to privacy concerns, he would not get into specifics regarding Easley’s personal issue but did mention that it is something he has to “work out on his own.”

Both Powell and Easley met with coaches about their respective issues.

As far as the comments from senior center Mike Pouncey on Tuesday that the freshman class as a whole needs to “shut their mouths and come play,” that is indeed a sentiment felt throughout the program. There is a sense of entitlement being portrayed by the freshmen as a whole, but it is not something the veteran players or coaching staff have been surprised by. That issue is being dealt with on a day-to-day basis and is being slowly remedied as the youngsters continue to be integrated into the program.

When Florida closed practice to fans and the media a few weeks ago, the main reason stated was to keep out “bad guys” and ensure that the players were safe. Just as important in the decision making was Meyer’s desire to rid the team of the distractions, speculation and media pressure that it felt trying to defend its title last season. As our source put it, if you think Meyer was angry about Jeremy Fowler’s alleged misquote of now-redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson in the Orlando Sentinel last March, you have no idea how fuming mad he is about these false reports.

“He wants the person whose responsible’s head on a stick,” our source said.

Photo Credit: Heather Riggs/The Independent Florida Alligator

ESPN’s Jesse Palmer on the 2010 Florida Gators

During an ESPN conference call yesterday, former Florida Gators quarterback now network analyst Jesse Palmer spoke at length about the upcoming college football season. OGGOA had an opportunity to participate in the discussion and got Palmer to talk a bit about the 2010 version of the team. Read it all…after the break:
Continue Reading » ESPN’s Jesse Palmer on the 2010 Florida Gators

TWO BITS: Powell, Easley, GameDay, returns

1 » Rumors are running rampant throughout the Florida Gators program Wednesday that five-star freshmen defensive end Ronald Powell and defensive tackle Dominique Easley have skipped either one or multiple practices recently due to anger over how they have been treated by veterans on the team – assumingly the starting offensive line. Further rumors emerged that the duo cleaned out their respective lockers and may even be considering transferring. Though the former information (missing practice) appears to be the most concrete, the latter seems to be a bit of a reach at this point.

The latest reports – from the Miami Herald and The Gainesville Sun, respectively – have Powell’s and Easley’s high school coaches unaware that there is anything wrong. Powell’s coach, Pete Duffy, told the Sun that his former player is “happy and very excited” at Florida; he had not heard about him missing practice. Easley’s coach, Pete Gambardella, told the Herald that Easley neither seemed upset, disgruntled nor angry when speaking to his former player Wednesday morning.

UPDATE: Powell and Easley are both practicing with the team.

2 » In a press release Wednesday, ESPN announced that College GameDay will return to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, for the Gators’ game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Feb. 5. The show’s first time visiting the basketball team since 2008 will also include former Florida dazzler and network reporter Erin Andrews, who told OGGOA that she will be in attendance as well, likely for her duties of hosting the first hour of GameDay at 10 a.m. on ESPNU.

Extra BIT » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (ribs) and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (migraines) each returned to practice with their respective team on Wednesday after missing a number of days due to injury. Tebow had missed two practice and the Broncos’ last preseason game; Harvin had been sidelined after collapsing during practice on Aug. 19.

Gators hit the Showers, CB Valdez that is

Multiple outlets are reporting Wednesday that three-star cornerback Valdez Showers (Madison Heights, MI) has committed to the Florida Gators. The 15th commitment for the team’s 2012 recruiting class, Showers was also being heavily pursued by Auburn, Michigan, Michigan State and a number of other schools.

At just under 6’0” and approximately 180 lbs., Showers cited the University of Florida‘s academics and an opportunity to see the field early as his deciding factors.

He is the third CB recruit to commit to Florida for 2012, joining four-stars Nick Waisome (Groveland, FL) and Louchiez Purifoy (Pensacola, FL).

QB Danny Wuerffel: “The opportunity to play for coach Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

When most college football fans think about the Florida Gators 1996 season, two names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and starting quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Winner of seven individual awards in 1996 including the Heisman Trophy (and another Davey O’Brien Award in 1995), Wuerffel led the Gators to their first National Championship in his final effort after a four-year career in which he threw for an astounding 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns.

A first-team All-America selection in 1995 and 1996, many of Wuerffel’s numbers remain the best in Southeastern Conference history and the second-best in national history. In 1995, his efficiency of 178.4 set a single-season collegiate record, and in his Heisman year of 1996, his 3,625 yards (SEC record), 39 TDs (led nation, SEC record) and efficiency rating of 170.6 made him the first QB to ever post a rating of 170 or more in back-to-back years. Wuerffel led the Gators in passing in each of his four seasons (1993-96) and still holds Florida records for most career passing touchdowns and most passing touchdowns in a season (in which he also holds second place). In fact, one out of every 9.74 passes Wuerffel threw in his career would be scored for a touchdown.

Enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006 and set to be immortalized in a statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2010, Wuerffel is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

OGGOA spoke to Wuerffel on Tuesday and, even though our interview was feared lost by a technical difficulty, it was recovered at the end of the day. How lucky are we?

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of Fort Walton Beach, was attending the University of Florida an easy choice for you – something you always knew you wanted to do?
DANNY WUERFFEL: “Actually, we were living close to Florida State and my sister was attending Florida State. By default, I was more of a Seminole fan in high school. I took three visits – one to Alabama, one to Florida State and one to Florida. At the end of the day, the two things that drew me to Florida were, firstly, the quality of the education with so many different directions – I wasn’t centered or decided on a major and Florida just had so many highly respected colleges and majors to choose from – I was really impressed with the school, and then secondly, the opportunity to play for coach [Steve] Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

AS: When deciding on Florida, did you know your high school coach wanted to eventually go back to the Gators, or did that happen afterward?
DW: “Coach [Jimmy Ray Stephens] – he played at Florida and had coached at Florida and he was always hoping to get back there – I think that was one of his goals. It was a year or so after I got signed, a year or so after that, coach Spurrier gave him the opportunity to come.”

AS: You played four years at Florida – which is not something a lot of quarterbacks really get the chance to do – but obviously broke out in your final two seasons in 1995 and 1996. Was there a particular switch that turned on for you, was it a measure of the talent around you – what was the difference?
DW: “Practically what happened – both my freshman and sophomore year I was splitting time with Terry Dean – so in terms of snaps and reps, [I] didn’t get as much. For both the 1995 and 1996 team[s], there were some really, really dynamic players and folks that came along and we had two really good teams those two years. And it just happened those were the two years I was in the driver’s seat. When you’re in the right place at the right time with the right coaches and the right players, a lot of cool things can happen, and those were definitely some good years.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Danny Wuerffell…after the break!
Continue Reading » QB Danny Wuerffel: “The opportunity to play for coach Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

08/24: Florida Gators 2010 fall practice notes

The 2010 version of the Florida Gators is in the midst of their third week fall practice and, while the activities were once again closed to both the media and public, some notable things did occur Tuesday. OGGOA has compiled some of the key details.

POUNCEY MOVING OVER?

Senior center Mike Pouncey told the media Tuesday that he may be forced to play right tackle to start the season while a number of players at that position get healthy. “I might have to play tackle in the first couple of games,” he said. “We’ll see. We still don’t know. It doesn’t matter to me. I feel like I’m a great player wherever I play, and I just want to win. I didn’t expect it. I thought I was going to play center, but I’ll do whatever it takes to help us win games. If it means me having to play tackle, that’s what it’s going to be. […] [Sam] Robey is ready [to play center]. He’s been sitting behind me and my brother. He’s just waiting for his opportunity. If he gets it, I think he’s going to take full advantage of it.”

Left tackles redshirt sophomore Matt Patchan and sophomore Xavier Nixon may both miss the opening game (or more) with injuries, forcing senior right tackle Marcus Gilbert over. Pouncey would fill in for him on the right, and Robey would play center.

NO. 2 SPOT

With redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley taking the reigns of the team this year, head coach Urban Meyer and QB coach Scot Loeffler are searching for a primary backup. Competing for the job are freshmen Trey Burton and Tyler Murphy, and it was long assumed that Burton was in the process of winning the job outright. However, whether due to Burton’s involvement in other roles on the team or not, Murphy is the one who has been getting the majority of the No. 2 snaps behind center.

QUOTES

Pouncey on the freshman class’ swagger: “Everybody needs to come in with that type of attitude, but at the end of the day the freshmen need to shut their mouths and come play. They haven’t done nothing on Saturday and most of the fans don’t even know who they are. Until they prove themselves, they need to sit back and let the older guys play. That whole recruiting class is cocky.”

Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio on Burton: “He’s the total ballplayer. He lines up. He’s taking snaps, direct runs, playing that hip/fullback/flexed-out guy [like Aaron Hernandez]. He’s powerful, he’s smart, he’s a really good athlete. He’s got great hands. That’s been really fun to watch over the last five or six days. He’s just like, ‘Hey, I want to do whatever it takes to help this team and get on that football field.’ He does everything. He’s a fun guy to be around. […] Trey Burton has had a great week. He makes plays in a lot of different positions. It’s really fun to watch him develop right now. That guy is playing all over the field making plays. He’s playing it all. He’s a playmaker. So, that’s really cool. He’s really done a great job. He’s very versatile. Hernandez was very versatile. Trey is maybe slightly different. He can do a lot of things. It’s pretty amazing, really.”

Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni on freshman WR Chris Dunkley: “He’s getting there. We’re spending extra time out there on the practice field trying to get him right mentally. It’s just mental stuff. Physically, he can do it, but mentally … he’s catching up – probably right where I thought he was: goes left when he’s supposed to go right a couple times. That’s to be expected when you’re coming back. He’ll be fine. We’ll get him going.”

Azzanni on freshman WR Robert Clark: “[He's] had an unbelievable camp for us. When you talk about a gritty, little tough kid – he’s everything you want in a football player. Scrappy. He’s everything that you love to coach. He’s had a really good camp. We’re really pleasantly surprised with Robert Clark. […] He’s a hybrid guy, an inside slot guy, absolutely. He’s the same as [Chris] Rainey. He does the same things a Rainey does.”

Special thanks to The Gainesville Sun and Palm Beach Post for the above quotations.

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