FOUR BITS: Crofoot, Easley, Beal, Brombacher

1 » In addition to earning a commitment from four-star 2012 running back Matt Jones (Seffner, FL) on Monday, the Florida Gators also found out that long-snapper/tight end Kyle Crofoot has decided to accept an offer to be a preferred walk-on for 2011, according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Hays. The brother of Florida redshirt freshman walk-on kicker/holder John Crofoot, Kyle will enroll in the summer with hopes of eventually earning a scholarship.

2 » The subject of rumors throughout the season, Gators freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley recently spoke with his hometown newspaper, the Staten Island Advance, about his tumultuous season and newfound happiness at Florida. “I thought about leaving,” he told the paper, citing the demanding nature of head coach Urban Meyer and the stage of The Swamp as tough obstacles to overcome. “I was just uncomfortable with a lot of things. I was wondering if I was at the right place for me. […] It wasn’t what I was used to. [Gainesville, FL] is a lot different than Staten Island.” With an improved mindset and new coaching staff behind him, Easley is hopeful to turn things around at the University of Florida. “They let me know what they expected, and said they’d give me an opportunity to show them what I can do,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to hear, and I feel a lot more comfortable about the way things are going.”

3 » Florida basketball is in the middle of putting together what looks to be an exciting season, but plenty of discussion continues to surround five-star guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO), who will join the program at the end of the year. Featured along with his Chaminade High School teammates on ESPNU Saturday, Beal exploded for 40 points, six assists, six rebounds and four steals as he propelled his team to a 76-58 victory. “That was something, really something,” the opposition’s head coach, Randy Reed, said of Beal’s showing. “He has a smooth, old-school spirit. One of the best I’ve ever seen in St. Louis. […] His basketball IQ is so much higher than these high school player. His IQ is like a junior in college. He’s so smooth I don’t think he even sweats on the court. I don’t think we’ll see another kid like him around here for a while.” [VIDEO]

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bryan Burwell described Beal’s performance this way:

Randy Reed kept running different defenders at Beal, tall ones and short ones, quick ones and burly ones, and Beal lit each and every one of them up. Slashing drives down the lane. Muscling spin moves in the paint. Three-pointers and mid-range pullups that kept making sweet, sweet string music from every conceivable angle. […]

Watching him play basketball against other high school kids with less sparkling hoop résumés like this is almost unfair. He is that good. He is that smooth. He is that completely aware of how to play the game the right way, even with the dazzling athletic flourishes he put on display on national [TV].

4 » Starting her senior season with a bang, Gators pitcher Stephanie Brombacher was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week after posting a 3-0 record including her second perfect game in as many seasons. Read more about Brombacher’s trio of stellar performances over the weekend right here.

RB Matt Jones is Florida’s third 2012 commit

Less than 10 days after 2011 National Signing Day concluded, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp has made his first splash for the 2012 cycle, earning a verbal commitment from four-star running back Matt Jones (Seffner, FL) over the weekend.

Jones, a member of the Rivals250 who is considered by many to be the best rusher in the state of Florida, was thrilled to hear about the Gators’ pro-style offense when he sat down with Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis during Florida’s Junior Day. Though he gave them his verbal pledge over the weekend, he wanted to make his decision public in order to avoid dealing with the stresses that come with recruiting.

He plans to make a “solid commitment” (the words of his high school head coach) to UF on Wednesday at 7 p.m., according to The Tampa Tribune.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Muschamp and Weis told Jones he was their No. 1 target at his position and that he is unlike any other back currently on the roster. At approximately 6’2″ and 210 lbs., Jones rushed for 1,447 yards and accounted for 29 total touchdowns as a junior at Armwood High School.

“When I was at Florida [on] Saturday, I knew that is what I wanted. I love the staff and coach Muschamp is great. I knew I was going to do it but I did not tell them until later in the day,” Jones told Scout.com. “I felt great up there and the Gator Nation better be ready. When I told coach Muschamp, he was real jacked up and I made his day. He told me they needed a guy like me and great players want to play with other great players. I just want to go up there and compete. I plan on rocking the entire Gator Nation.”

Jones joins four-stars defensive tackle Omari Phillips (Venice, FL) and wide receiver LaTroy Pittman (Citra, FL) as the Gators’ third 2012 commitment.

Photo Credit: Chris Zuppa/St. Petersburg Times

OGGOA Caption Contest Result: Spikes on field

We received over 300 submissions for the fifth ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive caption contest and a winner has been chosen to receive a FREE copy of Into The Swamp courtesy of photographer Jason Parkhurst (click the ad below).

Reader Caleb H. sent in a few strong entries and came away with the No. 1 spot.

Team watches as Brandon Spikes completes an interview with Florida alum Erin Andrews

Because we had so many good entries, honorable mention for this contest goes out to the following readers for their submissions.

Chad C.: Of all the traditions Urban Meyer started at UF, halftime Jaeger shots proved to be the least effective.

Christina B.: Ah… Gator Heaven

John S.: In a symbolic gesture following their final home game, the 2009 senior class decided to leave their Spikes on the field.

Ryan S.: Brandon Spikes doing his best Uga impression.

OGGOA has given away multiple Florida Gators DVDs, a Florida Field rug, a Game Day purse, pieces of Gators art, T Bow Towels, Gillette Pro Fusion razors, a Turlington Scarf and a variety of other goodies throughout our 17 months of existence. There are a number of other giveaways coming up in the near future, so stay tuned!

Thank you to everyone who participated!

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TWO BITS: Jenkins’s plea, Parsons’s injury

1 » Gainesville, FL attorney Huntley Johnson entered a “not guilty” plea on behalf of Florida Gators junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession on Jan. 23. According to The Gainesville Sun, Johnson requested a jury trial and may do so again at the pre-trial conference on Feb. 28 at 9 a.m. Jenkins signed a notice to appear in court upon his arrest and was scheduled to do so on Feb. 17 prior to Johnson entering the plea.

2 » During his appearance on the Southeastern Conference’s weekly teleconference, Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan updated the injury status of senior forward Chandler Parsons, who suffered a deep thigh bruise early in the first half of Saturday’s game against Tennessee. As he alluded to in his post-game press conference, Donovan does not expect Parsons to practice this week (Thursday at the earliest) and is hopeful but not certain he will have him for Sunday’s game at LSU. Apparently his bruise has begun to bleed and Parsons is currently walking on crutches in order to take pressure off the injury. He will be reevaluated throughout the week, and a decision on his playing status may not be made until the weekend.

Florida continues upward climb in Top 25 polls

Following back-to-back home victories against a pair of Top 25 opponents last week, the Florida Gators (20-5, 9-2 SEC) capitalized with a dominant road win against the South Carolina Gamecocks (13-10, 4-6 SEC) on Wednesday and a nail-biter finish against the Tennessee Volunteers (15-10, 5-5 SEC) on Saturday. Florida now owns a 2.5-game lead in the Southeastern Conference East standings and is in first-place overall by a half game, part of the reason they continue to climb in the top 25 polls.

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), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Connecticut, Villanova, Georgetown, Purdue, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Louisville, Arizona, Utah State, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas A&M, Saint Mary’s, Vanderbilt, Minnesota
+ Florida received 243 voting points

This Week 1-25: Kansas (14), Texas (13), Ohio State (3), Pittsburgh (1), Duke, San Diego State, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Purdue, Connecticut, Arizona, Villanova, Florida, Louisville, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Syracuse, Missouri, Kentucky, Saint Mary’s, Utah State, Temple
+ Florida received 341 voting points

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (65), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, Villanova, Connecticut, Georgetown, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Purdue, Arizona, Louisville, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah State, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Temple, West Virginia
+ Florida received 534 voting points

This Week 1-25: Kansas (22), Ohio State (14), Texas (23), Pittsburgh (6), Duke, San Diego State, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Purdue, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Villanova, Louisville, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Missouri, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Temple, Xavier, Utah State
+ Florida received 775 voting points

Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

Perfect game, SEC records top Gators’ weekend

The season may have just begun for No. 5/5 Florida Gators softball, but the ladies did not waste time getting off to a fast 5-0 start at the USF Wilson DeMarini Tournament in over the weekend. Florida defeated Marshall, Florida Gulf Coast, Long Island, North Carolina State and USF by a combined 53-3 score; the Gators shut out three of their five opponents and scored 17 runs in the first four innings of their season-opener.

The highlight of the weekend for softball came Saturday when senior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher tossed the second perfect game of her career to send Florida to a 9-0 shutout victory over N.C. State. Brombacher needed only 67 pitches to do the deed; she struck out six in her five innings of work. Ending up 3-0 at the tournament’s conclusion, Brombacher struck out 19 in 14 innings of work, did not give up a single earned run and only allowed four hits in her final game of the weekend against USF.

Softball may have won five games in three days, but a veteran diver did her best to earn all of the weekend’s accolades for herself.

Not to be overshadowed was the Gators women’s diving team, led by senior Monica Dodson, who broke two Southeastern Conference records and won two gold medals in the diving portion of the 2011 SEC Swimming and Diving Championships at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Dodson, a three-time All-American, won the three-meter event (six dives) with a score of 373.85 on Friday; she followed that up with a victory in the platform event (five dives) with a score of 325.20 at the final day of competition on Sunday. For her efforts and achievements this season, Dodson was named the 2011 SEC Women’s Diver of the Year. Florida diving coach Donnie Craine was honored after the event with his second-straight SEC Women’s Diving Coach of the Year award, an honor that puts him second all-time in conference history.

Check out the other UF sports that had a successful weekend…after the break!
Continue Reading » Perfect game, SEC records top Gators’ weekend

2/12: Donovan impressed by team’s make-up

No. 17/19 Florida Gators (20-5, 9-2 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan had plenty to say after his team squeaked out a 61-60 win against the Tennessee Volunteers (15-10, 5-5 SEC) to sweep the season series against their rival for the first time since 2002. That is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability after Saturday’s game.

WALKER’s HEROICS NOT A SURPRISE

Junior point guard Erving Walker often ends up with the ball in his hands with the game on the line. It is not necessarily because it is his job to facilitate (he does not lead the team in assists, senior forward Chandler Parsons does) or because he has the best shooting percentage (that honor belongs to redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin) but more so due to the fact that there is no one on the team who wants and needs to make a clutch shot more than Walker.

“He’s a competitor. He’s a tough kid. I’ve coached guys that love to take the last shot because they don’t want to shy away from it. Erving is a guy that wants it, and he wants it and also there’s a devastation when he doesn’t [make it],” Donovan said. “Losing to Erving Walker is very, very painful as a player. He’s got that drive that winning is very important to him.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that…being his size his whole entire life… He can’t win the dunk contest, and he can’t do all these other things. The only way he’s able to earn respect is through winning. He’s learned at a young age, being a small point guard, the only way I get any level of recognition or any credit is if my team wins. […] For Erving Walker, he’s a winner. He’s a guy that is willing to step up and do that.”

GATORS TAKING THINGS TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL

It is easy to tell, from listening to Donovan, that he has a special kind of passion or the team as it is currently assembled. After Florida’s hard-fought win, he mentioned on multiple occasions how impressed he was with the team’s guts and ability to stick together and pull things out in the end.

“There’s some unbelievable qualities that this team has; this team’s a fighting team, it’s a resilient team, it’s a team that works really hard,” he said.

“I love coaching these guys. I really do because there’s a fighting mentality in them. They have a fighting spirit. Even when things aren’t going well, they never quit on me. They never, ever quit on each other. They battle; they fight. They’re resilient. They don’t always do it pretty; they don’t always play perfect. That, to me, is an incredible quality. Maybe as a coach, with these guys, I want it all. And maybe I’m not going to get it all. I don’t want the one thing that they got to get better at as a team to ever end their season a little bit earlier than it needs to be ended.

“We have good chemistry. They’re unselfish. They’re good kids. They work hard. When they get down, they battle. I really respect that in them. Me as a coach, you get one opportunity to be with these guys, I want them to be as good as they can be.

“The last couple years it’s just been holding on, maybe we can get to the tournament. Last year we got in. This team is dealing with stuff that they never, ever had to deal with before in terms of understanding what it takes to be a real winner and compete at a very high level. Really, in a lot of ways, we’re scratching a different surface. Now we’re in first place. This is a different place these guys have never been. They have to understand what comes with it, and they don’t right now. As much as I’ve tried to explain it, they don’t quite get it yet. I’m hopeful that this experience will help them get better.”

LEAVING PARSONS IN; UPDATING HIS INJURY STATUS

While discussing Parsons’s performance Saturday, Donovan noted that he suffered a deep thigh bruise early in the first half and (obviously) “just wasn’t himself” from that point forward. With UF not playing a game until next Sunday (at LSU, 1 p.m., ESPN), he is hopeful that Parsons will be able to play even though he probably will not be practicing until Thursday at the absolute earliest.

Asked why he left Parsons in the game and played him for so many minutes even though he was limited, Donovan noted that it was all about spreading out the defense.

“Just attention,” he said. “He’s an attention-getting guy, because when the ball’s in his hands he can score, he can shoot it, and he can make plays off the dribble. There’s a level of focus that you have to give to him. He was really hurt, and I felt terrible. The last two or three weeks he has played at a very, very high level.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 2/12: Donovan impressed by team’s make-up

Walker’s layup propels No. 17 Gators over Vols

Down six at halftime, the No. 17/19 Florida Gators (20-5, 9-2 SEC) rallied late in the second half and utilized a go-ahead layup from junior point guard Erving Walker with 14 seconds remaining to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers (15-10, 5-5 SEC) 61-60 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Saturday. With the victory, Florida swept Tennessee in the season series for the first time since 2002 and achieved their 12th victory in their last 14 games.

Walker led the Gators with a team-high 16 points, most of it coming from the charity stripe; he made nine of 10 free throws, the same number attempted by the entire Volunteers team over the course of the game.

Injuring his hip early in the first half, Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons had trouble finding his groove the entire evening. UF appeared to lack athleticism with him being limited, a factor that allowed UT to use a 15-4 run to propel themselves to a 28-21 lead with 5:54 remaining in the first half. The Gators fought back to end the half down six after Vols guard Scotty Hopson made a three-pointer with 14 seconds remaining.

Down 45-38, Florida used a 10-2 run to retake the lead 49-47 with 7:40 remaining in the game. Walker hit a three-pointer, and Parsons added his first field goal (also a trey) with 9:43 left in the second half. Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin followed with a hook shot; he stole the ball on the next possession and dunked it to score four-straight points before Walker added a free throw to cap the run.

The Gators didn’t hold the advantage for long, allowing the Volunteers to complete a 6-0 run to retake the lead 53-49 with 6:10 to go. Florida responded in kind, using a 10-3 run to go up 59-56 with 2:16 remaining.

From there, a jumper by C Brian Williams and a layup by G Cameron Tatum once again gave Tennessee the lead, 60-59, with 47 seconds left. Senior F Alex Tyus was sent to the line for two shots but failed to connect on either attempt.

After Tatum missed the front end of a one-and-one with 26 seconds left on the clock, Walker took matters into his own hands. He drove the lane and hit the Gators’ go-ahead layup with 14 seconds remaining.

UT G Melvin Goins missed a three-pointer with two seconds on the clock, which allowed UF to escape with a one-point victory and the season sweep.

Though Walker’s heroics stole the show, he was supported by Macklin and sophomore G Kenny Boynton, each of whom scored 12 points. Tyus added a double-double (his second of the season) with 10 points and 11 boards.

Hopson led Tennessee with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting; he was perfect from downtown (3-for-3) and added five rebounds and four assists. However, Hopson also turned the ball over a game-high six times and was shaky from the free throw line.

With the victory, Florida has won 15 of their last 18 games with 11 wins agianst RPI top 100 teams. The Gators improved to 12-3 at home this season (5-1 in SEC play) and are now 17-1 when holding opponents under 70 points.

UF has eight days to recover before travelling to LSU on Sunday, Feb. 20. The game will air live on ESPN at 1 p.m.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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