OT Humphries is Florida’s first five-star commit

With six months to go until National Signing Day, the Florida Gators received their first five-star commitment of the 2012 recruiting cycle on Friday when offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (Charlotte, NC) announced his intent to wear Orange and Blue in the fall.

“Florida is really the only place I felt like I could spend the next four years at,” Humphries said during his announcement on Friday. “Florida is the only place that felt like home, where I felt comfortable.”

At 6’5” and 265 lbs., Humphries is not only the top-rated player at his position nationally but also the No. 3 overall recruit in the country, according to Rivals. He chose Florida over Tennessee and joins four-star OT Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, FL) at the top of the Gators’ 2012 recruiting class.

He said that he will still take all five of his official visits.

“With Florida, they are a hungry coaching staff and they really want to get back to where they were and I can feel that,” Humphries told Rivals in July. “ When I talk to the coaches, I can see they want to prove that Florida is still on top. I speak to [offensive line coach Frank] Verducci at least once every couple of weeks and we have a strong bond.”

ESPNU and Scout also have Humphries ranked as a five-star prospect; the former agrees that he is the No. 1 player at his position (and lists him as the No. 7 overall player), while the latter has him rated as the third-best offensive tackle and No. 17 in the country.

The Gators now have 17 commits for their 2012 class and may only take five (potentially up to eight) more before all is said and done in early February.

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Carter (1/2): “It’s the kind of pressure you want.”

There are few former Florida Gators football players more accomplished than defensive end Kevin Carter. A three-time Southeastern Conference champion who was named first-team All-SEC twice (1993-94) and earned first-team All-American honors his senior year (1994), Carter is a member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame (as a Gator Great) and went on to a storied 14-year NFL career.

After being selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams, Carter ended up a two-time Pro Bowler (1999, 2002) who was named the Rams’ most valuable player in 1998 and won Super Bowl XXXIV.

The consummate team player, Carter played both end and tackle in the NFL and registered 104.5 career sacks including a league-high 17 during St. Louis’ 1999 Super Bowl run. He never missed a game due to injury or otherwise and retired from the NFL after fulfilling his dreams and earning the immense respect of his peers.

Last week, Carter sat down with OGGOA for a 45-minute exclusive interview that touched on his time at Florida, extensive NFL career, charitable efforts and new gig as a television analyst for the SEC Gridiron Live program. OGGOA caught up with Carter while at his home and, even though he was in the middle of getting a brand new deck built, he stepped inside to reminisce about his career and look ahead to new beginnings.

This is part one of our interview with Carter; the second half will be posted Saturday.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You were born in Miami and grew up living in Tallahassee. What was it that got you to end up playing at Florida rather than for Miami or Florida State?
KEVIN CARTER: “Growing up, I didn’t really grow up a Seminoles fan – I actually grew up a big Georgia Bulldogs fan as a kid, when Georgia won the national championship with Hershel Walker back in 1981. That was more of who I followed as far as being a fan. When it came time for me to go to school, I went to a couple of game at Florida State, took a visit there, got to know some of the players and knew a lot of the guys who were going to go there, but it just never felt like home. It felt too much like being at home. For me, I was looking to kind of get away, be on my own but still close enough for mom’s cooking.

“Academically, Florida State didn’t really have what I wanted to major in. I wanted to do something in the medical field, something medical science-related, possibly pharmacy. I wanted to be at a place that had not only everything that I wanted in a football school but also everything that I needed for my life, academically as well. For me it came down to Notre Dame and Florida. When I met Coach [Steve] Spurrier, I was pretty sold after I talked to him. I was really impressed just by the man he was, his candor and how he lived his life. I liked his style. He was a little cocky – not arrogant but just sure, very process-oriented and driven. I was really impressed by that at 17-years-old. He sold me.”

AS: Your career with Florida speaks for itself, but almost every former Gator I talk to has one game where they felt they performed on a different level that really sticks out in their mind. Which one was that for you?
KC: “The Tennessee game in Knoxville my senior year, 1994, when we went up to Neyland Stadium. They had a big, strong offensive line with all of these big, big guys and [the media was] talking about how this offensive line was going to overpower us and how James Stewart was going to have a big game against us. They were the favorite in the SEC East, and we had just come off of a good year, but a shootout in The Swamp a year prior. We went up there; we took it as a personal challenge. Like I said, we were supposedly outmatched, upfront especially. We took it upon ourselves – me and Ellis Johnson and Henry McMillan, Johnny Church, Mark Campbell – we really took it upon ourselves to go out there and shut up all the critics, come out and really lead the way on defense. We actually ended up winning that game 31-0, so it was a pretty dominating performance on defense.”

Read the rest of part one of our interview with Kevin Carter…after the break!
Continue Reading » Carter (1/2): “It’s the kind of pressure you want.”

Meyer talks Tebow on ESPN; Tebow opens up

Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, now a college football analyst on ESPN, was asked on SportsCenter Thursday evening if he had any problem with NFL analyst Merril Hoge’s criticisms of his former player and now Denver Broncos second-year quarterback Tim Tebow. Meyer agreed that Hoge had every right to criticize him but did note that the analyst’s was relatively “harsh.” He also said that he believes part of the reason so much vitriol is thrown at Tebow is because of the immense success he has achieved and the non-stop coverage of him at every level of his career.

Tebow, who was interviewed by Denver Post columnist Woody Paige on Wednesday, expressed angst and uncertainty about his role on the team going forward this year. Below are excerpts from the one-on-one interview, which can be read in its entirety as a feature story in the Denver Post by clicking here.

On Orton not being traded: “My dream, since I was a young boy, of being a starting quarterback in the NFL seemed to be coming true. Then, I felt like it was grabbed back away.”

On if learning of the change affected him: “I didn’t have a good day on the field (last) Saturday, but I think in the other practices I’ve thrown well and improved each day.”

On blocking out the critics: “I’m trying to insulate myself from what people in the media are saying, but I’ve seen some of it, and it hurts because it’s coming from people who haven’t seen me practice, haven’t seen me play, haven’t seen what I can do. I did an interview the other day with someone on the NFL Network who said last year I’d never play a down in the NFL. He was wrong. Others who say I won’t make it are wrong. They don’t know what I’m capable of and what’s inside me. My family and my friends have been bothered by what’s gone on, and I tell them to pay no attention to it.

“I’m relying as always on my faith. I’ll always use the negativity as more motivation to work even harder and become even stronger. I’ll practice as good as I can, but I know that I play even better, with the qualities I have — leadership, my ability to make something happen in games, winning. And I know there are a lot of people who believe in me as a player and a person, and I don’t want to let them down.”

Report: Saunders caught with pot in May

Florida Gators freshman cornerback De’Ante “Pop” Saunders, an early enrollee who joined the team in January, was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana back in May, according to a report from the Palm Beach Post.

Saunders, a four-star recruit coming out of high school, reportedly agreed to deferred prosecution, which likely included a small fine and community service. The charge will be cleared from his record once terms of his agreement are reached.

The Post spoke to Saunders’s attorney Huntley Johnson, who believes there will be no further problems with the player going forward. “He’s quit smoking marijuana,” Johnson said. “I’m satisfied that’s not going to be an issue again.”

The fourth player since January to be cited for possession of marijuana, Saunders has likely already served out an internal punishment from head coach Will Muschamp.

Florida redshirt sophomore defensive end Kendric Johnson served his punishment and remains on the team headed into the 2011 season. However, senior CB Janoris Jenkins was dismissed after his third pot arrest, and redshirt freshman linebacker Chris Martin ended up transferring but did not say it was specifically for that reason.

ESPN to go All-Access with Gators on Aug. 8

Even though the Florida Gators have closed their fall practices to fans and the media, the team has decided to make an exception for ESPN and will provide studio analyst Jesse Palmer, writer Chris Low, a cameraman and a photographer with an all-access pass for a special behind-the-scenes look at the program on Monday, Aug. 8.

Titled Inside the Program: Live with the Gators, the feature will allow Palmer to “conduct live interviews with head coach Will Muschamp, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and multiple players throughout the day,” according to an official press release from ESPN.

These segments, along with some other elements (mentioned below), will air at least once per hour on SportsCenter, First Take and College Football Live; each will streamed live on ESPN.com for those without access to a television.

Additionally, College Football Live will televise a practice drill live at 3:30 p.m.

Additional elements include:
» Still photographer posting images on ESPN.com throughout the day
» Video of training room, cool tubs, etc.
» A ride-along on the bus to the stadium
» Live shots during breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Gator Room
» Video and interviews with players
» Post-practice interviews

OGGOA will have live coverage on Twitter throughout the day but will also compile the segments in a post at the end of the day here on OnlyGators.com.

Gators at No. 23 in USA Today preseason poll

The 2010 Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners earned the No. 1 spot in the USA Today coaches preseason poll released Thursday with the Florida Gators being slotted in the bottom fifth of the rankings at No. 23.

Oklahoma received 42 of 59 possible first-place votes with Alabama (13), Oregon (2), LSU (2) and Florida State rounding out the top five.

Other Southeastern Conference teams ranked by USA Today this preseason include 2010 SEC East champion South Carolina (No. 12), Arkansas (No. 14), 2010 SEC West champion Auburn (No. 19), Mississippi State (No. 20) and Georgia (No. 22).

Florida began the 2010 season at No. 3 in the USA Today poll and No. 4 in the Associated Press top 25 but finished unranked after going 8-5 (4-4 SEC).

The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (39-30)

With just 30 days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the seventh part of OGGOA‘s new series, The Countdown, takes a look at those players expected to contribute on the field wearing jersey numbers ranging from 39-30.

36 – Moses Jenkins (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Redshirt senior cornerback
6’2” 190 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Jenkins majors in social and behavioral sciences and is entering his fifth season with the team after being seriously injured (head) in 2009 and also missing games one year ago.

2010 Season: Earned his first career start in the season opener, but hyperextended his left elbow and sat out the following seven games. Ended up earning two more starts and playing in four more games but only amassed 15 total tackles and one interception on the season.

2011 Outlook: Granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA in 2010, Jenkins hopes to win a starting cornerback job opposite redshirt junior Jeremy Brown but will be competing with sophomore Cody Riggs among others for the opportunity.

34 – Lerentee McCray (Ocala, FL)
Redshirt junior defensive end
6’4” 250 lbs.

Quick Bio: A highly-ranked four-star linebacker in high school, McCray is a social and behavioral sciences major who has since shifted to defensive end. He played in 11 games over his first two seasons with the team but received a medical redshirt in 2009.

2010 Season: Back from injury, McCray played in 10 contests last year, missing three because of a sprained right ankle. His season highlight came in the Outback Bowl when he returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, but he also shined against Vanderbilt by registering a tackle, forced fumble and two hurries.

2011 Outlook: McCray will be competing to be one of the team’s primary starters at defensive end this fall. Senior William Green has one side locked up, and McCray that his athleticism and tenacity help him stand out from the pack for the other available spot. Head coach Will Muschamp, who put McCray at SAM linebacker at time during spring, also praised him for his leadership. “I love the new defense. You’ve just got to see it on the field. It’s a different concept, a different style of defense,” McCray said on March 21.

33 – Chris Johnson (Ocala, FL)
Freshman safety
5’10” 198 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit who attended the same high school as redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, Johnson enters the season as a versatile defensive back who gives Florida plenty of options.

2011 Outlook: “Chris Johnson from Trinity is a very physical player, in the box safety,” Muschamp said on National Signing Day. “He’s shown skills to play outside in the deep part of the field.” Johnson may not make much of an impact in 2011 beyond playing on special teams and is a candidate for a redshirt.

33 – Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA)
Sophomore running back
5’10” 205 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: One of the top running backs in the country coming out of high school, he was a four-star recruit who currently majors in social and behavioral sciences. He appeared in two games as a true freshman in 2010, carrying the ball three times for 23 yards.

2011 Outlook: One of five scholarship rushers on the roster, Brown has a pair of seniors (Jeff Demps and redshirt Chris Rainey) in front of him as well as junior Mike Gillislee. He was broke his fibula during the spring but had successful surgery and was supposed to return to working out in July. Between the injury and the stacked depth chart, his potential impact in 2011 is up in the air.

32 – Gerald Christian (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
Sophomore tight end
6’3” 245 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: An early enrollee last January, Christian was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, where he was teammates with fellow Gators safety Matt Elam and wide receiver Robert Clark. The social and behavioral sciences major played in eight games as a freshman on the field goal unit and in goal-line formations.

2011 Outlook: Muschamp worked Christian out extensively at linebacker in the spring (also giving him some time at tight end) but ultimately decided that offense was where he belonged. He said on April 21 that Christian had returned to playing tight end and fullback and would likely stick with that role. “He’s working awful hard. I’m very proud of his effort and what he’s trying to do,” Muschamp said. “He’s done some nice things for us at tight end.” Christian will have to compete with redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed (the likely starter) and four-star commit and early enrollee A.C. Leonard for playing time.

31 – Cody Riggs (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Sophomore cornerback
5’9” 180 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Riggs is a social and behavioral sciences major who is one of only six true freshman to play in all 13 games in 2010. He earned three starts (one in the Outback Bowl) and registered 18 tackles, three pass breakups and one interception. In addition to seeing plenty of time on defense, Riggs played as a gunner on the kickoff and punt coverage teams and had a solid first season in the Orange and Blue.

2011 Outlook: Muschamp said Riggs “had a great spring playing both corner and nickel” during a speaking engagement in April and said in March that he is the team’s most versatile defensive back. “Cody’s a good football player. He’s got a tremendous heart [and] all the ability as far as playing hard and playing fast and doing the things you got to do to be a good football player,” he added. With the loss of senior Janoris Jenkins, Muschamp may count on Riggs to start opposite Brown but could also use him in a variety of other ways.

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

LB Morrison makes his call for the Gators

The good news continues to roll in for the Florida Gators on the recruiting front as head coach Will Muschamp gained his 16th commitment for the 2012 class Tuesday with four-star linebacker Antonio Morrison (Bolingbrook, IL) pledging to continue his football career in Gainesville, FL next year.

The No. 8-ranked inside linebacker according to Rivals, Morrison is also considered the seventh-best recruit coming out of Illinois in 2012.

“Coach Muschamp tells me every time I talk to him that I’m his number one guy at middle linebacker and that he needs me in this class,” he told Rivals back in June. “He tells me that I have the talent to come in and contribute early to the team. That means a lot to hear someone like him tell me that.”

Morrison chose Florida over Illinois but but was also pursued heavily by Alabama, Oregon and Tennessee.

Though he did not attend Friday Night Lights, Morrison visited the University of Florida campus this past weekend; his family came away impressed.

“I will commit as soon as I get the feeling that the school is the right fit,” he said in the same June interview. “I want to see the campus and facilities and see how the college life is at each school.”

Morrison, who was recruited primarily by Muschamp, also decided the Gators were the right team for him because of extra effort put in by defensive line coach Bryant Young. A native of Chicago Heights, IL, Young grew up 45 minutes away from where Morrison currently lives (both towns are suburbs of Chicago).

Though the player actually made his decision on Tuesday (it was posted on InsidetheGators.com‘s message board), he specifically requested those who were alerted of his choice to not report on it until he made an official announcement. That happened Wednesday evening on the Facebook page of the Bolingbrook Raiders.

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

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