10/27: Austin, players talk about Georgia game

Florida Gators defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Teryl Austin, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter and senior linebacker Lorenzo Edwards spoke to the media Wednesday, taking a look back at two weeks of practice and ahead to the match-up against the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, FL, on Saturday.

DEFENSIVE INJURY UPDATES

Asked about the health of his unit on Wednesday, Austin gave updates on three players in particular according to the Palm Beach Post‘s Jason Lieser. Austin noted that redshirt freshman LB Jelani Jenkins (concussion) was back to full speed and practicing, redshirt junior DT Jaye Howard (ankle) was limited and is questionable, and senior cornerback Moses Jenkins (elbow) will be a game-time decision.

IT’s ON THE PLAYERS TO TURN THIS AROUND

Both Hunter and Edwards believe it is up to the players, not the coaches, to make sure Florida does not lose its fourth-straight game for the first time since 1988. Each has taken the three consecutive losses hard but thinks the team has turned a corner over the last two weeks.

“It was hard losing those three games, that’s more games than I’ve ever lost in high school,” Hunter said. “Losing three games in a row, it was a big burden on me. But you just got to let that go and move on to the next game.”

Adds Edwards: “This is our team. This is the players’ team. We have to step up as leaders and lead this team and not just let the coaches do it. We play a big role and our leadership and accountability and as leaders on this team we have to do a better job of getting a lot more people involved.”

HUH?

Not that we’re trying to call out anyone here, but Edwards provided a very curious answer when asked how three straight losses has affected the psyche of the team this year. “Obviously it has a big effect on us. I think it just makes us want to work harder and get better at the things we need to get better at,” he said. “These three losses came as a wake-up call and will suit us very well in the future because with winning comes losing and you have to experience losing in order to celebrate the full effect of a win.”

Obviously Edwards means that, when you lose, wins are that much sweeter and that losses often help ignite a team that has too high of an opinion of itself. Nevertheless, the way he said it was certainly off-putting.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 10/27: Austin, players talk about Georgia game

10/26: Donovan speaks on starters, freshmen

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the key news and notes from his latest media availability in the following post. Additional quotes after the break.

STARTING FIVE SET

Considering Florida’s entire starting five from last year returned this season, it should come as no surprise that junior point guard Erving Walker, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, and senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus will take the court for the Gators to start each game. Donovan confirmed such on Tuesday, noting that he is pleased with how his starters have been playing in practice but that roles might change depending on how they play together.

“We’ve got five guys obviously returning from a year ago. That doesn’t necessarily mean their roles are going to be that this year. Anytime you move from year-to-year, guys’ roles can change,” Donovan said. “Erving Walker went from playing off the ball his freshman year to strictly being the point guard of our team. Chandler early in his career had to play some power forward spot for us just because of our lack of depth, and he certainly last year clearly played the small forward spot. Roles can change but the one thing those five guys have is a level of experience under their belt and a lot of games under their belt. With that being said, it’s really hard to get better in practice. One of the things we’ve struggled with is that balance between of really trying to get better in practice through competition.”

FRESHMEN PROVIDING GREAT DEPTH IN PRACTICE

Donovan cited the fact that the deep freshman class is really helping the older players in practice on a daily basis even though the competition level is not at its highest point yet. He has matched up each freshman with an older player with whom they go head-to-head every day. “It’s me vs. you because I’m making you better and you need to make me better; when you can create that kind of environment, your team has a chance to get a lot better. Patric Young has made Vernon better, Vern has made him better. [Mike] Rosario has made Boynton better, Boynton has made Rosario better. Scottie Wilbekin – Erving Walker, Casey Prather – Chandler, Will Yeguete – Alex, Erik Murphy. We’ve got enough now that the practices are at a level physically competing wise that guys are in a position where they have to compete on a regular basis.”

He is also impressed with how the youngsters have handled the heavy workouts and are trying to play to the level of what was an NCAA Tournament team last year. “I’m a little bit cautious with freshman after a week of practice to sit there, start giving guys a lot of praise,” Donovan said. “What happens is, they haven’t hit the wall and the grind and what happens there. But as of today, they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do – I think all the guys have.”

Even Parsons has noticed. “Coach really emphasizes that you can go as hard as you can just for as long as you can because there’s basically a sub there waiting for you at basically every position,” he said. “It’s different. My first couple years, we’re going three-on-three or four-on-four and you’re not getting off the court until you get the amount of stops coach wants or until he’s happy. At least now you’re going hard and you’re rewarded because there’s a sub there for you. It’s just nice having some depth there.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Coaches vote four Gators onto All-SEC teams

Four Florida Gators were selected by Southeastern Conference coaches on Wednesday to represent the school on the league’s preseason All-SEC teams.

The coaches voted senior forward Chandler Parsons to the All-SEC first team and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, senior F Alex Tyus, and junior point guard Erving Walker to the All-SEC second team.

Florida’s four selections led the SEC with Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt each being represented by two players.

Growth, maturity make Parsons a Donovan favorite

When senior forward Chandler Parsons joined the Florida Gators in 2007, he became a part of a program that was expected to maintain prominence following back-to-back National Championships. Instead, he was the sixth man for a team that was in the midst of rebuilding itself after losing its six best players to the NBA Draft and graduation.

Like most freshmen, he entered college cocky and sure of himself, confident that he could dominate on the court the same way he did against his less talented high school competition. Coming to the realization that he was a small fish in a big pond – rather than the other way around – was something that took two years for Parsons to understand.

“I came in here with the wrong mindset, thinking I was going to be the man and I could just come out here and do what I did in high school against college guys,” Parsons said Tuesday. “That was proven wrong and, after the first two years, I really had a heart-to-heart with coach [Billy] Donovan. He really pushed me, and I realized that I’m going to have to buy into this system for me to be successful here and for us to win. That’s what’s most important.”

Donovan saw his struggles coming from a mile away. The team’s leading scorer off the bench as a freshman, Parsons expected his talent to carry him through his sophomore year and the rest of his college career.

“He was never in the right place mentally,” Donovan said of Parsons’ mindset after his first two years. “I saw it coming his freshman year and tried to talk to him about it. He was never in the right place mentally going into his sophomore year. He just wasn’t prepared to really deal with it. He dealt with it after his sophomore year and then I think he really started to become better.”

With a new mindset to go along with his physical gifts and abilities, Parsons has become one of Donovan’s favorite players, someone who listened to his instructions and proved that he could do exactly what his coach wanted.

“He has grown as a person, as a player, as much as any player I’ve ever coached,” Donovan said. “From where he was at to where he is now, a lot of it for Chandler was this image and this unrealistic perception of who he thought he was. The crossroads came for him where, after his freshman year, he really thought it was going to be pretty easy to play 18 minutes, ‘I’ve got a year under my belt. I’ve got this all figured out. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.’ And all of a sudden he got really, really humbled. He didn’t have a great sophomore year, he was really up-and-down. He was not a guy that we could really, really rely on.
Continue Reading » Growth, maturity make Parsons a Donovan favorite

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…)
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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…)
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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

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