TWO BITS: Dunkley to USF? Dunlap back at UF.

1 » Redshirt freshman wide receiver Chris Dunkley, who agreed to part ways with the Florida Gators and transfer to another school, is strongly considering – and possibly favoring – the South Florida Bulls as his destination. The St. Petersburg Times spoke with Dunkley’s Pahokee High School coach Blaze Thompson, who indicated that was the case. “I think USF is the top one on his list,” he said. “A lot of schools have expressed interest in him, but USF Is the only one he has actually visited. They’re interested in him, and he has asked me to look into them as well.” Dunkley was suspended from team activities due to his academics at the time he decided to transfer from Florida; however, the Times reports that they will be high enough for him to earn a scholarship at another school. South Florida seems like a likely landing spot for him due to their penchant for accepting big-name transfers and location relatively close to home.

2 » Former Gators defensive end Carlos Dunlap, now playing for the Cincinnati Bengals, has been back in Gainesville, FL this spring trying to finish his degree at the University of Florida. A top NFL prospect going into his junior year, Dunlap’s stock plummeted after he was arrested for driving under the influence and suspended for the Southeastern Conference Championship game that year. InsideTheGators.com‘s Kyle Maistri caught up with Dunlap, who has made it his goal to fulfill the promise he made to his family (getting his degree) while trying to make a better name for himself.

“Initially, I wanted to come back and clear my name,” Dunlap said of possibly returning for his senior season. “I wanted to come back and get my degree as well as clear up my name, but after talking with my core group and talking with various friends of the family, we came to a consensus that it was the best decision to leave now. And I’m happy I did when I did.” Now that he’s back? “I’ve got mixed results [from fans],” he said. “The fans are going to have their various opinions as fans, that’s a situation that I’ve put behind me. Everything happens for a reason, and I believe the final outcome will display a true person’s character. You don’t know someone until you meet them in person, but everyone knows what happens. And it happens to the best of us.”

Coach Muschamp goes through ESPN’s car wash

Just hours after completing his first Gator Gathering in Lakeland, FL, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp traveled to Bristol, CT and was put through ESPN‘s self-named car wash – appearing on nearly a dozen of the network’s media platforms over the course of one business day. OGGOA followed Muschamp’s media appearances throughout the day and has put together the following recap:

He started the morning on the set of SportsCenter, where anchor Josh Elliot interviewed him about becoming a head coach and taking over the Florida program.

Then Muschamp headed over to First Take on ESPN2 where host Jay Crawford covered a wide variety of topics with him.

Read, view and listen to the rest of his day in Bristol…after the break!
Continue Reading » Coach Muschamp goes through ESPN’s car wash

Muschamp gathers Gators fans in Lakeland

Making the first stop on his state-wide tour of Gator Clubs, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp arrived at the Gator Gathering in Lakeland, FL on Wednesday to much fanfare and excitement. He spent the evening giving a speech and answering questions about the team, meeting fans and signing autographs. Though OGGOA was not on-site for the event (we will be for one next week), some newsworthy notes were uncovered courtesy of a few reporters who were on hand.

» On redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley’s performance in the spring game: “I was standing behind him. With that front, there wasn’t a whole lot of blocking going on. I called a couple of them look-out blocks. When that ball was snapped they turned around and say, ‘look out’ because it was coming quick. The quarterback position is kind of like the old head coach — you get way too much credit when things go right and way too much credit when things go wrong.” (LL)

» Sophomore Gerald Christian, who committed to Florida as a tight end but was moved to linebacker this spring while still taking offensive snaps, will have his assignments switched again. Muschamp said Christian will play tight end and fullback while taking some snaps on defense, opposite of what the initial plan for him.

» On wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill coming back to Florida: “He called me more than I called him. He wanted to get out of Miami. I don’t blame him.” (PBP)

» On closing practices: “I know as a coach preparing for a team when there’s uncertainty; it’s very frustrating. With our age of technology and the Internet stuff, a guy can walk out to practice with a pen and film practice right now.” (LL)

» Kicker Caleb Sturgis has been granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA after sitting out most of 2010 with back injuries.

» On playing against Georgia, his alma mater: “I know we need to win. They’re all big. […] I’m not going to treat any game any different than any other one. I think when you do that you start to have fluctuation how you play and how you approach.” (LL)

» Junior running back Mike Gillislee “is going to be fine” after hurting his foot in the spring. “Matter of fact, he’s out back running now,” Muschamp said. (LL)

» On redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison moving to center: “He brings an element of toughness to our football team.” (LL)

» Senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins (torn labrum) will be a “full go” for summer.

» Florida will not place any restrictions on where WR Chris Dunkley can transfer. “You go through this, and things come up. We have a certain standard that we want our players to uphold to. Chris and I met after spring practice and we just felt like it was best for him to look at another opportunity. He’s excited about another opportunity, and that’s the direction we decided to go. We’re helping him and trying to advise him. We appreciate his time at Florida. We’ll help him go wherever he wants to go.” (PBP)

Hat-tips: LL – Lakeland Ledger; PBP – Palm Beach Post
Photo Credit: Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun

UCF tops Florida baseball, falls to UF softball

The Florida Gators baseball and softball squads split a pair of Wednesday evening match-ups against the Central Florida Knights, with the former falling 8-6 in Orlando, FL as the latter won 8-1 at home in Gainesville, FL.

Central Florida (24-14) jumped on No. 5/5 Florida (28-10) early and often, scoring eight unanswered runs over seven innings. Junior starting right-handed pitcher Tommy Toledo (2-3) was saddled with the loss after giving up an earned run in the second inning, but three of his seven relief pitchers allowed the Knights to score the majority of their runs. Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (2.0 IP, 2 ER, 2 K), freshman LHP Daniel Gibson (0.2 IP, 2 ER, K) and junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani (1.0 IP, 3 ER, 1 K) all struggled with UCF’s batters as their own offense stalled.

Looking to make a last-ditch effort, the Gators scored six runs in the top of the eighth inning but were unable to fight back all the way. Junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (1-4, 2 RBI, R) hit a two-RBI homer to left field after sophomore third baseman Austin Maddox (1-4, R) singled to get on base. With the bases loaded and one out, junior first baseman Preston Tucker (1-4, GS, 4 RBI, R) stepped up to the plate and hit a grand slam to right. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-4) got on base with a double, but the following two batters – sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (0-4) and Maddox – struck out swinging to end the rally and end the come-from-behind bid.

No. 8/9 Florida softball (38-7) fared better against their in-state rival, defeating UCF (18-25) 8-1 in another masterful performance. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (23-5) picked up yet another win though she split duties with returning senior ace RHP Stephanie Brombacher, who pitched 2.1 innings and struck out three batters in relief.

The Gators piled on the runs early, scoring two in the first inning and six more through the fourth. Senior LF Kelsey Bruder (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, BB) continued her hot streak, as did sophomore right fielder/catcher Brittany Schutte (1-2, HR, 4 RBI, R). Freshman 3B Kasey Fagan (1-2, HR, RBI, R, BB) joined the party with a solo shot of her own.

Baseball and softball will also face a common opponent, each beginning their own three-game series with Alabama on Friday evening.

FOUR BITS: Two days of ESPN, Pitino’s new job

1 » The Florida Gators were all over ESPN on Wednesday with Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and senior C Mike Pouncey making appearances. Below are videos of the interviews conducted with Haden and the Pounceys on First Take by Jay Crawford and Dana Jacobson:

2 » The Gators-on-ESPN theme will continue Thursday with head coach Will Muschamp being put through the “car wash” ringer in Bristol, CT. His Thursday schedule, according to the University of Florida is as follows:

10:20 a.m – SportsCenter (LIVE, ESPN)
11:05 a.m. – First Take (LIVE, ESPN2)
11:45 a.m. – The Herd (LIVE, ESPN Radio)
1:00 p.m. – ESPN U College Football podcast with Ivan Maisel
3:30 p.m. – College Football Live – (taped, ESPN2)
4:00 p.m. – SportsNation (taped, ESPN2)
4:10 p.m. – SportsCenter (LIVE)
1-4 p.m. – Scott Van Pet Radio Show (taped, ESPN Radio)

3 » Though former Florida assistant basketball coach Richard Pitino will indeed be leaving the Gators for a job under his father with the Louisville Cardinals (if a deal can be worked out), he will not be named the head coach-in-waiting, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal’s C.L. Brown. “That’s not the way I operate,” athletic director Tom Jurich said. “I would never put that kidn of pressure on him, and I don’t think Rick [Pitino] would want that kind of pressure on him.” The older Pitino said his son rejoining his staff is” far from official” though it is in the works.

4 » Former Florida basketball assistant Lewis Preston will be named head coach at Kennesaw State Owls, according to FOX Sports. Preston has been an assistant with the Penn State Nittany Lions since 2008.

4/20 SEC: Muschamp on roster and leadership

With the Florida Gators first year of spring practice under head coach Will Muschamp now in the books after a lackluster 2011 Orange & Blue Debut, he spoke with the media during the first Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference of the young season to provide some insight about where his team is at going into the summer.

ROSTER UPDATES

The story of the spring game was how banged up Florida was as a team – especially on the offensive line. Muschamp said Wednesday that he expects all of the team’s injured players to be ready to go by June 1 with the exception of sophomore running back Mack Brown, who has been given a June 22 return date.

Overall, the team should be completely healthy by the time fall practice begins. “We should be full-bore going into August,” he said. Speaking about redshirt junior left tackle Matt Patchan in particular, Muschamp said he has been cleared for lifting for a while but sat out of practice to avoid contact on his wrist.

He also spoke about the recent wide receiver transfers, nothing that freshman Javares McRoy simply wanted to play with his brother and redshirt freshman Chris Dunkley did not think UF was the place for him. “Chris felt like sometimes things don’t fit,” Muschamp said. “He and I had a long conversation. We wish him all the luck in the world and are trying to help him get in a situation where he’ll be better off.”

PLEASED WITH BRANTLEY

Though fans may be up in arms after seeing his performance in the spring game, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley continues to have the confidence of Muschamp, the coaching staff and (according to the head coach) the players as well. “[I’m] really pleased with his poise, leadership and habits off the field studying what we need to do to be successful,” he said. “He’s got the ability and we’re very pleased.”

Muschamp said Brantley proved he has talent, had a really good spring overall and needs to have a great offseason in order to become a true team leader. As for his performance in the game, he said the outstanding play of the defensive line and “moving parts” of the offensive line made it nearly impossible for Brantley to succeed. “I don’t think in the spring game John had much of a chance,” Muschamp said. “I was behind him and saw it coming pretty fast, too.”

LEADERSHIP IMPORTANT OVER SUMMER

With the coaching staff mostly barred from contact with the team over the summer, the players are in the hands of strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti. Often called the offseason head coach, Marotti will be working the players hard while also trying to build character and leadership throughout the group.

Muschamp said that leadership is “still something we’re sort of trying to identify” but that it should be worked out over the summer. He pointed out Brantley as well as linebackers junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins as guys who do things right both on and off the field. When discussing others who impressed him throughout the spring, he made it a point to name redshirt senior wide receiver Denote Thompson; redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey; sophomore athlete Trey Burton; redshirt sophomore offensive linemen Jon Halapio and Jonotthan Harrison; defensive ends senior William Green and redshirt junior Lerentee McCray; and sophomore defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley.

NOTES & QUOTES

» On how the spring went overall: “[I’m] pleased with the progress we made as far as the installation, identifying the playmakers on both sides of the ball.”

» Muschamp said the thinness on the lines was “frustrating” for him toward the end of spring and that the team needs to vastly improve depth on both sides of the ball.

» On greyshirting: “At Florida we don’t greyshirt. That’s not something we do. That’s not a policy of ours.”

» Muschamp said the coaching staff is “working very well” together. He was enthusiastic about what offensive coordinator Charlie Weis brings to the table both offensively and as an experienced head coach. He also praised defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and how well they mesh when discussing defensive philosophy and strategy.

Tim Tebow action figure to debut in June

He’s recently had a bronze statue unveiled outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in his honor, took part in a documentary made about his trials and tribulations while preparing for the 2010 NFL Draft and will be releasing a memoir about his life in the coming weeks, but former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow will also be in the toy collections of young boys and girls (and superfans) in a form of an action figure.

McFarlane Toys will be releasing eight College Football Series 3 action figures for ages 5+ featuring eight NFL players who starred for their colleges. In addition to Tebow, McFarlane’s SportsPicks will feature Joseph Addai (LSU), Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma), Troy Polamalu (USC), Ray Rice (Rutgers), Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska), Beanie Wells (Ohio State) and Charles Woodson (Michigan).

Below are pictures of Tebow’s six-inch, originally painted action figure (more here):

TWO BITS: Haden sponsors team; scholarships

1 » It wasn’t an April Fools joke when Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden agreed to sponsor a baseball team on April 1. The rookie responded to a Twitter request from the manager of a youth team who asked him if he would be interested in fronting the money after the team’s sponsor dropped out. Haden responded immediately and, $325 later, Haden’s Nation in the Plain Local Baseball and Softball Association was born. “The boys seem pretty excited,” team manager Mike Clapper told the Canton Repository. “Joe said he hopes to come down to a couple of games.” Now Haden has something else to keep him busy during the lockout.

2 » With wide receivers Chris Dunkley and Javares McRoy deciding to transfer away from the Florida Gators, the football team has been left with 10 available scholarships under the NCAA maximum of 85, according to numbers crunched by InsideTheGators.com. Because 10 seniors on scholarship will be moving on after the 2011 season, Florida will have at least 20 scholarships (likely more) to hand out to recruits for 2012. Nine verbal commitments have already been made for 2012, leaving approximately a dozen (give or take a few) spots left to be filled.

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