FOUR BITS: Rivers commits, Florida wants canoe

1 » It is being widely reported Thursday that five-star 2011 guard Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL) has officially committed to the Duke Blue Devils. Considered the top players in his class, Rivers was originally committed to the Florida Gators before opening up his recruitment and then completely spurning the Orange and Blue. His decision to play at Duke is not a surprise considering he has been raving about head coach Mike Krzyzewski for months and admitted that he is seeking the spotlight above all else.

2 » Though Florida and Miami (FL) may not play an annual football game anymore, the rivalry between the two schools continues to exist and, when they do face-off, it is as heated as ever. Intrepid University of Florida student senators Andrew Hart and Jon Ossip realized this and decided that because the Gators won the last game between the two schools (26-3 on Sept. 6, 2008), it is about time Florida is delivered the Seminole War Canoe Trophy. Though Florida symbolically holds the trophy now, it is physically in Miami’s possession and has been located at the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame since 1987 (the year of the final home-and-home series). You can read more about the senators’ mission to bring the trophy home in this story by The Alligator.

3 » Leave it to two columnists writing about Alabama and Florida the longest, The Birmingham News’ Paul Finebaum and The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley, to name the duo college football’s biggest rivalry. Finebaum believes this is the case because of the immense success of both programs and how dominant the Southeastern Conference. Dooley, on the other hand, contends that the Crimson Tide is the one team that can actually beat the Gators with any type of consistency, even though they only play twice every six years and in SEC Championship games. The fact is that both are right. While the rivalry may be stronger between Florida and Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee or even Miami, none of those games played today can match the importance and size of a game between these two behemoths.

4 » OGGOA columnist and former Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel will be part of a special lunch with the Tampa Gator Club on Friday beginning at 11:30 a.m. Wuerffel will be on-hand to discuss Florida’s football season, tell the story of his life and sign autographs from fans. For more information, visit http://www.tampagatorclub.com.

Photo Credit: Doug Benc/Getty Images

9/29: Gators players, coaches speak to media

A number of Florida Gators players spoke to the media on Wednesday as the team takes a look back on its 48-14 home victory over the Kentucky Wildcats and ahead to its match-up against the No. 1/1 Alabama Crimson Tide on the road on Saturday.

Linebackers and special teams coach D.J. Durkin, redshirt senior running back Emmanuel Moody, sophomore right tackle Xavier Nixon and redshirt freshman LB Jelani Jenkins all had plenty to say…which you can read after the break!
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9/29: 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:

» Meyer said junior running back Jeff Demps is no longer wearing a boot previously placed on his sprained foot. Demps is listed as Probable for the Alabama game, and Meyer hopes he will be able to practice in full Thursday and Friday.

» Asked about redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey’s status with the team, Meyer said it is unchanged. “I haven’t even thought about it because our focus is on Wednesday’s practice,” he said. “At the appropriate time I’ll sit down and have that discussion. But that’s certainly not now.” He added that while arrests used to bother him a great deal, he realizes there is only so much he can do to curb them. “I have [lost sleep over them] in the past. I haven’t now, recently,” he said. “Someone makes a very stupid decision, there’s a terrible consequence for it. That’s all we can do. I used to lose a lot of sleep over that.”

» The subject was brought up about whether or not Alabama has become one of Florida’s main rivals. Meyer dismissed that notion, saying when he decided to coach the Gators he was told about three rivalries: Florida State, Georgia and Tennessee. “I haven’t given it any thought,” Meyer said. “We’re not going to put a board downstairs like we [do] for the rivals.”

» Meyer credited defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Teryl Austin with helping further develop CBs junior Janoris Jenkins and redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown during the offseason. He also said that football and reputation are two very important things to Jenkins, which is why he respects him so much.

“[Jenkins] came in here as one of the best workers we’ve ever had as a true freshman,” Meyer said. “He and Jeremy Brown came in and stole the show. Jeremy went through a back injury and is now coming out of it. Janoris went through a very good freshman year and kind of an average second year, pretty good, but nothing like it is now. Coach Austin has done a very good job with him. Some of these guys around here get a certain feeling of status when they play very well, and I don’t see that with Janoris. I saw that a little bit last year.”

MEYER QUOTES

Opening statement: “We have our hands full this week with the most talented team in the country.”

On Florida’s last loss at Alabama: “I remember we had a very bad team and we didn’t play well.”

On redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley’s progression: “I thought he’s done well. I thought we obviously looked awful in the first game, made some improvements in the second game, by the third game made some more improvements first time on the road. And then the fourth game, I thought he played really well.”

On his winning expectations upon taking the Gators job: “I thought you could win or I never would have moved my family across the country. I never put a number on it.”

SABAN QUOTES

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban also spoke Wednesday.

On Florida: “[They are] probably the most successful team in our league … the last 3-4 years.”

On Meyer: “I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for Urban Meyer, what he’s been able to accomplish as a coach, probably more than anybody in the country – his head coaching career in the last 7-8 years. Schematically they do a really good job, they’re always well-prepared for what they do. He’s a diligent worker. I think he cares about college football and college football players and that’s why he was interested in being involved in the agent deal to make things better for college football and college football players. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for him from that standpoint.”

On what Meyer has done right: “Consistency and performance is really the basis of success. You can have one good team one year, but to do it year in and year out and be dominant as they have been, I think that’s the ultimate respect that anyone deserves in terms of having a successful program.”

On freshman QB Trey Burton:: “I think he certainly did a lot of things in the last game, he’s obviously being a quarterback when he gets into quarterback position and runs the quarterback runs not dissimilar to what [Tim] Tebow did. He certainly has the speed and quickness and size to be very good at that. … just looks like one of those smart instinctive guys that, no matter how they use him, he seems to be having success.”

On why Alabama and Florida are successful: “I can’t really speak for their program, I know they have a lot of good players and great staff and do a good job of coaching. I would like to think our success here is attributed to having a good program, having a good staff, having a lot of good players that we’re able to develop not only as football players but character and attitude that … [make them good] students as well.”

On not hiring Meyer as an assistant coach in the past: “It was when I went to [coach] Toledo. I really kind of messed that one up. He called my house and talked to Teri. Teri really interviewed him, that’s my wife. She told me when I came home that night. Of course, I think I was coaching the Houston Oilers and [was] trying to finish the season and hire a staff and be a head coach. She said, ‘Boy this really interesting guy called and really sounded like a top-notch, bright, articulate [coach]. You really need to talk to this guy. You really need to talk to this guy.’ And it was Urban. I never did in the haste of [taking a new job]. That was one of the obviously biggest mistakes I ever made.”

This post will be updated later Wednesday. Stay tuned.

9/27-28: Florida footballers speak to the media

A number of Florida Gators players spoke to the media on Monday and Tuesday as the team takes a look back on its 48-14 home victory over the Kentucky Wildcats and ahead to its match-up against the Alabama Crimson Tide on the road on Saturday.

Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio, redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, senior defensive end Duke Lemmens, redshirt senior wide receiver Carl Moore and redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremy Brown all had plenty to say…which you can read after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Tebow, Nike, Eckstein

1 » Facing his hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey continued his next-level play as a youngster stuck right in the middle of a veteran team. He was excited to play so close to home and showed it with how he played all game. “It felt amazing,” Pouncey told The Lakeland Ledger of playing Tampa Bay. “I’m 20 minutes from Tampa, and pretty much all of Lakeland came up here to support me.” Also having Pouncey’s back is veteran wide receiver Hines Ward, who thinks the former Florida Gators star will truly be something special. “He’s had a lot of help from all of the veterans. Right now, he’s learning on the run,” Ward said. “When Maurkice gets three or four years into the league and finally figures this whole thing out, look for a lot of Pro Bowls. […] When the game slows down and he starts seeing the defense and making the calls, he’s going to have Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl.” As far as how the two get along? “I love everything about the kid – the tenacity, he doesn’t quit. Unfortunately, I hate him because he’s a Gator,” said Ward, a Georgia Bulldog, “but I love everything about him.”

Also… Asked by the paper about his brother, senior center Mike Pouncey‘s, snap problems earlier in the season, Maurkice had the following to say: “When I first moved over, I had the same thing. I had the horrible snaps, snaps everywhere. He is such a high profile player, everyone’s going to notice it. Even the commentator said it last night that he’s still one of the best linemen in college football. The snaps will get better. They’ve been getting better all along.” Has he given him any advice? “Nah, I’ve always thought my brother was a better player than me. Don’t tell him that, though.”

2 » For the first time in his short career, Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow was the team’s No. 3 quarterback and technically listed as inactive for its game Sunday. he reason? Head coach Josh McDaniels‘ game plan did not call for Tebow. “[We] didn’t have anything [in the game plan] relative to Tim being in the game and playing a role in it, and we’ll try to do that the best we can each week,” McDaniels said.

3 » Tebow may not have seen the field Sunday, but he has been hitting television screens as one of two players prominently featured in Nike‘s newest commercial. Check out this trailer where he and Detroit defensive tackle Nndamukong Suh watch a Manny Pacquiao fight while getting fitted for suits.

4 » Check out this feature story on former Gators now San Diego Padres second baseman David Eckstein put together by the Los Angeles Times on Monday. Eckstein has become an instrumental part of the resurgent Padres in his two years with the club.

Grading the Florida Gators vs. Kentucky game

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive grades the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Kentucky Wildcats in the fourth game of the 2010-11 season, which took place at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

QUARTERBACKS: A+
Standing on his own, redshirt junior John Brantley had an “A-” performance on Saturday, completing over 68 percent of his passes (24-of-35) for a career-high 248 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Though his 131.81 passer rating was his third-best of the season (due to the turnover), Brantley posted the best performance of his career and was instrumental in the Gators converting 7-of-11 third downs. Of course Brantley’s positive output was overshadowed by freshman Trey Burton, who accounted for six touchdowns on the day. Playing as single wing QB, running back, wide receiver and tight end, Burton rushed for 40 yards and five touchdowns, caught five balls for 37 yards and a touchdown and completed a pass on his only attempt for 42 yards. When you combine Brantley’s significant improvement with Burton’s stellar evening, there is truly no other grade to give his unit.

RUNNING BACKS: B+
After a monster 267-yard performance against South Florida, Florida’s running game came back down to earth against Tennessee. It returned to prominence once again against Kentucky, with all three of the team’s rushers posting good statistics. Junior Jeff Demps (who left the game in the second half with an injured foot) rushed eight times for 57 yards (7.1 average), redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody gained 46 yards on 10 carries (4.6 average) and sophomore Mike Gillislee ran the ball six times for 32 yards (5.3 average). Burton, a QB, scored all of the Gators’ rushing touchdowns, but these backs were instrumental in all six of UF’s scoring drives.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the Kentucky game after the jump…
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Wuerffel’s Words: “Gators’ puzzle is developing”

Through the first week of October, former Florida Gators national championship- and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel will be contributing his post-game thoughts about how the team performed the previous Saturday exclusively here on OGGOA at the beginning of each week.

The 1996 winner of eight football and academic awards, Wuerffel has a unique perspective as a four-year player at Florida who passed for 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns in his college career. 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, he is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

Any endeavor, from the simple things to the complex, whether it be folding a paper airplane with your kid or building a new Boeing jet, can be likened to a puzzle. There are multiple parts or steps that have to come together at the right time and in the right manner. Every piece of a puzzle has its place, and every piece is important.

In my opinion, a football team is much like a large and complicated puzzle. Coaches throughout the country work around the clock strategizing how they can fit the pieces that make up their puzzle into the right places. Some teams have bigger pieces, others smaller. Some seem to be faster, others slower. Coaches have tough jobs, and if the pieces don’t look right, they have thousands of fans eager to let them know.

I really like how the Gators’ puzzle is developing this year. While we didn’t start out setting any records and struggled against some subpar teams, I see the pieces of this puzzle coming together nicely.

The defense continues to develop and make big plays, and Johnny Brantley is delivering the ball on-time and accurately (especially on third down, which is instrumental to the team’s success). Additionally, Florida has several talented running backs, and the receivers are developing well, too.

But no matter what they did on the field during those first few weeks, there was a sense that a part of the puzzle was missing, especially when it came to the spread offense.

Well, I think we found it.

Trey Burton adds a dimension to the offense that will help all the other pieces come together. His athleticism and versatility will keep defenses on their heels. I doubt he’ll have many more games with six touchdowns (although that would be great, especially this week against Alabama), but he will be a fun young Gator to watch develop and contribute to the program.

Unfortunately, no football program’s puzzle is ever complete. We will continue to see the Gators grow, which will no doubt include both wonderful and discouraging moments.

I continue to be excited about the direction of this team and am thankful we have a great puzzle master putting it all together: Urban Meyer…the puzzlemeister!

Go Gators,

By joining together people from all walks of life who are interested in redeeming the inner-city, Desire Street Ministries believes that they are bringing together leaders who actually move into the neighborhood, indigenous leaders who already live there, and neighbors who “move in” spiritually through prayer, encouragement and financial support. Please take a moment to visit Desire Street Ministries online or in person and find out how you can help support and/or donate.

9/27: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday after the Florida Gators participate in a game the previous Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

AILING DEMPS SHOULD PLAY SATURDAY

Junior running back Jeff Demps aggravated a foot injury on Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats, something that forced him to get X-rays after the game (they were negative). Doctors have diagnosed Demps with a sprained foot and have placed him in a temporary boot so it can heal for a few days before he returns to practice. “[We are] hearing positive things about [Demps returning] later in the week,” Meyer said Monday. “We’ll update you as we go. It’s not broken. It’s not a stress fracture. [The X-ray] came back negative. Now [we] just gotta get him healthy. […] I think we are going to have Demps, so I’d rather not even think that way.”

WEEK FOUR CHAMPIONS

Meyer announced that 24 Florida players graded out as Champions after the Kentucky game, more than double any other game so far this season. Freshman quarterback Trey Burton, redshirt junior QB John Brantley and redshirt junior defensive tackle Jaye Howard were singled out as Players of the Week.

Offensively, senior center Mike Pouncey; wide receivers redshirt junior Denote Thompson, redshirt senior Carl Moore and redshirt sophomore Frankie Hammond, Jr.; running backs Demps, redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody and sophomore Mike Gillislee; redshirt senior left guard Carl Johnson; redshirt senior left tackle Marcus Gilbert; redshirt senior right guard Maurice Hurt; sophomore right tackle Xavier Nixon; and redshirt freshman G Jon Halapio were honored. Nine players on defense – senior defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens; safeties senior Ahmad Black and junior Will Hill; cornerbacks junior Janoris Jenkins and redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown; linebackers redshirt senior A.J. Jones and redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins; and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter – shined Saturday.

It appears that there were even more Champions this week, but Meyer said there were too many to name. “There’s too many names on there to get into each one of them,” he said.

Burton was also named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday for his school-record six touchdown performance. He is the fifth Florida player this year to win a weekly SEC honor and the second to win Freshman of the Week.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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