OG Brandon Sandifer commits to Florida

Continuing to add mass to their already-sizable offensive line, the Florida Gators on Wednesday received a verbal commitment from 6-foot-4, 335-pound offensive guard Brandon Sandifer (Warner Robins, GA).

Unanimously rated as a three-star prospect, Sandifer committed to Florida over Alabama and South Carolina, announcing his decision on his Twitter account at 7:30 p.m.

“I am proud to say that next year I will be playing at the University of Florida. #GatorNation,” he wrote.

Sandifer visited Gainesville, Florida, for the Gators’ Friday Night Lights camp on July 25 but did not participate in the workout. Instead, he chatted with the coaches, players and other prospects before heading up to see what the Gamecocks had to offer in Columbia, South Carolina, that Saturday.

Originally prepared to make a decision after those visits, Sandifer instead pushed back his commitment date. In the end, UF was the choice with offensive line coach Mike Summers playing a major role in pulling in the big prospect.

Sandifer is now the 11th member of Florida’s 2015 recruiting class and either the third or fourth offensive lineman commit depending where three-star Mike Horton (Atlanta, GA) lines up once practice begins.

Only four of the Gators’ 11 verbal commitments are from the state of Florida; all are three-star prospects. UF’s other seven pledges hail from Georgia (three), Ohio (two), California (one) and Louisiana (one).

Four Gators commitments are rated as four-star prospects with the other seven listed as three-star athletes. Florida does not have a prospect rated above three stars from within its home state.

8/13: Fowler breakout, Leak coaching, Jones ready

A handful of Florida Gators met with the media on Tuesday to discuss both how fall practice is going and how the team is coming together ahead of the 2014 season. Others met with the media last week to discuss similar topics.

BREAKOUT TIME

Junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. had his share of moments during his sophomore campaign. He looked strong at times and explosive at others but had little help around him to stop the double teams and allow him to be truly dominant.

With 2014 now approaching, Fowler has the opportunity to step up and be the dominant name on Florida’s defense, even more so than sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. According to some of his teammates, he’s on his way to earning that type of recognition.

“He’s been relentless,” said sophomore safety Keanu Neal. “Effort, that’s what he’s bringing. He’s bringing a lot of effort and continuing to work on his technique to get better.”

Fowler has also taken over Dominique Easley’s role as a leader on the Gators’ defense. That baton was ceremoniously passed when Easley relinquished his Chucky doll and allowed Fowler to be the adoptive father. Fowler tried to fill in for his role model last year, but even with Chucky in tow, he had a ways to go. This year, it seems he is putting it together on the leadership front.

“He’s one of my best friends. Me and him were roommates last semester, so we’re pretty close. Every time I’m on the field with him it’s like playing next to one of my good friends. He pretty much brings me up, tells me to work hard. He’s definitely a good guy, definitely a good role model,” explained sophomore defensive tackle Joey Ivie.

Fowler is doing all of this without Chucky in the locker room, at least for now.

“I haven’t seen the doll yet. I don’t know if I will,” redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor said. “I wasn’t scared of it; it was just a matter of fact that you got a little doll that kills people in movies. Besides that, no, I haven’t seen it. We might see it soon, but I don’t know. We’ll have to see at the first Gator Walk.”

Continue Reading » 8/13: Fowler breakout, Leak coaching, Jones ready

The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 13

SEC Network debuts on Thursday

Though fall practice for the Florida Gators is in full swing and there is plenty of football to discuss, let’s start this week’s TSL with a quick look at the SEC Network, which debuts nationwide on Thursday.

The list of cable and satellite providers is long. The talent signed to broadcast games, events and studio shows is strong. And the fact that the SEC Network will air three football games every Saturday, not to mention a ton of contests from the dozen other sports played by Southeastern Conference teams, means most of the time you tune in, there will be something exciting going on.

There are some that think the channel will fail to live up to its hype but there is not much to support that assertion. The SEC Network is better positioned to succeed than any of the other conference-only channels have been at the time of their debut. It has the strongest partner possible in ESPN and enough unique programming to give it some substance at launch.

All of that, coupled with the tremendous amount of live sports programming it will carry (especially in the spring during basketball and baseball season), gives the SEC Network every chance to be a major success right out of the gate.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 13

TWO BITS: Tebow to interview Driskel, Kansas set

1 » The SEC Network on Tuesday announced that the channel will kick off with a three-hour edition of SEC Now that will feature a number of segments of interest to Florida Gators fans. Starting at 6 p.m., the show will open with an essay featuring 31 familiar Southeastern Conference voices including former Florida swimmer Dara Torres. The program will then air live from the network’s home in Charlotte, North Carolina, with Dari Nowkhah and Maria Taylor hosting the program. As part of the broadcast, SEC Now will have “live whip around reporting” from all 14 schools with former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and SEC Nation host Joe Tessitore live in Gainesville, Florida. (Tebow, of course, will serve as an analyst on SEC Nation during the season.) While on campus, Tebow will have a sit-down interview with Florida redshirt junior QB Jeff Driskel (likely taped earlier in the day). The Gators and head coach Will Muschamp will also be featured as one of three programs in all-access segments with an exclusive look at spring practice. The program will air until 9 p.m., at which point the network will debut its latest SEC Storied documentary, “The Stars are Aligned.”

If fans would like to participate in the broadcast, UF announced Wednesday that they can be a part of live shots featuring Tebow and Tessitore at 6:05 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. outside the Heavener Football Complex next to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

RELATED: First two weeks of the SEC Network’s schedule

2 » ESPN announced on Tuesday details of Florida basketball’s showdown with the Kansas Jayhawks as part of the 2014 SEC/Big 12 Challenge. UF and KU will square off on Friday, Dec. 5 at 9 p.m. in the featured game of a doubleheader set to air on ESPN. Florida took down Kansas 67-61 in the first challenge in 2013, so the Jayhawks will certainly be looking for some revenge on their home court.

8/12: Roper breaks down Gators offense, backup quarterbacks and running backs

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday after the team’s 11th fall practice to provide his thoughts on the offense to this point. Roper also evaluated a number of Gators who should be big factors for Florida in 2014.

EARLY RETURNS

The theme coming out of spring practice was that the Gators installed more of the offense and were much further along in the learning process than Roper expected. While that might have been true then, Roper was cautious Tuesday to say that Florida’s players fully understand what is going on with his scheme.

“I think they’ve got a really good understanding of what we’re asking them to do, our base offense, I should say, the guys that were around for those 15 days – our two offensive lines, our two quarterbacks,” he explained. “Really, the young guys, it’s a battle right now to have a great understanding because it is so new to them and our defense is so multiple and causes so many problems. But the guys that have been in the battles before can obviously apply experiences to what we’re teaching them offensively, I think they’ve really got a good understanding of what we’re doing.”

He later added: “These guys aren’t there yet because they’ve just been in it 25-26 practices in. The biggest thing to guard against is putting too much on their plate.”

While Roper may still be spoon-feeding the Gators his offense, he is pleased with how the team has responded to his system and coaching.

“I think [their attitude's] been really good. I think these guys are excited about playing football,” he explained. “It wouldn’t matter who you rolled in here. When this time of season comes running around, everybody is excited. But I hope they’re enjoying the offense. I hope they’re enjoying competing every day on the practice field, and I think they’re excited about going and competing on Saturdays.”

Continue Reading » 8/12: Roper breaks down Gators offense, backup quarterbacks and running backs

8/11: Muschamp updates injuries, backup quarterback, progress after nine practices

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss how the team is progressing in fall training camp. The Gators have completed seven days of practice to this point.

INJURY UPDATES

Though most of the injuries Florida players have suffered early this fall are minor, the list is beginning to lengthen with the Gators now nine practices into training camp.

Sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was diagnosed with a bone bruise in his knee on Thursday, has not yet returned to practice and spent Monday running in an anti-gravity treadmill. He is expected to return to the field on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose and junior running back Matt Jones, both of whom are returning after suffering season-ending knee injuries in 2013, had swelling in the joint and did not practice Monday. Debose should return on Wednesday, while Jones might be back as early as Tuesday.

Sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor missed practice with a strained hamstring and will be held out until the end of the week, either Thursday or Friday barring an unforeseen setback. Junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (ankle) did not practice Monday but will be back Tuesday.

Four players including redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Trip Thurman, redshirt freshman defensive ends Bryan Cox, Jr. and Alex McCalister, and freshman defensive back Duke Dawson all suffered shoulder injuries over the weekend but “should be fine” in the next few days.

Additionally, freshman DL Taven Bryan, who had been impressing Muschamp early in training camp, has strep throat and is day-to-day. “I hate that Taven has strep throat, because I thought he was making some progress. This will set him back,” he said.

Already out of action, freshman DL Thomas Holley continues to recover from a sports hernia that occurred in high school. Due to the build up of scar tissue, he will need minor surgery and remain out of action indefinitely until given clearance by doctors.

“They’re going to go in and shave that down, but I don’t know what the time frame is for that. I want to say the surgery is Tuesday,” Muschamp explained. “It’s not a major procedure, it’s more like having a scope done. He had some scar tissue that was built up that was very of discomforting when he ran, so he will be out for some time, but I do not know how much.”

Continue Reading » 8/11: Muschamp updates injuries, backup quarterback, progress after nine practices

FOUR BITS: Grossman, Gillislee, Hargreaves, first two weeks of SEC Network schedule

1 » The list of former Florida Gators on the Miami Dolphins could be adjusted this week as the team has scheduled a workout for quarterback Rex Grossman on Monday after practice. The 33-year-old is hoping to play in his 12th NFL season after spending 2013 inactive most weeks as the third-string signal caller in Washington. He has not thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2011. For the first time since 1992, the Gators do not currently have a former quarterback playing the position in an NFL training camp. Update: According to multiple reporters, the team was not interested in Grossman following his workout. In other Dolphins news, running back Mike Gillislee is set to miss “extended time” with a hamstring injury, according to Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald. Gillislee has been making a case in training camp to open the season as Miami’s second-string rusher after being inactive most of the 2013 season.

2 » A poll of seven writers and analysts on NFL.com resulted in a ranking of the top 20 college football players entering the 2014 season. Coming in No. 17 on that list is Florida sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was ranked as high as No. 4 by one voter and in the top 10 of two ballots. He was also the highest-ranked sophomore on the list. “Florida has put a lot of good defensive backs in the NFL of late but this guy could end up in a class by himself,” wrote Mike Huguenin. “As he becomes stronger, he is going to be able to shut down one side of the field by himself.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Grossman, Gillislee, Hargreaves, first two weeks of SEC Network schedule

Former Gators in the NFL: 2014 Preseason Week 1

The 2014 NFL preseason kicked off with 45 former Florida Gators spread out over 23 of the 32 teams in the league.

Fourteen teams have multiple Florida players on their rosters including Miami and Tampa Bay (four each); Baltimore, Indianapolis and Philadelphia (three each); and Buffalo, Cincinnati, Denver, Kansas City, Minnesota, N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Washington (two each).

Below are full game statistics for all 37 players that saw action along with select updates on a number of Gators during the first week of the preseason.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
DB JAYLEN WATKINS*, Philadelphia Eagles: Two solo tackles, interception (one yard), pass defense

Check out how the rest of the Gators in the NFL performed…after the break!
Continue Reading » Former Gators in the NFL: 2014 Preseason Week 1

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