SIX BITS: Dunlap’s future, QB offered, DT Floyd, Big Board, Smith and Holliday, Lewis

1 » Though juniors cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Aaron Hernandez have declared for the 2010 NFL Draft, the decision is not an easy one for defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Once considered a top-five talent, Dunlap’s arrest and subsequent suspension for DUI prior to the 2009 SEC Championship had him fall down draft boards. “The feedback that he’s gotten is that he will go late in the first round or early in the second round,” Dunlap’s father told Rivals on Tuesday. “Staying to get a degree isn’t going to be an issue because he’s on track to graduate in December. He’s close enough to getting his degree that he can do it anytime. So does he want to come back to finish up his education and maybe be the top overall draft choice next year or does he want to come out right now and start working on his NFL career?” Dunlap’s father will also consult former Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong for advice. “We value Charlie’s opinion. We value Charlie’s evaluation. We value Charlie’s leadership. So if Charlie tells us this is how he thinks it should be, I trust he is going to tell us what is best for Carlos based on the evaluations and feedback he has received.”

2 » JC Shurburtt of ESPN is reporting that Gators quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler has extended an offer to five-star 2011 QB recruit Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL). “I was real excited about the offer,” Driskel said. “I have been talking to Coach Loeffler just about once a week, and he told me that he was ready to offer me. When I got it, obviously I was real excited.” He has also received offers from Auburn, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss and Florida International. Driskel also told Shurburtt that while he does currently live in Florida, location won’t factor much in his final decision. “When I was younger, we moved around a lot because my dad was in the Navy,” he said.

Four more BITS including recruiting and NFL Draft news after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Dunlap’s future, QB offered, DT Floyd, Big Board, Smith and Holliday, Lewis

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Haden, Hernandez declare for 2010 NFL Draft

Juniors cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Aaron Hernandez have both announced this week their intention forgo their final season of collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2010 NFL Draft. Haden, who started all 40 of his career games and was the first true freshman to start at CB in school history, made his declaration on Sunday while Hernandez, who was the first TE in Southeastern Conference history to win the John Mackey Award, let his decision be known Wednesday.

Finishing his career with eight interceptions and 218 tackles, Haden was a consensus first-team All-American, first-team All-SEC coaches selection and first-team All-SEC Associated Press selection as well as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2009. “This was a tough decision, and I spent a lot of time with my family talking about it,” Haden said. “I’m so proud that I had the chance to be a Gator. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life. Coach [Urban] Meyer and Coach [Vance] Bedford have helped me in so many ways. I’ll always be thankful to them for everything, and I know I’ll never forget the fans in Gator Nation.”

Hernandez, also a first-team All-American, first-team All-SEC coaches selection and first-team All-SEC AP pick, led his position group in the nation with 68 receptions and 850 receiving yards in 2009. He started 27 games with the Gators and finished with 111 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns while setting school records for most catches by a tight end in a season (68) and career (111). “After much deliberation with my family and coaches, I am declaring myself eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft,” Hernandez said. “It is really special for me to take this first step toward my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL on the fourth anniversary of my father’s passing. I know he would be proud of not only me, but of my whole family, whose love and support are the only reasons I am where I am today.

“My three years at Florida provided me with the foundation I need to succeed as a player and a person. I am eternally grateful to Mr. Foley, Coach Meyer and the entire Gator coaching staff for bringing me to Florida and serving as my family away from home. They were constantly pushing me to become a better player and – more importantly – a better person. I am so grateful for their guidance and support. I also want to thank my teammates for their help on the field and their friendships off the field. I was fortunate to have been a part of three great Gator teams with many great players who I know I will see at the next level. Finally, I will never forget Gator Nation. You all are the reason I wanted to come to Florida and I look forward to returning to Gainesville to cheer on future Florida teams with the best fans in the country.”

Five remaining juniors including defensive end Carlos Dunlap, offensive linemen Maurkice and Mike Pouncey and safeties Major Wright and Ahmad Black are still deciding whether or not to leave school. This year’s NFL Draft will be held from April 22-24 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY. OGGOA will offer live coverage of the event both on this Web site and via twitter.

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TWO BITS: New RB offered, another Elam update

1 » Florida has just offered a scholarship to three-star running back recruit Shontrelle Johnson (Deland, FL) according to Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. “I’m gonna check it out,” said Johnson, who just recently committed to the Iowa State Cyclones. “It kinda shocked me but I don’t really know since it came so late in the season. You gotta check it out, it’s Florida, they got national championship and all that…but there are positives and negatives.” OGGOA believes the Gators’ offer to Johnson is a back-up plan in case four-star RB Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA) decommits.

2 » News broke Tuesday that five-star safety recruit Matt Elam, who was previously committed to Florida for over a year before recently switching to the Florida State Seminoles, was considering recommitting (must-read) to the Gators. Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post got the thoughts of those closest to Elam about his upcoming decision. “I just have to watch the [U.S. Army All-American] game Saturday and see what he’s going to do,” said Robert Clark, Elam’s Dwyer High School teammate and three-star Florida commitment. “He’s tricky. We had a conversation [Tuesday], and he said it’s 50-50 right now.” Elam’s Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels confirmed the indecision. “Now that Coach [Urban] Meyer’s back in the mix, he’s torn again,” Daniels said. “It sounds to me like Matt is still going to go to Florida State, but other people are saying other things. You could say he was doing it for the attention, but now the kid is confused. He likes both schools a lot. He’s having a hard time.”

UPDATE: Scout is reporting that Elam will choose between Florida, Florida State and the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday.

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TWO BITS: Hernandez to NFL? Holliday hires GA

1 » If his touchdown celebration against the Florida State Seminoles, winning of the 2009 John Mackey Award and outstanding performances throughout the season were not enough for you to believe that Florida Gators junior tight end Aaron Hernandez was planning to declare for the 2010 NFL Draft, perhaps this piece of news will. Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Hernandez has been telling teammates and coaches that he will be leaving school for the draft in April. Junior cornerback Joe Haden has already declared and as many as five other juniors could join them.

2 » We here at OGGOA were excited to report on Dec. 16 that former Florida associate head coach, safeties coach and recruiting coordinator Doc Holliday had accepted the head coaching gig with the Marshall Thundering Heard. Now responsible for building his own staff, he has reached out to his roots for some assistance. Holliday has hired Florida graduate assistant Zach Smith as his wide receivers coach. Smith, a five-year assistant with the Gators, worked mostly with the offense and special teams while also doing quality control work and recruiting evaluation. “Zach is an outstanding young football coach who has a tremendous background and a bright future,” Holliday said. “He has spent the last five years working closely with Urban Meyer and has been heavily involved with their special teams and their great success.” Congratulations to Smith on his first coaching job.

Extra Bit » The NFL has announced that Minnesota Vikings rookie wide receiver/kick returner Percy Harvin has been added to the NFC‘s Pro Bowl roster as a kickoff return specialist. Harvin was added because Philadelphia Eagles WR/KR DeSean Jackson earned selections at both positions. Jackson received the most votes at WR, opening up the KR slot for the second-leading vote getter. “I feel blessed to make it to the Pro Bowl,” Harvin said Monday. “It is a great honor and humbling to be recognized by the other players and coaches in the NFC. I also want to thank all the fans who voted for me. But the biggest thanks goes to my teammates. I can’t do much of anything without the ten other guys blocking, so really it’s like a special teams honor for all of us.”

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Grading the Florida vs. Cincinnati 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 Cincinnati Bearcats in the final game of their season, the 2010 Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, LA.

QUARTERBACKS: A+
When the best player in school history plays the best game of his career in the final game of his career, it is tough not to give him an “A+” grade. And that is exactly what senior quarterback Tim Tebow has earned – not just for his outstanding performance Friday evening but for his career in the Orange and Blue. Pick your poison: was it the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award he was given before the game, the Sugar Bowl record 12 consecutive completions, the career-long 80-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Riley Cooper, the Sugar Bowl and BCS bowl game record 533 yards of total offense, the Sugar Bowl/BCS record 482 passing yards, the 31 completions which set a new Sugar Bowl record, the Sugar Bowl high four touchdowns or the 88.6 completion percentage that set a BCS record? The answer, of course, is “all of the above.”

RUNNING BACKS: A-
Tebow was once again the leading ball carrier for the Gators with 14 touches for 51 yards and a touchdown, but both redshirt junior Emmanuel Moody and redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey came up big throughout the game. Moody rushed eight times for only 14 yards but scored two touchdowns on the ground (he also had four receptions for 19 yards) while Rainey caught four passes for 71 yards and ran four times for 27 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Mike Gillislee cleaned up at the end of the fourth quarter and took a ball 52 yards for a final line of five carries for 78 yards. Sophomore Jeff Demps, the true starter, left the game after he dislocated his elbow on his third rush of the game. Though the attempts and yards were not there, three rushing touchdowns brought this unit up a half-grade.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the Sugar Bowl after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida vs. Cincinnati game

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Gator Bites for Saturday, January 2nd

» Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong coached his last game in the Orange and Blue Friday before heading to the Louisville Cardinals as the team’s new head coach. UF cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford, who was expected to join Strong as his defensive coordinator, has yet to say one way or another though Strong said on Thursday and Friday that an agreement was in place. Bedford continues to claim he will be recruiting for Florida next week but at least one recruit (four-star CB Demar Dorsey) says Bedford is gone. “I’m open to working with Coach Strong,” Bedford told the Miami Herald. “He’s one of the reasons I’m here. My opportunity to stay is also good, and I’ve talked with Coach Addazio about that.” Strong told the Gainesville Sun after the game that Bedford is joining his staff.

» Running backs coach Kenny Carter is another staff member who is rumored to be joining Strong in Louisville. Even though Strong has already hired an offensive coordinator, Carter could be given an expanded role on the offensive staff. When asked after the Sugar Bowl about his future, Carter said “I’m not talking about anything but this game. I’m not talking about any of that crap. It doesn’t mean anything to me.” When asked about Carter joining his staff, Strong told the Sun, “He hasn’t told me that.”

» Quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler told reporters he will be returning next season. Loeffler’s name was thrown around for a few head coaching jobs in recent weeks.

» As OGGOA reported yesterday, three Gators experienced major health issues on Friday. Junior center Maurkice Pouncey spent five hours in Tulane Hospital before the game with kidney stones, played in the game but left after the half to pass another stone. Sophomore running back Jeff Demps dislocated his elbow in the first quarter on his third carry of the game and redshirt junior left guard Carl Johnson injured his right shoulder during the second quarter – both did not return.

» After the Sugar Bowl, Johnson announced that he will be returning for his senior season. However, juniors cornerback Joe Haden, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, tight end Aaron Hernandez and center Maurkice Pouncey are all expected to declare for the 2010 NFL Draft. OGGOA believes that junior safety Ahmad Black will also declare while junior S Major Wright, junior right guard Mike Pouncey and redshirt junior right tackle Marcus Gilbert have yet to decide.

» Senior quarterback Tim Tebow was followed around with a “Tebow Cam” during FOX’s Sugar Bowl broadcast. The camera shot, available via FOXSports.com during the game, was on Tebow the whole time – from focusing on him while on the field to every single thing he did on the sidelines. OGGOA believes this will be included in the Sugar Bowl DVD to be released by FOX.

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Too sweet! No. 5 Florida Gators savor Sugar Bowl

Coming of a week filled with seemingly endless questions and distractions, the No. 5 Florida Gators (13-1) eased tensions and erased any doubts (at least temporarily) with a dominating 51-24 victory over the No. 3 Cincinnati Bearcats (12-1) in the 2010 Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome.

In the final game of his college career, Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow went 31-of-35 for a career-high 482 yards passing and three touchdowns through the air. He also carried the ball 14 times for 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Completing his first twelve passes in what was arguably the best performance of his entire career, Tebow finished with 533 total yards – more than anyone in both BCS and Sugar Bowl history. Tebow’s three touchdown passes went to senior wide receiver Riley Cooper, junior tight end Aaron Hernandez and redshirt sophomore WR Deonte Thompson.

“It was incredible,” Tebow said of his third BCS bowl game victory. “Just a great game. It was exactly how you want to go out with these seniors and these coaches in your last game and your last time together. It just really doesn’t get any better than this.”

Cooper caught seven passes for a career-high 181 yards, Hernandez brought in nine balls for 111 yards and Thompson snagged five for 63 yards. Redshirt sophomore running back Chris Rainey caught four passes for 71 yards; he also rushed four times for 27 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt junior transfer RB Emmanuel Moody had the first two touchdown game of his career though freshman RB Mike Gillislee ended up as the team’s leading rusher (79 yards) after taking a hand-off for 52 yards in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, junior cornerback Joe Haden once again shut down his assignment, allowing Bearcats senior wide receiver Mardy Gilyard to gain only 41 yards. Florida’s pass rush and blitzing was on-point all night, holding Cincinnati senior QB Tony Pike to 27-of-45 passing for 170 yards. Pike, however, completed three touchdown passes after the game was out of hand. Junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap earned two of the team’s three sacks on Pike, the secondary had numerous interception opportunities and senior linebacker Brandon Spikes was flying around the ball all evening.

The Gators outgained the Bearcats 660-to-246 in total yardage, though the time of possession battle was close to even because Florida scored quickly. The Gators’ 660 yards was also a Sugar Bowl record. With the win, Florida became the first school in Football Bowl Subdivision history to win 13 games in consecutive seasons.

Going into the game, the Gators were without senior kick returner Brandon James (foot), redshirt junior LB A.J. Jones (knee) and redshirt junior defensive tackle Terron Sanders (hip), though additional injuries piled up before and during the game. Junior center Maurkice Pouncey spent five hours in the hospital earlier in the day passing a kidney stone and left the game in the second half to pass another. Sophomore RB Jeff Demps dislocated his elbow early on and redshirt junior left guard Carl Johnson hurt his shoulder. Sophomore CB Janoris Jenkins and redshirt senior LB Ryan Stamper were both down on the field for a while but would return to action.

Gators head coach Urban Meyer, who resigned on Saturday before changing his mind and deciding to take a leave of absence instead on Sunday, said at the trophy presentation after the game that he hoped to return to the sidelines for the 2010 season. “I plan on being the coach of the Gators,” Meyer said. On Tebow, Meyer said he “will go down as one of the great players, if not the greatest player, in college football [history].” Tebow won the game’s Most Outstanding Player Award, thanking the coaches, his teammates and Gator Nation while accepting it on the podium. He took a moment to specifically thank Meyer for making him a Gator, telling him that he loved him and hugging him.

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SIX BITS: Sugar Bowl and New Year edition

1 » Friday’s game has plenty of implications for both sides, but the 2010 Sugar Bowl will be especially sweet for a senior class that ranks as the most accomplished in Southeastern Conference history. Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow leads a group that will wear Orange and Blue for the last time (at least in college). “It’ll be fun. It’ll be exciting to go play for the last time as a Gator and have another opportunity to suit up and get that bad taste out of our mouth,” Tebow said. “Honestly, that would be really nice. [Winning this game] means a lot. Not just for being my last game, but for all of our seniors. I want to go out the right way and finish the season 13-1.”

2 » Though OGGOA has shied away from the story over the past week in lieu of other more pressing matters, one big, local non-game story was an argument between FOX and Bright House Networks, whose contract comes to an end Friday before the Sugar Bowl. The two entities have had trouble negotiating a new deal, leaving thousands of Gators fans in Central Florida to wonder whether or not they would have the opportunity to watch the big game. In fact, the companies were even sued by two Florida lawyers for a stay so locals could watch the Gators play. Though the suit played no part in the decision, FOX and Time Warner Cable (which owns Bright House) have agreed to a three-hour contract extension, allowing the game to air in that section of the state.

Four more BITS including spoiled fans and end of era questions after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Sugar Bowl and New Year edition

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