KR Brandon James ruled out for Sugar Bowl

Suffering a stress fracture in his right foot in the first half of the 2009 SEC Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide, Florida Gators senior kick returner Brandon James did not return to the field after halftime. On Monday, head coach Urban Meyer said James had surgery on his foot and will miss the 2010 Sugar Bowl, effectively ending his Gators career. Running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, and possibly even cornerback Joe Haden, will take over the return duties in James’ stead.

One of the most decorated players in school history, James holds Florida records for total kickoff returns (career, season), kickoff return yardage (career, season), kickoff average yards per return (career, season), punt returns (career), punt return yardage (career, season, game), punt return touchdowns (career, season) and total kick return touchdowns (career, season). He also holds the top three spots in season kickoff return yardage, has the longest punt return in school history (83 yards) and is No. 2 all-time for the Gators in total yards gained (rushing, receiving, returning). In addition to his UF accolades, James holds all-time SEC records in total kick return yardage (combined kickoff and punt returns) and kickoff return yardage.

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FOUR BITS: Heisman, Tebow, Meyer, Strong

1 » The 2009 Heisman Trophy will be awarded Saturday at 8 p.m. live on ESPN from the Nokia Theater in Times Square. Finalists for the trophy include Stanford Cardinal running back Toby Gerhart, Alabama Crimson Tide RB Mark Ingram, Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy, Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow, the winner in 2007 and third-place finisher in 2008, is expected to finish fifth in the voting. OGGOA will not be covering the Heisman ceremony live on Saturday, though we will post a message about the winner on twitter soon after the ceremony.

2 » Tebow sat down with a number of reporters and beat writers on Friday in New York, allowing them to informally ask questions regarding a number of topics including his Heimsan ballot. Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald broke down Tebow’s thoughts on who should be the 2009 winner and came to the conclusion that he voted for Suh. (This would be the correct vote, in OGGOA‘s opinion.)

3 » Losing former offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to the Mississippi State Bulldogs and then former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to the Louisville Cardinals in back-to-back seasons, Gators head coach Urban Meyer‘s greatest test my be perfecting his coaching turnover, writes Gene Frenette of The Florida Times-Union. Couple that with the loss of a large group of seniors and several big-name juniors, and Florida’s transition to 2010 will have to be seamless in order to keep them at the top.

4 » Speaking of Strong, the new Cardinals coach spent his first two nights in Louisville sleeping at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium as he got acquainted with the program and university. “It’s kind of a whirlwind,” Strong said. “There are a lot of things to be done. The best thing is just catch your breath and take your time and make sure I do the right things.” He even gained a commitment from quarterback recruit DeMarcus Smith, “arguably the state’s best junior” according to The Courier-Journal. Strong will leave the program at the end of the week and return to Gainesville, FL, to coach the Gators’ defense for the 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats.

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Nine Gators named to All-SEC coaches’ team

Nine Florida Gators football players were named to the 2009 All-SEC team as voted by the league’s head coaches. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow was Florida’s only unanimous selection. Joining him on the first-team offense are juniors tight end Aaron Hernandez, offensive guard Mike Pouncey and center Maurkice Pouncey. For the defense, senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and juniors cornerback Joe Haden and Carlos Dunlap received first-team honors. Seniors DE Jermaine Cunningham and LB Ryan Stamper earned spots on the second team. The Gators tied the Alabama Crimson Tide who also had a league-high nine All-SEC selections.

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Even TMZ tries to get something from Tim Tebow

Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow arrived in New York on Tuesday for this weekend’s 2009 Heisman Trophy ceremony. TMZ tried to coax Tebow, who was on his way out of the airport, into talking about his team’s loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide, his advice to Tiger Woods on the golfer’s trials and tribulations, his sex life, his favorite bible verses and his thoughts on Judiasm. Classic Tebow responses. See video below:

If you cannot see the video above, click here.

Tebow was also interviewed on ESPN just a few hours ago about his legacy:

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FOUR BITS: Strong, SEC title, Syracuse, baseball

1 » Louisville Cardinals athletic director Tom Jurich spoke with the Louisville Courier-Journal on Monday about his continuing talks with Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to become his school’s next head football coach. Jurich he is “further along today than I was yesterday, so that’s good,” but that he would have another conversation with Strong on Tuesday. “I don’t really have a status update, it’s on-going,” Jurich said. “I tell you what though, he’s very impressive, a very impressive guy, he’d be great for our community.” An official contract offer has not yet been made, and the Gators are expected to make Strong a counter offer to stay on board.

2 » Two days after their heartbreaking loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 SEC Championship, Florida players put the blame on themselves for not playing like they practiced throughout the week. “We thought we would have won the game with the way we practiced,” senior linebacker Ryan Stamper said. “It was just like any other practice — probably one of our better practices. We had juice in the locker room; we had juice when we went out on the field. We just couldn’t get the job done.”

3 » Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan told reporters on Monday that the team may be without sophomores guard/forward Ray Shipman (mid-foot sprain) and sophomore center Kenny Kadji (lower back) for Thursday’s game against the No. 7 Syracuse Orange (8-0) in the SEC/Big East Invitational from the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL. Both players received MRIs and are considered questionable for the game. “We’re down to eight right now,” Donovan said. Speaking of Florida basketball, the team moved up to No. 10 and No. 11, respectively, in this week’s AP Top 25 and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ polls. Beginning the season unranked, the Gators are an undefeated 8-0 including a win over the then-No. 2 Michigan State Spartans.

4 » Shortstop recruit Casey Turgeon (Dunedin, FL), one of the best players in the state, committed to the Florida baseball program before his junior high school season.

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Tim Tebow selected as Heisman Trophy finalist

Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow was named as one of five finalists for the 2009 Heisman Trophy on Monday. Only the second player in history to be a finalist for the award three times (Herschel Walker, 1980-82), Tebow will compete against running backs Mark Ingram (Alabama Crimson Tide) and Toby Gerhart (Stanford Cardinal), defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska Cornhuskers) and QB Colt McCoy (Texas Longhorns). Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and finished third in 2008 but is not projected to be in the top three this season.

“Having the chance to go back to New York means a lot to me,” Tebow said. “It is a special honor but it wouldn’t be possible for me to have this opportunity without my teammates and coaches.”

The 2009 winner will be announced at the Nokia Theatre in New York, NY, on Saturday, Dec. 12. Prior to the Heisman ceremony, Tebow will be up for the Maxwell Award (best college football player) and Davey O’Brien Award (best college quarterback), both of which will be presented on Thursday night. Tebow has won back-to-back Maxwell Awards (one of only two players to do so) and took home the Davey O’Brien Award in 2007. He has already won the Academic All-America of the Year for the second consecutive season, the first student-athlete ever to do so.

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FOUR BITS: No excuses, Foley, rating, softball

1 » Speaking with reporters following the 2009 SEC Championship, Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong refused to make excuses for his unit’s shortcomings. “We just didn’t play well at all,” Strong said. “We didn’t get off the field on third down. It was one of our worst performances in a long time. We can’t worry about one player [junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap]. He could have been hurt on the first play. [Alabama] showed nothing new. If you don’t tackle well, you give up big plays.”

2 » Saturday’s game garnered the highest rating ever for the SEC Championship on CBS, scoring an 11.8/24 or 13 percent higher than 2008’s 10.4/21. The rating peaked at a 13.0/24 from 7:00-7:30 p.m. (EST). It also reportedly set a record for CBS’s online streaming service, at least quadrupling their previous high of requests.

3 » The Birmingham News praised Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley for showing class and going over to the Alabama Crimson Tide‘s athletic department at the end of the game to congratulate them. “There’s a reason the Florida AD is considered the best in the business, and it’s not just because of all the championships his teams have won and all the money his school has made,” the article states. “That was a championship moment by a man whose team just saw its championship run come to an end.”

4 » Lake Wales, FL, softball pitcher Hannah Rogers always wanted to play for the Gators. When she was not offered a scholarship early on in the recruiting process, Rogers committed to the Florida State Seminoles. That was until a roster spot opened up on Florida’s roster and head coach Tim Walton offered her a scholarship. “It’s exciting because ever since I was little, I wanted to go to Florida,” she said. “It was a real emotional decision […], but I knew that Gainesville felt more like home to me.”

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Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will grade the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA. Following those grades, OGGOA has provided its overlooked grades (without explanations) for the Florida State Seminoles game.

Florida seemingly decided to put the entire offense on senior quarterback Tim Tebow’s shoulders. How else could you explain the 35 passing attempts and team-high 10 carries? On the ground, Tebow rushed for 63 yards. Through the air, he completed 57 percent of his passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw a costly interception into the end zone and came up short on numerous occasions. Like the strategy or not, Tebow was responsible for almost every offensive snap of an offense that failed to get the job done against a stout Alabama defense.

Inexplicably, Florida’s running backs touched the ball a total of three times on Saturday. Three. In the Gators’ first 12 games, sophomore Jeff Demps averaged eight carries (7.7 yards), redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey averaged seven touches (6.4 yards) and redshirt junior transfer Emmanuel Moody averaged five rushes (7.3 yards). That is a total of 20 running plays and well over 100 yards of rushing that were not part of Florida’s offensive game plan. The only possible grade for this unit is “incomplete.”

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the SEC Championship after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

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