No wholesale changes, just more swag and edge coming for Florida’s defense under Geoff Collins

More Florida Gators assistant features: Randy Shannon | Terrell Williams | Tim Skipper

There was enough wrong with – and enough changes coming to – the Florida Gators that the last thing the program needed was to mess with the one thing that has been a bright spot over the last four years, it’s defense.

So when head coach Jim McElwain was tasked with replacing the combined defensive leadership of Will Muschamp and D.J. Durkin, he decided not to rock the boat.

Enter 2014 Broyles Award nominee and former Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, whose experience under Nick Saban (at Alabama) and veterans George O’Leary (at UCF) and John L. Smith (at Louisville) made him a no-brainer hire for McElwain.

“They’ve done a really good job. Coach Muschamp and I know each other. D.J. and I know each other. I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done on defense the last four years. The talent that has been assembled here is legitimate SEC talent,” he said on Thursday. “It’s not a wholesale change. Let’s just work on finding the things we can get better at and take us to the next level. … Finding that edge and going out and getting it done so we can improve upon where we are right now.”

Collins plans to keep it simple, employing similar principles, concepts and techniques that were taught by Muschamp. There may be some terminology tweaks and a couple schemes added to the playbook, but it will be business as usual for the most part with Florida’s defense.

Continue Reading » No wholesale changes, just more swag and edge coming for Florida’s defense under Geoff Collins

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McElwain: pleased with Gators, gave players assignments, confident in hiring receivers coach

New Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain sat down with the media on Wednesday for the first time since his introductory press conference nearly a month ago.

The 40-minute back-and-forth saw McElwain touched on a number of topics that will be broken down here on OnlyGators.com over the next couple of days.

Though McElwain was surprisingly close to the vest on a number of issues, which are outlined below, he also discussed at length his initial thoughts on the Gators football team and plan for hiring a wide receivers coach, the last open position on his coaching staff.

SO FAR, SO GOOD

McElwain plans to make a number of organizational changes over the next 18 months but some of the first evaluations he was able to make were on the team. As a bystander during practices leading up to the 2015 Birmingham Bowl – and during the game itself, of course – McElwain was pleased to see a group of young men giving top-notch effort despite all of the circumstances surrounding the situation.

“Man, I just love the way our team played in that bowl game,” he said to open his press conference. “[I appreciated] the guys that held that thing together. The character in which they played with, the energy they played with, they made plays when they needed against a very, very good football team. …

“Just to see the competitive nature was great. Having an opportunity to get out in the parking lot before the game, I didn’t know it was like that. there’s some good people out there, man, that was awesome. I really enjoyed that. I was really proud of our guys.”

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Gators LB Morrison returning for senior season

Junior linebacker Antonio Morrison has decided to return to the Florida Gators for his senior season.

Morrison, Florida’s first defender to register 100+ tackles since Ahmad Black in 2010, received an evaluation for the 2015 NFL Draft but will chose to remain in school.

“I’m returning to Florida and I will be getting my degree in 2015. That plays a big role in why I’m returning,” Morrison said in a statement released by the school. “And as a leader of this team, I want to lead my team to Atlanta and possibly a national championship. Coach [Jim] McElwain has put together a great staff and I’m looking forward to working with them this year.”

Morrison is the second Gators player in as many days to pick Florida and its new coaching staff over the NFL. Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard announced Monday that he will return to UF for the 2015 season.

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Florida Gators football odds and ends: injuries, departures and more

The Florida Gators (7-5) concluded their 2014 season on Saturday, earning a 28-20 win over the East Carolina Pirates in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, a victory which marked the end of the four-year Will Muschamp era in Gainesville, Florida.

While the Gators have since announced a coaching staff and are prepared to move on under new head coach Jim McElwain, there are still some odds and ends to wrap up from the end of the 2014 campaign.

Bowl game injuries

A number of Florida players were hurt during the Birmingham Bowl but most appeared to be relatively minor injuries. That was not the case for junior linebacker Antonio Morrison, the first player since Ahmad Black in 2010 to record more than 100 tackles in a single season.

Morrison, who was considering leaving for the 2015 NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining, was on the field screaming in pain with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. He was carted off the field, and UF interim coach D.J. Durkin could offer nothing more than a general statement about Morrison’s injury after the game.

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Florida DL Bullard to return for senior season

Florida Gators junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard announced Monday that he will not join four teammates who chose to forgo their final season of eligibility and declare early for the 2015 NFL Draft. Instead, Bullard will return to the Gators for his senior campaign despite the coaching staff being completely overhauled.

“I wasn’t projected to go where I want to go,” Bullard said in a statement released by the school. “I want to leave a bigger mark on the Florida program than what I have.”

Bullard promised to keep a level head when making his decision, noting that he would consult former Florida head coach Will Muschamp after receiving his evaluation back from the NFL. Muschamp has long held that he would only recommend players to declare early if they are projected to be first-round selections.

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Florida LT D.J. Humphries declares for NFL Draft

Florida Gators junior left tackle D.J. Humphries announced Sunday night that he would forgo his remaining eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL Draft.

“GATOR NATION This has been the best 3 years of my life,” he wrote on Twitter. “But now, I feel it’s time to move on! I’ll always be a gator for LIFE! #FairwellUF”

Humphries is the fourth Gators underclassmen to leave for the draft. Juniors defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and running back Matt Jones and redshirt junior offensive linemen Tyler Moore are Florida players that have already decided to the program before their eligibility has expired.

The No. 2 overall prospect coming out of high school in 2012, Humphries was named UF’s permanent starter at left tackle in 2013 but only played the first seven games of the season as a knee injury derailed his campaign. He returned to that role in 2014 and steadily improved throughout this past season after rehabilitating from a high-ankle sprain that cost him two games.

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Update: Gators’ Humphries undecided on future

Updated on Thursday at 10:40 a.m.

On Wednesday night, Zach Abolverdi of The Gainesville Sun reported that Florida Gators junior left tackle D.J. Humphries would forgo his remaining eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL Draft.

Thursday morning, Humphries vehemently denied the Sun‘s report, insisting via his Twitter account that he has not yet made a decision about his future.

“I have NOT made my decision on leaving for the NFL … Careful what you read . . . Thanks a lot Gainesville Sun!!” wrote Humphries.

Humphries, should he eventually declare, would be the fourth Gators underclassmen to leave for the draft. Juniors defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and running back Matt Jones and redshirt junior offensive linemen Tyler Moore are Florida players that have already decided to the program before their eligibility has expired.

Humphries still has a decision to make, as do juniors defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard and linebacker Antonio Morrison, who planned to submit their paperwork to the NFL to gauge their draft stock before making decisions.

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SIX BITS: awards, Speights, Tebow, Beal, Wuerffel

1 » The Florida Gators football team held its annual team banquet on Saturday. Awards were handed out for everything from on-field performance to working hard in practice and how courageous a particular player may have proven to be during the season. Below are the 2014 award winners along with some explanations and details.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Jeff Driskel, Mike Mcneely
* Third-straight year that McNeely won the award.
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Max Garcia, Mark Herndon
* Second-straight year that Herndon won the award.
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: Clay Burton, Hunter Joyer, Max Garcia, Antonio Morrison
Chris Patrick Courage Award: Alex Anzalone, Gideon Ajagbe, Andre Debose, Chaz Green, Matt Jones, Antonio Morrison, Jeremi Powell
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: R.J. Raymond, Dakota Wilson |
Defensive: Ryan Parrish | Special Teams: Garrett Stephens, Roger Dixon
* Second-straight year that Parrish won the award.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: awards, Speights, Tebow, Beal, Wuerffel

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