Hernandez makes Mackey Award watch list

Florida Gators junior tight end Aaron Hernandez has been announced as a semifinalist for the 2009 John Mackey Award, which honors the best collegiate tight end in the nation each season. Hernandez was previously on the Mackey Award preseason watch list and solidified his spot with a career-best outing against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday.

Hernandez grabbed career-highs in receptions (seven) and yards (92) while standing out as the most consistent performer on Florida’s offense throughout the game. He currently leads all SEC tight ends in receiving yards (360), average yards per game (60) and receptions (28) while standing second in average yards per catch (12.9). Hernandez leads the Gators in both receptions and receiving yards and will have a good shot at this award should he continue his stellar play.

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SIX BITS: Champions Club; Meyer & Mullen; Penalty mistake; SEC awards; Basketball news

1 » In his weekly Monday afternoon press conference, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer named his Champions Club for the Arkansas Razorbacks game. On offense, linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, Carl Johnson, Marcus Gilbert were honored, as was quarterback Tim Tebow, running back Jeff Demps and wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Defense received less accolades, with linemen Omar Hunter and Terron Sanders and safety Major Wright getting praise. WR Riley Cooper was named offensive player of the game while CB Joe Haden brought home the defensive player of the game honors.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Champions Club; Meyer & Mullen; Penalty mistake; SEC awards; Basketball news

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Were offense’s struggles really Addazio’s fault?

A popular conversation topic the last two days (though some have discussed it all season) has been the play calling of Florida Gators offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. The contention on this issue is that Addazio has done a poor job thus far – calling too many dive plays, not utilizing the ability of some players, and the list goes on. Hell, I was leading the charge. Then I stopped and thought about it for a second. Yes, the Gators offense played terrible Saturday night. But how bad really was Addazio’s play calling? I propose this: Florida moved the ball just fine, it simply did not appear that way.

13:45 (1) - 7 plays, 32 yards - FG Missed [ST]15:00 (3) – 8 plays, 29 yards – FG Good [score]
08:43 (1) – 6 plays, 10 yards – Punt [bad drive]08:18 (3) – 3 plays, -1 yard – Punt [bad drive]
04:16 (1) – 3 plays, -5 yards – FUM [Bad/miscue]04:40 (3) – 2 plays, 21 yards – FUM [miscue]
14:57 (2) – 12 plays, 56 yards – RZ FUM [miscue]03:10 (3) - 1 play, 77 yards – Passing TD [score]
07:35 (2) – 4 plays, 31 yards – RZ FUM [miscue]00:07 (3) – 6 plays, 20 yards – Punt [bad drive]
03:26 (2) – 5 plays, 20 yards – FG Good [score]09:40 (4) – 5 plays, 67 yards – Rush TD [score]
03:08 (4) – 14 plays, 69 yards – FG Good [score]

In 13 Gators drives, five ended with a score (38.5%), eight ended with a score or in scoring position (61.5%), 3.5 ended in a miscue (27%) and one ended in a special teams gaffe. In all, Addazio’s play calling, while you may not necessarily agree with it, resulted in 3.5 attributable failed drives (27%) over an entire game’s span.

If you want to blame Florida’s offense for its struggles on Saturday – that is fine. Just blame the right people. Two fumbles by quarterback Tim Tebow, one by tight end Aaron Hernandez and one more by running back Chris Rainey are unacceptable. Two of said fumbles occurred while the Gators were in the red zone on the way to score, and Tebow’s first fumble was on Florida’s own 30, which resulted in an Arkansas Razorbacks rushing touchdown. And of course there is kicker Caleb Sturgis’ missed field goal on the first drive. Take away the miscues – which are the blunders of players and not the coordinator – and the play calling is not looking so much at fault now, is it?

Now check out Florida’s previous game against the LSU Tigers. The Gators scored on three of eight drives, were successful on four, and were in scoring position for two more (missed field goal, interception). Only two were bad drives – a 7-play 44-yard effort that ended on downs and a 5-play 16-yard drive that ended in a punt – 25% of the failures.

And all of this is if you attribute the failed drives to the play calling and not the execution.

I am not here to contend that Addazio is doing a great job, does not need improvement and is taking over where his predecessor Dan Mullen left off. Quite the contrary. I just want the blame to fall on those who deserve it the most – in this case, the players.

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Spikes probable, Trattou doubtful for Miss. State

Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes has had a rough start to his final season with the Florida Gators. Diagnosed with Achilles tendonitis, Spikes has been taking pain injections and limping – both literally and figuratively – through practices and games all year. He seemed to have overcome his injury two Saturdays ago, tallying 11 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble against the then-No. 4 LSU Tigers.

That performance earned Spikes an SEC Defensive Player of the Week honor as well as nominations to the 2009 Rotary Lombardi Award and Butkus Award watch lists. He was looking to follow it up with a strong game this past weekend against the Arkansas Razorbacks on homecoming weekend in The Swamp.

Instead, Spikes aggravated a groin injury that some believe he first suffered during practice on Wednesday. He came out of the game immediately and was in street clothes when the second half began. Even so, head coach Urban Meyer, during his weekly Monday afternoon press conference, has declared Spikes probable for Saturday’s game at the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

[UPDATE:] Meyer also spoke about defensive end Justin Trattou, who injured his biceps tendon during the Arkansas game. Trattou is listed as doubtful for Saturday.

OGGOA will keep you updated on Spikes’ health and status throughout the week.

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FOUR BITS: Sturgis honored, UF No. 2 in AP, Mullen meeting, Marsh’s return

1 » Florida Gators kicker Caleb Sturgis has been named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after going 3-4 on field goal attempts Saturday against the Arkansas Razorbacks including a game-winner with 0:09 left on the clock. [UPDATE:] Sturgis was also named one of the Lou Groza National Collegiate Placekicker Award’s “Stars of the Week.” Sturgis missed his initial 37-yard attempt but went on to hit, consecutively, from 30 yards, 51 yards and 27 yards. Sturgis’ final kick earned him a spot in Florida football lore, potentially saving the Gators’ season and chances at a third National Championship in four years.

2 » Astoundingly, Florida fell to No. 2 in this week’s AP Top 25 Poll with the Alabama Crimson Tide jumping into the No. 1 spot. Apparently the Gators’ 23-20 last-second victory was not enough for the voters, who dropped Florida in a 30-vote swing. It is not so much being No. 2 that bothers me; it is that there was such a heavy swing of votes following a hard fought victory by one team (UF) to another team (Alabama) that only won 20-6 at home, scoring their only offensive touchdown late in the fourth quarter. At least it doesn’t bother the players. Regardless, the Gators were ranked ahead of the Crimson Tide in the first BCS Rankings released Sunday.

3 » Moving on. This Saturday night will be the first time head coach Urban Meyer and his former offensive coordinator Dan Mullen go face-to-face across the gridiron. Mullen, now head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, has his new team off to a 3-4 (1-2 SEC) start including a close home loss to the then-No. 7 LSU Tigers at home at Scott Field. Mullen remains close friends with Meyer and worked with him from 1999 until last season, where he helmed the offense that won the Gators two National Championships in 2006 and 2008. He also remains close with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Sturgis honored, UF No. 2 in AP, Mullen meeting, Marsh’s return

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FOUR BITS: Another Lochte; Volleyball sweeps; Soccer ties, wins; Cross Country finishes 2nd

1 » Former Florida Gators student-athlete Ryan Lochte is one of the most decorated swimmers in school history. A star in college, Lochte moved on to win three gold, one silver and two bronze medals combined in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Looking to return the 2012 Games in London, Lochte is not the only member of his family with aquatic tendencies. His brother Devon, 19, is a redshirt freshman at Florida and plans to compete in mid-distance free style and butterfly this season. “[Devon] has got some real good physical tools and a nice feel for the water,” said Gators swimming coach Gregg Troy. While Devon not nearly as good as his older brother, he is getting there. “If he’s 110 percent devoted and dedicated and willing to push his body, I think he’s going to be better than me,” Ryan said. In truth, all that Devon cares about is getting to the Olympics and achieving his secret lifelong goal. “We never really told anyone, but we want to be in the Olympics on the same relay team,” Devon said.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Another Lochte; Volleyball sweeps; Soccer ties, wins; Cross Country finishes 2nd

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Grading the Florida Gators vs. Arkansas game

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 Arkansas Razorbacks in The Swamp.

It is tough to evaluate Tim Tebow week-in and week-out, because you feel tempted to grade him an A every time. In looking at Saturday’s game, you see Tebow led the Gators on a 14-play, 69-yard drive at the end of the fourth quarter that resulted in a 27-yard, game-winning field goal by Caleb Sturgis. You also see that he went 17-for-26 for 255 yards passing, one touchdown (the longest of his career) and added 69 more yards on the ground. But that would be looking over the two fumbles he had in the first half, the fact that it took him 27 carries to get those 69 yards and the six sacks he suffered – a handful of which he could have avoided by throwing the ball out of bounds when he was outside the pocket.

For most of the game, the entire Florida rushing attack was averaging 1.2 yards per carry. For a unit that led the nation most of the year in rushing, that is simply unacceptable. Arkansas game-planned for the dive play, and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio kept calling it – so it is hard to put all the fault on the backs. Even so, 3.5 yards per carry on 19 attempts is just not acceptable. Jeff Demps saved the unit from complete failure with his run and touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Continue Reading » Grading the Florida Gators vs. Arkansas game

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SIX BITS: Wrapping up Florida vs. Arkansas

1 » There is plenty to look at following the No. 1 Florida Gators 23-20 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday afternoon. Perhaps most important are the injuries that occurred throughout the game and how they will impact the team in the future. Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes injured his groin and limped off the field in the first quarter. He would never return, coming out for the second half in street clothes and standing alongside defensive coordinator Charlie Strong for the remainder of the game. Cornerback Joe Haden left the game in the beginning of the third quarter after playing in coverage on special teams, but returned just a few plays later. There is no update on his specific injury. Wide receiver Riley Cooper suffered a hip pointer early in the game, came out late from the locker room and was able to contribute down the stretch with some clutch catches and first downs. Finally, defensive end Justin Trattou, who abused Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett all day, injured his shoulder Saturday. No information was given on his status after the game, either. Starting defensive tackles Jaye Howard (knee) and Lawrence Marsh (ankle) never even dressed for the game as both are still recovering and hoping to return sooner than later.

2 » You will probably never see this one immortalized outside of the stadium, but senior quarterback Tim Tebow gave a rousing speech to his teammates at halftime of the game. You may call it “The Promise II,” but that would only be because he used the word. “It wasn’t like a fiery speech. His face wasn’t red,” wide receiver David Nelson said. “He was just like, ‘I promise you, we’re going to do our thing. I trust you, you’re my brothers.’ It was more like he was reiterating his confidence in us. Don’t get too nervous about the situation, don’t start thinking we’re going to lose. Just believe in yourself, believe in each other and we’ll come out victorious.”

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Wrapping up Florida vs. Arkansas

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