Gators open two football practices to public

Florida Gators football fans anxious for the 2013 season will be able to get a sneak peak at the program this spring as the team has officially decided to open a pair of non-contact spring practices to the public for the second-straight year.

The University Athletic Association announced Friday that spring practices held at Sanders Football Practice Fields on Friday, March 15 (4:35-6:35 p.m.) and Saturday, March 16 (1:05-3:00 p.m.) will be open to all comers.

The Gators officially begin spring practice on March 13, one day after Florida holds its annual Pro Day for former players preparing for the 2013 NFL Draft on March 12 at 10:30 a.m. Pro Day is also open to the public and held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Fans can enter through Gates 2, 6, 15 and 18 and pick their own seats in the stands.

The 2013 Orange & Blue Debut spring game is scheduled for Saturday, April 6 at 1 p.m. A television partner has not yet been announced for the final spring practice.

Students, Gator Boosters, Alumni Association members and F Club members all receive free admission to the spring game. A limited supply of free tickets is also available at Florida Farm Bureau agents’ offices. Tickets are currently available for $5 in the Gator ticket office at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium or can be ordered online at GatorZone.com/tickets.

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FOUR BITS: football, Bonner, Donovan, NCAA

1 » Some important dates have recently been released for Florida Gators football. The school will host Pro Day – where NFL scouts get the opportunity to watch draft-eligible players (and some free agents) perform inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – on Tuesday, March 12. The event is open the public, which can sit in the stands and watch the proceedings on the field (in the past, concession stands have not been open). One day later on Wednesday, March 13, the Gators will hold their first spring practice of the new season. Florida claims to have additional announcements to make in regards to spring practice but has not done so as of press time. Finally, the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut has been set for Saturday, April 6 at a yet-to-be-announced time.

2 » It’s official. San Antonio Spurs (and former Gators) forward Matt Bonner will be participating in the Three-Point Shootout at NBA All-Star Weekend on Feb. 16. Bonner is the second former Florida player to ever shoot in the event (Mike Miller participated twice) and has a fantastic chance of winning the whole thing. He will go up against New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Indiana’s Paul George, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and New York’s Steve Novak. The Gators also have Warriors power forward David Lee and Bulls center Joakim Noah participating in the All-Star Game and Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Rockets forward Chandler Parsons going head-to-head in the Rising Stars Challenge featuring rookies and sophomores. Former Florida guard James White (Knicks), who transferred to Cincinnati after one season at UF, will be participating in the Slam Dunk Contest.

Read two more BITS on Billy Donovan…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: football, Bonner, Donovan, NCAA

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SIX BITS: Johnson, Zunino, O&B, All-Star, Draft

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Doug Johnson may be charged with felony battery after a sworn complaint was filed with the Gainesville Police Department in November alleging that he took part in a beating of a man after the Florida-LSU football game. According to The Gainesville Sun, “The case is now in the hands of the State Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether to file charges.” The victim told the paper that he was attacked minutes after a confrontation allegedly with Johnson and two other men. He claims to have been punched and kicked in the face repeatedly, actions which caused injuries including “a broken nose and numerous facial fractures.”

2 » Former Gators catcher Mike Zunino is one of 18 minor league players within the organization that have been invited to participate in spring training with the Seattle Mariners. He will report to Peoria, AZ on Feb. 12 and will have an opportunity to earn a roster spot just eight months after being selected No. 3 overall in the 2012 MLB Draft.

3 » The school announced Tuesday that the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut spring game will take place on Saturday, April 6 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. That day will certainly be a busy one on campus as track & field hosts the Pepsi Florida Relays, lacrosse will go head-to-head Johns Hopkins, softball takes on Mississippi State, and gymnastics hosts the 2012 NCAA Regionals.

4 » Joining the eight Florida seniors already announced for all-star bowl games is defensive tackle Omar Hunter, who was added to the 2013 Raycom College All-Star Classic this week. The game is set to be played on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. and will air live on CBS Sports Network. Wide receivers Frankie Hammond, Jr. and Omarius Hines both competed in the 2013 Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game last weekend with neither player posting any significant statistics. Check out the six other players participating in games over the next two weekends.

5 » The 2013 NBA All-Star team will be announced on Thursday. As of the final official release of fan voting totals on Jan. 3, only Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (seventh – Eastern Conference frontcourt) and Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (15th – Western Conference frontcourt) were on the lists, meaning neither are likely to make their respective team based on the fan vote, which closed on Monday. Reserve spots, on the other hand, are chosen by league coaches, which means Noah, Parsons, Atlanta Hawks F Al Horford and Golden State Warriors F David Lee all have a chance to be selected. Noah and Lee are probably the most likely to be chosen, especially considering Lee is currently 10th in the NBA in points (19.9), fifth in rebounds (10.9) and first in 20-10 games with 16 so far this season.

6 » Gators junior DT Sharrif Floyd continues to be a near-unanimous first-round selection in mocks that have recently been created for the 2013 NFL Draft. Of the five first-edition mock drafts released by NFL.com this week, Floyd is listed in four at No. 14 by Josh Norris, No. 23 by Gil Brant, No. 24 by Daniel Jeremiah and No. 28 by Bucky Brooks. Junior safety Matt Elam is listed on three of those five mocks at No. 17 by Brooks, No. 30 by Norris and No. 31 by Charles Davies. Davies did not list Floyd in his first round; neither Brant nor Jeremiah had Elam in theirs.

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Seniors lead No. 6 Florida to 23-0 shutout of Jacksonville State, 7-0 record in The Swamp

Seniors combined to score all 23 points for the No. 6 Florida Gators (10-1) on Saturday as the team went on to finish the 2012 campaign undefeated in The Swamp by shutting out the Jacksonville State Gamecocks (6-5) on Senior Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The victory marked just the third time in school history that Florida finished 7-0 at Florida Field. The Gators also achieved that record in 2006 and 2009, the latter of which was the freshman year for UF’s true senior class.

Florida got on the board first with 6:02 left in the first quarter as senior running back Mike Gillislee scored a touchdown from seven yards out. The trot into the end zone capped a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive that took 6:51 off the clock and included 11 runs and just one completed pass.

The Gators jumped ahead 17-0 early in the third quarter. After Florida backed Jacksonville State up near its end zone, senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic intercepted quarterback Marques Ivory on third down and brought it back seven yards for the first pick-six of his career.

Joining in on the fun was redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis, who made three of his four attempted field goals (the other was blocked) and kicked both extra points in the contest, scoring 11 total points on the afternoon. Sturgis is now just one made field goal away from matching Jeff Chandler as the school’s all-time leader in field goals (67).

The Gators outgained the Gamecocks 356-242 on the day with JSU gaining 76 yards on its very first play from scrimmage.

Florida outrushed Jacksonville State 202-48 but once again failed to attain first downs to extend drives, going just 2-for-11 on third down conversions.

Gillislee finished with 122 yards on 20 carries, his fourth 100+ yard game of the season. He 36 yards away from crossing the 1,000 yard plateau for the 2012 campaign.

Sophomore QB Jacoby Brissett, starting for the injured Jeff Driskel was 14-of-22 for 154 yards but missed at least two long passes that would have resulted in easy touchdowns for the Gators.

Florida will conclude the regular season on Saturday when it faces Florida State in Tallahassee, FL. The game will air live at 3:30 p.m. on a yet-to-be-determined network.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

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Senior Day – Gameday: No. 6 Florida Gators vs. Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 68°F, few showers (30% chance of rain), winds NNE at 1 mph
Time: 1:00 p.m. EDT

Tickets: Starting at $15 on TiqIQ

TV: Pay-Per-View (Larry Vettel, Nat Moore) | ESPN GamePlan (outside Florida)
SiriusXM: 104/201 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com (outside Florida)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper

No. 6 FLORIDA GATORS JACKSONVILLE STATE
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Jack Crowe
Record: 9-1 Record: 6-4
Conference: Southeastern (FBS) Conference: Ohio Valley (FCS)
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: OFF

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida and Jacksonville State have never squared off on the gridiron.
» The Gators have the No. 1 ranked strength of schedule nationally.
» Florida can finish 7-0 at home in a season for just the third time in school history. The 2006 and 2009 UF teams also accomplished that feat.
» The Gators are 13-1 against unranked opponents and 3-6 against ranked teams under Muschamp since he took over in 2011. Florida is 3-1 against ranked opponents this season with wins of Tennessee, LSU and South Carolina and a loss to Georgia.
» UF was 0-5 when trailing at the half in 2011 but have flipped that around and are 4-1 in 2012 in that category with all four victories vs. SEC opponents (two ranked).
» The Gators are 10-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 1-5 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards. UF is also 13-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 9-1 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 10-3 when scoring first and 12-1 when leading at the half.
» Florida has scored on 30-of-36 red zone trips (83.3 percent) but have only converted 19 of those possessions (52.8 percent) into touchdowns.
» UF has converted a paltry 52-of-142 third-down attempts (36.6 percent) this season, which is tied for 88th nationally in that category.
» The Gators have held their opponents to 38-of-144 on third down conversions (26.4 percent), which is good for seventh-best in the nation. UF was second nationally in third-down defense (27.3 percent) last season.
» Florida is averaging 33:11 in time of possession through 10 games, a margin that ranks sixth nationally and first in the SEC by 1:36 per game.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 155-55 in the second half (34-27 over the last three games) and 85-23 in the fourth quarter.
» Florida is third in scoring defense nationally (12.9 points per game).
» The Gators are +12 in turnover margin through 10 games after being -12 in 2011. UF has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (341) since 2000.
» Florida has grabbed 15 interceptions so far in 2012 and has already surpassed its 2011 total of eight picks. UF has registered at least one pick in seven-of-10 games and has also forced eight fumbles.
» The Gators are first nationally in pass efficiency defense (90.4), fifth in total defense (284.9 yards per game) and 11th in rushing defense (99.9 yards per game).
» Florida has at least two kickoff returns for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons after never having more than one in a single season before 2010. UF has not yet registered a kick return (or punt return) in 2012.
» The Gators are second nationally in net punt average (41.9 yards per punt).

Read about the injuries and absences and Senior Day…after the break!
Continue Reading » Senior Day – Gameday: No. 6 Florida Gators vs. Jacksonville State Gamecocks

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Florida seniors discuss careers, final home game

Eighteen Florida Gators football players will step on to Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the last time Saturday as student-athletes at the University of Florida. Below is what each had to say about his career and final home game.

» Redshirt senior running back Omarius Hines: “It’s going to be a very emotional weekend. It’s going to be a great weekend at the same time. We can be undefeated in The Swamp – that’s always a good thing.”

» Redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.: “It is [hard to believe]. Time flies fast when you’re playing ball. The four or five years I spent here have went by and the time is here. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been a great experience for me. The time comes when you have to close that door, move on, and another door opens for you. … A lot of us have poured our hearts into this program. To have it finally end and to finally look at it from the outside in, come December, we’ll be spectators of the game. It will be real emotional having that hit you like, ‘Wow. I’m not playing and now I’m sitting back and watching.’ It definitely hurts but it’s time to close that door and other opportunities will come.”

» Senior safety Josh Evans: “I hope we play one of our best games, leave it all out on The Swamp. It’s going to be a very emotional day. We call came in as freshmen, grew up together and had a brotherhood, pretty much leaving a legacy of winners. I just want to leave as a winner. … It’s been very emotional, this whole senior process. Being around these players and knowing its my last year here, it’s been very emotional at times to know that I’m moving forward. I enjoyed my time here, my highs and lows here. I appreciate everything. It was amazing. Amazing staff, coaches and players that I’ve been around. I’ve had fun since I’ve been here.”

» Redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter: “It’s going to be fun, man. I remember getting here as a freshman and all the excitement I had my first game playing. I think it’s going to top that on Saturday. My last game in The Swamp – I’m definitely going to enjoy it, definitely going to be emotional. … I’m much more mature now. When I first came in, I wasn’t that mature. I thought everything was going to be handed to me. I saw I had to work for things and be more mature, throughout my years I’ve become better as a person and a football player.”

» Senior left tackle Xavier Nixon: “It’s just a new door opening, a new chapter in all of our lives. We put in a lot of time here, a lot of energy into this program, blood, sweat and tears. It means a lot to have one last hoorah and go through the tunnel. … [We want to be remembered] as a group that overcame a lot of obstacles and a lot of adversity and at the end of the day just stuck together and remained a family. … I plan to try to graduate first. I have aspirations for the NFL, of course, but that will come when it gets here. I’m focused on the season right now.”

» Nixon on redshirt senior left guard James Wilson: “James has evolved into a great person and a great player. He’s contributed a great amount to this team over the season.”

» Redshirt senior DT Earl Okine: “My career at Florida has been up and down. My first couple years I didn’t play as much until my third year, then injuries and stuff like that, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love this university. I wouldn’t have redone anything. I love this program. It will always be a part of my life. … It means a lot [being from Gainesville]. It’s a lot of pressure. … I’m pretty sure I have a shot [to play in the NFL]. I’ve heard a couple things. If this is my last year playing football, that’s fine with me. I graduated over the summer, and I might come back and finish a double major, grad school, something like that. Right now I’m concentrating on playing football for the University of Florida.”

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No. 6 Gators eke out 27-20 win over Ragin’ Cajuns

The No. 6 Florida Gators came minutes away from arguably the worst loss in school history and seconds away from playing overtime at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on homecoming until a late offensive touchdown and punt block return for a touchdown with two seconds remaining clinched a 27-20 victory over the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday in Gainesville, FL.

Leading 13-3 early in the third quarter, Florida stumbled defensively and allowed Louisiana-Lafayette to score 17 unanswered points including its own punt block returned for a touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Jacoby Brissett, in as an injury replacement, led the Gators to a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, tying the game at 20 with under two minutes to play.

On the ensuing possession, the Ragin’ Cajuns decided to run the clock and play for overtime, but UF head coach Will Muschamp called a timeout as ULL was getting ready to punt on fourth down. Sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy promptly snuck his way inside the protection on the punt and blocked the ball, which fell into the hands of redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who charged 36 yards into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

The Gators avoided what may very well have been the worst loss in program history. UF had won 49-straight games against non-automatic qualifiers and had not fallen to such a team since Memphis State in 1988.

Read the rest of the Florida vs. Louisiana-Lafayette game story…
Continue Reading » No. 6 Gators eke out 27-20 win over Ragin’ Cajuns

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Gameday: No. 6 Florida Gators vs. Louisiana

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 72°F, mostly sunny, winds ENE at 9 mph
Time: 12:21 p.m. EDT

Tickets: Starting at $24 on TiqIQ

TV: SEC Network (Mike Morgan, Chris Doering) [Affiliates]
SiriusXM: 112/200 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper

No. 6 FLORIDA GATORS LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Mark Hudspeth
Record: 8-1 Record: 5-3
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Sun Belt
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -27

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 4-0 all time against Louisiana-Lafayette though all four victories came when the team was named Southwest Louisiana.
» The Gators are 12-1 against unranked opponents and 3-6 against ranked teams under Muschamp since he took over in 2011. Florida is 3-1 against ranked opponents this season with wins of Tennessee, LSU and South Carolina and a loss to Georgia.
» Florida was 0-5 when trailing at the half in 2011 but have flipped that around and are 4-1 in 2012 in that category with all four victories vs. SEC opponents (two ranked).
» The Gators are 10-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 1-5 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards. UF is also 12-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 9-3 when scoring first and 11-1 when leading at the half.
» Florida has scored on 27-of-33 red zone trips (81.8 percent) but have only converted 17 of those possessions (54.8 percent) into touchdowns.
» UF has converted 48-of-128 of its third-down attempts (37.5 percent) this season.
» The Gators have held their opponents to 36-of-132 on third down conversions (27.3 percent), which is good for seventh-best in the nation. UF was second nationally in third-down defense (27.3 percent) last season.
» Florida is averaging 33:11 in time of possession through nine games, a margin that ranks seventh nationally and just one minute behind the country’s leader.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 138-38 in the second half and 71-20 in the fourth quarter. UF was the only team in the nation that had not allowed a fourth-quarter point until one month ago.
» Florida had a stretch of not allowing a touchdown in nine-straight quarters and is fourth in scoring defense nationally (12.11 points per game).
» The Gators are +11 in turnover margin through nine games after being -12 in 2011. UF has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (340) since 2000.
» Florida has grabbed 15 interceptions so far in 2012 and has already surpassed its 2011 total of eight picks. UF has registered at least one pick in seven-of-eight games and has also forced seven fumbles.
» The Gators are first nationally in pass efficiency defense (87.43), fifth in total defense (286.9 yards per game) and 10th in rushing defense (100.3 yards per game).
» Florida has at least two kickoff returns for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons after never having more than one in a single season before 2010. UF has not yet registered a kick return (or punt return) in 2012.
» The Gators are second nationally in net punt average (43.5 yards per punt).

LAST TIME OUT

Four defensive touchdowns propelled Florida to a 55-21 victory over then-Southwest Louisiana back when the teams last met in 1996. The Gators had a pair of fumble return touchdowns and interception return touchdowns in the game but also forced two additional turnovers. Wide receiver Ike Hilliard led the way for Florida with 117 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions.

INJURIES AND ABSENCES*

» Probable/Questionable (6): Redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis (ankle), redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray (ankle), senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (knee), redshirt senior left guard James Wilson (knee), redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapi (ankle), junior safety Matt Elam (unknown)
» Inactive (12): Redshirt sophomore running back Mack Brown, redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose (unknown), redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Leon Orr (flu) Junior defensive back Cody Riggs (foot), redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (pectoral), junior long snapper Drew Ferris (collarbone), redshirt freshman guard Tommy Jordan (shoulder), junior Buck LB Ronald Powell (ACL), freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot), redshirt junior defensive end Kedric Johnson (knee), senior defensive lineman Nick Alajajian (knee)

* As of Saturday at 4:00 a.m.

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