2011 SEC Spring Meetings Recap – Day One

Head coaches, athletic directors and support staff gather in Destin, FL each year for the Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings, which provide an opportunity to discuss rule changes, new procedures and much more. Florida Gators head football coach Will Muschamp and head basketball coach Billy Donovan were both in attendance on Tuesday and made waves with their stances on some of the hot topics of the week.

WILL MUSCHAMP

» He once again took a hard line on oversigning (accepting national letters of intent for more players than open scholarships you have in a given year) and greyshirting (denying scholarships to oversigned players and forcing them to enroll in the following spring or fall), saying emphatically that Florida does not believe in either method of recruiting. “We don’t over-sign. That’s a policy we have at the university,” he said. “We’ve been successful, so it’s not an issue for us.”

» On the SEC’s live Internet show streaming short interviews with some of the league’s coaches, Muschamp stressed that what separates this league from the rest of the country is the strong defenses, specifically up front on the line. “I’ve seen teams in this league with average quarterbacks win national championships because they’re really good on defense,” he said.

» One quarterback who he thinks is well above average is redshirt senior John Brantley, who Muschamp said needs to have the players around him step up in order to be successful. He related a conversation he had with Brantley when he told him that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has a lot of confidence in him going forward and how “that should tell you a lot” about the type of talent he possesses.

» Muschamp said that dismissing senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins after his second marijuana arrest in less than 90 days was not about making an example out of him but rather making sure he did what was in the best interests of the rest of the team. “I don’t look at it as trying to send a message; I look at it from a standpoint of doing what’s right for the program,” he said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “Guys are going to be expected to act a certain way and have a certain behavior, and if they don’t do that then they’re not going to be a part of our football team.”

» Addressing his decision to allow freshman running back Mike Blakely to transfer within the SEC to Auburn, he said it is not something he will normally allow. “It’s not my policy to clear a kid to leave for another conference school,” Muschamp said per the Montgomery Advertiser. “I don’t want to face our players on the field. I know how good they are. They signed with Florida for a reason, so that’s a situation I’m going to avoid.” He did not provide an exact reason for making an exception in this case, simply saying that “this was the right thing to do.”

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, the beneficiary of Blakely’s services, agrees. “That was an extremely classy move on Will’s part to give him that chance to come back to Auburn,” Chizik said. “It says something about the kind of person Will is.”

BILLY DONOVAN

» The league’s basketball coaches are going to take on two separate but related issues this week – potentially removing the conference’s divisions and ways to reseed the SEC Tournament so it is more fair to the teams that perform at a high level all year. A move to a 12-team format (rather than two six-team divisions) would benefit the East, which feels it often gets a raw deal when the tournament comes around and West teams get undeserved byes. Options include seeding the tournament 1-12 by conference record (with tiebreakers) or using a model similar to the baseball format with division winners getting byes and the rest of the teams being slotted 3-12.

» Donovan, proposing a solution that could work whether or not divisions are retained, believes the tournament should seed teams by RPI. This would force coaches and ADs to schedule better non-conference opponents, which would also improve the SEC’s overall standing nationally. Commissioner Mike Slive said Donovan’s suggestion will not be one of the methods considered.

» The vote on the topic of reseeding was tied 6-6 last year but should have more steam on Wednesday due to Slive being publicly in favor of some type of change. Scrapping the divisions is a long-term topic that, even if approved of by a majority, would not occur next season. However, adjustments to tournament seeding procedures could be worked out this week.

OTHER NOTES

» Not everyone agrees that oversigning and greyshirting are bad things. Those who are happy with the way things are (28 maximum scholarships per signing class – a rule adjusted just one year ago) include Chizik, Houston Nutt (Ole Miss), Bobby Petrino (Arkansas) and Mark Richt (Georgia). “Everybody has a right to manage their own numbers,” Richt said.

» Petrino also took the opportunity to criticize the NCAA for allowing Ohio State to delay the suspensions of five players deemed to have taken illegal benefits before the 2011 Sugar Bowl. “They kind of changed the rules for that bowl game,” he said.

» Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley plans to submit a formal proposal requesting that the SEC increase the staff sizes for its football programs. Dooley believes the player-to-coach ratio (12-to-1) in football is significantly worse in football than other collegiate sports (or the NFL, which is 3-to-1) and thinks that hiring additional staff members will also help combat off-the-field issues.

» Alabama head coach Nick Saban admitted Tuesday that he made a “mistake” not hiring Muschamp as the defensive coordinator when he took the Miami Dolphins job after leaving LSU. “When I went to Miami as the Dolphins coach, I didn’t want to put guys that were college coaches in coordinator positions until they’d coached in the league and got some experience,” Saban said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I had coached in the league for two years at Houston and became the (defensive) coordinator at Cleveland and it was really, really difficult, only being in the league two years and understanding the league, the personnel, match-ups and a lot of things.
“I should have made Will the coordinator. Dom [Capers] did a wonderful job, but Will probably deserved to get that job. It was me trying to protect him. I wanted to give him another year before he was out there. I was trying to protect people that were important to me. I don’t think we have any issues or problems.”

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Stoops denies he is close to signing with Florida

Head coach Bob Stoops may leave the Oklahoma Sooners for the Florida Gators He also may not. Either way, Stoops explained to Tulsa World on Saturday that reports stating he is close to signing with Florida are false.

“Not true, whatsoever,” Stoops told the paper‘s Dave Sittler via text message. “I’m out recruiting [for Oklahoma] as we text.”

A seven-time Big 12 champion who also captured a national title after serving as the Gators’ defensive coordinator under head coach Steve Spurrier, Stoops has been the object of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley‘s affection for years.

Foley has tried to hire Stoops on two other occasions but was rebuffed both times.

Though Stoops is widely believed to be the University of Florida‘s number one choice, word out of Gainesville, FL, is that Boise State Broncos head coach Chris Petersen not far behind in Foley’s pecking order.

Petersen, who has led Boise State since 2006, has never won fewer than 10 games in a season, is 2-0 in BCS bowl games (0-2 in non-BCS bowls), and has won four Western Athletic Conference titles in five seasons. He is also a two-time Paul “Bear” Bryant Award winner as Coach of the Year (2006, 2009).

Other current head coaches rumored to be up for the Florida job – in no particular order – include Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh, Connecticut’s Randy Edsall, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Southern Mississippi’s Larry Fedora and Houston’s Kevin Sumlin. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, in line to succeed Mack Brown, is also believed to be an option.

Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino was thought to be a top candidate for UF, but he reportedly agreed to seven-year contract extension on Friday. Petrino was supposedly Foley’s number two choice when he hired current/former head coach Urban Meyer.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Brantley, Arkansas, Page

1 » Remember how former Florida Gators center/guard Maurkice Pouncey was supposed to start at the latter position for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010? The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that fans should not jump to any conclusions considering the fact that Pouncey has actually been splitting time with incumbent starter Justin Hartwig at first-team center in recent practices. Whether or not Pouncey starts at center during the first week of the 2010-11 NFL season is of no consequence; already getting reps there is indicative of his bright long-term future with the team.

2 » Speaking with the Sporting News, former Florida Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel said he doubted Alabama running back Mark Ingram could repeat his 2009 honor while putting Gators redshirt junior starter John Brantley firmly in the running. “I’m not just being a loyal Gator on this one – OK, maybe a little bit. Brantley has tons of young offensive talent around him and supposedly a new scheme that fits his style better so he could put up huge stats,” Wuerffel said. “Plus, the best teams on Florida’s schedule – Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida State – all return less than half of their defensive starters from last year. If UF loses two regular-season games or less,which I think is likely, Brantley will be in the discussion.”

3 » Arkansas radio personality Renee Gork was fired by her station – KAKS – on Monday after Arkansas Razorbacks head football coach Bobby Petrino became enraged that she wore a Gators hat to his press conference on Saturday. According to the Associated Press, “Gork, a Florida graduate, said she grabbed the hat without thinking Saturday because it was raining outside. She also said she sent a letter of apology to the university and Petrino.”

4 » Former Florida star women’s basketball player and 11-year WNBA veteran Murriel Page was hired as an assistant coach under head coach Amanda Butler on Monday. Inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame this past April, Page (1994-98) was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference honoree in 1997 and 1998 and a finalist for the 1998 Naismith Player of the Year and Associated Press National Player of the Year awards. “Murriel’s professional experience, her passion for the Gators and the quality of person that she is makes her the perfect fit for our program,” Butler said in a UF release. “We looked at a number of different applicants from a variety of backgrounds and locations and Muriel stood out to everyone.”

Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

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Who will replace Urban Meyer as head coach?

With the shock of the resignation of Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer still ringing through the ears of Gator Nation, one of the major questions arising is a simple one: “Who will replace him?” OGGOA has complied a list of the most likely and most rumored candidates that could replace Meyer:

Check out the full list of potential replacements after the jump!!!
Continue Reading » Who will replace Urban Meyer as head coach?

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FOUR BITS: Henry up for Guy Award, new SEC rule, UF-UGA HOF, soccer going for SEC title

1 » Florida Gators junior punter Chas Henry was named a candidate for the 2009 Ray Guy Award on Thursday. Given annually to the nation’s top collegiate punter, the award may very well end up on Henry’s mantle. He has yet to allow a single punt return yard in 2009, making the Gators one of only two teams in the country to accomplish that feat. Named the preseason All-SEC First-Team punter, Henry has punted the ball 18 times on the season with 16 not returned and seven downed inside the 20-yard line.

2 » SEC commissioner Mike Slive told The Associated Press on Friday that conference coaches who violate the ethics rules against criticizing officials in public will face a suspension or fine (even for the first offense) instead of public reprimands like in the past. The new rule, which is already in effect, was unanimously agreed upon by the conference’s athletic directors and university presidents, including Florida’s Jeremy Foley and Bernie Machen. The ruling comes on the heels of three SEC coaches being warned in the last two weeks including the Tennessee VolunteersLane Kiffin, Arkansas RazorbacksBobby Petrino and Mississippi Sate BulldogsDan Mullen. “I was no longer interested in reprimands” Slive told the AP.

3 » Former Florida quarterback Rex Grossman and defensive back Lawrence Wright have been inducted into the 14th Anniversary class of the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame. They were honored along with Georgia Bulldogs inductees Garrison Hearst and David Pollack. Grossman was 3-0 against the Bulldogs including performances where he went 27-of-35 for 407 yards and two touchdowns (2001, 24-10 victory) and 36-of-41 setting a school record for completions (2002, 20-13 victory). Wright was a Thorpe Award winner who owned a perfect 4-0 record against Georgia and was part of a senior class that claimed four-straight SEC championships and won the 1996 National Championship. He forced two fumbles and recorded a sack against Georgia in 1995.

4 » REMINDER: No. 10 soccer (13-4-2, 7-1-2 SEC) will host SEC East rival No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks (15-2-1, 7-2-1 SEC) TONIGHT at 6 p.m. at James G. Pressly Stadium. The Gators, with 23 points, currently lead the SEC and can take home the regular season title with a win Friday night. If you are in Gainesville, FL, be sure to go out and support them! Admission is FREE!

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Week 7: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. Ark. Razorbacks

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Time: 3:30 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: 68°F – Partly sunny

TV: CBS-HD
Online: Live for FREE at CBSSports.com.
Sirius: 217; XM: 201

Florida Gators Arkansas Razorbacks
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Bobby Petrino
Record: 5-0 (3-0) Record: 3-2 (1-2)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -24.5, O/U 58
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

KEEP AN EYE ON…
Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow…who is currently second all-time to former Georgia Bulldogs running back Herschel Walker in Southeastern Conference rushing touchdowns with 48. He needs one more to tie Walker’s record.
– The UF secondary…which has an interception in 17 straight games back to 2008.
Arkansas Razorbacks running back Michael Smith…who torched the Gators for 133 yards on 20 carries and 43 more on six receptions in 2008. Smith will be a game-time decision to play with a hamstring injury.
– Linebacker Brandon Hicks…who was shoved by Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett after making a hard tackle along the Arkansas sideline in 2008. Revenge?

STREAKS:
– The Gators have won seven consecutive games against the Razorbacks, never scoring less than 33 points in each victory. Florida is 7-1 all-time against Arkansas.
– Saturday’s game pits the top rushing offense in the SEC, Florida at 284.6 yards per game, against the top passing offense in the conference, Arkansas with 318.2 yards per game. The Gators also lead the nation in total defense (202.6 yards per game) and scoring defense (6.4 yards per game).
– Last time the Razorbacks played a No. 1-ranked team, they defeated the LSU Tigers 50-48 in three overtimes in 2007. Arkansas is 4-11 all-time in games against the No. 1-ranked AP team.
– The Gators are in the middle of the longest winning streak in school history with 15 consecutive victories. They also hold the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and are tied with the Auburn Tigers for the longest winning streak in SEC history.
– Scoring at least 41 points in four of their first five games, Arkansas has already beaten a ranked team this season, the then-No. 17 Auburn Tigers 44-23 last week.
– On Saturday, Florida looks to win its 21st consecutive homecoming game.

Read OGGOA’s complete Florida vs. Arkansas preview after the jump…

Continue Reading » Week 7: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. Ark. Razorbacks

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FOUR BITS: Injury updates. Hogs’ Smith out? Tebow/Mallett are opposites. Gator Growl.

1 » Florida Gators injury update for Saturday vs. Arkansas Razorbacks:
CB Moses Jenkins (concussion) – Out. Read this OGGOA story.
LB Jelani Jenkins (ankle) – Doubtful.
DL Lawrence Marsh (ankle) – In protective boot again. Doubtful.
DL Jaye Howard (knee) – Called “50-50” by Meyer. Questionable.
– Redshirt freshman Omar Hunter and senior Troy Epps will rotate on the inside.
WR Carl Moore (back) – Remains Out and struggling to get healthy.
CB Jeremy Brown (back) – Also remains Out, progressing faster than Moore.

2 » Arkansas Razorbacks star running back Michael Smith is being called a “game-time decision” by head coach Bobby Petrino to play on Saturday against the No.1 Florida Gators. Smith’s status remains in doubt after he tweaked his right hamstring in a Hogs win over the Auburn Tigers last weekend.

3 » Standing 6’7″ and 238 pounds, Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett is an example of your prototypical NFL passer. Tim Tebow, at 6’3″ and 242 pounds, serves as more of a physical threat with his strength, but often tucks and runs when Mallett would bide more time in the pocket. To paraphrase Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel, Tebow has finally met his physical match – and polar opposite – at quarterback.

4 » Featuring former Gators National Championship and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel as host and entertainment including comedian Dana Carvey, band O.A.R. and dance troupe Jabbawockeez, the 2009 Gator Growl is looking to be a big-time hit. The world’s largest student-run pep rally is in its 86th year of existence and looks to entertain Gators fans and visitors Friday night in The Swamp!

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FOUR BITS: Petrino vs. No. 1; Kiper’s Big Board; Harvin update; LSU cries about TD

1 » Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino will face a No. 1-ranked team for the first time in his coaching career Saturday afternoon when he takes on the Florida Gators. Losing to Florida 38-7 at home last season, Petrino and the Hogs have plenty of motivation to come back and attempt to take it to the Gators. Running back Michael Smith, who went for 133 yards against UF last season, tweaked his hamstring against the Auburn Tigers last week and is day-to-day.

2 » ESPN’s NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. has come out with his new Big Board, which lists his top 25 NFL prospects. Gators on the list include defensive end Carlos Dunlap at No. 7 (down one spot from last week) and middle linebacker Brandon Spikes at No. 19 (up one spot from last week).

3 » In a story that always seems to draw news, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin missed practice Wednesday. Harvin injured his shoulder last week against the St. Louis Rams but did not miss any game time.

4 » As if only scoring three points last Saturday night was not humiliating enough, the LSU Tigers have decided to be sore losers and ask Southeastern Conference officials to review Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper’s touchdown catch. Cooper grabbed the shirttail of cornerback Chris Hawkins and used it as leverage to get wide open in the end zone and catch a pass from quarterback Tim Tebow. The touchdown gave the Gators a 10-3 lead with 50 seconds left in the first half. “Yeah, we sent that in,” LSU head coach Les Miles said Tuesday. “I’m savoring the opportunity to call in there.”

Extra BIT » Cleveland Indians outfielder Matt LaPorta underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left hip and left big toe on Tuesday. It will take the former Gators first baseman 4-6 months to recover from the injuries, which may slow him down to start the 2010 season.

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