FOUR BITS: Haden, Hernandez, flaws, Bama’s OL

1 » He may have broken numerous Maryland state records as a high school quarterback, but Florida Gators junior cornerback Joe Haden wanted to play in Gainesville, FL, and realized he would not be unseating now-senior quarterback Tim Tebow for the job. With the help of his father and coaches (who Haden told he just wanted to get on the field), he became an All-American cornerback, the first to start as a freshman in Florida history. “We worked to shape Joe’s body and mind to be able to absorb anything at any level of football,” his father Joe Haden, Sr. said. “It took years of intense training. He went to school with confidence.” His brother Jordan, a four-star recruit, will be joining the Gators in the spring with the same training and mindset.

2 » According to Todd McShay on ESPN Insider, junior tight end Aaron Hernandez has emerged as the most dangerous tight end in the nation. Mostly due to his versatility, Hernandez can make plays any number of ways and the Alabama Crimson Tide must account for him on both passing and rushing downs. Hernandez moves the chains, has run-after-catch ability, stretches the seam and is dynamic enough to catch screen passes and the triple-option shuffle pass and take them upfield. If you subscribe to ESPN Insider, you can read the entire article.

3 » Wednesday, Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com wrote that the Tide were closing in on the title but had to take care of the Gators. Thursday, he looked at Florida’s odd, flawed season and how they are still unbeaten and competing for the 2009 SEC Championship. From questions about Tebow’s NFL prospects, Tennessee Volunteers head coach Lane Kiffin’s comments about Florida head coach Urban Meyer, shunning former QB Shane Matthews and the whole team coming down with the flu to Tebow’s concussion, Meyer’s Notre Dame rumors, a $30,000 fine for commenting on officiating, senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes’ attempted eye gouge and junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap’s DUI arrest, the Gators have been through a lot in 2009. It all truly comes down to Saturday. “I do feel a sense of, ‘We’re here. Let’s not worry about it. Let’s go play,'” Meyer said.

4 » Protecting QB Greg McElroy and opening running lanes for running back Mark Ingram are going to be of paramount importance for Alabama on Saturday. Losing two All-Americans to the NFL Draft, the offensive line has actually performed better than the 2008 unit did – statistically. “It’s just all those guys getting their nose in the book and learning this offense and being able to be prepared for situations we see on Saturdays,” senior guard Mike Johnson said. The Gators are 39-1 under Meyer when holding an opponent to less than 100 yards rushing; they have done this in four straight games and nine times in 2009.

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Haden named an All-American, Tebow to present

Florida Gators junior cornerback Joe Haden was chosen to the 2009 All-America Team by the American Football Coaches Association on Thursday. Haden, who is also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, was the only Florida player to land a spot on the team, the first Gators CB since Keiwan Ratliff (2003).

Beating out senior quarterback Tim Tebow for the honor was Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy, while Georgia Bulldogs punter Drew Butler was selected over Florida junior Chas Henry. Four Alabama Crimson Tide players (running back Mark Ingram, offensive lineman Mike Johnson, linebacker Rolando McClain, CB Javier Arenas) were honored.

Tebow received a different distinction on Wednesday, however, as he was announced as a presenter for The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards on Thursday, Dec. 10. Along with Faron Kelly, Disney’s director of sports marketing, Tebow will be presenting the Disney Spirit Award (for college football’s most inspirational figure) that he won in 2008. Tebow is a 2009 finalist for the Maxwell Award (most outstanding college football player) and O’Brien Award (nation’s best college quarterback) while teammates Haden, senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes (Bednarik Award – outstanding defensive player) and Henry (Ray Guy Award – nation’s best punter) are also listed as nominees.

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Poll Reviews: FIU/FSU MVP, most important

Over the past two weeks, OGGOA asked you to participate in three polls. The first two determined your Most Valuable Players for the Florid International Golden Panthers and Florida State Seminoles games, while the third determined which administrator was most important to University of Florida athletics. An OGGOA-record total of 875 combined votes (292 average) were cast, and the results are in:

Who was your Florida Gators MVP vs. FIU?
QB Tim Tebow (50%, 92 votes)
QB John Brantley (25%, 47 votes)
RB Chris Rainey (13%, 25 votes)
LB Brandon Spikes (12%, 22 votes)

Who was your Florida Gators MVP vs. FSU?
QB Tim Tebow (77%, 203 votes)
TE Aaron Hernandez (21%, 55 votes)
LB Brandon Hicks (1%, 4 votes)
RB Jeff Demps (1%, 3 votes)

Tebow’s third and fourth OGGOA MVP honors came in back-to-back weeks for the first time all season. His previous victories were against Georgia and Arkansas. Both victories are well-deserved, especially the Florida State one seeing as Tebow put up five touchdowns and had his best performance of the season.

Who has done more for the Florida Gators?
AD Jeremy Foley (39%, 166 votes)
HC Steve Spurrier (32%, 135 votes)
HC Urban Meyer (27%, 114 votes)
HC Billy Donovan (2%, 9 votes)

Reviewing the results of this poll, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the respect and appreciation for what Foley has done for UF’s athletic program is wide-spread. Often times, fans look at the coaches and players and do not know who is really taking care of things behind the scenes. Though I do not need to convince you to vote for Foley, this is just a taste of what he has done since becoming the athletic director in 1992. He hired Meyer, Donovan, Becky Burleigh (soccer), Tim Walton (softball) while retaining Buddy Alexander (men’s golf) and Mary Wise (volleyball) and helping the Gators finish as the top-ranked overall program in the Southeastern Conference in 15 of his 16 years.

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FOUR BITS: Exper., TDs, Cody, Spikes & Stamper

1 » When comparing the No. 1 Florida Gators and No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide, there are plenty of similarities between the two teams. One thing in Florida’s favor is their considerable edge over Alabama in championship game experience. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow and the seniors are 4-0 in National Championship and SEC Championship games. “I think our experience helps us a lot,” Tebow said. “A lot of players on our team have played in the big games, even the experience from last year’s game against Alabama and also against Oklahoma. Plus, our rivalry games are so big, to us they’re just like an SEC Championship game or a National Championship game. It helps us a lot. We’re ready for those pressure-packed moments.”

2 » The Gators and Crimson Tide both have strong-legged kickers, but both teams are seeking touchdowns – not field goals – when they play on Saturday in Atlanta, GA. “If you have to settle for field goals in a game like this, it’s going to be tough to win,” Tebow said. “You have to come up with big plays in the red zone. When you get down there, you have to put it in for six because that makes a difference in winning and losing. In those final drives last year, if we settled for field goals, who knows if we win that game?”

3 » Alabama defensive lineman Terrence Cody is literally the biggest issue Florida’s offense will have to deal with on Saturday. Described as “massive,” Cody has the ability to dominate a game at the line of scrimmage. Even so, the Gators did their best to contain him in 2008 and will take him to task again later this week. “He ain’t Superman,” junior right guard Mike Pouncey said. “He can be blocked. It just takes a lot of effort.”

4 » With junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap likely suspended due to his DUI arrest Tuesday, senior linebackers Brandon Spikes and Ryan Stamper – the Gators’ dynamic duo on defense – prove to be even more important to the unit’s success. “Their linebackers are both really, really good,” Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said.

Extra Bit » Four Florida volleyball players were named to 2009 All-Southeastern Conference teams on Monday. Sophomores outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and right-side/setter Kelly Murphy were both selected to the first team while senior libero Elyse Cusack and sophomore outside hitter Colleen Ward earned second-team honors. Cusack was also named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive week and league-leading 13th time in her career. She is the only player in SEC history to receive the honor four times in a single season and has done so in back-to-back years.

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Week 13: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. FSU Seminoles

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Time: 3:30 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: 60°F – Partly Sunny

TV: CBS / CBSHD
Online: CBSSports.com.
Sirius: 218; XM: 201

Florida Gators Florida State Seminoles
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Bobby Bowden
Record: 11-0 (8-0) Record: 6-5 (4-4)
Division: SEC East Division: ACC Atlantic
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -24.5, O/U 56
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

KEEP AN EYE ON…
– Florida’s 2009 senior class…who set the Southeastern Conference record for winningest class with their 46th win last Saturday and will be honored on Senior Day. 25 seniors will be playing their last game in The Swamp, and the University of Florida has set aside 10 minutes prior to the game to recognize each player.
– Senior quarterback Tim Tebow…who has already broken the SEC rushing touchdown record (Herschel Walker, Georgia) and touchdowns-scored record (Kevin Faulk, LSU) with 54, set the SEC career record for rushing yards by a QB with 2,743 and has a 169.3 career rating good for No. 1 in conference history.
– Senior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham…who leads the team with seven sacks.
– Senior linebacker Ryan Stamper…who is tops on the Gators with 64 tackles.
– Senior kick returner Brandon James…who set the SEC record for kickoff return yards last week with 2,538 yards on 105 returns. He has also set the SEC all-time kick return mark (combined) with 3,930 yards and all-time punt return mark with 1,339 yards.

STREAKS:
– The Gators are in the middle of the longest winning streak in school history with 21 consecutive victories. They also hold the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and the best in the nation in the last 15 years. 20 of Florida’s 21 wins have been by a double digit margin. The team is also 11-0 for the second time in school history.
– The Gators lead the SEC in rushing offense (229.9) and third-down efficiency (.475). They also come in No. 2 in total offense (442.8) and scoring offense (36.5). Florida’s offense is one of two teams nationally that has posted at least 2,500 rushing yards and 2,300 passing yards (TCU).
– On defense, the Gators have only surrendered ten touchdowns all season (fewest of any team in the nation). The unit has also only allowed 13 field goals for a total of 108 points (9.8 points per game) – this also leads the nation.
– Florida has held three straight opponents and seven this season under 100 yards rushing.
– The Gators lead the all-time series against the Seminoles 32-19-2 with a 19-8-1 record in Gainesville, FL. UF has also won the last five consecutive meetings between the schools with a 90-27 combined margin of victory over that time span.

SENIORS:
The Gators 2009 senior class is the winningest class in SEC history with a 46-6 record in their time in the Orange and Blue. However, that is not the only accomplishment the class has made in the last four years. The senior class has:

Three All-Americans – Five All-SEC Members – 12 SEC Academic Honor Roll Members – Two SEC Championships – Three SEC Eastern Division titles – Two National Championships – 27-5 SEC record – 25-2 record at The Swamp – 14-3 (.823) vs. ranked teams, the top winning pct. for a UF senior class – 11-1 vs. rivals (Tennessee, Georgia, Florida State and Miami) – National Defensive POY – Heisman Trophy Winner

* Markihe Anderson – #14 – CB – Fort Myers, Fla.
* Jim Barrie – #68 – OL – Tampa, Fla.
* Andrew Blaylock – #14 – QB – Durham, N.C.
* Rick Burgess – #48 – FB – Jupiter, Fla.
* Christopher Coleman – #84 – TE – Lake City, Fla.
* Riley Cooper – #11 – WR – Clearwater, Fla.
* Dustin Doe – #32 – LB – Jasper, Fla.
* Jermaine Cunningham – #49 – DE – Stone Mountain, Ga.
* Troy Epps – #98 – DT – Union, S.C.
* John Fairbanks – #59 – LS – Celebration, Fla.
* Michael Guilford – #46 – QB – Quincy, Fla.
* Corey Hobbs – #79 – OL – Oviedo, Fla.
* Cade Holliday – #22 – WR – Gainesville, Fla.
* Brandon James – #25 – ATH – St. Augustine, Fla.
* Dorian Munroe – #20 – S – Miami, Fla.
* David Nelson – #83 – WR – Wichita Falls, Texas
* Jonathan Phillips – #38 – K – Wellington, Fla.
* Wondy Pierre-Louis – #4 – CB – Naples, Fla.
* Chris Pintado – #30 – LB – Miami, Fla.
* Christopher Scott – #29 – RB – Englewood, Fla.
* Joey Sorrentino – #39 – WR – Ocala, Fla.
* Brandon Spikes – #51 – LB – Shelby, N.C.
* Ryan Stamper – #41 – LB – Jacksonville, Fla.
* Tim Tebow – #15 – QB – Jacksonville, Fla.
* Mike Williamson – #53 – LS – Winter Park, Fla.

Read OGGOA’s Florida Gators vs. FSU Seminoles preview after the jump…

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FOUR BITS: FSU smack talk, ’06 recruits, updates

1 » Florida Gators fans who follow recruiting closely will certainly know the name Greg Reid. For those of who don’t, Reid was a four-star cornerback who committed to Florida but eventually turned his back on the Gators to sign with the Florida State Seminoles this year. Now that he is set to play Florida for the first time, Reid is spouting off at the mouth about UF and head coach Urban Meyer. “Hopefully they’ll punt the ball to me,” Reid said. “I ain’t scared of [Meyer], I ain’t afraid of him. I know he wants to kind of get some payback. So I hope he brings it. I hope they punt the ball to me maybe three or four times. Out of them, I’m gonna take one to the house, I know that.” On decommitting from the Gators, Reid continued talking. “It was kind of disappointing. [Meyer] was talking to me like Florida was the world. But, I mean, I don’t too much like cockiness.” Are you saying Meyer is cocky? “I ain’t afraid to say that.” The last Seminole to talk smack of this level against Florida was linebacker Geno Hayes. “Tim Tebow’s going down,” Hayes said in 2007. “The bigger they are, the harder the fall. Hopefully we can go out there and shatter his dream.” In case you need a reminder of Tebow’s response, here it is:

2 » Florida State running back Jermaine Thomas, who injured his ribs last Saturday against the Maryland Terrapins, is “100 percent” for the Florida game on Saturday. However, the Seminoles will already be playing without three starters as quarterback Christian Ponder and tight end Caz Piuowski are out and left guard Rodney Hudson is “very doubtful” for for the game.

3 » Meyer has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, especially the fact that his 2006 recruiting class appears to be the best ever assembled at Florida. Consisting of Tebow, linebackers Brandon Spikes and A.J. Jones, wide receivers Percy Harvin and Riley Cooper, offensive linemen Carl Johnson and Marcus Gilbert, defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham and kick returner Brandon James, it is certainly a worthwhile argument. “There are many guys in that class that have done a great job,” Meyer said.

4 » According to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, the Gators have strong interest in South Carolina Gamecocks four-star OL commit Eric Mack (St. Matthews, SC). The paper reports that Mack was invited for and accepted an official visit to Gainesville, FL, the same weekend as the North-South game.

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FOUR BITS: Award finalists, visiting recruits, cross country at NCAAs, volleyball award

1 » Numerous Florida Gators football players have been named finalists for national college football awards set to be announced during the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards show on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow – Maxwell Award (Best All-Around Player), Davey O’Brien Award (Best Quarterback); senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes – Chuck Bednarik Award (Best Defensive Player); junior cornerback Joe Haden – Jim Thorpe Award (Best Defensive Back); junior punter Chas Henry – Ray Guy Award (Best Punter); junior tight end Aaron Hernandez – John Mackey Award (Best Tight End).

2 » Edward Aschoff over at the Gainesville Sun has compiled a comprehensive list of high school football players expected to visit Gainesville, FL, for the Florida vs. Florida State Seminoles game on Saturday. Among them are 12 current commitments (Elam, Christian, Brown, Burton, Watkins, Patton, Orr, Silberman, Ball, Trail, Haden, Van) as well as 5-star, 4-star and 3-star recruits. OGGOA reported via twitter that five-star safety commit Matt Elam rescheduled his official visit for Dec. 12, but he may also visit unofficially this weekend.

3 » No. 5 women’s cross country finished in seventh-place at the 2009 NCAA Championships on Monday afternoon. The highest finish in program history, the Gators were the only Southeastern Conference team competing in the event. The top-10 finish was the first in program history, according to the Sports Information Department. “We’ve had a tremendous year, cross country coach Todd Morgan said. “We won the SEC and the South Regional Championships and today, we finished top 10 in the country for the first time. We’re definitely leaving here feeling like we didn’t run totally on cylinders, which is a great thing because we still finished so well.”

4 » On Sunday, senior Florida libero Elyse Cusack moved into second place on the SEC’s all-time career digs list. Her great weekend was capped off with an SEC Defensive Player of the Week honor announced by the conference on Monday. This is Cusack’s 12th time winning the award, her third this season. Since the SEC started handing out this award for volleyball in 2003, the Gators have won it 22 times – more than any other program.

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Grading the Florida vs. Florida Intl. 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 Florida International Golden Panthers on Saturday afternoon in The Swamp.

QUARTERBACKS: A+
While his 17-of-25 completion numbers do leave something to be desired, it is tough to dock any points from senior Tim Tebow for his performance on Saturday. Piling up 102 yards on the ground including a career-long 55-yard touchdown run as well as 215 yards and two more touchdowns through the air, Tebow was his old self. Then again, he was playing against FIU. More impressive on Saturday was redshirt sophomore back-up John Brantley, who went 9-for-13 for 146 yards and three touchdowns. Tebow and Brantley combined to spread the ball around to nine receivers, seven of whom had more than one catch on the day.

RUNNING BACKS: B
Redshirt junior transfer Emmanuel Moody sat out the game, though his classmate Christopher Scott got to see action late in the game. Sophomore Jeff Demps and redshirt sophmore Chris Rainey started. Even so, there were only 22 carries dished out between the three, with Demps getting nine for 46 yards (5.1 average), Rainey taking four for 30 yards and a touchdown (7.5 average) and Scott running nine for 26 yards (2.9 average). Rainey, however, added 61 yards and a touchdown in the receiving game. Nothing too impressive or surprising overall against a porous FIU defense.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the FIU game after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida vs. Florida Intl. game

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