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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Streaks and records following Florida vs. FIU

- The No. 1 Florida Gators extended their nation’s-best and school-record win streak by recording their 21th consecutive victory on Saturday. The Gators’ winning streak is now fifth in Southeastern Conference.

– Defeating the Florida International Golden Panthers by 59 points, Florida’s has now won 20 of their 21 straight games by double digits.

– Senior quarterback Tim Tebow broke Kevin Faulk’s (1995-98) SEC record of 53 touchdowns with his 55-yard scoring run in the first quarter. Tebow has now set three all-time SEC records this year (rushing touchdowns, rushing yards by a QB). Tebow also tied Eli Manning (Ole Miss, 2000-03) for fourth in SEC history with 81 career touchdown passes after his two scores through the air on Saturday.

– The Gators recorded 11 interceptions over the past five weeks, best in the nation.

– For the eighth time in 2009, Florida’s defense held an opponent under 100 rushing yards. They also held their sixth opponent to an under-50 percent completions.

– The Gators offense recorded 30 first downs on Saturday, the second-highest total under head coach Urban Meyer (32 vs. Troy Trojans, 2009).

– Florida has not surrendered a turnover in the last four games.

– For the 10th time in 11 games, special teams did not allow a single punt return yard.

– Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes‘ 41-yard interception return for a touchdown was his fourth in the last two seasons. He is the only player in the country with as many in the same time span.

– Tebow recorded over 100 rushing yards for the fifth time in his career. He also moved into third on the SEC’s all-time total offensive yards gained list with 11,078.

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UF trounces FIU, senior class sets SEC record

Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes ran an interception back 41 yards for a touchdown, senior quarterback Tim Tebow took off on a career-long 55-yard touchdown run and there was still 9:18 left in the first quarter. That was how Saturday started for the No. 1 Florida Gators (11-0, 8-0 SEC), who defeated the Florida International Golden Panthers (3-8, 3-4 Sunbelt) 62-3 in a game that was a showcase for the Gators’ record-breaking senior class and lengthened the longest winning streak in school history and currently in the nation to 21 consecutive victories.

Running onto Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the second-to-last time in their Florida careers, the group ended the game as the winningest all-time Southeastern Conference senior class with a record of 46-5. Tebow would take seven caries for 102 total yards on the ground while accounting for 215 more with two touchdowns through the air on 17-for-25 passing. It was the fifth time in his career that Tebow rushed for more than 100 yards. Redshirt sophomore QB John Brantley took over for Tebow early in the third quarter, compiling 146 yards passing and three touchdowns as well as 23 yards on three carries.

Redshirt sophomore running back Chris Rainey had a monster game of his own, carrying four times for 30 yards and a touchdown while also reeling in three receptions for 61 yards and a score. Both of Rainey’s touchdowns came in the second quarter, putting the Gators up 28-0 with 9:41 left in the first half. Fellow redshirt sophomore wide receiver Deonte Thompson led the Gators in both receptions (5 – career high) and receiving yards (66). Nine Florida players had receptions on Saturday, seven with more than one including seniors Riley Cooper (48 yards, touchdown), redshirt David Nelson (45 yards) and Brandon James (15 yards) as well as redshirt freshmen Omarius Hines (50 yards, touchdown) and Frankie Hammond, Jr. (38 yards, touchdown).

Defensively for the Gators, redshirt sophomore Jaye Howard recorded a team-high seven tackles, senior linebackers Ryan Stamper and Dustin Doe each recorded a sack and redshirt junior defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh split another with Howard. Spikes’ interception at 13:10 in the first quarter was the sole turnover of the game for either team. Florida’s defense held FIU to only 189 total offensive yards (most of which came against the second and third units), while only allowing the Golden Panthers to convert 4-of-15 third-down attempts.

Sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis continued to struggle, missing his fourth consecutive field goal attempt – this time a 53-yarder. Sturgis, however, made all eight of his extra points while redshirt senior Jonathan Phillips had his sole attempt blocked in the fourth quarter. James was silent in the return game, bringing back two kickoffs for 53 yards and four punts for 25 yards. Coverage teams allowed FIU an average of 24.9 yards per return on seven chances.

Florida finishes its 2009 regular season against the in-state rival Florida State Seminoles on Nov. 28 at 3:30 p.m. The Gators will wear special Nike Pro Combat jerseys for the game, which will feature an appearance from ESPN College GameDay and is also the last in The Swamp for the 2009 senior class.

Game Notes:
– Junior tight end Aaron Hernandez missed the first quarter on a coach’s decision. Head coach Urban Meyer would not elaborate.
– Redshirt junior linebacker A.J. Jones injured his MCL during the game. He is out for FSU, after that to be determined.
– Redshirt junior left guard Carl Johnson (ankle) and junior center Maurkice Pouncey (bone bruise) were both injured in the game but will most likely be able to play next week.

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Week 12: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. FIU G. Panthers

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Time: 12:30 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: 75°F – Partly Sunny

TV: Pay-Per-View and ESPN Gameplan (Check your local listings.)
Online: None.
Sirius: 214; XM: 201

Florida Gators FIU Golden Panthers
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Mario Cristobal
Record: 10-0 (8-0) Record: 3-7 (3-4)
Division: SEC East Division: Sun Belt
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -45, O/U 56.5
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

KEEP AN EYE ON…
– Florida’s 2009 senior class…who go into Saturday’s game with a 45-6 record, tied for the SEC mark for winningest class in conference history. The SEC record of 45 wins is shared by the 1996 Gators, 1994 Alabama Crimson Tide, 1998 Tennessee Volunteers and 2005 Georgia Bulldogs.
– Senior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham…who leads the team with seven sacks.
– Senior linebacker Ryan Stamper…who is tops on the Gators with 61 tackles.
– Senior kick returner Brandon James…who set the SEC record for kickoff return yards last week with 2,538 yards on 105 returns. James looks for a return touchdown this week.
– Senior wide receiver Riley Cooper…who is looking to improve after dropping two touchdowns last week against South Carolina. He caught one.
– Florida’s Nick Alajajian and Florida International’s Joe Alajajian…who are brothers.

STREAKS:
– The Gators are in the middle of the longest winning streak in school history with 20 consecutive victories. They also hold the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and the best in the SEC in the past 15 years since the Auburn Tigers won 20 straight from 1993-94. 19 of Florida’s 20 wins have been by a double digit margin. Florida is 10-0 for the third time in school history (1995, 1996).
– The Gators lead the SEC in rushing offense (230.6) and third-down efficiency (.441). They also come in No. 3 in total offense (428.7) and scoring offense (33.9).
– On defense, the Gators have only surrendered ten touchdowns all season (fewest of any team in the nation). The unit has also only allowed 12 field goals for a total of 105 points (10.5 points per game) – this also leads the nation.
– Florida tallied a season-high six sacks last week against South Carolina, including three within a span of four defensive snaps.
– The Gators allowed a season-low 61 net rushing yards last week while also holding the SEC league leader in sacks, Eric Norwood, without one.
– Florida has recorded 10 interceptions over the past four weeks, best in the nation.

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

Continue Reading » Week 12: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. FIU G. Panthers

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FOUR BITS: 3s, weekend games, Spikes, injuries

1 » Florida Gators basketball (2-0) looks to keep on rolling as they take on the Troy Trojans (2-0) Friday at 7 p.m. in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Shooting a combined 3-for-29 (10.3%) from behind the arc, the Gators are bucking a trend head coach Billy Donovan set upon his arrival to Gainesville, FL. Florida has traditionally been among the best in the Southeastern Conference in three-point shooting percentage as Donovan has made it a priority both in his recruiting and game plans. “I think for guys like Kenny [Boynton] and Erving [Walker], it is probably somewhat uncharacteristic,” Donovan said. “They have been shooting the ball well in practice. Chandler [Parsons] and Dan [Werner] are guys that maybe have been a little more up and down in their careers.”

2 » There’s plenty of other Gators sports action on the docket for the weekend. Men’s and women’s swimming & diving begin their participation in all-day weekend tournaments Friday. Women’s basketball (1-1) faces the No. 25 Pittsburgh Panthers (1-0) in Pittsburgh, PA, on Friday, and No. 13/13 volleyball (20-4, 14-3 SEC) heads to Knoxville, TN, to serve against the Tennessee Volunteers (20-7, 13-4 SEC) – both matches are scheduled for 7 p.m. Volleyball will then travel to Lexington, KY, to take on the Kentucky Wildcats (26-2, 16-1 SEC) on Sunday at 2 p.m.

3 » Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes has been named as one of the five finalists for the 25th annual Butkus Award honoring the nation’s top linebacker. Other finalists include Rolando McClain of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Sergia Kindle of the Texas Longhorns, Sean Weatherspoon of the Missouri Tigers and Eric Norwood of the South Carolina Gamecocks.

4 » Redshirt juniors running back Emmanuel Moody (sprained ankle) and defensive tackle Terron Sanders (rib/back) have been ruled out for the Florida International Golden Panthers game on Saturday. According to head coach Urban Meyer, senior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham is “50-50” for the game with an unspecified injury. This is a good week to rest any banged up players prior to the regular season finale against the Florida State Seminoles next weekend.

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FOUR BITS: Spikes’ award noms, Notre Dame’s offer, Florida’s cupcake, Kiffin’s innocent?

1 » Florida Gators senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes has been left off of the final ballots for the Bronko Nagurski Award (nation’s best defensive player) and Lott Trophy (defensive IMPACT player of the year). Limited playing time is surely the reason Spikes’ was left off the former, while his eye gouging incident is certainly why he was left off the latter. IMPACT is an acronym used by the Lott Trophy community for integrity, maturity, performance, academics, committee and tenacity.

2 » One of OGGOA‘s twitter followers forwarded us a rumor that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish flew into Gainesville, FL, Thursday and offered Florida head coach Urban Meyer a $50 million guaranteed contract. Our immediate responses? (1) Hogwash. (2) That’s not enough. Meyer recently agreed to a six-year, $24 million contract with UF. An additional $1 million is not going to pull him away from a program that has finally been built and filled with “his” players (along with the multitude of other reasons why he would stay). What could potentially grab Meyer would be the allure and history of Notre Dame, not that I believe it will. Let’s not forget, Meyer chose the Gators over the Irish once already – he had the option. Yuck, I just gave the rumor credence.

3 » Steve Eubanks of FOXSports.com questions why the Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide are playing “cupcakes” this week. “I think this is a good football game. I think [FIU] is a team that is going to be in a bowl game within a couple of years, a lot like FAU a few years ago,” Meyer said.

4 » Gregg Doyel, a UF alum who writes for CBSSports.com, believes fans should not be blaming Tennessee Volunteers head coach Lane Kiffin for his player’s legal issues. “How was he supposed to know that those guys would — allegedly — behave so criminally?” And Meyer was supposed to know that the players he recruited were going to — allegedly — behave criminally? Seems like a pretty ridiculous hypocritical stance to take on Doyell’s part, especially considering he trounced Meyer this summer for the Gators’ prior arrests (even though many weren’t recruited by Meyer).

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