Friday Final: Florida Gators tight ends leading attempted offensive resurgence

We’re back with Florida Football Friday Final, where takes a last look at the Florida Gators as they prepare for their first road contest under new head coach Jim McElwain.

The Gators will take on the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and air live on SEC Network.

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Florida Gators practice update: Jim McElwain likely going with hot hand at quarterback

More pleased with his team’s efforts over the last few days, Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain was in a better mood when he met with the media Wednesday evening ahead of his squad’s upcoming road contest against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Lexington, Kentucky.

McElwain discussed the continuing quarterback battle, provided some injury updates and also explained how one of Florida’s players has handled a difficult week with plenty of media attention.

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Florida Gators update 2015 roster, adding transfers and freshman uniform numbers

With the Summer B semester starting on Monday, the Florida Gators officially updated their 2015 football roster listing most of the new players joining the team this season.

Florida first confirmed four transfers, adding Josh Grady (Vanderbilt), Luke Del Rio (Oregon State), Anthony Harrell (Georgia Tech) and Mason Halter (FCS Fordham).

» 12 – Josh Grady, redshirt senior quarterback
» 14 – Luke Del Rio, redshirt sophomore quarterback (walk-on)
» 75 – Mason Halter, redshirt senior offensive lineman
» TBA – Anthony Harrell, redshirt senior linebacker

Most – but not all – of the freshmen recruiting class was also added.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators update 2015 roster, adding transfers and freshman uniform numbers

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Three-star WR Kalif Jackson commits to Florida

The Florida Gators ever-changing 2015 recruiting class added a member on Tuesday when three-star wide receiver Kalif Jackson (Neptune Beach, FL), a Friday Night Lights attendee, made his commitment official.

Jackson (6-foot-4, 195 pounds) received a scholarship offer from the Gators on Tuesday and accepted it almost immediately. He chose Florida over a previously-stated top five of Duke, Georgia Tech, Missouri, Rutgers and Vanderbilt.

“Just received an offer from the University of Florida … Moral of the story is hardwork pays,” Jackson tweeted at 12:04 p.m. Just over seven hours later, he added: “I also just committed to the University of Florida.”

“[He] has all of the physical tools in the world to be a solid contributor as a big bodied receiver,” wrote Mike Singer of on June 24 ($). “Jackson made several jaw-dropping catches on the field at the IMG [7v7 National Championship] tournament.”

Jackson also has the frame to play tight end, though he would need to gain some weight to be a better fit for the position.

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FOUR BITS: Rainey, Hill, ESPN 300, Demps

1 » Just a couple days after voicing his belief in the talent and potential of former Florida Gators running back Chris Rainey, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was forced to waive the player for non-football reasons. “You can see the athleticism, the burst, the speed,” he said Saturday. “He puts a foot in the ground and gets north and south.” Pagano is expected to address the situation after training camp on Monday, though it is doubtful that he will detail what specific conduct rule that Rainey violated. It will be the second time in as many offseasons that Rainey will be released by a team for non-football reasons. Just one year ago, Rainey was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers after an arrest for domestic violence, a charge that was later dropped and expunged from his record. The Steelers also had concerns about Rainey’s off-field activity including a gambling habit that affected him during his rookie season.

2 » Updating an item from Friday, former Gators safety Will Hill spoke with the media about being signed by the Baltimore Ravens, claiming once again that “everything is behind me” in terms of his marijuana use. “[I was] just being irresponsible,” he said, according to the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson. “Yeah, I feel like I’ve learned. I’m ready to play football. [The Ravens] talked to the [New York] Giants and they had nothing but good words to say about me.” Apparently Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome sat down with Hill and was assured that the player’s drug use – which has been an issue since he started playing at Florida – is now in the back window. “It was just getting comfortable with each other and letting him know that the things that happened before won’t be happening here,” Hill added. Though he will be able to practice with the team and play in preseason games, Hill will not be activated for the 2014 regular season until Oct. 13 as he must first serve a six-game suspension, his third for drug use (second for a substance of abuse) since being signed by the Giants three years ago.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Rainey, Hill, ESPN 300, Demps

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Previewing Florida’s 2014 Friday Night Lights

Mixing pomp and circumstance with football drills and relationship building, the Florida Gators use their annual Friday Night Lights camp at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as both a recruiting tool and means of evaluating some of the best high school football players in the country. The Gators often host top-tier prospects over the FNL weekend but also find diamonds in the rough while coaching up the recruits.

The Swamp will once again filled with some of the top young talent in the nation on July 25, so much so that covering every player that plans to step on the field is a near impossibility. Below are a list of 10 players (in no particular order) to keep an eye on either because of their talent or high level of interest in attending Florida.

OT Martez Ivey (Apopka, FL) –
One of the top offensive tackles in the nation, Ivey is down to Florida and Auburn. His trip to Friday Night Lights should help him feel more comfortable with the Gators, but he will not make a decision until he sees how UF plays in 2014 and determines whether the coaching staff recruiting him will be around next year. A big Florida fan, the Gators are ultimately the team to beat for his services but can just as easily beat themselves and send him across the conference to play for the Tigers.

ATH Ray-Ray McCloud (Tampa, FL) –
McCloud has set his commitment announcement for Monday at 6:30 p.m., and his decision to spend the weekend before that choice is made in Gainesville speaks volumes. Florida is the favorite to pick up one of the most talented athletes in the country but is in competition primarily with UCLA and Clemson. He plays running back, wide receiver and cornerback and will likely do so for the Gators, but as is the case with Ivey, will be keeping an eye on how the team performs in 2014 even if he does choose UF.

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Gators add CB/ATH Jalen Julius to 2015 class

The Florida Gators on Wednesday added their third defensive back pledge of the 2015 recruiting cycle, gaining a verbal commitment from a fast-rising local product in speedy athlete Jalen Julius (Orlando, Florida).

Unranked and unrated by, Julius was offered by the Gators on March 23 and took just over one month to come to his decision, telling recruiting analyst Blake Alderman that he chose UF over Auburn, Ohio State and Tennessee after he and his family came to a unanimous decision.

“Florida has a great environment. My aunt knows Coach T-Rob [Travaris Robinson] on the staff and my mom likes Florida and then I like Florida,” he told Alderman at ($). “I think the team has good chemistry and the coaches are easy going. It’s a good place for me because my connections with them.”

Primarily an offensive player during his first three years of high school, Julius (5-foot-11, 173 pounds) is considered an athlete and committed to the Gators as a cornerback. He is also a likely candidate for kick and punt returner. [Highlights]

Former Florida CB Keiwan Ratliff is Julius’s 7-on-7 coach and has been training him on the defensive side of the ball.

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Gators add pledge from 2015 TE Camrin Knight

The recruiting hot streak the Florida Gators are on coming out of Junior Day continued on Wednesday with tight end/linebacker Camrin Knight (Tallahassee, FL) choosing to continue his career two hours south of his hometown in Gainesville, FL.

“Committed to the University of Florida Proud to be part of the #GatorNation #Blessed #CHOMPCHOMP,” he wrote on his Twitter account Wednesday night.

A dual-sport athlete who is also a star on the Lincoln High School basketball team, Knight (6-foot-4, 220 lbs.) received a flurry of offers this month with interest coming in from Georgia Tech, Eastern Carolina, Cincinnati and Maryland. He visited Florida for Junior Day last weekend.

Knight, who was recruited by tight ends coach Derek Lewis and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, has spent most of his high school career playing linebacker but played some tight end as a junior and projects better as a high-upside offensive playmaker.

He is the Gators’ fifth 2015 commitment, all five of which are from the state of Florida. UF has received four of those pledges in the last six days.

Three of Florida’s five commitments – defensive back Deontai Williams (Jacksonville, FL), offensive lineman Tyler Jordan and wide receiver Deondre Farrier (Orlando, FL) – are rated as three-star recruits by The other two, Knight and WR Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, FL), are unranked as of press time.

As a result, the Gators’ recruiting class is currently ranked 28th by Florida and Miami are the only two of 15 programs with five or more commitments to have none of those five players ranked higher than a three-star prospect by the recruiting service.

Analysts with a number of recruiting services tell that many 2015 prospects are still awaiting evaluation.

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