SIX BITS: Sugar Bowl and New Year edition

1 » Friday’s game has plenty of implications for both sides, but the 2010 Sugar Bowl will be especially sweet for a senior class that ranks as the most accomplished in Southeastern Conference history. Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow leads a group that will wear Orange and Blue for the last time (at least in college). “It’ll be fun. It’ll be exciting to go play for the last time as a Gator and have another opportunity to suit up and get that bad taste out of our mouth,” Tebow said. “Honestly, that would be really nice. [Winning this game] means a lot. Not just for being my last game, but for all of our seniors. I want to go out the right way and finish the season 13-1.”

2 » Though OGGOA has shied away from the story over the past week in lieu of other more pressing matters, one big, local non-game story was an argument between FOX and Bright House Networks, whose contract comes to an end Friday before the Sugar Bowl. The two entities have had trouble negotiating a new deal, leaving thousands of Gators fans in Central Florida to wonder whether or not they would have the opportunity to watch the big game. In fact, the companies were even sued by two Florida lawyers for a stay so locals could watch the Gators play. Though the suit played no part in the decision, FOX and Time Warner Cable (which owns Bright House) have agreed to a three-hour contract extension, allowing the game to air in that section of the state.

Four more BITS including spoiled fans and end of era questions after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Sugar Bowl and New Year edition

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FOUR BITS: Dunlap, Billy D, Loeffler, defense

1 » Reinstated by University of Florida administrators and Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap has rejoined the team with a spring in his step and a heavy feeling of guilt. “He knows he let himself down, let his teammates down, let his coaches down,” defensive line coach Dan McCarney said. “He hasn’t had one issue since the day he got here, until that one problem. I don’t know anybody that goes unblemished without a problem in their lives. It was a serious one, a major one and he paid a heck of a price, but he’s ready to go. I’ll be real surprised if he doesn’t play real well Friday night.” Even so, defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said he is not sure if Dunlap will start the game.

2 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan is friends and contemporaries with Meyer, leading him to have a good understanding of the head football coach. The fact that Donovan also pulled an about-face after deciding to step down as coach of the Gators puts him in a unique position to empathize with Meyer’s recent decision to return to the team after a leave of absence. “I don’t think people really understand what happens and what goes on, and I think at least hearing some of Urban’s comments when he initially was going to step away, I can certainly relate and understand,” Donovan said. “It’s very hard to balance — it’s nearly impossible to balance — because you are living with yourself knowing there is more you can be doing. And when you get put into situations every single day, every minute of every day, to make a decision between your wife, your kids and your job, and then when you spend time with one of them you worry about neglecting the other one, it is an incredible emotional drain.”

3 » Though he has often been rumored to be one of the top candidates for the vacant Central Michigan Chippewas head coaching position, Gators quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler contends that he has yet to be contacted by the school. “I have not spoken to them none whatsoever,” he said according to Florida Today. “I am coaching the quarterbacks at the University of Florida, enjoying every second. It’s been great with Tim [Tebow]. It’s been a special week for him being his last football game, and Johnny Brantley, we’re trying to get him better for the future. All I am worrying about is just concentrating and doing everything in my power to help this team win another bowl.”

4 » Charlie Molnar, the Cincinnati Bearcats passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach, told The Cincinnati Enquirer on Tuesday that Florida’s defense is the best in the country. “We have not faced a defense of that caliber,” Molnar said. “The problems they present are so many. They can get pressure on the quarterback with just a four-man rush. They don’t have to blitz in order to get pressure on you. It certainly changes the way the game is played. It will take a very, very concentrated and focused effort on our part to have our success on offense.”

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“Pride or money” choice left for Carlos Dunlap

Arrested for DUI the Monday before the 2009 SEC Championship, junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap became a pariah in the eyes of Florida Gators fans. How could he be so stupid? How could he be so selfish? How could he do this to himself, his teammates and die-hard Gators fans? If Dunlap’s father had it his way, his son would return to the University of Florida to play football, earn his degree and – more importantly – redeem himself and his family.

“It’s a possibility,” Carlos Dunlap, Sr. told The Post and Courier. “It’s a 50-50 chance that he will come back. If it was my decision right now, I would say come back. Because we are a very prideful family. We have a tarnished name, somewhat in the eyes of so-called fans. But I really feel there is a distinct possibility he will come back because he feels like he owes his university something. There are ways you can always redeem yourself. This is not Carlos’ senior year. Carlos has another year to go in school. If he decides to come back to school, he can redeem himself and show the kind of character he has.”

Dunlap’s previously clean record and strong family values have already led head coach Urban Meyer, athletic director Jeremy Foley and university president Bernie Machen to believe in him and allow him to return to the team for the 2010 Sugar Bowl (should he meet certain criteria). But will Dunlap actually return to Gainesville, FL, if he can be a top 10 pick in the upcoming 2010 NFL Draft?

Originally considered a top five pick and potentially even No. 1 overall, Dunlap’s draft projection fell after his DUI arrest brought questions about his trustworthiness. However, the situation is now out of the national spotlight, and Dunlap gets a chance to play on New Year’s Day in a BCS bowl game. Couple that exposure with a strong combine and positive recommendations from his coaches, and he could very well vault back into that top tier without having to spend another year in college. Therefore, the question is no longer if Dunlap is stupid or selfish or if his absence was just another unnecessary distraction that held the Gators back from performing at their best in Atlanta, GA.

The remaining question is simple: Is it about pride or money?

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FOUR BITS: Tickets, injuries, Gators honored

1 » The University of Florida is considered one of the best football traveling schools in the country. However, you would never know that if you looked at the ticket sales for the upcoming 2010 Sugar Bowl against the No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats. Out of the No. 5 Florida Gators’ 17,500 allotted tickets, the team still has almost 5,000 remaining. In fact, the University Athletic Association usually only allows boosters and students to order tickets, but they opened it up to alumni and regular fans via Ticketmaster almost two weeks ago. Should fans wish to attend, they can choose to sit in the Gators section.

2 » Getting ready for a trip to Sunrise, FL, for the 2009 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, the No. 13/13 Florida basketball team (8-1) is dealing with a rash of injuries. Junior forward Chandler Parsons (torn leg muscle), sophomore F/C Kenny Kadji (back spasms) and freshman F Erik Murphy (shoulder) are all missing practice while sophomore guard Ray Shipman (foot) just recently returned to action. “We’re about at a point where we’re playing 3-on-3 in practice,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “You’ve got 10 guys and you’re down to six right now, so that makes it challenging, especially with exams going on.”

3 » The Gators football team keeps racking up honors as six players were named to the Sporting News All-SEC Team on Thursday. On offense, senior quarterback Tim Tebow, junior tight end Aaron Hernandez and junior center Maurkice Pouncey all received the nominations; senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, junior cornerback Joe Haden and junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap represented the defense. Haden was also named the 2009 Defensive MVP by the publication.

4 » Speaking of honors, soccer’s Erika Tymrak was named to the 2009 Soccer America All-Freshman team as a second team selection. She has already been listed on the NSCAA All-South Region second team and SEC All-Freshman team.

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SIX BITS: Juniors in NFL, Henderson’s visit, Loeffler, Azzanni, Bell, Kiper’s Big Board

1 » According to Florida Gators strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, the team’s liaison with the NFL, 8-10 juniors have submitted their paperwork for evaluation by the league’s Draft Advisory Board. One can assume those names include cornerback Joe Haden, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, tight end Aaron Hernandez, center Maurkice Pouncey and guard Mike Pouncey. Others who may have submitted their information include safeties Ahmad Black and Major Wright, defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh and offensive linemen Carl Johnson and Marcus Gilbert.

2 » Five-star offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (St. Paul, MN), considered by many recruiting services to be the No. 1 overall recruit in the country, will be taking his official visit Gainesville, FL, this weekend. Henderson is also seriously considering the USC Trojans, Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

3 » Florida quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, who has only been on the job one year in Gainesville, is considered a top candidate for the Central Michigan Chippewas and Buffalo Bulls head coaching jobs vacated by Butch Jones and Turner Gill, respectively. Some believe a year with next season’s starting quarterback John Brantley could earn Loeffler a much better gig just 12 months from now.

4 » Another name being thrown around the CMU job is brand new Gators wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who joined the program one week ago after the departure of Billy Gonzales to the LSU Tigers. Suffice to say that Florida head coach Urban Meyer would be none to pleased to be forced to replace a second WR coach in a matter of days.

5 » Former Gators QB and current Jacksonville Dolphins head coach Kerwin Bell met with Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong on Wednesday about the Cardinals’ vacant offensive coordinator position. Though working with Strong could be considered a promotion of sorts, Bell may prefer being his own boss at Jacksonville. “Kerwin really likes running his own program and calling the shots,” his athletic director Alan Verlander told The Florida Times-Union. “Unless they throw a lot of money at him, I’m about 95 percent certain that he will be at JU next year.”

6 » ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s latest NFL Draft Big Board has been published and little has changed for Florida’s players. Dunlap crept up one spot from his season-low of No. 17 to No. 16, with Kiper saying his “physical tools are off the charts” and that he “has unlimited upside.” Also on the list are Haden, a “polished cover corner with tackling ability to match,” who held strong at No. 7, and Hernandez, who also popped up a spot to No. 18.. Kiper says Hernandez has “great hands and excellent run-after-catch skills for a TE.” Noticeably absent from the board for a third-straight week is senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who last appeared at No. 25 on Nov. 18.

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Gator Bites for Tuesday, December 15th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» An article published Tuesday by the Gainesville Sun brings Florida Gators fans numerous clarifications from head coach Urban Meyer about some of the most recent incidents and rumors swirling around the football program. It is important to remember that just because Meyer says something does not make it true as coaches cannot always be honest with the media and public. OGGOA will tackle Meyer’s statements one-by-one based on their appearance in the article.

- (Did Billy Gonzales’ knowledge about a birthday party attended by Carlos Dunlap lead to his dismissal?) “That’s absolutely not true,” Meyer said. “In fact, that’s the first I’ve heard of that one. Billy left because he was passed up last year for the offensive coordinator’s job. It was about the title.”

- (Then why did they hire Zach Azzanni so quickly as his replacement?) “We had to act quickly on that because of recruiting and because we have a bowl game coming up,” Meyer said. “I knew the guy and we moved fast on that.”

- (Ole Miss Rebels defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix was offered the job at Florida and turned it down, right?) “I talked to Tyrone. I’ve known Tyrone for a long time,” Meyer said. “But we would have had to change our whole defense if we hired him. We would have had to change everything our players are doing, and we didn’t want to do that.”

- (Will Dunlap play in the 2010 Sugar Bowl?) “It’s close to being finalized,” he said. “It’ll be done pretty soon.” Meyer also indicated he will sit down with athletic director Jeremy Foley and UF president Bernie Machen before making the decision.

Three more Gator Bites are waiting for your eyes after the jump!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Tuesday, December 15th

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Poll Review: Dunlap, SEC, looking ahead

Over the past two weeks, OGGOA had you participate in three polls. First, we asked you how the suspension of Florida Gators junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap would affect the team. Then, after the Gators lost the 2009 SEC Championship, we wanted to know the biggest reason why. Finally, you told us what you were most looking forward to since the loss. 715 combined votes (238 average) were cast, and the results are in:

Losing DE Carlos Dunlap to suspension…
hurts the Gators’ chances of winning. (58%, 105 votes)
does not matter in the long-run. (38%, 69 votes)
improves the Gators’ chances of winning. (4%, 7 votes)

The Gators failed to win the SEC because of…
immense defensive failures. (43%, 131 votes)
Alabama’s overall game plan. (33%, 102 votes)
poor offensive playcalling. (21%, 66 votes)
lack of discipline (penalties). (3%, 9 votes)

What are you most looking forward to?
National Signing Day (39%, 88 votes)
2010 Sugar Bowl (38%, 86 votes)
Florida basketball…fantastic! (21%, 49 votes)
Gators spring sports (2%, 5 votes)

OGGOA is going to call the last poll a tie between National Signing Day and the 2010 Sugar Bowl because the majority vote changed all week long, including the day the poll was closed. I was kind of expecting fans to be looking toward basketball to fill the void now that football suffered a heartbreaking loss (especially with the big game against Syracuse last week), but I was happy to see that people still see the Sugar Bowl as a priority even though the title is not on the line. Take a moment and vote in our brand new poll in the right column: How will Tim Tebow fare in the NFL?

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Nine Gators named to All-SEC coaches’ team

Nine Florida Gators football players were named to the 2009 All-SEC team as voted by the league’s head coaches. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow was Florida’s only unanimous selection. Joining him on the first-team offense are juniors tight end Aaron Hernandez, offensive guard Mike Pouncey and center Maurkice Pouncey. For the defense, senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and juniors cornerback Joe Haden and Carlos Dunlap received first-team honors. Seniors DE Jermaine Cunningham and LB Ryan Stamper earned spots on the second team. The Gators tied the Alabama Crimson Tide who also had a league-high nine All-SEC selections.

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