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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Florida has 11 players named to All-SEC teams

The Associated Press released its 2009 All-SEC team lists on Monday and, to no one’s surprise, 11 Florida Gators football players made the cut.

Senior quarterback Tim Tebow, junior guard Mike Pouncey, junior center Maurkice Pouncey, junior tight end Aaron Hernandez, junior cornerback Joe Haden and junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap were all awarded first-team honors while senior wide receiver Riley Cooper, senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, senior DE Jermaine Cunningham and junior punter Chas Henry were placed on the second team. Junior strong safety Ahmad Black received an honorable mention.

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FOUR BITS: No excuses, Foley, rating, softball

1 » Speaking with reporters following the 2009 SEC Championship, Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong refused to make excuses for his unit’s shortcomings. “We just didn’t play well at all,” Strong said. “We didn’t get off the field on third down. It was one of our worst performances in a long time. We can’t worry about one player [junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap]. He could have been hurt on the first play. [Alabama] showed nothing new. If you don’t tackle well, you give up big plays.”

2 » Saturday’s game garnered the highest rating ever for the SEC Championship on CBS, scoring an 11.8/24 or 13 percent higher than 2008’s 10.4/21. The rating peaked at a 13.0/24 from 7:00-7:30 p.m. (EST). It also reportedly set a record for CBS’s online streaming service, at least quadrupling their previous high of requests.

3 » The Birmingham News praised Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley for showing class and going over to the Alabama Crimson Tide‘s athletic department at the end of the game to congratulate them. “There’s a reason the Florida AD is considered the best in the business, and it’s not just because of all the championships his teams have won and all the money his school has made,” the article states. “That was a championship moment by a man whose team just saw its championship run come to an end.”

4 » Lake Wales, FL, softball pitcher Hannah Rogers always wanted to play for the Gators. When she was not offered a scholarship early on in the recruiting process, Rogers committed to the Florida State Seminoles. That was until a roster spot opened up on Florida’s roster and head coach Tim Walton offered her a scholarship. “It’s exciting because ever since I was little, I wanted to go to Florida,” she said. “It was a real emotional decision […], but I knew that Gainesville felt more like home to me.”

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Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

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 Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA. Following those grades, OGGOA has provided its overlooked grades (without explanations) for the Florida State Seminoles game.

QUARTERBACKS: B
Florida seemingly decided to put the entire offense on senior quarterback Tim Tebow’s shoulders. How else could you explain the 35 passing attempts and team-high 10 carries? On the ground, Tebow rushed for 63 yards. Through the air, he completed 57 percent of his passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw a costly interception into the end zone and came up short on numerous occasions. Like the strategy or not, Tebow was responsible for almost every offensive snap of an offense that failed to get the job done against a stout Alabama defense.

RUNNING BACKS: I
Inexplicably, Florida’s running backs touched the ball a total of three times on Saturday. Three. In the Gators’ first 12 games, sophomore Jeff Demps averaged eight carries (7.7 yards), redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey averaged seven touches (6.4 yards) and redshirt junior transfer Emmanuel Moody averaged five rushes (7.3 yards). That is a total of 20 running plays and well over 100 yards of rushing that were not part of Florida’s offensive game plan. The only possible grade for this unit is “incomplete.”

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the SEC Championship after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

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2009 SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – (Atlanta, GA) – No. 1 Florida Gators v. No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide

Location: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA [Capacity: 71,228]
Time: 4:00 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: N/A

TV: CBS / CBSHD
Online: CBSSports.com
Sirius: 123; XM: 144

No. 1 Florida Gators No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Nick Saban
Record: 12-0 (8-0) Record: 12-0 (8-0)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -5.5, O/U 41
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

KEEP AN EYE ON…
- Florida’s 2009 senior class…the winningest group in Southeastern Conference history with a 47-6 overall record. The seniors will be playing in their third SEC Championship game in the Georgia Dome in four years.
– Senior quarterback Tim Tebow and Alabama running back Mark Ingram…who will both be making their respective cases for the 2009 Heisman Trophy. Considered two of the main competitors for the award, Tebow and Ingram each have a chance, through their play, to make an argument that they should win the trophy.
- Junior defensive end Justin Trattou…who along with redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jaye Howard will be filling in for suspended junior starting DE Carlos Dunlap.
- Junior cornerback Joe Haden and wide receiver Julio Jones…who will face off in what could potentially be the match-up of the game between one of the best CBs and one of the best WRs in the nation.
- Head coach Urban Meyer…who is 2-0 in the SEC Championship and a combined 5-1 with Florida in championship or bowl games.
- Kick returners Brandon James and Javier Arenas…who each have a chance to make a difference in the game on special teams. James will be going up against one of the worst coverage units in college football while Arenas, one of the best returners in 2009, will be going up against the best punt coverage in the nation (13 total yards allowed). In 11 of 12 games, Florida have allowed zero punt return yards.
- Experienced players…the Gators feature 19 starters and 44 players who saw action in the 2008 SEC Championship, while the Crimson Tide return 10 starters and 36 players of their own from the game.

STREAKS:
- The Gators are in the middle of the longest winning streak in school history with 22 consecutive victories. They also hold the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and the best in the nation in the last 15 years. 21 of Florida’s 22 wins have been by a double digit margin. The team is also 12-0 for the second time in school history, the first time solely in the regular season.
- Florida and Alabama meet in the SEC Championship for the second year in a row and seventh time since the game was instituted in 1992. The Gators are 4-2 in these games and 6-4 overall in the last 10 meetings. Alabama leads the all-time series 20-14.
- For the first time in SEC Championship history, both division leaders are undefeated.
- Florida has the most SEC Championship game wins and appearances by any team.
- The Gators lead the SEC in total offense (451.3), rushing offense (236.7) and third-down efficiency (.500). They also come in No. 2 in scoring offense (36.5). Florida’s offense is the only unit in the nation that has posted at least 2,800 rushing yards and 2,575 passing yards on the season.
- On defense, the Gators have only surrendered 11 touchdowns (nine from scrimmage) all season (both totals fewest in the nation). The unit has only allowed 14 field goals for a total of 118 points (9.8 per game) – tops in the nation. The defense is also No. 1 in total defense (233.1 yards per game) and pass defense (143.2 yards per game).
- The Gators have not thrown an interception in over a month (Oct. 24); however, the defense has recorded 13 interceptions over the past six weeks – most in the nation.
- Florida’s defense has held nine of its 12 opponents under 100 yards rushing. The secondary has held four opponents under 100 yards passing and forced six to complete fewer than 50 percent of their pass attempts.

Read OGGOA’s Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide preview after the jump!
Continue Reading » 2009 SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – (Atlanta, GA) – No. 1 Florida Gators v. No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide

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