FOUR BITS: Florida wins, Saban finds a way

1 » CBSSports.com pit two of their national columnists – Mike Freeman and Dennis Dodd – against each other on Friday. Their task, respectively, was to argue why the No. 1 Florida Gators or No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide would win the 2009 SEC Championship game. Freeman began with this: “There simply isn’t enough time to list every reason why Florida will beat Alabama in the SEC title game, so let’s just start with a few: Urban Meyer is a big-game coach and Nick Saban isn’t; super-virgin [senior quarterback] Tim Tebow; a faster defense; more depth and more speed overall.” He then focuses on Crimson Tide QB Greg McElroy, calling him “pedestrian” and explaining that the Gators’ defense will overwhelm the Alabama offense in every way.

2 » Dodd responds by calling Saban a “mad scientist” who will “create [a] way to beat the Gators.” He even admits that “it’s hard to pick against the Gators in this game.” Yet his entire argument rests on running back Mark Ingram rushing for 150 yards and winning the Heisman Trophy, kick returner Javier Arenas grabbing an interception and scoring a return touchdown (against a special teams that has barely allowed double-digit punt return yards the entire season) and Saban using revenge to fuel his team to victory.

3 » As part of his brand new television show, Sports Jobs with Junior Seau, the future Hall of Fame linebacker played the part of a reporter and followed around Sports Illustrated reporter Andy Staples during the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in October. The story that Seau came up with? Gators senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes is “a monster” and absolutely dominant on the field. More coverage from SI includes Stewart Mandel’s article focusing on the weight of expectations the Gators face, Andy Staples’ column about the absences of junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap and Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Corey McCartney’s three reasons why Florida will lose on Saturday.

4 » No. 13/17 Florida basketball hits the road Friday night for its first true road game of the season against the Jacksonville Dolphins at 7 p.m. at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The game will air live on FOX Sports Florida.

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Carlos Dunlap, father, distraught over arrest

In general, it is tough to gain an understanding of the type of family a student-athlete comes from unless you hear a recruiter or reporter rave about one. However, from what Carlos Dunlap, Sr. has said over the last few days about his son’s DUI arrest, one can get a pretty good idea of the upbringing the Florida Gators junior defensive end received. On Thursday, Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post spoke with Dunlap, Sr., who was quite vocal about how disappointed his family and his son are about the recent situation. For a player who had a flawless (trouble-wise) three years at Florida, Dunlap has been tormented with his mistake and its repercussions.

“How would anyone feel when they have the golden opportunity God has given them to be on such a platform, and then the situation is taken from you, whether it’s your own doing or not?” Dunlap, Sr. said. “Carlos is very, very disturbed about this, but this is something the lord has placed in his hands. I still can’t believe it. I’m still waiting for somebody to wake me up. He’s the one that kept me grounded all my life. He’s always been the one that wanted to tell everyone else what not to do, and lead by example. He’s not the kid you saw in the paper. He’s still a great kid. Somewhere, something went wrong. He’s very loving and caring, and concerned and worried about how people perceive him. This is something we have to work out in the court of law, but in the court of love, Carlos is very torn. But he will bounce back from this. We’re a strong, surviving family.”

On his son’s future with the Gators this year and beyond, Dunlap, Sr. had this to say:

“We don’t want to do anything to hurt the University of Florida football team. We love the team to death and we don’t want to be any distraction. We want to be a complement to the team, not a hindrance to the team. Our presence at the [SEC Championship] game will not be what the team needs to be focused on. We came to the University of Florida for a four-year education. He has another year in school to go. Everybody’s talking about the draft. We’re not talking about the draft. It’s never even been a thought. We as a family never even sat down and talked about leaving school. My son’s job this year was what they were talking about – finish the mission.”

The Gators may have to finish the mission of an undefeated season and third BCS National Championship in four years without perhaps their most explosive defensive player should head coach Urban Meyer‘s indefinite suspension stand past Saturday.

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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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SIX BITS: Meyer profiled by SI, replacing Dunlap, Saban on UF, stopping Ingram, Stoops’ influence?

1 » In the latest Sports Illustrated, S.L. Price profiled Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer. His article is a must-read for any Gators fan. “The Florida coach is alternately a hard-ass and a softy, cocky and calculating, smug and sentimental. But there’s no inconsistency in his football program, which is, as usual, on track for a national title.”

2 » As has been previously reported by OGGOA junior defensive end Justin Trattou will start in place of suspended junior DE Carlos Dunlap on Saturday. Helping Trattou will be redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jaye Howard, a former DE who gained 60 pounds in the offseason to move inside. “For [Trattou], it’s an easy transition because he’s been there before,” defensive line coach Dan McCarney said. “He’s always taken reps. I rotate 12, 11 guys every game, so when a guy is out because of injury or discipline or whatever it is, it’s not like I’m going to throw a guy out there in the championship game that hasn’t played and played a lot.” Howard is especially effective against the run and will have a chance to make an impact when Alabama Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram runs right at him. Assisting the Gators coaches in this move is redshirt junior DT Brandon Antwine, who is active for Saturday’s game after sitting out the last six weeks with a bad shoulder.

Check out four more very informative Florida-Alabama BITS after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Meyer profiled by SI, replacing Dunlap, Saban on UF, stopping Ingram, Stoops’ influence?

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FOUR BITS: Heisman, Big Board, Keys, Redshirts

1 » Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow continues to gain ground in the Scripps Howard Heisman Trophy poll. Accounting for five touchdowns and 311 total yards on Saturday, Tebow now holds the No. 2 spot on the list, earning three first-place votes. Ahead of Tebow is Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy (5), while Stanford Cardinal RB Toby Gerhart (2), Houston Cougars QB Case Keenum (0) and Alabama Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram (0) round out the top five. Ingram led the poll the last three weeks. Voting tabulations are made on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis, with each voter ranking a top five.

2 » Skyrocketing up ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s NFL Draft Big Board all season, junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap has fallen back to earth after his recent DUI arrest. Dunlap dropped 14 spots from No. 3 last week to No. 17 on Wednesday. Also on the list are junior cornerback Joe Haden – a “polished cover corner with tackling ability to match” – who is up to No. 7 after holding down the No. 9 spot last week, and junior tight end Aaron Hernandez brand new to the list at No. 19. Kiper says Hernandez has “great hands and excellent run-after-catch skills for a TE.” Noticeably absent from the board for a second-straight week is senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who last appeared at No. 25 on Nov. 18.

3 » ESPN Insider and Football Outsiders are featuring the five keys to the Florida vs. Alabama game. While OGGOA cannot reprint the article, here is the gist of it. The five keys and teams with the potential advantage for each are as follows: Yards Per Play (Florida – 6.8 vs. 6.0), Sack Rates (Alabama – 3.9% vs. 10.5%), Second Quarter (Push), Turnover Battle (Push), Field Position Advantage (Florida – 14th vs. 25th).

4 » The Orlando Sentinel reports that redshirt senior safety Dorian Munroe will apply for a medical redshirt and expects it to be granted by the NCAA. Junior cornerback Moses Jenkins, sophomore left tackle Matt Patchan and senior transfer WR Carl Moore have all been granted medical redshirts so far in 2009.

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Meyer suspends Dunlap for SEC Championship

Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer has decided to suspend junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap for the 2009 SEC Championship game after he was arrested Tuesday morning by Gainesville Police on charges of driving under the influence. Dunlap was found slumped over sleeping behind the wheel of his red Chrystler at a traffic light. Dunlap faces one second degree misdemeanor DUI charge and was released on his own recognizance without bond by Judge Mary Day Coker.

“Carlos obviously made a very poor decision,” Meyer said. “He’s not going to play, and I want to visit with him and his family first, and then go from there. Stunning is probably a good word [to describe how I felt when I found out]. Young guys make decisions all the time. This one’s a serious one.”

One of the Gators’ top defensive players, Dunlap was named the 2009 BCS National Championship game MVP and has been a powerful, athletic force on the defensive line in 2009. He is expected to leave school after this season and be the top Florida player taken in the 2010 NFL Draft.

“You think you’re in control and the next thing you know you’re in trouble,” Carlos Dunlap, Sr. said about his son’s arrest. “I am dumbfounded right now. He’s always been so anti-drug, anti-drinking. But it’s not what you do, it’s how you respond to what you do.”

Meyer said junior DE Justin Trattou will start in place of Dunlap while senior DE Jermaine Cunningham will stay on the field for more snaps than usual. Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jaye Howard will get playing time at end while redshirt junior DTs Lawrence Marsh and Terron Sanders hold down the inside of the line. “The good thing is we have a little bit of depth,” Meyer said.

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Dunlap’s father says son likely out vs. Alabama

Carlos Dunlap, Sr., the father of Florida Gators junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap who was arrested and charged with DUI Tuesday morning, told the Orlando Sentinel that his son will likely miss the upcoming Southeastern Conference Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday.

Dunlap, Sr. informed the Sentinel that he had already spoken with head coach Urban Meyer about the incident. Meyer told him that he must speak with administrators before making a final decision, but likely would not be able to play Dunlap in the Gators’ biggest game of the season up to this point. An official statement is expected to be made after Tuesday’s practice at approximately 6 p.m.

“I got the sense that he won’t be able to play,” Dunlap, Sr. said. “I asked him if there’s anything he can do — it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t ask — and he said he doesn’t know what he can do. We’re supposed to meet tonight.” He then expanded on his son’s recent mistake. “You think you’re in control and the next thing you know you’re in trouble. I am dumbfounded right now. He’s always been so anti-drug, anti-drinking. But it’s not what you do, it’s how you respond to what you do.”

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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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