Quotes & notes from UF on SEC Championship

No. 1 Florida Gators players and coaches have spoken with the media extensively over the last two days regarding the 2009 SEC Championship game on Saturday against the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide. You can find choice quotes and notes from the press conferences and interviews in no particular order after the break…
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TWO BITS: Strong to Cards? News on ex-Gators.

1 » Earlier in the season, rumors insisted that Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong would be given heavy consideration for the head coaching job with the Memphis Tigers. Reports later surfaced that Strong was not being thought of for the post. Following a rousing victory over the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday, rumors have now surfaced that the Louisville Cardinals hope to secure Strong as their future head coach. “I know my job is here right now and it’s the only thing I can worry about,” Strong said when questioned about the rumor. “You can’t let yourself get consumed with it. My job is, ‘Let’s go beat Alabama.’ What can I do? If they are going to hire me, they are going to hire me. But my job right now – let’s go beat ‘Bama.”

2 » A pair of former Gators put themselves in the spotlight this past weekend. Cameron Newton, who was dropped from the Florida football team after being arrested for stealing and destroying a laptop, found a starting job with Blinn College in Texas and is on his way to leading that team to a junior college bowl game in a week. This weekend, however, he was visiting the Mississippi State Bulldogs and head coach Dan Mullen (his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach while at Florida). Newton is expected to pick MSU for obvious reasons and was seen ringing a cowbell during his visit.

Jonathan Mitchell, a former Florida basketball player who transferred to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights for increased playing time, said earlier in the week he was looking forward to showing Gators head coach Billy Donovan what he had lost. Instead, Mitchell only scored six points, contributed two rebounds and two assists and committed a team-high four turnovers – nothing that bothered Donovan or Florida.

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Charlie Strong nominated for Broyles Award

Florida Gators associate head coach and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has been named as a nominee for the 2009 Broyles Award. One of five finalists, Strong is a 26-year college coaching veteran who has continues to produce a dominating defense for the Gators year-in and year-out. Given annually to the best assistant coach in college football, the Broyles Award will be presented on Dec. 8 in Little Rock, AR.

“It would be a challenge to find someone more respected and well-liked in the college football world than Charlie Strong,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s passionate and hard working, but he takes the job of molding men very seriously. Charlie is the type of man who can walk into any situation and be well-liked, well-received and represent the University of Florida to the highest degree.”

Going into the voting, Florida’s defense under Strong is No. 1 in scoring defense (9.8 points) and pass defense (139.3 yards); No. 2 in pass efficiency (86.1 percent), total defense (229.8 yards) and third down percentage (26.8 percent); and No. 3 in yards allowed per play (3.90). The Gators have only given up 10 touchdowns (including two interception returns) in 2009, two less than any other team in the nation, and held opponents to six red zone touchdowns, the fewest in the nation.

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FOUR BITS: Stamper’s impact, James wants revenge, women beat UAB, Grabher signs

1 » All it took was a short car ride from Gainesville, FL, to Jacksonville, FL to earn senior linebacker Ryan Stamper’s commitment to the Florida Gators. Stamper wasn’t even a consideration until head coach Urban Meyer got his hands on some game film. After a quick meeting with Stamper’s mother, who was all about her son staying close to home and playing for a man like Meyer, well, the rest is history. “I decided to come to Florida,” Stamper said. “Best decision I made in my life.” Nicknamed “Old Man Stamp” and “Dad” by his teammates, the monikers are more about respect than they are his lack of speed (off the field). “”He has game speed,” sophomore safety Will Hill said. “If you’re in the game, it’s a whole different mentality. If you just run the clock in the 40, yeah, he’s slow. But if there’s a ball on the field and he’s going after a player, he’s far from slow.” Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong recognizes Stamper’s impact on the team. “He takes his job very seriously,” Strong said. “He studies the game and is one of the most dependable guys on our defense. I would go as far as to say that of all our defensive players, he’s probably been the most consistent.” Maybe that’s why Meyer said Stamper could very well coach the Gators some day.

2 » While we are talking about recruitments, senior kick returner Brandon James has a story of his own. Growing up in St. Augustine, FL, James was a Florida State Seminoles fan and hoped throughout high school that his local team would recruit him. Now all James wants is to beat his former favorites for the fourth time in his Florida career. “Definitely there’s extra motivation, especially when you know you were good enough to play somewhere,” James said. “So when you play them, you just try to do your best and just try to make plays when you are on the field. I know every time I’ve played against them since I have been here, you come out with a little bit more extra juice and a little more fired up, ready to get at it. Through the years I’ve made a couple of plays against them so I’m sure Saturday I’ll be ready to go.’ Coach Meyer is real big on beating your rivals and to be undefeated against them is real big. It’s real big for me because after growing up with Florida State my team or whatever and not getting recruited by them and now, coming to college and being undefeated against them is real good.”

Two more BITS on a women’s basketball win and lacrosse signing after the jump…
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Stamper’s impact, James wants revenge, women beat UAB, Grabher signs

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Grading the Florida at South Carolina 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 South Carolina Gamecocks Saturday afternoon on the road in Columbia, SC.

Grading Tim Tebow week-in and week-out has proven to be a difficult task. He was good for 199 yards passing and two touchdowns, including a deep bomb to wide receiver Riley Cooper and a record-breaking run. Tebow had Cooper open in the end zone on two other occasions; once he slightly overthrew the ball, but the second one have been caught by the receiver. On the ground, he averaged only 1.6 yards on 16 carries, the second consecutive game he has totaled less than two yards per carry on average. That is worrisome. I originally had Tebow graded a little lower but gave him a little boost for what could should have been. He still needs to get the ball out sooner, especially with the offensive line struggling in protection (two more sacks).

Why does Emmanuel Moody continue to get single-digit carries each week? This game he received three which were turned into 35 yards and a touchdown on an 11.7 average. Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey were less impressive, averaging 3.6 and 4.6 yards respectively while gaining a combined 85 yards. Running backs need to get into a rhythm. Short dive plays (which are easily being schemed against) and limited attempts impede that from happening. Moody is adoubtful this week with an ankle injury.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the South Carolina game after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida at South Carolina game

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FOUR BITS: Haden to NFL? No more distractions. Defense recovers. Nixon starts.

1 » In news that can only be classified as expected, Florida Gators junior cornerback Joe Haden told the Orlando Sentinel this weekend that he will file paperwork with the NFL Draft Advisory Board in order to receive an evaluation of where he, theoretically, would be picked if he was to enter the 2010 NFL Draft. A likely first-round selection who could quite possibly be the best CB available, Haden has received lofty praise from head coach Urban Meyer and NFL experts over the past year.

2 » Sophomore safety Will Hill watches the Cartoon Network, not ESPN. Meyer avoids the Internet. The entire Gators team is keeping the word “Alabama” off their lips. All of this to make sure the group stays even-keel, not letting the highs get them too high or the lows take them too low. “If I don’t listen to it, it can’t bother me,” Hill said. With the Florida International Golden Panthers next on the docket, Florida’s players know that you cannot overlook any opponent. “FIU is a pretty good team, despite what people think of them,” junior safety Ahmad Black said. “Michigan lost to Appalachian State before, so we learned you can’t take anyone lightly.” Even so, a big win is expected by fans who have been clamoring for signs of life from the offense. “They want us to beat every team by 102 and give up no yards and score every time we touch the ball,” Black said.

3 » Want a unit to thank for the Gators’ 10-0 record and perfect 8-0 Southeastern Conference slate? Look to the defense, which has not allowed a touchdown in the fourth quarter in more than a month Florida’s offense is also outscoring opponents 71-20 in the last 15 minutes of each game. It is rare that defensive coordinator Charlie Strong’s unit is not dominant all game long. On Saturday, Strong had to make some halftime adjustments and stress how much an improvement was needed in the second half. “He tried to let us hear it,” Haden said. “He said we weren’t playing like a gator defense, and I knew for a fact that we weren’t – just don’t stuff we don’t normally do and people messing up on their assignments.” The Gators shut out the Gamecocks the rest of the game, turning a 17-14 halftime lead into to a 24-14 victory.

4 » Freshman left tackle Xavier Nixon was given the chance to start on Saturday by Meyer and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Addazio, but he was sworn to secrecy. While Nixon played well, he did make a few mistakes – nothing that cannot be corrected with practice and game experience. He even received advice from Haden, who started as a true freshman for the Gators in 2007. “It was a crazy experience,” Nixon said of starting against the South Carolina Gamecocks. “I was thinking about starting when I first got here and realized it’s a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”

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Charlie Strong left off Memphis’ short list?

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Memphis Tigers have whittled an initial list of 50 leading contenders to replace head coach Tommy West down to just five. Among the five are North Alabama head coach Terry Bowden, LSU Tigers assistant Larry Porter (former Memphis running back), Oklahoma State Cowboys co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewster, Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Stockstill and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster.

Mysteriously absent from this list are three coaches who were considered early front-runners for the position: former Auburn Tigers head coach Tommy Tuberville, Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and current Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. OGGOA continues to hold that Strong deserves a more prominent head coaching position; no one should be too broken up over this if it is indeed true.

There is a strong belief that Porter could be the early favorite for the job, seeing as he is an alumni who has twice been named Rivals’ “Recruiter of the Year.” Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson said earlier this week that the ability to recruit would be paramount in a coaching candidate, with head-coaching experience secondary.

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SIX BITS: Softball signees; Strong as head coach; Poole, Jr.; Spurrier; big plays; special teams

1 » Following big signings by the Florida Gators baseball, volleyball and women’s basketball teams, softball head coach Tim Walton announced Thursday that two highly coveted high school players have signed national letters of intent to play for the Orange and Blue starting in 2010. Utility player Kasey Fagan (Dunnellon, FL) and shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, CA) are both extremely talented women who will bring a lot to the program. For more on their accomplishments, check out this article on GatorZone.

2 » Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is garnering heavy interest from the Memphis Tigers for their head coaching vacancy, according to reports. OGGOA believes Strong should not take the job if offered, simply because we feel he deserves and can receive the head job at another big-time program rather than a second-tier school (football-wise). Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley shares similar thoughts while Miami Herald beat writer Joseph Goodman thinks Memphis would be a good fit. “I just have to work and continue to do this job right now,” Strong said when asked about the rumors. “My whole focus is making sure our defense goes out and plays well.”

3 » In recruiting news… Four-star small forward Stacey Poole, Jr., the son of former Gators standout Stacy Poole (who ranks as the team’s No. 4 all-time scorer), has signed a national letter of intent to play basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats and head coach John Calipari. Poole is one of the best forwards in the country and the first signee for Kentucky’s 2010 recruiting class.

Three more BITS about Spurrier, big plays and special teams after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Softball signees; Strong as head coach; Poole, Jr.; Spurrier; big plays; special teams

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