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.

QUARTERBACK: B
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).

RUNNING BACKS: B-
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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Gators lead for Powell? More: Luc, Green, Fulton

A top five player in the country, five-star defensive end Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA) got his SAT results back last week and is now academically qualified to play at schools such as the University of Florida. Scoring a 900 on the test to go along with his improved 2.9 GPA, Powell is still deciding between the Florida Gators and USC Trojans. ESPN’s Greg Biggins says the Gators “have been heavy leaders for some time now for Powell and that remains the case,” going on to say “it will be a pretty big surprise if the talented lineman ends up anywhere other than Gainesville next fall.” That is surprising news considering Powell had previously been 50-50 on his decision, at least publicly. Already visiting Florida a couple times on his own dime, Powell plans to return soon for an official visit before giving USC a shot at his services.

Going hard after five-star linebacker Jeff Luc (Port St. Lucie, FL) and for good reason…he’s the best at his position in the entire country. Luc visited the Gators unofficially this past weekend and came away impressed. However, the key to signing Luc may rest on whether or not defensive coordinator Charlie Strong takes a head coaching job after this season. “As long as Charlie Strong is there, Florida is a strong player,” Jeff’s brother Alex Luc told Rivals. “They have a strong relationship. He calls him his uncle. I could believe anybody that meets him will have a strong relationship with him because of who he is. He’s a well-mannered person who carries himself the right way, he’s really down-to-earth, he takes care of business but he’s a nice guy.” Luc remains undecided, and an official visit to Florida in December will give the Gators a good shot at landing this prized recruit. First, however, he will travel to visit the Georgia Bulldogs next weekend; Luc has already visited the Tennessee Volunteers and USC and plans to check out the LSU Tigers as well.

More recruiting news on Chaz Green and John Fulton after the jump…
Continue Reading » Gators lead for Powell? More: Luc, Green, Fulton

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Grading the Florida vs. Vanderbilt 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 Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday night at home in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

QUARTERBACK: C+
After two consecutive weeks of below-average play, Tim Tebow came back big against the Georgia Bulldogs last week in Jacksonville, FL. Back in The Swamp, Tebow still contributed to the victory but struggled mightily in the process. His numbers of 15-for-20 for 208 yards and a touchdown are misleading, considering 64 yards came on a meaningless late catch-and-run by tight end Aaron Hernandez, and his sole score through the air was on a tipped pass that wound up in the hands of wide receiver David Nelson. Sacked four times mostly because of his inability to get rid of the ball when under pressure, Tebow also struggled on the ground averaging 1.7 yards per carry on 16 attempts (27 yards). In mop-up duty, back-up John Brantley went 3-for-3 for 19 yards. For his two touchdowns (he also punched one in on the ground), Tebow gets a plus, but his performance was extremely average.

RUNNING BACKS: B+
Last week, I mentioned that “it is tough to expect this unit to make an impact when the three main players combined for 16 total attempts.” This week, Jeff Demps, Emmanuel Moody and Chris Rainey combined for 19 carries, though their averages were much better. Gaining 8.1, 4.3 and 3.0 yards per carry, respectively, the trio combined for 103 yards on the ground. In other words, they did the best they could with the limited attempts provided to them. For avoiding mistakes and contributing when given the opportunity, these guys played just fine.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the Vanderbilt game after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida vs. Vanderbilt game

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BREAKING NEWS: Spikes now suspended for entire Vandy game, punishment for Meyer?

After being suspended half a game by head coach Urban Meyer on Monday for reaching into the helmet of Georgia Bulldogs running back Washaun Ealey on Saturday, Florida Gators senior linebacker Brandon Spikes decided to remove himself from the entire game this week against the Vanderbilt Commodores. According to Meyer, Spikes sat down with him and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong on Tuesday night and expressed that he thought it would be best for the team if he sat the entire game. The threesome came to a group decision on a full-game suspension.

“I really don’t want to be a distraction to the team,” Spikes told reporters in a brief statement. “I want the guys to prepare without any negative things going on, and I feel like if I would play it would be a big thing. I’m just trying to stay out of the way and just motivate the guys and I’m pretty sure that [Ryan] Stamper’s got my back and my teammates support me my decision.”

Spikes and Meyer have both received heavy criticism this week. Spikes for his maneuver and Meyer for supposedly dealing out a “soft” punishment (one which was agreed upon by the Southeastern Conference). Whether or not you believe what Spikes did was “dirty” or that Meyer’s punishment was lenient, you must respect the player for stepping up, taking the pressure off the team and owning up to his mistake for a second time.

“A lot of the negative things out there are really weighing heavy on his heart,” Meyer said. “[Spikes sitting the entire game is] a group decision and we’re doing it out of respect for our team so we can focus on trying to win our ninth game. We think it’s the right thing to do and we support Brandon for it. We look forward to him getting back and finishing the season the right way.”

As for Meyer, he is now subject to a potential fine or suspension after commenting about a missed personal foul call on a cheap shot thrown by linebacker Nick Williams on quarterback Tim Tebow. “I don’t want to step out of line, (but) there should have been a penalty, in my opinion,” Meyer said. “You have to protect quarterbacks, that’s the whole purpose. It’s right in front of the referee. I’m not sure how they’re going to handle that, but we do send it in and that was one of the plays we did send in.”

Meyer and the Gators staff sent in tape of the play for the SEC to review, but his comments came one week after commissioner Mike Slive laid down the hammer on coaches criticizing conference officials. What Meyer said in this regard was more of a “comment” than a “criticism,” as he was directly responding to a posed question and made it a point to say he had “great respect” for officials both before and after making the statement. Nevertheless, ESPN’s SEC blogger Chris Low (who spoke with conference officials) believes some type of punishment is coming for Meyer.

OGGOA will have more on these stories as information is made available.

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