Sugar Bowl against Florida a well-deserved treat for “good guy” Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong and Florida Gators defense are terms that go hand-in-hand, except this time Strong will not be leading one of the best units in the country onto the field but rather trying to figure out a way to score on it.

All of that will occur in one month when Florida and Strong’s Louisville Cardinals square off in the 2013 Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in New Orleans, LA.

It will be one day short of exactly three years from the last time he donned orange and blue and coached the Gators’ defense against Cincinnati in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Florida allowed just three points in the first half and cruised to an impressive victory.

“We are so excited here at the University of Louisville to be playing an opponent like the University of Florida,” said Strong on Sunday after the game was announced. “I spent so many years there and I just think back; it seems like it yesterday we were in the Sugar Bowl playing Cincinnati for the last time being at the University of Florida.”

Though he is years removed from the program, Strong praised the Gators’ defense and said he watches Florida play each and every week. In fact, he still communicates with some of the players he helped recruit, most of whom are in their final seasons at UF.

“You look at the defense and you’re so familiar with the guys there, when you think about those guys,” he said. “Lerentee [McCray], he has been there forever, Omar [Hunter] and [Jelani] Jenkins, all those players, Frankie Hammond at wide receiver; and Caleb Sturgis, I thought my man was done but he’s still kicking there. You look at [Jon] Bostic and how well he’s played. Then you look at the quarterback position with [Jeff] Driskel being a dual threat where he can run and throw the ball.

“That’s an outstanding program; a program that’s built with toughness, offensive and defensive line, a very tough program. So it’s going to be an exciting matchup.”

Strong certainly seemed enthused on Sunday. His passion for the Florida program sounded as genuine as it was when he was a coordinator. He also took some time to praise the school’s administration, head coach Will Muschamp and what the Gators have accomplished so far this season.

Read the rest of this story…after the break!
Continue Reading » Sugar Bowl against Florida a well-deserved treat for “good guy” Charlie Strong

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No. 3 Florida Gators set to face No. 21 Louisville Cardinals in 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl

Coming off an 11-1 regular season, a five-game improvement from a year ago, the No. 3 Florida Gators have been awarded a spot in the 2013 Sugar Bowl where the team will take on the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals (10-2) on Jan. 2 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. The game will air live at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Florida and Louisville will be participating in the 79th annual version of the game. It is the ninth time the Gators will play in the Sugar Bowl but the first for the Cardinals.

UF holds a 3-5 all-time record in the Sugar Bowl, last playing against and defeating Cincinnati 51-24 on Jan. 1, 2010. Florida is also 2-0 all-time against Louisville; the teams have not met since 1992.

The Gators were originally expected to face the Oklahoma Sooners in the game. However, a strong finish to the season by Northern Illinois Huskies moved them up to No. 15 in the final BCS standings and into a game. The Huskies earned a guaranteed berth because they finished in the top 16 of the BCS standings and ahead of at least one automatic qualifying conference champion, thus knocking the Sooners out of an at-large bid and moving the Cardinals into the Sugar Bowl.

The game has an additional level of intrigue as Louisville is currently led by former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who took over as head coach in 2010. Also on Strong’s staff are former UF defensive backs coach Vance Bedford (defensive coordinator), running backs coach Kenny Carter (same position) and defensive graduate assistant Tommy Restivo (DB coach).

The Cardinals’ roster also includes Gators transfers wide receiver Robert Clark, tight end Gerald Christian and cornerback Adrian Bushell.

Florida will be appearing in its 22nd consecutive bowl game, a mark that ranks first in the Southeastern Conference and second nationally. The Gators are 20-19 all-time in bowls; UF has won four straight and six of its last seven.

Sugar Bowl Committee President Jack Laborde: “We’re very excited to be welcoming the University of Florida and the University of Louisville to New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Each year, we have the pleasure of welcoming thousands of fans to this great city and showing off all it has to offer – world-class cuisine, trend-setting music, outstanding gridiron competition and more. We look forward to introducing our unique flavor of hospitality to all of the players, coaches, administrators and fans from these two great schools.”

Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan: “We’re very pleased to have the opportunity to host these two outstanding teams in this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl Committee has worked hard over the years to present outstanding match-ups that produce thrilling games. In Will Muschamp and Charlie Strong, we have two of the country’s top young coaches and we know both will have their teams ready to play on January 2nd. We have little doubt that this game will produce another memorable chapter in the great history of the Sugar Bowl.”

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TWO BITS: Senior Bowl, transfer destinations

1 » A pair of Florida Gators – redshirt seniors running back Chris Rainey and defensive tackle Jaye Howard – have officially accepted invitations to participate in the 2012 Senior Bowl, the organization announced on Wednesday. The duo will play on the South roster and are the only Florida players currently invited/committed to the event. “It feels good. I know a lot of great players have come to this game and I’m glad I’m invited and hope to do the best that I can to compete with the other greats,” Rainey said in the event’s official release. “The first thing I’m going to tell the scouts and coaches is that I want to be on special teams. They are going to have to set up some scheme for me to block a punt or do whatever they want me to do on special teams, because I love special teams and that’s the number one thing that wins games.”

Howard said he is playing in the game because he wants to “prove that I’m one of the elite defenders in this class this year and it’s a business trip for me.” He continued, “I’m quick, I can run all over the field and chase plays down. I want to prove that I can play several positions on the defensive line, not just d-tackle. I can play the end, nose guard—everything on the d-line, so I can bring that to a system.” The Senior Bowl will be played on Jan. 28 and air live on NFL Network beginning at 4 p.m. Practices will also be televised during the week leading up to the game on the same network.

2 » Four former Gators who decided to transfer this season have already chosen their new destinations, according to various reports. Defensive back Joshua Shaw has chosen to head closer to home (Palmdale, CA) and picked UCLA where he will sit out a season per NCAA transfer rules, while linebacker Dee Finley announced that he will play for Tuskegee, a HBCU, beginning next year. Two Florida players are expected to be heading to Louisville to play for former UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. Tight end Gerald Christian told the Palm Beach Post on Wednesday that he will be going to Louisville, while multiple reports over the last two weeks have wide receiver Robert Clark planning to join him. Like Shaw, each will have to sit out one year due to NCAA transfer regulations and will be eligible to play beginning in 2013.

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FOUR BITS: Sturgis, Tebow, transfers, Humphrey

1 » Though he has been garnered similar honors by other outlets, Florida Gators redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis was awarded a spot on the 2011 Associated Press All-American Team on Wednesday. Sturgis was placed on the second team while Texas A&M K Randy Bullock earned the first-team nomination. He was similarly given a second-team nod on the 2011 Walter Camp All-American list and recently was a finalist (but did not win) the 2011 Lou Groza Award, as announced last Thursday. Named unanimously to the All-SEC first-team by coaches and AP voters, Sturgis accounted for 91 points this season, going 21-for-25 on field goals and 28-for-28 on extra points.

2 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow appears to be going head-to-head with a former teammate every week. After taking on Minnesota (with wide receiver Percy Harvin) two weeks ago and Chicago (with safety Major Wright) last week, Tebow will play the New England Patriots on Sunday, where he will square off with linebacker Brandon Spikes and tight end Aaron Hernandez. The latter told the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport on Thursday that he still supports and believe in his former teammate. “He keeps plays alive, and he’s winning,” Hernandez said. “[He was] a leader. I’m sure he still is. He brought a lot of energy to the game. When someone has energy, you take from it.” Tebow shared his admiration for Hernandez as well. “He makes any quarterback he’s with look at lot better,” he said. “He’s a phenomenal player, one of those guys when you need competitive excellence and you need someone to step up and make a big play, he’s always ready and willing. I’m just proud of him for what he’s done as an NFL player and what he did with me at Florida.”

3 » Two former Gators are on their way to Louisville, KY and could be one step closer to playing with former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, now head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. According to a number of reports, transfers tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark will be visiting the school beginning Friday as they search for a spot to spend their final two years of eligibility. Each will have to redshirt the 2012 season and will be eligible to resume playing college football in 2013.

4 » Back in the United States, former Gators guard Lee Humphrey is now playing for the Rio Grande Vipers of the NBA Development League. The official minor league team of the NBA’s Houston Rockets (which drafted forward Chandler Parsons this year), the Vipers are nine games into the season and have Humphrey playing 29.1 minutes per game, second-most on the team. Though he’s had some big moments already this year, Humphrey is averaging just 11.8 points and 3.1 assists per game. He is shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from downtown.

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Meyer talks Gators, coaching on ESPN call

Former Florida Gators head coach now ESPN analyst and color commentator Urban Meyer participated in a teleconference with the network on Thursday and spoke at length about his former team as well as his mindset not being on the sidelines this year. He also touched on some subjects (such as using a two-quarterback system in 2006 and John Brantley’s struggles in 2010) that pertained to his time with the Gators. Below are some excerpts of the conference call that are informative and relate specifically to Florida.

Q. – Urban, I had a question for you about the way you used Leak and Tebow in 2006 I was curious how that process evolved, how maybe easy or difficult it was to commit to it, and how did the team respond to it when they first saw the design?

URBAN MEYER: It was not something we went into the season planning because we really didn’t know what we had with Tim. You don’t know until you get into the game atmosphere, and his value we learned rather quickly. So it evolved throughout the course of the year.

It was a very fragile situation and very unique where if you don’t have character guys that are playing that position, you can see where it could become a locker room issue or become a chemistry issue. The parents were fantastic. You’re talking about a quarterback at Florida, which is a very high profile position, on a team that had a chance to be really good. So it was incredible to work with two guys that are built like Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. There was absolutely no ego, there was no anything other than what’s good for the team, and their families were on board, and the team really bought into it, as well, too.

Like Chris made a comment, which is if we didn’t win then it probably would have been chaos, but winning cures all evils, and we won a lot of games and we had one stumble and that was against Auburn. But to see that team rally back from that, and really both quarterbacks were a major, major part of that.

Read the rest of what Urban Meyer had to say on Thursday…after the jump!
Continue Reading » Meyer talks Gators, coaching on ESPN call

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DE Carter (2/2): “I walked away on my terms.”

In part one of our interview with Carter (published on Friday), he discussed deciding to attend Florida, his immense success playing for the Gators, being a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft and winning a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent six years with St. Louis before being traded to the team that you beat in the Super Bowl, Tennessee, after three-straight seasons of at least 10 sacks. Was a change of scenery something you were looking forward to?
KEVIN CARTER: “I was looking forward to a change at that point. The year where we won the Super Bowl, we were at the Pro Bowl and I got a call from Coach [Dick] Vermeil and he was stepping down as the coach. There was a little bit of controversy over him leaving and the timing with Mike Martz taking over the head coach, and there was a little bit of pressure there. Looking back on it, I wish that it had been handled a little bit classier in a better way just for respect for Coach Vermeil. He walked in, in his opening press conference, and told us, ‘In three years, we’ll be world champs.’ And we were. Call it what you will, the man is wonderful and one of the best coaches I’ve ever had the honor and privilege of playing for. Things kind of changed at that point. The next year we lost in the first round of the playoffs and things were a little rocky with my status with the team. At the time I was going through contract negotiations, and I had played six years for the same team and kind of outplayed my contract. The team you’re on usually isn’t going to give you that kind of free agent money, love. I was thankful and glad to get out of there and get to Tennessee. Tennessee gave up a first-round pick to get me there. It was a match made in heaven. Coach [Jeff] Fisher was awesome. At that point I needed a change, wanted a change, and was grateful to go to Tennessee.”

AS: Let’s skip ahead a bit and talk about when you moved over to the Miami Dolphins for two years and got to play on a pretty dominant defense with guys like Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Vonnie Holliday, Junior Seau, Sam Madison, Keith Traylor and David Bowens. What was that experience like?
KC: “It was actually amazing. It was a great team; it was a great defense to be a part of. It was a lot of fun. We didn’t have, I guess, the balance and the tools offensively or the experience, but on defense… Our defense was, like you said, it was an all-star defense. It was so awesome. And we killed people. We had a great defense those couple of years that I was there. We didn’t have quite the balance [on offense]; Miami’s is forever trying to find another quarterback that can be half the man Dan Marino was…still an on-going search for a quarterback. It was a really cool experience. For me, I grew up in Tallahassee [and thought] the Dolphins had the sweetest uniforms. I was like, ‘Man, I can’t wait to wear all white.’ It was so cool. I had a great time just, as I look back in my football chronological history, being a part of the Miami Dolphins organization – such a historically great organization. Don Shula was and still is the man. I had an opportunity to meet him a couple times. It was cool paying down there. I wish timing had dictated differently the circumstances, especially getting our offense and from a head coaching standpoint. Nick Saban is probably one of the best college coaches to ever live. But in those two years, you know, he obviously decided to make the adjustment and go back to college and not make the adjustment to stay there in the NFL. Timing was bad.”

Read the rest of part two of our interview with Kevin Carter…after the break!
Continue Reading » DE Carter (2/2): “I walked away on my terms.”

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DE Trattou: “I’m glad we went out the right way”

Having returned home to New Jersey now that his Florida Gators career has come to a close, defensive end Justin Trattou took some time out from training for upcoming NFL workouts to sit down with OGGOA for a wide-ranging interview.

Trattou, who plans to return to Gainesville, FL to showcase his talents for NFL scouts and coaches at Florida’s Pro Day, recounted his collegiate career and looked ahead to his future during our conversation. Check it out below!

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You made all-state as a junior and senior and won the New Jersey state title in your final season. What was it like to see four years of hard work pay off?
JUSTIN TRATTOU: “It was definitely a huge accomplishment. My senior year, me and those guys, we went to the state championship in my sophomore and junior year and lost both times. That senior year we went 12-0, ran the table and then blew out St. Peters 41-0. That was a great way to go out. And then I ended up going to the All-American game and did well there, so it was definitely a good way to go into college.”

AS: For a while you were committed to Notre Dame, but you eventually switched to Florida. What made you change your mind, and how did all that come about?
JT: “After my season ended, I kind of just committed to get it out of the way and concentrate on my senior year. I didn’t want to be bothered by people. After I won the state championship and everything was all good, I started looking around again. Took a visit down to Florida and immediately fell in love with the place – The Swamp and the whole atmosphere. I knew that was the place for me.”

AS: Was it tough telling Notre Dame that you had switched?
JT: “At the end of the day, I’m the one that has to live it out. I didn’t owe anybody anything, so it was definitely my choice.”

AS: During your recruitment, Charlie Weis was the Notre Dame head coach. Obviously he’s now the offensive coordinator at Florida. Can you talk about the type of recruiter he was – his demeanor in your home, how he spoke to you, etc?
JT: “It was always good. Obviously I ended up committing there, so… He was definitely good. For me personally, I just wanted to go to Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Justin Trattou…after the break!
Continue Reading » DE Trattou: “I’m glad we went out the right way”

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FOUR BITS: Quinn, Black, Strong, Rosario

1 » Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who has mostly been out on the road recruiting since the Seattle Seahawks were eliminated from the NFL Playoffs, has been assigned the Jacksonville, FL area as his primary recruiting grounds, according to The Florida Times-Union. The Times-Union’s Hays Carlyon reports that Quinn visited a number of area high schools on Friday and notes that Florida could be interested in two Yulee High School players over the next two seasons – tight end/linebacker Kelvin Rainey in 2012 and running back Derrick Henry in 2013.

2 » When former Gators safety Ahmad Black presented the game ball from the 2011 Outback Bowl to Ian Lockwood, it was obvious the two (and then-head coach Urban Meyer) had formed a special bond. In Mobile, AL for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl, Black spoke with the Pensacola News Journal about his friendship with Lockwood and how the two became so close so quickly. “He opened the door to the Florida football program,” said Lockwood’s high school football coach Chad Lashley. “That has meant the world to Ian. It just shows the unbelievable character of Ahmad and his concern for other people. With him getting that interception, it was just the perfect ending.” You can read more thoughts from Black and Lashley by clicking here.

3 » Taking the Louisville Cardinals to a 7-6 record and earning Big East Co-Coach of the Year honors in 2010, head coach Charlie Strong appears to be in line for a new contract with a substantial raise, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal, which spoke with athletic director Tom Jurich. “We want to do [give him a raise], but this staff has been busy and they’re doing a great job, so when signing day is over and we get some time, we’re definitely going to address that,” Jurich said. “It’s been great that he’s been able to keep his staff together to this point, and I can tell you those guys are really getting after it and they’re having a great time. They’re on a rocket ship right now, and it’s fun to watch.” Louisville doing what it can to keep Strong now may prevent him leaving until a significantly better job is available a few years down the road. He currently earns $1.6 million per season.

4 » Redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario is biding his time helping Florida improve during practice while he waits out a NCAA-mandated transfer season. An article written for CNN profiling Rosario’s hall of fame high school head coach Bob Hurley, Sr. notes that the player once the star of one of Hurley’s teams and describes him as a “hot-tempered kid who used basketball as a refuge from the life in a housing project.” Rosario recounted his time playing for Hurley. “He started disciplining me like I was one of his sons,” he said. “It was to the point where I was like, ‘Wow, I had never been pushed like this in my life.’ I learned how to be a man and not a boy.”

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