QB Jacoby Brissett to transfer from Florida

Florida Gators sophomore quarterback Jacoby Brissett, embroiled in transfer rumors after losing the starting job to classmate Jeff Driskel in September, decided to leave the program immediately and transfer to another school.

Florida officially announced Brissett’s transfer on Sunday, confirming an initial report released Saturday evening by GatorCountry.com.

Brissett originally committed to the Gators late in the 2011 recruiting cycle after the team had already secured a pledge from Driskel. Then-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis went after Brissett personally and convinced him to commit to Florida over Miami, a move that went against his mother’s wishes.

Third on the team’s depth chart at the start of his freshman season as he enrolled in the summer and not early in the spring, Brissett was thrust into a starting role in 2011 after starter John Brantley and second-stringer Driskel both got injured against Alabama in the fifth week of the season. The following week, he became the first Gators freshman to start at quarterback since Chris Leak and went 18-of-39 for 206 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions in two consecutive starts.

Brissett and Driskel battled for the starting job over the spring and summer with both players earning the start (Driskel at wide receiver) in the 2012 season-opener against Bowling Green. Driskel took the majority of the snaps in the game and was named full-time starter after the contest, leaving Brissett in a back-up role. Coaches pointed to Driskel’s mobility as the tipping point in their decision-making process.

When Driskel injured his ankle against Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 10, Brissett came on to finish the game. He returned as starter the following week against Jacksonville State, combining to go 20-of-30 for 218 yards with one touchdown in the two contests.

It now appears that he will not see the field again until 2014 as he will likely transfer to another Division I program and use 2013 as an NCAA-mandated redshirt year.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Arkansas, Duke, Louisville, N.C. State and West Virginia are the five leading candidates for Brissett’s services. He has long considered WVU an option and had the school as part of his final four with UF, Miami and Wisconsin during his recruitment. Then-UW head coach Bret Bielema accepted the Arkansas job on Dec. 15, 2012.

With Brissett no longer in the fold, Florida is set to have four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster in 2013. Backing up Driskel will be redshirt sophomore Tyler Murphy, freshman Skyler Mornhinweg and incoming three-star Max Staver (Brentwood, TN). Murphy played sparingly in 2011 but has not thrown a pass in his collegiate career. Mornhinweg did not play in 2012 and will take a redshirt to preserve his full eligibility.

Likely fueled by Brissett’s decision, the Gators appear to have recently made an inquiry about four-star 2013 QB recruit Asiantii Woulard (Winter Park, FL). UF already has four-star QB Will Grier (Davidson, NC) committed for 2014.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Wambach, Martin, Lochte

1 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin on Saturday noted via his Twitter account that he would be having “minor surgery.” Most assumed the surgery Harvin mentioned was for his injured ankle, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season. However, Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN radio reported Sunday that Harvin actually went in for an emergency appendectomy. He is expected to be back to normal health in 2-3 weeks and will spend the entire offseason rehabbing his ankle and trying to get back on the field in the summer.

2 » The U.S. Women’s National Team concluded its 2012 campaign and its Fan Tribute tour across the United States with a 4-1 win over China in Boca Raton, FL on Saturday night. Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach scored twice in the friendly, increasing her international goal total to 152 and pulling within six of Mia Hamm, who holds the record with 158 career international goals. Florida head soccer coach Becky Burleigh was in attendance at the match, cheering on Wambach and former Gators defender Heather Mitts, who plans to retire. USA outscored China 10-1 in the three-game friendly series and concluded the 2012 campaign with a 28-1-3 record. Wambach ended 2012 with 27 goals (second-most in her career) and was the only member of the USWNT to start and play in all 32 games.

3 » Former Florida defensive end Chris Martin, who transferred in from USC but only spent his redshirt season at UF before forcibly transferring again to another school, spent the 2011 season playing for City College of San Francisco, the fourth institution he has attended since the beginning of his college career. The former five-star recruit, now a JUCO transfer, committed to the Kansas Jayhawks and head coach Charlie Weis on Saturday, according to JayhawkSlant.com ($). Martin is familiar with Weis from his days with the Gators and also has a relationship with strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple, a former Florida assistant who Weis hired when he left following the 2011 season.

4 » Former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte, who set a pair of world record times at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships this past week, also concluded the event with six gold medals and eight total medals, setting a record at a short-course championship event. Lochte took gold and set world records in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter Individual Medley and finished first as part of four-man American teams in the 4×100 Meter Freestyle, 4×200 Meter Freestyle and 4×100 Meter Medley Relays. He also captured silver in the 200 Meter Backstroke and bronze in the 100 Meter Butterfly. Lochte was fully or partially responsible for eight of the 27 medals won by the United States at the event. Fellow former Gators swimmer Conor Dwyer joined Lochte with a gold in the 4x200M Freestyle Relay and picked up an individual bronze in the 200M Freestyle. Jemma Lowe, swimming for Great Britain, won a pair of bronze medals in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter Butterfly. Lochte was the only swimmer to set a world record at the event.

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FOUR BITS: Patriots, WWE, Fallon, Tebow

1 » New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose team now has six former Florida Gators on its roster after signing running back Jeff Demps last week, explained Thursday why he has picked up so many players from the team over the years.

Via the Boston Herald.

“First of all, obviously, Florida has a lot of good football players. It’s a great football state. The University of Florida has great athletes and great players at their school, as do a lot of the other Florida schools. I had a good relationship with Coach [Urban] Meyer, as I do with Coach [Will] Muschamp, so maybe we had a little more insight or opportunity to evaluate or whatever. And we felt like those particular players that we drafted there fit our system and what we were doing. Now, not everybody worked out. Some worked out better than others. But that particular class — the [Jermaine] Cunningham, [Brandon] Spikes, [Tim] Tebow, [Aaron] Hernandez, [Percy] Harvin the year before that, [David] Nelson, the receiver [Riley] Cooper — those guys in those couple years there. For whatever reason, [Meyer] asked me to speak at a clinic. Charlie [Weis] was there last year.

“So I just had a little more opportunity to interact with those players in that school, and they were available at the particular times that we were drafting and so forth. Some of it was coincidence. Some of it was maybe a little more homework in a player like Aaron Hernandez, that talent-wise obviously should have been drafted a little higher than what he was, but we were comfortable with Aaron and taking him the time we did. That’s worked out pretty well for us, so sometimes that little bit extra getting to know the player, the person and so forth can come into play. You never know in the draft process. You just never know how it’s going to go.

“Certainly, coincidence is a part of it. Demps, we didn’t really — the guy was running track, so the way it turned out this year, a lot of that was coincidence. It wasn’t that big of a plan, but we’re happy we have the opportunity to work with Jeff and see how it goes.”

2 » On the latest edition of the WWE’s YouTube program Outside the Ring, former Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard (known by his wrestling name of Titus O’Neil, one half of The Prime Time Players) takes tag team partner Darren Young on a tour of UF. The duo check out some major sites on campus, visit the athletic facilities, meet with Muschamp and Billy Donovan and do some Gator Chomps along the way.

3 » Model-turned-television host Tyra Banks was a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday and participated in a skit called Brainstorm in which one person (Banks) gives an answer and another (Fallon) provides the humorous question afterward. The first two answer-question segments on the skit had to do with former Gators, namely Tebow and Olympian Ryan Lochte.

4 » Speaking of Tebow, he was a guest on the WFAN radio show co-hosted by former New York Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason on Thursday but did not get the verbal beat down in person that Esiason has previously provided him with over the airwaves. Esiason previously said that, if he were a member of the Jets front office, he would cut Tebow because he does not benefit the team in any way. On Thursday, however, he was mostly complimentary of Tebow while lobbing him some softball questions that the player, of course, knocked out of the park.

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Matthews thrilled with Gators coaching staff

Former Florida Gators quarterback Shane Matthews has been quite vocal about his displeasure with his college team over the last few years, so much so in fact that it even earned him a spot (at least temporarily) in head coach Urban Meyer’s doghouse.

With Meyer now at Ohio State and head coach Will Muschamp at the helm in Gainesville, FL, Matthews told host Dan Hicken of Sports Radio 1010XL in Jacksonville that he sees a bright future ahead for his Gators.

“This coaching staff at Florida is the best we’ve ever had at that school – hands down from top-to-bottom – when you go from position-to-position and see where they’ve coached, what they’ve done,” he said. “I love the staff. It’s going to take time because we just don’t have the athletes that the other big boys in the conference do.”

Matthews, who took over as head coach of Nease High School in January, said his appreciation for the coaching staff begins at the top with Muschamp.

“I love him. I love him. I’ve known him for a long time,” he said. “I played for Nick Saban. His last year [2006] at Miami was my last year [in the NFL]. [Muschamp is] a combination of a little bit of [Steve] Spurrier and a lot of Nick Saban. I like the guy. He was dealt a bad deck of cards. I don’t think people realize how bad that situation is and was.”

Though Florida has brought in highly-ranked recruiting classes over the last few years, Matthews believes Meyer and company failed in their talent evaluations and relied on speed more than overall football talent toward the end of his tenure.

“We ain’t put anybody in the league the last couple of years, so that shows you how we were recruiting. They missed big-time,” he said. “We had a track team, which track teams don’t play on Sunday. You better run like a track player but be able to play football.”

Muschamp’s rocky first season as the man in charge of the Gators may be in the rearview mirror, but Matthews does not believe the coach is out of the woods yet. He said that Muschamp has plenty of tough decisions ahead of him starting with who he will name as Florida’s starting quarterback in September.

Read the rest of Matthews’s thoughts on the Gators…after the break!
Continue Reading » Matthews thrilled with Gators coaching staff

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2012 SEC Media Days – Muschamp ready to roll

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt senior linebacker Lerentee McCray and seniors LB Jon Bostic and running back Mike Gillislee represented the team on Wednesday by appearing at a number of press gatherings at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Media Days in Birmingham, AL. Below are highlights from Muschamp’s session along with some player comments.

TEAM INJURY UPDATE

» Junior Buck LB Ronald Powell (torn ACL): Cleared for all weight room activities including straight-ahead running but not changing direction or taking blocks. “He’ll play for us this year,” Muschamp said. “When that will be, I don’t know yet. There’s nobody that’s worked harder or has handled the situation better or more mature than Ronald has. He’s really grown up this summer, and I’m very proud of his efforts.”

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Stephen Alli (stress fracture – leg): Underwent successful surgery after spring practice concluded and is expected to be cleared in the “middle of August.”

» Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (fractured wrist): Having surgery Wednesday for an injury he suffered over the summer, should be cleared on Sept. 1.

» Freshman safety Marcus Maye (torn meniscus): Should be cleared for training camp after having surgery while still a senior in high school.

* Muschamp said no players are currently slated to be suspended for any games.

STARTING QUARTERBACK REMAINS A QUANDRY

The battle between sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel lasted all spring and as expected has continued into the summer session, should infiltrate fall training camp and may even extend into the regular season, Muschamp confirmed.

“If you saw our spring game, you saw what I saw for 14 practices – two guys that are very even in their competition. They’re even going into fall camp; they’ll get equal reps,” he said. “I would like to name a starter before the season, but I’m not going to put a timetable on that. If we need to play both of them, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do what we got to do to win football games.

“Both guys have a similar skill set, so it’s not like there’s one offense we run with one and one with another. And there’s a possibility you could see both in the game at the same time. But they’re both guys that can contribute to our football team. Jeff and Jacoby have handled the competition very well. It’s been good for our football team. Their competition has made each other better, has made our offense better, has made our football team better. I’m really pleased with how that has worked and how it will work in fall camp.”

START FAST – START STRONG

Florida has traditionally begun seasons on a roll, but the Gators will be faced with some tough tests early in 2012 with a pair of conference road games against Texas A&M and Tennessee in the second and third weeks. Muschamp has been using those contests as motivation to ensure that he players are ready to go right out of the gate.

“I know that’s been a really good motivating factor for our players to understand that we need to start fast,” he said. “They understand the pride that we have in playing at home. We didn’t play well at home against our rival the last time we were in the stadium. So it’s critical for us, Sept. 1st against Bowling Green, to play well and be prepared well.

“Those other two games, we can get a leg up on the competition in the SEC by playing [well] early. I look at it as a great opportunity for our football team, a great motivating factor for our players this summer to report in shape, which they will be, and ready to go with a great mindset to have an outstanding year.”

Muschamp is pumped to turn things around beginning with fall training on Aug. 3 following a “very frustrating, disappointing first year” under his watch that “didn’t meet the expectation level that we expect at Florida on the field.”

“I do feel like we have built a very solid foundation for where we were headed,” he said. “We did not get the results we wanted on the field [last year]. But I feel like within the locker room, the weight room, the attitude of our football team, the discipline of our team, we’re headed in the right direction. I think we have an outstanding foundation. Every decision I make is for the long term success of our program. As I said plenty of times, we’re building a program, not a team. That’s where we are right now.”

Read the rest of Muschamp’s thoughts on the Gators…after the break!
Continue Reading » 2012 SEC Media Days – Muschamp ready to roll

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FOUR BITS: Rainey, Butler, Tebow, Hernandez

1 » Now a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers, running back Chris Rainey expressed on Tuesday how smooth the transition has been already to the NFL – and it is not because he has two former Florida Gators teammates and friends on the squad in center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Marcus Gilbert. “Well, this isn’t a new offense,” Rainey told WPXI in Pittsburgh, PA. “I’ve been in this offense at Florida because Charlie Weis and Coach [Todd] Haley coached together. It’s the same offense so it’s easy to me. It’s definitely an advantage. I can just go in here, see what it is and be like: I know this. I don’t even have to study. I’m right there. I’m ahead of everybody.” He is similarly not concerned about the speed of the NFL because of his five years in the Southeastern Conference. “I don’t think there’s a transition because I came from the SEC, so it’s basically the same thing the work wise,” Rainey told the station. “The hard work and all that kind of stuff [is the same]. Offense and everything [is the same], so I’m just out there doing my job.”

2 » Florida announced Wednesday that head women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler had her contract extended through the 2016-17 season after five years at the helm of the Gators. “I like the direction our program is headed,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a school release. “We know Amanda will be our coach for a long time. We’re excited about the future of the Gator women’s basketball program.” Butler is 98-67 in her five years at Florida, where she played as a guard from 1990-94 and served as an assistant coach from 1994-97.

3 » Panini America announced on May 31 that, as part of the company’s 2012 Prestige Football series, they will be including a 15-card insert devoted to now-New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow. The cards will be released on June 20 and numbered to a maximum of 1,500; there will also be 15 special versions of the 15th card (featuring him in a Jets uniform) that are autographed by Tebow. Below are small previews put together by OGGOA of the fronts of the 15 cards (each back includes a paragraph on Tebow):

4 » New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was scheduled to attend one of his teammates’ and fellow Connecticuter’s youth football clinic on Sunday but was delayed and showed up late for the event. When he did arrive, however, Hernandez was peppered with questions by the kids in attendance (the first of which was about the Gators); he also signed “roughly 100 autographs and [took] nearly as many pictures,” according to the New Britain Herald, before ending his appearance. In unrelated team news, recently signed wide receiver Jabar Gaffney may not wind up on New England’s final roster if he cannot beat out fellow veterans Deion Branch and Donte’ Stallworth. The three are all competing likely for a pair of roster spots, which is strange for each of the players consider all three joined the league together when selected in the 2002 NFL Draft by different teams.

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SIX BITS: McCullers, Starks, Davis, Hurt, Pouncey

1 » The Florida Gators’ top 2013 baseball commitment, right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers, is unlikely to ever step on the field at McKethan Stadium as he is projected to be a top selection in the 2012 MLB Draft on Monday. Though he is not yet officially a member of the orange and blue, the slim chance that McCullers spurns pro baseball and decides to spend three years playing in the college ranks should give Florida fans something extra to watch for Monday evening. McCullers was named the 2012 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year on Thursday after posting a perfect 13-0 record with a 0.18 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 77.1 innings during his senior season (he also batted .280 with two homers, 21 RBIs and 10 stolen bases as a shortstop). He is widely considered to be the best high school baseball player in the country and has received tons of positive press but could very well not wind up going in the first round due to new collective bargaining rules that limit the amount of bonus money teams can pay out to their top picks. Teams may feel that McCullers, represented by agent Scott Boras, would require a certain high-dollar figure in order to sign on the dotted line and not be a wasted pick (he could always choose to go to college instead). This could have him fall out of the first round and perhaps steer him more toward the Gators. “It’s frustrating, the whole draft thing is frustrating,” McCullers told the Tampa Bay Times. “I’ve done nothing than get better since I’ve been ranked No. 1 forever, and no one in the country had a better year than me on the hill. If Major League Baseball wants to undervalue me, then I’ll show them what I’m really about three years from now.”

Other Florida commitments that could be picked high in the draft and spurn the Gators for minor league contracts include outfielder Lewis Brinson, infielder Avery Romero, OF Max White and OF Jesse Winker.

2 » Former Florida offensive tackle Max Starks is a free agent hoping to sign with an NFL team while coming off a major injury for the second-straight season. Starks hurt his neck two years ago while playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was unsigned at the start of 2011. As Pittsburgh’s depth along the offensive line took severe blows early in the season, Starks got a call, immediately returned as a starter and played out the rest of the year until tearing his ACL in the team’s season finale against Denver in the playoffs. Now trying to make another go of it while recovering from an injury, Starks will likely find a destination at some point though FOX Sports’ Len Pasquarelli reports that it will not be with the Steelers. “A few teams have stayed in contact with veteran offensive tackle Max Starks – who basically rescued the Pittsburgh line last season… – to keep tabs on his rehabilitation. Starks could be a July signing, or a safety net for a club that either suffers an injury or lacks depth at tackle. But he isn’t likely to return to the Steelers again.” Instead Pittsburgh will move second-year tackle Marcus Gilbert to the left side and hope that 2012 second-round pick Mike Adams will be ready to start for the team. Then again, the Steelers also thought that they would not need Starks in 2011 until they desperately needed his services. He has not played for any other team but Pittsburgh, knows the offense and has a great relationship with the rest of the line as well as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Read four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: McCullers, Starks, Davis, Hurt, Pouncey

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Assistant Norm Roberts leaves Florida for Kansas

For the second time in the last four months a prominent Florida Gators assistant coach has left the school to take a job with the Kansas Jayhawks. Just like offensive coordinator Charlie Weis moved on from the football team at the end of their regular season in December to become head coach at Kansas, assistant Norm Roberts has left the Florida basketball team following their successful postseason to accept the top assistant job under KU head coach Bill Self, according to InsidetheGators.com.

One of three new assistants to join head coach Billy Donovan‘s staff for the 2011-12 season, Roberts will leave the Gators after spending just one year with the team. Like the others, his reasons for moving on from Florida are well-intentioned.

Roberts and Self have a relationship that dates back to 1995 when Self first hired him as an assistant at Oral Roberts. The two spent a total of nine seasons together with Self as the head coach and Roberts as his assistant at Oral Roberts (1995-97), Tulsa (1997-2000), Illinois (2000-03) and Kansas (2003-04) before Roberts left to take over the St. John’s program as head coach from 2004-10.

His last year at St. John’s came just as his son Niko Roberts was deciding where to play basketball at the collegiate level. He will be entering his junior year as a walk-on with the Jayhawks next season and will now have his father as an assistant coach.

A spot opened up on the Kansas bench for Roberts as former KU No. 1 overall pick Danny Manning, an assistant with the Jayhawks since 2006-07, was officially announced as Tulsa’s new head coach on Wednesday.

“I’m thrilled,” Self told the Lawrence Journal-World on Monday. “We were together for nine years. My family helped raise his kids. His family has helped raise mine. We’re close. Certainly we hate to see Danny go, but Norm coming back will be a big bonus to our program.”

Donovan now must hire his fifth new prominent staff member in the last two seasons. He replaced three assistant coaches and a strength and conditioning coach last year and will now have to find a suitable candidate to fill Roberts’s shoes going forward.

Florida has since confirmed Roberts’s departure from the program.

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