Jaylen Watkins – Path to 2014 NFL Draft: Healing

Through the 2014 NFL Draft, which will be held in New York, NY from May 8-10, Florida Gators defensive back Jaylen Watkins will be keeping you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft with exclusive blog entries here at OnlyGators.com.

Florida’s third-leading tackler with 52 takedowns last season, Watkins played safety for the Gators after being primarily used as a cornerback – the position he will play as a professional – during his first three years. Watkins started 28 of the 48 games in which he participated but saw the field for starter’s minutes in many of those other contests.

His fourth entry comes just over a week before he heads to Indianapolis, IN to compete in the 2014 NFL Combine. Watkins is currently training in South Florida and rehabilitating a sprained Achilles he suffered during practice for the 2014 Senior Bowl.

Even though I sprained my Achilles and was unable to play in the Senior Bowl, I actually stuck around and watched the entire game. I was already there and my entire family already drove up, so I stayed and watched Solomon [Patton] and Jon [Halapio]…and Matt Patchan was there, too, so that was pretty cool.

We all hung out and ate meals together with Matt. We went through some hard times and good times together at Florida, so it was nice to reconnect. We actually didn’t know he was coming at first until we saw him walk into breakfast one day, but it was definitely good to catch up with him. It was like old times with the Gators.

Continue Reading » Jaylen Watkins – Path to 2014 NFL Draft: Healing

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SIX BITS: Speights, Sloan, fouling, Riggs, Tyus

1 » Golden State Warriors forward/center Marreese Speights put together a career game Monday night as he added a highlight to his otherwise up-and-down NBA career. Speights came off the bench but played starter’s minutes for Golden State in its 123-80 drubbing of Philadelphia 76ers, scoring a career-high 32 points on 12-of-15 shooting with eight boards and three blocks against the team that selected him with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.

He played so well, in fact, that the Warriors home crowd actually chanted “M-V-P” for Speights though he has been mostly a role player for Golden State this season.

2 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (5-0, 3-0 SEC) held on to its top ranking on Monday coming out of a 197.175-195.45 road victory on Friday over the Kentucky Wildcats (4-4, 1-3 SEC). Leading the way for the Gators in the meet was sophomore Bridget Sloan, who registered her second and Florida’s fourth perfect score of the season with a 10.0 on the balance beam. The defending national title holder in the discipline, Sloan’s 10.0 made her just the second gymnast in program history to register a perfect mark on the beam and the first Gators gymnast to score 10.0s on two different events in a career. For her terrific performance, Sloan honored by the Southeastern Conference for the fourth-straight week with the SEC Gymnast of the Week award.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Speights, Sloan, fouling, Riggs, Tyus

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Florida senior DB Cody Riggs to transfer in May

Updated on Thursday at 6:45 p.m.

Florida Gators redshirt senior defensive back Cody Riggs will transfer out of the program, head coach Will Muschamp announced Wednesday at his post-National Signing Day press conference.

“Cody Riggs and his parents came to me and he’s going to finish up in May and transfer to another school to finish his last year of eligibility, wanted a fresh start,” Muschamp said. “And I appreciate his contributions to Florida.”

Riggs, who has played in 40 games with 25 starts over the last four seasons, only saw action in two contests as a true junior in 2012 after fracturing his foot during the second game of the campaign.

He started 10 games at cornerback in 2011 but moved to safety to help the Gators in 2012-13, finishing fourth on the team with 51 tackles (10 for lost yardage) last year.

According to The Gainesville Sun‘s Pat Dooley, Riggs’s desire to return to his natural position of cornerback fueled his decision to transfer.

(It also leaves Florida without a returning starter at safety from the 2013 season as Jaylen Watkins graduated at the end of the year.)

Riggs denied that notion on Thursday, telling Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated that he would have left prior to the 2012 campaign if he was concerned about preparing for the NFL. Instead, he wants to “attend graduate business school and pursue either an MBA or other business degree” elsewhere in order to “expand his network.”

“This was the hardest decision I ever had to make,” Riggs said. “I love my teammates and the fans here. I really feel awful about leaving my teammates, especially a young secondary. This was something that I needed to do.”

He added: “Muschamp is the best coach I’ve ever had. His defense is always going to be good, regardless of who is back there. They have a lot of talent back there, it gives me a little peace knowing that they’re going to be OK.”

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10/28: Taylor to start for Florida vs. Georgia, injury statuses, offensive line updates and more

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss progress made during the off week and the upcoming World’s Largest Cocktail Party showdown against the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, Nov. 2. The contest will kick off at 3:30 p.m. from Jacksonville, FL, and air live on CBS.

IT’S (“PROBABLY”) TAYLOR TIME

Though Muschamp was quite clear that freshman running back Kelvin Taylor would be getting more work than usual on Saturday against Georgia, he stopped just short of declaring him the unquestioned starter. “Well, we’re working through the week and that’s probably what we’ll end up doing, he said.

Muschamp did, however, offer up a fair amount of praise for Taylor. “He’s continued to improve throughout the season, week-to-week. He’s always been a very instinctive natural runner. It’s very obviously. But again, with assignments and different things, I think he’s done a nice job and he deserves the opportunity,” he said.

Those are sentiments shared by redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy.

“He’s shown that he can do a lot of good things with the ball in his hands. I think the coaches, as well as myself, have to do a good job of finding ways to get him the ball so he can create big plays for us,” Murphy explained. “Like I said, we’re going to need some explosive plays and he has the ability to do that. We’re just going to have to find ways to continue to give him the ball and eventually he’s going to break. He’s very talented, very elusive player. Looking forward to seeing him this week and what role he’ll have.”

ALL HEALED UP

Muschamp did not list Murphy on Florida’s injury report two weeks ago, but he was nevertheless a game-time decision when UF took on Missouri. Murphy played with what was revealed Monday to be a sprained AC joint and put together his worst performance of the season as he was inaccurate with the ball throughout the contest.

“It didn’t bother me at all. I think maybe just not practicing or not throwing a little bit kind of hurt me a little bit. Other than that, I felt fine. It wasn’t bothering me or anything,” he said. “I had that overthrow to Trey [Burton] which hurt us in the beginning. I kind of couldn’t help but laugh because he was so wide open. You gotta hit him.”

Murphy did not throw during the off week – redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg took all the snaps – but should be back in action on Monday and completely cleared to take first-team snaps by Tuesday.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell (ankle) missed Saturday’s game against Mizzou but “ran well” during the off week and even got in some change of direction work on Sunday. Muschamp said he expects Powell back in action on Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest “if he were to play in the game.” He admitted: “[It is] still kind of up in the air whether that will happen or not.”

Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (head) is set to return to practice on Tuesday and is listed as probable, while senior LB Darrin Kitchens (shoulder) and redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot) are both doubtful.

Continue Reading » 10/28: Taylor to start for Florida vs. Georgia, injury statuses, offensive line updates and more

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10/19: Florida at Missouri post-game report

The No. 22/22 Florida Gators (4-3, 3-2 SEC) were embarrassed by the explosive No. 14/14 Missouri Tigers (7-0, 3-0 SEC), falling 36-17 on the road at Farout Field in Columbia, MO. After the tough loss, Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media to provide some of his thoughts on his team and its defeat.

OPENING STATEMENT

“We’re just not a very good football team. Certainly not today. It falls on my shoulders. We’re inept offensively. We have a hard time running it and certainly can’t protect very well. It obviously showed today against the front we played against. Just very disappointed that we haven’t made more positive strides offensively this season, just regressed again from last week. We’re going to go back and work extremely hard to get those things corrected. Defensively, [we allowed] too many big plays. …

“As a football team, we didn’t do enough good things out there, and that falls on my shoulders. We just need to get better and that’s what we’re going to do. Disappointed with the way we played. We need to improve and get better. We got an off week to get it turned around.”

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Missouri improved to 2-1 all-time against Florida, winning the first and only game the two teams have ever played in Columbia.
» The Gators are now 1-5 in their last six games against ranked opponents, beating Florida State in 2012 but falling to Georgia, Louisville, Miami, LSU and Mizzou all since Oct. 27, 2012.
» Florida fell to 7-11 under Muschamp when rushing for fewer than 150 yards and 4-10 when tied or trailing at the half.
» The Tigers posted 500 yards of offense against the Gators’ top-ranked defense, the most UF has allowed in a single game since the 2008 Capitol One Bowl against Michigan.
» Florida gained just 151 yards of offense, the fewest in a single game since the 1999 SEC Championship against Alabama.
» UF went 3-for-15 on first down, averaged 1.9 yards per rush and 6.1 yards per completion. Mizzou averaged 5.5 yards per carry and 16.4 yards per catch.
» The Gators’ defense had allowed just one play longer than 40 yards all season but coughed up three on Saturday.
» Florida failed to hold an SEC opponent under 20 points for the first time in 14 opportunities.
» UF forced at least one turnover in 17-straight games.
» The Gators went 109:01 of game time dating back to Oct. 5 without scoring an offensive touchdown until crossing the goal line in the fourth quarter.
» Florida lost the time of possession battle (29:18-30:42) for the first time this season.
» The Gators did not sack the opposing quarterback once for the second-straight week.
» Florida’s porous offensive line allowed six sacks on the afternoon.
» The Gators committed at least eight penalties in a game for the fifth time this season. Three of those five contests ended as losses.
» UF was held to 2.8 yards per carry and under 150 team rushing yards for the second-straight game and third time overall this season (two losses).
» Florida registered a season-high eight pass defenses.

» Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor registered career-highs of 12 carries and 74 yards – and scored his first career rushing touchdown – during Saturday’s game. He has combined for 22 carries and 126 yards over the last two weeks.
» Senior wide receiver Solomon Patton returned a kickoff for a touchdown on the first play of the second half, catching the ball five yards into the end zone and bringing it back the length of the field. It was his first career return touchdown.
» Sophomore defensive back Brian Poole registered an interception, two tackles for loss and a pass defense. He nearly had a second interception, too.
» Redshirt junior walk-on kicker Frankie Valez kicked a 23-yard field goal in the first quarter and is now 3-for-3 on his career.
» Freshman punter Johnny Townsend made his first start and booted the ball eight times for 365 yards, averaging 45.6 yards per punt with a long of 61 and two touchbacks.

Continue Reading » 10/19: Florida at Missouri post-game report

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Missouri Tigers maul Florida Gators 36-17

An unrelenting offensive attack from the No. 14/14 Missouri Tigers (7-0, 3-0 SEC) dominated an injured No. 22/22 Florida Gators (4-3, 3-2 SEC) defense, picking up a 36-17 victory on Saturday afternoon at in Columbia, MO.

The Gators allowed the Tigers to rack up 500 yards of offense, the most given up by Florida in 2013, as Missouri became the first Southeastern Conference team in 14 tries to post more than 20 points in a single game against UF’s stout defense.

The visitors were outmatched all afternoon as the Gators struggled on the way to gaining just 151 yards of offense. Florida was 3-for-15 on third down as the Gators’ offensive line allowed six sacks and failed to adequately protect the quarterback throughout the contest or open up holes in the running game most of the afternoon.

After Florida deferred until the second half, Missouri started on offense and got on the board in just 22 seconds.

Quarterback Maty Mauk completed a 41-yard pass on the first play of the game to wide receiver L’Damian Washington, and the Tigers gained 15 additional yards on the play after a targeting penalty was called against Gators redshirt junior safety Cody Riggs. He was subsequently ejected from the game. On the very next play, Mauk hit WR Bud Sasser for a 20-yard touchdown.

Florida went three-and-out on its first possession, running the ball three-straight times, but lucked out on the ensuing punt, which was muffed and recovered by junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy.

Facing first down at Missouri’s 24-yard line, UF gained 17 yards on a rush by freshman running back Kelvin Taylor before stalling and settling for a 23-yard field goal by redshirt junior kicker Frankie Velez.

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Friday Final: Florida to square off with Mizzou

No. 22/22 Florida Gators coaches and players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s road game against the No. 14/14 Missouri Tigers scheduled to kick off at 12:21 p.m. from Memorial Stadium in Columbia, MO, and air live on SEC Network affiliates.

Below are some stories, notes and quotes that fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the six posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links).

Monday: RB Matt Jones out for the season | Will Muschamp recaps LSU, talks injuries, previews Missouri
Tuesday: Updated depth chart | Limping, struggling Gators down but not out
Wednesday: Injury and kicking game updates from Muschamp
Thursday: Brent Pease talks RB Kelvin Taylor, pass protection (plus more notes from Pease and D.J. Durkin)

FLORIDA CONTROLS ITS OWN DESTINY

With every team in the East division already having dropped a league game – with the exception of Missouri, a team Florida could hand a loss to on Saturday – the Gators are very much in control of their own destiny, at least as far as the Southeastern Conference is concerned. Florida still has all of its goals in sight – winning the division, moving on to the SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA – a fact that was not lost on the coaches or players this week.

» Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy: “A lot of people brought up saying we could still win the East, we still have a chance to get to Atlanta. That’s our number one goal. Everyone was just saying we really need to focus in and have a great week of practice and get ready to go on the road and put forth a great effort to beat Missouri. We have a bye week the week after so this is a big week for us. Nothing would be worse than losing to Missouri going into a bye week. That’s in the back of everyone’s head. Everyone’s ready to go and ready to get this game on the road.”

» Senior safety Jaylen Watkins: “We definitely turn our eyes towards the East now. We definitely would like to have that game, but we do have everything still in front of us that we want to accomplish his season, which is the Sec East and going to the SEC Championship. We just have to regain our focus and get ready to go play Missouri.”

» Junior cornerback Marcus Roberson: “We haven’t lost to a team in the East yet, so we just have to win on out from Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri is coming up. We just have to win out and keep a positive mindset. We can’t let the past or the games we lost affect our season ahead of us. We control our own destiny, so if we play good and just do and trust what the coaches [tell us], we’ll win.”

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Tigers outwork Gators 17-6 in Baton Rouge

The No. 17/17 Florida Gators (4-2, 3-1 SEC) got a taste of their own medicine at the hands of the No. 10/10 LSU Tigers (6-1, 3-1 SEC), which dominated both lines of scrimmage and thoroughly outworked the visitors on the way to a 17-6 victory at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA, on Saturday.

LSU outgained Florida 327-239 on offense, racking up more yards on the Gators in a single game than any other team this season. The Tigers also converted 5-of-9 third down attempts and held UF to a paltry 109 rushing yards on 40 carries.

While Florida redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy was pressured all day long and even sacked four times, LSU signal caller Zach Mettenberger was not taken down once on the afternoon. He gained chunk yardage on UF’s cornerbacks by completing a number of nice passes and racked up more yards on nine completions (152) than Murphy registered on 15 connections (116).

Florida deferred the opening kickoff but still struck first, putting three points on the board at the conclusion of a 14-play, 60-yard drive that started at UF’s 13-yard line, ended at LSU’s 27 and lasted 7:27. Redshirt junior walk-on kicker Frankie Velez connected on a 44-yard field goal, the first of his career and longest for the Gators this season.

LSU did not take long to answer back as Mettenberger completed passes of 17 and 26 yards – and benefited from a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on UF junior defensive tackle Darious Cummings – to move the ball to the visitors’ 12-yard line.

A pass interference call on redshirt junior safety Cody Riggs gave the Tigers a second chance to punch it in the end zone, and they responded with a short touchdown to go up 7-3 just four ticks into the second quarter.

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