Gameday: (18) Florida Gators at (23) Tennessee

Location: Neyland Stadium – Knoxville, TN [Capacity: 102,455]
Weather Forecast: 78°F, mostly cloudy, winds NNE at 4 mph
Time: 6:00 p.m. EDT

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
SiriusXM: 137/201 | Radio: Gator Radio Network (affiliates)
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(18) FLORIDA GATORS (23) TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Derek Dooley
Record: 2-0 (1-0 SEC) Record: 2-0 (0-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +3; O/U 48

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on what happened with the Gators over the last week? No problem. OGGOA has been here the whole time posting a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam on Saturday.

Florida one win away from hitting “start fast” goal | Pease: Offensive line remains the strength | Freshmen contributing defensively | QB Driskel, TE Reed can get offense rolling | Gators are tougher, more experienced

EXTRA CREDIT: Four things Florida must do to take down Tennessee in Knoxville

HISTORY / STREAKS

» Florida is looking to extend its seven-game winning streak against Tennessee, which dates back to 2005. The Gators are 22-19 all-time against the Volunteers but just 11-10 in Knoxville. Additionally, UF is 20-6 against UT (9-4 in Knoxville) since 1976.
» Saturday’s game will be featured as the host site for ESPN’s College GameDay. It is the 23rd time (15-7) that Florida will be on the road for College GameDay and the team’s 34th occasion in which they have been featured on the program. The Gators were the visiting team for College GameDay last week as well and defeated Texas A&M.
» It is the seventh time in the history of the television program that UF-UT will be featured on College GameDay (second-most all-time). ESPN will be in Knoxville with the show for the first time since 2004.
» Florida is 9-1 against unranked opponents and 0-5 against ranked teams since Muschamp took over the program in 2011. Tennessee is 13-4 against unranked teams and 0-10 against ranked opponents since Dooley took the helm in 2010.
» Muschamp and Dooley know each other well having previously worked together under head coach Nick Saban at LSU (2001-04) and with the Miami Dolphins (2005).
» The Gators and Vols are both ranked heading into their showdown for the first time since 2007. UT is ranked for the first time, period, in 64 polling weeks.
» For the first time since 1996, Florida was not slated to open its SEC schedule against Tennessee (UF played TAMU last weekend). The Gators and Volunteers game will not be aired by CBS at 3:30 p.m. for the first time in eight years.
» UF won its eighth-straight league opener last Saturday.
» Florida was 0-5 when trailing at the half in 2011 but has started the 2012 season 1-0 in that category after outscoring Texas A&M 10-0 in the second half last Saturday.
» The Gators are 5-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 0-4 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards. Florida is also 6-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points and 6-3 when scoring first.
» UF has converted just 8-of-28 third-down attempts (28.6 percent) this season.
» The Gators have held their opponents to 8-of-31 on third down (25.8 percent); UF was second nationally in third-down defense (27.3 percent) last season.
» Florida has at least two kickoff returns for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons after never having more than one in a single season before 2010.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 23-7 in the second half and 17-0 in the fourth quarter through two games this season.
» Florida’s defense is one of 10 nationally that has not allowed a passing touchdown.
» Tennessee’s offense has eclipsed 500 total yards in consecutive games for the first time since 2000 and hit that mark in its first two games for the first time in school history.
» The Volunteers are ninth nationally in passing offense (353.5 yards per game) and 15th nationally in scoring offense (43 points per game).
» Tennessee has four scoring drives of 34 or fewer seconds through two games.
» The Vols are 10-1 under Dooley when eclipsing 25 points (13-3 when scoring 20+).
» Tennessee’s defense is +3 in turnover margin this season and nabbed four interceptions against N.C. State in the teams’ season opener.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida captured its seventh-straight victory over Tennessee when the programs met last season with the Gators defeating the Volunteers 33-23 in Gainesville, FL. UF took an early 16-0 lead on UT thanks in part to three field goals by Caleb Sturgis though Tennessee scored just before the half to reduce their deficit to 17-6. Florida wasted little time in expanding their lead, scoring two touchdowns (one an 83-yard pass from John Brantley to Chris Rainey) in the first seven minutes of the third quarter to jump ahead 30-7. The Gators’ defense softened from there as the Vols outscored them 17-3 over the remainder of the game, but Florida’s early lead catapulted them to victory and their seventh consecutive 3-0 record to start the season.

ESPN: KEYS TO THE GAME

Read the rest of the Florida-Tennessee preview including injuries and absences and which players to look out for from both sides of the field.
Continue Reading » Gameday: (18) Florida Gators at (23) Tennessee

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Dwyer, Beisel, Debut

1 » Contrary to a bevy of reports stating that he is definitively out for Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh Steelers starting rookie center Maurkice Pouncey considers himself probable for the game with a self-described “pretty bad” high ankle sprain. “I hope so. Right now it’s 75/25, and I’m hoping to play,” he told ESPN’s Chris Berman during media day on Tuesday. “I feel great out the cast, man. I’ve been walking around pretty good. Hopefully I’ll get on the bike today and get some pool action in later. It feels pretty good. Everybody’s been pretty positive about me. It’s a nasty little purple color, but it’s getting better. I don’t know why everybody’s trying to rule me out early. Offensive linemen don’t get ruled out until the last day.” If he is able to step on the field, Pouncey will be the only former Florida Gators player to participate in the championship.

2 » With National Signing Day set for Wednesday, some things appear to be getting clearer with the two recruits from Dwyer High School that the Gators have their eyes on. According to the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter, Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels “has a good idea” of where four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) is going and believes he will end up choosing Tennessee over Florida. Daniels also expects four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) to make his declaration at halftime of his high school basketball game on Friday. Brissett is choosing among Florida, Miami, Wisconsin and Washington and is thought to be favoring UM.

3 » For the third-straight year, Florida freshman swimmer Elizabeth Beisel has been named Rhode Island Female Athlete of the Year and will be honored as such at the state’s annual banquet on Feb. 20. Beisel also took home Female Swimmer of the Week honors from the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday. Joining her with recognition are Male Swimmer of the Week senior Conor Dwyer and Freshmen of the Week Hilda Luthersdottir and Marcin Cieslak.

4 » The University of Florida announced Tuesday that the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut spring game will be moved from 1 p.m. to noon in order to air live on Sun Sports on April 9. Last year the game aired live only on UF’s GatorVision; it is unknown if the contest will be broadcast live online as well.

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Recruits to watch through National Signing Day

Updated: Feb. 1 at 9:45 p.m.

Sixteen members strong, the Florida Gators 2011 recruiting class could look totally different – or exactly the same – at the end of the week. With the vast majority of uncommitted high school football players announcing their decisions on National Signing Day this Wednesday, a handful of others may wait a few days to make their intentions known. Below OGGOA breaks down who Florida is still waiting to hear from, when they might learn of their decision and some of the latest insights on each player.

Linebacker Curtis Grant (Richmond, VA)
Accolades: No. 2 player in the country (No. 1 linebacker) according to Rivals; No. 46 player in the country (No. 3 linebacker) according to ESPNU
Leaders: Florida, Ohio State
Contenders: Virginia, North Carolina
Skinny: Though his hometown school and a regional choice are both in the picture, it is believed by most that this is a two-horse race between UF and OSU. The Gators have sent head coach Will Muschamp (two weeks ago) as well as defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, linebackers coach D.J. Durkin and tight ends coach Brian White (last week) in-home to see him. With Florida’s staff only coming together recently, Grant may feel more comfortable elsewhere. Then again, the press put on by UF may have impressed him and he would likely have the opportunity to play relatively early.
Announcement: NSD at 1:50 p.m.

Linebacker Stephone Anthony (Wadesboro, NC)
Accolades: No. 1 linebacker (No. 32 player in the country) according to ESPNU; No. 3 linebacker (No. 24 palyer in the country) according to Rivals
Leader: Clemson
Contenders: Florida, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, North Carolina State
Skinny: It appears that Anthony is favoring Clemson and Virginia Tech with the Tigers edging. In fact, almost every recruiting analyst predicting where Anthony will eventually declare tabs Clemson.
Update: Anthony eliminated UF on Monday.
Announcement: NSD at 11:30 a.m.

Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (Lake City, FL)
Accolades: Consensus No. 2 defensive tackle in the country, listed at No. 17 on the ESPNU 150 and No. 29 on the Rivals 100
Leaders: Florida State, LSU
Contenders: Florida, Tennessee
Skinny: As OGGOA has previously reported, the Gators have put a full-court press on Jernigan. Assistant defensive line coach Bryant Young visited him in-home during his first day on the job, and he has also met personally with Muschamp and Quinn. Florida was thought to have a legitimate chance, but Rivals affiliate VolQuest reported that Jernigan loved his visit to UT over the weekend and it may have supplanted UF in his top three. Always in the back of Jernigan’s mind, however, may be that he and his family have been long-time Gators fans and his home is just 45 miles from The Swamp.
Update: The Orlando Sentinel reports that Jernigan is no longer considering UF.
Announcement: NSD at 10 a.m. on ESPN

Learn about eight more 2011 recruits…after the break.
Continue Reading » Recruits to watch through National Signing Day

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FOUR BITS: Drayton, Hilliard, Dwyer, O’Day

1 » Florida Gators running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton, a native of Cleveland, OH, will leave the team to take the wide receivers coach job with the Ohio State Buckeyes as early as next week, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has confirmed. One of three assistants retained by new head coach Will Muschamp when he took over the program in early January, Drayton has almost exclusively coached running backs since 1993 and spent four years with the Gators (2005-07, 2010). He will likely coordinate the Buckeyes’ recruiting for the state of Florida, a job held by the team’s preceding wide receivers coach. Drayton was on Florida’s staff when they defeated Ohio State and captured the National Championship in 2006.

UPDATE: UF has released the following statement on Drayton’s status: “Coach Muschamp is on the road recruiting and our coaching staff remains intact at this time.”

2 » Former Gators wide receiver Ike Hilliard, a 12-year NFL veteran who officially retired last July by signing a one-day contract with the New York Giants, will join the Miami Dolphins as the team’s assistant wide receivers coach. The No. 7 overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, Hilliard racked up 546 receptions for 6,397 yards and 35 touchdowns over his professional career. He has coached receivers for the Florida Tuskers of the UFL since 2009. Hilliard was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection and consensus first-team All-American in 1996, the year the Gators won their first title. He was only at the University Florida for three seasons, declaring for the draft as a junior after collecting 126 receptions for 2,214 yards and 29 touchdowns. His 2,214 career yards are good for seventh-most in team history, while his 29 career scores rank him second overall. Hilliard also holds the UF record for most receiving touchdowns in a single game (four vs. Tennessee in 1995).

3 » Though it is looking more and more like four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) will eventually head elsewhere, he is still considering traveling to Florida for his last official visit (his other choice would be Miami). Either way, Dwyer High School head football coach Jack Daniels isn’t sure Brissett, or four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) – who the Gators are also recruiting heavily – will announce their commitments on or before National Signing Day. “I think at best it’s 50-50,” Daniels told ESPN’s Jamie Newberg. “We are going to sit down [Wednesday], have lunch and talk about it. I don’t think they will be ready. We need to talk about it and try and get a feel for where they are both at.”

Brissett and Maggitt both have Florida and Wisconsin in common as schools they are considering; the former is also weighing offers from Miami and Washington, while the latter has Tennessee vying for his services as well. The goal is for both players to commit on or before Feb. 2, if possible. “I am not going to make them do it if they are not ready but it’s not looking that good,” Daniels said. “When they get back for this weekend’s visits we need to sit down and work it out if we can.”

4 » Former Gators pitcher Darren O’Day has agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Texas Rangers. O’Day, a reliever for Texas during their World Series run, posted a 6-2 record with a 2.03 ERA in 2010 and has been with the club since 2009.

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SIX BITS: Trattou, Donovan, Dwyer, gym, swim

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Justin Trattou will participate in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL on Saturday. He will wear No. 84 in the game, which will air live on NFL Network at 4 p.m.

2 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan is currently participating in The Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge, a charitable contest where coaches are vying to win money for an organization they choose to represent. Donovan, who is representing the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation, could win $100,000 for the organization in the contest. Vote for him right here and remember that “inspiration is contagious.”

3 » When it comes to Dwyer High School four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL), it seems no one knows exactly what he is going to do. Though he has officially eliminated South Carolina and Florida State from contention, Brissett is being pursued heavily by a number of schools in addition to the Gators. Miami and Washington are both going hard after him, according to the Palm Beach Post. Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels believes Brissett is the “No. 1 player [Miami] target[s],” and says the player is intrigued by Washington because of their success in getting players ready for the NFL. Daniels disputed that Brissett “holds a grudge” against Florida. “He doesn’t hold a grudge because it’s a new coaching staff. He’s just proud, and he wants to show everyone who didn’t offer him early,” he said. “It wasn’t against UF; it was against the staff that was there before.” That statement aligns with the original story on the subject, the point being that the negative feelings may be too much to overcome – even with a new coaching staff in place.

Daniels also told the Post that four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) was pleased with an in-home visit from Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley. He is planning to visit the Gators next weekend and, though he may take an unofficial trip to Miami, is likely between UF, UT and Wisconsin with the first two schools out in front.

4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (3-0, 2-0 SEC) continued their winning ways on Friday, defeating the No. 24 LSU Tigers (0-3, 0-2 SEC) 196.425-194.00 on the road at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, LA. Sophomore Ashanée Dickerson won her 10th all-around title while claiming at least a share of each of Friday’s five event titles. She is the first Gators gymnast since 2000 to sweep all of the event titles in a single meet, winning the floor exercise (9.95), vault (9.90) and balance beam (9.825) while sharing the uneven bars title (9.80).

5 » Though they put together a solid performance, No. 5/6 Gators men’s and women’s swimming fell to the No. 6/12 Auburn Tigers on Friday at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center in Auburn, AL. The men (4-3, 2-1 SEC) lost 167-133, while the women (4-4, 0-2 SEC) were upended 165-135. Florida’s men had not fallen in SEC competition in almost two full years…their prior defeat also came at Auburn on Jan. 24, 2009.

In more upbeat news, three Gators swimmers were selected to the United States’ 2011 FINA World Championship Team on Friday. Senior Conor Dwyer, junior Teresa Crippen and freshman Elizabeth Beisel will all participate for USA Swimming in Shanghai, China from July 24-31. Gregg Troy, Florida’s head swimming coach who agreed to coach the United States’ men’s team at the 2012 London Olympics, will be an assistant coach on the FINA squad, which also features another former Gators swimmer, Ryan Lochte. Florida’s three selections to the team led any NCAA school.

6 » No. 9 Gators men’s tennis (1-0) took home an impressive 7-0 victory against the Furman Paladins in their season-opener on Friday at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The No. 11 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and junior Nassim Slilam won their doubles match 8-3; No. 4 Lacroix also won his singles match 6-0, 5-7 (10-4). Other ranked victories came from sophomores No. 28 Sekou Bangoura, Jr. (6-1, 6-1) and No. 52 Bob van Overbeek (6-0, 6-1) in singles action.

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TWO BITS: Weis high on Brissett; surgeries

1 » Friday marked new Florida Gators offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Charlie Weis’s first day on the job, and he spent it in West Palm Beach, FL trying to recruit four-stars quarterback Jacoby Brissett and linebacker Curt Maggitt of Dwyer High School. Former Florida head coach Urban Meyer had previously offered Brissett the opportunity to greyshirt, but a visit by Weis followed by a phone call to new head coach Will Muschamp after the meeting netted Brissett an official scholarship offer on Friday. Maggitt already had an outstanding offer to join the Gators.

Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels told the Palm Beach Post that Weis showcased one of his Super Bowl rings and told “a ton of stories about what he’s done and situations he’s handled.” Brisset will take an unofficial visit to Gainesville, FL over the weekend to get a look at the school and watch the Florida-South Carolina basketball game (a former schoolmate plays for USC). The Gators hope to convince both Brissett and Maggitt to take an official visit to Florida before the recruiting cycle closes. [Read more of what Daniels had to say from the Post.

With Gators freshman QB Trey Burton expected to move to the defensive side of the ball (possibly safety), Florida would have five quarterbacks on its roster should Brissett commit. Redshirt junior John Brantley announced he is not transferring, five-star frosh Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) is already enrolled, and both redshirt freshman Jordan Reed and freshman Tyler Murphy are currently listed as QBs. Reed is also a tight end and could permanently switch to that position, and Murphy could theoretically change positions as well though he has come out and said he only wants to play quarterback.

2 » Muschamp announced Friday that freshman LB Neiron Ball and redshirt sophomore guard David Young both underwent surgery this past week. Ball, who played in all of Florida’s contests on special teams in 2010, had surgery to repair a sports hernia. Young had hardware cleaned out of his left knee from a prior surgery and only participated in two games this past season. Expectations are that Ball will be able to get work in during spring practice, but Young will most likely have to wait until the summer.

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TWO BITS: Weis checks in, Tebow-Fox future

1 » With National Signing Day fast approaching and the Kansas City Chiefs eliminated from the playoffs, new Florida Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is officially on the job as of Friday. Currently in South Florida at Dwyer High School visiting four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) [and possibly four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL), too], Weis plans to set foot in Gainesville, FL this weekend as a number of prominent recruits will be visiting the University of Florida campus. In addition to speaking with recruits, Weis will also be trying to convince redshirt junior QB John Brantley (and perhaps other offensive players) to stick with the Gators and the new coaching staff.

Uncommitted recruits visiting Florida this weekend include five-star LB Curtis Grant (Richmond, VA) and three-star LB Denzel Perryman (Coral Gables, FL).

2 » Though there were concerns about whether or not a new head coach would believe in Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow as his future starter, those questions seem to have been put to rest (at least temporarily) with the hiring of John Fox. In addition Fox speaking highly of Tebow before the 2010 NFL Draft, the Denver Post reports that Tebow is still in his good graces. “He’s got a lot of intangibles I look for,” Fox said Wednesday. “Where that goes it’s hard to predict. He’s in a developmental stage for sure, but I think he has the makings to be as good as he wants to be.” Perhaps even better news for Tebow is that his offensive coordinator last season, Mike McCoy is expected to be retained as he has a long history coaching under Fox. Though he is drawing interest from other teams, McCoy worked with Fox as his QBs coach with the Carolina Panthers from 2003-07 and passing game coordinator in 2008.

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SIX BITS: Cassell, Elway, Tebow, Crowder, Haden

1 » On June 24, three-star linebacker recruit Rahim Cassell (Lakewood, CA) committed to the Florida Gators; unfortunately for him, the team did not recognize his verbal promise and did not count him as a member of its 2011 recruiting class. Friday, Cassell reiterated again to the Orlando Sentinel that he is committed to the Gators, stating that coaches simply wanted to see him perform in person before bringing him on board. However, there remain conflicting reports that Cassell is still not a part of the recruiting class – yet. So while his intentions are known, Florida’s are not. In all likelihood, the coaching staff is waiting to make sure they have a spot for him after higher ranked players decide where they will be attending school next year.

UPDATE: Cassell, for the third time now, claims that the coaches have accepted his commitment. He told the Sentinel that a phone call set for Sunday night may help clarify why there have been so many mixed messages.

2 » Legendary Denver Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway has been supportive of former Florida QB Tim Tebow ever since his team selected him with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. At a golf tournament on Thursday, Elway opened up more about Tebow. “The thing about Tebow is they’re focusing too much on his release,” Elway said. “As long as he can get it in a timely manner, I think he has plenty of arm there. […] He’s not going to change his release. He may get better. Obviously, by throwing you get more accurate and more accurate and you may shorten it up as time goes on but if it’s long and quick, that’s OK.”

Four more BITS on Tim Tebow, Channing Crowder, Joe Haden, Jabar Gaffney…and an extra BIT on recruit Curt Maggitt…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Cassell, Elway, Tebow, Crowder, Haden

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