SIX BITS: practice, Leonard, baseball, Spikes

1 » The Florida Gators announced Monday that spring football practice will begin on Wednesday, March 14 and conclude as always with the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut on April 7 at 1 p.m. Unlike the 2011 season, when all of Florida’s spring practices were closed, the Gators will open two sessions to fans this year on Friday, March 16 (4:25-6:35 p.m.) and Saturday, March 17 (12:55-3:00 p.m.).

2 » Florida freshman tight end A.C. Leonard, arrested for misdemeanor domestic battery on Feb. 15 and indefinitely suspended from the team by head coach Will Muschamp one day later, entered a “not guilty” plea in Alachua County court on Monday, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Being represented by Gainesville, FL attorney Huntley Johnson, Leonard is not allowed to have any contact with the woman he allegedly hurt by judge’s orders and had to find a separate place to live at least until the court makes a final judgment on his case.

3 » No. 1 Gators baseball (3-1) pulled out a hard-fought, come-from-behind victory at home on Tuesday, scoring two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (2-2) 8-6 at McKethan Stadium. Florida threw a trio of freshmen pitchers over the first 6.2 innings, beginning with right-hander Johnny Magliozzi who earned the first start of his career. Magliozzi allowed three earned runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 3.2 and was followed up by left-hander Bobby Poyner and RHP Justin Shafer. The duo gave up three earned runs combined on six hits with no walks and two strikeouts in 3.0 innings. By the time Shafer left the hill, the Gators were down 6-5 after previously having leads of 4-1 through three innings and 4-3 through four innings.

Junior catcher Mike Zunino hit a solo home run in the bottom of the second to get Florida on the board, and the Gators rallied in the bottom of the third and fourth as four more runs crossed the plate. Zunino (2-3, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB) led off the seventh the same way he did the second, with another solo shot to tie the game 6-6. With junior RHP Austin Maddox (1-0) taking over to hold Bethune-Cookman to six runs, Florida again rallied in the eighth and took the lead with a RBI single by senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-5). Junior first baseman Brian Johnson (1-4) had a two-RBI night for the Gators, and both senior left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-4, RBI, 2 R, BB) and freshman catcher Taylor Gushue (2-5, RBI) knocked in runs on Tuesday.

4 » New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes underwent surgery on Monday. The Boston Herald reports that the surgery was performed on his right kene and done in order to “clean out some cartilage.” A source told the paper that the procedure “went very well.” Spikes, who returned late in the season after spraining his MCL, was a tremendous contributor for New England on defense in 2011 (when he was on the field).

5 » Florida is attempting to secure a sixth year of collegiate eligibility for offensive lineman James Wilson, ESPN reported on Monday. Wilson, who has broken his foot twice and had four knee surgeries in the last five years, has played in 38 games for the Gators and is talented enough to potentially start for Florida in 2012 if he is able to return. What may hurt his chances at a NCAA waiver is the fact that he played in 11 games in 2011, his redshirt senior season. ESPN notes that the Gators expect to have an answer sooner than later.

6 » North Texas Mean Green head coach and former Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney was released from the hospital on Feb. 16 after suffering a stroke and being rushed to the emergency room four days earlier. McCarney has since returned to work and is expected to continue coaching the team beginning with spring practice in March.

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SIX BITS: tennis and lacrosse fall, Junior Day ahead, McCarney doing OK, softball rising

1 » After only giving up two points in their first five matches this season (both to No. 5 Baylor), No. 1 Florida Gators women’s tennis (5-1) was rocked Sunday by the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal (4-0) 5-2 at the Taube Tennis Center in Stanford, CA. Florida, which ended Stanford’s 184-match home winning streak while winning the 2011 NCAA Championship a year ago, had its own 26-match winning streak broken on Sunday. The Cardinal swept the Gators in doubles competition with No. 1 duo Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs thrashing sophomore Alexandra Cercone and junior Allie Will 8-3. Stacey Tan and Ellen Tsay beat junior Lauren Embree and sophomore Sofie Oyen 8-3 as well. Will (3) got a form of redemption in singles action, beating Gibbs (5) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Burdette (1), looking for revenge of her own after being beaten for the title one year ago, got just that on Embree (25) by taking her down 6-1, 6-2 in straight sets. Oyen (34) was the only other ranked Florida player to win her match by defeating Ellen Tsay (31) as senior Joanna Mather (4) and Cercone (41) both fell in singles action. UF will play two more non-conference matches before heading into SEC competition.

2 » Suffering a similarly tough loss over the weekend, No. 4 Gators lacrosse (0-1) fell on the road against the No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels (1-0), fighting back from a 7-3 halftime deficit to lose 11-9. Florida took an early 2-0 lead on North Carolina, but the Tar Heels then outscored the Gators 7-1 to end the opening half. Pairs of consecutive goals by junior attackers Ashley Bruns and Kitty Cullen reduced UF’s deficit but even Florida winning the scoring battle 4-1 over the final 12:07 was not enough to put away North Carolina. Bruns and Cullen finished with three goals apiece, but junior goal keeper Mikey Meagher only notched two saves on the afternoon. Midfielder Kara Cannizzaro led UNC with four goals on six shots, and GK Lauren Maksym was stingy in the net, saving 10 goals while only allowing nine. After losing to the Tar Heels in the season opener last year, the Gators exploded on a 14-match winning streak.

3 » Florida will be holding its second Junior Day of the 2013 recruiting cycle on Saturday and is set to host a number of the country’s top prospects, many of whom are strongly considering playing for the Gators after their respective senior seasons. Among them are a trio of four-stars from Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, FL – linebacker James Hearns (No. 157) and wide receivers Reggie Davis (No. 118) and Taj Williams (No. 177). Hearns committed to Florida on Feb. 2, becoming the Gators’ fourth pledge of the cycle. Davis and Williams also have offers from UF but neither has committed yet; the former will be going on his second visit to Gainesville, FL this month while the latter has expressed on Twitter that he hopes to play for the orange and blue down the line. Other big-time recruits expected to be on campus Saturday are five-star offensive lineman No. 3 Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, FL) and four-stars LB commit No. 53 Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL), defensive tackle commit No. 82 Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, FL), defensive back No. 39 Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL), WR No. 45 Stacy Coley (Oakland Park, FL), four-star running back No. 90 Ryan Green (St. Petersburg, FL), DB No. 94 Nick Washington (Jacksonville, FL), RB No. 111 Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) and WR No. 234 Rodney Adams (St. Petersburg, FL)…just to name a few. UF believes it is in a great position to add a number of commits by the weekend’s end.

4 » Former Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney, now head coach of the North Texas Mean Green, remains in hospital Tuesday morning after suffering stroke on Sunday. In an interview with the Des Moines Register, McCarney said he had the stroke after working out but is expected to make a full recovery with no permanent damage lingering. “I’ve got too much Irish in me to stay down very long,” he joked. “I’m supposed to get out of the hospital in a couple days. I feel good right now. I’ve got a little tingling feeling, but hey, if that’s the worst of it, I’d say I’m a pretty lucky guy. Nothing wrong with me that a little Grey Goose won’t cure.” OGGOA wishes Coach McCarney our best wishes as he recovers.

5 » Going 5-0 in the 2012 season’s first weekend, Florida softball received some good news early this week. On Monday, the Gators learned that third baseman Sami Fagan won SEC Freshman of the Week honors after hitting .666 with three RBI, seven runs, two walks and a pair of stolen bases in five games. Florida was then crowned the new No. 1 team in the country (with 16 of 30 first-place votes) when USA Today and the NFCA released their latest coaches’ top 25 poll. Gators softball and baseball are both ranked as the top team in the nation.

6 » Conflicting reports emerged this week about whether or not Tim Davis was actually Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s first choice to be the team’s new offensive line coach. According to a number of stories, including one from ESPN’s Chris Low, Muschamp first reached out to South Carolina Gamecocks running game coordinator and OL coach Shawn Elliot, who turned down Florida even though UF was offering more than his new $300,000 annual salary pays at South Carolina. However, Muschamp himself denied to The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley that he went after Elliot for the position. Regardless of who his first choice was, Davis is the one now wearing orange and blue and looking to improve an offensive line that struggled in performance and development one year ago.

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Muschamp names five coaches, retains three

New Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced the first five members of his coaching staff on Sunday in an official statement from the University of Florida.

Muschamp decided to retain current Florida running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton, linebackers coach/special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin and tight ends coach Brian White. He also confirmed that former Gators pass catcher Aubrey Hill had been hired as wide receivers coach and announced that former Auburn Tigers All-SEC first team cornerback Travaris Robinson will coach the defensive backs.

“I thought it was important to have some continuity in the staff – D.J., Stan and Brian bring that to the table,” Muschamp said. “They are also solid recruiters. Aubrey is obviously a Gator, and it’s always a plus when you have someone coach at their alma mater. He understands the passion and the expectations here, and I know he is excited to return to Gainesville.

“Travaris worked on our staff and Auburn is a winner. He has competed at the highest level in this sport and is a good young coach with strong ties to the South Florida area, which will benefit us in recruiting.”

A Miami, FL native, Hill is a Gators alum who played for head coach Steve Spurrier from 1991-94 when Florida won their first three Southeastern Conference Championships. He served as a graduate assistant under Spurrier from 1996-98 and has coached wide receivers since 1999 including stints at Duke (1999-2003), Elon (2004), Pittsburgh (2005-07) and Miami (2008-10). He served as the Hurricanes recruiting coordinator only for the 2010 season.

Robinson is a four-time letterwinner for Auburn (1999-2002) who played two years in the NFL and worked as a graduate assistant under Muschamp when he was the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. Also a native of Miami, he coached at Western Kentucky (2008) and Southern Miss (2009) before being hired to the Texas Tech Red Raiders staff as an assistant secondary coach by former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville.

Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Addazio, who has been hired as head coach of the Temple Owls, will be replaced by Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis with an announcement expected for Monday. Associate head coach and defensive line coach Dan McCarney left the team before its bowl game to take the top job with the North Texas Mean Green.

Position20102011
Offensive coordinatorSteve AddazioCharlie Weis
Quarterbacks coachScot LoefflerCharlie Weis
Defensive coordinatorTeryl AustinDan Quinn
Defensive line coachDan McCarney*Dan Quinn
Assistant: Bryant Young
Running backs coach
Recruiting coordinator
Stan DraytonBrian White
Offensive line coach
Running game coordinator
Steve AddazioFrank Verducci
Wide receivers coach
Recruiting coordinator
Zach AzzanniAubrey Hill
Tight ends coachBrian WhiteDerek Lewis
Linebackers coach
Special teams coordinator
D.J. DurkinD.J. Durkin
Defensive backs coachAustin/Chuck Heater*Travaris Robinson
Strength & conditioningMickey MarottiMickey Marotti

*McCarney was also assistant head coach; Heater held the role of co-defensive coordinator.

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Florida’s Muschamp looks to fill in coaching staff

With the hire of any new head coach there is usually extensive turnover on the previous coaching staff. According to various reports, things will not be much different for new Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, who is expected to hire numerous coaches outside the current staff while only retaining a few members.

The Gainesville Sun reported Saturday that Muschamp has chosen to bring back running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton and linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin, though their responsibilities may be adjusted in the new staff.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, whose sources confirmed Weis’s interest in Florida on Friday, reported Saturday that Miami Hurricanes wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill has said he will leave Miami to coach under Muschamp even though new Hurricanes head coach Al Golden said 12 days ago that he would be retaining Hill.

A Miami, FL native, Hill is a Gators alum who played for head coach Steve Spurrier from 1991-94 when Florida won their first three Southeastern Conference Championships. He served as a graduate assistant under Spurrier from 1996-98 and has coached wide receivers since 1999 including stints at Duke (1999-2003), Elon (2004), Pittsburgh (2005-07) and Miami (2008-10). He served as the Hurricanes recruiting coordinator only for the 2010 season.

Though it has yet to be confirmed, Seattle Seahawks assistant head coach and defensive line coach Dan Quinn has emerged as the most talked about candidate to serve as the Gators next defensive coordinator. Muschamp noted that he wished to run a pro-style defense and was expected to find a candidate with NFL experience.

Quinn, who has coached in the NFL since 2001, served as defensive line coach when Muschamp was assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins under then-head coach Nick Saban. That year Miami ranked 15th in total defense (19.8 points and 317.4 yards per game) but was second in quarterback sacks (49).

It is unknown what Muschamp plans to do with current Florida co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater or tight ends coach Brian White, both of whom were expected by many to be considered for roles on the new coaching staff.

Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Addazio, who has been hired as head coach of the Temple Owls, will be replaced by Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis with an announcement expected for Monday. Associate head coach and defensive line coach Dan McCarney left the team before its bowl game to take the top job with the North Texas Mean Green

OGGOA will continue updating you on the Gators coaching staff situation as more information is made available.

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Muschamp could have coaches hired by Tuesday

Speaking with the media on Wednesday as the Florida Gators prepare for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions set for Sat., Jan. 1 at 1 p.m., athletic director Jeremy Foley said that he expects new head coach Will Muschamp to have most of his staff in place by Tues., Jan. 4.

“Some pieces are falling into place; still, there’s other pieces that have to fall into place,” Foley said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “He’s making a lot of good progress there and will be in position next week to hit the ground running and go recruit.

“January 4th you have to hit the ground recruiting, so I’m not going to say the whole staff will be in place by then, but we’ve got to have some coaches on the road. We will have some coaches on the road. I think things get really, really hectic the first part of next week.”

As of press time, director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti is the only confirmed member of Muschamp’s staff. It is a widely held belief that he will retain a few of the Gators’ current coaches though most hires will be from outside the program.

Because Muschamp has decided to consult head coach Urban Meyer on a number of matters, he will likely receive strong endorsements for some current assistants.

“He’s certainly respectful of the fact that this is Urban’s last deal,” Foley said, according to the University of Florida. “He’s not going to be in the forefront. We probably talk every day. He’s, trust me, rocking and rolling hard putting a staff together. Every time I talk to him, I know he’s chomping at the bit to get to Gainesville and get going recruiting and get this thing rolling.

“I know people are wondering why we haven’t announced this or announced that. It’s because that’s part of the plan. You wait until football seasons are over, individual teams are done playing and then you can start figuring out what are the final pieces of this puzzle.”

DEPARTING COACHES
Offensive coordinator/offensive line Steve Addazio » Named Temple head coach
Assistant head coach/defensive line Dan McCarney » Named North Texas head coach
Defensive coordinator/cornerbacks Teryl Austin » Does not anticipate being retained

REMAINING COACHES
Co-defensive coordinator/safeties Chuck Heater
Running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton
Quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni
Tight ends/fullbacks coach Brian White
Linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin

Photo Credit: Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun

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12/27: Florida’s Outback Bowl practice notes

The Florida Gators are currently in Tampa, FL, preparing for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. Below are some notes from the players after practice on Monday.

NO CHANGES FOR THE OFFENSE

Florida will once again play three quarterbacks in its offense according to a number of players who were asked Monday about the team’s plans on that side of the ball. Redshirt junior starter John Brantley reaffirmed those statements. “We’re still working Jordan Reed and Trey [Burton] in there. That’s what we’re going to stick with. Who knows what the defense will give us, but we’re going to stick with that and keep practicing and keep trying to execute.” Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will remain the play caller for the Gators in his final game with the team before leaving to lead Temple as head coach.

BRANTLEY REMAINS UNDECIDED ABOUT FUTURE

Speaking of Brantley, the Gators starting QB has yet to decide one way or another whether or not he will stick around next season. Brantley admitted for the first time after new head coach Will Muschamp’s introductory press conference on Dec. 14 that transferring was a consideration. “I’m still going to sit down with my family after this bowl game,” he said at the time. “I think coach Muschamp is a great coach and he’s going to have a great staff come here. But I’m still going to sit down with my family and talk about things.” His tune did not change Monday. “I haven’t really discussed it with my parents yet,” he said. “I’m really concentrating on playing this bowl game and playing the best against Penn State as I can. […] I’m a Gator. That’s what I am right now. I’m just giving all my effort to the bowl game and just acting like it’s any other bowl game or any other game.”

Asked the same thing numerous other times, Brantley repeatedly said that he would “weigh the pros and cons” of returning and playing in a new offense under Muschamp. He did, however, admit that the fact UF is going pro-style is appealing. “Pro-style offense is what I was looking for,” Brantley said. “And I’m still just gonna go home and talk and weigh the pros and cons with what Coach Muschamp wants to do and everything and go from there.”

For what it’s worth, his teammates do not think he is going anywhere. “I think Brantley’s going to say,” redshirt sophomore wide receiver Omarius Hines said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I really think so. … [Transferring] went through everybody’s mind because I know it went through mine.”

DEMPS STILL NOT SURE-FOOTED

Junior running back Jeff Demps has yet to fully recover from the stress injury in his foot and probably will not see extensive playing time on Saturday. Nevertheless, he says his foot feels “85 percent” healthy, and he will certainly try his best to give it a go.

FOUR PLAYERS, MCCARNEY WILL BE MISSED

With four players who play extensive minutes set to miss the Outback Bowl, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter said the team is not overly worried about them being out. “We got some young guys who are going to step up. I got trust in them,” he said. “Some guys got to step up, myself included.” However when it comes to defensive line coach Dan McCarney no longer being with the team (he is now the head coach at North Texas), Hunter feels the void. “I miss coach McCarney. I do,” he said. “It’s just a different voice in your head. I’m not used to not hearing his voice in my head every play, every snap. ‘Omar, get going. Get going. Do this, do that.’”

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Three top recruits still sticking with the Gators

Though four-star defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, PA) recently dropped the Florida Gators due to a combination of their performance this season, his desire to be closer to home and the departure of assistant head coach defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney, three of Florida’s current 2011 commitments have recently reaffirmed their stance to join the team next year.

Five/four-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL) and four-star cornerback Nick Waisome (Groveland, FL) each gave the Gators a vote of confidence this week on separate occasions.

“I don’t know where [rumors of my displeasure with Florida] came from. There’s all kinds of people out there that will write anything to make a buzz,” Driskel told The Gainesville Sun recently. “Those [rumors] are 100 percent false. I’m 100 percent [committed] to Florida and I’ll be there in about a month and a half. [The coaches] knew all along that I’m not going anywhere. I’m as solid as can be to Florida.”

“A lot of kids waiver in the process, but I’m 100 percent to Florida,” he said separately on the radio this week. “I have been the whole way. That hasn’t changed.”

Blakely views the Gators’ struggles in 2010 as a better way for him to get on the field sooner than he perhaps may have expected.

“I look at things like this is a great opportunity for me. They need help [on offense] and I want to do what I can next season and beyond,” Blakely told ESPN. “I look at it [Florida's record] and say, ‘Who cares?’ My top two schools were Florida and Auburn. Look at Auburn, they are undefeated. I had a chance to go there and I could change my mind if I wanted to. But I will not because once I committed to the Gators I am a man of my word.

“You know, there are a lot of recruits out there that don’t give Florida a fair look because they are usually too good or because they lost some games and they all think they are going downhill. Every team has a poor year once in a while.”

Waisome is also unfazed by Florida’s recent issues, stating that he has no plans to change his commitment or even look elsewhere.

“I’m pretty much done with where I’m going. I’m firm in my commitment to Florida and I know the chances of me playing early is certainly attainable when I get there,” he told Rivals in an interview. “I like the system better at Florida in what they run and overall have a great comfort level with all the coaches and players.

“It was a tough year for Florida, but that happens even with the best teams. They were also very young at certain positions. Obviously as a corner I do feel I can help out their defense and that’s my goal to play a lot as a freshman next year. Florida played a lot of young guys on the defensive side of the ball and now I have to work to get my chance to play early as well. I’m really excited to be a part of that family and I’m just ready to get to work with the defense. It’s an aggressive defense that is only going to get stronger with the more talent we bring in.”

So while Pagan – a commitment who has been back-and-forth about his decision since the summer – decided to jump ship for a variety of reasons, most (if not the rest) of Florida’s still-growing 2011 signing class appears to be content with their decision to play for the Orange & Blue.

Photo Credit: Thomas Bender/Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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DE Jeoffrey Pagan decommitts from Gators

The third commitment for the Florida Gators’ 2011 recruiting class, four-star defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, NC) decommitted from the program on Sunday, according to an interview he conducted with Rivals.

Pagan, who committed in April before being iffy with his decision in May and ultimately reaffirming his choice in July, told Rivals that he pulled back his commitment on Sunday because he was “missing out on some stuff and wanted to get back into everything.”

He also admitted that Florida losing assistant head coach and defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney to North Texas “play[ed] a factor” in his decision. McCarney personally recruited Pagan, who is Rivals’ No. 36 overall player and No. 3 DE for 2011.

ESPNU ranks him No. 19 overall and believes he is the fourth-best DE in the 2011 class.

Pagan was unanimously considered UF’s second-best 2011 commit behind only five/four-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL).

Head coach Urban Meyer promised after Saturday’s loss to Florida State that he and the coaching staff would “recruit our butt off” while simultaneously preparing for the Gators’ bowl game. Meyer has reportedly been hot in pursuit of four-star Miami DE commit Anthony Chickillo (Tampa, FL) who was also being recruited by McCarney.

Photo Credit: Asheville Citizen-Times

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