Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2011 (check out Saturday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players ending their accomplished careers to coaches and current players being part of some of the biggest news stories this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

11 » LEGAL ISSUES/EMBARRASSMENTS HANG OVER PROGRAM
Like 2009 and 2010, Florida could not escape its share of unfortunate arrests and embarrassing incidents in 2011. It started simply enough early in February when a pair of Gators swimmers – Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria – were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team after being accused of shoplifting from Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall. Next up was Florida senior outfielder Bryson Smith, who was picked up on March 13 for driving under the influence. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested in Gainesville, FL three weeks later and charged with a trio of misdemeanors for failing to obey a police officer, possession of a drug (Viagra) without a valid prescription and resisting arrest without violence. The month of April was a tough one for the basketball team. Forwards Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested in St. Augustine, FL and charged with third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Josh Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary for allegedly serving as a lookout. Charges against the players were eventually reduced and each settled their respective case, while Adel had all charges against him dropped. Additionally, former Florida F Dan Wener was charged with a DUI even though he blew below the legal limit (0.08) on the Breathalyzer twice. The State Attorney’s Office eventually dropped his charges due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

Unfortunately the year of brushes with the law was just getting started for the Gators. It surfaced on April 24 via a news report that both linebacker Chris Martin and defensive end Kendric Johnson were cited with misdemeanors for possessing approximately two grams of marijuana each in their respective vehicles on separate occasions. Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell was arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. Gators runner Andries Dumisane Hlaselo had the darkest arrest of the year, being picked up in June after being accused of rape and sexual assault. He was immediately dismissed from the team. The Florida football team had the remainder of the year’s arrests. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking for the second time in as many years in July, and an August report noted that freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in May. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely was arrested on Sept. 13 on a first-degree misdemeanor for driving a scooter with a suspended license as well as a third-degree felony for resisting arrest without violence, and freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was served with a written arrest for underage drinking just one day later. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had the last brush with the law of 2011 as he was accused of attacking a former Alabama player early in October but was cleared of the charges one month later. All-in-all, for every positive thing accomplished by the Gators in 2011, there always seemed to be something negative about the program just around the corner.

10 » SIX BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY; THREE SUFFER SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUES DURING THE YEAR
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2011 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place or suffered through serious medical issues in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon or had plenty to deal with as the year went on. Jimmy Carnes (76), a former Gators track and field coach, passed away in March after losing a four-year battle with prostate cancer. Former linebacker/safety and three-time Super Bowl winner Godfrey Myles (42) suffered a massive heart attack in June and, while in the hospital on life support, had a stroke that took his life. Former punter and 12-year NFL veteran Don Chandler (76) also lost a long battle with cancer in August. Mike Heimerdinger (58), who was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, passed away in October. He was a former graduate assistant and wide receivers coach at Florida and won consecutive SEC titles with the team from 1984-85. Ending the year on a sad note, beloved Gainesville, FL businessman and former Gators long snapper Harold Monk III (42) died suddenly in December. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

Florida freshman linebacker Neiron Ball was the first of three members of the Gators family to suffer serious health issues during the year. He was rushed to the hospital in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured as part of a congenital vascular condition. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and Ball was released from the hospital four days later, but he was forced to miss the entire season for recovery purposes. In the middle of the year, Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller was lucky enough to have his wife give birth to a daughter named Jaylen. Unfortunately for the family, she was forced to spend two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit after doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. The Millers eventually brought Jaylen home with them in a bit of a coincidence considering they actually donated $1 million to a pediatric intensive care unit at children’s hospital in his home town in 2007. Later that month, former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which he is currently still recovering from and will continue to do so over the next few months.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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S Shaw, DE Trail to transfer from Florida Gators

Two more Florida Gators football players – redshirt freshmen safety Joshua Shaw and defensive end Lynden Trail have decided to leave the program, The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley confirmed Tuesday.

Both four-star recruits from Florida’s heralded 2010 recruiting class, Shaw and Trail are the 10th and 11 players to depart since head coach Will Muschamp took over.

“We wish Lynden and Josh the best of luck in the future and we certainly appreciate their contributions to the football program,” Muschamp said in a school release.

Shaw registered 22 tackles (one for loss) and a pass breakup in 10 games this year, while Trail never saw the field and did not even dress for the vast majority of contests.

“I have enjoyed my time at Florida but I feel like I need to be closer to my family right now,” Shaw said in the same school release. “This is not a football decision, this is a family decision. I need to be with my family.”

Each player came into the program with a previous relationship. Shaw (Palmdale, CA) was close to and from the same state as sophomore defensive end Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA), and Trail attended the same high school as redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar (Booker T. Washington).

“I have decided that I would like to pursue opportunities elsewhere,” Trail said. “I want to thank the fans and Gator Nation for their support. I’ll always be a Gator at heart.”

Trail also wrote about his decision on his Twitter account Tuesday.

GATORNATION I LOVE YALL AND LOVED ALL YALL SUPPORT I LOVED THE COACHES MY TEAMMATES AND THE STUDENTS HERE ONCE A GATOR ALWAYS A GATOR <3

[and]

I have nothing negative to say about UF I LOVE THE PROGRAM THE STUDENTS THE FRIENDS I MADE AND OVERALL THE FANS #GATORNATION

The duo join DE Chris Martin, WR Chris Dunkley, WR Javares McRoy, running back Mike Blakely, tight end Michael McFarland, linebacker Dee Finely, TE Gerald Christian and WR Robert Clark as players who transferred this season. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the team following two marijuana arrests in less than 90 days.

Additionally, redshirt junior offensive lineman Daivd Young announced that he plans to graduate and will not participate in his final year of eligibility. Young saw action in all 12 games so far this season.

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (79-70)

With the 2010-11 athletic season now in the books and the 2011-12 season about to begin, the focus has shifted from some of the school’s smaller sports to, of course, Florida Gators football. In this new series, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, until the season begins.

Before going over numbers 79-70, OGGOA must take a step back and cover two freshman given higher numbers when the roster was released on Thursday.

97 – Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL)
Freshman defensive end
6’5” 268 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Westbrook was one of the last Gators to commit and signed with Florida over schools like Connecticut, North Carolina, Purdue and South Florida.

2011 Outlook: Westbrook, a raw player who hopes to develop under defensive line coach Bryant Young, is a candidate for a redshirt and likely will not see the field in 2011.

80 – Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL)
Freshman wide receiver
6’3” 196 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Story was a member of the ESPN 150 who also played quarterback. He scored 17 total touchdowns (12 rushing) as a senior and picked UF over Ohio State.

2011 Outlook: With the Gators’ lacking depth at wide receiver, Story has the opportunity to see the field early if he can shine during fall practice.

78 – David Young (Edwardsville, IL)
Redshirt junior guard
6’4” 304 lbs.

Quick Bio: A recreation and event management major, Young played the season opener as a freshman in 2008 and eventually took a redshirt. He saw the field as a part of the offensive line and special teams during every game in 2009 except the Sugar Bowl.

2010 Season: Played early in the year but missed the final 10 games of the season after suffering a knee injury.

2011 Outlook: Limited during the spring, Young was not listed on the initial depth chart but is expected to wind up on the second unit behind either redshirt sophomore right guard Jon Halapio or whomever earns the left guard job.

77 – Ian Silberman (Orange Park, FL)
Sophomore guard
6’5” 285 lbs.

Quick Bio: Silberman enrolled early in January 2010 coming out of high school as a four-star recruit. He majors in social & behavioral sciences and was the No. 8 player at his position nationally according to Rivals.

2010 Season: Though he dressed for all 13 games, Silberman only played in the season opener against Miami (OH).

2011 Outlook: He has bulked up significantly since last season and was in line to be the back up for junior Xavier Nixon at right tackle. However, head coach Will Muschamp announced in April that he had permanently switched from tackle to guard.

75 – Chaz Green (Tampa, FL)
Redshirt freshman tackle
6’5” 289 lbs.

Quick Bio: Ranked by Rivlas as the No. 6 offensive lineman in the country coming out of high school, Green is a social & behavioral sciences major who hopes to see the field for the first time in 2011.

2010 Season: Dressed for 12 of the team’s 13 games but did not play and wound up taking a redshirt to preserve four years of eligibility.

2011 Outlook: Muschamp was pleased with Green’s versatility during the spring, noting that he can play on both the left and right side of the offensive line. He was listed as the starting left tackle on the spring depth chart but is expected to be a back up this season. “Chaz Green is a great player,” sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said in April. “Definitely going to be an outstanding tackle for the Gators.”

73 – Xavier Nixon (Fayetteville, NC)
Junior tackle
6’6” 290 lbs.

Quick Bio: A 13-game starter who has seen action in 22 contests while wearing the Orange & Blue, Nixon is a sociology major who won the high school version of the Maxwell Award and was named the Gatorade Football Player of the Year for the state of North Carolina. Both of his parents are members of the United States Military.

2010 Season: After starting a handful of games in 2009, Nixon started eight more in 2010 primarily at right tackle.

2011 Outlook: Slated to start at right tackle, Nixon will have to fend off some hungry youngsters who hope to unseat him. He struggled at times in 2010 after being a nice surprise as a freshman just one year earlier but impressed Muschamp and offensive line coach Frank Verducci during spring practice.

72 – Jonotthan Harrison (Groveland, FL)
Redshirt sophomore center
6’3” 300 lbs.

Quick Bio: A psychology major who was previously specializing in social & behavioral sciences, Harrison redshirted in 2009 after dressing nine of the team’s 14 games.

2010 Season: Though he played in all 13 games, Harrison did not get the chance to start until the Outback Bowl against Penn State. He saw plenty of time on special teams and found a role at left guard as the season came to a close.

2011 Outlook: Slotted at a left guard on the initial spring depth chart, Harrison was moved over to center in late March and worked hard to get a handle on the position throughout the rest of the spring. Muschamp said Harrison “brings an element of toughness to our football team” while also noting that he has a lot of work ahead of him. “There’s an awful lot on the center as far as snapping and blocking,” he said. “If you’ve never done it before, there’s an awful lot to it. I’ve been pleased with his progress.”

71 – Matt Patchan (Tampa, FL)
Redshirt junior tackle
6’6” 292 lbs.

Quick Bio: The son of a Miami Hurricanes star offensive lineman Matt Patchan, junior has been unable to stay healthy since arriving at Florida. A USA Today first-team All-American out of high school, the five-star recruit started a game at defensive tackle as a freshman in 2008 but injured his leg and missed the final three games of the season. He returned to the offensive side in the ball in 2009 and played the first four games before suffering a season-ending knee injury that lingered for quite some time.

2010 Season: Though Patchan dressed for four games, he wound up sitting out all of 2010 and has still only played in 15 games over three seasons. He had recovered from his knee injury but hurt his wrist and was forced to have multiple surgeries that were not able to correct it enough so he could play.

2011 Outlook: Patchan, who likely would have started at left tackle in 2010, will get the opportunity to do so in 2011. He sat out spring practice while still rehabbing his wrist but was cleared to lift in April and should be good to go this year.

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

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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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10/14: Florida Gators week seven practice notes

Updated Oct. 15, 1:45 a.m.

No. 22/22 Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer met with the media after practice on Thursday and divulged a few important notes about the team’s sixth game of the 2010-11 season on Saturday against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. OGGOA has compiled some of the key details which you can check out below.

INJURIES MOUNTING

Over the past two weeks Meyer and his coaches have been optimistic that the injury plague surrounding the program was lifting, especially when it came to Florida’s playmakers. Unfortunately the opposite seems to be the case as running backs junior Jeff Demps and sophomore Mike Gillislee have each been downgraded.

Called “Probable” by Meyer last week and this week, Demps (sprained foot) is now considered 50-50 (“Questionable”) for the Mississippi State game. Meyer slotted Gillislee (bruised foot) somewhere between the two designations, saying he has a 60 percent chance to play. Redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson and freshman safety Matt Elam, both of whom suffered concussions against LSU, practiced in full Thursday and will play Saturday. Also injured last week was redshirt freshman guard Jon Halapio (broken finger), but he had surgery Sunday and will be good to go.

Other injures Meyer updated the media on include the following:

» Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley (ribs, thumb, shoulder) – will start
» Redshirt sophomore guard David Young (fractured kneecap) – out for season
» Senior cornerback Moses Jenkins (hyperextended elbow) – maybe vs. Georgia
» Redshirt sophomore left tackle Matt Patchan (broken wrist) – maybe vs. Georgia
» Sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (fractured collarbone) – out “a few weeks”
» Freshman WR Chris Dunkley (hamstring) – 80 percent healthy
» Freshman WR Quinton Dunbar (hamstring – on his way back

DEBOSE PRAISE BEGINS

Just two weeks ago Meyer was sending some not-so-subtle hints that redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose needed to step his game up in practice in order to see significant time on the field. But as Florida has struggled on offense and as Debose has made some athletic and dynamic plays (including a 88-yard kickoff return last week) in his limited game action, Meyer has begun to see him as a one of the Gators’ much-needed home run threats – especially while Demps is out of action.

“Debose keeps getting better and better,” he said Thursday. “He’s much bigger, stronger [than he was when he came in]. He’s a whole different player now. He still needs more, and strength. He’s a talented guy.”

Meyer added that some big plays must come from beyond the backfield in order for Florida to be successful in the near future. “[The threat will come] from the receivers and maybe some quarterback runs,” he said. “We’re real hamstrung right now. We just gotta get these guys healthy and get with it. […] Deonte Thompson has got to be a home run threat for us. And obviously Andre Debose.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 10/14: Florida Gators week seven practice notes

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