Florida Gators football’s tumultuous offseason

The 2013 offseason started out relatively calm and normal for the Florida Gators football program with some players deciding to leave school early to play professionally and others choosing to try their luck at another university. Suddenly, starting on Jan. 10, a string of arrests, poor decisions, injuries and negative headlines began taking over the spring and summer for the Gators. Below is a timeline* of one of the most bizarre and controversial offseasons in Florida football history.

* While all of the news below was sour for Florida or its players in one way or another, obviously some of the occurrences (arrests, suspensions) are significantly more egregious than others (players transferring, coaches leaving). The standout, headline-making stories that either painted the program in a negative light or were exceptionally newsworthy during the summer are highlighted in red.

Luckily for Gators fans, with fall practice officially opening on Friday and the 2013 college season exactly one month away, the offseason is now over.

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SIX BITS: Johnson, Zunino, O&B, All-Star, Draft

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Doug Johnson may be charged with felony battery after a sworn complaint was filed with the Gainesville Police Department in November alleging that he took part in a beating of a man after the Florida-LSU football game. According to The Gainesville Sun, “The case is now in the hands of the State Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether to file charges.” The victim told the paper that he was attacked minutes after a confrontation allegedly with Johnson and two other men. He claims to have been punched and kicked in the face repeatedly, actions which caused injuries including “a broken nose and numerous facial fractures.”

2 » Former Gators catcher Mike Zunino is one of 18 minor league players within the organization that have been invited to participate in spring training with the Seattle Mariners. He will report to Peoria, AZ on Feb. 12 and will have an opportunity to earn a roster spot just eight months after being selected No. 3 overall in the 2012 MLB Draft.

3 » The school announced Tuesday that the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut spring game will take place on Saturday, April 6 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. That day will certainly be a busy one on campus as track & field hosts the Pepsi Florida Relays, lacrosse will go head-to-head Johns Hopkins, softball takes on Mississippi State, and gymnastics hosts the 2012 NCAA Regionals.

4 » Joining the eight Florida seniors already announced for all-star bowl games is defensive tackle Omar Hunter, who was added to the 2013 Raycom College All-Star Classic this week. The game is set to be played on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. and will air live on CBS Sports Network. Wide receivers Frankie Hammond, Jr. and Omarius Hines both competed in the 2013 Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game last weekend with neither player posting any significant statistics. Check out the six other players participating in games over the next two weekends.

5 » The 2013 NBA All-Star team will be announced on Thursday. As of the final official release of fan voting totals on Jan. 3, only Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (seventh – Eastern Conference frontcourt) and Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (15th – Western Conference frontcourt) were on the lists, meaning neither are likely to make their respective team based on the fan vote, which closed on Monday. Reserve spots, on the other hand, are chosen by league coaches, which means Noah, Parsons, Atlanta Hawks F Al Horford and Golden State Warriors F David Lee all have a chance to be selected. Noah and Lee are probably the most likely to be chosen, especially considering Lee is currently 10th in the NBA in points (19.9), fifth in rebounds (10.9) and first in 20-10 games with 16 so far this season.

6 » Gators junior DT Sharrif Floyd continues to be a near-unanimous first-round selection in mocks that have recently been created for the 2013 NFL Draft. Of the five first-edition mock drafts released by NFL.com this week, Floyd is listed in four at No. 14 by Josh Norris, No. 23 by Gil Brant, No. 24 by Daniel Jeremiah and No. 28 by Bucky Brooks. Junior safety Matt Elam is listed on three of those five mocks at No. 17 by Brooks, No. 30 by Norris and No. 31 by Charles Davies. Davies did not list Floyd in his first round; neither Brant nor Jeremiah had Elam in theirs.

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SIX BITS: Harvin, Haden, Miller, Wilbur, Kentucky

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin was added to the Minnesota Vikings injury report on Thursday with what is being called a hamstring injury. Minnesota did not decide to release how severe the injury is but the Vikings certainly need Harvin on the field Sunday night for their divisional rivalry game against the Green Bay Packers. Harvin has been a big scoring threat for Minnesota recently, returning a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown last week and hauling in two receiving touchdowns the previous week.

2 » Grabbing his first career interception last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden wants more playing time, and he just might get it, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. “I thought he had his best week of practice since he’s been with us,” head coach Eric Mangini said of how Haden prepared last week. “I think that he’s starting to understand what it means to be a pro. He’s starting to understand what it takes to prepare each week, and there’s no doubt in my mind that that week of preparation, the way that he was last week, led to his best performance since he’s been here. If he keeps developing, he’ll keep pushing for playing time. That’s what you want. That’s what I want. That’s what he wants, and I don’t mean I’m looking to replace anybody. I’m looking for him to get better to push those guys to replace them because that competition makes everybody better.”

3 » Miami Heat forward Mike Miller, who is currently participating in his first preseason with the team after being signed over the summer, injured and possibly broke the thumb on his shooting hand Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined for up to six weeks. Teammate and fellow former Florida player power forward Udonis Haslem told the Associated Press that doctors believe the injury is “not season ending.”

4 » Former Gators punter Eric Wilbur has been shining this season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL, and his ability to kick “high and deep angled” punts has provided his team with “a stunning field-position advantage,” according to the Hamilton Spectator. “We’re asking him to place the ball in a certain spot, so there were a couple which could have been better but overall it was excellent,” said special teams coach Dave Easley. “He gets tremendous height on the ball because he’s got a very, very strong leg.” Wilbur may be asked to kickoff as well next year for Hamilton though his eyes are still set on a bigger stage. “My ultimate goal is to be in the NFL,” Wilbur told the paper. “But I love it up here. I love the atmosphere, I love the games. If I have to stay up here, I’ll be happy.”

5 » Upsetting South Carolina last week at home, Kentucky’s fans were rightfully excited. After the final whistle blew, plenty of blue-and-white faithful stormed the field to celebrate – something that is seen all over the country after a home team upsets a top-ranked opponent. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Southeastern Conference, such celebrations are not allowed under league rules. That is why, on Thursday, Kentucky was fined $25,000 for a sportsmanship policy violation by the SEC. The policy that was violated states that “access to competition areas shall be limited to participating student-athletes, coaches, officials, support personnel and properly-credentialed individuals at all times. For the safety of participants and spectators alike, at no time before, during or after a contest shall spectators be permitted to enter the competition area.”

6 » Join former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel and Desire Street Ministries for a 90’s Gators Reunion Celebration from Nov. 12-13 in Gainesville, FL. Wuerffel and other Gator greats like WR Chris Doering, QB Doug Johnson, QB Shane Matthews, WR Travis McGriff, offensive tackle Jason Odom, safety Lawrence Wright and others will be in attendance to celebrate a great decade of Florida football while raising money for DSM. For more information on the event and how you can participate, please click here to read the invitation.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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It’s a tough job, but John Brantley has to do it

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach put together an interesting profile piece Tuesday on Florida Gators redshirt junior starting quarterback John Brantley, covering his efforts to become a leader for the team along with the high praise he is already earning from three former players (including two family members).

Former Gators QB Shane Matthews: “He’s got more pressure on him than any player in college football history. […] I’ve been around Florida football since 1989. He’s the most talented quarterback I’ve ever seen. People laugh at me when I say that, but they’ll see. […] There are a lot of ways to be a leader. There’s a fiery way, which is the way Tim [Tebow] was after a touchdown run. Danny [Wuerffel] would throw a touchdown, say a prayer and walk to the sideline. It’s going to take the Gator Nation a while to realize this kid is going to be a leader.”

Former Florida linebacker (and uncle) Scot Brantley: “I warned him, ‘Hey, Johnny, you’re going to be an outsider going [to Texas] and trying to win the No. 1 job and take it from a Texas quarterback. Are you nuts?’ He was born a Gator, only 35 miles down the road. […] I think it does help to have the [family] name recognition. […] It’s a position not many people would touch with a 10-foot pole. I believe Tim was the greatest player who ever played the game. There are only a few people who could replace him, and I think Johnny will do it.”

Former Gators QB (and father) John Brantley III: “It’s a situation I wouldn’t want to be in. But I think it’s a situation he’ll embrace. He’s been going to Florida games since he was 2 years old. He knows what he’s taking on, and he’s ready. […] John has a phenomenal support group around him. The most important thing is he has that locker room behind him. Those guys have his back.”

NOTES OF INTEREST

» Brantley’s family hosted a barbecue for the Florida offensive line a few weeks ago, particularly to help the signal caller and his guardians bond over some good eats.

» Former Gators QBs including Matthews, Chris Leak, Doug Johnson, Kerwin Bell and Eric Kresser have been keeping in contact with and supporting Brantley.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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Wrapping up day one of 2010 SEC Spring Meetings

The first day of the 2010 Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings came and went with Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer and his health update as the headline story. While Meyer’s esophageal spasms dominated the front pages, there were plenty of other interesting things said by the SEC’s head football coaches.

Read what else Meyer and some of the other coaches had to say after the break!
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