TWO BITS: Scottie Wilbekin, Percy Harvin, Franco

1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin, a rookie in Australia’s National Basketball League, continues to lead the Cairns Taipans towards the organization’s first title. With the best record in team history, the Taipans (21-7) defeated the Perth Wildcats 71-64 on Friday in the NBL Semifinals. Wilbekin, Cairns’ Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year, registered game-highs of 23 points and 10 rebounds while going 7-for-11 from the field, 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and 6-for-6 at the charity stripe. He also posted four assists and two turnovers in 36:38. Taipans coach Aaron Fearne believes Wilbekin should be under strong consideration for league MVP honors, especially if he leads Cairns all the way to a title. “He’s extremely valuable to us and has been a big focus for opposition teams. For a 21-year-old to come out and have the impact he’s had, he should be a frontrunner (for MVP honors) in my opinion,” Fearne told The Cairns Post on Thursday.

A source close to Wilbekin told OnlyGators.com that the former Gators star will enter the NBA D-League immediately upon returning to the United States. He will join the league’s free agent pool therefore be available to get signed by any team.

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FOUR BITS: Fowler, Muschamp, Gordon, Mincey

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who decided to forego his final year of collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2015 NFL Draft, took out an advertisement in The Gainesville Sun on Friday, thanking Gators fans for his time with the program. Fowler is expected to be an early first-round selection in the draft and has been projected as high as No. 3 overall. In case you’re having trouble with the copy, it reads as follows: “Thank you Gator Nation for all the support and love the past three years. We’ve got the best fans in the land. I’ll forever bleed Orange & Blue.”


2 » New Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp – and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, for that matter – had shown no love for Florida on the recruiting trail to this point as the duo has not paused in going after players they were recruiting to join the Gators when they were both members of the program. But Muschamp did show his soft side for Florida on Thursday. According to 247Sports.com‘s Luke Stampini, Muschamp praised the Gators to three-star DE G.G. Robinson (Lilburn, GA) after learning Robinson was not interested in playing for the Tigers. “He talked good about Florida the whole time. He told me to have fun and said, ‘It’s nice.’ He said I’d like the weather,” Robinson said. “He also said Jim McElwain is probably about to turn the program around. I expected him to say something bad about them, but he didn’t.” Robinson is visiting UF this weekend, the last of the 2015 recruiting cycle.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Fowler, Muschamp, Gordon, Mincey

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McElwain: pleased with Gators, gave players assignments, confident in hiring receivers coach

New Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain sat down with the media on Wednesday for the first time since his introductory press conference nearly a month ago.

The 40-minute back-and-forth saw McElwain touched on a number of topics that will be broken down here on OnlyGators.com over the next couple of days.

Though McElwain was surprisingly close to the vest on a number of issues, which are outlined below, he also discussed at length his initial thoughts on the Gators football team and plan for hiring a wide receivers coach, the last open position on his coaching staff.

SO FAR, SO GOOD

McElwain plans to make a number of organizational changes over the next 18 months but some of the first evaluations he was able to make were on the team. As a bystander during practices leading up to the 2015 Birmingham Bowl – and during the game itself, of course – McElwain was pleased to see a group of young men giving top-notch effort despite all of the circumstances surrounding the situation.

“Man, I just love the way our team played in that bowl game,” he said to open his press conference. “[I appreciated] the guys that held that thing together. The character in which they played with, the energy they played with, they made plays when they needed against a very, very good football team. …

“Just to see the competitive nature was great. Having an opportunity to get out in the parking lot before the game, I didn’t know it was like that. there’s some good people out there, man, that was awesome. I really enjoyed that. I was really proud of our guys.”

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Gators LB Morrison returning for senior season

Junior linebacker Antonio Morrison has decided to return to the Florida Gators for his senior season.

Morrison, Florida’s first defender to register 100+ tackles since Ahmad Black in 2010, received an evaluation for the 2015 NFL Draft but will chose to remain in school.

“I’m returning to Florida and I will be getting my degree in 2015. That plays a big role in why I’m returning,” Morrison said in a statement released by the school. “And as a leader of this team, I want to lead my team to Atlanta and possibly a national championship. Coach [Jim] McElwain has put together a great staff and I’m looking forward to working with them this year.”

Morrison is the second Gators player in as many days to pick Florida and its new coaching staff over the NFL. Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard announced Monday that he will return to UF for the 2015 season.

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Florida Gators football odds and ends: injuries, departures and more

The Florida Gators (7-5) concluded their 2014 season on Saturday, earning a 28-20 win over the East Carolina Pirates in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, a victory which marked the end of the four-year Will Muschamp era in Gainesville, Florida.

While the Gators have since announced a coaching staff and are prepared to move on under new head coach Jim McElwain, there are still some odds and ends to wrap up from the end of the 2014 campaign.

Bowl game injuries

A number of Florida players were hurt during the Birmingham Bowl but most appeared to be relatively minor injuries. That was not the case for junior linebacker Antonio Morrison, the first player since Ahmad Black in 2010 to record more than 100 tackles in a single season.

Morrison, who was considering leaving for the 2015 NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining, was on the field screaming in pain with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. He was carted off the field, and UF interim coach D.J. Durkin could offer nothing more than a general statement about Morrison’s injury after the game.

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Florida DL Bullard to return for senior season

Florida Gators junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard announced Monday that he will not join four teammates who chose to forgo their final season of eligibility and declare early for the 2015 NFL Draft. Instead, Bullard will return to the Gators for his senior campaign despite the coaching staff being completely overhauled.

“I wasn’t projected to go where I want to go,” Bullard said in a statement released by the school. “I want to leave a bigger mark on the Florida program than what I have.”

Bullard promised to keep a level head when making his decision, noting that he would consult former Florida head coach Will Muschamp after receiving his evaluation back from the NFL. Muschamp has long held that he would only recommend players to declare early if they are projected to be first-round selections.

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Florida LT D.J. Humphries declares for NFL Draft

Florida Gators junior left tackle D.J. Humphries announced Sunday night that he would forgo his remaining eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL Draft.

“GATOR NATION This has been the best 3 years of my life,” he wrote on Twitter. “But now, I feel it’s time to move on! I’ll always be a gator for LIFE! #FairwellUF”

Humphries is the fourth Gators underclassmen to leave for the draft. Juniors defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and running back Matt Jones and redshirt junior offensive linemen Tyler Moore are Florida players that have already decided to the program before their eligibility has expired.

The No. 2 overall prospect coming out of high school in 2012, Humphries was named UF’s permanent starter at left tackle in 2013 but only played the first seven games of the season as a knee injury derailed his campaign. He returned to that role in 2014 and steadily improved throughout this past season after rehabilitating from a high-ankle sprain that cost him two games.

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Durkin: Cox out for bowl, McGee hopes to stay at Florida, Gators prepare for Birmingham

Florida Gators interim head coach and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Thursday to discuss the early portion pf practice ahead of the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, injuries, roster developments and the team’s preparation for the East Carolina Pirates. Florida and ECU will square off on Saturday, Jan. 3 at 12 p.m. at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

UP-AND-COMER SIDELINED FOR BOWL

Redshirt sophomore defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. began to show some flashes as the 2014 season came to a close, but he will be unable to take advantage of the 20 bowl practices to take his game to the next level ahead of spring practice.

Cox, who announced on social media that he underwent surgery, has officially been ruled out for the bowl game after having a procedure on his hip.

“Bryan Cox had surgery and he will be out for the bowl game,” Durkin said. “It was a hip injury, something that was deteriorating over time that he needed to have done.”

In his second year of on-field action, Cox finished with 29 tackles (six for lost yardage) and four sacks. He will likely step into a starting role with the Gators in 2015.

Continue Reading » Durkin: Cox out for bowl, McGee hopes to stay at Florida, Gators prepare for Birmingham

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