Transferring not Brantley’s only viable option

After new Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp concluded his introductory press conference Tuesday, the media surrounded a few players – including redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley – to gauge their impressions of the new man in charge.

However, when it came to Brantley, the real question of the evening was whether or not he would transfer after the 2011 Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.

“I’m sure we will still talk about it,” said Brantley, giving an indication for the first time that transferring is a legitimate option for him. “We have a little relationship with coach Muschamp from when I was committed to Texas, so we’ll definitely see what happens. [Hiring Muschamp] definitely changes a lot, but we’re going to have some conversation and figure this thing out.”

Later Brantley did a quick interview with ESPN and gave a similar statement. “I’m still going to sit down with my family after this bowl game,” he said. “I think coach Muschamp is a great coach and he’s going to have a great staff come in here. But I’m still going to sit down with my family and talk about things.”

Though he did not mention it on Tuesday, Brantley has a third road he can go down in addition to returning to Florida or transferring to another school. That road goes to the NFL and will certainly be a consideration when he meets with his family.

Think about Brantley’s options for a second. He can start over with the Gators under Muschamp and a currently unnamed offensive coordinator who will ideally install a pro-style offense, transfer to a FCS program and try to raise his draft stock, transfer to another FBS program (he will graduate and be eligible to do so without sitting out), or simply head for greener pastures now and hope he performs well enough to be drafted in a later round or catch on somewhere as an undrafted free agent with upside.

Staying at Florida is probably Brantley’s best bet – give the new coach a chance and see what happens. He would have the inside track at the starting job and the ability to shine if one is to believe that offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and the offensive schemes are to blame. (Obviously Brantley’s poor play was a lot of his own doing as well.)

Transferring could work, but for every Joe Flacco (went to Pittsburgh, transferred to Delaware, drafted No. 18 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft) there are dozens of quarterbacks who make the same decision and whom you either never hear from again or still end up going undrafted when their NCAA eligibility expires. Brantley has to consider whether he would be in the minority or the majority in that scenario.

The NFL, however, gives Brantley another option: forget college. He can wipe his hands of the spread offense or the spread-to-pro-style hybrid that may be in place with the Gators next year. He wouldn’t have to worry about starting fresh elsewhere for one year (Flacco had two years at Delaware). Instead he can concentrate on his mechanics, train hard and try to “wow” scouts into believing that his struggles were all his team’s fault.

Taking the later route may be the most difficult. Perhaps Brantley doesn’t great drafted until the third day – if at all. Maybe he has to work his way up from the practice squad. But a respite at another school could end up doing nothing for him – maybe his stats get inflated and he performs better, but will he actually improve as a player?

No matter what Brantley decides, head coach Urban Meyer stepping down provided him with more options than he would have had if he stayed. Sticking around at Florida is probably his best choice, but his opportunities are not limited as limited as they could be.

Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

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Tim Tebow sends best wishes to Urban Meyer

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow, selected No. 25 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft after playing four seasons with the Florida Gators under head coach Urban Meyer with whom he won the 2007 Heisman Trophy and two BCS National Championships, released the following statement Wednesday after learning Meyer decided to call it quits on his Florida coaching career.

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime to play for a man who will be remembered as one of the greatest football coaches of all time. But Coach Meyer was more than just a coach to me: He was a father figure who cared about me as a person and taught me valuable lessons that I will never forget.

“I respect that Coach Meyer had the courage to make the decision that was right for himself and his family. He will be blessed and better off for it. I am truly glad that he’s happy and no matter what, we both will be Gators for the rest of our lives.

“While change is never easy, the University of Florida will find the right head coach to continue its proud football tradition and will have the full support of Gator Nation. I wish Coach Meyer and his family all the best going forward, and they will always be a big part of my life.”

UPDATE: Tebow spoke further about Meyer on Friday.

“I’ve talked to him pretty much every day, multiple times. I’m proud of him. It takes a lot to leave something that you love like that, like coaching, like the University of Florida, but he knew what the right thing was to do for him and no one else knew that except for him,” he said. “He just wanted to spend more time with his family, and that was the most important thing to him, and I thought that was great. I respect him even more for making a decision like that.”

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

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McDaniels’ canning leaves Tebow’s future murky

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen finally fired head coach Josh McDaniels on Monday, days after his staff was accused of participating in “Spygate II” and approximately 24 hours after his team dropped its ninth game of the 2010 season. Though McDaniels won his first six games as head coach in Denver, he finished his short career an astoundingly awful 5-17 in his last 22 contests.

Depending who you ask, McDaniels either made a gutsy and intelligent call or colossal mistake in trading up for and drafting former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Tebow, being selected by a coach infatuated with QBs and confident that he could mold him into a NFL-caliber signal caller, was pleased to be playing for the Broncos and was welcomed into the community with open arms even as some fans were skeptical of his ability.

Though Tebow has scored four touchdowns this year (three rushing in goal line packages, one passing), he was not utilized as much as McDaniels had promised and fans had hoped. With Denver inching further and further away from playoff contention in recent weeks, McDaniels was asked over-and-over again if he would play Tebow, a question that consistently elicited a response aimed at propping up starter Kyle Orton, who has thrived under McDaniels’ tutelage.

With McDaniels – one of two coaches in the league who were believed to be enthusiastic developers for Tebow (the other being New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick) – now out of a job, one must wonder what lies ahead in the player’s future.

“Thank you for everything you did for me Coach McDaniels, including drafting me into this great organization,” Tebow said via his Twitter account Monday evening. “I wish you nothing but the best.”

Should someone like Jon Gruden take over in Denver, Tebow would likely not miss a step and perhaps gain another prudent supporter. Then again the Broncos could also sign someone who wants nothing to do with the former Heisman Trophy winner, leaving him as a back-up or perhaps even trading him for pennies on the dollar to another club that believes they can develop him properly.

While Tebow’s long-term success or failure in the NFL is not even close to being determined, his immediate future in Denver is up in the air – a mile high.

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Four Gators starters earn AP All-SEC honors

Four Florida Gators football players were selected by the Associated Press as members of their 2010 All-SEC Teams on Monday.

Senior safety Ahmad Black, senior punter Chas Henry and junior cornerback Janoris Jekins were named All-SEC first-team selections, while senior center Mike Pouncey earned second team honors.

With Black, Henry and Pouncey graduating – and Jenkins expected to declare his eligibility for the 2011 NFL Draft – none of Florida’s honorees will likely return for the 2011 season.

Southeastern Conference coaches placed 10 Gators on their preseason All-SEC teams. Included on that list were Pouncey, Jenkins and redshirt senior guard Carl Johnson on the first team, and Black, Henry, junior running back Jeff Demps, junior S Will Hill, redshirt senior linebacker A.J. Jones, redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey and junior kicker Caleb Sturgis on the second team.

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SIX BITS: soccer-NCAA, volleyball-SEC, Whitson

1 » Opening up the 2010 NCAA Tournament at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL, on Friday, No. 5 Florida Gators soccer (19-2-2, 9-1-1 SEC) scorched the Mercer Bears (10-9-1, 7-3 A-Sun) 3-0. Redshirt sophomore midfielder McKenzie Barney (15’, 73’) and junior MF/forward Tahnai Annis (48’) scored Florida’s three goals as the Gators out-shot the Bears 16-7. Unfortunately…

2 » Florida was not so fortunate in second-round action, taking the Duke Blue Devils (11-7-4, 7-3 ACC) into penalty kicks after the teams were held scoreless through regulation and two overtimes. In PKs, the Gators (19-2-3, 9-1-1 Sec) fell to the Blue Devils 4-2. Duke made all of its attempts while Florida only received goals from Barney and redshirt senior goalkeeper Katie Fraine with Annis’ saved and junior F Lindsay Thompson’s attempt going wide. The Gators end the 2010 season having won both the Southeastern Conference Championship and regular season title.

3 » In better news for the University of Florida, the No. 1 Florida volleyball team (24-1, 17-0 SEC) clinched at least a share of the 2010 SEC regular season title on Sunday by defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide (10-17, 2-15 SEC) 3-0 (25-17, 25-10, 25-17) on Senior Day at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy was impressive once again, leading the Gators with 10 kills and no errors along with 15 assists and seven digs. She notched her 12th-straight double-double and has been having an impressive season. Florida’s seniors also got in on the action with OH Callie Rivers, middle-back Lauren Bledsoe and libero Erin Fleming combining for 18 kills, 15 digs and six blocks on Sunday. UF has three more regular season matches – all on the road – before the 2010 SEC Tournament begins.

Three more BITS including an interesting piece on a Florida baseball commit…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: soccer-NCAA, volleyball-SEC, Whitson

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TWO BITS: Noah featured in major publiations

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, featured both in the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated is just beginning his fourth NBA season. Signing a five-year, $60 million extension over the summer, the former Florida Gators star and two-time national champion finally feels at peace in the NBA and is making a case to be known as one of the best centers in the league. ESPN The Magazine‘s feature story focuses on Noah’s living arrangements, comfort in Chicago and acceptance by the fans, while Sports Illustrated‘s article concentrates on Noah’s ascension within the NBA, struggles since joining the league and turn from draft-day pariah to fan favorite.

Below is a video ESPN.com shot to accompany the Noah story as published online.

2 » With Noah and former Florida teammate, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford, signing nearly identical five-year, $60 million extensions, comparisons between the two players continue to be made in the NBA just like they were in college. Horford, who was taken No. 3 in the 2007 NBA Draft compared to Noah who was drafted in the No. 7 slot, was considered by many to be the better pro prospect coming out of college. However, when looking closely at their numbers and production since joining the league, many executives might take Noah over Horford if given the opportunity.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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11/2: Donovan, players on second exhibition

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post. Additional material from Florida’s starting five can also be found below.

TYUS’ COMMITMENT NEVER IN DOUBT

Though senior forward Alex Tyus nearly transferred after his sophomore season and tested NBA Draft waters last year before ultimately deciding to return to the team, Donovan never questioned his commitment to the University of Florida at any time.

“After his sophomore year a lot of it had to do with the position and where he was having to play. I don’t think it was necessarily any ill feelings towards Florida or myself,” Donovan said. “It was probably this thing that was ingrained into him early on in his career by a lot of different people that he had to play this position in order to become this kind of player. It was really the furthest thing from the truth, and it really was not reality.

“I’ve never really questioned his commitment. Alex is a great kid, he wants to win, I think he has a good relationship with his teammates. It was probably a product of him being younger and getting advice and opinions from some people that maybe really didn’t understand what the reality was of some of the situations.”

MACKLIN NEEDS TO STEP UP AS A LEADER

With so many freshmen set to play significant minutes coming off the bench this season, Donovan has been impressed with the leadership shown by two of the team’s seniors – Tyus and Chandler Parsons. However, when it comes to redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, Donovan sees room for improvement and attributes the gap to Macklin never being in a similar situation before.

“Vernon in particular has got do a better job leading this time of year for us. He’s got to understand the big picture in terms of what we’re trying to do. Vernon has got to prove that he can lead under duress, under adversity, under difficult circumstances,” he said. “I’ve tried to create some adversity in practices for him and for our team to see how they will respond. I don’t think Vernon has responded like I would like to see him respond. He’s done a great job up to this point. He’s played well and he’s worked hard. He himself has got to be able to handle and be a calming force in a lot of ways for our team. There’s no doubt in my mind that he can do that.”

Macklin understands what Donovan is looking for and hopes to satisfy his coach’s request. “I’m a vocal person, I just got to not let little things get to me and not have them affect the way I still be vocal in practice,” he said. “If something is not going my way, I still got to be a vocal person.”

WILBEKIN INJURY UPDATE

Freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who had been impressing Donovan daily in practice, strained his neck in the Gators’ first exhibition game and has not practiced since. He will sit out Florida’s exhibition finale against Georgetown College. “We’re hoping to have him back maybe by the weekend,” Donovan said. “[That’s] maybe a little bit on the positive side, maybe [he’ll practice] a little bit later than that.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/2: Donovan, players on second exhibition

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Horford, Hawks agree on 5-year, $60M extension

Less than one month after former Florida Gators teammate center Joakim Noah agreed in principal to a five-year, $60 million contract extension with the Chicago Bulls, forward/center Al Horford has decided to accept a similar deal with the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta had been feverishly working over the last two months to sign the back-to-back national champion and No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft to an extension.

“From the moment he arrived in Atlanta, Al has been a large part of our success,” executive vice president Rick Sund said in an official release from the team. “The winning tradition he brought to the franchise as a rookie out of Florida has extended to three consecutive playoff seasons in a Hawks uniform. In addition, he was deservedly recognized as an All-Star last year, and we certainly look forward to his continued development as we move forward.”

Last season, Horford was selected to his first NBA All-Star team after averaging career-highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1%), free throw percentage (75.3%) and minutes (35.1) while starting all of the Hawks’ games.

“It happened like I’ve been predicting – down to the wire,” Horford told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “When we finally kind of agreed on everything, I was super excited. It’s great to be able to get it done and have peace of mind. It makes me able to come out and just focus on basketball, which is my priority to begin with. So I’m happy about that part.”

He was named a team captain this offseason and has incentives in his new contact, according to ESPN, that could add an additional $8 million to the deal. ESPN also reports that Horford will earn a flat $12 million annually, higher than Noah’s $10 million.

Photo Credit: Atlanta Hawks

OGGOA Related: Bulls, Noah agree to five-year, $60M extension

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