TE Christian, WR Clark to transfer from Florida

The Florida Gators announced Tuesday that sophomores tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark plan to leave the program and transfer.

“Both of these players have expressed a desire for more playing time and felt that it would be in their best interests to transfer,” head coach Will Muschamp said in an official release from the school. “We wish them both the best of luck and appreciate their contributions to the program.”

Christian, who moved between tight end and linebacker in the spring before returning to his primary position this fall, had caught four balls for 72 yards and a touchdown this season. He played mostly on special teams as a freshman.

“I’m looking for an opportunity to play more,” said Christian in the same release. “I have no bad feelings about Florida or the coaching staff, I just want to get a fresh start and see the field more.”

Clark has barely played in 2011 after seeing brief playing time one year ago, catching seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown in 2010.

“I’ve enjoyed being a part of the Gator program but at the same time I’m excited about future opportunities to play more,” Clark said. “I will have nothing but good memories from my time in Gainesville.”

Christian and Clark committed to Florida in 2010 along with sophomore safety Matt Elam; all three players were graduates of Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, FL with Christian and Elam the most highly recruited of the trio.

Elam played extensively as a freshman and is arguably the Gators’ most consistent defensive starter this season. He is second on the team with 43 tackles (3.5 for loss) and has two interceptions as well as a forced fumble.

The duo are the eighth and ninth players to leave Florida since Muschamp took over the team. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed following two marijuana rests in less than 90 days. Defensive end Chris Martin, WR Chris Dunkley, WR Javares McRoy, running back Mike Blakely, TE Michael McFarland and LB Dee Finley transferred.

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QB Brissett announces commitment to Gators

Updated Feb. 5, 12:30 p.m.

Though National Signing Day has come and gone, the Florida Gators added another commitment to their 2011 recruiting class on Friday. Four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) of Dwyer High School committed to Florida at his school’s basketball game Friday evening.

Brissett planned to send his National Letter of Intent to the Gators via fax on Saturday; however, his mother Elicia Brown will make him delay that step until Monday as she plans to do anything in her power to convince him to change his mind and commit to the Miami Hurricanes instead. Because Brissett is under 21, a parent or guardian’s signature is required on his LOI in order for it to be official.

“It came down to UM and Florida. I just had to follow my heart, and my heart lies in Florida,” Brissett said in front of his school’s gymnasium Friday. “It came down to making the decision where I felt the best for me,” he told the Palm Beach Post. “I can’t please everybody, and I’m hurt that I hurt my mom, as you can see I was crying with her before the game. She means the world to me.”

Brown noted that Brissett’s decision to commit to the Gators was not her choice. “I’m very disappointed,” she told the Associated Press. “There’s a chance it might not be over yet, I’m going to try to talk him out of it,” she conveyed to ESPN. “He hasn’t faxed his letter yet, he is just orally committed.”

She also told ESPN, in harsh specifics, why she was disappointed in his decision to attend Florida. “I didn’t like the way Florida handled the [recruiting] process,” Brown said. “I’ve never met [head coach Will Muschamp] face-to-face and I find that very disrespectful. ‘The U’ showed respect to the mom and that’s what I had hoped would influence Jacoby’s decision.”

Brissett isn’t backing down. “I know she’s not happy and that hurts me because my mom is everything to me,” Brissett told ESPN. “But I know she has always supported me and will always support me. I had to make the decision for myself and my future. I’m very firm in my choice.”

With five-star QB Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) already in the fold as an early enrollee, offensive coordinator/QB coach Charlie Weis made a strong push to get a commitment out of Brissett almost immediately when he took the job in January.

After meeting the student-athlete, Weis called Mushcamp to request a scholarship offer for Brissett. Muschamp quickly granted one even though the player had previously only been offered a greyshirt by former head coach Urban Meyer.

Brissett, who passed for 2,743 yards, 32 touchdowns and only one interception in his senior season, plans to make Driskel earn a spot ahead of him and is confident he will succeed in the orange and blue.

“I’m not moving no positions. I’m a quarterback. [Driskel will] have to prove to me every day, every year, that he’s going to be better than me for him to win that starting spot,” said Brissett, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Though Driskel is the consensus No. 1 QB in the 2011 class, Brissett is ranked No. 5 by Rivals and No. 9 by Scout. ESPNU lists him as a three-star player and the No. 25 QB in the country. He has said on numerous occasions that he is not scared of competition and is confident he will eventually win a starting job at whatever college he chose.

A two-sport athlete, Brissett has indicated that he would like to pursue basketball at a collegiate level. Whether or not Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan will provide him with that opportunity remains to be seen. However, Brissett noted that Donovan said that he can attempt to earn a spot on the team if he so chooses.

Committing to Florida, he joins three former Dwyer teammates who decided to play for the Gators in 2010 – safety Matt Elam, tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark.

The Post reports that Elam and freshman WR Chris Dunkley both attended Brissett’s basketball game and commitment ceremony. Brown noted that Elam is the reason Brissett plans to attend UF.

“Jacoby’s best friend since he was six plays at Florida and that had everything to do with [his decision],” she said.

With his signing, it is almost a certainty that redshirt freshman QB/tight end Jordan Reed will permanently switch to TE and freshman QB Trey Burton will change positions, too. Muschamp noted on Wednesday that Burton can play either defensive back or a hybrid fullback/QB role on offense. The status of freshman QB Tyler Murphy has not been discussed, though the player has said he only wants to be a signal-caller.

The Post first reported Brissett’s decision early Friday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post

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Report: QB Brissett set to commit to Gators

Updated 3:40 p.m.

Though National Signing Day has come and gone, it looks like the Florida Gators will add another commitment to their 2011 recruiting class. Four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) of Dwyer High School will commit to Florida this evening, according to a source who spoke with the Palm Beach Post.

With five-star QB Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) already in the fold as an early enrollee, offensive coordinator/QB coach Charlie Weis made a strong push to get a commitment out of Brissett almost immediately when he took the job in January.

After meeting the student-athlete, Weis called head coach Will Mushcamp to request a scholarship offer for Brissett. Muschamp quickly granted one even though the player had previously only been offered a greyshirt by former head coach Urban Meyer.

Miami (FL) and Wisconsin were also strongly considered by Brissett.

Though Driskel is the consensus No. 1 QB in the 2011 class, Brissett is ranked No. 5 by Rivals and No. 9 by Scout. ESPNU lists him as a three-star player and the No. 25 QB in the country. He has said on numerous occasions that he is not scared of competition and is confident he will eventually win a starting job at whatever college he chooses.

Brissett will officially announce his decision at his Dwyer basketball game Friday night.

A two-sport athlete, he has also given an indication that he would like to pursue basketball at a collegiate level. Whether or not Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan will provide him with that opportunity remains to be seen.

Committing to Florida, he joins three former Dwyer teammates who joined the Gators in 2010 – safety Matt Elam, tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark.

With Brissett’s signing, it is almost a certainty that redshirt freshman QB/tight end Jordan Reed will permanently switch to TE and freshman QB Trey Burton will change positions, too. Muschamp noted on Wednesday that Burton can play either defensive back or a hybrid fullback/QB role on offense. The status of freshman QB Tyler Murphy has not been discussed, though the player has said he only wants to be a signal-caller.

UPDATE: Since the Post first reported Brissett’s decision, The Gainesville Sun has confirmed it via sources of their own. However, the Associated Press‘s Tim Reynolds has reported via Twitter that he is hearing Brissett actually told two different schools that they will receive his commitment. Additionally, the Post has noted that Brissett will not sign or send in his Letter of Intent Friday no matter which program he commits to. OGGOA will keep you updated on this story as it progresses.

Photo Credit: Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Dwyer, Beisel, Debut

1 » Contrary to a bevy of reports stating that he is definitively out for Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh Steelers starting rookie center Maurkice Pouncey considers himself probable for the game with a self-described “pretty bad” high ankle sprain. “I hope so. Right now it’s 75/25, and I’m hoping to play,” he told ESPN’s Chris Berman during media day on Tuesday. “I feel great out the cast, man. I’ve been walking around pretty good. Hopefully I’ll get on the bike today and get some pool action in later. It feels pretty good. Everybody’s been pretty positive about me. It’s a nasty little purple color, but it’s getting better. I don’t know why everybody’s trying to rule me out early. Offensive linemen don’t get ruled out until the last day.” If he is able to step on the field, Pouncey will be the only former Florida Gators player to participate in the championship.

2 » With National Signing Day set for Wednesday, some things appear to be getting clearer with the two recruits from Dwyer High School that the Gators have their eyes on. According to the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter, Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels “has a good idea” of where four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) is going and believes he will end up choosing Tennessee over Florida. Daniels also expects four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) to make his declaration at halftime of his high school basketball game on Friday. Brissett is choosing among Florida, Miami, Wisconsin and Washington and is thought to be favoring UM.

3 » For the third-straight year, Florida freshman swimmer Elizabeth Beisel has been named Rhode Island Female Athlete of the Year and will be honored as such at the state’s annual banquet on Feb. 20. Beisel also took home Female Swimmer of the Week honors from the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday. Joining her with recognition are Male Swimmer of the Week senior Conor Dwyer and Freshmen of the Week Hilda Luthersdottir and Marcin Cieslak.

4 » The University of Florida announced Tuesday that the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut spring game will be moved from 1 p.m. to noon in order to air live on Sun Sports on April 9. Last year the game aired live only on UF’s GatorVision; it is unknown if the contest will be broadcast live online as well.

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Machen for SI: grayshirting is “reprehensible”

University of Florida president Bernie Machen, published in a feature piece for SI.com, calls offering grayshirts to student-athletes “reprehensible” and says taking away a scholarship from a player is “disgusting” and a “nefarious practice.”

Imagine the feeling if the student finds out, literally a few months before enrolling, that the institution is backing out of the contract. It is too late in the summer to go back to one’s second choice. The student is told he will have to wait until next year. Sorry, but no acceptance, no scholarship. That’s it.

In Division I college football this practice is known as “grayshirting” and, unfortunately, there are universities that sanction this activity. The universities, with full knowledge of what they are doing, extend more athletic scholarships than they have. These schools play roulette with the lives of talented young people. If they run out of scholarships, too bad. The letter-of-intent signed by the university the previous February is voided. Technically, it’s legal to do this. Morally, it is reprehensible.

What makes Machen’s comments particularly interesting are two stories that have come out over the last two recruiting cycles involving Florida Gators either offering or at the very least discussing grayshirts with high school players.

Rivals reported in Jan. 2010 that the Gators proposed the use of a grayshirt to three-star tight end recruit Michael McFarland, noting that he would not likely be strong enough to compete in the Southeastern Conference at his current build.

“When I went up there they threw out on the table the whole grayshirt thing,” McFarland said. “There have been times I wanted to do it and there were times I didn’t want to do it because I wanted to get up there and go play. […] They didn’t say they were going to do it but they gave me the option.”

Florida decided the move was not necessary; McFarland joined UF in the fall.

This year, four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett and Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels have noted that former Gators head coach Urban Meyer offered Brissett the opportunity to grayshirt, a move the player scoffed at.

It is important to note that there is a serious distinction between a team offering a grayshirt before a player has signed a National Letter of Intent and a team delaying or pulling a scholarship after that process is concluded. Machen is discussing the latter.

Entering into an agreement with a student-athlete that he or she will wait a year if they wish to play at a particular university where the player knows of the intentions and agrees to the move ahead of time is quite different than locking that player up and forcing him or her to abide by your decision after the fact.

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FOUR BITS: Drayton, Hilliard, Dwyer, O’Day

1 » Florida Gators running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton, a native of Cleveland, OH, will leave the team to take the wide receivers coach job with the Ohio State Buckeyes as early as next week, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has confirmed. One of three assistants retained by new head coach Will Muschamp when he took over the program in early January, Drayton has almost exclusively coached running backs since 1993 and spent four years with the Gators (2005-07, 2010). He will likely coordinate the Buckeyes’ recruiting for the state of Florida, a job held by the team’s preceding wide receivers coach. Drayton was on Florida’s staff when they defeated Ohio State and captured the National Championship in 2006.

UPDATE: UF has released the following statement on Drayton’s status: “Coach Muschamp is on the road recruiting and our coaching staff remains intact at this time.”

2 » Former Gators wide receiver Ike Hilliard, a 12-year NFL veteran who officially retired last July by signing a one-day contract with the New York Giants, will join the Miami Dolphins as the team’s assistant wide receivers coach. The No. 7 overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, Hilliard racked up 546 receptions for 6,397 yards and 35 touchdowns over his professional career. He has coached receivers for the Florida Tuskers of the UFL since 2009. Hilliard was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection and consensus first-team All-American in 1996, the year the Gators won their first title. He was only at the University Florida for three seasons, declaring for the draft as a junior after collecting 126 receptions for 2,214 yards and 29 touchdowns. His 2,214 career yards are good for seventh-most in team history, while his 29 career scores rank him second overall. Hilliard also holds the UF record for most receiving touchdowns in a single game (four vs. Tennessee in 1995).

3 » Though it is looking more and more like four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) will eventually head elsewhere, he is still considering traveling to Florida for his last official visit (his other choice would be Miami). Either way, Dwyer High School head football coach Jack Daniels isn’t sure Brissett, or four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) – who the Gators are also recruiting heavily – will announce their commitments on or before National Signing Day. “I think at best it’s 50-50,” Daniels told ESPN’s Jamie Newberg. “We are going to sit down [Wednesday], have lunch and talk about it. I don’t think they will be ready. We need to talk about it and try and get a feel for where they are both at.”

Brissett and Maggitt both have Florida and Wisconsin in common as schools they are considering; the former is also weighing offers from Miami and Washington, while the latter has Tennessee vying for his services as well. The goal is for both players to commit on or before Feb. 2, if possible. “I am not going to make them do it if they are not ready but it’s not looking that good,” Daniels said. “When they get back for this weekend’s visits we need to sit down and work it out if we can.”

4 » Former Gators pitcher Darren O’Day has agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Texas Rangers. O’Day, a reliever for Texas during their World Series run, posted a 6-2 record with a 2.03 ERA in 2010 and has been with the club since 2009.

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SIX BITS: baseball, softball, Tebow, Brissett

1 » The No. 2 Florida Gators baseball and softball programs found out Thursday that each would have four games featured live on the ESPN family of networks during their respective 2011 regular seasons. Florida baseball – which will be featured on ESPNU’s Thursday Night Baseball Game of the Week with their contest at Arkansas on May 5 at 7:30 p.m. – will also face Georgia (away) on April 16 at 2 p.m. on ESPNU, Alabama (home) on April 23 at 6 p.m. on ESPN2, and Arkansas (away) on May 7 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. Gators softball will have four home games aired live. Their back-to-back games against Alabama on April 23 (4 p.m.) and April 24 (1 p.m.) will air on ESPN2 and ESPNU, respectively, while their consecutive contests against Tennessee on May 7 (12 p.m.) and May 8 (3 p.m.) will be featured on ESPN and ESPNU. All games airing on ESPN or ESPN2 will also be simulcast on ESPN3.com.

2 » Florida softball also found out Thursday that their incoming 2011 recruiting class has been ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN/RISE. The Gators are bringing in six freshmen including pitcher Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, FL), third baseman Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, FL), infielder Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, MO), shortstop Sami Fagan (Dunnellon, FL), utility player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, AZ), UTL Brianna Little (Middleburg, FL) and SS Katie Medina (Downey, CA). Wrote ESPN: “The Gators had a lot of pressure to bring in a dynamic recruiting class with the group they have leaving this year, and they certainly pulled it off. They bring in a big class of seven athletes that includes two dominating pitchers in Lauren Haeger and Alyssa Bache, power at the plate with big hitters like Bailey Castro and Briana Little, and speed in the infield with tough players like Jessie Damico, Sami Fagan and Katie Medina. The Gators have the best recruiting class of the year, hands down.”

More on Tim Tebow, UF basketball and Jacoby Brissett…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: baseball, softball, Tebow, Brissett

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SIX BITS: Blakely, Hounshell, Jernigan, Brissett

1 » Florida Gators four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL), an early enrollee already on campus at the University of Florida, is scheduled to have shoulder surgery this week that will keep him out of spring practice but hopefully allow him to be available in the summer. It is not known how Blakely injured his shoulder except that it occurred before he enrolled in January.

2 » Three-star offensive lineman commitment Chase Hounshell (Kirkland, OH), originally scheduled to join some of his future teammates as an early enrollee this month, instead decided to return to high school and take his time making his final decision. Hounshell announced Sunday that he received an in-home visit from Gators head coach Will Muschamp and offensive line coach/running game coordinator Frank Verducci, men he described as “first class” and “just great people.” He will be visiting Florida this upcoming weekend in what appears to be a reaffirmation trip.

3 » The Gators coaching staff, barring a packed suitcase and plane ticket to Gainesville, FL, is now complete. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the defensive line coach of the Seattle Seahawks until they lost to the Chicago Bears in the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday, has now fulfilled his commitment to his team and should be ready to hit the ground running any day now. A Scout.com report from Friday noted that Quinn’s assistant DL coach at Florida, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Bryant Young, was already hard at work recruiting. He was in the home of five-star DT Tim Jernigan (Lake City, FL), convincing him to take a trip and give UF some serious consideration.

4 » Though former Gators safety Will Hill decided to leave school early and declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, his classmate and teammate in the secondary, junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, chose to stick around for his senior season. Hill was shocked by this occurrence, especially considering Jenkins was expected to be a first-round selection, and told the Orlando Sentinel his thoughts on the subject. “He was talking about leaving,” Hill said. “I haven’t heard or spoke to him for two months. Last time I spoke to him, he said he was leaving. That he’s coming back is kind of a surprise.”

5 » After meeting with four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) at his high school on Friday, new Florida offensive coordinator and QB coach Charlie Weis invited him to take an unofficial visit to campus over the weekend. Brissett obliged, watched most of the game with Weis and met up with some of his former Dwyer High School teammates including freshman S Matt Elam. Brissett, also a high school basketball player who could be in a unique position to play both sports at UF, reportedly came away from the visit impressed though he still has plenty of thinking to do. Muschamp extended a scholarship offer to Brissett after Weis left on Friday, something he had not been given under former head coach Urban Meyer.

6 » The Gators’ two basketball programs have had a pretty rough go of it this week. In addition to the men falling 72-69 at home to South Carolina, the women lost a pair of gut-wrenching games on Thursday and Sunday. Routed 83-40 at home by the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers on Jan. 13, Florida blew a 16-point lead with 14:17 remaining in the game to fall 70-64 to the Georgia Bulldogs on the road in Athens, GA on Jan. 16. After getting out to a good start this season, the women have lost three of their last four games including a 73-56 throttling by Auburn on Jan. 6.

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