TWO BITS: Muschamp vine, Smith leaf blower

1 » In a “10 fearless predictions for the 2013 season” column written for InsidetheGators.com, a prediction was made by yours truly that Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp would – for the third-straight season – have a memorable sideline quote get caught on film and/or burst a blood vessel in his eye from screaming. And wouldn’t you know it, only one game has gone by and Muschamp has already coined a new phrase. “His hands were inside. What, do you want us PLAYING FLAG?” Sure, it may not be – “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” or “What is this guy, from the f***ing Pac-12?” – but it works. (via Tori Petry, h/t Andy Hutchins)

2 » Back in January, former Gators running back Emmitt Smith appeared on Anderson Live, hosted by Anderson Cooper, and for some reason allowed a leaf blower to be placed right in front of his face. Here’s a video (skip to 1:00).

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Smith, Donovan, Kinney

1 » Should quarterback Tim Tebow not find a new home in the NFL if or when the New York Jets finally decide to set him free, one AFL owner has made it abundantly clear that he will always have an opportunity to compete in the arena league. “Tim would certainly want to first exhaust his opportunities in the NFL, but we’d love to have him,” Orlando Predators owner Brett Bouchy told the Orlando Sentinel over the weekend. “I think he would definitely improve as a quarterback in our league. Kurt Warner told me once that when he got back to the NFL after playing in the [AFL], the NFL game was like slow motion. Everything in the [AFL] is just so much faster and quicker and predicated on accuracy. Whenever Tim is willing, we have a contract waiting for him to sign.” It would certainly be an interesting move considering QB Chris Leak is already on the Predators’ roster and “accuracy” is actually Tebow’s biggest red flag.

Yet the question remains…when are the Jets actually going to cut Tebow? The team’s owner and general manager – both of whom are in Phoenix, AZ for the NFL Owners Meeting – said on Sunday that he remains on the team and will be part of the competition at quarterback if he is still on the roster when training camp begins. Considering it is their decision whether or not he remains on the roster, the situation should be clearer than New York has made it. What is likely happening is that the duo is going to make a last-ditch effort to rid themselves of Tebow and get some form of compensation for him by making a trade at the owners meeting for a late-round pick.

2 » To say that former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith is slightly perturbed by the NFL’s newly proposed rule that would penalize rushers for lowering their heads when initiating contact would be an understatement. “If I’m a running back and I’m running into a linebacker, you’re telling me I have to keep my head up so he can take my chin off?” Smith rhetorically asked on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, TX late last week. The rule, which was proposed by the NFL’s Competition Committee but has not yet been passed, will be voted on this week at the owners meeting. Smith thinks the game would change drastically if it is adopted. “As a running back, it’s almost impossible [not to lower your head],” he continued. “The first thing you do is get behind your shoulder pads. That means you’re leaning forward and the first part of contact that’s going to take place is your head, regardless. I disagree with the rule altogether. It doesn’t make any sense for that position. It sounds like it’s been made up by people who have never played the game of football.” The league’s all-time leading rusher probably knows a thing or two about this subject.

3 » Yahoo! Sports’s Eric Adelson penned a fantastic piece about Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan “coming of age.” In the feature, which was published on Thursday, Adelson looks at Donovan coming up in the coaching ranks, his immense success at such a relatively young age, the about-face he did with the Orlando Magic and why chances are he will remain a college coach for the foreseeable future, almost certainly sticking at Florida for the vast majority of what should be a long and storied career (if not until the day he retires).

4 » Former Gators and Tennessee Titans tight end Erron Kinney, who spent six years playing in the NFL before hanging up his cleats, was named the new Fire Chief for Mt. Juliet, TN last Monday. Kinney, who has been working as a firefighter since retiring from football, has served as a Captain at two fire departments and recently completed a seven-year term with the Tennessee State Firefighting Commission (he was appointed by the state’s governor). Now he will be fire chief of an entire town, a role that Mt. Juliet public safety director Andy Garrett believes is well-deserved. “I know that Erron Kinney’s exceptional qualifications and experience make him the best fit for our city,” he said in a statement. “Chief Kinney brings with him well over 20 years of exemplary service in all aspects of fire department management, coupled with his deep roots within the Middle Tennessee community.” Kinney, who was born in Virginia but has spent much of his life in Tennessee, is excited about the opportunity to build a fire department from the ground up. “It is very humbling, an honor, and a privilege to be appointed as Mt. Juliet’s Fire Chief,” he said. “I am excited about working in one of Middle Tennessee’s best cities. I am extremely excited about the opportunities that are ahead for the city’s new fire department.”

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FOUR BITS: Demps, Haden, Beal, Smith

1 » Now a member of the New England Patriots after signing with the team last week, former Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps told reporters Wednesday that “getting back into football shape” is going to be the toughest part of his return to the game. “I’m a football player first,” he said. “I’m used to jumping right into it, coming off of track season. It was basically like the same transition [as it was at Florida], but guys were a lot bigger.” Demps said that working with former Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was a plus because some of the Patriots’ playbook is familiar to him though he still has a ways to go. He noted Wednesday that he has not picked up a football since the 2012 Gator Bowl on Jan. 1 and that the presence of tight end Aaron Hernandez, linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham on the team helped make his decision easier. “It played a good role,” he said. “I knew some of the faces. They took me in like they did when I was at Florida. It was a good thing.”

It was reported on Tuesday by NFL.com’s Bryan McIntyre that Demps received an $11,000 signing bonus from New England as well as a first-year salary of $390,000 of which $200,000 is guaranteed. “The total of $211,000 in guaranteed money is the second-largest sum given to a 2012 undrafted free agent,” he explained. His salary in years two and three of his deal has not been reported.

2 » Already mired in controversy regarding a potential four-game suspension for his alleged use of Adderall in the offseason, Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden was “removed from practice” on Wednesday after getting in a heated exchange with head coach Pat Shurmur. According to ESPNCleveland.com, the website for the city’s local ESPN Radio affiliates, Haden was “too rough with rookie [wide] receiver Travis Benjamin” during practice. “Haden had been warned about pulling jerseys” and got into an argument with Shurmur after “[dragging] down Benjamin in the end zone during a red zone drill.” The coach refused to talk about the situation afterward, simply saying that he has “a great deal of respect for Joe” who he called “a great competitor” who he appreciates for his work ethic and character on and off the field.

3 » Washington Wizards first-round draft choice and No. 3 overall pick Bradley Beal is set to begin practicing with his team in five weeks but told the Washington Post on Wednesday that he is not heading into training camp expecting anything in particular as it pertains to his role on the team. “I want to just come in and try to earn everything,” he said. “I don’t want anything given to me. I want to earn everything and show these guys that I’m a hard worker and I’m a winner. You know we have a young team, but we have a few vets as well and I just want to come in and try to set the tone and try to get this team back on a winning pace.”

4 » Former Florida running back Emmitt Smith, despite feeling healthy as of press time, told SportingNews this week that he is worried about winding up where so many former players are health-wise, potentially suffering dementia or other serious brain problems due to being concussed so often while playing in the NFL. “Knowing what has started to come out in terms of the evidence of guys having mental issues right now, it concerns me, especially when you’ve carried the football more than anybody in the National Football League and have more yardage than anybody in the National Football League,” he said. “That means I probably got hit more than anyone in the National Football League, so why shouldn’t I be concerned?”

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Alvarez added to College Football Hall of Fame

Former Florida Gators wide receiver Carlos Alvarez was officially inducted into the prestigious College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2012 class in a ceremony held Saturday in South Bend, IN.

One of 79 All-American players and nine coaches made eligible for selection by the voting committee last year, Alvarez was voted in May 2011 to be one of 16 inductees (14 players, two coaches) enshrined in July 2012.

He played on the Gators for three seasons (1969-71) and still holds three school records for career receiving yards (2,563), receptions in a single season (88) and receptions in a game (15). Alvarez also set the then-University of Florida and Southeastern Conference career receptions mark with 172 catches in 1971.

“I’m hardly ever speechless, but I am,” he said in May when he learned of the honor. “When you look at college football and the number of people who have played…I feel honored just to be mentioned.”

Alvarez is the third Florida player elected to the Hall of Fame since 2006.

He is also the ninth overall representative of the Gators to be enshrined in the hall, joining coaches Charlie Bachman (1978), Doug Dickey (2003) and Ray Graves (1990), and players linebacker Wilber Marshall (2008), running back Emmitt Smith (2006), quarterback Steve Spurrier (1986) and defensive ends Dale Van Sickel (1975) and Jack Youngblood (1992).

“Carlos is a great example of all that is good in college athletics. His tireless work and commitment to excellence translated into success both on and off the field,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a school release. “He has maintained his level of commitment and success in his professional career as well. I’ve had the opportunity to see Carlos a number of times when he visits Gainesville and he remains a tremendous ambassador for our program. The honor is well deserved.”

Photo Credit: University of Florida archives

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Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Defensive lineman Brad Culpepper on Wednesday became the second former Florida Gators player in the last three weeks to join lawsuit against the NFL. Culpepper is the lead plaintiff one of two concussion lawsuits (Brad Culpepper et al v. NFL) filed by the Locks Law Firm against the NFL. “The lawsuits are identical to the other suits filed by Gene Locks, asserting counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, loss of consortium and seeking declaratory relief and medical monitoring,” according to Paul Anderson. Former Florida offensive tackle Lomas Brown is part of a separate suit against the NFL that cites the recent bounty scandal as evidence that the league did not properly protect its players from concussions.

» Former Gators running back Emmitt Smith admitted this week that, while he appears to be in perfect health now, he is worried that all of the hits he took over his football-playing career may come back to haunt him both physically and mentally in the future. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry? I pray about it,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He also spoke about the tragic death of Junior Seau and reuniting with some of his former Dallas Cowboys teammates.

» Former Florida linebacker Dustin Doe has been re-signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL after appearing in just three games for the team last season. Doe registered two tackles each on defense and special teams in 2011 but spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. He is hoping to become a permanent member of the active roster this season as he attempts to continue his career.

» Speaking of players looking for new homes, it appears as if defensive tackle Marcus Thomas will be donning a different uniform in 2012. After spending the first six years of his career with the Denver Broncos, Thomas will be moving on to what he hopes are greener pastures, according to The Denver Post, which reports that it is unlikely Denver re-signs him this season. A selection in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas has been a productive member of the Broncos throughout his career. However, Denver only wants to bring him back on a one-year deal while Thomas is looking for a multi-year agreement. The Post notes that at least two other teams are interested in Thomas’s services but will likely wait until after June 1 to sign him to a contract.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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Legacy Kelvin Taylor commits to Florida Gators

Eighteen years after his father first donned an orange and blue uniform and ran out onto Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, four-star running back Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) announced that he would follow in his dad’s footsteps by committing to play football for the Florida Gators in 2013.

The son of University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame running back Fred Taylor, he has been around both football and the Gators his entire life. And like his father, his immensely successful high school football career earned him a scholarship offer from Florida, which he chose over Alabama on Saturday.

Kelvin Taylor (5’10” 205 lbs.) actually began playing as an eighth grader, starting for the Glades Day High School varsity team and running for 1,692 yards and 27 touchdowns. He followed that up by amassing 2,691 yards and 47 touchdowns as a freshman, breaking former Gators running back Emmitt Smith’s career Florida high school record of 8,804 yards two years later at the end of his junior season in 2011.

With 9,698 career yards to his credit (only 8,114 of which count nationally), he has an opportunity to break the all-time record of 11,232 yards, which was set back in 1953. He has also produced 148 touchdowns in four years of playing high school football.

Taylor undoubtedly has his sights set on the NFL and can only hope to be as successful as his father, the No. 9 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fred Taylor rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns (adding 2,384 receiving yards and eight receiving scores) over 13 seasons as a professional.

His name can also be found throughout Florida’s record books as he still holds the Gators’ single-season record for yards per carry (6.0 in 1997), led the team in rushing in both 1994 and 1997, has the sixth-most attempts in school history (537) and is fourth in both career (3,075) and single-season (1,292) rushing yardage.

Even with a strong love for the Gators, Fred Taylor never pushed his son to commit to Florida and said that he just wanted him to be happy no matter which school he chose.

And just because he will be playing for the Gators, do not expect Kelvin Taylor to think the starting job or anything else for that matter will be handed to him.

Reidel Anthony, a former teammate of his father’s and the offensive coordinator at Glades Central, told ESPNU that Taylor is a hard worker who makes his own way.

“Kelvin plays hungry and there’s no sense of entitlement there,” he said. “He doesn’t expect to just walk in and dominate because he’s Fred Taylor’s son. He wants to be a player that earns what he gets.

“And he’s just a humble young man, real quiet like Fred was. He’s not going to tell you that he’s going to run for 350 yards on you, he’s just going to do it. He has the respect of his teammates, his coaches, other coaches and his opposition because of the way he plays the game.”

Florida wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill, also a former teammate of Fred Taylor’s and still a close friend of the family, was Kelvin Taylor’s primary recruiter with the Gators throughout the entire process.

With his commitment now out of the way, the younger Taylor no longer has to endure the rigors of recruiting and can instead concentrate on the things that matter the most.

“I’m gonna keep my grades up, work very hard, run track, lift weights and just focus my mind on high school football and trying to get another state title,” he said earlier in the week, according to The Gainesville Sun.

The No. 111 ranked player nationally according to Rivals and a five-star recruit listed as one of ESPNU’s top 100 prospects in 2013, Taylor gives Florida their second big-time running back commitment in the 2013 class. He joins four-star Adam Lane (Winter Haven, FL) as two of the Gators’ five pledges as of press time.

He is currently attending Florida’s second Junior Day this weekend in Gainesville, FL and intends to enroll at UF in January (as does Lane).

Taylor’s commitment was first reported by Andrew Spivey of Gator Country.

RELATED: 2013 LB Powell chooses the Gators at Junior Day | WR Rodney Adams makes the call for Florida

Photo Credits: Stuart Browning, Unknown

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Pouncey named to second-straight Pro Bowl

Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey became the third Florida Gators player in as many seasons to be named to the primary NFL Pro Bowl roster.

He was selected as a starter for the AFC this year after being picked as the backup for Nick Mangold of the New York Jets last season.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin and Pouncey earned Pro Bowl nominations 2009 and 2010, respectively. Harvin started for the NFC as a kick return specialist, while Pouncey did not play due to being on a Super Bowl team.

Pouncey is the 20th former Florida player to be picked for the Pro Bowl; his nomination in 2010 made him the fifth to receive the honor in his rookie season (Cris Collinsworth, Jevon Kearse, Emmitt Smith, Harvin). Former Gators have made a total of 57 appearances in the game and have participated in 35 of 42 total Pro Bowls.

The Denver Post reports that former Gators now Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is a second alternate for the AFC. Should two of New England’s Tom Brady, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and San Diego’s Philip Rivers not participate in the game, Tebow would get the nod and take the trip to Honolulu, HI.

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is the primary alternate behind New England teammate Rob Gronkowski and San Diego’s Antonio Gates.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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9/17: Florida vs. Tennessee post-game notes

The No. 16/17 Florida Gators (3-0, 1-0) began their Southeastern Conference slate in impressive fashion on Saturday, wrapping up a 33-23 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers (2-1, 0-1) with strong efforts from their offense, defense and special teams. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from head coach Will Muschamp.

RAINEY’s REDEMPTION TOUR CONTINUES

Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey was already in the midst of a great season before stepping on the field Saturday. While he may have scored three touchdowns in a single game in Florida’s week one victory over Florida Atlantic, there is no doubt that his performance this week was the best of the young season. Rainey carried the ball 21 times for 108 yards, grabbed two receptions for 104 yards (including an 83-yard touchdown) and blocked a punt that resulted in a field goal for the Gators.

“Rainey is a special athlete,” redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley said after the game. “He’s getting better each week, and he’s really grown up and bought into all of this. He deserves all of this that he’s been doing.”

He has now scored a total of five touchdowns through three games (two rushing, two receiving, one return) and is on pace for 2,080 yards of total offense. While his attitude and work ethic have helped motivate the team off the field, Rainey’s play on the field has been the brightest spot for an up-and-coming Florida team in 2011.

MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP

Early in his post-game media availability, Muschamp provides his own quick recap of the game as he sees it from offense, defense and special teams.

“I thought we moved the ball well – very effectively early in the game especially. We had some opportunities that we squandered in the first half offensively. Defensively I thought we played very well. As the game kind of changed there throwing the football there obviously we had two mental errors on touchdowns [...] before half, which is disappointing. There are some communication issues we’ve got to clean up. But as the game changed there, you’ve got to play coverage and make them bleed the clock. That’s what we were trying to do in those situations. The worst thing you can do in that situation is give up a big play. Special teams block punt was huge. It was great designed by D.J. [Durkin]. I felt like we had them outnumbered in the protection, and it was a great job by Chris Rainey and the execution of our young men.”

STURGIS REMAINS PERFECT WITH FOUR SCORES

The biggest flaw in regards to the Gators’ offense at this point is their ability to convert red zone appearances into touchdowns. Unlike last season, Florida has been able to count on redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis to bail them out of these situations. With four field goals on Saturday (from 28, 30, 46 and 42 yards), Sturgis now a perfect 9/9 on the season (he is also 12/12 on extra points).

“Just to know you feel good and comfortable about when he walks on the field. When the ball’s on the 35 yard line, you’re talking about a 52-yard field goal, and you feel very comfortable that he’s going to make the field goal,” Muschamp said. “Caleb’s just been outstanding for us. A guy that certainly gives me a huge comfort level when we hit in that 35-yard-line to know that we’re going to get three points, and I feel pretty comfortable about that.”

PENALTIES…PENALTIES…PENALTIES…

For the third-straight game, the Gators absolutely blew it when it came to committing penalties. This week was historically bad, however, as Florida doubled up their season total and tied school records for second-most penalties in a game (16) and second-most penalty yards in a game (150). UF has now committed 34 penalties for 270 yards in three games, numbers that Muschamp obviously finds simply unacceptable.

Especially abhorrent on Saturday was the number of pass interference calls against the Gators – six total by five different players. Though two of the calls were questionable, freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson (two), junior safety Josh Evans, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins, sophomore CB Cody Riggs and freshman S De’Ante Saunders (one each) all committed the foul. These miscues extended drives by Tennessee, many of which concluded with the Vols putting points on the board.

In addition to the extreme number of penalties, Florida’s defense also had trouble holding onto passes they defended. Roberson and Jenkins combined for at least three dropped interceptions, and Roberson also had a caught pick called back due to one of his pass interference penalties. Muschamp commented on the entire situation after the game.

“I look at penalties a couple different ways. Are they discipline penalties? When you jump offsides, when we’re down in the red zone on the 13-yard-line – that’s an issue. When you have to call timeout because we don’t get the right personnel in the game – that’s an issue. Those are what I call procedural issues, and those are discipline penalties – jumping offsides or lining up offisdes on defense, which we did tonight. And we had that issue last week. Those are things that you got to get corrected. Are they being addressed? Yes. Are they being addressed the right way? Obviously not because they’re still happening. Then there’s penalties that are aggressive penalties that are judgement calls – those happen in the game of football, especially the way we play. We play a lot of bump-and-run, we play a lot of man-to-man, a lot of deny-the-ball defense. Those things happen sometimes. I’m not saying they’re OK and I’m not saying I tolerate them.”

BRANTLEY CONTINUES TO PROGRESS

Though he may not be setting the world on fire with his numbers, Brantley looked great to start the game, leading the Gators on a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive and 12-play, 68-yard field goal drive. “What we wanted to do was start fast like we did. We figured if we do that, go down and score, that’ll set the tone for the rest of the game,” he said. “I thought we did a really good job of that – like we did – and we just kept going on from there.”

He struggled a bit throughout the rest of the contest but also had a nice check down to Rainey for his 83-yard score in the third quarter.

“We work all week [on] all of our pass protections and everything. We know where our check downs are and where our outlets are,” he said. “Rainey got out clean and he was in that open area. I was looking for him all the way down and there he was. He can do some special things with the ball like he did tonight.”

Most importantly, Brantley did not turn the ball over for the second-straight game.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp began his post-game press conference by complimenting the fans who he said did a great job. “It was an electric atmosphere out there,” he said. “As you walked in the stadium through the Gator Walk, it was absolutely amazing.”

» He also said that Heisman Trophy-winning QB Danny Wuerffel and Hall of Fame RB Emmitt Smith spoke to the team over the weekend, something he thanked both men for doing and said was very meaningful to the team.

» On Florida’s pass rush: “We had some good pressures. The first interception of the second half was called by Ronald Powell. He was throwing off his back foot – elevated the ball – it was an overthrown ball. We’ve got to get pressure with four guys rushing.”

» On dropped interceptions and pass interference penalties: “We’ve dropped a bunch of interceptions this year. I guess do more ball drills or something. And on the other, I have no comment.”

» On Rainey: “This guy competes every day. Comes to work with his hard hat on. He talks a lot but he doesn’t complain about anything.”

» On whether or not the defense continues to improve: “It’s week-to-week, especially with our guys. We’re going to look at what we did that was positive and then we’re going to correct the things that got to get corrected. You got to constantly coach players, especially younger players, especially first-year scheme players.”

» On what he was yelling about at halftime: “I was upset about a bunch of stuff at halftime.”

» On if the team can win without the wide receivers being involved: “We’ll line up and run the wishbone if we can win. [...] It’s about winning. Do what you got to do to win the game. You can’t take winning for granted.”

» On getting amped at sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell’s forced interception: “When you see a player start to come around and see the light – I want these guys to play well. I play through them. So when you see a guy finally get the pressure, get the caused interception, I’m excited for him. I’m excited he made a great play for the Gators, but I was happy for him.”

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