Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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Erin Andrews on Urban Meyer’s impact at Florida

ESPN/ABC reporter and former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews was kind enough to speak with me Thursday afternoon to discuss head coach Urban Meyer’s decision to step down from his position with the University of Florida. We spoke at length about the impact he had on the football program and the school itself, and how much he meant to her on a personal level since they first met six years ago.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: In a column I wrote today, I discussed how Meyer seemed to have an impact on everyone he interacted with at Florida – even if it was not on a personal basis. How did he come across to you when you became familiar with him?
ERIN ANDREWS: “The one thing that impressed me with Coach Meyer right off the bat was: He wasn’t part of the bloodline with Florida. He wasn’t a former coach, he wasn’t involved with the program until he was hired. That kind of scared me because I was close to [Steve] Spurrier, I was close to [Ron] Zook. I was a member of the media – and as a grad – I want the inside access to my school. Especially when stuff like this happens. I had a great relationship with Zook, and Spurrier has always been wonderful to me.

“The one thing that impressed me about Urban was that he wasted no time in getting the alums involved. He’s just made us feel like we’re part of the university and part of all of it. I didn’t know him at all when he took over. But right off the bat with me it was, ‘E.A., it’s good to be a Gator!’ So I always appreciated how he made former Gators – people that weren’t involved in the program – made us feel like we were a part of everything he was doing when he was the head coach.”

AS: He seems to have made Gator Nation even stronger than it was when he got to UF. Have you noticed the same thing?
EA: “Coach and Tim [Tebow] had a lot to do with that. If you go back and you watch Tim’s Heisman [Trophy] speech, all it was is, ‘I love being a Gator. Go Gators!’ I really do. Every text message Coach would send me over the past couple of years always ended with, ‘It’s great to be a Gator!’ or ‘Go Gators!’ This new burst of energy, this new sense of pride in Gator Nation and what the community is and what the school is all about and what the football program is all about, I think Coach Meyer was perfect for that. He really adjusted and was exactly what the school needed at the time.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Erin Andrews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Erin Andrews on Urban Meyer’s impact at Florida

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FOUR BITS: Andrews, Smith, SEC title, awards

1 » Two former Florida GatorsESPN reporter Erin Andrews and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith – partied together last night as the ABC television show Dancing with the Stars celebrated its 200th episode. Andrews snapped this picture of the duo doing the Gator Chomp during the event. Enjoy.

2 » Florida Gators women’s cross country captured the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship on Monday in Columbia, SC, while competing at the title meet. Florida (60 points) bested the second-place finisher Arkansas Razorbacks (61 points) by a single point to take the crown. It is the fifth time the Gators women have won the conference title and second time in program history that they did so in back-to-back years (1996-1997). The Florida men’s team (69 points) failed in their effort, coming in third behind winner Arkansas (34 points) and the Alabama Crimson Tide (62 points). Monday’s win marks the second 2010 SEC title captured by UF so far this season with the soccer team coming through with a big win over the weekend.

3 » With the game-winning goal in the above mentioned 2010 SEC title game over the weekend, No. 8 Gators soccer senior defender Nicky Kit took home two additional honors on Monday – SEC Defensive Player of the Week and (one of) CollegeSoccer360.com’s Primetime Players of the Week. Kit earned the recognition for her 20-yard free kick goal to end the first half that ended up being a game-winner.

4 » Adding two more wins to their 20-1 record (13-0 SEC), No. 1/1 Florida volleyball also earned some recognition for two of its players on Monday. Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week (fourth time this season) and junior middle-back Cassandra Anderson earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

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TWO BITS: Florida overrated, Andrews interview

1 » Ranking college football’s most overrated teams, FOX Sports listed the No. 22/22 Florida Gators at No. 1, noting offensive ineptitude while insulting how the team has been playing this season while comparing it to Air Force.

The Florida Gators have four wins over FBS unranked teams with a combined record of 11-12, a No. 96-ranked total offense, and are No. 22 in the AP poll. Air Force (5-1) has four wins over unranked FBS teams with a combined record of 8-15, the No. 21-ranked total offense in the country, and is ranked below Florida, at No. 23. True, the Gators have a good defense – ranked No. 37 in points allowed – but Air Force is ranked No. 25 in the same category. Perhaps what makes Florida such an obvious No. 1 on our list is simply watching them play. It’s actually painful.

2 » Taking a page out of OGGOA‘s playbook, AOL FanHouse‘s Brett McMurphy sat down with ESPN reporter and former Gators dazzler Erin Andrews for an in-depth interview about a wide variety of topics. Andrews was asked about the current Florida team and provided her opinion on how the Gators have looked this year.

It’s a transition year. (Tim) Tebow’s gone, Brandon Spikes is gone. Charlie Strong is gone. Dan Mullen is gone. I’m trying to say this so I don’t get in trouble because everything ends up on the internet … that’s a lot when you have the heart and soul of your offense, you have the heart and soul of your defense and your D-coordinator gone. That’s not just losing Tim Tebow as your quarterback. That’s losing a lot of people.

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Week 1: No. 3 Florida Gators vs. Miami RedHawks

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 91°F, 30% chance of precipitation
Time: 12:00 p.m. (EST)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
Sirius/XM: 220/199
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 3 FLORIDA GATORS MIAMI (OH) REDHAWKS
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Michael Haywood
2009 Record: 13-1 2009 Record: 1-11
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Mid-American
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -38; O/U 54

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is returning 43 letterwiners and 11 starters from the 2009 season – six on offense (junior running back Jeff Demps, redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson, senior center Mike Pouncey, sophomore left tackle Xavier Nixon, redshirt seniors guard Carl Johnson and right tackle Marcus Gilbert) and five on defense (senior safety Ahmad Black, junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, redshirt seniors linebacker A.J. Jones and defensive tackle Terron Sanders, redshirt sophomore DT Omar Hunter).
» The Gators have a SEC-best opening day winning streak of 20 games and are 76-27 all-time to start the season (62-6 in Gainesville). Teams coached by Meyer at any point in his career are 18-5 to begin the season; he has 16-straight opening day victories.
» Florida is also sporting a 10-game home winning streak and has won 20 consecutive regular season games. The Orange and Blue has a .897 (113-13) winning percentage at Florida Field since 1990, good for best in the nation.
» Miami (OH) leads the all-time series against UF 1-0, defeating the Gators 16-7 in The Swamp in the 1973 Tangerine Bowl; Florida is 10-3 all-time against the MAC.
» The Gators are the only team in the nation to finish the season in the top three in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ polls in three of the past four years; Florida is also the only school in the country to be ranked in the top five of the preseason coaches’ poll in each of the last four years.
» The RedHawks’ passing offense and passing defense each ranked 23rd in the nation in 2009, respectively throwing for 273.2 and giving up 190.4 yards per game.
» UF committed a nation-low 81 turnovers since 2005 and has had 23 games in which they did not give up a single turnover (best in the nation).

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley…who will be starting the first game of his Florida career. In 2009, he went 36-of-48 for 410 yards and seven touchdowns. Brantley tossed 75 percent of his balls for completions and finished the year with a QB rating of 194.9. He has thrown 61 consecutive passes without an interception and has a 10-1 TD/INT ratio for his Gators career.
» Florida’s veteran offensive line…which has combined for 87 career starts and is led by Pouncey (32). That total is the highest among returning offensive linemen since Meyer’s first season as coach in 2005.
» Redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey…who is moving to the slot after playing running back for two seasons. Rainey will be explosive while playing a modified “Percy Position” and could very well be the team’s best offensive weapon this season.
» Linebackers sophomore Jon Bostic and redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins…who are each trying to win the starting role in the middle but will likely split snaps Saturday. The same goes for cornerbacks redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown and senior Moses Jenkins, each of whom hope to win the job opposite junior Janoris Jenkins.
» Redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose…who missed the entire 2009 season with a hamstring injury but remains a five-star recruit expected to make an immediate impact.
» Junior kicker Caleb Sturgis…who set a UF record for field goal attempted in a season (30) in 2009 and had the second-highest total of field goals made in school history (22).
» Freshman QB Trey Burton…who has been receiving extra attention at tight end during practices and is one of Meyer’s favorite youngsters. With other TEs injured and developing, Burton may see action early and often.

INJURIES and INACTIVES
Injuries (All out)
Senior defensive tackle Terron Sanders (knee), redshirt freshman TE Jordan Reed (knee) left tackles redshirt sophomore Matt Patchan (wrist), sophomore Xavier Nixon (knee), sophomore LB Dee Finley

Inactives
Redshirt sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. (indefinite suspension), junior S Will Hill (team decision)

FLORIDA ON ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

The host of the first game to air Saturday on ESPN, Florida will be profiled in part during the network’s College GameDay broadcast beginning at 9 a.m. on ESPNU (hosted by Erin Andrews) and continuing from 10 a.m. until noon on ESPN. The main feature on the Gators will be a report from Tom Rinaldi focusing on Meyer’s decision to unretire one day after resigning from his job before the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Additionally, ESPN will feature a sound bite from Meyer talking about Florida’s offense, which will then be discussed by analysts Desmond Howard and David Pollack.

Read OGGOA’s Florida Gators vs. Miami RedHawks preview after the jump!
Continue Reading » Week 1: No. 3 Florida Gators vs. Miami RedHawks

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TWO BITS: Powell, Easley, GameDay, returns

1 » Rumors are running rampant throughout the Florida Gators program Wednesday that five-star freshmen defensive end Ronald Powell and defensive tackle Dominique Easley have skipped either one or multiple practices recently due to anger over how they have been treated by veterans on the team – assumingly the starting offensive line. Further rumors emerged that the duo cleaned out their respective lockers and may even be considering transferring. Though the former information (missing practice) appears to be the most concrete, the latter seems to be a bit of a reach at this point.

The latest reports – from the Miami Herald and The Gainesville Sun, respectively – have Powell’s and Easley’s high school coaches unaware that there is anything wrong. Powell’s coach, Pete Duffy, told the Sun that his former player is “happy and very excited” at Florida; he had not heard about him missing practice. Easley’s coach, Pete Gambardella, told the Herald that Easley neither seemed upset, disgruntled nor angry when speaking to his former player Wednesday morning.

UPDATE: Powell and Easley are both practicing with the team.

2 » In a press release Wednesday, ESPN announced that College GameDay will return to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, for the Gators’ game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Feb. 5. The show’s first time visiting the basketball team since 2008 will also include former Florida dazzler and network reporter Erin Andrews, who told OGGOA that she will be in attendance as well, likely for her duties of hosting the first hour of GameDay at 10 a.m. on ESPNU.

Extra BIT » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (ribs) and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (migraines) each returned to practice with their respective team on Wednesday after missing a number of days due to injury. Tebow had missed two practice and the Broncos’ last preseason game; Harvin had been sidelined after collapsing during practice on Aug. 19.

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Gator Bites for Tuesday, July 27th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» Former Florida Gators dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, who spoke exclusively with OGGOA for an interview on Friday, is headed to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to join Congressional sponsors in support of an anti-stalking bill. Andrews, a victim of stalking herself, will appear along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) to introduce the Simplifying The Ambiguous Law, Keeping Everyone Reliably Safe Act (STALKERS).

» With training camps set to begin in just a few days for the Denver Broncos, rookie quarterback Tim Tebow may end up being a hold out – something that is likely beyond his control and is in the hands of his agent. Nevertheless, The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla has put the onus on Tebow, calling a potential holdout a “dire dilemma” and one that is “destined to make folks mad,” whether it be fans or fellow players. Fact is, Kiszla is simply trying to paint Tebow as imperfect in this piece…which is true for everyone. Should he not be at camp on day one, he will be shortly after, as Tebow’s goal is to get on the field. But he does have to listen to his agent in this regard.

» The Gainesville Sun caught up with Gators four-star athlete De’Ante “Pop” Saunders on Monday. Saunders, the team’s very first commitment for the 2011 signing class, reaffirmed his desire to play in Gainesville, FL, after he was recently seen wearing Florida State gear. “They were giving me [a hard time] about wearing a Florida State helmet because I didn’t bring my helmet,’ he said. “That’s all it was. I forgot to bring mine and that’s all they had. I’m still here. I’m still Florida.” Saunders plans to enroll early.

» OGGOA has learned that four-star defensive end recruit Aaron Lynch (Cape Coral, FL) is leaning toward Notre Dame and Florida State with Florida now in a distant third place. According to our source, Lynch is concerned about playing time with the Gators and has formed a solid relationship with the staff in South Bend, IN.

Seven more Gator Bites on Corey Brewer, Brad Beal, Houston Nutt, Dallas Baker, Marreese Speights and Udonis Haslem…after the break!
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Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

The last year has been one of ups-and-downs for former Florida Gators dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews. From having to deal with an unfathomable episode regarding her privacy to performing on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and just recently signing a new two-year deal to remain a featured member of the ESPN broadcast team, Andrews has appeared strong, resilient and unrelenting. On the brink of the greatest undertaking of her career – hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU and joining the cast of Good Morning America – she took time out of her schedule to speak exclusively with OGGOA about her career as a Gators dazzler, recent trials and tribulations, perspective on her own fame and love for the University of Florida.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Growing up in Tampa, was the University of Florida always at the top of your list for college? How did you wind up there?
ERIN ANDREWS: “Growing up in Tampa, there are three schools: Florida State, Miami and Florida. Obviously because Florida was closest to Tampa, Tampa is really like Gator haven. I made the comment one day to my dad, which he’ll never let me live down…because I was such a sports fan growing up, I said to him, ‘Dad, I really want to go to a college that has a good football team.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, that’s a great thing to live by Erin. I’m glad that’s what you’re choosing your education by.’ At the time it sounded really stupid, but actually it was kind of funny that it worked out that way because by going to Florida, I knew they had a great journalism program, but also because Florida has such a good football team, we were exposed to TBS, we were exposed to ESPN, we were exposed to all the national sports media coming to the campus to see the team, to see [head coach Steve] Spurrier. That was really good for me to kind of be around that at the time. Actually, that wasn’t a stupid comment.

AS: How much of an influence did your father’s [six-time Emmy Award-winner Steve Andrews] profession have on your major and eventual career?
EA: “My dad played a huge part in it. I grew up with my father being on TV. It just wasn’t a big deal to me. We’d turn on the TV at 6:00 and there was my dad. I grew up at the TV station; I played around on the TV set. So that just wasn’t a big deal – being in front of the camera – because I was so used to [watching] my dad. He was a giant sports fan, so that’s where I got my passion for sports and watching it and becoming familiar with the broadcasters and announcers that I liked – and the athletes. That’s where it all just kind of snowballed. I decided that I wanted to be a broadcaster. I loved the stories with coaches and athletes. I told my dad when I was young, ‘I want to do this for a living.’ He also laughed at me and said, ‘You know, everybody wants to do this for a living.’ I went to Florida, we checked out the journalism school. I really liked it. I just enrolled and it began – the whole process. The first couple years at Florida you don’t really get a taste of your major until probably your junior and senior year – that’s when I was very serious about it.

AS: You obviously spent a good amount of time at Weimer Hall but some of your most exciting times were likely at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. While at Florida, you were famously a member of the Dazzlers for four years. Was that something you had planned on doing from the beginning?
EA: “I grew up dancing my whole life with my little sister [Kendra Andrews]. That was just something I knew that Florida had – a dance team. I loved mine growing up and the experience that I had. I actually auditioned my senior year of high school and didn’t make the team and then went back out my sophomore year and I was on the team my sophomore, junior and senior season[s].”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Erin Andrews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

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