The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 27

Florida basketball staff reloads

Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan knew for a while that he would have two staffers leaving the program this offseason, and it all became a reality last week when assistant to the head coach Mark Daigneault and video coordinator Oliver Winterbone both departed to join the Oklahoma City Thunder organization.

Daigneault was hired as the head coach of the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the 66ers, while Winterbone accepted a basketball information analyst position with Oklahoma City’s front office. (The 66ers are moving from Tulsa to Oklahoma City this season.)

Donovan did not wait long to fill the staffing holes and keep his machine running.

On Tuesday, ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman reported that Donovan will hire veteran assistant coach Billy Schmidt to fill the off-court assistant position vacated by Daigneault.

Schmidt has spent the last 11 seasons coaching under Brian Gregory including eight at Dayton and the last three at Georgia Tech. He was Gregory’s first hire, joining the Flyers after spending nine seasons coaching in major conferences. Schmidt’s journey began as a manager with Wake Forest (1988-92) but continued with stops at Tennessee (1994-97), Northwestern (1997-2000) and under Tommy Amaker both at Seton Hall (2000) and Michigan (2001-03).

OnlyGators.com learned Monday evening that Donovan has also desired to hire Peter Gash to replace Winterbone as video coordinator.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 27

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Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2013 (see the Not Top 13 for 2013), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to earning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2013. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 13 for 2013.

13 » A NEW TRADITION
Florida’s football program did not get much right in 2013, but instituting a new pre-game tradition – a “celebrity” serving as Mr. Two Bits in honor of the original, George Edmondson – was absolutely a bright spot. The Gators also picked the perfect person to kick off the new tradition with former running back Errict Rhett performing as if he was made for the role. Others had trouble stepping up to the high benchmark set by Rhett, but the honorary Mr. Two Bits was nevertheless a great sight for fans all season long…even if the team was not. OnlyGators.com sat down with Rhett after his appearance for an extensive interview about the experience and his career.

12 » 15-INNING MARATHON
In the fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College Series (longest since 1992), Florida softball prevailed 9-8 over Nebraska in a night game that lasted 15 innings and more than five hours, spanning into the early morning of the next day. The Gators lost two separate leads in the contest before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th; UF conceded a run in the latter half of the inning but held on for the victory. Unfortunately for Florida, it had to suit up just hours later for an elimination game against Texas at 1 p.m., one it lost 3-0. The Gators were ranked No. 2 entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament but fell short of a title.

11 » ALL HE WANTED WAS A CHANCE


Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy waited patiently as he got overlooked time and time again, most recently by head coach Will Muschamp and his offensive coordinators in favor of younger players with higher ratings coming out of high school. When junior QB Jeff Driskel went down with a fractured fibula against Tennessee, Murphy finally got his shot and made the most of it. Over a three-game stretch including games on Sept. 21, Sept. 28 (at Kentucky) and Oct. 5 (vs. Arkansas), Murphy completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2 percent) for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. (He also gained 135 yards and picked up two more scores with his legs.) Unfortunately for him, Murphy injured his shoulder on Oct. 12 against LSU and was simply not the same player as he took the field in more pain than he or the coaching staff decided to admit publicly. Murphy missed the final three games of the season due to that injury and ultimately transferred, feeling Muschamp would not give him a fair chance to win the starting job in 2014.

Continue Reading » Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

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Gators RB Errict Rhett: “Hard work pays off.”

The only player in school history to lead the Florida Gators in rushing and all-purpose yards for four-straight seasons, running back Errict Rhett is one of the most accomplished players ever to wear the orange and blue.

Not only did he help lead Florida to two Southeastern Conference Championships in three seasons (1991, 1993), he was also a First Team All-SEC selection those years and a First Team All-American in the final season of his collegiate career.

A member of the UF Athletic Hall of Fame and Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame, Rhett concluded his Gators career with a school-record 4,163 yards and 34 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 1,230 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions.

His 873 career rushing attempts are also a school record, as are the 41 carries he registered in a single game against Georgia in 1993. He is third in the Florida history books in touchdowns scored (36) – behind a pair of fellow Gator Greats in Tim Tebow (57) and Emmitt Smith (37) – and is second all-time to Smith in both average rushing yards per game (90.5) and career 100-yard games (20).

Rhett is also fourth on Florida’s career receptions list with 153 – the only running back in the top 10 – and holds another Gators mark for most receiving yards by a running back. The 5,393 total yards he gained over the course of his career is tops among Florida student-athletes and nearly 600 more than the next player (Brandon James).

He then went on to the NFL as a second-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he compiled 2,218 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns during his first two seasons. Rhett stuck around the NFL for seven years, rushing for a total of 4,143 yards and 29 touchdowns while also spending time with Baltimore and Cleveland.

To put it succinctly, Rhett is the personification of success.

Though he has never stopped influencing the Gators football program, he returned to Gainesville, FL, last week to participate in a new tradition, becoming the first “Florida celebrity” to embody the role of Mr. Two Bits ahead of a home game.

OnlyGators.com caught up with Rhett for 45 minutes on Wednesday to discuss his motivation to succeed, storied Gators career and his epic performance last Saturday.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start off by talking about what happened most recently – you performing as Mr. Two Bits ahead of the Toledo game. What was that like for you?
ERRICT RHETT: “It felt real good to actually follow in a guy’s footsteps – Mr. Two Bits – he’s been a legendary part of the program. His motivational chant got guys so fired up and fired up the fans. I studied that guy. All I could tell is he did it different every time. But the one thing I did notice was that he just put so much passion and enthusiasm into it. I knew those are two attributes that I would have no problem bringing to the table, and I think I showed that off.”

AS: When you were a player, do you remember hearing the chant before the game even though you guys weren’t out on the field just yet?
ER: “You do hear it but you really don’t get into the wording because you’re so focused on the game. But you definitely hear loud yelling sounds. At first, I never knew what they were really saying. I just knew it was something that got the crowd so pumped up. It just vibrated the stadium.”

AS: Did you request to dress up like George Edmonson or was that something that went along with the whole ceremony?
ER: “I actually requested that right there because I definitely wanted to honor him with the loud yellow shirt with the exact same tie with the towel hanging out. I really, really studied him because that’s not a pretty easy thing to do. I really, really studied him for hours and hours. I knew I had the enthusiasm, but his hand movement to his feet movement to the way he moves his legs and his energy… I really studied him and I really wanted to do it the way he’s always done it. I wanted to follow tradition; I didn’t want to try it a different way. That’s what the University of Florida really believes in – tradition – and I wanted to keep it going the same way he did it.”

AS: You also got the chance to run out of the tunnel leading the team, probably the first time you’ve done that since the late 1990s. What was it like to do that again?
ER: “Oh, man, it is just a feeling that I wish that everybody in the entire world could actually run through a tunnel like that in front of 90,000 people. The adrenaline is unreal. It took me hours to calm down off that high. That’s just a high. I wish everyone could do that at least once a year. It’s unbelievable adrenaline that you have when you run through that tunnel. You can literally run through a wall. That’s the power that you feel when you run out there into a crowd 90,000 strong with your teammates. It’s a wonderful feeling. Very exciting.”

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8/26: Muschamp announces new Mr. Two Bits tradition, gives thoughts on upcoming season

Game Week – Monday: Opening Week Depth Chart | LB Antonio Morrison’s Suspension Reduced | RT Chaz Green Out for Season, RB Matt Jones Update

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss the team as it heads into its first game of the season on Saturday, Aug. 31 against Toledo. The game will kick off at 12:21 p.m. from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, and air live on SEC Network affiliate stations.

CELEBRITY MR. TWO BITS

Muschamp announced Monday that Florida will be honoring George Edmonson, better known as Mr. Two Bits, by continuing the tradition at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with Gators celebrities (rather than the mascot Albert) – leading the crowd in the traditional cheer – “Two Bits! Four Bits! Six Bits! A Dollar! All for the Gators, stand up and holler!” – before home games.

The first celebrity that will try to step into Edmondson’s bow tie? Former Florida running back Errict Rhett (1990-93).

“Errict Rhett will be the first guy to do that, certainly a passionate guy with a lot of energy. You talk to him on the phone he’s almost going to come through the phone on you there. He’s excited about it,” Muschamp said.

Added Rhett in a school release: “[Mr. Two Bits] always gets the crowd so excited. We’ve been down in games and all of a sudden you see him over there and he has so much enthusiasm, he gets the crowd pumped. There is not one dull moment.

“Every time he does it he puts his heart into it. I want to do the same thing, put all my enthusiasm into it. … I want to look exactly like him. I’ve been watching it and I can’t wait. I want it to be memorable.”

MAKING DUE AT TIGHT END

Two of the top tight end prospects in the country in 2012, sophomore Kent Taylor and redshirt freshman Colin Thompson, committed to the Gators but neither is in the two-deep depth chart at the start of the 2013 season. Instead, while Thompson holds on to the third-string role and Taylor is nowhere to be found, a pair of juniors have stepped up in starter Clay Burton and back-up Tevin Westbrook

Muschamp likes what Burton and Westbrook bring to the table for Florida and is positive that both will be able to contribute for the Gators this season.

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Review – ESPN documentary series SEC Storied: “The Play That Changed College Football”

The second of four documentaries set to air on ESPNU this year as part of the SEC Storied documentary series, “The Play That Changed College Football” is an intricate look at the first Southeastern Conference Championship Game played in 1992 between the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0) and No. 12 Florida Gators (8-3).

Directed by Jeff Cvitkovic and narrated by Luke Perry, the film is centered on the thesis that one game – and more specifically one play – “helped shape how conferences are constructed and championships are decided.”

When the SEC expanded to 12 teams (adding Arkansas and South Carolina) nearly two decades ago, then-commissioner Roy Kramer chose to format the conference into two six-team divisions and add a championship game that was previously unheard of in Division I college football.

The prevailing thought was that a SEC team would never win a national championship because even if one got through the regular season undefeated, the team could be canalized in the title game and ruin its chances at national glory. What Kramer saw, however, was not the risk but instead the rewards of increased exposure, television revenue and conference prestige.

“You had a chance to have a team play for the national championship. Now, all of a sudden if they lose this game, they’re gonna lose their shot at a national championship. I was concerned we had shot ourselves in the foot,” he admitted.

The former commissioner is honest and forthcoming when admitting that, while he may be considered a visionary now, he was one play away from potentially being a pariah. Luckily for him, the former came true and not the latter.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s review of ESPN’s latest documentary…after the break!
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Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

When college football fans think about Florida Gators football in the 1990s, three names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. A three-time first-team All-SEC selection (1990-92) who finished fifth in the 1991 Heisman Trophy voting as a junior, Matthews set Florida’s career passing yards record, led the SEC in passing for three consecutive years and led the Gators to their first official SEC Championship.

Finishing his college career 9,287 yards and 74 touchdowns, Matthews moved on to the NFL where he played for 14 seasons as mostly a back-up with Chicago, Carolina, Washington, Cincinnati, Buffalo and finally Miami.

Enshrined in the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2002, he spoke to us on Tuesday as a precursor to his involvement in the 90’s Gators Celebration benefiting Desire Street Ministries during this all-important weekend in Gainesville, FL (more information below).

Matthews gave us almost 30 minutes of his time; unfortunately, OGGOA experienced some technical difficulties during the interview. Even though 50 percent of the conversation was missed, we were able to recover a portion of it for publication, which you can read below along with some summary answers to our other questions.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent 14 years in the NFL, first seeing extensive playing time during your sixth season in 1999 (167-of-275 for 1,645 yards and 10 touchdowns). What did it feel when you were actually given the opportunity to show your stuff?
SHANE MATTHEWS: “The reason I lasted as long as I did in the NFL was because of my mind. I could learn plays in a second, an entire playbook in a day and never have to look at it again. I was only 6’3” 190 lbs. at the most. Didn’t have the arm strength or the size to take a pounding, but when I did get my chance, I had some good games and some good moments, but I also had some bad ones. That just comes with the position. You’re going to play well at times, you’re going to play poorly at times. I enjoyed my 14 years in the NFL. In 14 years, I think I only played in 35 games, so I knew my role on teams – didn’t rock the boat – tried help the other quarterbacks and the coaching staff knew they could count on me.”

AS: With Saturday’s game featuring two of Florida’s greatest coaches, how do you compare and contrast Spurrier and current head coach Urban Meyer?
SM: “Urban and coach Spurrier are a lot alike – extremely strong competitors. However, they run their programs differently. Urban’s a great motivator, kind of runs a tight ship and keeps everybody in line, where coach Spurrier is kind of that laid back southern personality. His practices are more laid back and relaxed by comparison. The biggest thing is, coach Spurrier is an offensive-minded head coach where Urban is a defensive-minded head coach. Both of them have done a tremendous job for the University of Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Shane Matthews…after the break!
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Florida Gators’ 2010 Nike Pro Combat uniforms

Click above to enlarge.

For the second straight year, the No. 3/4 Florida Gators have been chosen by Nike as one of 10 schools which will wear special uniforms for at least one game during the 2010-11 season. Just like in 2009, Florida will be outfitted in the Nike Pro Combat System of Dress, uniforms “engineered to provide superior protection and durability, while utilizing advanced fabrics and tooling to reduce weight.”

Florida’s version, which features an “alligator-skin motif used in the jersey numbers, pant, gloves and footwear inspired by [the] menacing Gator mascot,” will be worn on Oct. 30 against Georgia at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, FL, (and perhaps on other occasions if the team so chooses). The theme of the 2010 design is “PRIDE,” which is stitched on the inside collar of the jersey and located on the gloves.

Click each picture below to see a larger, more detailed version.

Alabama (11/13), Boise State (9/6), Miami (FL) (11/20), Ohio State (11/27), Oregon State (12/4), Pittsburgh (11/26), Texas Christian (9/4), Virginia Tech (9/6) and West Virginia (11/26) are the other nine schools who will be participating in Nike’s campaign.

Florida was represented Wednesday by former running back Errict Rhett, who led the Gators in rushing for four-straight seasons and played seven years in the NFL.

DETAILED HQ IMAGES: Standing | Helmet | Jersey | Pants | Gloves | Cleats

WALLPAPERS: Nike Desktop | Nike iPhone | OGGOA Desktop | OGGOA iPhone

OGGOA RELATED: Early details emerge about Florida Gators’ 2010 Nike Pro Combat uniforms

Photo Credits: Nike

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Early details emerge about Florida Gators’ 2010 Nike Pro Combat uniforms

OGGOA UPDATED: Florida Gators’ 2010 Nike Pro Combat uniforms

For the second straight year, the Florida Gators have been chosen by Nike as one of 10 schools which will wear special uniforms for at least one game during the 2010-11 season. Just like in 2009, Florida will be outfitted in the Nike Pro Combat System of Dress, which are uniforms “engineered to provide superior protection and durability, while utilizing advanced fabrics and tooling to reduce weight.”

The Gators’ 2009 uniforms were centered around the theme “Finish the Mission” and included Nike Vapor Trail 2.0 gloves with a Gator Head logo, a white helmet with a blue F, and a special blue jersey with unique graphics. Though the 2010 version will not officially be released until Wednesday at 10 a.m., OGGOA has uncovered some details about the uniform.

Florida’s jersey will feature an “alligator-skin motif used in the jersey numbers, pant, gloves and footwear inspired by [the] menacing Gator mascot.” It will be worn on Oct. 30 against Georgia at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, FL, and perhaps on other occasions if the team so chooses.

Alabama (11/13), Boise State (9/6), Miami (FL) (11/20), Ohio State (11/27), Oregon State (12/4), Pittsburgh (11/26), Texas Christian (9/4), Virginia Tech (9/6) and West Virginia (11/26) are the other nine schools who will be participating in Nike’s campaign.

Florida will be represented Wednesday by former running back Errict Rhett, who led the Gators in rushing for four-straight seasons and played seven years in the NFL.

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