FOUR BITS: Florida Field, Bullard, Pease, Donovan

1 » With renovations to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium almost consistently occurring since 2003, it was only a matter of time before the University of Florida also decided to make some changes inside the bowl. In June the Florida Gators completely removed the playing surface and installed a new field of Celebration Bermuda grass, a renovation that takes place once every 7-10 years, according to Florida’s senior associate athletics director of internal affairs Chip Howard. OGGOA learned late Tuesday evening that what is being painted on that new grass will also be changing. According to information obtained by this website, the Gators will be removing the block “F” from midfield and replacing it with a Gator Head, the school’s primary athletic logo. Additionally, Florida will replace the Gator Head logos that were previously found on the 35-yard lines with the slanted “F” that is steadily being used more and more including in the end zones.

UF has also begun the process of changing the font adorning The Swamp‘s famous orange walls (see the picture above from July 27). It is believed that all four will retain their respective sayings – “This is…The Swamp,” “This is…Gator Country,” “Home of the Florida Gators” – in the new lettering. Making adjustments to the walls and field are not new for the Gators. The block “F” at midfield at one time replaced the intertwined “UF” that is still used occasionally by the baseball team. The walls were previously painted blue with orange letters in a different font prior to being repainted orange with the lettering that many have grown used to over the last few decades. One of the walls also used to read “This is…Florida Field” before former head coach Steve Spurrier coined the term “The Swamp” in the 1990s and the school decided to make a change.

Read three more BITS of Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Florida Field, Bullard, Pease, Donovan

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FOUR BITS: Miller, Haslem win; Swamp; Young

1 » Former Florida Gators guard Mike Miller and power forward Udonis Haslem celebrated mightily Thursday evening as their team, the Miami Heat, captured the 2012 NBA Championship with a 4-1 series victory over Oklahoma City. The title is Miller’s first but Haslem’s second as he was also a member of the Miami team that won the 2006 championship. It is the second-straight year that a former Florida player will receive an NBA ring as G Corey Brewer captured one during his short stay with Dallas in 2011. Haslem averaged approximately three points and five rebounds in 18 minutes per game in the Finals, while Miller saw much less court time in the series but had a fantastic Game 5 with 23 points on 7-of-8 shooting from downtown.

2 » Following up on a BIT from early Thursday, which noted that Florida has the eighth-most players selected in the NBA Draft since 2002 and one-fifth of all Southeastern Conference players selected, is this chart from the Wall Street Journal, which notes that the Gators 10 NBA players played the sixth-most total minutes of any school in the league this year. Florida’s players totaled 12,652 NBA minutes this year, slightly less than Arizona’s representatives but far fewer than Duke (21,609), UCLA (18,029), Kentucky (17,159) and North Carolina (16,904).

3 » Pictures of Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium being under construction have made their rounds on Twitter over the last few days, most of which consisted of an empty playing surface that consisted of dirt and machinery. The Gators officially announced the construction project on Thursday, noting that a new playing surface will be installed consisting of Celebration Bermuda grass rather than Tifway 419 Bermuda, which is what was in The Swamp previously. “Every seven to 10 years you need to completely renovate a grass field,” said Chip Howard, Florida’s senior associate athletics director of internal affairs. “Over the years of resodding and painting, the ground gets contaminated and the crown of the field gets thrown off a little bit just because of overuse.” To that end, UF has removed the turf and 6-8 inches of topsoil but will instal the new grass in July so it is ready in time for the beginning of the football season.

4 » All Gators fans are understandably excited about the inaugural Navy/Marines Corps Classic featuring Florida basketball facing Georgetown on Nov. 9 in Jacksonville, FL. But junior center Patric Young, a Jacksonville native, is perhaps even more pumped for the game. “It’s very exciting and pretty cool,” Young told The Florida Times-Union. “Hopefully, they’ll make special jerseys for the game. I know they did in last year’s game. It’s an honor and a great opportunity that only select teams get to have. […] It definitely adds to my excitement that the game is in my hometown. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of people while I’m there and having all my family there.” He is also excited about the potential opportunity to play in front of President Barack Obama should he choose to attend the game. “Normally, it doesn’t matter who is in the crowd,” Young said, “but when you are talking about the most powerful man in the free world, you think about that.”

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FOUR BITS: Pro Day, Tim Tebow, tennis, WBK

1 » Though the date has been set for at least a few weeks now, the Florida Gators officially announced this week that the team will hold its Pro Day on March 13. Free and open to the public, Pro Day will feature a number of draft-eligible Gators working out for NFL scouts and coaches from around the league right on Florida Field in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida also announced that seven players who graduated in 2011 – quarterback John Brantley, defensive end William Green, defensive tackle Jaye Howard, defensive back Moses Jenkins, running back Chris Rainey and wide receiver Deonte Thompson – are scheduled to participate. Also in attendance to work out for scouts will be former Gators including DT Troy Epps, DT Lawrence Marsh, DB Dorian Munroe, DB Wondy Pierre-Louis and WR Justin Williams.

2 » EA Sports announced via their Facebook page that QB Tim Tebow is one of two Denver Broncos players representing his team in the online voting for cover athlete for the Madden NFL 13 video game. Voting begins March 7; after the field is cut down to 32 players, head-to-head votes will take place until the final cover athlete is picked. Tebow, who was on the cover of NCAA Football 11 two years ago, may actually want to avoid winning this contest due to the dreaded and much-publicized Madden curse.

3 » No. 15 Florida women’s tennis (6-1) swept the Florida State Seminoles (5-4) at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex for the team’s 99th consecutive home victory. The Gators, now 52-1 all-time against the Seminoles, beat their in-state rivals 7-0. The No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen won 8-2, leading the way for three doubles victories. No. 1 Will (6-1, 6-2), No. 39 Oyen (6-2, 6-1), No. 18 senior Joanna Mather (6-3, 6-1), No. 23 junior Lauren Embree (6-2, 6-2) and sophomore Olivia Janowicz (6-4, retired) all won their singles matches as well in the rout. Florida will compete in back-to-back road meets against Tennessee on Friday and Georgia on Sunday before returning to Gainesville, FL looking for their 100th straight win at home next Friday against Vanderbilt.

4 » Eight-seed Gators women’s basketball (18-11, 8-8 SEC) is set to begin action in the 2012 SEC Tournament by taking on the nine-seed Auburn Tigers (13-16, 5-11 SEC) on Thursday at 1 p.m. With the game airing live on FOX Sports Network, fans can watch as Florida tries to pull out a victory for the opportunity to square-off with one-seed Kentucky on Friday at 1 p.m.

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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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FOUR BITS: Dillman hired? Rosario, Kitchens

1 » According to the coaching news website CoachingSearch.com, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp has hired Jeff Dillman as the team’s next director of strength and conditioning. Dillman, who OGGOA reported last week was a top candidate for the job, is currently the head of physical conditioning for the IMG Performance Institute. A former college football player, he served as an assistant strength coach at LSU under head coach Nick Saban and was also the former director of strength and conditioning at Appalachian State during the team’s back-to-back national championship seasons. OGGOA will have more on Dillman when/if the University of Florida officially announces a hire, which is likely to come after the bowl game next Monday.

2 » Putting together a short preview for the 2012 Gator Bowl, which will be played on Monday, Jan. 2 at 1 p.m., SI.com’s Cory McCartney uncovered an interesting “did you know” fact. “The Gators ran the fewest offensive plays of any team in the nation this season with 735,” McCartney wrote. As luck would have it for Florida, the Ohio State Buckeyes were not far behind, running just 12 more offensive plays on the year. UF actually ranks ahead of OSU in total offense (101st to 107th) heading into the game; the Gators also check in better than the Buckeyes defensively (9th to 24th).

3 » When Florida basketball’s 2011-12 schedule was released, there was no doubt that redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario was eyeing the team’s road game at the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the team he transferred from two seasons ago. However, due to a back injury that began acting up on him over a week ago, it appears as if Rosario will be out for the game even if he will once again grab a seat in the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Head coach Billy Donovan said last week that Rosario was “doubtful” for the game, especially because he would be going home for Christmas and not available to do rehabilitation with the Gators’ training staff. SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria spoke with a “family source” who said that Rosario is not expected to suit up. “He’s still questionable,” the person said. “He wants to play, but I don’t think he’s going to play.”

4 » One of the last football moments fans will remember from the 2011 is a scary incident involving Gators sophomore linebacker Darrin Kitchens laying motionless on Florida Field after being hit hard while on special teams during a kickoff against Florida State. Speaking with UF senior writer Scott Carter recently, Kitchens said the entire moment is a blur. “I don’t really remember anything,” he said. “I remember running down the field and my chin strap came loose, so I was trying to buckle it up. That’s the last thing I remember. The next thing I know I was talking to my trainer.” Kitchens, who was placed on a spinal board and taken to the hospital for evaluation, was cleared that evening with “just” a concussion, a relief to his family, friends, teammates and the coaching and training staffs. He returned to practice prior to the short break for Christmas and should be active for the Gator Bowl. Carter spoke extensively with Kitchens, teammates, staff members and trainers about the incident in a feature story you can read by clicking here.

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Muschamp and Saban push relationships aside, put Saturday’s focus on Florida vs. Alabama

It would be nice to forget the Star Wars references and the other minutiae surrounding Saturday evening’s showdown between the No. 12 Florida Gators and No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in Gainesville, FL, but the truth is that it is just the second of three games during the 2011 season in which Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s relationship with his former co-workers becomes a hot topic of conversation.

At least this story does not involve a beach house.

A linebackers coach and eventual defensive coordinator under now-Alabama head coach Nick Saban for four years at LSU and one with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, Muschamp undoubtedly learned quite a bit from the two-time national champion who is considered to be one of the nation’s top college football minds.

Muschamp recounted Monday that, more than anything else, the mutual respect Saban shared with his staff is why people are so loyal to him to this day.

“Nick never asked me to do anything as an assistant coach he didn’t do as a head coach from a work standpoint as far as film preparation, from a recruiting standpoint as far as evaluation and going out and recruiting,” he said. “He’s a guy who works extremely hard. He’s got a great work ethic in what he does.”

Even though he is compared to his former boss on what seems like a daily basis, Muschamp explained that they are not and should not be considered the same coach.

Some of their philosophies, however, are indeed parallel.

“I wouldn’t just say you could point one thing and say it’s this [is what I learned from Saban]. I think there’s a lot of things,” he said. “Program management. Philosophically knowing who you want to be. Offense, defense, special teams. Identifying in the recruiting process what kind of player you’re recruiting from a critical factor standpoint – not just from what the speed and the height and the weight. All the intangible qualities. From a total program management [standpoint], [I’ve learned] a lot.“

It all started back in December 2000 when Muschamp visited good friend Jimbo Fisher, a quarterbacks coach and eventual offensive coordinator under Saban at LSU, as his team was preparing for the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, GA. Muschamp and Saban hit it off and parted ways 20 minutes later. Little did the young coach know he would receive a phone call that offseason from Saban to come in for an interview.

That meeting that led to a job offer and a five-year working relationship.

“I wouldn’t be probably standing here today if it wasn’t for the opportunity he gave me at LSU to be a position coach and then naming me the coordinator,” Muschamp said.

Saban looked back Monday on the characteristics that made Muschamp stand out then and continue to make him a successful coach to this day.

“Will is a good coach because he’s a great teacher,” Saban said. “He is a really hard worker. He’s got about as much passion and enthusiasm as anyone that you’re ever going to be around, and he relates well with the players. The players sort of feed off his passion and enthusiasm, in terms of the way he coaches and what he does. He believes in the fundamental of discipline and hard work, commitment, those types of things that are sort of fundamental to being successful. He’s always done a great job.”

Though the two have “a really good relationship,” according to Saban, they have not spoken this season as each is too busy for pleasantries. That will change on Saturday when the former co-workers see each other before and after the game.

Saban did not go into too much detail about his thoughts on Florida’s team during his press conference on Monday, mostly commenting about the speed of running backs redshirt senior Chris Rainey and senior Jeff Demps as well as the improvement of redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley.

Muschamp, on the other hand, was thorough in his depiction of Alabama.

“When you turn the film on, you see a physically tough football team that plays with fundamentals. That’s what [Saban] is and that’s what he preaches everyday and it certainly carries over on film as far as who they are and what they are,” he said.

“Offensively, Jim McElwain – their coordinator – is a guy I have a lot of respect for. He’s not a guy that’s concerned about stats. He’s concerned about winning football games. They do a good job of running the football and the play actions off of that. Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy are two outstanding backs. A.J. McCarron is very efficient with only two interceptions so far this season – managed their football team well in what they’ve asked him to do. Marquis Maze is a young man who you’ve got to always account for him. He’s played there a long time. He’s been a four-year starter for them and in the return game has done a nice job for them. And their offensive line does a really good job in the run game, getting a hat on a hat.

“Defensively, Kirby Smart’s a guy that I think does a great job and they’ve got a bunch of guys that have played a lot of football. You look at [Mark] Barron and [Dont’a] Hightower, [Dre] Kirkpatrick, [Courtney] Upshaw, all those guys played two years ago there in Pasadena. They were starters then. They do a nice job defensively. Playing on the line of scrimmage they’re very well tied together as far as their unit is concerned.”

Luckily for both coaches, their relationship will not factor into the result of the game. That will be decided on Florida Field when the Gators and Crimson Tide meet at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The game will air live on CBS.

“I know there will be a lot of [wondering] if there is an advantage. There is no advantage. He knows me as well as I know him. There is no advantage in this game,” Muschamp said matter-of-factly. “Thank goodness for the 90,000 people in The Swamp and for the millions watching. He or I will not take a snap Saturday night, so that’s the very positive thing.”

Photo Credit: Icon SMI

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Women’s football clinic was one for the books

Long-time OGGOA reader Jennifer contacted us last week and offered to share with our readers her experience at the Florida Gators’ annual Women’s Football Clinic hosted this year for the first time by new head coach Will Muschamp. Below is her account from the exciting day (pictures included).

I heard about this event about a year ago and always thought it sounded interesting. After rounding up a couple of friends, we registered and were off to Gainesville. The day started in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom. After checking in, where we were given a t-shirt and small goodie bag, we were free to roam around the ballroom and meet the coaches. Even though I am a huge sports and Gators fan, with all of the new coaching changes, the only coaches I could recognize at first were Coach Muschamp, [linebackers/special teams coach] D.J. Durkin and [defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn. As we walked around we got autographs, took pictures and briefly chatted with the assistant coaches and grad assistant coaches. All were very friendly and seemed pumped up about the day’s activities.

One coach stood out among our favorites for his personality and friendliness, which only got better throughout the day. That was tight ends coach Derek Lewis. He was funny, saying a few times to the ladies throughout the morning and during some of the presentations that “tight ends” really are a football position. Another of our favorites was [wide receivers coach] Aubrey Hill, who when we took pictures with him, told us to “bring it in tight” and pulled us close for a picture with a huge smile on his face.

After mingling with the coaches in attendance, we proceeded to buy some raffle tickets and then moved over to the longest line, which was the opportunity to get a professional picture take with Coach Muschamp. We weren’t allowed to get his autograph or take our own pictures here, but many had the opportunity to do so later in the day as he was walking around. Also in attendance were Muschamp’s two boys and his wife, though they weren’t introduced to the crowd.

Everyone took their seats and the crowd got to listen to Coach Muschamp. It was similar to what you reported from the local Gator Gatherings. Then the crowd was given the opportunity to ask questions. He said why a few of the coaches couldn’t make it that day including [offensive coordinator] Charlie Weis, who he said had knee replacement surgery on Wednesday, and Mickey Marotti, who had a family obligation and “family comes first.” Coach Muschamp said he finished moving to Gainesville on Thursday and jokingly added that he still had lots of extra boxes, if anyone had extra time.

Read the rest of Jennifer’s story from the clinic including a few interesting details related to the football team…after the break!
Continue Reading » Women’s football clinic was one for the books

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FOUR BITS: Weekend filled with wins for Gators

1 » The Florida Gators’ No. 18 pairing of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Sofie Oyen captured the 2010 USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship in women’s doubles over the weekend, defeating the Clemson Tigers’ No. 5 duo of Josipa Bek and Keri Wong 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 at the USTA-Billie Jean King National Tennis Complex in Flushing, NY, on Sunday. Will and Oyen got revenge over Bek and Wong, the only team to defeat them this season in their 11-1 campaign. Bek and Wong were victorious in Will and Oyen’s opening match of the season; since the loss they have won 11-straight contests.

2 » Having a more difficult time over the weekend was No. 1/1 Florida volleyball (22-1, 15-0 SEC), which remained undefeated in Southeastern Conference play after squeaking out a five-set victory (25-23, 18-25, 21-25, 25-23, 15-11) on the road against the Auburn Tigers (17-11, 8-8 SEC) at the Student Activities Center in Auburn, AL. Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers sparked the Gators offense with a double-double on a season-high 15 kills and 13 digs. Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy contributed another double-double (her 10th in a row) with 11 kills and 25 assists; junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel added nine kills and 10 digs, and senior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe accounted for season-highs in kills (12) and blocks (9).

3 » Gators sophomore tennis player Bob van Overbeek won the Texas Invitational singles title on Sunday, defeating Oklahoma’s Peerakit Siributwong in straight sets (6-1, 6-3) in Austin, TX.

4 » On this day 80 years ago, Florida Field opened to the public with Florida taking on on Alabama. Though it would be re-named Ben Hill Griffin Stadium just under 59 years later, the traditions all began on this day. Here are just a few other things that happened in 1930: the Great Depression, Mickey Mouse was invented, Scotch Tape was created, Mahatma Gandhi protested the British monopoly on salt, Constantinople became Istanbul, Twinkies were invented, the first night game in baseball history was played, and George Washington was added to Mount Rushmore.

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