TWO BITS: New RB offered, another Elam update

1 » Florida has just offered a scholarship to three-star running back recruit Shontrelle Johnson (Deland, FL) according to Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. “I’m gonna check it out,” said Johnson, who just recently committed to the Iowa State Cyclones. “It kinda shocked me but I don’t really know since it came so late in the season. You gotta check it out, it’s Florida, they got national championship and all that…but there are positives and negatives.” OGGOA believes the Gators’ offer to Johnson is a back-up plan in case four-star RB Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA) decommits.

2 » News broke Tuesday that five-star safety recruit Matt Elam, who was previously committed to Florida for over a year before recently switching to the Florida State Seminoles, was considering recommitting (must-read) to the Gators. Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post got the thoughts of those closest to Elam about his upcoming decision. “I just have to watch the [U.S. Army All-American] game Saturday and see what he’s going to do,” said Robert Clark, Elam’s Dwyer High School teammate and three-star Florida commitment. “He’s tricky. We had a conversation [Tuesday], and he said it’s 50-50 right now.” Elam’s Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels confirmed the indecision. “Now that Coach [Urban] Meyer’s back in the mix, he’s torn again,” Daniels said. “It sounds to me like Matt is still going to go to Florida State, but other people are saying other things. You could say he was doing it for the attention, but now the kid is confused. He likes both schools a lot. He’s having a hard time.”

UPDATE: Scout is reporting that Elam will choose between Florida, Florida State and the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday.

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FSU commit Matt Elam switching back to UF?

Five-star safety recruit Matt Elam (West Palm Beach, FL), formerly the prize of the Florida Gators 2010 recruiting class, decommitted and pledged to play for the Florida State Seminoles on New Year’s Eve. Elam, who appeared to waiver about his commitment throughout the entire recruiting process, reaffirmed his decision to play for the Gators numerous times over the last few months but changed his mind after learning about Meyer’s indecision on his future. Elam was flabbergasted.

Ignoring two of Meyer’s phone calls following the Florida coach’s decision to take a leave of absence two Sundays ago, Elam eventually picked up and spoke with Meyer sometime after the 2010 Sugar Bowl. “He tried [to sway me back], but it didn’t work,” Elam said of the phone call. Meyer, apparently, persisted.

Adam Gorney of Rivals spoke with Elam Tuesday and reports that the safety may be having second third fourth fifth sixth seventh thoughts about has commitment. Apparently Meyer and Elam had a “long and emotional conversation” with Elam telling Gorney that he “doesn’t think he can leave Meyer,” though he has yet to decommit.

“I talked to Urban last night,” Elam told Gorney. “We were talking about our relationship basically and he told me to have trust, to have trust in him and he asked me a word that really touched me. He said, ‘Do you know what faith means?’ and he told me the definition. It really touched me a lot. It really touched me so my decision might change. I’ve known him for a while. It’s been tough to leave him so I don’t know if I’ll be able to.”

Upon hearing this story, Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post contacted Elam and asked him point-blank if there was any chance he would spurn FSU for UF. “No,” Elam said. “Other players are probably telling them that.” If Gorney is sourcing Elam and Lieser is as well, someone obviously has the story wrong.

Elam will make his commitment official on Saturday during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. OGGOA will have full coverage of the event.

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Gator Bites for Tuesday, January 5th

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.

» A rumor making its way around the Web over the last few days states that former Florida Gators running backs coach Stan Drayton may return to the program if Kenny Carter bolts for the Louisville Cardinals. This is the same Drayton that left Florida for the Tennessee Volunteers and took this shot at the Gators and head coach Urban Meyer on his way out the door: “If you’re going to be a running backs coach, you want to be part of a system that involves the running back.” Not gonna happen.

» Another option at running backs coach could very well be former Florida RB Terry Jackson. A Gator great who was a member of the 1996 National Championship team and played seven years in the NFL, Jackson was named Director of Player and Community Relations at UF in March 2008. Jackson, whose father Willie Sr. and brother Willie Jr. also played at Florida, has thought about getting into coaching since finishing his pro career. Hiring Jackson could be a very smooth transition for the Gators.

» Speaking of Carter, four-star RB commit Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA) made news last night when he told two reporters that Carter was leaving the program for Louisville. However, Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel also spoke with Brown, who told him that Carter did not say he was leaving and that he “didn’t talk to him about it.” Perhaps Brown said something he wasn’t supposed to and is now being sush-ed about it?

» UPDATE: Brown provided more information about his feelings on Carter’s switch to Rivals Monday night. “I understand he had to do what he had to do,” he said. “I know he has a good relationship with coach Strong and he’s going to have a better position with more money coming in for his family. I’m still committed to Florida. I’m going to wait it out and see what happens. I’m confused. You’re supposed to commit to a school, but you get to know the coaches and they feel like family. All the coaches that I got to know over the last year, that I dealt with over the summer, they’re all leaving. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m going to have to talk about it with my family.”

» Brady Ackerman is reporting that Gators assistant defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chuck Heater turned down an offer from new Marshall Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday to be his team’s defensive coordinator. Heater wants the UF job badly. OGGOA continues to project him as the team’s next defensive coordinator.

» Ackerman also confirmed an OGGOA report that assistant head coach and defensive line coach Dan McCarney would only leave Florida if he was offered a head coaching position – presumably with the South Florida Bulls. Jim Leavitt has not been removed from his position there, and McCarney told reporters last week that he is not interested in the Gators’ defensive coordinator position.

» Five-star safety recruit Matt Elam (West Palm Beach, FL), a former Gators commit who spurned the team for the Florida State Seminoles, ignored two phone calls placed from Meyer last week. However, Elam finally picked up recently and said Meyer attempted to sway him back to UF. “He tried, but it didn’t work,” Elam said. Elam is expected to make his announcement at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday.

» OGGOA has heard a rumor from two very different sources that Meyer was either offered a contract or spoken to by ESPN about working for the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” should he eventually decide not to return to coaching. Not a shocker.

» Think Florida losing to the South Alabama Jaguars last week was a tough pill to swallow? Try being the No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels who fell Monday night to the College of Charleston Cougars.

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TWO BITS: Hernandez to NFL? Holliday hires GA

1 » If his touchdown celebration against the Florida State Seminoles, winning of the 2009 John Mackey Award and outstanding performances throughout the season were not enough for you to believe that Florida Gators junior tight end Aaron Hernandez was planning to declare for the 2010 NFL Draft, perhaps this piece of news will. Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Hernandez has been telling teammates and coaches that he will be leaving school for the draft in April. Junior cornerback Joe Haden has already declared and as many as five other juniors could join them.

2 » We here at OGGOA were excited to report on Dec. 16 that former Florida associate head coach, safeties coach and recruiting coordinator Doc Holliday had accepted the head coaching gig with the Marshall Thundering Heard. Now responsible for building his own staff, he has reached out to his roots for some assistance. Holliday has hired Florida graduate assistant Zach Smith as his wide receivers coach. Smith, a five-year assistant with the Gators, worked mostly with the offense and special teams while also doing quality control work and recruiting evaluation. “Zach is an outstanding young football coach who has a tremendous background and a bright future,” Holliday said. “He has spent the last five years working closely with Urban Meyer and has been heavily involved with their special teams and their great success.” Congratulations to Smith on his first coaching job.

Extra Bit » The NFL has announced that Minnesota Vikings rookie wide receiver/kick returner Percy Harvin has been added to the NFC‘s Pro Bowl roster as a kickoff return specialist. Harvin was added because Philadelphia Eagles WR/KR DeSean Jackson earned selections at both positions. Jackson received the most votes at WR, opening up the KR slot for the second-leading vote getter. “I feel blessed to make it to the Pro Bowl,” Harvin said Monday. “It is a great honor and humbling to be recognized by the other players and coaches in the NFC. I also want to thank all the fans who voted for me. But the biggest thanks goes to my teammates. I can’t do much of anything without the ten other guys blocking, so really it’s like a special teams honor for all of us.”

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FOUR BITS: Brantley, Azzanni, Riley, Tebow

1 » Known as “The Future” and “The Next Tom Brady” by redshirt junior guard Carl Johnson and many of his Florida Gators teammates, redshirt sophomore quarterback John Brantley’s time is now. “He’s going to be really good,” Johnson said when asked about Brantley by the Orlando Sentinel. With everyone focusing on who is departing Gainesville, FL, perhaps it is time to focus on the bright future ahead for some younger Gators. Though he will likely never match what senior QB Tim Tebow has done, Brantley doesn’t have to in order to be successful in Orange and Blue. “I’m not really trying to match [Tebow’s legacy],” Brantley said. “I just want to come out and not miss a beat when my number’s called and hopefully win championships as a starter if I get that opportunity. I don’t have to go in there thinking I have to do everything and make every play.”

2 » Brand new Florida wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni has removed his name from the candidate list for the Central Michigan Chippewas head coach job. “I will be staying in Florida and coaching with the Gators next year,” Azzanni told the Morning Sun. Azzanni did not tell the paper if he was contacted for an interview or offered the position, “but there was a possibility for him to go to Cincinnati with Butch Jones following Urban Meyer’s retirement talk last week,” according to the paper. “We’re always staying busy,” Azzanni said. “There is never a day off in college football. [Winning the Sugar Bowl] felt good. There are so many talented players on the team and everyone really welcomed me in. It was a great experience.”

3 » Now that five-star safety Matt Elam has decommitted from the Gators and joined the Florida State Seminoles, Florida is putting the full court press on four-star defensive back recruit Dietrich Riley (La Canada, CA). Participating in the Under Armour All-America game, Riley heard from plenty of UF commitments that he was wanted in the Orange and Blue next year. “Coach Meyer is still recruiting me hard and they told me I’m their safety to get now after Elam,” Riley told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. “They’ve been recruiting me since October and they’ve been telling me to sit tight and be patient and we’ll let you know which guys to go the NFL.” Meyer’s recent announcements have not swayed Riley from including the Gators in his top three. “I understand that he has to take care of his health first […] that’s primary, his family and his health. He’s doing what’s best for the program,” he said. “I talked with him and he said he plans on returing to the school and he’s going to be a Florida Gator no matter what. He’s not going to go to any other school, so I’m happy about that.”

4 » Speaking of Tebow, he should retire and never play football again. Well, that’s the opinion of at least one man – national columnist Gregg Doyel. Yup, Doyel believes Tebow will never reach a higher point in his career than he already has, is destined to fail in the NFL and should not even try to make it on the next level. Chomping: I guess I should have quit writing when I got my first article published by a major newspaper or when I won my first writing award, based on Doyel’s logic. At least there is one college football writer who refuses to bet against Tebow.

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Matt Elam drops Gators, commits to Seminoles

Five-star safety recruit Matt Elam (West Palm Beach, FL), formerly the prize of the Florida Gators 2010 recruiting class, has decommitted and pledged to play for the Florida State Seminoles. Elam, who appeared to waiver about his commitment throughout the entire recruiting process, reaffirmed his decision to play for the Gators numerous times over the last few months, most recently sporting a Florida jersey and declaring that he could not wait to enroll early in January. Now his jersey is garnet and gold.

“I just see better opportunity to come in and play and to have an impact as a freshman,” Elam told “They have two of the best cornerbacks in the country and I just feel like I can go in there and help make that secondary even better. They got three two of the best players in the country and I see along of things changing. It was on my mind, but today I really made the decision. I was sitting down thinking like I can make a difference, if I go to Florida I really can’t make a difference at Florida I can just jump on the bandwagon. I want to make a difference and I see a lot of good things there.”

Head coach Urban Meyer was the main reason Elam planned to attend the University of Florida, as he has been close with the coach ever since Meyer recruited his brother Abram Elam (now with the Cleveland Browns) to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. When Meyer briefly resigned on Saturday before deciding to take a leave of absence from the Gators instead, Elam became very upset.

“I feel like he knew before Saturday that he wanted to step down,” Elam Orlando Sentinel. Dorsey will visit the Tennessee Volunteers on Jan. 14, a trip scheduled before Meyer’s announcement. He has long been considered one of the most likely Gators commitments to decommit.

Photo Credit: Ray Graham, Palm Beach Post

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Cooper says white helmets will be shelved

As part of Nike‘s roll-out of their Pro Combat line of football gear, the Florida Gators sported new uniforms during the final home game of the season against the Florida State Seminoles. Senior wide receiver Riley Cooper said the players liked the look of the white “F” helmets so much that they elected to wear them for the 2009 SEC Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide. “They look cool,” Cooper said. “We all liked how they looked.”

Head coach Urban Meyer seems to have a superstition with uniforms, shelving certain color combinations and utilizing others more often when the team has success wearing them. Such is the reason, OGGOA believes, that fans no longer see the white jersey-orange pants combination and often see the all-blue and all-white uniform choices. Even the white jersey-blue pants uniform has become a rarity, though the blue jersey-white pants combination is used often.

Though the Nike Pro Combat uniforms were only a one-time promotional ploy, the Gators’ sporting the white “F” helmets for a second straight game led many fans to worry they might end up replacing the good ol’ orange helmets with the cursive “Gators” script.

Those fans should no longer be concerned with breaking tradition, according to Cooper. “It didn’t work out for us, so I don’t think we’ll wear those again,” he said. “I’m not wearing mine.” Not that Cooper would have a chance, seeing as Friday’s 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats is the last game of his college career.

While Florida’s 2010 uniforms will look the same as they have in the past, it is believed that the athletic department will use some of the Nike Pro Combat gear from a technical standpoint. Better gloves, lightweight, sweat-wicking fabrics and lighter shoes are all things that can give the Gators an advantage – especially in the smoldering Florida heat.

Nike’s Pro Combat uniforms are said to be 37% lighter than current designs and utilize a four-way stretch twill that does not hold sweat or water. Additional features include Nike’s Dri-FIT technology, evaporation and cooling zones, more padding zones and improved ventilation and breathability. Players also wore Nike Vapor Trail 2.0 gloves and Nike Zoom Air cleats that are lightweight and feature better cushioning in the heel.

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SIX BITS: Urban Meyer absence edition (Part 1)

1 » Urban Meyer’s Press Conference Transcript

2 » Perhaps the key component to Meyer’s recent decision and then about-face is the effect it will have on rival schools and coaches who will use it as an opportunity to pounce on the Florida Gators and their recruits. OGGOA starts the festivities with a piece from Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who contends that Meyer’s flip-flop is a bad sign for Florida and an opening for the Georgia Bulldogs. “Meyer isn’t so much on the clock now as he is looking at it,” Schultz writes before flip-flopping himself. “Don’t misunderstand. I’m not projecting the Gators’ program is going to implode. But odds are, the Gators take a significant step back.”

3 » Next to jump on the pile are the Tennessee Volunteers faithful. The Knoxville News-Sentinel named Gainesville, FL, the flip-flop coaching capital of the world. No real reason to click that link – not much to read there. Just covering all angles.

Check out three more BITS (worth reading) after the jump!!!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Urban Meyer absence edition (Part 1)

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