Elam still committed to UF but FSU has a chance

High school sports reporter Jason Lieser over at the Palm Beach Post was able to pull a plethora of information from five-star Florida Gators safety commitment Matt Elam on Tuesday night at the 2009 Lou Groza Award banquet regarding his status with the school and future in college football. (He won the award for the second consecutive season.) Elam, who committed to the Gators in October 2008, has wavered the last two months about whether or not he would actually attend Florida when he enrolls early after this semester. It is a widely held belief that Elam is doing this simply for the buzz and attention as his high school career comes to a close, though some Gators fans are legitimately concerned that he could bolt for another program before officially signing.

Scheduled for an official visit to Gainesville, FL, this weekend, Elam has already signed his enrollment forms for Florida. They will be processed after he graduates from Dwyer High School in December (a semester early) so he can begin participating in spring practices in January…as long as he does not change his mind. “I’m committed to Florida,” Elam told the Post. “I’m still doing some thinking. I’ll do my official visit this weekend and I’ll make my decision after.”

Tennessee Volunteers head coach Lane Kiffin met with Elam at his school in October (OGGOA Exclusive) and returned for a second visit Tuesday. “I could go to Tennessee, but, no, I’m committed to Florida,” Elam said at the banquet.

Also visiting him on Tuesday was new Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher. If any team could pry Elam away from the Gators at this point, he says it would be Seminoles. Gaining the commitment of four-star linebacker Jeff Luc (Port St. Lucie, FL) last week, FSU has peaked Elam’s interest. “That got my attention,” he said.

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FOUR BITS: No excuses, Foley, rating, softball

1 » Speaking with reporters following the 2009 SEC Championship, Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong refused to make excuses for his unit’s shortcomings. “We just didn’t play well at all,” Strong said. “We didn’t get off the field on third down. It was one of our worst performances in a long time. We can’t worry about one player [junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap]. He could have been hurt on the first play. [Alabama] showed nothing new. If you don’t tackle well, you give up big plays.”

2 » Saturday’s game garnered the highest rating ever for the SEC Championship on CBS, scoring an 11.8/24 or 13 percent higher than 2008’s 10.4/21. The rating peaked at a 13.0/24 from 7:00-7:30 p.m. (EST). It also reportedly set a record for CBS’s online streaming service, at least quadrupling their previous high of requests.

3 » The Birmingham News praised Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley for showing class and going over to the Alabama Crimson Tide‘s athletic department at the end of the game to congratulate them. “There’s a reason the Florida AD is considered the best in the business, and it’s not just because of all the championships his teams have won and all the money his school has made,” the article states. “That was a championship moment by a man whose team just saw its championship run come to an end.”

4 » Lake Wales, FL, softball pitcher Hannah Rogers always wanted to play for the Gators. When she was not offered a scholarship early on in the recruiting process, Rogers committed to the Florida State Seminoles. That was until a roster spot opened up on Florida’s roster and head coach Tim Walton offered her a scholarship. “It’s exciting because ever since I was little, I wanted to go to Florida,” she said. “It was a real emotional decision […], but I knew that Gainesville felt more like home to me.”

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Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will grade the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA. Following those grades, OGGOA has provided its overlooked grades (without explanations) for the Florida State Seminoles game.

Florida seemingly decided to put the entire offense on senior quarterback Tim Tebow’s shoulders. How else could you explain the 35 passing attempts and team-high 10 carries? On the ground, Tebow rushed for 63 yards. Through the air, he completed 57 percent of his passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw a costly interception into the end zone and came up short on numerous occasions. Like the strategy or not, Tebow was responsible for almost every offensive snap of an offense that failed to get the job done against a stout Alabama defense.

Inexplicably, Florida’s running backs touched the ball a total of three times on Saturday. Three. In the Gators’ first 12 games, sophomore Jeff Demps averaged eight carries (7.7 yards), redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey averaged seven touches (6.4 yards) and redshirt junior transfer Emmanuel Moody averaged five rushes (7.3 yards). That is a total of 20 running plays and well over 100 yards of rushing that were not part of Florida’s offensive game plan. The only possible grade for this unit is “incomplete.”

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the SEC Championship after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

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Gator Bites for Sunday, December 6th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across too many news items we want to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

– Reports were released early Sunday that Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer was hospitalized late Saturday night with chest pains. However, Meyer actually checked himself into Shands hospital in Gainesville, FL, early Sunday morning. He was treated and released for dehydration. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Meyer “worked late recruiting Saturday night after the Southeastern Conference Championship game loss to Alabama, which may have contributed to his dehydration.” ESPN has the story:

– Four-star linebacker Jeff Luc (Port St. Lucie, FL), a recruit who was highly coveted by the Gators, committed to the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday according to Aaron Shepard, one of his high school coaches. “He said he’s been a fan since he’s been a little kid and it just felt like home since he went up there this weekend,” Shepard told The Orlando Sentinel on Sunday.

– Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong told reporters on Saturday that he has not yet spoken to the Louisville Cardinals and had no planned meeting with the school on Sunday. Sunday morning, the Cardinals spoke with Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and received permission to speak with Strong about the job opening. According to ESPN’s Joe Schad on twitter, Strong and Louisville AD Tom Jurich have plans to meet Sunday night in Gainesville, FL.

– The Gators will likely face the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl. Meyer played defensive back for the Bearcats from 1983-1986.

– Former Alabama Crimson Tide running back Shaun Alexander, a close friend of senior quarterback Tim Tebow for some time, was seen consoling him late after the game in the Georgia Dome.

– Prior to the Miami Dolphins game on Sunday, former middle linebacker Channing Crowder ran out of the tunnel and gave a huge Gator Chomp to the crowd (which received a surprising ovation). Crowder was responsible for the game-clinching interception with 0:35 left in the fourth quarter as the Dolphins defeated the New England Patriots.

– Also a huge day for former Florida wide receiver Louis Murphy with the Oakland Raiders. Murphy caught four balls for 128 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers to give his team a 27-24 win.

– Competing in the 2010 Under Armour All-American Game are the following Florida commitments: Joshua Shaw (CB; Palmdale, CA), Jonathan Dowling (S; Southeast, FL), Demar Dorsey (S; Boyd Anderson, FL), Solomon Patton (WR; Murphy, AL), Leon Orr (DT; Gulf, FL), Mack Brown (RB; Martin Luther King, GA), Ian Silberman (OT; Fleming Island, FL). These recruiting prospects (among others) will also be playing in the game: Chris Dunkley (WR; Pahokee, FL), Kadron Boone (WR; Trinity Catholic, FL), Lamarcus Joyner (CB; St. Thomas Aquinas, FL), Cody Riggs (CB; St. Thomas Aquinas, FL), Chaz Green (OT; Tampa Catholic, FL), Devin Gardner (QB; Inkster, MI), Eric Mack (OG; Calhoun County, SC). For the star ratings of the Gators commits found in this list, visit OGGOA‘s recruiting page.

OGGOA will continue to update you with news throughout the day, so stay tuned.

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Poll Reviews: FIU/FSU MVP, most important

Over the past two weeks, OGGOA asked you to participate in three polls. The first two determined your Most Valuable Players for the Florid International Golden Panthers and Florida State Seminoles games, while the third determined which administrator was most important to University of Florida athletics. An OGGOA-record total of 875 combined votes (292 average) were cast, and the results are in:

Who was your Florida Gators MVP vs. FIU?
QB Tim Tebow (50%, 92 votes)
QB John Brantley (25%, 47 votes)
RB Chris Rainey (13%, 25 votes)
LB Brandon Spikes (12%, 22 votes)

Who was your Florida Gators MVP vs. FSU?
QB Tim Tebow (77%, 203 votes)
TE Aaron Hernandez (21%, 55 votes)
LB Brandon Hicks (1%, 4 votes)
RB Jeff Demps (1%, 3 votes)

Tebow’s third and fourth OGGOA MVP honors came in back-to-back weeks for the first time all season. His previous victories were against Georgia and Arkansas. Both victories are well-deserved, especially the Florida State one seeing as Tebow put up five touchdowns and had his best performance of the season.

Who has done more for the Florida Gators?
AD Jeremy Foley (39%, 166 votes)
HC Steve Spurrier (32%, 135 votes)
HC Urban Meyer (27%, 114 votes)
HC Billy Donovan (2%, 9 votes)

Reviewing the results of this poll, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the respect and appreciation for what Foley has done for UF’s athletic program is wide-spread. Often times, fans look at the coaches and players and do not know who is really taking care of things behind the scenes. Though I do not need to convince you to vote for Foley, this is just a taste of what he has done since becoming the athletic director in 1992. He hired Meyer, Donovan, Becky Burleigh (soccer), Tim Walton (softball) while retaining Buddy Alexander (men’s golf) and Mary Wise (volleyball) and helping the Gators finish as the top-ranked overall program in the Southeastern Conference in 15 of his 16 years.

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SIX BITS: Kiffin, Moody, SEC, Nixon, Bowden

1 » The Tennessee Volunteers may be 7-5 with a .500 record in the Southeastern Conference, but far be it for head coach Lane Kiffin to keep his mouth shut – especially when getting a chance to talk about the coaching staff of the No. 1 Florida Gators. When asked about the SEC Championship game, Kiffin responded in the only way possible for him. “Florida has better players, Alabama has better coaches,” he said.

2 » Florida junior transfer running back Emmanuel Moody (ankle) practiced at full speed on Tuesday and will be active for Saturday. Head coach urban Meyer worked the Gators on the field turf practice field in order to best simulate the Georgia Dome field.

3 » The Gators have appeared in the SEC Championship game nine times while the Crimson Tide have only made six appearances – all against Florida. In those games, Alabama is 2-4 with wins in 1992 and 1999.

4 » Starting the last three games, freshman left tackle Xavier Nixon has been a notable addition to Florida’s offensive line. The rebuilt unit has only allowed senior quarterback Tim Tebow to be sacked four times; he was sacked 21 times in the nine prior games. “You need that presence inside, and when coach [Steve] Addazio did that, that was a great tactical move,” Meyer said. “X has gotten a lot better. X did not play great Saturday. He had some missed assignments, but the one thing about him is he plays hard. He has a passion. He’ll get better.” Junior right guard Mike Pouncey agrees. “Xavier’s been playing good,” he said. “He’s been playing better than the other guys that were in there. Moving Carl [Johnson] inside is a big key.”

5 » During his post-practice press availability, Meyer showed his respect for Florida State Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden. “I’m good friends with coach Bowden, and I have a lot of respect for him,” he said. “He’s great for college football. [44 years of coaching] is a long time. [I] just want to go another week. You admire a guy that had the stamina and [did] it the right way. That’s the thing you always admire about coach Bowden – he’s done it the right way.”

6 » Florida women’s basketball (3-4) fell 72-71 to the Florida A&M Rattlers (4-2) in the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The Gators trailed by 12 points with 48.2 seconds remaining but scored the last 11 points to cut the deficit to one with 1.5 seconds left on the clock. Sophomore center Azania Stewart scored a career-high 17 points, though Florida only shot 36.9 percent.

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FSU coach, legend Bobby Bowden retires

Legendary Florida State Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden, who has spent the past 34 seasons at the helm of one of college football’s greatest programs, announced his retirement from coaching on Tuesday. He will assume an emeritus with the school, helping with fundraising and other opportunities. With 388 career victories, two National Championships (1993, 1999) and a streak of 14 consecutive top-five finishes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll (1987-2000), Bowden retires as one of the most accomplished coaches in the history of the sport.

While no one will dispute Bowden’s achievements, I personally find the circumstances surrounding his retirement to be disturbing. Having said on more than one occasion toward the tail end of the 2009 season that he wished to continue coaching, retiring now was obviously not Bowden’s decision. Bowden was given two options during a meeting with FSU president T.K. Wetherell and athletic director Randy Spetman on Monday: return to the Seminoles in 2010 as an ambassador to the program with little input on day-to-day operations or retire after the upcoming bowl game.

The Tallahassee Democrat reports that, “as part of his retirement, Bowden is expected to be offered a non-coaching position at FSU for an unspecified amount of time. In addition to any settlement compensation that may be negotiated as part of his retirement, Bowden is also entitled to $1 million upon his retirement as part of a clause in his coaching contract that was agreed upon at least 10 years ago.” Offensive coordinator and long-time coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher has already discussed a contract with the Seminoles to replace Bowden after FSU’s 2009 bowl game. Florida State has secured a berth to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on Jan. 1 against the West Virginia Mountaineers, allowing Bowden to coach his final game in the state of Florida.

Neither scenario originally proposed by the Seminoles afforded Bowden the respect, appreciation and celebration he so richly deserves. He is owed an entire season of praise and affection, not a quick farewell that amounts to a kick in the butt and a “don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.” Bowden deserves to say goodbye to Florida State fans after a seventh straight loss to game against the archrival Florida Gators at home in Tallahassee, FL, not a demoralizing loss in Gainesville, FL, or a bowl game on the road (even if it is in the state). At the very least, Bowden should be able to experience the fanfare and adoration he watched Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow receive on Saturday…or that which his own defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews got last week both pre- and post-game against the Maryland Terrapins.

Tebow made it a point to find Bowden on Florida Field after Saturday’s game. Why? He wanted to show his respect to one of the greatest coaches of all time and tell Bowden one thing: “God bless.” Bowden’s response? “God is great.” If only Florida State’s millionaire boosters were as respectful to the man who built their program from the ground up as a 21-year-old rival football player was only two nights ago.

ESPN: Bowden’s legacy goes beyond the game
ESPN: Bowden delivered big wins, laughs
Sun-Sentinel: FSU legend Bobby Bowden deserves a more fitting ending
SI: FSU’s Bobby Bowden leaves a remarkable legacy behind
FOX Sports: Bowden had an amazing run at FSU

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TWO BITS: Strong to Cards? News on ex-Gators.

1 » Earlier in the season, rumors insisted that Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong would be given heavy consideration for the head coaching job with the Memphis Tigers. Reports later surfaced that Strong was not being thought of for the post. Following a rousing victory over the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday, rumors have now surfaced that the Louisville Cardinals hope to secure Strong as their future head coach. “I know my job is here right now and it’s the only thing I can worry about,” Strong said when questioned about the rumor. “You can’t let yourself get consumed with it. My job is, ‘Let’s go beat Alabama.’ What can I do? If they are going to hire me, they are going to hire me. But my job right now – let’s go beat ‘Bama.”

2 » A pair of former Gators put themselves in the spotlight this past weekend. Cameron Newton, who was dropped from the Florida football team after being arrested for stealing and destroying a laptop, found a starting job with Blinn College in Texas and is on his way to leading that team to a junior college bowl game in a week. This weekend, however, he was visiting the Mississippi State Bulldogs and head coach Dan Mullen (his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach while at Florida). Newton is expected to pick MSU for obvious reasons and was seen ringing a cowbell during his visit.

Jonathan Mitchell, a former Florida basketball player who transferred to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights for increased playing time, said earlier in the week he was looking forward to showing Gators head coach Billy Donovan what he had lost. Instead, Mitchell only scored six points, contributed two rebounds and two assists and committed a team-high four turnovers – nothing that bothered Donovan or Florida.

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