Nat Moore: “I’m a Gator…that’s my No. 1 love.”

The Miami Dolphins will be hosting a special Gator Day celebration on Sunday to honor the 2008 national champion Florida Gators football team that won the 2009 BCS Championship 24-14 over the Oklahoma Sooners on Jan. 8, 2009 in Miami Gardens, FL. To commemorate the occasion, OGGOA sat down with Dolphins vice president Nat Moore, who had much to do with setting up this unique celebration.

Moore played for the Gators and head coach Doug Dickey from 1972-73 after transferring from a junior college. He played running back for two years and earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference as well as honorable mention All-American awards in 1972 after running 145 times for 845 yards with nine touchdowns and catching 25 passes for 351 yards and four more scores. A Gator Great who was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978, Moore earned his degree from Florida two years after entering the NFL.

After the 1973 season, Moore was selected by Miami with the No. 78 overall pick in the third round of the 1974 NFL Draft. He joined a Dolphins team coming off of back-to-back Super Bowl wins including the perfect season of 1972. Miami moved Moore to wide receiver, and he rewarded them with a Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro season in 1977, when he hauled in a league-high 12 touchdowns. Moore retired from football after spending his entire 13-year career with Miami. He broke nearly ever Dolphins receiving record at the time of his retirement, concluding his career with 510 catches for 7,547 yards and 74 touchdowns and earning him a spot in the team’s Honor Roll.

Since retiring from football, Moore has been involved in a variety of activities. He serves as a vice president with Miami, runs the Nat Moore Foundation and at one point was a broadcaster with Sun Sports for Gators football. He now does preseason broadcast work with the Dolphins in addition to his other duties.

OGOGA had the opportunity to speak to Moore for a half hour about his time at Florida, experience in the NFL, idea for a celebration of the Gators and opinions about some players he has come across throughout his career as a broadcaster.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What was it that led you to the University of Florida considering you were born in Tallahassee and went to high school in Miami?
NAT MOORE: “As a kid growing up in Miami, I felt like I really wanted to get away to focus on my studies and have less distractions. You go to Gainesville and basically you’re there for two things. One – to get a good and solid education, and two – a chance to develop your craft in whatever athletic endeavor it is. For me, it gave me a chance where all my friends would be new friends unless they were up there from Miami or Tallahassee. It was close enough that I wasn’t too far away from home if I got homesick. It was a university that my basketball coach in junior college had played baseball with Doug Dickey, so that was the entry into attending the University of Florida. It was always the right place for me, and they were an up-and-coming program in the SEC.”

Read the rest of our interview with Nat Moore…after the break!
Continue Reading » Nat Moore: “I’m a Gator…that’s my No. 1 love.”

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DE Carter (2/2): “I walked away on my terms.”

In part one of our interview with Carter (published on Friday), he discussed deciding to attend Florida, his immense success playing for the Gators, being a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft and winning a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent six years with St. Louis before being traded to the team that you beat in the Super Bowl, Tennessee, after three-straight seasons of at least 10 sacks. Was a change of scenery something you were looking forward to?
KEVIN CARTER: “I was looking forward to a change at that point. The year where we won the Super Bowl, we were at the Pro Bowl and I got a call from Coach [Dick] Vermeil and he was stepping down as the coach. There was a little bit of controversy over him leaving and the timing with Mike Martz taking over the head coach, and there was a little bit of pressure there. Looking back on it, I wish that it had been handled a little bit classier in a better way just for respect for Coach Vermeil. He walked in, in his opening press conference, and told us, ‘In three years, we’ll be world champs.’ And we were. Call it what you will, the man is wonderful and one of the best coaches I’ve ever had the honor and privilege of playing for. Things kind of changed at that point. The next year we lost in the first round of the playoffs and things were a little rocky with my status with the team. At the time I was going through contract negotiations, and I had played six years for the same team and kind of outplayed my contract. The team you’re on usually isn’t going to give you that kind of free agent money, love. I was thankful and glad to get out of there and get to Tennessee. Tennessee gave up a first-round pick to get me there. It was a match made in heaven. Coach [Jeff] Fisher was awesome. At that point I needed a change, wanted a change, and was grateful to go to Tennessee.”

AS: Let’s skip ahead a bit and talk about when you moved over to the Miami Dolphins for two years and got to play on a pretty dominant defense with guys like Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Vonnie Holliday, Junior Seau, Sam Madison, Keith Traylor and David Bowens. What was that experience like?
KC: “It was actually amazing. It was a great team; it was a great defense to be a part of. It was a lot of fun. We didn’t have, I guess, the balance and the tools offensively or the experience, but on defense… Our defense was, like you said, it was an all-star defense. It was so awesome. And we killed people. We had a great defense those couple of years that I was there. We didn’t have quite the balance [on offense]; Miami’s is forever trying to find another quarterback that can be half the man Dan Marino was…still an on-going search for a quarterback. It was a really cool experience. For me, I grew up in Tallahassee [and thought] the Dolphins had the sweetest uniforms. I was like, ‘Man, I can’t wait to wear all white.’ It was so cool. I had a great time just, as I look back in my football chronological history, being a part of the Miami Dolphins organization – such a historically great organization. Don Shula was and still is the man. I had an opportunity to meet him a couple times. It was cool paying down there. I wish timing had dictated differently the circumstances, especially getting our offense and from a head coaching standpoint. Nick Saban is probably one of the best college coaches to ever live. But in those two years, you know, he obviously decided to make the adjustment and go back to college and not make the adjustment to stay there in the NFL. Timing was bad.”

Read the rest of part two of our interview with Kevin Carter…after the break!
Continue Reading » DE Carter (2/2): “I walked away on my terms.”

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Chandler Parsons – Path to the 2011 NBA Draft: Selected by Houston…then locked out

Through the 2011 NBA Draft, Florida Gators forward and 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Chandler Parsons was with us keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.

With his travels and workouts completed, Parsons caught up with us last time the day before the draft as he relaxed with family and friends in Orlando.

Selected with the No. 38 overall pick in the second round of the draft by the Houston Rockets, Parsons celebrated for one night and then immediately got on a plane to Houston and got to work. We spoke with him after he arrived back in the Florida on the eve of the NBA’s lockout for the final edition of his Path to the Draft blog.

Leading up to the draft, I knew that my range was somewhere between 20-40. I knew I had done really well in my workouts and very well in my Houston workout. Before the draft, my agent Mark [Bartelstein] was telling me a couple teams that he thought were good possibilities. He said there’s going to be so many trades with this lockout happening that I had to just let him work the phone and talk to people while I enjoyed the process.

I had 20 people come over to my house to watch it, and basically we just sat and watched it like everybody else.

Three picks before [I got chosen], he called me and said, “There is no way you’re getting past 39, but Minnesota may trade the 38th pick because Houston loves you. Just be watching.” He called me a pick later and said, “Golden State just bought the pick from Minnesota; you’re going to Golden State at 38 most likely.” So I’m like, “Alright cool.” I’m watching, getting hyped because I know I’m about to get picked and he texts me, “Houston bought it from Golden State. You’re going to the Rockets.” And then basically a minute later, they announced it. Houston ended up buying it for $1.5 million from them.

One pick before, I’m telling everyone I’m probably going to be next. Right before the 38th pick, they announced a bunch of trades that went down. We were like, “Come on. Come on!” And then after they announced my pick, we all went crazy.

Less than five minutes after the pick, Coach Kevin McHale [and a few of the team’s scouts] called me to congratulate me and tell me that they’re happy to get me. They said they couldn’t wait to get me to Houston.

After I got picked, we started celebrating and partying. I had ordered a 22-passenger super stretch limo to come to my house. I’m about to get in and my parents, who were the last ones to leave the house, start screaming. So I ran inside and that is when Vernon [Macklin] got picked at No. 52 [by the Detroit Pistons]. So we all ran back inside to see Vern’s deal.

After that we went to two places – a club called Bliss and another called Vain downtown. My parents stayed the whole time – I took care of them. My three older brothers went and basically all of my closes friends from Orlando and my family did, too. They were all at the club in VIP and it was really a great time.

The next day was rough. We came back to my house after the bars closed at 2 a.m. and had people over until like 5-6 a.m. Then I had an 11 a.m. flight to Houston the next morning for a press conference.

I met everybody at Houston, did the press conference, worked out. l went to an Astros game and then, Sunday-Wednesday, we had a minicamp with eight-to-10 of the guys working out each day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. My teammates are some cool guys; a lot of young talent, a lot of pieces that can make our team very good.

Having a new coach like Kevin McHale, who is a legend, I can’t wait to learn from him.

They got that camp in there because of the lockout. If there wasn’t a lockout, I’d be there right now getting ready for Summer League in Las Vegas.

We had a couple days to work with the coaches, get the terminology down. They told us, during this lockout, to make sure we’re working out with as many pros as we can and to stay in shape because there’s going to be limited time to do training camp once everyone gets together. And I even got to keep the number 25.

Being in the lower half of the second round, pick No. 38, it’s a really high percentage chance I get a guaranteed contract. There’s also the fact that they bought my pick for $1.5 million. It’s a really good sign. I’m in a really good situation because there’s not a lot of guys in my position at Houston. There’s Chase Budinger who plays small forward, but there are a lot of opportunities there. I worked out really well this week, and the coaching staff really liked me. I just have to get it done.

I love Houston. I’ve been there before. [Former Florida point guard] Jai Lucas is from there, so he happened to be there all week and he showed me around the city. It’s huge. It’s a big city, and it’s hot. It was like 98 degrees when we were there. Being from Florida, you’d think I was used to that. It’s a great spot to be in, and a good opportunity. I’m looking forward to it.

My agent recommended me to take 10 days off, because I’ve been working out non-stop. I’ve been going for a while. Courtney Lee is going to be working out in Orlando, and I’ll also be in Gainesville working out with the team. Hopefully we can get together with some of the [fellow former Gators] players and get some workouts in. Basically it is about staying in good shape and competing against as many NBA guys as I can. There’s a lot of options; basically I’m just going to take two weeks off and then figure that out. I just have to make sure I stay in the gym and my legs get stronger.

To all of the fans in Gator Nation and also those of you who have kept up with my blog here, thanks for supporting me throughout this whole process – throughout my whole four years at the University of Florida and this whole draft process.

Thanks for believing in me.

Remember – hard work pays off. My whole dream as a kid was to go in the NBA, get drafted and be in the situation I am. I’m honored to be in the situation representing Florida, and it is true – hard work really does pay off. I can’t wait for the season to start, and I hope all of my fans support me in the NBA, too.

Go Gators,

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DE Lynden Trail goes on a planking spree

Most of the stories one hears about athletes and their usage of social media are negative in nature. The headlines are usually outlandish things they have said, inappropriate pictures that have been taken and fights they have started with others.

However, services like Twitter and Facebook can also be used for other things. Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden sponsored a little league team because a fan asked him to. He has also taken groups of fans out to lunch and happy hour simply because he can. Other former Gators have raised money for charity (Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson), given away free stuff to fans (Atlanta Hawks power forward Al Horford) and even had open discussions about Florida’s Ring of Honor qualifications (New Orleans Saints defensive end Alex Brown).

So when Florida Gators redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail started tweeting pictures of himself planking on various surfaces and objects late Monday evening, Gator Nation undoubtedly noticed – and laughed.

“Planking,” for those of you uninitiated to the recently popular practice, is defined by Wikipedia as “an activity […] consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. The hands must touch the sides of the body, and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the Internet is an integral part of the game.”

Trail, who himself was subject of what turned out to be false claims about his persona due to picture uncovered on the Internet during his recruitment, has been an active tweeter for quite some time. He took his game to another level on Monday with the planking pictures you can view by expanding the post.

All pictures above are courtesy of Trail’s Twitter account.

A married man, Trail is already more responsible than most college-aged students and, though the activity may not necessarily hit everyone’s funny bone, it is some good-natured, harmless offseason fun that is nice to see for a change.

He also offered up an open challenge to the rest of the University of Florida. “Planking just got real,” he wrote, “I challenge my fellow gators to participate lol.”

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June 5, 2011: Gators dominate on the diamonds

Something special happened for Gator Nation on Sunday. In a 10-hour period from approximately noon until 10 p.m., Florida Gators fans got the opportunity to watch their teams dominate in a fashion not normally seen at this stage of collegiate athletics.

Over the course of three games – two on the softball diamond and one on a baseball field – Florida defeated two of their rivals thrice, outscoring them, out-hustling them and outclassing them in a way possibly never seen before.

No. 4 Gators softball, which went head-to-head with the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in a pair of win-or-go-home games in the 2011 Women’s College World Series, set numerous event records in a 16-2 dismantling early in the afternoon and added a few more in their 9-2 victory later that evening.

In between, No. 2 Florida baseball took on the Miami Hurricanes in the finals of the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The Gators routed the Canes 11-4 and moved on to host the Super Regionals.

Let’s take a look at what Florida accomplished on Sunday:

– The Gators outscored their opponents by a total margin of 36-8.
– A total of eight home runs were hit with sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte connecting in both softball games.
– The teams combined for 34 RBI on 32 hits, record 15 walks and stole four bases.
– Pitchers vs. Florida had a combined 12.05 ERA. Alabama’s posted a 14.58 ERA, while Miami’s throwers allowed seven runs in their contest. Crimson Tide ace Kelsi Dunne registered a 36.67 ERA against the Gators, allowing 11 earned runs in 2.1 innings.
– Florida’s starting pitchers combined to allow a total of five earned runs while notching 18 strikeouts. They registered a 2.04 ERA as a group.
– Florida baseball swept their regional, going 3-0.
– Gators softball won their second and third elimination games of the event after defeating No. 7 California one day earlier.

Softball’s records:

– The 11 runs scored in the first inning of their opening game on Sunday were the most in any inning in WCWS history. The previous mark (nine, 2010) was held by UCLA in a victory against UF just one year ago.
– The Gators scored more runs on the Crimson Tide in one inning than they had given up in a single game all season. Their 16 total runs scored (through just three innings) are the most allowed in a single game by UA softball in school history.
– Florida tied the WCWS team record for homers in a game (four).
– The Gators’ 15 RBI are a WCWS single-game record.
– The 41 total runs scored by Florida so far in the WCWS are as many as every other team in the field combined. The total is currently the second-most in WCWS history.
– The Gators advanced to the WCWS Championship Series for the second time in the last three years and will once again face a Pac-10 opponent.
– Senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder set WCWS event record for most runs scored (nine).
– Schutte set UF’s single-season home run record with her 21st & 22nd bombs.

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TWO BITS: gymnastics in NCAAs, Hill returns

1 » No. 5 Florida Gators gymnastics will begin semifinal action in the 2011 NCAA Championships on Friday evening at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, OH. Competing in Semifinal II along with Alabama, Kent State, Nebraska, Oregon and Utah, Florida hopes to finish in the top three in order to advance to the NCAA Super Six – the final stage of competition for a national title.

2 » Back wearing orange and blue for the first time since 1994, new Gators wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill is happy to be back home. Calling his return to Gainesville, FL a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hill told University of Florida senior writer Scott Carter that he is the one who reached out to head coach Will Muschamp about joining his first staff. “When he got the job, I sought him out,’’ Hill said. “I’m just very thankful for the opportunity to be able to come back home to your alma mater and to be able to give back to the players, give back to the community, and give back to this wonderful Gator Nation.” Muschamp explained why having Hill on board can help the team be successful. “I think having someone on the coaching staff who attended the University of Florida is really important when dealing with the players,’’ he said. “Aubrey has walked in their footsteps. He has been on their practice field, was in their classrooms and knows the culture of the Gator Nation. He’s accomplished what a lot of these players want to accomplish – he has been part of championship teams.”

You can check out the rest of the feature story by clicking here, though a choice quote has been republished below:

Q: You are the recruiting coordinator. How do you approach recruiting?
A: I really, really enjoy recruiting. Why do I enjoy recruiting? I look back when I was recruited and how important it was in picking a school. As an assistant coach, we have to give them all the information that can help them make a decision. They can pick it for several reasons: football, academics, proximity to home. What we try to do as coaches is try to tie them all in. There is no way I can do my job without the head coach. Sometimes I can’t do my job without the area coach. We all collectively work on getting a kid here. Recruiting is just selling what you believe in, and it’s an easy sell when you are talking about the University of Florida.

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Florida ends 2011 season with tough OT loss

Putting together a fantastic run to end the season, the No. 2-seed Florida Gators fell just short in the Southeast Regional Final of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, dropping a heartbreaker 74-71 in overtime to the No. 8-seed Butler Bulldogs. It was the first time in school history that the Gators fell in the Elite Eight and did not advance to the Final Four. The teams’ coaches and players spoke with the media following the contest, and OGGOA has compiled the most important news, notes and quotes for you to peruse below.

SENIORS GO HOME DISAPPOINTED

Saturday’s loss was devastating for the entire Florida program but perhaps no one more so than the team’s trio of seniors – forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus and redshirt center Vernon Macklin.

“Right now it’s tough to end a season like that, especially for me with Chandler, Alex and Vernon,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “They’ve provided so much for our program, and I’m proud of them. The thing I mentioned to them in the locker room after the game was that, when a group of guys decide to come together and try to become a team – a real team – a lot of great things can be accomplished. When you go after trying to accomplish something, there is the other side that the losing is even more painful because you have so much invested in each other. When you have that kind of investment in each other, losing at this time becomes much more difficult. These guys came together as a team, and the losing part hurts, and you want it to hurt because you want to get the opportunity to play for what we played for [Saturday].”

Macklin was the most despondent of the three in the post-game press conference, sitting with his head in his hands looking down at the table. Unlike Tyus, who talked about just moving on, he and Parsons were able to articulate their thoughts. “It’s been a great run. I love my teammates. I love my coaching staff. I’m sad to see it all end right now, but it’s been a great time at Florida,” Macklin said. “I’m glad I came here and got a chance to play with these guys, play under Coach Donovan and with this coaching staff.”

Parsons added that he will likely feel this pain for a while. “It hurts right now. It’s what it was made out to me. It is everything I thought it was,” he said of playing in the Elite Eight. “I had a great career here. I loved every day coming to practice, playing with my teammates. I loved the opportunity that we had tonight. Right now it’s just disappointing because we fell short. We wanted to be out there right now celebrating. It just hurts to end this way. […] I haven’t been in this situation. It hurts right now, so right now I have a terrible feeling. I almost feel sick to my stomach. My career is not over. I plan on playing basketball for a long time, so I can’t dwell on it my whole life. But it’s definitely a disappointing time, a sad time for me, because I wanted to keep playing with these guys.”

DONOVAN OUTCOACHED STEVENS, NOT OTHER WAY AROUND?

Sentiment from Gator Nation following UF’s loss Saturday was that Donovan had been outcoached by Butler’s Brad Stevens because Florida took threes at the end of regulation and overtime. However, according to Stevens himself, Donovan did a number on him the entire game. “[The Bulldogs] carried their coach today in a big way. I got outcoached big-time,” he said. “The last thing that I’m going to do is question [the Gators], because I got outcoached pretty thoroughly today. We’re just lucky that our guys are good players.”

VIDEO: See handshake, final one-fourth of the clip.

What is lost in the rush-to-judgment opinions and extreme calamity about Florida’s final shots are two facts: (1) A team was on the floor defending them so the Gators could not do whatever they wanted, and (2) The execution of each play was not necessarily how Donovan drew it up. To conclude regulation, junior point guard Erving Walker was supposed to try to penetrate and either draw a foul or kick the ball open to someone for a potentially shorter jump shot. At the end of overtime, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton should have taken it to the hoop rather than launched a deep three.

“I don’t try to coach anybody else’s team. [Donovan]’s going to be a Hall of Famer whenever he decides to retire,” Stevens said. “I understand what they were doing at the end of regulation. You don’t want to give us the ball at all. The reason [Walker] didn’t get any penetration is because we trapped the ball screen and stayed up with him. He got a pretty good look for a pretty good player. I know this: I was scared when the shot went up. I wasn’t scared when Boynton’s last shot – that heave from about 80 feet – went up.”

Donovan shared similar sentiments. “You want to put the ball in a guy’s hands that you feel like can make that kind of shot,” he said. “In regulation, we got Erving Walker a great look; he told me he had a great look and was really wide open. He was disappointed he missed that one. […] I probably would have liked to seen Kenny drive the ball when we were down by one, I would have preferred that. But he’s another guy that has made some big shots for us. I would have liked to have seen him drive the ball to try to create some contact. You know what? He’s made some shots in some really big situations for us to even be at this position. It’s hard for me to say it’s a bad shot. I would have liked to have seen him drive the ball. He’s made some huge threes in second halves of games and overtimes for us all year long. If it goes in, we’re talking about how Boynton’s clutch shooting continues. But it didn’t go in, and that’s what happens.”

WHAT HAPPENED TO MACKLIN?

By all accounts, Macklin had a dominant game for the Gators in the post. However, three early fouls and a fourth tacked on exactly two seconds after he returned with 9:02 to play in the second half made him ineffective. His free throw shooting down the stretch also made him a liability that Florida could not gamble on in the clutch.

“I felt like Vernon was going to have the opportunity to play on-on-one from the post. He had a great game, gave us a big-time scoring presence inside,” Donovan said. “We went to Vernon to start overtime, and he was 1-for-2 from the free throw line. Certainly we were trying to go inside, but when Vernon comes off the floor, I don’t know necessarily if we have a low-post offensive presence. I knew at that point in time, they were just not going to allow him to do what he did in the first half. If he was going to get an angle, they were going to foul him. I made a decision to at least pull him out and go with Patric [Young]. Patric probably, as a freshman, is not as seasoned and polished as Vernon is as a senior, so he’s a hard guy to go to. And Alex is not that kind of physical presence.”

Even Macklin agreed that he should have been off the court. “[Being in foul trouble was] frustrating. I wanted to be on the floor,” he said. “[I was pulled for] two different reasons. I’m not that great of a free throw shooter, so I didn’t want to jeopardize my teammates. I think Coach Donvoan made a great decision. I picked up some early fouls and some dumb fouls I shouldn’t have got. That’s on me; I should have been in the right position.”

DIFFERENCE IN THE GAME: GRABBING LOOSE BALLS

Things unraveled for the Gators at about the same time Macklin picked up his fourth foul. The Bulldogs went on a quick run to reduce UF’s 11-point lead, partially because Florida was unable to grab a number of loose balls and defensive rebounds which gave Butler a extra possessions. “The difference in the game was right around the 9:00 mark; there was an enormous amount of loose balls that we did not come down with that they came down with,” Donovan explained. “We had two three-point shots that were blocked; they came down with and scored. We had a couple free throws where they missed – one we actually tipped the ball in – that hurt. The game was won by them on loose balls.”

QUOTES

Donovan on his team’s effort: “They became a team. They gave themselves an opportunity to go to the Final Four, and they fell short of that, but they did everything in their power physically, mentally and emotionally to try to win.”

Donovan on if the players will realize what they did accomplish: “They’ll all get over it. It will take some time. Right now we lost, but there will be a time when they look back on where they were in December and they’ll see a better picture of how far they came. You never want it to end. You want it to keep on going.”

Donovan on a frustration about not getting the ball in the post more at the end: “I was pleased with our balance offensively. I thought we had really good inside-outside action. I would have liked to have utilized Vernon a lot more in the second half, but it was hard because he was in foul trouble. Once we got into overtime and the end of regulation, because of his free throw situation, we had to play Patric.”

Donovan on if Parsons and Walker were not in a groove: “The one thing you have to do in order to be a really good team is you have to have balance. In the BYU game, they sold out on Vernon Macklin on every post catch. They sold out on him. So he had to be a post passer. This was a game where they decided to take our perimeter away. You got to throw the ball to Vernon and you got to let him score. He did a heck of a job tonight when we needed to throw the ball to him.”

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Florida spring practice will be closed to public

The Will Muschamp era of Florida Gators football will begin with a measure put in place that even former head coach Urban Meyer did not institute during his time in the orange and blue: 2011 spring practice will be closed to the public.

“With a new coaching staff here teaching our system, we feel like minimizing our distractions is important,’’ Muschamp said in an official statement. “We realize that there is high interest from the fans, and we are extremely appreciative of the support that The Gator Nation gives us. We hope that they understand that this decision has been made in the interest of helping our program be successful on Saturdays this fall by allowing our team to learn and develop together in this type of environment.

“We also respect that the media have a job to do and understand that this creates a challenge for them, so we ask for their patience with us as we work through our first spring practice here at Florida.’’

Fans will be able to get their first look at the new Gators team on April 9 at the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut spring game. The event will air live on Sun Sports beginning at noon. Tickets are free for students, Gator Boosters and members of the Alumni Association and F Club. A limited number of free tickets are available to the public; otherwise the cost is $5 per person.

Florida also announced Wednesday that Pro Day will be held for those players hoping to be selected in the 2011 NFL Draft on March 15 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Among those expected to participated, according to UF, are center Mike Pouncey, safety Ahmad Black, punter Chas Henry and guard Carl Johnson.

OGGOA has previously been informed that running back Emmanuel Moody, defensive linemen Terron Sanders and Justin Trattou will also be participating along with a number of other former seniors/graduates.

In the past, Pro Day had been open to both the public and the media. This time around, only the media will be allowed to attend.

“Pro Day is an extremely important day for the career hopes of these players, and they’ve spent an enormous amount of time and energy preparing for it,” Florida associate athletics director for communications Steve McClain said in a release.

“We feel that creating a more private environment and minimizing potential distractions will help give them the best chance to perform up to their potential. We also feel like it’s become more important than ever for us to monitor who is around our team and student-athletes, and taking this step provides us an even greater ability to manage that.”

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