Tim Tebow sends best wishes to Urban Meyer

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow, selected No. 25 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft after playing four seasons with the Florida Gators under head coach Urban Meyer with whom he won the 2007 Heisman Trophy and two BCS National Championships, released the following statement Wednesday after learning Meyer decided to call it quits on his Florida coaching career.

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime to play for a man who will be remembered as one of the greatest football coaches of all time. But Coach Meyer was more than just a coach to me: He was a father figure who cared about me as a person and taught me valuable lessons that I will never forget.

“I respect that Coach Meyer had the courage to make the decision that was right for himself and his family. He will be blessed and better off for it. I am truly glad that he’s happy and no matter what, we both will be Gators for the rest of our lives.

“While change is never easy, the University of Florida will find the right head coach to continue its proud football tradition and will have the full support of Gator Nation. I wish Coach Meyer and his family all the best going forward, and they will always be a big part of my life.”

UPDATE: Tebow spoke further about Meyer on Friday.

“I’ve talked to him pretty much every day, multiple times. I’m proud of him. It takes a lot to leave something that you love like that, like coaching, like the University of Florida, but he knew what the right thing was to do for him and no one else knew that except for him,” he said. “He just wanted to spend more time with his family, and that was the most important thing to him, and I thought that was great. I respect him even more for making a decision like that.”

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

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Week 11: No. 22 Florida vs. No. 23 South Carolina

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 61°F, clear skies
Time: 7:15 p.m. (EST)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
Sirius/XM: 219/199
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 22 FLORIDA GATORS No. 23 USC GAMECOCKS
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Steve Spurrier
Record: 6-3 (4-3) Record: 6-3 (4-3)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -6.5; O/U 51.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series 23-4-3 against South Carolina, are an undefeated 12-0 in Gainesville and 4-1 since Meyer took over.
» In their last three games against the Gamecocks, the Gators have won by an average of 23.3 points including a 56-6 thumping two years ago in The Swamp.
» With a win Saturday, UF would sweep the SEC East for the third straight season and 11th time since divisions were created in 1992. The contest is a de facto SEC East title game with the winner representing the division in the 2010 SEC Championship.
» Florida is tied for the national lead with 17 interceptions on the season. Seven have been returned for more than 30 yards – three for touchdowns.
» UF is back in the BCS, Associated Press and USA Today top 25 after being unranked in all three for the first time under Meyer. The Gators had been listed in every poll since he took over in 2005 until they lost to Mississippi State two weeks ago.
» Florida and South Carolina outrank each other in two of the four major statistical averages. UF is 77th in passing yards (200.4), 51th in rushing yards (158.8), 38th in points scored (31.3) and 23rd in points against (19.6) compared to USC being 39th in passing yards (248.7), 73rd in rushing yards (146.7), 50th in points scored (29.4) and 41st in points against (21.9). Both teams defeated Georgia, Vanderbilt and Tennessee this season, though Florida defeated Kentucky (South Carolina lost 31-28) and the Gators lost to Alabama whom the Gamecocks beat (35-21).
» The Gators’ offense has seen 15 different players overall score a touchdown this year – including defense and special teams.
» Florida is the only school in the nation that has four players with at least three interceptions. Overall, eight Gators have at least one interception.
» UF under Meyer is 41-1 when holding an opponent under 16 points, 29-3 when shutting an opponent out in the fourth quarter, 38-3 when holding an opponent to 35 percent or less on third down, 38-2 when giving up two or less big plays (15-yard run/25-yard pass) and 33-3 when the Gators defense scores or creates three turnovers.
» South Carolina’s Spurrier is arguably the most accomplished coach in Florida history with a 122-27-1 record at the school (most wins in history) along with six SEC titles and a national title. As a player, he won the 1996 Heisman Trophy while playing quarterback.
» Steve Spurrier, Jr., G.A. Mangus and Jamie Speronis were all former Gators coaches; Mangus was also a QB at UF from 1988-91.
» John Brantley and Gamecocks players Antonio Allen and Dion LeCorn all player for Ocala Trinity High School; Brantley was also born in Columbia, S.C.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

FLORIDA
» Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley…who had thrown 156 consecutive passes without an interception dating back to 2009, now has a 8-6 TD/INT ratio this season after throwing two touchdowns last week. He has completed 156-of-251 passes (62.2 percent) for 1,616 yards and has a passer rating of 122.0.
» Freshman QB Trey Burton and redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed…both of whom will spell Brantley at quarterback in Florida’s new three-QB system. Burton set a school record and SEC freshman record by scoring six touchdowns in a single game against Kentucky. He has 10 scores on the season, has played five positions and is second on the team in rushing (55 carries for 278 yards). Reed got his first meaningful snaps behind center last week, going 11-of-19 for 120 yards with a touchdown and a pick. He also ran 16 times for 84 yards with another score.
» Junior running back Jeff Demps…who is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and still leads the Gators in rushing (488 yards) after missing two full games and being limited in four others. He was Florida’s leading rusher in its first five games of the season.
» Redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey..who returned to action for the first time in over a month against Georgia and has 23 carries for 108 yards (along with 12 receptions for 118 yards) and two touchdowns this year.
» Sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr.…who is quickly becoming one of Florida’s most important pass catchers. He was the team’s leading receiver against Mississippi State and caught three passes for 46 yards against Georgia and another three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt the following week.
» Senior punter Chas Henry…who is the end-all be-all of Florida’s kicking game now that he has taken over for junior Caleb Sturgis (back) as the team’s field goal kicker. Henry had missed five-straight field goal attempts (one negated by penalty) before nailing back-to-back kicks in the fourth quarter and overtime two weeks ago.
» Florida’s secondary…which has intercepted 13 balls this season including one last week against Vanderbilt. Starters senior safety Ahmad Black (three), junior CB Janrois Jenkins (three), redshirt sophomore CB Jeremy Brown (three), and junior S Will Hill (three) have accounted for all but one of the unit’s picks.
» Black…who has led Florida in tackles six times this season: vs. LSU (13), Georgia (12), Miami (10), Mississippi State (10), USF (8) and Vanderbilt (4). He is tops on the team overall with 77 tackles, including six for loss.

SOUTH CAROLINA
» WR Alshon Jeffrey…one of the best pass catchers in college who leads the SEC with 114.9 yards and seven touchdowns.
» RB Marcus Lattimore…who ranks second in the SEC in rushing average with 94.0 yards per game to go along with 11 touchdowns.
» QB Stephen Garcia…who has taken over the starting job and thrown for 2,065 yards on 151-of-223 passing with a 14-9 TD/INT ratio. Garcia also has 140 rushing yards on 69 attempts along with four touchdowns.

INJURIES

Active
Junior RB Jeff Demps (foot), redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jaye Howard, redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose (ankle)

Inactives
Redshirt sophomore LT Matt Patchan (broken wrist), junior K Caleb Sturgis (back), sophomore LB Dee Finley (fractured collarbone), freshmen RB Mack Brown, WRs Quinton Dunbar and Chris Dunkley (hamstrings)

FLORIDA ON ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

The match-up between the Gators and Gamecocks will be heavily featured during ESPN’s College GameDay broadcast beginning at 9 a.m. on ESPNU (hosted by Erin Andrews) and continuing from 10 a.m. until noon on ESPN. An entire segment of Saturday’s main program will be dedicated specifically to the Florida-South Carolina match-up with video packages and analysis from the show’s three hosts – Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit. The trio – along with a guest – will also be picking the game in the show’s final segment.

Read OGGOA’s Florida Gators vs. USC Gamecocks preview after the jump!
Continue Reading » Week 11: No. 22 Florida vs. No. 23 South Carolina

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Report: Newton’s cheating at UF led to transfer

The departure of now-Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton from the University of Florida in the spring of 2009 has always been somewhat of a mystery with different sides relaying their own version of the events. Did Newton decide to transfer because Heisman Trophy winning QB Tim Tebow returned for his senior season (as his family contends), because Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer chose QB John Brantley as Tebow’s heir apparent, or was he dismissed due to complications surrounding the theft of a laptop in Nov. 2008?

A report Tuesday from Thayer Evans of FOX Sports sheds light on the decision, revealing that Newton “had three different instances of academic cheating” at UF and even “faced potential expulsion from the university.”

A source told Evans that Newton cheated during a class his freshman year, turned in another student’s work after writing his name on it in the fall of 2008, and then purchased a paper off the Internet which he submitted as a replacement to the same professor who caught him for the previous indiscretion. The latter two occurrences of cheating allegedly came after Newton had been arrested for theft of the laptop.

“Newton was to appear for a hearing in front of Florida’s Student Conduct Committee during the spring semester of 2009, but instead transferred to Blinn College,” reports Evans. “The committee could have levied sanctions against Newton that included suspension and expulsion from the university.”

Less than a week ago, ESPN reported that Kenny Rogers, a man claiming to represent the Newton family, sought $180,000 from Mississippi State in exchange for Newton’s college commitment as he reentered Division I athletics after playing his transfer season at Blinn College. The NCAA has been looking into the allegations, brought to light by former MSU QB John Bond, since July.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
 

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Tebow’s memoir to be published in April 2011

Publishing house HarperCollins announced via press release on Monday that it will release Through My Eyes, “an inspirational memoir by one of the greatest college football quarterbacks of all time: the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, two-time national champion at the University of Florida and current Denver Broncos first round draft pick, Tim Tebow” in April 2011.

Like most do, Tebow’s memoir will cover his extraordinary life ranging from his unique berth and life growing up as a home-schooled son of missionaries to his career with the Florida Gators and introduction to the NFL with the Broncos, Through My Eyes will be co-written by Nathan Whitaker and edited by Matt Harper.

From the press release:

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to share my story of faith, family and football,” said Tebow, ‘”and look forward to taking readers inside my life, both on and off the field. As a kid, you always dream of becoming something great. Whether that dream is to become an astronaut, a famous musician, the CEO of a large company, the President, an NFL Quarterback or anything else, you will undoubtedly face all kinds of adversity on your journey. This is my story about how I was able to fulfill my dream and I hope it can inspire people of all ages that are aspiring to fulfill their dreams.”

“It goes without saying that Tim has inspired a generation of fans with his accomplishments on the football field as well as his devout faith and family values,” said Lisa Sharkey, Senior Vice President and Director of Creative Development who acquired the book for HarperCollins. “We are incredibly proud to help him communicate his powerful message of hope,” said S.V.P. and Publisher of HarperOne, Mark Tauber. “Tebow’s story is one that will find a wide audience for years to come.”

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11/3: Florida coach Meyer’s SEC teleconference

OGGOA had the opportunity to participate in Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer’s Southeastern Conference teleconference on Wednesday (we will be doing so every week). Below are some notes from the event:

RUNNING BACKS ARE HEALTHY

Junior Jeff Demps saw limited action Saturday against Georgia, and redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey (carrying the ball due to lack of depth) returned from suspension during the same game. Somewhat conspicuous by their absences last weekend were RBs sophomore Mike Gillislee (hamstring) and redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody (thigh), both of whom were still hobbled with injuries. Meyer declared both players 100 percent “for the first time in a while” on Wednesday, also noting that Demps (foot) continues to be evaluated daily.

Other injury updates from Meyer:
» Redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose (ankle) – will participate in practice on a limited basis Wednesday, return in full Thursday
» Junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (back) – will not play Saturday
» Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jaye Howard (ankle) – did not practice Tuesday but may see the field Wednesday
» Redshirt senior guard Carl Johnson (calf) – strained his calf during practice but should return to practice soon and will be a full-go Saturday

PROUD OF BRANTLEY, BURTON

Asked if he upset at how redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley has been playing recently (considering he has no touchdowns and five interceptions in his last four games), Meyer said he is “a little disappointed” in his performance but refuses to pin the offense’s previous struggles on him, saying many players were at fault for his miscues. Meyer added that Brantley has handled adversity “like a grown man” this season and is very proud of him.

As far as freshman QB Trey Burton goes, Meyer realizes that the team has put a lot on his plate and thinks “it should be illegal what we ask that kid to do,” in regards to the multiple positions he plays on the team. He believes Burton has brought “tremendous value” to the team with his talent and work ethic but refused to compare his contributions to those of Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in 2006 saying he is impacting the team in a similar not same way.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/3: Florida coach Meyer’s SEC teleconference

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11/1: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, freshman QB Trey Burton, junior running back Jeff Demps, senior center Mike Pouncey, senior safety Ahmad Black and senior linebacker Brandon Hicks answered questions for the media on Monday about a variety of topics concerning the Florida Gators and their win on Saturday over the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, FL. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

BRANTLEY, BURTON COMFORTABLE WITH EACH OTHER

Brantley waited for his turn. He sat behind the legendary Tim Tebow and watched as he returned to school after winning a Heisman Trophy and BCS National Championship in back-to-back seasons. He has been criticized softly by some of his coaches and harshly by many of his team’s fans, yet Brantley has kept his cool and is embracing head coach Urban Meyer’s decision to share his position with a true freshman who has a Tebow-like talent for running the option. Just ask him.

“We run the option really well – it’s what we’ve done really well here for the past few years. We wanted to get that back in the system,” Brantley said. “If that means to put someone else back there to run it, by all means let’s do it. That’s what’s been successful and that’s what we’re going to keep doing. […] Anything that can help the team I’m all for. […] I knew coming into the season we’re an option team. If that means to bring in another quarterback, do that, I’m all for it.”

While Gator Nation certainly appreciates Brantley’s flexibility, he has also made it easy on Burton by befriending him while sharing the spotlight. “He’s a great dude, awesome football player,” Burton said of Brantley on Monday. “I love hanging out with him. Him and I joke around every day, every time I see him we say ‘What’s up?’ to each other. We hang out all the time. I can’t say enough about him. He’s one of my best friends on the team. […] Whatever we can do to win, him and I both have the same feelings. It doesn’t matter if we play or we don’t play, as long as we win, we’re happy. And that’s truly how both of us feel.”

DEMPS “SLOWLY BUT SURELY” GETTING HEALTHIER

Hobbled for three consecutive games before returning at 90 percent capacity on Saturday against Georgia, Demps (foot) remains on the mend but is trying to reach perfect health. Unfortunately, he is still experiencing sharp pains going through the top and side of his foot when attempting to change direction while running, something he has high hopes will be corrected soon. He is currently wearing a soft protection brace on his foot – not tape – and is getting 20-25 reps each practice in order to stay in game shape.

“It’s coming along pretty good – slowly but surely. [I’m] getting good treatment by our training staff,” he said. “Right now I’m able to practice in limited reps, but the reps that I am getting are quality reps. Right now I’m able to run straight ahead pretty well, but it’s kind of hard for me to change direction. […] It’s been tough. At times I’ve gotten frustrated, but at the same time I have to stay positive and keep my teammates going and at the same time they have to keep me going.”

GETTING OFF THE FIELD ON THIRD DOWN

For the second-straight game, Florida’s defense is having difficulty getting off of the field on third down. Against Mississippi State, UF was unable to stop the run; with Georgia the problem was stopping QB Aaron Murray from completing long third down passes.

“Third down is key. That’s like our money down. I’ve been on this team a while and third down used to be us getting off the field a little bit quicker,” Black said. “We can improve, we can get better. That’s what practice is for.” Hicks also notices it is an issue. “To let a team convert on a third down, and it’s third and long, it hurts the defense as well. It feels like we didn’t do our job,” he said.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/1: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

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TWO BITS: soccer rolls, Newton for Heisman?

1 » No. 12 Florida Gators soccer (13-2-2, 7-1-1 SEC) continued its winning ways on Thursday by defeating the LSU Tigers (6-7-4, 3-3-3 SEC) 2-0 on the road in Baton Rouge, LA. Tied atop the Southeastern Conference with South Carolina, Florida earned the win with goals from freshman forward Taylor Travis (4’) and sophomore F/midfielder Natalia Torosian (71’). Redshirt senior goalkeeper Katie Fraine also made four saves. The Gators will play their final regular season match at home in Gainesville, FL, at the James G. Pressly Stadium this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. against Arkansas. The 2010 SEC Tournament runs from Nov. 3-7 in Orange Beach, AL.

2 » Florida has a track record for producing Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks. However, this year, it looks like a former Gators QB may have the opportunity to win that award for a rival school. As if you didn’t know already, Cameron Newton (now of the Auburn Tigers) has been tabbed as a frontrunner for the award, but if it was his choice he’d be competing for it while still wearing the Orange & Blue. “If it was up to me, I would still want to be at Florida,” Newton told ESPN early this week. “My heart is still at Florida because of the long-lasting relationships I have with my teammates there. Leaving them was the hardest part.”

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TWO BITS: Harvin’s returning, Tebow’s passing

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin has become a dynamic kickoff returner for the Minnesota Vikings. Only in his second professional season, the 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has three return touchdowns on his career with his latest – a 95-yarder – coming on Sunday. The St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Jeremy Fowler took a look at how Harvin’s return efficiency stacks up all-time. Hint: it’s pretty good. With three touchdowns in 58 returns, Harvin is averaging one every 19.3 touches, good for second all-time to Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers’ one every 15.16 touches (six TDs in 91 returns). Harvin’s efficiency also tops others like Leon Washington (21.66), Devin Hester (25.5), Josh Cribbs (35), Deion Sanders (51.66) and Dante Hall (71).

2 » Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels said his staff will “continue to tinker with” its package for former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow after the Heisman Trophy winner scored his first NFL touchdown on Sunday. However, in order to make his presence on the field truly effective, Dave Krieger of The Denver Post opines that Tebow needs to throw the ball. “[Passing] is the element missing so far from the Broncos’ Tebow packages, and it’s the element that will be necessary to make him more than an NFL novelty act,” he wrote. “The package could feature more weapons if [QB Kyle] Orton came out of the game, but that can only happen if Tebow is a threat to throw it himself.” McDaniels sees both sides to the situation. “We certainly can throw the ball with him out of [the package],” he said. “We haven’t yet. We can’t do the same thing with it week after week after week. […] The defense knows if it’s a quarterback back there you certainly have to be ready to play the pass, and that would certainly be the case with Tim.”

Photo Credit: Ed Reinke/Associated Press

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