FOUR BITS: Shrine, early enrollees, Floyd, Jenkins

1 » Practices for the 2013 East-West Shrine Game began on Tuesday with only two – rather than three – former Florida Gators showing up on rosters. Safety Josh Evans and kicker Caleb Sturgis were both listed on the rosters Tuesday while linebacker Lerentee McCray mysteriously had his name removed. Though not much can be taken from the first day of practices, Evans and Sturgis each got measured as part of the standard first-day procedure. Evans checked in at 6’1 1/8” and 205 lbs. with 10-inch hands, a 31 ¼-inch arm length and 77-inch wingspan. Sturgis was listed at 5’9 7/8” and 186 lbs. with 8 ¾-inch hands, a 29 ¾-inch arm length and 71 5/8-inch wingspan.

2 » Florida announced eight early enrollees on Tuesday, all of whom are four-star prospects according to Rivals, including LB Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, PA), JUCO defensive tackle Darious Cummings (Scooba, MS), four-star defensive end Joey Ivie (Dade City, FL), LB Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL), transfer offensive lineman Tyler Moore (Clearwater, FL), wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, GA), LB Matt Rolin (Ashburn, VA) and running back Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade). Among those early enrollees, Anzalone and Robinson were last-minute additions with the former player’s defection from Notre Dame coming as a surprise to UF. Furthermore, Cummings has chosen to be referred to on the Gators roster as “Bear Cummings,” using a nickname he has had since childhood.

3 » A pair of now-former Florida players have released statements thanking the school, coaches and fans for their support during their careers with the Gators. The first comes from junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who took out an ad in Wednesday’s The Independent Florida Alligator (picture via sports editor Joe Morgan).

4 » On Monday, redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins sent an extra-long message out via his Twitter account expressing a similar sentiment.

I am truly grateful to the University of Florida, Faculty and Administrators, Coach Muschamp and the entire Coaching Staff, my Brothers on the Gators Football Team and GATOR NATION for all the love and support you have shown me throughout the years. All of my future aspirations will reflect the proud tradition of GATOR PRIDE AND GREATNESS

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Gators must replace 13 starters from 2012 team

The last time the Florida Gators saw a handful of juniors move on to the NFL Draft was the 2009 season and fans have certainly not forgotten how the team looked in the two years subsequent to those departures.

And while Florida now has four junior starters having declared for the 2013 NFL Draft to go along with the nine senior starters departing the program, the Gators are in a better position to move forward next season even if there may be a few bumps in the road.

On offense, Florida will lose five starters including left tackle Xavier Nixon (senior), left guard James Wilson (redshirt senior), running back Mike Gillislee (senior), wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. (redshirt senior) and tight end Jordan Reed (draft).

Continue Reading » Gators must replace 13 starters from 2012 team

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LB Jenkins declares for draft; DE Easley staying

A fourth member of the Florida Gators football program has decided to leave early as the school announced Monday that redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins will forgo his final season of eligibility and declare for the 2013 NFL Draft.

“Jelani informed me that he wishes to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL,” said head coach Will Muschamp in a school release. “We wish him the best of luck and encourage him to return to Florida and complete his degree.”

Jenkins joins junior safety Matt Elam, junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed as Gators that are leaving the program with a year of eligibility in their pocket.

He took a redshirt his first year on campus but has been a permanent starter for Florida in each of the last three seasons. Multiple injuries took a toll on Jenkins in 2012 and it was widely believed that he would return to the program for his fifth year in an effort to raise his draft stock.

It is unlikely that he gets chosen on the first two days of the draft in April.

Instead, Jenkins departs after a season in which he played nine-of-13 games and registered just 29 total tackles (five for lost yardage). He also picked up two sacks on two quarterback hurries and one interception but most notably returned a blocked punt 36 yards for a game-winning touchdown against Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 10.

Jenkins totaled 182 tackles (16.5 for loss) with six sacks, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery from 2009-12.

Junior defensive end Dominique Easley has yet to officially announce his intentions though The Gainesville Sun‘s Pat Dooley reports that he has informed coaches that he will remain with the program for his senior season.

UPDATE: Easley officially announced his intentions via Twitter on Monday evening. “I’m comin back for my senior season we gotta get where we need to get,” he wrote.

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Gators TE Jordan Reed to enter 2013 NFL Draft

A third player has chosen to forgo his senior season of collegiate eligibility with the Florida Gators as redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed announced Friday that he has decided to enter the 2013 NFL Draft.

“I’ve enjoyed four good years at Florida, but I feel that now is the right time to pursue my dream of playing in the NFL,” said Reed in a release from the school. “I appreciate the support from all the coaches and staff here, and I’ll always be a Gator.”

Reed, Florida’s leading receiver this past season with team-highs of 45 receptions and 559 yards, joins juniors safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd as players that have decided to leave early.

Formerly a quarterback, Reed has played tight end the last two years, showing promise as a redshirt junior when he caught three touchdowns and was the team’s leading receiver in most games. For his efforts, Reed was chosen as an All-SEC selection by the Associated Press (first team) and league coaches (second team).

“It’s been a dream for all three of these players to pursue a career in the NFL and now they are all getting a chance to realize that dream,” said head coach Will Muschamp. “We are very thankful for their contributions to the Florida football program over the years and we wish them the very best of luck in the pursuit of their dreams.

“We will support them 100 percent and I look forward to them continuing to be a part of our program. I have encouraged each of them to return to Gainesville to complete their degree – as I’ve told all of our players – there will be a day when their football careers are over. Matt, Sharrif and Jordan all received high marks in the draft evaluation process.”

Junior defensive end Dominique Easley and redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins have yet to announce their intentions though it is believed both will remain with the team for the 2013 campaign.

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Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd declare for 2013 NFL Draft

Florida Gators juniors safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd officially declared for the 2013 NFL Draft on Wednesday while in the locker room following their team’s crushing loss to the Louisville Cardinals in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.

According to media members on site at the game, both players said they had their minds made up while junior defensive end Dominique Easley and redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed each said they were undecided. Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins is expected to remain with the team for his senior season.

Elam and Floyd will be the first Gators underclassmen to be selected by professional teams since Florida had five juniors go in the first 113 picks of the 2010 NFL Draft. Safety Will Hill left early in 2011 but went undrafted. Both players are potential first-round selections with Floyd the likeliest to go in the first 32 picks.

Second on the team in tackles with 76, Elam registered two sacks on the season and 11 total tackles for loss. He also had a team-high four interceptions and was easily the best playmaker in the Gators’ defensive backfield.

“It’s time to take care of the family,” Elam said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “[Playing in the NFL] was a dream. It was a goal. It’s a dream come true. … It’s been a great three years. I wish we could finish it better.”

Floyd, moved to his natural position on the interior of the defensive line, finished the campaign with 46 tackles including a team-high 13 for lost yardage. He also registered three sacks, six quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and two blocked kicks.

“This game made me focus on what I wanted to do,” Floyd said per the paper. “All my focus was on my team and on the season and on this game. Now it’s time to move. I got the blessings from my coaches. They felt it was best for me.”

OGGOA will update this story shortly.

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Report: Gators set to lose Floyd, Elam to draft

According to the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser, the Florida Gators are preparing for a pair of juniors – defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam – to declare for the 2013 NFL Draft but are also expecting to keep at least two other prominent third-year players.

Two sources told the paper that “[junior defensive end] Dominique Easley and [redshirt junior Will linebacker] Jelani Jenkins are coming back for their senior seasons.”

Floyd and Elam have long been considered the two likeliest juniors to turn pro after the 2013 Sugar Bowl as each is expected to be selected in the first or second round.

The Gainesville Sun‘s Pat Dooley reported on Dec. 10 that “Floyd is gone.”

Sources close to Elam have told OGGOA throughout the season that his brother, Kansas City Chiefs safety Abram Elam, will play a big part in helping decide his future. Abram has told Matt in the past that he would prefer that he stay in school unless he assured of being a first-round selection.

Easley and Jenkins may be joined for one more year of college football by redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed, who remains a “wildcard,” according to Lieser.

Dooley also reported in early December that Floyd, Elam, Jenkins and Reed submitted paperwork to be evaluated for the NFL Draft. Easley did not.

Floyd, Elam and Easley all deflected questions about their respective futures during media opportunities this week in New Orleans, LA.

The Gators have not had an underclassman declare for and get selected in the draft since cornerback Joe Haden, center Maurkice Pouncey, DE Carlos Dunlap, S Major Wright and TE Aaron Hernandez were all chosen in the first 113 picks of the 2010 NFL Draft. S Will Hill left early but went undrafted in 2011.

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12/29: Elam, Bostic, Jenkins, Brissett, Floyd

No. 3 Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and a handful of players met with the media after practice on Saturday to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals and provide thoughts on the team heading into the game.

ELAM’S IMPORTANCE AND FUTURE

Not every team has player as passionate and tough as junior safety Matt Elam. A first-team All-American who may very well be playing his final game at Florida, he was asked on Saturday what play he will remember from the 2012 season. “Maybe the LSU game. That strip was a big play. That saved the game. That probably was the biggest play of the year,” he said.

His teammates agree. “Right after they showed that the ball did come out and they said it was our ball. That might be the play,” senior linebacker Jon Bostic noted.

Elam is Florida’s best playmaker on the defensive side of the ball but may very well be taking his talents to the next level. According to Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels, who spoke to the Palm Beach Post, Elam’s time in the orange and blue may be through on Wednesday. “I think he’s got his mind made up. He’s gone,” Daniels said.

Whether or not he does decide to leave, something that neither he nor the coaching staff plan to discuss until after the bowl game, he has made a huge fan out of his defensive coordinator.

“The biggest transformation to me that I’ve seen from my first year of coaching Matt to now is how physical he is. And I think that really has to stem from the time and effort that he spent in the weight room changing. He’s getting stronger,” Quinn said.

“We play him at the line of scrimmage a lot, whether it’s at safety or nickel. And I think he can blitz. He can cover. But to me the physical style he plays with is one of the things that really jumps out on your team. He can blitz. He can cover. But just the physical nature that a guy can bring to your club really is a huge advantage.”

Read the rest of what the Gators had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12/29: Elam, Bostic, Jenkins, Brissett, Floyd

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12/19: Quinn and Hunter talk practice, juniors

With the team beginning preparations for the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the Louisville Cardinals in New Orleans, LA on Jan. 2, No. 3 Florida Gators defensive coordinator Brent Pease and redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter sat down with the media to discuss the team’s defense and how it is shaping up for the bowl game.

FOWLER IS “SPECIAL,” POOLE IS IMPRESSING

Head coach Will Muschamp has propped up sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy all season for making great strides in his game during practices leading up to the 2012 Gator Bowl. Asked Wednesday who has made similar strides so far in these bowl practices, Quinn pointed to two players in particular.

“In the front seven, one that is really coming on that you can see is [Buck linebacker] Dante Fowler. He’s played all year. He’s playing really at a high level right now and to me you can see the momentum, the confidence and the understanding at a faster rate. That part has been exciting,” Quinn said. “On the back end, one guy that has caught my attention that is doing a good job right now is [CB] Brian Poole. I’d say those two players are really ones to me that have caught my eye, and I thought they’ve had a good camp in terms of the work and stuff they’ve put in.”

For players like Purifoy last year and Poole this year, Quinn said it is all about growth and development. Freshmen may not pick up terminology or technique in the few practices before the season begins, so the coaching staff may not have the necessary confidence in them to play them early. As the season goes on, the players are able to pick up a lot more and are then able to display the improvements they have made in bowl practices when younger players get more time on the field.

Asked to point out players that have impressed him in bowl practice, Hunter named Purifoy, Fowler, junior DT Damien Jacobs, freshman defensive end Jonathan Bullard and sophomore CB Marcus Roberson. He had plenty of praise for Fowler in particular.

“That kid’s special. He’s special. He’s what I wanted to be my freshman year. He is very special. He’s going to be a great player here. Quick, powerful guy,” Hunter said. “I think he can play inside at three-technique; I think he can play outside at the end. He can cover tight ends. He’s just a special athlete, special football player. He’s learning the system more than anything. He’s getting smarter. He’s a smarter football player than he was when he first came in. These practices [are] where the coaches can help the younger guys more because the seniors know everything.”

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12/19: Quinn and Hunter talk practice, juniors

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