2015 WR prospect Tristan Payton picks Florida

For the third time in the last four days, the Florida Gators have added a prospect to their 2015 recruiting class as unranked wide receiver Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, FL) committed to join the program on Monday.

Payton received his Florida offer when he attended Junior Day in Gainesville, FL on Saturday and made his mind up soon afterwards.

The Jacksonville product from First Coast High School is the third player from his city to commit to the Gators this cycle. He joins three-stars defensive back Deontai Williams (Trinity Christian High School) and offensive lineman Tyler Jordan (Bishop Kenny High School) as Florida pledges.

Payton (6-foot-1, 180 pounds), who was recruited by wide receivers coach Joker Phillips, also had offers from Kentucky and UCF with Auburn, Louisville and Ohio State all reportedly showing interest as well.

Aside from Jordan, who committed on Saturday, the Gators also picked up a pledge from three-star WR Deondre Farrier (Orlando, FL) on Friday. Florida’s 2015 class is now at four players, all local in-state prospects.

Payton’s commitment was first reported by InsidetheGators.com‘s Blake Alderman.

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Summers prepared to build foundation for Gators

Offensive line coach Mike Summers appears to be the perfect fit for a head coach in Will Muschamp who has repeated over and over again that he wants the line of scrimmage to be where games are won and lost for the Florida Gators.

“I really believe that the offensive line should be the foundation for our football team,” said Summers on Monday during his introductory press conference. “They ought to be the example of how we want to play, the example of how we want to finish, the example of how to do things the right way.

“That’s the standard of excellence that’s going to be set for them to rise up to. I think the older I get the less tolerant I am. I don’t lower my standards to get to them. They have to come up to the standards that I set and those standards are going to be real high.”

For a unit that was supposed to be much-improved last season, it was anything but the case. Injuries had a lot to do with it – three starting tackles were lost, one of whom got hurt in the offseason – but those that stepped up failed to consistently open up holes in the run game or protect the quarterback.

Summers has not even bothered to look at film of the disastrous 2013 campaign. Instead, he has been focused on building social relationships with his players, opening lines of communication and doing all of it for the long-term good of the position group.

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SIX BITS: Prather, Grier, Phillilps, Patton, Wickline

1 » The Florida Gators on Sunday announced that senior forward Casey Prather (knee) is being listed as “doubtful” for Tuesday’s home contest against the Georgia Bulldogs as he is still dealing with a bone bruise he apparently suffered last Wednesday. Prather, Florida’s leading scorer who has posted double-digit point totals in all 14 game he’s played this season, has missed three practices already.

2 » The Independent Florida Alligator’s Adam Lichtenstein, citing an anonymous tip provided to the paper, uncovered a video posted on the Vine account of Gators four-star quarterback commit Will Grier (titled “Lax es gay”) that appears to show him using the homophobic slur beginning with “F” nine times before declaring, “[Lacrosse] is gay.” The video was posted to his account 269 days ago, exactly four months after he committed to UF. (The video linked above contains offensive language not condoned by OnlyGators.com.) As Lichtenstein correctly points out, “this is unacceptable behavior from Grier” and is something that should absolutely have been addressed by Florida. Though the school had no reason to address this publicly at that time – he was not a member of the program yet – one would think that those in charge of monitoring the social media accounts of Gators recruits would have strongly suggested he remove the video. After all, it has been hiding in plain sight for nearly nine months.

3 » According to Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls, Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips is one of three men being considered by head coach Charlie Strong to serve as Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator. Phillips has spent five years in an offensive coordinator role, holding that exact position at Kentucky from 2005-08 and working as “head coach of offense” at his alma mater in 2009 when he was named Rich Brooks’s successor. Prior to that, Phillips spent 13 of 14 years coaching wide receivers and was widely considered a coach who had not been given a fair opportunity to move up in the ranks. He was head coach at UK from 2010-12 before being fired and taking over as the Gators’ wide receivers coach in 2013. Phillips is entering the second year of a two-year contract and is set to earn $265,000 this season.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Prather, Grier, Phillilps, Patton, Wickline

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Gators hire Trojans OL coach Mike Summers

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp on Monday announced the hiring of former USC Trojans offensive line coach Mike Summers to the same position.

Summers, who will replace Tim Davis and has 33 years of experience coaching the offensive line, previously worked under current Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips at Kentucky from 2010-12.

“I’m excited to have Coach Summers join our staff,” said Muschamp in a school release. “He has 34 years of experience, has been an offensive coordinator for 15 years and has coached in the SEC. He has a diverse background and has experience in the NFL. He will be a great addition to our staff.”

Bringing a wealth of knowledge and talent to the Gators coaching staff, Summers, 56, began his career as a graduate assistant at UK (1980-81) and Texas A&M (1982-84) before moving on to become the offensive coordinator for Northern Illinois (1985-90). He then left for Oregon State, where he worked as the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator from 1991-95, prior to taking over as assistant head coach/offensive coordinator at University of the South (1996-99).

Summers’s one year not coaching the offensive line came as tight ends coach at Oklahoma State. He then returned to manning the offensive line at Ohio (2001-02) before joining Bobby Petrino’s staff at Louisville (2003-06) and moving on with him to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons in 2007.

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Florida OC Roper talks Cutcliffe, coaching, challenges and expectations with Gators

Hours after officially being announced as the new offensive coordinator of the Florida Gators, Kurt Roper met with the media via a teleconference held by the Duke Blue Devils. He will remain with Duke as offensive coordinator for the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31 before joining the Florida football program.


For all but one of his 17 years as a coach, Roper has worked in some way, shape or form under Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe with stops at Tennessee, Ole Miss and now Duke. Cutcliffe on Thursday discussed Roper at length, explaining why he believes he is ready for a top-tier job.

» On Roper’s strengths: “There’s the things that we pride ourselves in: detail and training quarterbacks, the attention to detail of preparing an offensive team to play a game, practice habits. It’s the total package. I think you have a systematic approach, everything is covered. You try to take players offensively – that’s what your job is to be an offensive coordinator – to put them in every circumstance they can possibly be in, in a game, in practice, and build confidence through great execution. Kurt will certainly, that will be one of their great strengths. They will be extremely well-prepared coming out of practice.”

» On Roper’s coaching style: “His style would be intensity, tempo, quality of repetition. From the minute they hit the field, it’s going to be intense. He’s not a…I wouldn’t call him a laid-back football coach by any stretch of the imagination. It’s going to be what we call ‘treat the ground like a hot stove.’ If you hit the ground, you better get up running. By the time they get on the field until they get off, they’re going to be moving and getting a bunch of quality reps. So I would call it very intense.”

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Muschamp interviews Roper for Florida OC job

Updated at 4:15 p.m.

Head coach Will Muschamp on Monday interviewed Duke Blue Devils offensive coordinator Kurt Roper for the same position on the Florida Gators staff, according to CoachingSearch.com, and was still in the process of doing so as of press time.

According to the travel history of the University Athletic Association’s private jet, Muschamp or Florida representatives flew into Raleigh, NC, Monday morning around 6 a.m. but left a half hour later, arriving back in Gainesville, FL at 8 a.m. with Roper as a passenger. The same flight departed from Gainesville in the afternoon and has already set down back in Raleigh.

One of five finalists for the 2013 Broyles Award (which is handed out to the best assistant coach in college football), Roper is in his fifth season at Duke and also serves as the program’s assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach. His unit has finished top-70 nationally each of the last two seasons in both scoring and total offense.

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2014 WR Ryan Sousa flips to Florida from FSU

A team badly in need of playmakers has picked up a second wide receiver for its 2014 recruiting class as the Florida Gators on Monday gained a commitment from three-star prospect Ryan Sousa (Orlando, FL).

Sousa (6-foot-0, 180-pounds) flipped from Florida State to Florida just two days after watching the Seminoles whip the Gators 37-7 in Gainesville, FL. Nevertheless, the lifelong Florida fan decided to make the switch.

Listed as a four-star player by ESPN, Sousa finished his senior season with 100 receptions for 1,664 yards and 23 touchdowns. As a junior, he racked up 21 scores and 1,601 yards on 92 catches. He’s averaged 16.70 yards per reception for his high school career, which lasted three years as Sousa did not play during his freshman season.

The Gators did not offer Sousa until Nov. 1. At the time, he called the offer from his favorite team a “special moment” but remained committed to FSU.

Wide receivers coach Joker Phillips has been instrumental in his recruitment, speaking with Sousa every week since he camped at Florida back in June.

“Coach Phillips and I have a relationship just like I do with my head coach for my high school. We have gotten pretty close and I trust Coach Phillips with everything and I think he’s a great coach,” Sousa told InsidetheGators.com’s Blake Alderman on Nov. 4. “I have heard lots of good things about him and heard he has great character.”

Sousa joins four-star Ermon Lane (Homestead, FL) as the only wide receivers committed to the Gators at this time. He also made his pledge despite Florida firing its offensive coordinator on Monday.

247Sports first reported Sousa’s commitment on Monday evening.

He is the 16th member of the Gators’ 2014 recruiting class, which you can check out in full by clicking here.

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Florida’s Solomon Patton transforms from “jet sweep guy” to game-breaking wide receiver

It’s fair to say senior wide receiver Solomon Patton was an afterthought for the vast majority of his career with the Florida Gators.

As Florida struggled to find playmaking wideouts in each of his first three years with the program, Patton (5-foot-9, 177 pounds) was viewed as not much more than speedy guy who could play a role on special teams and occasionally be used as a gadget player.

And he did all of those things quite well. In 2010, Patton appeared in 10 games on special teams. He returned some kicks, brought back a blocked punt for a touchdown against Vanderbilt and blocked a punt of his own in the bowl game against Penn State. In 2011’s season opener against Florida Atlantic, Patton blocked another punt.

Then in 2012, head coach Will Muschamp and then-new offensive coordinator Brent Pease handed him a new task – running jet sweeps on offense. Patton succeeded there as well, taking 14 for a total of 140 yards (with a long gain of 54) before breaking his arm against Georgia and missing the remainder of the season.

Through three seasons, Patton had registered just eight receptions for 79 total yards with a long gain of 17. The coaching staff, and Patton himself, decided it was time for a change in his final collegiate season.

Muschamp challenged Patton to become more than just a “jet sweep guy.” He wanted him to improve his route running and become a complete receiver, someone the Gators could count on to make vertical plays rather than just horizontal ones.

The first sign of his hard work paying off was the second week of the season against Miami when Patton grabbed a career-high six receptions for a career-high 118 yards and the first receiving touchdown of his career. He gained more receiving yards that game than in his previous three seasons combined.

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