FOUR BITS: early enrollees, Dowling, Outback

1 » Though National Signing Day is nearly a month away, half of the Florida Gators current 2011 commitments have already enrolled at the University of Florida for the spring semester. Five-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), four-star tight end A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL), four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL), four-star athlete/safety De’Ante Saunders (DeLand, FL), four-star wide receiver Javares McRoy (Lakeland, FL), four-star linebacker Clay Burton (Venice, FL), three-star offensive lineman Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT) and kicker/punter Kyle Christy (Brownburg, IN) will all be taking classes at UF by Monday. The Gators have eight more commitments to sign in the first week of February and have more than half a dozen spaces to fill before then.

2 » Five-star 2010 commitment S Jonathan Dowling, who was kicked off the Florida football team in November due to a violation of team rules, recently decided to transfer to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and is petitioning the NCAA for a waiver so he does not have to miss another season. According to the Bradenton Herald, new Gators head coach Will Muschamp “made a last-ditch effort” to get Dowling back on the team but was rebuffed even though the player reportedly passed his first semester of classes.

3 » Some believed that Florida did not necessarily deserve the opportunity to play in the 2011 Outback Bowl due to their regular season performance but apparently the committee knew exactly what they were doing in scheduling them to face the equally underwhelming Penn State Nittany Lions The Outback Bowl drew a 7.6 overnight rating on ABC, up 105 percent from the 2010 contest between Northwestern and Auburn (3.7 on ESPN) and up 171 percent from the 2008 game which featured South Carolina and Iowa (2.8 on ESPN). UF-PSU drew the highest overnight rating for a non-BCS college football bowl game on broadcast television since 2008, according to SportsBusiness Daily, and even out-drew the 2011 Fiesta Bowl later that night (6.7).

4 » Four-star WR Kelvin Benjamin, a long-time Gators target who was scheduled to visit Florida next week after Muschamp initially convinced him to delay his decision, committed to the Florida State Seminoles over the weekend and will no longer take a trip to Gainesville, FL. Benjamin, who was choosing between the big three colleges in Florida, is considered an impressive WR prospect and adds yet another big name to head coach Jimbo Fisher‘s 2011 recruiting class.

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Safety Dowling kicked off Florida football team

During his weekly Monday afternoon press conference, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer announced that freshman safety Jonathan Dowling is no longer a member of the football program due to a violation of team rules.

Rated as a five-star athlete coming out of high school by ESPNU, Dowling was also listed as the best at his position and the No. 10 recruit in the country last year. Rivals and Scout each considered him a four-star prospect and one of the top safeties in the nation.

Dowling is the third player from Florida’s highly touted freshman class to leave the program. Safety Jordan Haden and wide receiver Adrian Coxson transferred in Aug.

Unlike other dismissals, Meyer noted that Dowling is “done” with the team and will not be returning to the program. He refused to comment further.

OGGOA will update this story as more information is made available.

Photo Credit: Davide De Pas

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FOUR BITS: Dowling, Thomas, Benjamin, Brown

1 » Florida Gators freshman safety Jonathan Dowling is excited about his first season of college football, but no game is getting him more pumped up than one coming up on Oct 2. “I can’t wait until the Alabama game,” Dowling told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “I am just going to keep working hard, doing what I am told. Hopefully I can get on the field this year. That is my main goal. I will just keep going as hard as I can these next few weeks and that decision will be left up to the coaches.” Dowling also said that junior S Will Hill has taken him under his wing. “I follow everything he does, learn as much as I can,” he said. “He teaches me as much as he can so I just pay attention to everything he does and try to copy everything he does to the best of my ability. I want to make myself as good as he is, or try to get even better.”

2 » Rookie quarterback Tim Tebow may be getting all of the attention from Florida fans, but three other former Gators – defensive end Jarvis Moss, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney and defensive tackle Marcus Thomas are also trying to do big things with the Denver Broncos. “It’s down to the wire,” Thomas told The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley. “I put it in the mindset that I’m back in college. This is the fourth year of college. It’s time to start producing. You can’t be a rookie forever. I see guys get cut and never sign on with anyone else. I don’t want people to be wondering what ever happened to [me].”

Reflecting on his college career, Thomas wishes he could have done things differently. “I look back at Florida and I really, really blew it. I’m definitely more mature now. I thought I had thrown my career away at the time,” he said. “[I] missed out on the national championship game. I was happy they won but I should have been out there. It hurt. It really hurt. On the flip side, when I was watching the game, I was wishing I was playing for Ohio State. There was some resentment. But when I look back, I was being prepared for the real world. In college, you’re still being babied. You come out here and there are no second or third chances. […] The [Gators] had some regulations and restrictions I pretty much violated. I was doing well on the field and I felt like they pretty much needed me. I thought I was bigger than the team. Urban [Meyer] proved I wasn’t.”

3 » Glades Central High School head coach Jessie Hester has told the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser that four-star WR recruit Kelvin Benjamin (Belle Glade, FL) currently has Florida in the lead for his services. At 6’5” and over 200 lbs., Benjamin is one of the best players in the country and will likely stay in the state no matter what school he chooses. “I think he’s leaning toward Florida right now, believe it or not. He’s up there a lot,” Hester, a former Florida State WR, said. “Miami’s just down the road and I know he hasn’t been there much — if any. The only time he went to Florida State was when we had the 7-on-7 [event]. So I think it’s Florida.”

4 » Just two days after being “outed” by Star Magazine as the woman with whom country music star Kenny Chesney is having an affair, former Gators softball player and ESPN sideline reporter Jenn Brown has been announced as Icehouse’s new national spokesperson and brand ambassador. “Icehouse doesn’t take itself too seriously,” Brown said in a company press release. “It’s like a loyal friend who’s always having fun and knows that time spent with buddies should never be less than great… and never watered down. And what’s better than watching football with an ice-cold Icehouse?” Watching it with almost any other beer on the market.

Photo Credit: Davide De Pas

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Gators’ newest footballers pick uniform numbers

Athletes care about their uniform numbers, and now that Florida Gators football is preparing to begin practice for the 2010-11 season in just about a week, it was time for the team’s newest members to choose theirs. The freshman roster, according to the University of Florida, can be found…after the break:
Continue Reading » Gators’ newest footballers pick uniform numbers

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Florida football’s five positions of need for 2010

With the Florida Gators’ first Junior Day of the 2011 session in the books and recruiting for the next term already underway, OGGOA recruiting contributor Zach Abolverdi takes a look at what will be the top five needs for the team next offseason.

Check out the Gators’ top five positions of need for 2011 after the jump!
Continue Reading » Florida football’s five positions of need for 2010

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FOUR BITS: Dowling to WR? SEC award winners

1 » In a Q&A session on Rivals Thursday, recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg addressed the Florida Gators’ needs at wide receiver by mentioning that five-star safety Jonathan Dowling (Bradenton, FL) has requested that the catch instead of defend passes while wearing the Orange and Blue. Dowling, assumed to be playing free safety, is listed as an athlete by many recruiting services, could find a spot in Florida’s receiving corps, though he should also see an opportunity to get some time on the field in the secondary.

2 » Though he was not focused on former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris praised the signal caller and believes there will be plenty of teams interested in his services. “Teams will be fired up to get him,” Morris told The Tampa Tribune. “He’s won at every level. His teammates love him. They’ll let you know they love him. […] Those are the kind of guys you look for to involve in the character, leadership and also the winning of your football team.”

Two more BITS on Joe Haden and UF award-winners after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Dowling to WR? SEC award winners

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ESPN notes on Gators’ 2010 recruiting class

Calling the Florida Gators’ 2010 group “one of the best recruiting classes ever,” Tom Luginbill of Scouts, Inc. heaped praise on what has already been accomplished in Gainesville, FL. “The quality of this class is staggering, given what has taken place with the program over the past month,” he writes. Read the rest in Luginbill’s ESPN column.

Four-star safety commitments Jonathan Dowling and Demar Dorsey spoke with ESPN about the 2010 recruiting class, playing together and head coach Urban Meyer:

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FOUR BITS: Meyer, Kiffin, Powell, basketball

1 » If you were watching the basketball game Tuesday night between the Florida Gators and No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats, you may have seen this clip of head coach Urban Meyer and his wife Shelley smirking while checking their respective phones:

2 » The Tennessean points out that former Tennessee Volunteers head coach Lane Kiffin “decided it was included in his job description […] to annoy Urban Meyer.” Unfortunately, as the article puts it, “a good feud was just ruined.” Similarly, the Orlando Sentinel recounts Kiffin’s top 10 most memorable moments as coach of the Volunteers.

3 » The brand new 2010 ESPNU 150 and 2010 Rivals100 both list Gators five-star defensive end commitment Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA) as their respective No. 1 prospect in the country. Other top Florida recruits ranking high on both lists include five-star defensive tackle Dominique Easley (3/7) five-star safety Matt Elam (9/25), five-star defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (25/4), four-star cornerback Joshua Shaw (28/28), four-star tight end Gerald Christian (35/81), four-star wide receiver Chris Dunkley (37/77), four-star offensive tackle Ian Silberman (41/71), four-star CB Jaylen Watkins (50/47) and four-star DT Leon Orr (81/95). Others who made the ESPNU list but not Rivals’ include: S Jonathan Dowling (10/NR), S Demar Dorsey (12/NR), RB Mack Brown (34/NR), CB Cody Riggs (79/NR), WR Solomon Patton (106/NR). ESPNU ranks four Gators in its top 10.

4 » “If Florida is to be an NCAA tournament team again — if it’s to snap a two-year hiatus after consecutive NCAA titles — the Gators must start a roll Saturday against LSU,” writes ESPN senior college basketball writer Andy Katz. Read his entire blog entry on the Gators and their hopes to earn a spot in March Madness this season.

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