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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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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TWO BITS: football awards, less Tebow on ESPN

1 » The Florida Gators football team participated in its annual banquet on Saturday in which members of the team are presented with a number of awards for everything from on-field performance to working hard in practice and how courageous a particular player may be throughout the season. Below are the 2012 award winners, according to the University of Florida, along with some award explanations and additional details.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Jeff Driskel, Michael McNeely, Caleb Sturgis
* Second-straight year that Sturgis won the award.
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Jon Bostic, Jeremy Brown, Caleb Sturgis
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison, Omarius Hines, Lerentee McCray, Sam Robey
Chris Patrick Courage Award: Dominique Easley, Chaz Green, Jon Halapio, Ronald Powell, James Wilson
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: Max Garcia, Mark Herndon | Defensive: Alex McCalister, Jeremi Powell | ST: David Campbell, Rhaheim Ledbetter

Players’ Choice Awards
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Offense: Xavier Nixon | Defense: Dominique Easley, Matt Elam
* Second-straight year that Easley won the award.
Greg See Tenacity Award Offense: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison | Defense: Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd
Most Valuable Player Offense: Mike Gillislee | Defense: Matt Elam ST: Loucheiz Purifoy, Caleb Sturgis
* Second-straight year that a running back won the award for the offense (Chris Rainey). Second-straight year that Elam and Sturgis won the award for defense and special teams, respectively.
James W. Kynes Award (Best Mental/Physical Toughness): Jon Bostic, Matt Elam
* Presented to the “player who best exemplifies the mental and physical toughness and ‘iron-man’ determination.’ The award is traditionally won by offensive linemen.
Ray Graves Award (Team MVP): Mike Gillislee
* Second-straight year that a running back won the award (Chris Rainey).
Fergie Ferguson Leadership Award: Jon Bostic, Josh Evans, Sharrif Floyd, Frankie Hammond, Jr.
* Presented to the “player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”
Captains: Jon Bostic, Matt Elam, Mike Gillislee, Jon Halapio, Omar Hunter

2 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has barely seen the field since being traded last offseason. Now the head of ESPN is promising fans that they will see much less of him on their television sets as well. In an conversation with John Ourand of SportsBusiness Journal, ESPN President John Skipper said he recently told his production staff to reduce the amount of coverage that the networks give to Tebow and his exploits. “I said, ‘Guys, we didn’t handle this very well. Going to training camp wasn’t a problem. We just stayed on it relentlessly and too long,’” Skipper explained. “Training camp was fine. The guy’s very popular. In our business, we want to drive ratings. You’ve just got to keep long-term, short-term in mind.”

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11/26: Jenkins out, players praised, bowl notes

No. 4 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s important 37-26 victory over the then-No. 10 Florida State Seminoles and preview the next few weeks of inaction.

INJURY UPDATES

Exciting the game early, redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins learned that he broke a small bone in his foot and will be out 4-6 weeks. Muschamp said he was having surgery on the foot Monday and will probably miss the bowl game.

Florida is relatively healthy otherwise. Redshirt sophomore LB Neiron Ball (ankle) will be back in time for the bowl game. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel (ankle) is sore but fine coming out of the Florida State victory. Redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison (ankle) got dinged up and is in a boot but will be OK as well. Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Leon Orr (kidney infection) should be able to return to physical activity this week.

As far as sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders, Muschamp said he remains out for the bowl game with what was mentioned a few weeks ago to be the hamstring injury.

Reporter: “Saunders, you said a couple weeks ago wouldn’t…”
Muschamp: “Yeah, he won’t be in the bowl game.”
Reporter: “Is that injury or discipline?”
Muschamp: “Yep. he won’t be in the bowl game.”
Reporter: “Because of?”
Muschamp: “Injury.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 11/26: Jenkins out, players praised, bowl notes

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11/17: Florida vs. Jacksonville State post-game

No. 6 Florida Gators football (10-1) concluded its seven-game home schedule with a 23-0 victory over the Jacksonville State Gamecocks (6-5) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday. Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media and provided some of his thoughts after the game.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida finished 7-0 at home in a season for just the third time in school history. The 2006 and 2009 UF teams also accomplished that feat.
» The Gators are 14-1 against unranked opponents under Muschamp.
» Florida is 11-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards, 14-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 10-1 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 11-3 when scoring first and 13-1 when leading at the half.
» The Gators were once again subpar on third down, converting just 2-of-11 opportunities. UF is now 54-of-153 (35.3 percent) on third down this season.
» Florida is +13 in turnover margin through 11 games after being -12 in 2011. UF has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (342) since 2000.
» The Gators have grabbed 16 interceptions so far in 2012 and has doubled its 2011 total of eight picks. UF has registered at least one pick in eight-of-10 games and has also forced eight fumbles.
» Florida’s senior class consists of 19 players who have spent either four (10 players), five (eight) or six (one) seasons wearing the Orange and Blue. The true senior class is 23-5 in The Swamp. It went 7-0 as freshmen in 2009 and as seniors in 2012.

PLAYER NOTES

» Senior running back Mike Gillislee registered his third-highest yards-per-carry average of the season (6.1) and rushed for 100+ yards for the fourth time in 2012. He is now 36 yards away from reaching the 1,000-yard plateau and becoming the first Gators running back to do so since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. Gillislee also scored his ninth touchdown of the season and first rushing score since Oct. 6.
» Redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturigs made three field goals, bringing him just one away from tying Jeff Chandler’s school record of 67 in a career. Sturgis is also three made field goals away from tying Bobby Raymond’s single-season UF record of 23.
» Senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic registered the first interception return for a touchdown of his career. Bostic’s registered the pick early in the third quarter, bringing it back seven yards for the score.
» Senior safety Josh Evans led Florida with seven tackles including two solo takedowns and 1.5 for a total loss of two yards. He also had a half sack.

OPENING STATEMENTS

On Florida’s senior class:

“I just want to thank the 19 seniors and the job they’ve done for the University of Florida. All of those guys have represented our university in a first-class manner. Last night was really a special night. The guys got up and talked about their experience and told some great stories … I really appreciate them going through a coaching change, going through a 7-6 campaign, certainly questioning a rookie coach and his staff and where we were headed with the program. Certainly could have walked the plank, so to speak, on us, and certainly never did. I’m very appreciative of this bunch and last year’s bunch as well for going through a very tough season, a very difficult season.”

On the lack of production in the second half:

“I felt like, in the second half, we had the game under control defensively. We could have done some more things offensively, and I just told Brent, I said, ‘Let’s go win the game. Let’s get out of here and win the game.’ That’s what we needed to do. That wasn’t on Brent; that was on me.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp and the players had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 11/17: Florida vs. Jacksonville State post-game

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Senior Day – Gameday: No. 6 Florida Gators vs. Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 68°F, few showers (30% chance of rain), winds NNE at 1 mph
Time: 1:00 p.m. EDT

Tickets: Starting at $15 on TiqIQ

TV: Pay-Per-View (Larry Vettel, Nat Moore) | ESPN GamePlan (outside Florida)
SiriusXM: 104/201 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com (outside Florida)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper

No. 6 FLORIDA GATORS JACKSONVILLE STATE
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Jack Crowe
Record: 9-1 Record: 6-4
Conference: Southeastern (FBS) Conference: Ohio Valley (FCS)
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: OFF

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida and Jacksonville State have never squared off on the gridiron.
» The Gators have the No. 1 ranked strength of schedule nationally.
» Florida can finish 7-0 at home in a season for just the third time in school history. The 2006 and 2009 UF teams also accomplished that feat.
» The Gators are 13-1 against unranked opponents and 3-6 against ranked teams under Muschamp since he took over in 2011. Florida is 3-1 against ranked opponents this season with wins of Tennessee, LSU and South Carolina and a loss to Georgia.
» UF was 0-5 when trailing at the half in 2011 but have flipped that around and are 4-1 in 2012 in that category with all four victories vs. SEC opponents (two ranked).
» The Gators are 10-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 1-5 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards. UF is also 13-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 9-1 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 10-3 when scoring first and 12-1 when leading at the half.
» Florida has scored on 30-of-36 red zone trips (83.3 percent) but have only converted 19 of those possessions (52.8 percent) into touchdowns.
» UF has converted a paltry 52-of-142 third-down attempts (36.6 percent) this season, which is tied for 88th nationally in that category.
» The Gators have held their opponents to 38-of-144 on third down conversions (26.4 percent), which is good for seventh-best in the nation. UF was second nationally in third-down defense (27.3 percent) last season.
» Florida is averaging 33:11 in time of possession through 10 games, a margin that ranks sixth nationally and first in the SEC by 1:36 per game.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 155-55 in the second half (34-27 over the last three games) and 85-23 in the fourth quarter.
» Florida is third in scoring defense nationally (12.9 points per game).
» The Gators are +12 in turnover margin through 10 games after being -12 in 2011. UF has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (341) since 2000.
» Florida has grabbed 15 interceptions so far in 2012 and has already surpassed its 2011 total of eight picks. UF has registered at least one pick in seven-of-10 games and has also forced eight fumbles.
» The Gators are first nationally in pass efficiency defense (90.4), fifth in total defense (284.9 yards per game) and 11th in rushing defense (99.9 yards per game).
» Florida has at least two kickoff returns for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons after never having more than one in a single season before 2010. UF has not yet registered a kick return (or punt return) in 2012.
» The Gators are second nationally in net punt average (41.9 yards per punt).

Read about the injuries and absences and Senior Day…after the break!
Continue Reading » Senior Day – Gameday: No. 6 Florida Gators vs. Jacksonville State Gamecocks

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Florida seniors discuss careers, final home game

Eighteen Florida Gators football players will step on to Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the last time Saturday as student-athletes at the University of Florida. Below is what each had to say about his career and final home game.

» Redshirt senior running back Omarius Hines: “It’s going to be a very emotional weekend. It’s going to be a great weekend at the same time. We can be undefeated in The Swamp – that’s always a good thing.”

» Redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.: “It is [hard to believe]. Time flies fast when you’re playing ball. The four or five years I spent here have went by and the time is here. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been a great experience for me. The time comes when you have to close that door, move on, and another door opens for you. … A lot of us have poured our hearts into this program. To have it finally end and to finally look at it from the outside in, come December, we’ll be spectators of the game. It will be real emotional having that hit you like, ‘Wow. I’m not playing and now I’m sitting back and watching.’ It definitely hurts but it’s time to close that door and other opportunities will come.”

» Senior safety Josh Evans: “I hope we play one of our best games, leave it all out on The Swamp. It’s going to be a very emotional day. We call came in as freshmen, grew up together and had a brotherhood, pretty much leaving a legacy of winners. I just want to leave as a winner. … It’s been very emotional, this whole senior process. Being around these players and knowing its my last year here, it’s been very emotional at times to know that I’m moving forward. I enjoyed my time here, my highs and lows here. I appreciate everything. It was amazing. Amazing staff, coaches and players that I’ve been around. I’ve had fun since I’ve been here.”

» Redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter: “It’s going to be fun, man. I remember getting here as a freshman and all the excitement I had my first game playing. I think it’s going to top that on Saturday. My last game in The Swamp – I’m definitely going to enjoy it, definitely going to be emotional. … I’m much more mature now. When I first came in, I wasn’t that mature. I thought everything was going to be handed to me. I saw I had to work for things and be more mature, throughout my years I’ve become better as a person and a football player.”

» Senior left tackle Xavier Nixon: “It’s just a new door opening, a new chapter in all of our lives. We put in a lot of time here, a lot of energy into this program, blood, sweat and tears. It means a lot to have one last hoorah and go through the tunnel. … [We want to be remembered] as a group that overcame a lot of obstacles and a lot of adversity and at the end of the day just stuck together and remained a family. … I plan to try to graduate first. I have aspirations for the NFL, of course, but that will come when it gets here. I’m focused on the season right now.”

» Nixon on redshirt senior left guard James Wilson: “James has evolved into a great person and a great player. He’s contributed a great amount to this team over the season.”

» Redshirt senior DT Earl Okine: “My career at Florida has been up and down. My first couple years I didn’t play as much until my third year, then injuries and stuff like that, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love this university. I wouldn’t have redone anything. I love this program. It will always be a part of my life. … It means a lot [being from Gainesville]. It’s a lot of pressure. … I’m pretty sure I have a shot [to play in the NFL]. I’ve heard a couple things. If this is my last year playing football, that’s fine with me. I graduated over the summer, and I might come back and finish a double major, grad school, something like that. Right now I’m concentrating on playing football for the University of Florida.”

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Snell’s Slant: What happened to the Gators?

A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook, former guard Shannon Snell has joined OGGOA as a football columnist to provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2012 season. Snell, who played in 46 games over four seasons and started 36 contests, was named a First Team All-American by Sporting News in 2003 and spent two seasons in the NFL.

What exactly happened to this Florida football team? In most cases, I can understand the “a win is a win” mantra. In most cases, I understand that winning by seven is perfectly acceptable even when Las Vegas predicts the team to win by more than two touchdowns. It’s not how much the Gators won by that is the issue but rather how the team looked while doing so.

The Florida football players that took the field Saturday did not look like the ones that were tough and dominant in man-handling LSU. These guys did not look like the group that went on the road to College Station, TX the second week of the season and came from behind to take down Texas A&M. The Gators seem to have no identity right now, especially on offense, and look to be in a state of regression.

Three weeks ago, I was praising the job that the offensive line was doing. This unit was responsible for a lot of the success of quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Mike Gillislee and others. It was opening holes big enough for Mack trucks to drive though, and the guys were even doing a decent job providing pass protection though there were a few issues. Back to my original question: What happened?

Read the rest of this edition of Snell’s Slant…after the break!
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