Florida Gators 2015 spring practice: Will Grier leads quarterback battle … by a hair

Head coach Jim McElwain took the field with the Florida Gators for the 12th time on Monday as the 2015 spring practice session kicked off its final stretch. After practice, he met with the media to discuss some goings on with the team over the last four days.

Opening statement

Due to the holiday weekend, McElwain did not hold a media availability on Friday to discuss that day’s practice. He recapped both on Monday.

“I was really happy actually with [Monday’s] practice. Obviously it was our last one without pads and a lot of times the guys focus – as far as what you get out of it – isn’t great. But I thought they really came out and got a lot out of it. We were able to really focus on a lot of our situational stuff, last play of the game, some big things both offensively and defensively as well as in special teams, special situations – long field goal, long return – a lot of the things that you try to do and get accomplished and make sure on your checklist that you handle. … You prepare yourself in many ways as you can off your checklist, so that was good.

“Going back to Friday … I thought the defense really asserted themselves. Offensively, the first drive was good – they went seven plays, overcame a penalty … and went down and scored right away. But other than that, the defense did a much, much better job taking the ball away and handling some three-and-out situations. I think [the defense] definitely took control of the scrimmage.”

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Undeterred by poop jokes or offensive changes, Florida running backs look to step up this spring

Florida Gators running back Adam Lane Jr. finally had his moment in the sun … in the final game of his second season with the team.

Lane, a redshirt freshman last season, did not play in 2013 and only saw action on special teams until the eighth game of the 2014 campaign. Though he got eight total carries as a reserve rusher during a three-week span prior to the end of the regular season, Lane did not truly get his opportunity until Florida faced East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl.

“I was really excited just to be on special teams, being out there just playing, just having somewhat of a role last year,” Lane admitted Wednesday. “At times you can get frustrated, but I knew that I could be patient and just play my role on the team and my opportunity would come eventually, and it did.”

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Florida picks up big commitment from four-star 2015 RB Jordan Scarlett

With National Signing Day approaching, the Florida Gators desperately needed to start landing some top-notch prospects and did just that on Monday when four-star running back Jordan Scarlett (Fort Lauderdale, FL) announced his verbal commitment to the program.

A one-time Florida Atlantic pledge who was committed to Miami as recently as Saturday, Scarlett (5-foot-11, 222 pounds) is ranked as the 12th best running back and No. 118 overall player in the nation per the 247Sports Composite.

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Skipper on Florida: “I was ready to walk here.”

More Florida Gators assistant features: Randy Shannon | Terrell Williams | Geoff Collins

The second-youngest member of head coach Jim McElwain’s recently-announced Florida Gators staff, running backs coach Tim Skipper, 36, has earned the nickname of “handy man” from McElwain due to his versatility.

Skipper is so trusted by McElwain that he was his assistant head coach at Colorado State, where he coached linebackers. Skipper has also coached defensive backs and coordinated defenses in college despite the fact that the rest of his family has made a name for themselves coaching running backs in the NFL.

Of course, Skipper has done that, too, most notably at Fresno State under McElwain, a stop where he recruited and coached up Ryan Mathews.

“He’s outstanding. Played for Coach [Pat] Hill as a linebacker, came back as a running backs coach, really wanted to go back and coach defense, begged him to stay on offense. You look at the production of the players he had at Fresno State, how he recruited to the position, what he did with those players, the guy is a phenomenal football coach,” said Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

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Florida Gators football odds and ends: injuries, departures and more

The Florida Gators (7-5) concluded their 2014 season on Saturday, earning a 28-20 win over the East Carolina Pirates in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, a victory which marked the end of the four-year Will Muschamp era in Gainesville, Florida.

While the Gators have since announced a coaching staff and are prepared to move on under new head coach Jim McElwain, there are still some odds and ends to wrap up from the end of the 2014 campaign.

Bowl game injuries

A number of Florida players were hurt during the Birmingham Bowl but most appeared to be relatively minor injuries. That was not the case for junior linebacker Antonio Morrison, the first player since Ahmad Black in 2010 to record more than 100 tackles in a single season.

Morrison, who was considering leaving for the 2015 NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining, was on the field screaming in pain with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. He was carted off the field, and UF interim coach D.J. Durkin could offer nothing more than a general statement about Morrison’s injury after the game.

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Gameday: 2015 Birmingham Bowl (Birmingham, AL) – Florida Gators vs. East Carolina Pirates

Location: Legion Field – Birmingham, Alabama [Capacity: 70,459]
Weather: 63°F, scattered thunderstorms (45% chance of rain), winds SSE at 13 mph
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Dave Neal, Andre Ware, Laura Rutledge)

Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 83 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(Interim) Head Coach: D.J. Durkin Head Coach: Ruffin McNeill
Record: 6-5 Record: 8-4
Conference: Southeastern Conference: American

Odds: Florida -7 | O/U 56


» Florida, which is bowl eligible or the first time since 2012, is 20-20 all-time in bowl games. The Gators had won four-straight before falling to Louisville in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, the last of their 22-straight bowl game appearances. UF is also making its 20th appearance in a January bowl game in the last 22 seasons (since 1993), most in the nation.
» Durkin is serving as a head coach for the first time. He is Florida’s fourth interim coach all time, following Galen Hall (1984), Gary Darnell (1989) and Charlie Strong (2004).
» The Gators have not played at Legion Field since 1993. Florida is 4-2 all-time in the city of Birmingham, last playing a bowl game in town in 1988.
» UF is also 1-0 all-time against ECU with a 24-17 victory in Gainesville in 1983.
» The Gators and Pirates will play twice in a three-game span with UF hosting ECU on Sept. 12, the second week of the 2015 regular season.
» Florida is 23-7 against unranked opponents since Will Muschamp took over in 2011.
» Five of UF’s 11 games this season have been decided by six points or fewer (2-3).
» The Gators will not be ranked at any point in a full season for the first time since 1979.
» Despite its struggles, Florida’s offense has been an efficient scorer in the red zone, converting 38-of-42 opportunities (.905). That’s good for third in the SEC and 12th nationally. The Gators, however, have only converted 24 red zone touchdowns on those 42 trips (.571).
» Nearly 43 percent of opponent drives against Florida have ended in a three-and-out (66 of 155).
» Since Muschamp took over in 2011, the Gators are 23-5 when holding an opponent to 21 or fewer points, 20-3 when rushing for 150+ yards, 26-6 when outrushing an opponent, 17-7 when scoring first and 23-4 when leading at the half. Conversely, Florida is 1-8 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards, 2-15 when being out-rushed by an opponent and 5-17 when tied or trailing at the half.

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Top 14 for 2014: Florida Gators best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2014 (see the Not Top 14 for 2014), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2014. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 14 for 2014.


Gators women’s basketball has struggled to find relevancy but there was no question Florida had its engines running on Jan. 5 when it pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history, an 83-73 upset win over No. 6 Kentucky. The win broke a six-game losing streak for UF against UK and was head coach Amanda Butler’s first win over a top-10 ranked opponent after going 0-17 previously in such games. Florida had lost 19-straight regular-season games against top 10-ranked opponents, earning its last victory to such a team in Feb. 2006.


Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had a life-changing 2014 after agreeing to sign a long-term broadcasting deal with ESPN. Tebow was featured on the network’s national title broadcast that season and was later assigned to the SEC Network where he served as one of three analysts for the channel’s Saturday pre-game show, SEC Nation. Tebow has drawn rave reviews throughout 2014 for his passionate opinions and consistent on-air knowledge. He also proved to be unbiased, lambasting the leadership on Florida’s offense when the team struggled during the middle of the season. One Tebow moment – a spot-on impersonation of former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier – was OnlyGators.com’s most-watched Vine with 1.3 million loops as of press time.

Tebow also closed 2014 with a brilliant on-air prediction, which you can check out below.

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Report: Florida RB Matt Jones to enter NFL Draft

Florida Gators junior running back Matt Jones will forgo his remaining eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL Draft, according to a report from Nick de la Torre of Gator Country.

“Always Bleed Orange And Blue!!,” Jones wrote Monday via his Twitter account.

Jones is the third Gators underclassman to declare for the draft, joining junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (a potential first-round pick) and redshirt junior offensive lineman Tyler Moore. Other players with a year of eligibility remaining may follow the trio, namely junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard and left tackle D.J. Humphries.

Jones, a two-year starter who suffered from a serious viral infection and devastating knee injury that cut his 2013 campaign short, was Florida’s leading rusher this season with 817 yards and six touchdowns on 166 carries. He also caught 11 passes for 65 yards and added a receiving score. In five games last season, Jones gained 339 yards on 79 carries, scoring just twice.

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