No. 3 Florida Gators set to face No. 21 Louisville Cardinals in 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl

Coming off an 11-1 regular season, a five-game improvement from a year ago, the No. 3 Florida Gators have been awarded a spot in the 2013 Sugar Bowl where the team will take on the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals (10-2) on Jan. 2 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. The game will air live at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Florida and Louisville will be participating in the 79th annual version of the game. It is the ninth time the Gators will play in the Sugar Bowl but the first for the Cardinals.

UF holds a 3-5 all-time record in the Sugar Bowl, last playing against and defeating Cincinnati 51-24 on Jan. 1, 2010. Florida is also 2-0 all-time against Louisville; the teams have not met since 1992.

The Gators were originally expected to face the Oklahoma Sooners in the game. However, a strong finish to the season by Northern Illinois Huskies moved them up to No. 15 in the final BCS standings and into a game. The Huskies earned a guaranteed berth because they finished in the top 16 of the BCS standings and ahead of at least one automatic qualifying conference champion, thus knocking the Sooners out of an at-large bid and moving the Cardinals into the Sugar Bowl.

The game has an additional level of intrigue as Louisville is currently led by former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who took over as head coach in 2010. Also on Strong’s staff are former UF defensive backs coach Vance Bedford (defensive coordinator), running backs coach Kenny Carter (same position) and defensive graduate assistant Tommy Restivo (DB coach).

The Cardinals’ roster also includes Gators transfers wide receiver Robert Clark, tight end Gerald Christian and cornerback Adrian Bushell.

Florida will be appearing in its 22nd consecutive bowl game, a mark that ranks first in the Southeastern Conference and second nationally. The Gators are 20-19 all-time in bowls; UF has won four straight and six of its last seven.

Sugar Bowl Committee President Jack Laborde: “We’re very excited to be welcoming the University of Florida and the University of Louisville to New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Each year, we have the pleasure of welcoming thousands of fans to this great city and showing off all it has to offer – world-class cuisine, trend-setting music, outstanding gridiron competition and more. We look forward to introducing our unique flavor of hospitality to all of the players, coaches, administrators and fans from these two great schools.”

Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan: “We’re very pleased to have the opportunity to host these two outstanding teams in this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl Committee has worked hard over the years to present outstanding match-ups that produce thrilling games. In Will Muschamp and Charlie Strong, we have two of the country’s top young coaches and we know both will have their teams ready to play on January 2nd. We have little doubt that this game will produce another memorable chapter in the great history of the Sugar Bowl.”

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SIX BITS: Vandy, Carter, Bedford, recruiting news

1 » REMINDER: Florida Gators basketball begins 2010 Southeastern Conference play Saturday at noon on ESPN2 against the Vanderbilt Commodores on the road in Nashville, TN. Just an hour later at 1 p.m., the U.S. Army All-American Bowl will air live on NBC. OGGOA will have live coverage of both games.

2 » Former Florida running backs coach Kenny Carter said that, though his move to the Louisville Cardinals appears to be a lateral one, it will help advance his career. “Florida has been great to me,” Carter told the Orlando Sentinel. “I learned so much from Urban [Meyer]. I’m grateful for the opportunity. It’s a dream job for 95 percent of coaches. But there are a lot of factors that go into a coaching move while most people think it has something to do with the team they are leaving. I want to be a head coach one day, and in order to be a head coach, there are things involved in that process. Helping a program from the ground up and working for Charlie [Strong] really intrigued me.” Carter will also help organize special teams with Louisville.

3 » In its first meet of the 2010 season, No. 4 Gators gymnastics fell to the No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners 195.275 to 196.250. Florida won the vault but lost on bars, beam and floor while competing on the road in Norman, OK.

4 » Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong officially announced Friday that former Gators cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford has been hired as his defensive coordinator.

5 » Conflicting reports emerged that three-star running back recruit Shontrelle Johnson (Deland, FL) received a scholarship offer from Florida earlier this week, but in the end none of them truly matter. Johnson, who claims he received an offer from the Gators to play defensive back, has reaffirmed his commitment to the Iowa State Cyclones. “They want me to play DB,” Johnson told Chris Hays of the Sentinel. “I’m a running back. I run the ball. That’s what I do.”

6 » Four-stars athlete/safety recruit Dietrich Riley (La Canada, CA) and Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback commitment Andrew Hendrix (Cincinnati, OH) will be visiting Gainesville, FL, this weekend according to Rivals.

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Florida Gators coaching staff as of January 5

Head Coach: Urban Meyer

Interim Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Offensive Line: Steve Addazio
Quarterbacks: Scot Loeffler
Wide Receivers: Billy Gonzales (LSU) Zach Azzanni
Running Backs: Kenny Carter (Louisville) Stan Drayton
Tight Ends: Brian White

Defensive Coordinator: Charlie Strong (Louisville) TBD
Assistant Defensive Coordinator, Safeties: Chuck Heater
Associate Head Coach, Defense/Defensive Line: Dan McCarney
Linebackers: Charlie Strong (Louisville) D.J. Durkin
Cornerbacks: Vance Bedford (Louisville) TBD

Special Teams: Urban Meyer D.J. Durkin
Recruiting Coordinator: Billy Gonzales (LSU) TBD
Director of Player and Community Relations: Terry Jackson

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Stan Drayton returns as running backs coach

Former Florida Gators running backs coach Stan Drayton has been rehired to his former job according to three sources close to the team. Drayton, who spent last season in the same position with the Syracuse Orange, left the Gators in a lateral move to the Tennessee Volunteers before the 2008 season. Florida’s running backs coach position opened after current assistant Kenny Carter decided to accept the same job with head coach Charlie Strong and the Louisville Cardinals.

Drayton, a member of the Gators coaching staff for three seasons from 2005-07, left in 2008 after he attempted to leverage a job with Tennessee to increase his salary and responsibilities at Florida. Head coach Urban Meyer did not fire Drayton but instead suggested he take the position made available to him. “I can’t go into too much detail, but it was a little rough, a little rocky,” Drayton said at the time. “He had a coach that was getting ready to entertain a situation at his rival school. I understood that completely.”

Other stops Drayton has made include Mississippi State (2004), the NFL’s Green Bay Packers (2001-03), Bowling Green (2000) and Villanova (1996-2000). While with Green Bay, Drayton was the offensive quality control and assistant special teams coach.

Upon departing Gainesville, FL, Drayton slighted the Gators while propping up Meyer to the Nashville Tennessean, saying that Florida was not a program that nurtured running backs. “The offense that we were running at Florida didn’t have much involvement from the running back,” Drayton said. “There was some frustration there, to be honest with you. But you’re in a community that’s very supportive of Florida. Florida’s been good to me for three years. It was a very comfortable situation, it really was. Urban Meyer made it a very comfortable situation for me.”

Gators running back Anthony Gay spoke to the Sporting News in January 2008 about the rocky relationship between the two coaches. “They ain’t like this,” Gay said while holding up crossed fingers. “They’re not even really tight. A lot of days, I’ve seen Coach Drayton shed tears before. Not in front of [Meyer], but right after practice because of how he acknowledged him, because of how he belittled him.”

In a release from the University of Florida, Meyer welcomed Drayton and new linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin to the staff. “Coach Addazio and I worked together on this and are excited to have D.J. and Stan join our coaching staff,” Meyer said. “Both guys are familiar with the plan we have for our program, our coaches and our student-athletes. It will be a smooth transition and they both bring a high level of expertise to the table and have proven to be good recruiters.”

UPDATE: Pat Dooley of this Gainesville Sun wrote the via his twitter account Tuesday evening – “I hear Urban Meyer apologized for cutting [Drayton] loose [two] years ago.”

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TWO BITS: Defensive coach, running backs coach

With Florida Gators cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford and running backs coach Kenny Carter all but gone to the Louisville Cardinals, speculation is running rampant about who will replace them on the coaching staff. Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel reports that UF is looking to hire a coach to either directly replace Bedford or take over those duties while also holding down a co-defensive coordinator role alongside current assistant Chuck Heater. Some names have been thrown around for both positions, and OGGOA has compiled them for our readers in short form.

1 » Defensive coach / cornerbacks coach
Willie Martinez: former Georgia Bulldogs defensive coordinator
Corwin Brown: Notre Dame Fighting Irish associate head coach, co-defensive coordinator, defensive backs coach
*replaced at ND by Grand Valley State head coach Chuck Martin
Taver Johnson: Ohio State Buckeyes cornerbacks coach

2 » Running backs coach
Stan Drayton: Syracuse Orange running backs coach, former Florida and Tennessee Volunteers running backs coach
*has previously insulted both head coach Urban Meyer and the program
Terry Jackson: Florida Director of Player and Community Relations, former Gators RB
Brian White: Florida tight ends coach, former running backs coach with Wisconsin Badgers and UNLV Rebels

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Gator Bites for Tuesday, January 5th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» A rumor making its way around the Web over the last few days states that former Florida Gators running backs coach Stan Drayton may return to the program if Kenny Carter bolts for the Louisville Cardinals. This is the same Drayton that left Florida for the Tennessee Volunteers and took this shot at the Gators and head coach Urban Meyer on his way out the door: “If you’re going to be a running backs coach, you want to be part of a system that involves the running back.” Not gonna happen.

» Another option at running backs coach could very well be former Florida RB Terry Jackson. A Gator great who was a member of the 1996 National Championship team and played seven years in the NFL, Jackson was named Director of Player and Community Relations at UF in March 2008. Jackson, whose father Willie Sr. and brother Willie Jr. also played at Florida, has thought about getting into coaching since finishing his pro career. Hiring Jackson could be a very smooth transition for the Gators.

» Speaking of Carter, four-star RB commit Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA) made news last night when he told two reporters that Carter was leaving the program for Louisville. However, Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel also spoke with Brown, who told him that Carter did not say he was leaving and that he “didn’t talk to him about it.” Perhaps Brown said something he wasn’t supposed to and is now being sush-ed about it?

» UPDATE: Brown provided more information about his feelings on Carter’s switch to Rivals Monday night. “I understand he had to do what he had to do,” he said. “I know he has a good relationship with coach Strong and he’s going to have a better position with more money coming in for his family. I’m still committed to Florida. I’m going to wait it out and see what happens. I’m confused. You’re supposed to commit to a school, but you get to know the coaches and they feel like family. All the coaches that I got to know over the last year, that I dealt with over the summer, they’re all leaving. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m going to have to talk about it with my family.”

» Brady Ackerman is reporting that Gators assistant defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chuck Heater turned down an offer from new Marshall Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday to be his team’s defensive coordinator. Heater wants the UF job badly. OGGOA continues to project him as the team’s next defensive coordinator.

» Ackerman also confirmed an OGGOA report that assistant head coach and defensive line coach Dan McCarney would only leave Florida if he was offered a head coaching position – presumably with the South Florida Bulls. Jim Leavitt has not been removed from his position there, and McCarney told reporters last week that he is not interested in the Gators’ defensive coordinator position.

» Five-star safety recruit Matt Elam (West Palm Beach, FL), a former Gators commit who spurned the team for the Florida State Seminoles, ignored two phone calls placed from Meyer last week. However, Elam finally picked up recently and said Meyer attempted to sway him back to UF. “He tried, but it didn’t work,” Elam said. Elam is expected to make his announcement at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday.

» OGGOA has heard a rumor from two very different sources that Meyer was either offered a contract or spoken to by ESPN about working for the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” should he eventually decide not to return to coaching. Not a shocker.

» Think Florida losing to the South Alabama Jaguars last week was a tough pill to swallow? Try being the No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels who fell Monday night to the College of Charleston Cougars.

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What’s the deal with Bedford and Carter?

Though both are denying this seemingly inevitable fact to one source or another, Florida Gators cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford and running backs coach Kenny Carter are likely headed to the Louisville Cardinals to join head coach Charlie Strong‘s staff. Even Strong, who told the Gainesville Sun after the 2010 Sugar Bowl that Bedford had already agreed to become his defensive coordinator, backtracked on his comments. He also said Carter “hasn’t told me that” he was joining his staff.

Bedford explained to anyone who asked him that he would be recruiting for the Gators in South Florida this week, and he is currently doing just that. However, Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun reports that Bedford’s hiring out of Gainesville, FL, “will happen this week.” This falls in line with what four-star cornerback commitment Demar Dorsey (Lauderdale Lakes, FL) said a few days ago. Bedford has even told the Miami Herald that he is “open to working with Coach Strong. He’s one of the reasons I’m here.” Though he added that his “opportunity to stay is also good, and I’ve talked with Coach Addazio about that.”

On Dec. 14, Bedford claimed he was staying put in Gainesville and concentrating on recruiting the incoming 2010 class. “I’m a Gator,” Bedford exclaimed when asked if Strong had contacted him to be a member of his new staff. “I’m trying to do everything I can to recruit well. I’m trying to get to Dade County.” Bedford said at the time that he had neither been contacted by Strong nor any other coach about a position.

Similarly, four-star running back commit Mack Brown (Lithona, GA) told Mark Wheeler of Rivals on Monday night that Carter has already informed him he is leaving the program. This is an unconfirmed report as only Brown has mentioned it thus far, but Carter does have an outstanding offer to join the Cardinals staff. Even though Strong has already hired an offensive coordinator, Carter could be given an expanded role on offensive. When asked after the Sugar Bowl about his future, Carter said, “I’m not talking about anything but this game. I’m not talking about any of that crap. It doesn’t mean anything to me.”

UPDATE: Robbie Andreu of the Sun is now reporting that Bedford is “expected to leave official[ly] later in the week.” He also reached out to Strong Monday evening, who said Carter is “expected to reach a decision on whether or not to take the job or stay at Florida by the weekend,” according to the paper. It was indicated that Carter would be hired as running backs coach – a lateral move and not a promotion.

Strong has mentioned to the press on numerous occasions since leaving Florida that he would not be hiring coaches from the Gators’ staff as not to shake things up or raid the program of its staff. Apparently he has changed his mind about that pledge.

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Gator Bites for Saturday, January 2nd

» Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong coached his last game in the Orange and Blue Friday before heading to the Louisville Cardinals as the team’s new head coach. UF cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford, who was expected to join Strong as his defensive coordinator, has yet to say one way or another though Strong said on Thursday and Friday that an agreement was in place. Bedford continues to claim he will be recruiting for Florida next week but at least one recruit (four-star CB Demar Dorsey) says Bedford is gone. “I’m open to working with Coach Strong,” Bedford told the Miami Herald. “He’s one of the reasons I’m here. My opportunity to stay is also good, and I’ve talked with Coach Addazio about that.” Strong told the Gainesville Sun after the game that Bedford is joining his staff.

» Running backs coach Kenny Carter is another staff member who is rumored to be joining Strong in Louisville. Even though Strong has already hired an offensive coordinator, Carter could be given an expanded role on the offensive staff. When asked after the Sugar Bowl about his future, Carter said “I’m not talking about anything but this game. I’m not talking about any of that crap. It doesn’t mean anything to me.” When asked about Carter joining his staff, Strong told the Sun, “He hasn’t told me that.”

» Quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler told reporters he will be returning next season. Loeffler’s name was thrown around for a few head coaching jobs in recent weeks.

» As OGGOA reported yesterday, three Gators experienced major health issues on Friday. Junior center Maurkice Pouncey spent five hours in Tulane Hospital before the game with kidney stones, played in the game but left after the half to pass another stone. Sophomore running back Jeff Demps dislocated his elbow in the first quarter on his third carry of the game and redshirt junior left guard Carl Johnson injured his right shoulder during the second quarter – both did not return.

» After the Sugar Bowl, Johnson announced that he will be returning for his senior season. However, juniors cornerback Joe Haden, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, tight end Aaron Hernandez and center Maurkice Pouncey are all expected to declare for the 2010 NFL Draft. OGGOA believes that junior safety Ahmad Black will also declare while junior S Major Wright, junior right guard Mike Pouncey and redshirt junior right tackle Marcus Gilbert have yet to decide.

» Senior quarterback Tim Tebow was followed around with a “Tebow Cam” during FOX’s Sugar Bowl broadcast. The camera shot, available via during the game, was on Tebow the whole time – from focusing on him while on the field to every single thing he did on the sidelines. OGGOA believes this will be included in the Sugar Bowl DVD to be released by FOX.

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