10/4: Weis on Brantley, Murphy, Brissett, Debose

As the No. 17/18 Florida Gators prepare for their biggest road test of the 2011 season on Oct. 8 against the No. 1/2 LSU Tigers, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s loss and the upcoming contest.

BRANTLEY WAS PLAYING THE GAME OF HIS CAREER ON SATURDAY

All week leading up to Saturday’s contest against the Alabama Crimson Tide, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley‘s teammates kept saying how impressed they were with their leader’s confidence and poise. Brantley showcased just that during the game, opening the contest with a 65-yard touchdown pass and completing 69 percent of his passes for 190 yards through just two quarters before being injured. Weis said Tuesday that he was as impressed as he has ever been with Brantley during the game.

“With the exception of the interception where he didn’t ever see the guy – he was trying to throw the check-down to Trey [Burton] and should not have thrown it because he couldn’t really see Trey either. Think about it, he throws 16 passes, he completes 11 and he has three dropped balls,” he said. “You think about it: 14/16 against that defense? He’s stepping up in the pocket. That’s what real quarterbacks look like. Stepping up in the pocket, shuffling a little to the left, shuffling a little to the right. Making the big throw down the field that everyone said he couldn’t make. Stepping up and making the crossing route to Deonte [Thompson]denote which was his fourth read of the play. He goes boom – boom – boom and hits them out the back door.

“He would like to have that interception back, but you notice the one thing I liked the most about him was when that happened, I said three words to him when he came off the field: “Short term memory.” He came back, we went on that two-minute drive right at the end and got the ball down to the 14-yard-line before we got back-to-back sacks. It never fazed him. [He] never lost his cool. I look into peoples eyes. It was pretty easy to see that he expected to play a good game. That’s why it was unfortunate that he got injured.”

BACK-UPS TO THE BACK-UP

Weis also discussed Florida’s two other quarterbacks on Tuesday, noting that each can play and has the opportunity to win the starting job this week.

Redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy: “His biggest asset over those other guys is just a year of experience. Having been involved in the college football program for a year, be it a different offense, gives him a little bit of an upper hand.”

Freshman Jacoby Brissett: “Jacoby probably, the only reason why Jacoby hasn’t been a factor at this point is only because he came here in the summertime. He had to play catch-up over the other guys. The other guys were here in the spring when we put everything in. That’s the only thing that kept Jacoby from possibly being the second guy in. I don’t know how it would have played out if he was here in the springtime with the other guys, but he wasn’t.”

He also addressed whether or not specific thought has been given to redshirting Brissett (or even Driskel before the season began). “Although the thought is in the background, it’s too early in the year to do that. Once Jeff played, you don’t want to put Jacoby in just to hand off. But if Jacoby gives us a chance to win this week, Jacoby will gladly play. He would be more than happy to trot out there for the first time.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On if he thinks Brantley will play again this season: “Yeah, I do. You already were told by the head coach that he’ll let you know on Monday. He’s going to let you know on Monday, right? Isn’t that what he said/ He said, “I’ll let you know on Monday,” so the head coach will let you know on Monday.”

» On if he has had to rebuild the offense’s confidence this week: “Our coaching staff, at least the veteran coaches on our staff, have all been through experiences like this before, and we got a good idea how to handle it. It’s not like panic sets in, pandemonium sets in, it’s very matter-of-fact evaluation of what we do and what they do. It’s not a finger-point situation. Let’s be objective about the things that we could have done better and then here’s what we’re going to do to fix it and let’s move on. I don’t think there was any panic or any loss of confidence or all those things. I think that when you have a bunch of experienced guys who have been through the highs and lows, it becomes much more matter-of-fact.”

» On losing to Alabama: “They coached better than I did and they played better than we did. Not ever would I ever not start with the fact that I have to do a better job. When John goes down, I have to do a better job to put us in a better position to make plays.”

» On his evaluation of LSU: “We know it’s a formidable opponent. They’re ranked first in the country. They’ve got a great defense. You’re playing them on the road. It’s loud and you’re playing without your starting quarterback. What that does is, that gives you all the, “us against the world” mentality where you sit there and say, “Yeah, I guess we should just not go. We should just stay home this week.’”

» On if all three quarterbacks could play Saturday: “I would doubt that.”

» On if Driskel did indeed sprain his ankle on Saturday: “All three guys practiced today. What more do you want me to tell you? I’m not going there. It’s just not my territory. I feel I’m overstepping my bounds when I address that subject. I should always follow protocol and I just don’t think that’s my place.”

» On redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose stepping up recently: “The arrow has been pointing up on Andre for about a month. He’s been a very, very slow start – didn’t have a great training camp. He’s got tons of ability, an ability to be a front-line, top-line wide receiver. But he’s got to show you evidence of that. You don’t just go by reputation. They have to show you evidence. That’s part of the good thing that Will’s done since he’s been here. People don’t play based off of reputation; they have to give you evidence. For about the last four weeks…for him, the arrow’s clearly pointing up.”

» On if any changes will be made to the offensive line: “They have to get pressed more and not feel comfortable. With guys that play better or worse, they need to know that they’re not just handed a position. It’s still the same cast of characters that is involved in the mix. […] It’s not a question of who the people are, it’s just a question of how you intend to utilize them.”

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Muschamp rules QB Brantley out against LSU

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, at the start of his weekly press conference on Monday, ruled out redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley for Saturday’s road game at the No. 1/2 LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, LA.

Brantley, who injured his lower right leg against the Alabama Crimson Tide late in the second quarter last Saturday and did not return to the game, has reportedly been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain but no further information (such as severity and timetable for return) has been made available.

Brantley has has started every game for Florida since Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow graduated in 2009 but will likely be replaced by freshman QB Jeff Driskel on Saturday. Driskel will be the first true freshman to start at quarterback for the Gators since Chris Leak (vs. Kentucky, 2003) if he continues to beat out redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy and freshman Jacoby Brissett during practice this week.

“Jeff is a very mature young man,” Muschamp said of the team’s back-up. “He’s a guy that went through spring with us. He’s an outstanding athlete and an outstanding quarterback. He’s got legs and he can run. He’s a guy that can give you some variety as far as escape in the pocket, evading the rush. That’s a positive.”

Muschamp provided few details about Brantley’s injury on Monday, saying simply that the player hurt his lower leg and that surgery has been ruled out. He promised to update Brantley’s status each Monday, indicating that the injury will keep him out multiple weeks.

“John’s disappointed. He’s playing very well. He really threw the ball extremely well against a really good football team,” Muschamp said. “He’s disappointed and it hurts for him, but it’s time to pick up the other guy. And that’s what our team will do.”

Driskel is 7/16 for 73 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions this season.

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Tebow hid headache before 2009 LSU game

The No. 1 Florida Gators were 4-0 and hoping to repeat as national champions heading into a tough Southeastern Conference road contest against the No. 4 LSU Tigers on Oct. 10, 2009. Just two weeks earlier, Heisman Trophy winning starting quarterback Tim Tebow went down with a severe concussion that had him under intense treatment every day leading up to the game.

The talk of the college football world was whether Tebow should, could and/or would end up playing in the game with plenty of talking heads providing their opinions one way or another. In the end, it came down to doctor evaluations and the presence or absence of headaches that would decide if he would be allowed to step on the field.

Though head coach Urban Meyer said publicly as the game approached that Tebow would play as long as he was medically cleared by Florida’s team of doctors, the decision went down to the wire.

In his memoir Through My Eyes, released on Tuesday, Tebow details his final conversation with Meyer on the topic and how he felt leading up to the game:

For me, it was easy. I was going to do everything I could to get out there—by doing what the medical professionals were telling me to.

After a number of tests, the doctors cleared me to play the morning of the game, but Coach took me aside before we got on the bus to Tiger Stadium.

“I’m not going to let you play,” he said. He had tears in his eyes—he knew how much it meant to me.

“I have to play,” I responded.

He cut me off. “I keep asking myself, if you were Nate, would I let you play? I keep saying, ‘No.’ I can’t let you play.” He really wanted to win, but he was unwilling to take a chance with my health.

“But they cleared me, and I haven’t had headaches in days,” I countered. “There’s no reason for me not to play.”

“No headaches?”

“No, Coach. No headaches.” A headache had been starting to set in, but for all I know, it was from stress or a migraine, not the concussion. […]

I was praying in the locker room that the headache, which had been getting worse and worse, would simply go away. It didn’t. I could barely see by the end of the pregame warm-ups, it was hurting so badly.

Meyer told the media on Oct. 5 that Tebow had been headache- and symptom-free for several days, a statement that has been confirmed by the player and was undoubtedly true at the time. In fact, speaking with a concussion specialist not associated with the team or school, OGGOA was told that once an athlete is fully recovered, the risk of him playing is no different whether they return to the field in 10 days, two weeks, six months or a year. The key – the doctor said – was remaining asymptomatic up until kickoff.

Whether Tebow’s headaches were caused by stress – like he suggests – or were a symptom of his concussion two weeks prior, he relates in the book that the pain went away and his head cleared the moment he stepped on the field. More importantly, he says it never came back and did not affect him at all.

The Gators’ defense stole the show that night in Death Valley, holding the Tigers to 162 total yards. Tebow ended up carrying the ball 17 times for 38 yards and completed 11 of 16 passes for 134 yards, a touchdown and an inexplicable interception late in the game.

Through My Eyes, in which Tebow “writes about life as he chooses to live it, revealing how his Christian faith, family values, and relentless will to succeed have molded him into the person and athlete he is today,” is available in bookstores nationwide and on Amazon.com in hardcover and digital editions.

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Florida baseball wins three at LSU for first time

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (18-2, 3-0 SEC) completed a three-game series sweep of the No. 5 LSU Tigers (16-4, 0-3 SEC) over the weekend on the road in Baton Rouge, LA to mark the first time in school history that feat has been accomplished.

Florida outscored LSU 13-7 during the series, hit three home runs and batted .314 (32-for-102) as a team compared to .260 (27-for-104) for their opponent.

Friday: Down 3-2 headed into the top of the ninth inning, the Gators rallied to score three runs in the frame and eventually held on to defeat the Tigers 5-4. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson got the start for Florida and gave up two earned runs in five hits through 5.1 innings. Junior right-handed pitcher Tommy Toledo (2-1) relieved him and picked up the win, while junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani (S3) tossed a solid ninth only giving up a single unearned run. Leading the Gators offensively were Johnson (2-4, RBI), sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-4, 2 RBI, BB) and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-4, HR, 2 RBI, R). With one out in the ninth, Zunino hit a solo shot to left to tie the game at three runs apiece. Fonatna finished the rally with a two-RBI single to right field four batters later.

Saturday: The second game in the series saw much less offense as trio of UF pitchers – sophomore RHP Hudson Randall (3-0) and juniors RHP Greg Larson and LHP Nick Maronde (S1) – combined to complete a 1-0 shutout of LSU. Florida scored their single run just minutes into the game as Fontana (1-3, R, BB) began the contest with a leadoff walk and junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-4, RBI) doubled to right center to send him across home plate. Randall scattered eight hits over 6.2 innings but never gave up the tying run as the Tigers were unable to capitalize. After Larson finished out the seventh and began the eighth, Mardone came in to close it out and notched strikeouts in four of the game’s five final outs.

Sunday: Down 3-0 through three innings in the third game of the series, the Gators rallied to score seven unanswered runs as they completed the road sweep in exciting fashion. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson began on the hill for Florida but struggled with his command, giving up six hits, four walks and three runs (two earned) in 4.2 innings while striking out four. Sophomore first baseman/RHP Austin Maddox (1-0) earned his first career win in relief of Whitson, allowing only two hits and striking out three over the final 4.1 innings of the game. Faced with a three-run deficit, the Gators rallied to score five in the top of the fourth and immediately take the lead.

With the bases loaded on three-straight singles, Zunino (1-4, 2 RBI, R) added a fourth to drive in two runs. After two ground outs, junior Jeff Moyer (3-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) pinch hit for sophomore third baseman Cody Dent (1-1); he hit a two-RBI single to center. Fontana (2-4, RBI, BB) completed the rally with a triple to right center to score Moyer and put UF on top 5-3. Solo shots from senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-4, RBI, R) in the sixth and Moyer in the ninth completed the Gators’ scoring efforts and ensured they would leave Baton Rouge with the clean sweep.

Florida, currently on a season-long eight-game winning streak, returns to Gainesville, FL for a five-game home stand including two against Winthrop (Tuesday-Wednesday) and a three-game series against South Carolina (Friday-Sunday).

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FOUR BITS: lacrosse’s big win, baseball’s rebound

1 » Don’t bother telling No. 14 Florida Gators lacrosse that you’re not supposed to upset a top-10 team in only your second year of existence. On Wednesday night at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL, Florida (5-1) took down the No. 9 Georgetown Hoyas (0-2) 17-10 for the program’s first win against an opponent ranked No. 10 or higher in school history. Leading the way once again for the Gators was sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen, who scored four goals on eight shots. Sophomore M Brittany Dashiell matched Cullen shot-for-shot, and sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns scored three goals and notched one assist. Florida out-shot Georgetown 32-19 on the evening and outscored them in both halves. The Gators’ current five-game winning streak is the longest in program history and could be stretched further as they have five games remaining on their nine-game home stand.

2 » Looking to bounce back from a stunning defeat to unranked Georgia Southern, No. 1 Florida baseball (11-2) rebounded in a big way with a 8-1 thumping of the South Florida Bulls (5-7) on the road at the USF Baseball Stadium in Tampa, FL. Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (1-0) only pitched 5.0 innings but struck out four and only gave up a single earned run during his outing. Offensively, the Gators were powered by a trio of home runs from junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (3-4, 2 RBI, 3 R), sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-2, 2 RBI, 2 R) and senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-4, RBI, R). Zunino’s two-run shot in the top of the second put Florida on the board early and ended up being the game-winning hit, and Adams followed him with a solo shot giving the Gators back-to-back homers on the night. UF returns to Gainesville for a three-game weekend series against Rhode Island.

Two more BITS on softball improving to 21-0 and Florida basketball not being able to earn a No. 2 seed in March Madness…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: lacrosse’s big win, baseball’s rebound

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Florida men’s track & field wins SEC Indoor title

No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track and field captured their sixth conference title and first since 2004 on Sunday, winning the 2011 Southeastern Conference Indoor Championship with 148 total team points.

Florida took down the No. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks (136.5), No. 2 LSU Tigers (98), No. 17 Alabama Crimson Tide (65.5) and No. 24 Georgia Bulldogs (55.33) at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, AR.

Junior running back and sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps captured the SEC 60-meter dash championship with a 6.55, one-hundredth of a second faster than his record-setting time from the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships. Joining him with SEC titles were junior Gray Horn (heptathlon), junior jumper Christian Taylor (triple jump), junior Dumisane Hlaselo (3,000-meter run), senior Kemal Mesic (shot put), freshman Eddie Lovett (60-meter hurdles) and two members of the women’s team – junior Fidela James (20-pound weight throw) and freshman Cory McGee (mile run).

Horn’s heptathlon title is the first in school history, and Hlaselo’s 3,000-meter title is Florida’s first since 1993. Taylor’s triple jump title is his third-straight. The Gators finished held the top three places in the triple jump with junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock following Taylor for silver and bronze.

Florida has two more meets next month before competing in the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships March 11-12.

Photo Credit: GZTrackField

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2/20: Post-game notes, Parsons injury update

No. 13/13 Florida Gators (21-5, 10-2 SEC) head coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes after his team’s 68-61 win over the LSU Tigers on Sunday.

PRATHER ALLOWED PRESS TO REEMERGE

Donovan loves utilizing the press defensively, something he has had to step away from over the last few games with a senior but less athletic frontcourt than he once had. With senior forward Chandler Parsons (deep thigh bruise) out of action and freshman F Casey Prather taking his place, Donovan saw the opportunity to speed up the pace of the game with his signature press.

“We’re a better pressing team when Casey’s out there – with his athleticism and his length,” he said after the game. “We felt like we wanted to try to utilize him and Will [Yeguete] and Scottie [Wilbekin] – those guys are pretty good pressing guys. Knowing that we were going to have to play those guys more minutes, I thought if we could get the game going up-and-down, it may take some pressure off those guys being young guys on the road having to play more significant minutes. When we pressed, a couple times we turned them over, but more than anything else we applied pressure.”

Donovan also spoke about Prather’s performance and was quite complimentary. “He did a pretty good job. I wasn’t really going in expecting him to score 15 points and grab eight rebounds,” he said. “I was more expecting him to play hard and play aggressive. Casey, over the last few weeks, to his credit, has come to practice and has tried to work hard every day, tried to get better. Overall I was pleased with the way he played.”

With Georgia coming to town Thursday, Donovan may choose to shelve the press due to his opponent’s athleticism and ability to shoot the ball. Of course, it may not a moot argument if Parsons is back in the starting lineup.

HEALTH OF PARSONS CONCERNS DONOVAN

On Friday, Donovan told the media that Parsons was “50-50″ to play Sunday, noting that as long as he could play on the leg with the deep thigh bruise, there was not much that could actually make it worse. When it came down to game time, playing Parsons was not even an option for Florida.

“I’m concerned about that right now,” Donovan said. “[He] definitely could not play. He did a workout on Friday by himself and had a very, very difficult time moving and cutting and jumping. What ended up happening was, his leg got swollen again, which is probably not a great sign. I don’t think he was set back.” Though Parsons was fine working out in the pool, his leg began to swell once he started running on the hardwood, Donovan noted.

“I don’t know if he’ll play against Georgia. I don’t know that yet. I don’t have any time frame of him to be back,” he added. “I would say that I do not expect him back [Monday] and definitely do not expect him back Tuesday right now. We thought he was really making some good progress and then, from Friday to [Sunday], there’s been very, very little improvement. It’s a significant injury. It’s an injury that’s going to need rest; it’s going to need time. After the workout, when his leg got swollen again, they shut him down completely from doing anything.”

Donovan talks about Florida’s SEC title chances…after the break!
Continue Reading » 2/20: Post-game notes, Parsons injury update

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Florida Gators even out at No. 13 in Top 25 polls

With eight days off, the Florida Gators (21-5, 10-2 SEC) were well-rested for their road match-up against the LSU Tigers (10-17, 2-10 SEC), even if they were without senior forward Chandler Parsons. Florida’s victory, combined with some losses at the top of the polls, allowed them to finally even out and climb in both standings.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

ESPN/USA TODAY
Last Week 1-25: Kansas (14), Texas (13), Ohio State (3), Pittsburgh (1), Duke, San Diego State, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Purdue, Connecticut, Arizona, Villanova, Florida, Louisville, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Syracuse, Missouri, Kentucky, Saint Mary’s, Utah State, Temple
+ Florida received 341 voting points

This Week 1-25: Duke (19), Kansas (1), Ohio State (4), San Diego State (3), Texas, Pittsburgh (4), Brigham Young, Purdue, Notre Dame, Arizona, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Florida, Villanova, Connecticut, Louisville, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Syracuse, Missouri, Kentucky, Utah State, Temple, St. John’s
+ Florida received 397 voting points

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-25: Kansas (22), Ohio State (14), Texas (23), Pittsburgh (6), Duke, San Diego State, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Purdue, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Villanova, Louisville, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Missouri, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Temple, Xavier, Utah State
+ Florida received 775 voting points

This Week 1-25: Duke (35), Ohio State (10), Kansas (5), Pittsburgh (12), Texas (1), San Diego State, Brigham Young (2), Purdue, Notre Dame, Arizona, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Florida, Connecticut, Villanova, Louisville, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Missouri, Texas A&M, Kentucky, St. John’s, Temple, Xavier
+ Florida received 841 voting points

Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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