Gators hire Zach Azzanni as new WR coach

The Florida Gators have tabbed Central Michigan Chippewas wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni to fill the same position on their staff, according to numerous sources. Hired to replace Billy Gonzales, who has taken the “passing game coordinator” job with the LSU Tigers, Azzanni was picked as a graduate assistant by Florida head coach Urban Meyer when he accepted the Bowling Green Falcons coaching gig in 2001-02.

“He is a tireless worker, relentless recruiter, and a great teacher of fundamentals,” Meyer said. “He is also very familiar with our philosophy and will be a good fit with our players and staff.”

Meyer, a former WR coach himself with the Ohio State Buckeyes, Illinois State Red Birds, Colorado State Rams and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, spent less than 24 hours making his decision on who would replace Gonzales. Azzanni has coached WRs with the Valparaiso Crusaders (1999-2000), Falcons (2003-06) and Chippewas (2007-09), earning a promotion to assistant head coach at Central Michigan before the 2009 season.

“I’ve known Coach Meyer for a number of years and it will be great to be coaching with him again,” Azzanni said. “I’m excited to be joining the Florida football staff and becoming a part of the Gator Nation.”

This season, Azzanni’s top two receivers with the Chippewas are widely considered the best duo in the nation, combining for 49 touchdown receptions. Bryan Anderson (who has set an NCAA record with a catch in 53 straight games) and Antonio Brown (who has a streak of his own with 40 consecutive games with a catch) have topped 3,500 and 3,000 yards receiving in their respective Central Michigan careers. While with Bowling Green, Azzanni’s pass catchers broke almost every school receiving record with five going on to eventually sign NFL contracts.

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

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CHOMPING On: Effect of Billy Gonzales’ departure

Covering the Florida Gators as close as I do every day, I often find the need to vent regarding some of the coverage, news, opinions and general sentiments surrounding the program. In those instances, OGGOA presents CHOMPING On:

You are the wide receivers coach at one of the best programs in college football. You are a respected recruiter. You have known the head coach for almost two decades and have coached under him for the last eight seasons. You are passed over for an offensive coordinator position by said coach who, instead, gave it to an offensive line coach even though you were a successful red zone playcaller the previous season. Your name is Billy Gonzales, and you have just left the Florida Gators and head coach Urban Meyer to become the “passing game coordinator” for the LSU Tigers.

Was Gonzales’ departure really that surprising? Is it truly a big deal in the long-run? The answer to both of these questions is “No,” and I am here to tell you exactly why.
Continue Reading » CHOMPING On: Effect of Billy Gonzales’ departure

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Florida WR coach Gonzales splitting for LSU

Florida Gators wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator Billy Gonzales has accepted a “passing game coordinator” and WR coach position with the LSU Tigers. Apparently head coach Urban Meyer had already begun informing his team’s commitments and recruits that Gonzales will no longer be with Florida prior to this story being leaked Thursday evening.

Aside from having lost two important coaches in the past 48 hours, the Gators are also losing two top recruiters in new Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong and Gonzales just two months before National Signing Day. Gonzales was a strong recruiter for Florida in the talent-rich South Florida area and has been responsible for the majority of the Gators’ offensive playmaker commitments over the last few years.

Meyer and Gonzales have a long-standing relationship, going back to when the former coached the latter while with the Colorado State Rams over a decade ago. Gonzales has worked under Meyer for the last eight seasons, and a move that appears to be more lateral than promotional may have come due to the fact that offensive line coach Steve Addazio was promoted to offensive coordinator this season instead of Gonzales.

Rumors are swirling that Meyer is expected to hire Zach Azzanni, the current assistant head coach/WR coach with the Central Michigan Chippewas, to replace Gonzales. Azzanni coached the Bowling Green Falcons WRs from 2003-06, after Meyer left the program in 2002, though he was a graduate assistant under Meyer from 2001-02 and works at the Gators’ football camps every summer.

OGGOA will continue to update this story as more information comes to light.

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Soccer moves on in NCAAs as volleyball falls

Earning a No. 3 regional seed in the 2009 NCAA Championship, the Florida Gators soccer team (16-5-2, 8-1-2 SEC) took down the Illinois State Redbirds (12-7-1, 5-1 MVC) 2-0 in the first round of the tournament Friday night at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus, OH. Going scoreless in the first half, the Gators turned it on after the break as sophomore Tahnai Annis and redshirt freshman McKenzie Barney scored two goals in a seven-minute span. Florida has advanced in the tournament and will face the Oregon State Beavers (13-7-1, 4-5 Pac 10) on Sunday at 1 p.m. in second round action.

Coming off an eight match streak where they swept each opponent in straight sets, the No. 10/11 Florida volleyball team (20-4, 14-3 SEC) was taken to task by the No. 19/17 LSU Tigers Friday evening in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The Tigers beat the Gators 3-1 (24-26, 25-23, 25-19, 25-17), sweeping the regular season series between the two teams. LSU’s Brittnee Cooper and Marina Skender combined for 36 of 52 kills while Florida was led by sophomore outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and her team-high 18 kills. Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy recorded her nation-leading eight triple-double of the season and the 14th of her career with 13 kills on .333 hitting with 29 assists and 15 digs. The Gators hit the road next weekend, traveling to Knoxville, TN, to face the Tennessee Volunteers on Friday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. Florida swept Tennessee in straight sets on Oct. 4.

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Gators women’s sports set for big day Friday

Three University of Florida women’s sports teams are set for action on Friday, each beginning one hour after another. First up is the Florida Gators soccer team (15-5-2, 8-1-2 SEC), which is in Columbus, OH, for the first round of the NCAA Championship. The Gators will face the Illinois State Redbirds (12-6-1, 5-1 MVC) at 5 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The winner of the match will face the victor of the Ohio State Buckeyes and Oregon State Beavers game on Sunday in second round action.

Also on the docket for Friday, the softball team (4-0) will host Chipola College in what is basically preseason action at 6 p.m. at Pressly Softball Stadium. So far this season, the Gators have played two games each against Santa Fe College and Seminole College, coming out victorious in all with an average 6.25 run margin of victory.

To close out the evening, No. 10 Florida volleyball (20-3, 14-2 SEC) will take on the Southeastern Conference West division-leading No. 19 LSU Tigers (20-5, 14-2 SEC). Since being swept 3-0 by the Tigers on Oct. 11 in Baton Rouge, LA, the Gators have been playing outstanding, scoring sweeps against eight consecutive opponents. Florida and LSU are tied for second place in the league standings with a victory Friday going a long way for the Gators. The game will air live from the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at 7 p.m. on SUN Sports.

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Florida to wear special uniforms vs. Florida State

CLICK HERE FOR THE UPDATED STORY INCLUDING PICTURE OF FULL UNIFORM!

Rumors have been circling over the last few weeks that the Florida Gators would be unveiling a special uniform for one of their final two home games of the 2009 season. Two sources close to OGGOA have provided us with exclusive information regarding the Gators special uniforms, including a picture of the gloves that will be worn for the game.

Last week, OGGOA received images of brand new Nike Pro Combat uniforms that the Florida State Seminoles plan to wear on Nov. 21 against the Maryland Terrapins. These uniforms will be worn by the Seminoles, Gators and eight other teams to promote Nike’s new line. Each team has its own tagline, too:

Florida Gators – Finish the Mission; Florida State Seminoles – Fear the Spear; Virginia Tech Hokies – Good Guys Wear White; TCU Horned Frogs – Never Back Down; Ohio State Buckeyes – Earned; Oklahoma Sooners – Stake Our Claim; Texas Longhorns – It Only Takes Eleven; LSU Tigers – Cochon De Lait; Missouri Tigers – Beast Mode; Miami Hurricanes – The U Knows

While OGGOA has yet to come across pictures of Florida’s uniforms for the game, below you will find a picture of Florida State’s. Nike’s Pro Combat uniforms are said to be 37% lighter than current designs and utilize a four-way stretch twill that does not hold sweat or water. Additional features include Nike’s Dri-FIT technology, evaporation and cooling zones, more padding zones and improved ventilation and breathability. Players will also wear Nike Vapor Trail 2.0 gloves (see above) and Nike Zoom Air cleats that are light weight and feature better cushioning in the heel.

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Gators lead for Powell? More: Luc, Green, Fulton

A top five player in the country, five-star defensive end Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA) got his SAT results back last week and is now academically qualified to play at schools such as the University of Florida. Scoring a 900 on the test to go along with his improved 2.9 GPA, Powell is still deciding between the Florida Gators and USC Trojans. ESPN’s Greg Biggins says the Gators “have been heavy leaders for some time now for Powell and that remains the case,” going on to say “it will be a pretty big surprise if the talented lineman ends up anywhere other than Gainesville next fall.” That is surprising news considering Powell had previously been 50-50 on his decision, at least publicly. Already visiting Florida a couple times on his own dime, Powell plans to return soon for an official visit before giving USC a shot at his services.

Going hard after five-star linebacker Jeff Luc (Port St. Lucie, FL) and for good reason…he’s the best at his position in the entire country. Luc visited the Gators unofficially this past weekend and came away impressed. However, the key to signing Luc may rest on whether or not defensive coordinator Charlie Strong takes a head coaching job after this season. “As long as Charlie Strong is there, Florida is a strong player,” Jeff’s brother Alex Luc told Rivals. “They have a strong relationship. He calls him his uncle. I could believe anybody that meets him will have a strong relationship with him because of who he is. He’s a well-mannered person who carries himself the right way, he’s really down-to-earth, he takes care of business but he’s a nice guy.” Luc remains undecided, and an official visit to Florida in December will give the Gators a good shot at landing this prized recruit. First, however, he will travel to visit the Georgia Bulldogs next weekend; Luc has already visited the Tennessee Volunteers and USC and plans to check out the LSU Tigers as well.

More recruiting news on Chaz Green and John Fulton after the jump…
Continue Reading » Gators lead for Powell? More: Luc, Green, Fulton

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FOUR BITS: Tebow’s protection, margin of victory, volleyball sweeps (again), Lacroix wins

1 » One reason for senior quarterback Tim Tebow’s struggles? A porous Florida Gators offensive line. Tebow has taken 21 sacks on the season, eight more than he did in 2007 and six more than 2008…and he still has five games left to play. Some of that can be blamed on Tebow holding on to the ball too long, but the majority of the fault falls on the men supposed to be protecting the Heisman Trophy winner. “We don’t take pride in giving up sacks,” redshirt junior left tackle Carl Johnson said. “We try our best to protect him, try our best to make sure he has time in the pocket. Teams are just blitzing a lot – sometimes they bring more than we actually can protect.” Could offensive line coach and new offensive coordinator Steve Addazio be in over his head? It is a common theme going around, even if players and coaches don’t admit it.

2 » While everyone is going seemingly off the deep end about Florida’s offensive struggles, I took a minute and checked out the nine wins so far this season. Here are the margins of victory: 59, 50, 10, 34, 10, 3, 10, 34, 24. Now look at the numbers through the first nine games in 2006: 27, 42, 1, 19, 15, 13, -10, 7, 6. Not counting the preseason non-conference games, the Gators are averaging a 17.4-point margin of victory in 2009 compared to 7.3 in 2006. Now obviously one team is coming off a National Championship season while another was trying to find its footing for much of the year. But in comparing the two teams, which has been done defensively all season, you see a group that has won by double digits in every game they have played except for the squeaker against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Not bad.

3 » No. 9/11 Florida volleyball (20-3, 14-2 SEC) continues to roll in Southeastern Conference play, sweeping the Auburn Tigers (14-12, 6-9 SEC) 3-0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-13) on Sunday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Sophomore outside hitters Kristy Jaeckel and Colleen Ward combined for 22 kills and 15 digs as the Gators went on to score their 20th win of the season. It has swept eight straight SEC opponents and next faces the LSU Tigers on Friday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. The match will air on Sun Sports.

4 » Gators tennis had a busy weekend, but nobody played better than junior Alexandre Lacroix, who won the singles consolation final at the ITA National Indoor Championships on Sunday. Lacroix, the No. 23 player in the nation, defeated No. 46 Ed Corrie of the Texas Longhorns in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1. Now that the fall season is complete, tennis will next play in mid-January at the SEC Indoors.

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