Silver Lining for May 20: Updates on Florida Gators in the NFL; farewell to David Letterman

Get them to sign on the line which is dotted

Three weeks have passed since the 2015 NFL Draft and Florida Gators have spent the time signing rich contracts to play professional football.

The most notable deal struck to this point was that between No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite the defensive end suffering a season-ending torn ACL in his very first NFL practice and signing an injury waiver, the Jaguars did not force offset language into his contract and still inked him to a four-year, $23.5 million fully-guaranteed deal with a $15.3 million signing bonus. Fowler will bring home $4.27 million this season without stepping foot on the field.

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Four Florida Gators sign undrafted free agent deals, others receive NFL tryouts

Former Florida Gators wide receiver Quinton Dunbar, tight end Clay Burton and defensive tackles Darious Cummings and Leon Orr signed three-year, $1.575 million undrafted free agent contracts with teams following the 2015 NFL Draft.

Dunbar was signed by Washington and Burton was picked up by the Buffalo Bills, while Cummings was grabbed by the Carolina Panthers and Orr moved out to the west coast with the Oakland Raiders.

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Evaluating Florida Gators ahead of 2015 NFL Draft

Despite being incredibly busy during the week of the 2015 NFL Draft, longtime analyst Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net sat down with OnlyGators.com on Sunday afternoon for a wide-ranging look at the Florida Gators who could be selected Thursday-Saturday at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.

Pauline evaluated most of the 22 Florida players available in the draft and even provided projections for each prospect including many who may not be selected from April 30-May 2 but rather picked up as undrafted free agents.

“The talent Florida is showcasing in this draft is a bit top-heavy but there are plenty of players who could make NFL rosters and succeed in the league, which really points to how bad the coaching and quarterback play was in Gainesville,” Pauline said of the overall crop of prospects. “I think the Gators have a solid class, and the fans that wanted the coach fired, this just adds fuel to their argument.”

Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.
Projection: Round 1, Picks 3-6
Analysis: “He’s a top-six player, likely to Washington, maybe to the Jets, possibly to Jacksonville. He’s a great pass rusher; he’s a terrific athlete. He’s an intense, very explosive and sudden player. I like the fact that even though he is undersized, he was never overwhelmed at the point of attack. He struggled against the run at times but when you’re a shorter, smaller defensive end, that’s going to happen. I think he’ll be fine as a 3-4 outside linebacker, maybe a one-gap end, although he’s going to have to learn to protect himself better and to defend the run at the next level. I love his intensity. He’s not just a guy who is a natural-ability guy. He got by on natural ability but also never stopped coming.”

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Former Florida Gators participate in 2015 Pro Day

Twenty-two former Florida Gators are scheduled to participate in 2015 Pro Day on Tuesday morning at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Leading the pack are a pair of potential first-round draft picks in defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and offensive tackle D.J. Humphries.

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Florida-EKU post-game report: Durkin to coach bowl, Muschamp’s final lesson, Bullard’s decision

The Florida Gators (6-4) took care of business, routing the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (9-3) on Senior Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Florida’s 52-3 victory on Saturday got the Gators bowl-eligible for the first time since 2012 and also marked the second-largest win margin in any game under head coach Will Muschamp, who was able to leave The Swamp with his head held high.

BOWL GAME COACH CHOSEN

Moments after Florida’s win was finalized, the school announced that defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin would serve as interim head coach for the Gators’ bowl game this year. Durkin, the second-longest tenured member of the staff (five years) behind running backs coach Brian White (six years), will take the reigns of the program once Muschamp’s dismissal is finalized next Saturday, Nov. 29.

FINAL LESSON: A TOUGH WEEK, ROAD AHEAD

There should be no doubt that the entire Florida football team took Muschamp’s dismissal hard. Gators players spoke of him fondly on Monday after his press conference and were obviously playing with an extra gear on Saturday. Junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard even went so far as to write his coach’s last name on his eyeblack.

“I’ve just been through a lot and he’s been there for me,” Bullard said. “When I lost my grandmother, he was a big supporter; he let me go home as long as I needed. Just little things he did helping me through that whole situation, he’s just been a real good person to me. I respect him a lot, and actually, I love him. I just wanted to show some respect for him, everything he’s done for me, and show him that I appreciate it.”

Muschamp admitted Saturday that it took a while for Florida to get back in the swing of things this week. Monday’s practice was thwarted due to the weather; Tuesday the team looked “just OK” and did not show “great effort” on the field; and Wednesday was just “a little bit better.”

So Muschamp spent the Gators’ regularly-scheduled Thursday meeting speaking about much more than just the upcoming game but rather how Florida’s players need to deal with his dismissal and their futures going forward.

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Friday Final: Florida Gators prepare for emotional Senior Day in The Swamp

In this week’s edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at the Florida Gators (5-4) as they prepare to play their second-to-last game under head coach Will Muschamp against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (9-2) on Senior Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday. The game will kick off at noon and air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Story: Will Muschamp earns praise, talks dismissal with class
Story: Dante Fowler Jr. declares for NFL Draft on Twitter
Story/Notebook: Gators lose two linebackers for season; two defensive backs return for Saturday’s game
Story: Florida coordinators talk Muschamp firing, EKU, future
The Silver Lining: Answering reader questions about the Gators’ future

SENIOR DAY IN THE SWAMP

Lost among the firing of a head coach and subsequent start of a search for a new one are two simple facts: the Gators are one victory away from bowl game eligibility, and Muschamp will not be the only one who spending his last Saturday on Florida Field.

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Friday Final: Players ready for Florida-Georgia

In this week’s edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at the Florida Gators (3-3, 2-3 SEC) as they prepare to lay it all on the line against the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and air live on CBS.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp previews Florida-Georgia, talks starting Treon Harris, fixing Florida’s numerous offensive issues during bye
Story: Gators adopt “bunker mentality” as players support coach
Story: Tim Tebow on Treon Harris: We’ll see what he’s made of
Notebok: Kurt Roper talks Harris starting, Florida’s progress on offense
Notebook: Gators defense ready to stop Bulldogs rush, more from D.J. Durkin
The Silver Lining: Florida players exuding confidence entering Georgia game

WORLD’S LARGEST OUTDOOR COCKTAIL PARTY

Every player on the Florida roster always has and always will get geared up for Georgia game, no matter how either team is playing entering the contest.

Head coach Will Muschamp announced Thursday that four redshirt senior Peach State natives – linebacker Neiron Ball, running back Mack Brown, center Max Garcia and LB Michael Taylor – will be captains for the game. Two of them, along with a couple other players, spoke with the media this week about what the UF-UGA game means to them.

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10/14: Roper explains Florida’s rushing approach

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday to provide some thoughts on Florida’s second loss (at home against LSU) and the Gators’ upcoming contest against the Missouri Tigers, which is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

RUNNING THINGS

To say that Florida’s approach to running the football last Saturday was questionable is an understatement. The Gators entered the game with their starter, junior running back Matt Jones, injured (ankle) and questionable. UF planned to run redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel a lot in the contest, too.

Despite Jones’s health and the prospect of overworking a quarterback who had not carried the ball that much in any other game this season as very real concerns, Florida did not appear to have a power rushing backup plan.

Sophomore Kelvin Taylor and redshirt senior Mack Brown, who combined to tote the rock 259 times for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013, touched the ball early in the contest but were not used late when it mattered the most – on 1st and Goal at the 2-yard line, 2nd and Goal at the 1-yard line, and 3rd and Goal at the 1-yard line.

Instead, the Gators ran 5-foot-9, 177-pound freshman tailback Brandon Powell on first down, gave Driskel a chance to run it in out of the shotgun on second down, and ran a triple option on third down (that would have succeeded had the pass not been dropped).

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