Breakdown: 2008 Florida Gators – one of the greatest teams in college football history

Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer opined during a football camp last week that his 2008 squad, winners of the 2009 BCS Championship, were the best team in the history of college football.

Though measuring such a claim is near-impossible, Meyer can rightly boast that his 2008 roster and coaching staff were supremely special.

One-fourth of the Gators’ official 120-man roster – which includes walk-ons – has either played a game in the NFL or is currently under contract with a team in the league.

Florida’s roster had 19 players eventually selected in the NFL Draft including six first-round picks, five second-round picks, a third-round pick, two fourth-round picks, four fifth-round picks and a seventh-round pick. Only three of those draft selections are no longer in the league (for a variety of reasons, see table).

Additionally, a total of 11 players signed after the process as undrafted free agents have either played in the NFL or are currently a member of an NFL roster.

UF’s success did not stop at the players on the field.

Continue Reading » Breakdown: 2008 Florida Gators – one of the greatest teams in college football history

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Jaylen Watkins – Path to 2014 NFL Draft: Healing

Through the 2014 NFL Draft, which will be held in New York, NY from May 8-10, Florida Gators defensive back Jaylen Watkins will be keeping you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft with exclusive blog entries here at OnlyGators.com.

Florida’s third-leading tackler with 52 takedowns last season, Watkins played safety for the Gators after being primarily used as a cornerback – the position he will play as a professional – during his first three years. Watkins started 28 of the 48 games in which he participated but saw the field for starter’s minutes in many of those other contests.

His fourth entry comes just over a week before he heads to Indianapolis, IN to compete in the 2014 NFL Combine. Watkins is currently training in South Florida and rehabilitating a sprained Achilles he suffered during practice for the 2014 Senior Bowl.

Even though I sprained my Achilles and was unable to play in the Senior Bowl, I actually stuck around and watched the entire game. I was already there and my entire family already drove up, so I stayed and watched Solomon [Patton] and Jon [Halapio]…and Matt Patchan was there, too, so that was pretty cool.

We all hung out and ate meals together with Matt. We went through some hard times and good times together at Florida, so it was nice to reconnect. We actually didn’t know he was coming at first until we saw him walk into breakfast one day, but it was definitely good to catch up with him. It was like old times with the Gators.

Continue Reading » Jaylen Watkins – Path to 2014 NFL Draft: Healing

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Chris Johnson chooses to transfer from Gators

Four contributing players have now left the Florida Gators football team in the last 11 days as head coach Will Muschamp announced Sunday that sophomore running back Chris Johnson has also decided to transfer.

“Both Jacoby [Brissett] and Chris expressed an interest in transferring and getting a fresh start,” the coach said in a school release. “We are very thankful for their contributions to the University of Florida and wish them the best of luck.

Johnson, an undersized yet talented player, originally committed to the Gators as a safety but has also played linebacker and running back over the last two seasons. He has primarily made his mark as a special teams standout, racking up 11 tackles and a forced fumble while also carrying the ball five times for 35 yards in 2012.

He has appeared in all 26 games over two years at Florida and registered eight tackles as a freshman in 2011.

A local product who played for Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, FL, Johnson originally chose UF over Louisville, Memphis, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

He recently made headlines by being thrown out of the 2013 Sugar Bowl after throwing a punch following an onside kick on the opening play of the second half.

Johnson joins Brissett, redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan and sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders as players that have left the Gators over the last two weeks.

Eight total players from Muschamp’s first recruiting class in 2011 have transferred including two (Brissett, linebacker Graham Stewart) that committed to the program after he was hired as Urban Meyer’s replacement.

OGGOA Related: Brissett to transfer | Patchan, Saunders leaving Florida

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12/27: Gators arrive in New Orleans for Sugar Bowl

No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Thursday upon his team’s arrival in New Orleans, LA to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the Louisville Cardinals and provide updates on his team heading into the game.

TRANSFERS CONFIRMED

Muschamp confirmed two more transfers, which gives the Gators three in the last two weeks. He said that both redshirt junior offensive tackle Matt Patchan and sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders “just needed a fresh start given their situations.”

“I really appreciate their time at Florida, and we wish them the best,” he added.

He also spoke about keeping Florida players out of trouble and how those practices have unfolded over the last year or so. “It’s a continual education and stressing to the players everyday about making good choices,” Muschamp said. “Everyone makes bad decisions here and there, but these are good kids. It’s also about recruiting the right kind of guys and understanding the standard of excellence at the University of Florida on and off the field.”

Senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic explained that he is proud of how the team has stayed out of trouble most of the year but is nevertheless sad to see Saunders leave the program. “Our guys have been smart all year. We work together to have each other’s back and stay out of trouble. We all make sure that we are always going in the right direction,” he said. “[Saunders is] one of our brothers and it’s tough to see him leave the program. Though at the same time, this might be what’s best for him personally.”

GETTING TO 12 WINS

Though the coach admitted that the Cardinals are going to put up a fight on Jan. 2, Muschamp has been “very pleased” with the team’s preparation through practice last Friday when everyone dispersed for the holiday break. He has also put a great importance on winning this game for Florida.

“It’s absolutely critical. We are trying to become just the sixth team in Florida history to reach 12 wins, which is huge considering how successful this program has been,” Muschamp said. “It’s also an opportunity to finish the season ranked in the top five, possibly No. 3. These things are important to our program as we continue to move forward. This is a one-game season. We haven’t played in a long time but there’s a lot of motivation to play well in this game since it’s a BCS game. We have a special team, and they deserve a special night. We want to send them out the right way and that can only be done with a win.”

The seniors that have stuck with this program through thick and thin will be all-in next Wednesday, but sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel also sees this as a great opportunity to completely knock the 2011 season out of the team’s memory and focus on moving forward.

“It goes back to the offseason. We didn’t have a season that Florida expects year in and year out, so we kind of took that to heart in the offseason. We trained hard, we practiced hard and we really came together. It’s kind of cool to see all the hard work in the offseason pay off during the season,” he said.

Driskel is excited for the opportunity to win a bowl game as a starter “on a national stage [in] one of the biggest games of the year.” He continued, “We’re honored to be in the game. We’re honored to be in the Sugar Bowl, so we’re going to practice well and we’re going to prepare well so we can play well when the game rolls around.”

Read the rest of what the Gators had to say…after the break!
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Reports: Patchan, Saunders leaving Florida

Florida Gators redshirt junior offensive tackle Matt Patchan has decided to transfer and sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders has been released from his scholarship, according to reports Wednesday from The Gainesville Sun.

Sun columnist Pat Dooley learned of Patchan’s departure, a decision that ends his injury-plagued career with the Gators. Saunders told the paper that he received his release “a couple of days ago” and that it was “a long time coming.”

Patchan, a fifth-year junior, missed two full seasons (2010, 2012) and had three others cut short due to injury. He played in 27 total games including 11 as a true freshman defensive tackle (leg), four as a sophomore (knee) and seven as a redshirt sophomore (back). He tore his pectoral in the offseason and did not step on the field this year.

The Sun reports that he plans to transfer to either Ohio State or Boston College. Former Florida head coach Urban Meyer holds that position with the Buckeyes, and former offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio was named new head coach of the Golden Eagles this month. Patchan will be able to enroll in a graduate program and play immediately.

He might have stayed had the Gators been thinner on the offensive line. Florida has multiple players competing for both tackle positions including young top-tier talent and multiple veteran transfers.

Though he has always been successful for the Gators on the field, Saunders had numerous off-the-field issues that limited his playing time and ability to contribute to the team and ultimately led to his dismissal.

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12/17: Muschamp on players, Sugar Bowl, Phillips

No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss the last two weekends of practice, preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl and update the statuses as well as provide his thoughts about a number of players on the team.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (foot) and redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Ian Silberman (shoulder) will both miss the bowl game. Each player had successful surgery on his respective injury recently but will not be able to return in time. Furthermore, redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (torn pectoral) has been doing individual work with the team but has not been cleared to play just yet. Muschamp said there are no other players expected to be absent for the bowl game, though he did mention previously that sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders would not play.

TRANSFER CONFIRMED

Muschamp confirmed that freshman defensive back Willie Bailey, a three-star recruit who did not play this season, has decided to leave the program and pursue opportunities elsewhere. “Willie Bailey has decided to transfer. He and I met last week and felt like he wanted to move on. We will support him in that,” he said.

He also noted that there should not be any more transfers before the bowl game but things could certainly change after Jan. 2. “We’re good right now. Obviously after the bowl game you sit down and evaluate where a young man is but right now we’re good to go,” Muschamp added.

RETURNING TO PRACTICE

Florida has practiced each of the last two weekends but has spent that time mostly working on fundamentals and getting back to basics. Muschamp said that the Gators will begin preparing for the Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday. Florida will then take a break for the holidays before resuming practice in New Orleans, LA, the site of the Sugar Bowl, on Dec. 27.

One thing he has tried to do since the end of the regular season is come up with a balance for the team between resting and getting away from it all but still remaining sharp football-wise.

“It’s really important for them to get away and decompress a little bit from football. You look at bowl games, with this long of a layover, it’s a one-game season. That’s how you really got to approach it,” he said. “You got to put all of your energy into it. I don’t like focusing too early on a bowl game because I think the players get too stale with the preparation. They get tired of watching the same film over and over and over again.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: transfer, Sugar Bowl, graduation

1 » Florida Gators freshman defensive back Willie Bailey, a three-star recruit out of Hallandale, FL who did not see the field in his first season with the team, has decided to transfer and pursue his college football career elsewhere. According to Bryan Holt of InsidetheGators.com, who spoke with Bailey’s high school coach ($) and confirmed that the decision has been made, the transfer was a long time coming though he left still very fond of Florida. The Gators are expected to see plenty of attrition this offseason with some players transferring, others graduating with eligibility remaining and even other potentially leaving early for the NFL. The school has not yet confirmed Bailey’s transfer, and the player has not determined his future destination.

2 » It is still very early in the 2012-13 season, but Florida basketball has been turning heads with its play through seven games this campaign. The Gators are now ranked second nationally in scoring defense and third in scoring margin, meaning the team is still putting up plenty of points while holding opponents to low averages. Perhaps most impressive is that Florida has accomplished all of this without a full complement of players. Read more about what the Gators have done so far and what can be made of the team’s early non-conference success in my newest commentary for ITG.

3 » Florida is having a tough time selling tickets to the 2013 Sugar Bowl, and a recent report from the Orlando Sentinel makes the situation seem dire. According to the Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson, who spoke with UF senior associate athletic director of communications Steve McClain, the Gators have sold just 6,500 tickets to the game despite being contracted to purchase a total of 17,500. Florida’s opponent in the game, the Louisville Cardinals, has already sold more than 14,000 tickets out of its 17,500 allotment. This is the second time in as many Sugar Bowl appearances that the Gators have struggled selling tickets. Florida only sold approximately 12,000 tickets to the 2010 contest, which was also quarterback Tim Tebow’s last game in a Gators uniform. The Southeastern Conference can buy up to 3,000 tickets out of Florida’s allotment, which means the school is still on the hook for approximately 8,000 tickets. More tickets will certainly be sold in the next two weeks, but UF will not come close to selling out of its allotment as fans prefer to save significant money and watch at home or purchase tickets closer to the game at cheaper prices due to the overwhelming inventory available. If more than 7,000 tickets go unsold after the SEC helps out, those tickets will cost the university approximately $1 million.

4 » A total of 25 former and current Gators student-athletes are set to receive their degrees during fall commencement on Dec. 15. Below are some standout names on the list, which can be viewed in full by clicking here.

David Eckstein^ – Baseball – Political Science
Daniel Pigott – Baseball – Building Construction
Jon Bostic – Football – Health Education and Behavior
Frankie Hammond, Jr. – Football, Track & Field – Telecommunication
Omarius Hines – Football – Anthropology
Omar Hunter – Football – Anthropology
Lerentee McCray – Football – Anthropology
Matt Patchan* – Football – Anthropology
Sam Robey – Football – Criminology
Caleb Sturgis – Football – Sport Management
McKenzie Barney – Soccer – Telecommunication
Erika Tymrak – Soccer – Criminology
Kathryn Williamson – Soccer – Psychology
Teresa Crippen – Swimming – Sport Management
Genevieve LaCaze – Track & Field – Applied Physiology and Kinesiology
Tangerine Wiggs – Volleyball – English

^ Eckstein (1994-97) is 37 years old.
* Patchan has a year of eligibility remaining.

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10/22: Muschamp on injuries, awards, turnovers

No. 2 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s big 44-11 win over the then-No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks and preview Saturday’s game against the No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp said that junior cornerback Cody Riggs (foot) and redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (pectoral) are once again out for Saturday’s game. Freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman (ankle) will return to practice Monday before being evaluated again, and junior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (hamstring) will sit on Monday but return to practice on Tuesday (probable for Saturday).

PLAYER AWARDS

Offensive Player of the Game: junior running back Trey Burton
“Trey does a lot of things for our football team offensively, special teams, really a lot of things go through him. We have a package for him in every game, and we certainly were able to use it Saturday and it was very efficient.”

Big Plays: redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed, redshirt sophomore WR Quinton Dunbar, junior WR Solomon Patton

Scrap Iron: redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green

Defensive Player of the Game: junior defensive end Dominique Easley

Ball Hawks: Burton (two), Patton, sophomore CB Loucheiz Purifoy (two), redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray, junior DT Sharrif Floyd, sophomore CB Jabari Gorman, sophomore RB Chris Johnson

Special Teams Player of the Game: Purifoy and sophomore punter Kyle Christy
* Christy was also named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Big Plays: Burton, Patton and Johnson

Scout Team Players of the Week: Special Teams – freshman LB Jeremi Powell, Defense – freshmen DL Alex McCalister and Quinteze Williams, Offense – freshman walk-on RB Mark Herndon

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
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