Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2011 (check out Saturday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players ending their accomplished careers to coaches and current players being part of some of the biggest news stories this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

11 » LEGAL ISSUES/EMBARRASSMENTS HANG OVER PROGRAM
Like 2009 and 2010, Florida could not escape its share of unfortunate arrests and embarrassing incidents in 2011. It started simply enough early in February when a pair of Gators swimmers – Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria – were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team after being accused of shoplifting from Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall. Next up was Florida senior outfielder Bryson Smith, who was picked up on March 13 for driving under the influence. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested in Gainesville, FL three weeks later and charged with a trio of misdemeanors for failing to obey a police officer, possession of a drug (Viagra) without a valid prescription and resisting arrest without violence. The month of April was a tough one for the basketball team. Forwards Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested in St. Augustine, FL and charged with third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Josh Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary for allegedly serving as a lookout. Charges against the players were eventually reduced and each settled their respective case, while Adel had all charges against him dropped. Additionally, former Florida F Dan Wener was charged with a DUI even though he blew below the legal limit (0.08) on the Breathalyzer twice. The State Attorney’s Office eventually dropped his charges due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

Unfortunately the year of brushes with the law was just getting started for the Gators. It surfaced on April 24 via a news report that both linebacker Chris Martin and defensive end Kendric Johnson were cited with misdemeanors for possessing approximately two grams of marijuana each in their respective vehicles on separate occasions. Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell was arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. Gators runner Andries Dumisane Hlaselo had the darkest arrest of the year, being picked up in June after being accused of rape and sexual assault. He was immediately dismissed from the team. The Florida football team had the remainder of the year’s arrests. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking for the second time in as many years in July, and an August report noted that freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in May. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely was arrested on Sept. 13 on a first-degree misdemeanor for driving a scooter with a suspended license as well as a third-degree felony for resisting arrest without violence, and freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was served with a written arrest for underage drinking just one day later. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had the last brush with the law of 2011 as he was accused of attacking a former Alabama player early in October but was cleared of the charges one month later. All-in-all, for every positive thing accomplished by the Gators in 2011, there always seemed to be something negative about the program just around the corner.

10 » SIX BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY; THREE SUFFER SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUES DURING THE YEAR
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2011 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place or suffered through serious medical issues in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon or had plenty to deal with as the year went on. Jimmy Carnes (76), a former Gators track and field coach, passed away in March after losing a four-year battle with prostate cancer. Former linebacker/safety and three-time Super Bowl winner Godfrey Myles (42) suffered a massive heart attack in June and, while in the hospital on life support, had a stroke that took his life. Former punter and 12-year NFL veteran Don Chandler (76) also lost a long battle with cancer in August. Mike Heimerdinger (58), who was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, passed away in October. He was a former graduate assistant and wide receivers coach at Florida and won consecutive SEC titles with the team from 1984-85. Ending the year on a sad note, beloved Gainesville, FL businessman and former Gators long snapper Harold Monk III (42) died suddenly in December. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

Florida freshman linebacker Neiron Ball was the first of three members of the Gators family to suffer serious health issues during the year. He was rushed to the hospital in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured as part of a congenital vascular condition. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and Ball was released from the hospital four days later, but he was forced to miss the entire season for recovery purposes. In the middle of the year, Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller was lucky enough to have his wife give birth to a daughter named Jaylen. Unfortunately for the family, she was forced to spend two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit after doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. The Millers eventually brought Jaylen home with them in a bit of a coincidence considering they actually donated $1 million to a pediatric intensive care unit at children’s hospital in his home town in 2007. Later that month, former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which he is currently still recovering from and will continue to do so over the next few months.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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S Shaw, DE Trail to transfer from Florida Gators

Two more Florida Gators football players – redshirt freshmen safety Joshua Shaw and defensive end Lynden Trail have decided to leave the program, The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley confirmed Tuesday.

Both four-star recruits from Florida’s heralded 2010 recruiting class, Shaw and Trail are the 10th and 11 players to depart since head coach Will Muschamp took over.

“We wish Lynden and Josh the best of luck in the future and we certainly appreciate their contributions to the football program,” Muschamp said in a school release.

Shaw registered 22 tackles (one for loss) and a pass breakup in 10 games this year, while Trail never saw the field and did not even dress for the vast majority of contests.

“I have enjoyed my time at Florida but I feel like I need to be closer to my family right now,” Shaw said in the same school release. “This is not a football decision, this is a family decision. I need to be with my family.”

Each player came into the program with a previous relationship. Shaw (Palmdale, CA) was close to and from the same state as sophomore defensive end Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA), and Trail attended the same high school as redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar (Booker T. Washington).

“I have decided that I would like to pursue opportunities elsewhere,” Trail said. “I want to thank the fans and Gator Nation for their support. I’ll always be a Gator at heart.”

Trail also wrote about his decision on his Twitter account Tuesday.

GATORNATION I LOVE YALL AND LOVED ALL YALL SUPPORT I LOVED THE COACHES MY TEAMMATES AND THE STUDENTS HERE ONCE A GATOR ALWAYS A GATOR <3

[and]

I have nothing negative to say about UF I LOVE THE PROGRAM THE STUDENTS THE FRIENDS I MADE AND OVERALL THE FANS #GATORNATION

The duo join DE Chris Martin, WR Chris Dunkley, WR Javares McRoy, running back Mike Blakely, tight end Michael McFarland, linebacker Dee Finely, TE Gerald Christian and WR Robert Clark as players who transferred this season. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the team following two marijuana arrests in less than 90 days.

Additionally, redshirt junior offensive lineman Daivd Young announced that he plans to graduate and will not participate in his final year of eligibility. Young saw action in all 12 games so far this season.

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Update: Gators LB Dee Finley will transfer

Florida Gators redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley has decided to transfer to another school, the University of Florida officially announced on Wednesday.

“Dee has decided that he would like to pursue other opportunities,” head coach Will Muschamp said in a release. “We wish him the best of luck and we appreciate his time at Florida.”

A four-star defensive back coming out of high school who transferred to the Milford Academy for a year in order to improve his grades and qualify to enroll at UF, Finley was moved to linebacker upon joining the team in 2009.

He appeared in 14 games in his first two seasons, playing in 10 as a freshman but only four as a sophomore. Finley fractured his collarbone against LSU in 2010 and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.

Muschamp praised Finley as a “solid” linebacker and “outstanding” special teamer in the spring, but he has not played much in 2011, slotted as the reserve Will linebacker behind redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins

Finley had played in five of the Gators’ six games this year but has only registered four tackles. He missed one game while serving a suspension after being arrested for driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest without violence.

“Although I’ve enjoyed my time here at Florida, I think it’s best for me to move on and get a fresh start somewhere else,” Finley said in the same release. “I plan on finishing the semester here and concentrating on my academics.”

Finley is the seventh player to leave Florida since Muschamp took over the team. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed following two marijuana rests in less than 90 days. Defensive end Chris Martin, wide receiver Chris Dunkley, WR Javares McRoy, running back Mike Blakely and tight end Michael McFarland transferred.

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (89-80)

With the 2010-11 athletic season now in the books and the 2011-12 season about to begin, the focus has shifted from some of the school’s smaller sports to, of course, Florida Gators football. In this new series, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, until the season begins.

89 – Stephen Alli (Toronto, ON)
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver
6’5” 220 lbs.

Quick Bio: A social & behavioral sciences major, Alli is a SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll member who did not see the field in 2009 but played in all 13 games last season. He is also the only Canadian on the team.

Career Stats/2010 Season: Played in all 13 games, registering three receptions for 17 yards. He spent most of his time on the kickoff return and punt block teams.

2011 Outlook: Singled out as a leader by head coach Will Muschamp during spring practice, Alli was listed as the second X-receiver on the depth chart behind redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr.. He is one of nine scholarship receivers on the roster entering the 2011 season.

86 – Clay Burton (Venice, FL)
Freshman defensive end/linebacker
6’4” 234 lbs.

Quick Bio: The younger brother of Florida standout sophomore Trey Burton, Clay is an early enrollee who was a three-star defensive end coming out of high school.

2011 Outlook: Previously penciled in as a third-string defensive end behind senior William Green and redshirt freshman Chris Martin, Burton will likely move up into the back-up role unless the Gators move another defensive lineman into the position.

86 – Josh Postell (Atlanta, GA)
Redshirt junior tight end
6’4” 218 lbs.

Quick Bio: Originally enrolled to compete with the track & field team while studying health education and behavior, Postell walked on to the Florida football team in the fall of 2009. He participated on the scout team that year before finally seeing game action in 2010.

Career Stats (two games): Two receptions for 16 yards

2010 Season: Postell caught a pair of balls against Vanderbilt and stepped on the field against Appalachian State but did not play the rest of the year.

2011 Outlook: Listed on offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’s early depth chart as a back-up at the F-12 position (when the team features one halfback and two tight ends), Postell saw his other competition for the job (redshirt freshman Michael McFarland) transfer in early July. If he does see the field, his work will mostly be limited to blocking duties, though he could haul in a ball or two.

85 – Frankie Hammond, Jr. (Hollywood, FL)
Redshirt junior wide receiver
6’1” 176 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star wideout, Hammond is a dual-sport athlete who is also a jumper with the track team. He majors in social & behavioral sciences and earned his way back on scholarship this year after being arrested for driving under the influence in June 2010.

Career Stats (26 games): 26 receptions for 333 yards, three touchdowns; five punt returns for 16 yards; one kick return for 23 yards

2010 Season: Catching just four balls during his redshirt freshman year in 2009, Hammond missed the first two games of 2010 due to suspension but played in the 11 remaining contests. He posted career highs in receptions (five) and yards (69) against Mississippi State and was Florida’s leading receiver that game.

2011 Outlook: Hammond steps into a starting role this season and will likely see time as X-receiver during most offensive possessions. Possessing impressive speed and soft hands, he will be catching passes from redshirt senior John Brantley for the second-straight season and should provide a bit of familiarity for the quarterback.

84 – Quinton Dunbar (Miami, FL)
Sophomore wide receiver
6’1” 170 lbs.

Quick Bio: Teammates with redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail at Booker T. Washington in Miami, Dunbar was also a four-star recruit who, like his teammate, majors in social and behavioral sciences.

2010 Season: Saw action against Miami and LSU.

2011 Outlook: Poised to be one of the Gators’ breakout players this season, Dunbar received high praise from Muschamp and Weis during the spring. He dropped a gift of a pass in the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut but really opened the eyes of his coaches and teammates during practice. “You can’t take away from what Quinton Dunbar has done vertically down the field through the entire body of work of spring,” Muschamp said after the scrimmage. “Dunbar has made more big plays than anybody else.”

83 – Solomon Patton (Mobile, AL)
Sophomore wide receiver
5’9” 175 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star prospect coming out of high school, Patton badly wanted to play for UF and chose Florida over his hometown team of Alabama during the recruiting process. A social & behavioral sciences major, Patton was one of a handful of freshman to see meaningful time on the field one year ago.

Career Stats/2010 Season: Patton reeled in four balls for 27 yards and returned seven kickoffs for 196 yards last season. He appeared in 10 games and was a special teams standout who not only brought the ball back on occasion but also blocked one punt and returned another block punt for a touchdown. His 48-yard kickoff return and blocked punt in the Outback Bowl were two of the most memorable plays of the season.

2011 Outlook: Though the Gators have plenty of speedsters, Weis plans to utilize Patton at F-11 during one halfback and one tight end sets. He looked good running the reverse during the Orange & Blue Debut and is excited about the direction of the team. “The coaching staff that we have this year, I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “I just feel like our swag is back. This coaching staff is so laid back, but at the same time they’re coaching us hard. They’re letting us play how we’ve been recruited to play. I’m really excited.”

82 – Omarius Hines (Corsicana, TX)
Redshirt junior wide receiver
6’2” 211 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star wide receiver, Hines majors in social & behavioral sciences like many of his teammates and has been moved around a lot during his collegiate career. He used his redshirt in 2008 after dressing but not playing in four games.

Career Stats (17 games): 34 receptions for 453 yards, two touchdowns; 12 carries for 152 yards, two touchdowns

2010 Season: After seeing the field in small bursts one year earlier, Hines started seven contests in 2010 and played in every game. He ended the year with 20 receptions for 281 yards but was moved around a lot due based on others’ injuries and suspensions. He went into the year slotted to play tight end but saw time at receiver and running back. Hines caught a career-high four balls against Georgia and led the team in rushing against Mississippi State (six carries for 58 yards and a TD). He also converted a 36-yard fake punt run against Tennessee.

2011 Outlook: A do-everything player who has soft enough hands to play wideout, Hines will fall back into that role as he is slated to be the team’s starting Z-receiver this season. Muschamp called him the most versatile and consistent pass catcher on the team, noting that he can play in the backfield in the F position and also line up at X-receiver.

81 – A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL)
Freshman tight end
6’4” 245 lbs.

Quick Bio: Considered a top-five player at his position nationally coming out of high school, Leonard was a four-star prospect who was part of both the Rivals100 and ESPNU 150. He enrolled early for 2011 and was a bit homesick but eventually got over it and quickly impressed his teammates and coaches on the field.

2011 Outlook: Listed as the back-up to redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed, Leonard made some nice catches during the Orange & Blue Debut. Muschamp spent some one-on-one time with him in the spring and has a good handle on what he can do for the team in the future. “As he ended the offseason program, he really started to mature and grow up,” the coach said. “I’m very proud of where he is right now. He’s doing a nice job academically. He’s a guy that can really help us in the fall as he continues to mature. Another guy that this time of the year is very important for.”

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

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Gators TE Michael McFarland will transfer

Florida Gators redshirt freshman tight end Michael McFarland has decided to transfer out of the program, the University of Florida confirmed in a statement.

McFarland, a three-star recruit in Florida’s much-heralded 2010 signing class, becomes the sixth player to transfer away from the Gators since Will Muschamp was hired to replace Urban Meyer as head coach.

Senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the team following two marijuana arrests in less than 90 days. Redshirt freshmen defensive end/linebacker Chris Martin and wide receiver Chris Dunkley as well as freshmen WR Javares McRoy and running back Mike Blakely all decided to transfer for various reasons.

“Michael and I have come to the conclusion that it is in his best interest to transfer from the University of Florida,” Muschamp said in release from the school. “We wish him the best as he continues his career somewhere else.”

Like Martin just one week ago, McFarland never had the opportunity to step on the field for the Gators and will leave the program without making any notable mark.

He was listed at the F-12 position in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis‘s spring depth chart, meaning he would play only in two tight end sets. Redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed, redshirt freshman Gerald Christian and freshman A.C. Leonard were all listed ahead of him at the position. Florida already has four-star TE Colin Thompson (Warminster, PA) committed for the 2012 season.

McFarland’s decision to transfer was first reported by InsideTheGators.com.

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Machen for SI: grayshirting is “reprehensible”

University of Florida president Bernie Machen, published in a feature piece for SI.com, calls offering grayshirts to student-athletes “reprehensible” and says taking away a scholarship from a player is “disgusting” and a “nefarious practice.”

Imagine the feeling if the student finds out, literally a few months before enrolling, that the institution is backing out of the contract. It is too late in the summer to go back to one’s second choice. The student is told he will have to wait until next year. Sorry, but no acceptance, no scholarship. That’s it.

In Division I college football this practice is known as “grayshirting” and, unfortunately, there are universities that sanction this activity. The universities, with full knowledge of what they are doing, extend more athletic scholarships than they have. These schools play roulette with the lives of talented young people. If they run out of scholarships, too bad. The letter-of-intent signed by the university the previous February is voided. Technically, it’s legal to do this. Morally, it is reprehensible.

What makes Machen’s comments particularly interesting are two stories that have come out over the last two recruiting cycles involving Florida Gators either offering or at the very least discussing grayshirts with high school players.

Rivals reported in Jan. 2010 that the Gators proposed the use of a grayshirt to three-star tight end recruit Michael McFarland, noting that he would not likely be strong enough to compete in the Southeastern Conference at his current build.

“When I went up there they threw out on the table the whole grayshirt thing,” McFarland said. “There have been times I wanted to do it and there were times I didn’t want to do it because I wanted to get up there and go play. […] They didn’t say they were going to do it but they gave me the option.”

Florida decided the move was not necessary; McFarland joined UF in the fall.

This year, four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett and Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels have noted that former Gators head coach Urban Meyer offered Brissett the opportunity to grayshirt, a move the player scoffed at.

It is important to note that there is a serious distinction between a team offering a grayshirt before a player has signed a National Letter of Intent and a team delaying or pulling a scholarship after that process is concluded. Machen is discussing the latter.

Entering into an agreement with a student-athlete that he or she will wait a year if they wish to play at a particular university where the player knows of the intentions and agrees to the move ahead of time is quite different than locking that player up and forcing him or her to abide by your decision after the fact.

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8/31: Florida Gators week one practice notes

Game week practice for the Florida Gators‘ 2010 season opener is officially underway and, with their first game coming on Saturday at 12 p.m. against the Miami (OH) RedHawks, coaches and players were made available to the media after practice on Tuesday. OGGOA has compiled some of the key details.

SIXTH CAPTAIN ADDED

Five Florida football players – redshirt senior linebacker A.J. Jones and seniors safety Ahmad Black, center Mike Pouncey, defensive end Justin Trattou and DE Duke Lemmens – were voted as captains by their teammates Saturday, according to head coach Urban Meyer. On Tuesday, Meyer said that redshirt senior defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh has been added, giving the Gators six captains this year.

TWO REDSHIRTS HANDED OUT

Freshmen defensive end Lynden Trail and defensive tackle Leon Orr will both be redshirted for the 2010-11 season, according to assistant head coach and defensive line coach Dan McCarney. “They’re not ready to play in the SEC, not ready to play winning football,” McCarney said, according to the Palm Beach Post‘s Jason Lieser. Ouch!

Trail would have been – at best – the seventh DE to play this season, while Orr has at least five other players in front of him. Trail, along with tight end Michael McFarland, had his black helmet stripe removed during practice on Monday.

Meyer noted Tuesday that wide receiver Solomon Patton had his stripe taken off.

QUOTE

Redshirt senior running back Emmanuel Moody on redshirt junior WR Chris Rainey breaking out: “I think he’s going to have a big year this year. We’re excited to see him returning punts as well. […] He’s making plays left and right. He’s taking them to the house sometimes. He’s making people miss, making people look foolish, breaking ankles out there. One time he made a play on Jelani Jenkins and Jelani didn’t know where Rainey was. Once he gets the ball in his hands this season, it will be electric.”

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Gators’ newest footballers pick uniform numbers

Athletes care about their uniform numbers, and now that Florida Gators football is preparing to begin practice for the 2010-11 season in just about a week, it was time for the team’s newest members to choose theirs. The freshman roster, according to the University of Florida, can be found…after the break:
Continue Reading » Gators’ newest footballers pick uniform numbers

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