TWO BITS: Hamilton’s commitment, Tebow out

1 » One of two schools vying for the services of five-star defensive end Darius Hamilton (Ramsey, NJ), the Florida Gators were thought to be behind the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in contention for his commitment. The New Jersey boy was expected to stay in-state and play for Rutgers but his thoughts may be in the process of changing when it was reported Thursday morning that the Scarlet Knights’ head coach, Greg Schiano, is on his way to take the same job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hamilton has said that Florida and Rutgers were his final two and planned to make an announcement sometime before National Signing Day on Feb. 1. He was supposed to meet with Schiano on Wednesday, but it is unknown if that visit took place.

Should the Gators miss out on Hamilton and/or five-star athlete Josh Harvey-Clemons (Valdosta, GA), Florida could offer a scholarship to three-star DE Junior Gnonkonde (Lakeland, GA). According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, UF has been calling about the former Georgia Tech commitment but will only have room for him in their class if they miss out on one or both of Hamilton and Harvey-Clemons.

2 » Originally scheduled to participate in the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been forced to withdraw from the event due to the multiple injuries he suffered against the New England Patriots in the second round of the NFL Playoffs. Though Tebow does not need surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, he will not be able to participate in the event from Feb. 9-12. An avid golfer, Tebow was undoubtedly looking forward to the event, and the tournament’s directors were certainly hoping he would be able to play as well.

Extra BIT » No. 5 Florida lacrosse will begin its 2012 campaign with an exhibition match Thursday against England at 6:30 p.m. The Gators are looking to build on consecutive impressive years and hope to win their first national championship in the program’s third season of existence.

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Gators in the market for another young QB?

The Florida Gators may have three quarterbacks already on their 2012 roster, but new offensive coordinator Brent Pease is in search of one more to add to the fold.

In addition to soon-to-be sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel, both of whom will compete for the starting job beginning in spring practice, and redshirt sophomore backup Tyler Murphy, Florida has reached out to a pair of 2012 signal callers who may be interested in joining to the program this year.

Continue Reading » Gators in the market for another young QB?

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Hardin commiting was a good move for Florida

With 12 players already committed and a ways to go until National Signing Day, the Florida Gators offering and accepting a commitment from a kicker in June may throw some for a loop. “Why use a scholarship on a specialist when so much help is needed throughout the rest of the team?” an OGGOA reader asked in an e-mail.

Rivals.com’s southeast recruiting analyst Keith Niehbur explains why Florida getting a commitment from two-star K Austin Hardin (Atlanta, GA) is a good thing.

“I think it’s a smart move. For starters, this guy can really kick. Not only is he solid on field goals, but he has proven in camps this summer that his leg is strong enough to get most of his kickoffs into the endzone,” Niehbur explains.

“Now, here’s another reason it makes sense. If he is ready to handle kickoffs in 2012 – and coaches think he will be – it will take some of the pressure off [redshirt junior] placekicker Caleb Sturgis, who was injured last season. That would allow Sturgis to focus on field goals, while also limiting the chances of him getting hurt.”

Plus there’s this from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Hardin has one of the strongest legs in state history. He made 13 of 20 field goals last season, and the seven he missed were either attempts of 50 yards or longer, or blocked. He converted every PAT attempt, and blasted every kickoff out of the end zone, except for when Marist was trying a specialty kickoff, such as an onsides kick.

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FOUR BITS: Jones, SEC records, softball, lacrosse

1 » Though he announced his commitment on Monday, four-star 2012 running back recruit Matt Jones (Seffner, FL) solidified it Wednesday night at a news conference at Armwood High School. Donning Florida Gators gear, Jones not only affirmed his commitment but also promised that nothing would change over the next year, before National Signing Day on Feb. 1 (or earlier if he decides to enroll in the spring). “I’m a Gator for life,” Jones said emphatically, according to the St. Petersburg Times. “Any other coaches are not going to get no feedback or stuff like that, only if they’re saying ‘Good luck’ to our players or stuff like that. I’m truly a Gator. […] I truly believe I’ll rock the Gator Nation.” Jones’s coach, Sean Callahan, praised his student-athlete’s early decision, noting that it is as firm as can be. “He understands what a commitment is now,” Callahan said. “We need to bring some honor in recruiting. Matt’s word is good, our word is good and I honestly believe the University of Florida‘s word is good, too.”

2 » Competing in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Swimming Championships at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday, the No. 5 men’s team broke two SEC records while capturing a pair of gold medals in relay races. The foursome of seniors Conor Dwyer, Brett Fraser, Balazs Gercsak and sophomore Sebastien Rousseau were victorious in the 800-yard freestyle relay with a record time of 6:13.74; within that race, Dwyer’s 200-yard freestyle split of 1:31.73 also set a conference mark, one once held by former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte (2005). Florida’s other event victory was the 200-yard medley relay, which was won in a time of 1:24.94 by Dwyer, Fraser, redshirt sophomore Marco Loughran and freshman Marcin Cieslak. The men’s team is in third place overall after day one, while the No. 8 women’s team holds on to second place (Auburn leads both standings).

3 » No. 5 Florida softball (6-0) continued their hot start to the season with a 7-0 drubbing of the Jacksonville Dolphins (2-3) in their first road game of the year. Senior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (4-0) tossed five innings of one-hit ball, striking out eight and walking one. Supporting her effort was senior second baseman Aja Paculba, whose grand slam in the fifth inning (the team’s third of the season) solidified the victory. The Gators will face their toughest test of the season over the weekend when they host No. 22 North Carolina for a three-game series including a doubleheader on Saturday.

4 » Also in Jacksonville on Wednesday was No. 17 Florida lacrosse (1-1), which won their first game of the season after suffering a tough overtime loss to No. 3 North Carolina over the weekend. The Gators took down the Dolphins in impressive fashion, 18-9, behind stellar offensive play by sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen (four goals), junior attacker Caroline Cochran (three goals) and sophomore M Caroline Chesterman (three goals).

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Report: QB Brissett set to commit to Gators

Updated 3:40 p.m.

Though National Signing Day has come and gone, it looks like the Florida Gators will add another commitment to their 2011 recruiting class. Four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) of Dwyer High School will commit to Florida this evening, according to a source who spoke with the Palm Beach Post.

With five-star QB Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) already in the fold as an early enrollee, offensive coordinator/QB coach Charlie Weis made a strong push to get a commitment out of Brissett almost immediately when he took the job in January.

After meeting the student-athlete, Weis called head coach Will Mushcamp to request a scholarship offer for Brissett. Muschamp quickly granted one even though the player had previously only been offered a greyshirt by former head coach Urban Meyer.

Miami (FL) and Wisconsin were also strongly considered by Brissett.

Though Driskel is the consensus No. 1 QB in the 2011 class, Brissett is ranked No. 5 by Rivals and No. 9 by Scout. ESPNU lists him as a three-star player and the No. 25 QB in the country. He has said on numerous occasions that he is not scared of competition and is confident he will eventually win a starting job at whatever college he chooses.

Brissett will officially announce his decision at his Dwyer basketball game Friday night.

A two-sport athlete, he has also given an indication that he would like to pursue basketball at a collegiate level. Whether or not Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan will provide him with that opportunity remains to be seen.

Committing to Florida, he joins three former Dwyer teammates who joined the Gators in 2010 – safety Matt Elam, tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark.

With Brissett’s signing, it is almost a certainty that redshirt freshman QB/tight end Jordan Reed will permanently switch to TE and freshman QB Trey Burton will change positions, too. Muschamp noted on Wednesday that Burton can play either defensive back or a hybrid fullback/QB role on offense. The status of freshman QB Tyler Murphy has not been discussed, though the player has said he only wants to be a signal-caller.

UPDATE: Since the Post first reported Brissett’s decision, The Gainesville Sun has confirmed it via sources of their own. However, the Associated Press‘s Tim Reynolds has reported via Twitter that he is hearing Brissett actually told two different schools that they will receive his commitment. Additionally, the Post has noted that Brissett will not sign or send in his Letter of Intent Friday no matter which program he commits to. OGGOA will keep you updated on this story as it progresses.

Photo Credit: Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post

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Muschamp on positions, coaching, discipline

In addition to discussing his 18 new players and the recruiting process in general, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp spoke on a number of other topics Wednesday during his National Signing Day press conference.

POSITION CHANGES FOR QUARTERBACKS

Addressing whether or not frosh quarterback Jeff Driskel has a legitimate opportunity to win the starting job in 2011, Muschamp (like most new coaches) related that every starting job on the football team is open to competition.

“It’s not just the quarterback position. I don’t look at that position as [different from] any other. Every position, every day needs to be earned,” he said. “The best motivator in any sport or anything is competition. When a guy knows he has to go out and compete for his job every day, he’s going to play well.”

However, Muschamp did note that Florida is deficient in their depth at signal caller, even though the Gators technically have five quarterbacks on the team with the addition of Driskel. In addition to redshirt junior starter John Brantley, Florida has QBs in redshirt freshman Jordan Reed and freshmen Trey Burton and Tyler Murphy.

As has been assumed, Muschamp’s comment cements the likelihood that at least two of those players will change or adjust their position assignments.

“Trey was a guy that’s been talked about as a defensive back,” Muschamp noted, “but I’m not so sure he’s not better suited to be on the offensive side of the ball as a fullback move and still have some sort of package for him at the quarterback position. Jordan’s a guy that we’re still working through the process with him of where he’ll end up. He’s an outstanding athlete and will be an integral part of what we do offensively, I can tell you that.”

Reed, who was moved to tight end before being needed behind center in 2010, may end up back in that role while Burton, who noted via his Twitter account that he was planning a move to defense, could be used as an H-back and short-yardage QB. That would leave Brantley, Murphy and Driskel as the team’s three signal callers.

INVOLVEMENT IN THE SECONDARY

With just three years of coaching experience, Travaris Robinson was hired by Muschamp to coach the team’s defensive backs. Though he has confidence in Robinson, who he described as “a winner” who has “competed at the highest level in this sport and is a good young coach,” Muschamp plans on being involved in the secondary just as former head coach Urban Meyer was in the special teams.

“I hope they play better than me, I can tell you that,” said Muschamp, who was a defensive back at Georgia. “‘Do as I say, not as I did,’ is my motto as a coach. I’m going to be very involved in the defense and very involved in the secondary. I’ll be working primarily with the safety position.”

FIRST TEST OF HIS DISCIPLINE

With junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins being cited for possession of marijuana, Muschamp was faced with his first discipline issue almost immediately after stepping foot on campus. Considering the matter closed and none of the public’s business, he said Wednesday that, “It’s all being handled internally, and I’ve handled the situation.”

Photo Credit: GatorVision capture

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Will Muschamp on Florida’s 2011 recruiting class

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp held a press conference after his coaching staff received 18 National Letters of Intent on National Signing Day. The following are some key thoughts Muschamp divulged.

Opening statement: “Real pleased with the 18 signees for today. The Gators got better today. [I’m] excited about bringing these young men into our program in a short period of time. Recruiting is all about developing relationships and trust, and it’s tough to do that in a short period of time. Recruiting has changed so much over the years. You’re starting to recruit guys when you see guys coming their sophomore, junior seasons. You start recruiting. You’re building that relationship for a year, two and three years. And to come in – in the short term – we did a nice job of securing the class we had, which we had to re recruit all of those guys because of all of the changes, the mass changes with the staff. And our staff did a nice job of securing those guys. Just really pleased with what we had, and Urban [Meyer] and his staff did a great job with those guys that were already committed to the university. And then coming back and supplementing some other guys to our football team.”

On evaluating the 2011 class: “We’ll know about this entire class in two or three years, and I’m going to say the same thing next year. In two or three years, we’ll know about what kind of class this was. Not today. Today’s not the day to judge anything we do, and you can put that in your tape recorder because I’m going to say the same thing next year. Football’s a developmental game. We have an outstanding strength staff and an outstanding coaching staff. It’s our job, when we get these young men on campus, is to develop them on and off the field to be good football players and good citizens and good students of the University of Florida. And that’s what we plan on doing.”

On only signing 18 players: “We have a smaller senior class for next season. So I didn’t feel like at the end of the process, to make an emotional decision in offering guys that I didn’t think could play at, on or off the field, a championship level at the University of Florida. And I’d rather have held those scholarships to the next season to give our staff a whole year to evaluate and recruit. We could have signed 25 initials, and I held it at 18 there with some other possibilities. But excited about that, our signing class coming in. […]

“I was more interested in the quality of player and the character of the player that we’re going to sign at Florida as opposed to going out and signing a class of 25 and regretting three or four or five of those guys. That’s not what we were going to do. We were not going to make an emotional decision to go out and make an emotional decision and sign guys just to sign guys. That’s not the purpose of what we’re going to do. We got a small senior class, and we’re going to take those scholarships to next season when we’re going to sign a full class.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say about his class…after the break!
Continue Reading » Will Muschamp on Florida’s 2011 recruiting class

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Florida Gators 2011 National Signing Day notes

Courtesy of the University of Florida‘s University Athletic Association:

EARLY ENROLLEE BIOS

Mike Blakely • Running back
5-9 • 205
Bradenton • Manatee H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect rated the No. 6 running back in the nation and the No. 10 overall prospect in the state of Florida and No. 40 in the country according to Rivals.com… Also rated No. 74 in the ESPNU 150 class… Finished his junior season with 1,400 yards rushing and 227 yards on kick and punt returns with a total of 23 touchdowns… Added another 1,000-yard season as a senior, with 19 touchdowns on the ground… Was a first-team all-state running back in 2009… Participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2011… Chose Florida over Auburn, Clemson, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and USC… Coached by Joe Kinnan.

Clay Burton • Defensive Line
6-4 • 245
Venice • Venice H.S.
Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A three-star prospect rated the No. 35 linebacker according to Rivals.com… Ranked the No. 19 weakside defensive end in the country by Rivals.com… Finished his junior season with 80 tackles and 13 sacks… Participated in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl… Chose Florida over LSU, Mississippi, Tennessee, Notre Dame and West Virginia among others… Coached by John Peacock.

Kyle Christy • Punter
6-1 • 185
Brownsburg, Ind. • Brownsburg H.S.
Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A three-star prospect rated the No. 2 punter nationally according to Scout.com… Completed 31 of 37 extra points and five of eight field goals with a long of 45 yards his junior year… Participated in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in 2010… Named AP Indiana 5A All-State Honorable Mention… Chose Florida over LSU… Coached by Brett Comer.

Jeff Driskel • Quarterback
6-4 • 238
Oviedo • Hagerty H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Maxwell Football Club National High School Player of the Year… Gatorade Florida Player of the Year… Rated the No. 1 quarterback nationally according to Scout.com and Rivals.com… Threw for a career 4,844 passing yards and 36 touchdowns and helped lead the Huskies to their first winning season in their fourth year as a varsity program… Had 1,819 yards and 15 touchdowns passing, 1,333 rushing yards with 20 touchdowns and caught two touchdown passes his senior year… Threw for 1,427 yards with 11 touchdowns and ran for 170 yards with five touchdowns his junior year… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game in 2011… Chose Florida over Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Mississippi and Clemson, among others… Coached by Nate Gierke.

A.C. Leonard • Tight End
6-3 ● 245
Jacksonville ● University Christian H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect and No. 5 tight end nationally according to Rivals.com… Member of the ESPNU 150 class and Rivals100 class… Averaged 20 yards-per-catch as a tight end… On defense, he recorded 21 sacks and 60 tackles with 10 for a loss… Also had two blocked punts, one blocked extra point, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game… Chose Florida over Alabama, Miami, Nebraska, UCF and FIU… Coached by Heath Nivens.

Javares McRoy • Wide Receiver
5-8 ● 170
Lakeland ● Lakeland H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect according to Scout.com… First-team All-State wide receiver for 5A classification in his junior year… Averaged 20 yards-per-catch… Listed as the No. 28 wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com… In his sophomore year, he posted a 10.65 100-meter time at the FHSAA 4A Regional Track meet… Chose Florida over Auburn, California, Florida State, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas Tech… Coached by Bill Castle.

De’Ante “Pop” Saunders • Defensive Back
5-8 ● 173
DeLand ● DeLand H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Rated a three-star prospect according to Scout.com and Rivals.com… In 2010, the 6A Florida Athletic Coaches Association Player of the Year for Seminole and Volusia counties… In his junior year, ran for 1,634 yards and 23 touchdowns… As a kick returner, had 580 yards and three touchdowns and led the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball to 6A state title game in his junior year… First-team All-State defensive back for 6A classification and named All-Central Florida Defensive Player of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel in 2009… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game in 2011… Chose Florida over South Carolina, Mississippi, Clemson, Cincinnati, USF and FIU… Coached by Kevin Pettis.

SIGNEE BIOS (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Florida Gators 2011 National Signing Day notes

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