Gators open two football practices to public

Florida Gators football fans anxious for the 2013 season will be able to get a sneak peak at the program this spring as the team has officially decided to open a pair of non-contact spring practices to the public for the second-straight year.

The University Athletic Association announced Friday that spring practices held at Sanders Football Practice Fields on Friday, March 15 (4:35-6:35 p.m.) and Saturday, March 16 (1:05-3:00 p.m.) will be open to all comers.

The Gators officially begin spring practice on March 13, one day after Florida holds its annual Pro Day for former players preparing for the 2013 NFL Draft on March 12 at 10:30 a.m. Pro Day is also open to the public and held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Fans can enter through Gates 2, 6, 15 and 18 and pick their own seats in the stands.

The 2013 Orange & Blue Debut spring game is scheduled for Saturday, April 6 at 1 p.m. A television partner has not yet been announced for the final spring practice.

Students, Gator Boosters, Alumni Association members and F Club members all receive free admission to the spring game. A limited supply of free tickets is also available at Florida Farm Bureau agents’ offices. Tickets are currently available for $5 in the Gator ticket office at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium or can be ordered online at GatorZone.com/tickets.

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FOUR BITS: football, Bonner, Donovan, NCAA

1 » Some important dates have recently been released for Florida Gators football. The school will host Pro Day – where NFL scouts get the opportunity to watch draft-eligible players (and some free agents) perform inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – on Tuesday, March 12. The event is open the public, which can sit in the stands and watch the proceedings on the field (in the past, concession stands have not been open). One day later on Wednesday, March 13, the Gators will hold their first spring practice of the new season. Florida claims to have additional announcements to make in regards to spring practice but has not done so as of press time. Finally, the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut has been set for Saturday, April 6 at a yet-to-be-announced time.

2 » It’s official. San Antonio Spurs (and former Gators) forward Matt Bonner will be participating in the Three-Point Shootout at NBA All-Star Weekend on Feb. 16. Bonner is the second former Florida player to ever shoot in the event (Mike Miller participated twice) and has a fantastic chance of winning the whole thing. He will go up against New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Indiana’s Paul George, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and New York’s Steve Novak. The Gators also have Warriors power forward David Lee and Bulls center Joakim Noah participating in the All-Star Game and Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Rockets forward Chandler Parsons going head-to-head in the Rising Stars Challenge featuring rookies and sophomores. Former Florida guard James White (Knicks), who transferred to Cincinnati after one season at UF, will be participating in the Slam Dunk Contest.

Read two more BITS on Billy Donovan…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: football, Bonner, Donovan, NCAA

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FOUR BITS: Uniforms, Elam, Young, Hargreaves

1 » Likely spurred by a picture posted by a 2013 commitment that spread around the internet and OGGOA‘s sourced report on Tuesday, the Florida Gators confirmed Wednesday that the team will indeed be wearing slightly different uniforms for the 2013 season. As described by the school’s website, Florida will be wearing a new style of Nike jerseys that are made of a more breathable fabric, only being used by select schools and “could also be used in the NFL one day.” The Gators will debut them in the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut on April 6. Florida also confirmed, as OGGOA reported Tuesday, that “the fonts for the numbers have changed to reflect the font used in UF’s official athletics brand identity” and that the sides of the jerseys are now mesh to increase “breathability to help reduce heat.” The main part of the jersey number (white) is thicker with the colored lining around it slightly smaller.

2 » Gators safety Matt Elam and kicker Caleb Sturgis will both be competing in the 2013 Quicken Loans All-Star Football Challenge. The event, which is being held for the 15th year in a row, features five separate skills competitions and a total of 20 participants (four in each individual event). Elam will compete in the Skechers GoRun Hands Competition against Texas S Kenny Vaccario, Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and USC WR Robert Woods. Sturgis will look to outlast FSU’s Dustin Hopkins, Nebraska’s Brent Maher and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Brett Baer in the Speed Kick. The All-Star Football Challenge was held on Tuesday but will not be aired until Saturday, Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. on ESPN2. Encore showings will air on Feb. 3 at 4 p.m. (ESPN2), Feb. 17 at noon (ESPN2) and April 14 at 4 p.m. (ESPN).

3 » So much for Florida defensive line coach Bryant Young possibly joining defensive coordinator Dan Quinn with the Seattle Seahawks. Shortly after the defensive line coach position became available in Seattle, Quinn and head coach Pete Carroll filled it with New Orleans assistant DL coach Travis Jones on Tuesday. As it turns out, Jones was on the same Miami coaching staff with Quinn and Gators head coach Will Muschamp. Also like Muschamp, he is a Georgia graduate.

4 » With National Signing Day just over a week away, Gators five-star defensive back commit Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL) sat down with the Tampa Bay Times and detailed his entire recruitment, noting how certain teams pitched him and why it was difficult to ultimately make his decision with so many options in front of him. Hargreaves talks about everything from the intimidation of Alabama’s Nick Saban to why he was turned off to the idea of attending Ohio State.

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SIX BITS: Johnson, Zunino, O&B, All-Star, Draft

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Doug Johnson may be charged with felony battery after a sworn complaint was filed with the Gainesville Police Department in November alleging that he took part in a beating of a man after the Florida-LSU football game. According to The Gainesville Sun, “The case is now in the hands of the State Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether to file charges.” The victim told the paper that he was attacked minutes after a confrontation allegedly with Johnson and two other men. He claims to have been punched and kicked in the face repeatedly, actions which caused injuries including “a broken nose and numerous facial fractures.”

2 » Former Gators catcher Mike Zunino is one of 18 minor league players within the organization that have been invited to participate in spring training with the Seattle Mariners. He will report to Peoria, AZ on Feb. 12 and will have an opportunity to earn a roster spot just eight months after being selected No. 3 overall in the 2012 MLB Draft.

3 » The school announced Tuesday that the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut spring game will take place on Saturday, April 6 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. That day will certainly be a busy one on campus as track & field hosts the Pepsi Florida Relays, lacrosse will go head-to-head Johns Hopkins, softball takes on Mississippi State, and gymnastics hosts the 2012 NCAA Regionals.

4 » Joining the eight Florida seniors already announced for all-star bowl games is defensive tackle Omar Hunter, who was added to the 2013 Raycom College All-Star Classic this week. The game is set to be played on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. and will air live on CBS Sports Network. Wide receivers Frankie Hammond, Jr. and Omarius Hines both competed in the 2013 Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game last weekend with neither player posting any significant statistics. Check out the six other players participating in games over the next two weekends.

5 » The 2013 NBA All-Star team will be announced on Thursday. As of the final official release of fan voting totals on Jan. 3, only Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (seventh – Eastern Conference frontcourt) and Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (15th – Western Conference frontcourt) were on the lists, meaning neither are likely to make their respective team based on the fan vote, which closed on Monday. Reserve spots, on the other hand, are chosen by league coaches, which means Noah, Parsons, Atlanta Hawks F Al Horford and Golden State Warriors F David Lee all have a chance to be selected. Noah and Lee are probably the most likely to be chosen, especially considering Lee is currently 10th in the NBA in points (19.9), fifth in rebounds (10.9) and first in 20-10 games with 16 so far this season.

6 » Gators junior DT Sharrif Floyd continues to be a near-unanimous first-round selection in mocks that have recently been created for the 2013 NFL Draft. Of the five first-edition mock drafts released by NFL.com this week, Floyd is listed in four at No. 14 by Josh Norris, No. 23 by Gil Brant, No. 24 by Daniel Jeremiah and No. 28 by Bucky Brooks. Junior safety Matt Elam is listed on three of those five mocks at No. 17 by Brooks, No. 30 by Norris and No. 31 by Charles Davies. Davies did not list Floyd in his first round; neither Brant nor Jeremiah had Elam in theirs.

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Florida Gators TE A.C. Leonard will transfer

Florida Gators sophomore tight end A.C. Leonard has decided to transfer, head coach Will Muschamp announced during a press conference Wednesday morning.

“Obviously he made a mistake there in the winter. He has decided to transfer. He and I talked yesterday,” Muschamp said. “He had a set of criteria that he needed to work his way back on our football team. He and I both sat down and decided it would be better off for him to transfer. I don’t know where he’s wanting to go. I’m going to talk to him further about it. It was a mutual decision. Just sometimes it doesn’t work, and it wasn’t working in this situation, so he needs to move on.”

Leonard, a prized four-star commitment out of Jacksonville, FL in 2011 and one of the standout members Muschamp’s first recruiting class at Florida, only caught eight passes for 99 yards last season but showed flashes of immense talent and was expected to be a playmaker for the Gators in 2012.

But that is certainly not to say his time at Florida has always been positive.

After initially verbally committing to the Gators on Nov. 29, 2009, Leonard decommitted on Oct. 13, 2010 and claimed that Florida no longer remained in contention for his services. He recommitted five days later on Oct. 18 and promised to enroll early, renewing his pledge and claiming that outside influences were pulling him in different directions and giving him bad advice about his future.

The next day Leonard was suspended for the remainder of his senior season by the Florida High School Athletic Association after, according to reports, he was involved in numerous altercations including taking a swing at an opponent during a game.

Following a solid spring with the Gators including an impressive performance at the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut, Leonard tore his meniscus during spring practice and missed the first eight games of the season. He spoke about transferring and being home sick both during the summer and immediately after getting injured but remained with the program as he went through rehabilitation. His three-catch, 65-yard performance against Florida State on Nov. 26 was one of Florida’s few highlights that game.

That positive memory did not last in the coaches’ or fans’ minds long as Leonard was arrested on charges of first-degree misdemeanor domestic battery just two months later on Feb. 15. He was indefinitely suspended from team activities by Muschamp but returned to spring practice following a six-week absence on March 26.

Leonard pled no contest and received probation on April 4 but was not cleared by Muschamp to participate in the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut. He was also set to be suspended for an unspecified number of games to begin his sophomore campaign regardless of the strides he made in the offseason.

During his annual Gator Gathering tour, Muschamp explained that Leonard had been doing everything asked of him since his arrest in order to earn his way back on the team. He reiterated this stance at the 2012 SEC Spring Meetings on May 30.

“He’s got some things he continues to do. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do up to this point,” Muschamp said. “He’s got to continue to make good choices and decisions with regard to our football team. If he continues to do that, we’ll handle it.”

Instead Leonard becomes the 13th player to transfer off the Gators football team since Muschamp was hired to take over the program in Dec. 2010.

Florida will rely on redshirt senior Jordan Reed, freshmen Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson and a contingent of other players including sophomores Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook at the position.

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Florida LB Powell out indefinitely with torn ACL

The Florida Gators’ best spring performer may not return to the team until late in the fall as junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament after injuring his left knee in the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut on Saturday.

Head coach Will Muschamp said after the scrimmage that Powell had just sprained his knee and would be fine, but a MRI on the knee obviously revealed more extensive damage. He will be sidelined at least 4-6 months following surgery with his rehabilitation determining his return to the field. Many ACL tears take longer to recover from meaning Powell’s absence could drag on for the majority of the season.

“Ronald is in good spirits and is very eager to do whatever is necessary to have a healthy, speedy recovery,” Muschamp told GatorZone.com‘s Scott Carter on Monday. “He has already started with prehab and once the swelling goes down and he regains his range of motion, he will have the surgery.”

Powell is the second Gators defender to tear his ACL in recent months as junior defensive tackle Dominique Easley went down with the same injury in the team’s 2011 regular season finale against Florida State. Powell and Easley were both five-star players who joined the program as part of UF’s top-ranked 2010 recruiting class. Coaches and trainers expect Easley to return to the team for practice this summer.

Replacing Powell at Buck linebacker will be difficult task for Florida. The most important position on Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s defense, the Buck is expected to be a playmaking linebacker who dominates all over the field. Powell was finally learning what it took to play the position well before being derailed on Saturday.

Redshirt senior Lerentee McCray could move over from Sam linebacker to fill Powell’s shoes. Sophomore Gideon Ajagbe is the only other listed “Buck linebacker” on the roster though incoming freshman Dante Fowler, Jr. will be as well once he enrolls. Junior Darrin Kitchens and perhaps even freshman Antonio Morrison could also get an opportunity at the position.

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Blue tops Orange 21-20 in 2012 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut – Postgame Report

More than 38,000 fans filed into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday to watch the Florida Gators conclude spring practice with a live scrimmage in the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut. After combining to score just seven points in the first three quarters, Blue outscored Orange 21-13 in the final quarter to pull off a 21-20 victory.

“Really pleased with where we are at this point,” head coach Will Muschamp said after the scrimmage. “I feel much better standing here today than I did a year ago as far as where we are as a football team, our physicality as a team, our togetherness as a team as this moves forward. We got the right kind of guys. We just got to get better. There’s things we need to improve on.”

QUARTERBACKS STEP INTO THE SPOTLIGHT

Florida fans wanted to see a big-time competition from sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel and that is exactly what they got on Saturday. Brissett (9/16 for 233 yards and two touchdowns) and Driskel (12/14 for 147 yards) each had their good and bad moments on the field including long passes and over/under-thrown balls. Brissett hit freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman with a great pass down the left sideline for 43 yards. He also connected on a bomb with junior Trey Burton that resulted in a touchdown and found redshirt sophomore WR Quinton Dunbar in the back of the end zone early in the game. Driskel completed a nice 44-yard pass to redshirt junior WR Andre Debose near the right sideline and also hit Burton on a deep pass that he brought inside the five. His accuracy and athleticism were both impressive as he was able to extend plays and make correct decisions.

“We saw that both those guys throw the ball extremely well. They’re both really good athletes and guys that can create some off-tempo plays for us as a football team,” Muschamp said. “It was very evident [how close they are]. You see both guys take command of our football team. Both guys made vertical plays down the field, good decisions where they took the ball. There’s no question you saw what I’ve been seeing for 14 practices previous [to Saturday]. I’ve said this before: We can win with both guys.”

Up next for the duo is managing the offense in the offseason. Muschamp wants to see how they rally the players for 11-on-11 drills and PRPs (player-run practices) without any influence from the coaching staff. “Those guys need to take the next step as far as that’s concerned,” he said.

As far as the players go, though both are working hard to earn the starting job, neither is taking the actual competition with their friend too seriously. “I love it. Coming out every day, competing against the No. 1 quarterback in the country a couple of years ago. It don’t get no better,” Brissett said. “I guess I’m slower so that’s what I’m lacking. Jeff is a great quarterback. He can make every throw that I can make, so it’s going to be tough to see what the real difference is. [...] I don’t got nothing wrong against him. I mean, I look better, but that’s just something he’s got to deal with.”

Driskel joked that he doesn’t play basketball with Brissett because his teammate is better in that area and said that the two are making sure the rivalry does not ruin their friendship even if he was not necessarily comfortable with his commitment in the first place. “I wasn’t excited about it at first but I realized they’re going to bring somebody in the next year. There’s always going to be competition. So I embraced that, and I think it’s made me better through the spring,” he said.

Check out the rest of the Orange & Blue Debut postgame report…after the break!
Continue Reading » Blue tops Orange 21-20 in 2012 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut – Postgame Report

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2012 Orange & Blue Debut – Gameday Preview

Event: 2012 Orange & Blue Debut
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Time: 1:00 p.m. (EST)
Reference: Roster | Schedule

TV: Sun Sports (in Florida, some other national cable outlets) SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: FOXSportsFlorida.com (nationally outside of the state of Florida)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators
OGGOA Live Coverage: Live Chat from 12:45-3:30 p.m.

EVENT INFORMATION

» Gator Walk: North side of stadium, exterior, 10:30 a.m. start
» Parking: The following parking locations are available first-come, first-serve for fans wishing to attend the game – O’Connell Center garage, O’Connell Center lot (disabled), Commuter Lot (Lemerand Dr.) with shuttle
» Gates/Seating: Open gates – 7, 8, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18 (west concourse closed for renovations); Open seats – general admission in open areas with gates opening at 11:30
» Former Gators in attendance: S Ahmad Black, DE Alex Brown, S Teako Brown, RB Ran Carthon, K Jeff Chandler, LB Andra Davis, WR Chris Doering, DE Carlos Dunlap, RB Ciatrick Fason, WR Jacquez Green, WR Percy Harvin, TE Aaron Hernandez, RB Terry Jackson, FB Billy Latsko, QB Terry LeCount, WR Travis McGriff, C Maurkice Pouncey, C Mike Pouncey, RB Chris Rainey, RB Errict Rhett, CB Lito Sheppard, LB Brandon Spikes, RB Fred Taylor, WR Travis Taylor, DT Gerard Warren (and more).
» 2013 Commits in attendance: WR Rodney Adams, DT Caleb Brantley, LB James Hearns, OL Roderick Johnson, RB Adam Lane, LB Dillan Lawson, LB Daniel McMillian, DB Keanu Neal, LB Quinton Powell, RB Kelvin Taylor, DB Nick Washington
» 2013 Recruits in attendance (partial list courtesy of InsideTheGators.com): WR Ahmad Fullwood, WR Reggie Davis, WR Taj Williams, WR Alvin Bailey, RB Ryan Green, DB Mackerno Alexander, DB Tre Bell, DB Leon McQuay III, DB Marcell Harris, OL Josh Cardiello, DB Adrian Baker, WR Richard Benjamin, DB Reggie Wilkerson, DE Jonathan Allen, ATH Marcus Clark, LB Keith Kelsey, Jr., QB John O’Korn, OL Joshua Outlaw, WR Carlos Burse, OL Cameron Dillard, DE Joey Bosa, DE Demarcus Walker, DB Damonte Jones, DB Jamonte Jones (and more).

Additional information including the game format, injury report, team notes and who to keep an eye on all are available…after the break!
Continue Reading » 2012 Orange & Blue Debut – Gameday Preview

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