Florida K Sturgis, P Christy miss out on awards

The Florida Gators’ special teams unit was arguably the nation’s best in 2012, which makes it no surprise that its two primary specialists were up for big honors on Thursday evening at the 2012 Home Depot College Football Awards held in Orlando, FL.

Despite redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis and sophomore punter Kyle Christy being named as finalists for the 2012 Lou Groza Award and 2012 Ray Guy Award, respectively, neither brought home the honor this year.

Tulane’s Cairo Santos beat out Sturgis for the Lou Groza Award after becoming just the second player in NCAA history to not miss a field goal over the course of a season (21-of-21). Sturgis finished 23-of-27 (three of his four misses were blocked) with three field goals in the 50-yard range. Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins, the third finalist, was 24-of-28 with five 50+ yarders.

Judd Davis (1993) remains the only Florida player in the 21-year history of the Lou Groza Award to bring it home to Gainesville, FL.

Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Allen won his second-straight Ray Guy Award, becoming the first-ever back-to-back winner, after averaging 48.0 yards per attempt with a long of 85 yards and besting his 2011 numbers by 1.9 yards and 13 yards, respectively. Christy averaged 46.1 yards with a long of 62 yards and fellow finalist Scott Kovanda of Ball State averaged just 40.2 yards with a long of 56 yards.

Chas Henry (2010) is the only Gators punter to win the Ray Guy Award, which has been handed out for the last 13 years.

Sturgis and Christy were both named unanimous first team All-SEC players by league coaches and Associated Press voters this week.

Sturgis added 2012 SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Year honors on Wednesday and also made team history this year. He set the school record for made field goals in a career with 69, passing Jeff Chandler’s 67, and tied Bobby Raymond for the school’s single-season made field goal record (23).

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FOUR BITS: Cunningham, Gilbert, volley, Quinn

1 » New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating its performance-enhancing substances policy. The substance Cunningham used was not disclosed and it is currently unknown if he already filed or plans to file an appeal. Cunningham is the fourth former Florida Gators defender to receive a four-game suspension for PEDs since 2010. New England linebacker Brandon Spikes (2010), Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (2012) and New York Giants safety Will Hill (2012) have missed four games each. All three claimed their positive tests resulted from an ingredient contained in ADHD medication like Adderall. Cunningham would be eligible to return in the playoffs.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert is one of four former Gators on his team and one of three Florida offensive linemen that got injured this season. Unfortunately for Gilbert, while center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Max Starks were able to return to action, he has been sidelined since Week 6 with an ankle injury and was officially placed on the team’s injured reserve on Monday. He is the third former Gators player to be knocked out for the season with an injury, joining Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson (ACL) and Patriots running back Jeff Demps (leg).

3 » Following in the footsteps of the soccer program, which cleaned up at the Southeastern Conference‘s annual awards announcement, Florida volleyball matched the program with three major awards and a number of placement on the All-SEC teams. Junior middle back Chloe Mann captured SEC Player of the Year honors, outside hitter Ziva Recek brought home SEC Freshman of the Year honors and Mary Wise was named SEC Coach of the Year for the 13th time. The Gators note that “this is the first time since 2000 and second time in program history for Florida” to win all three awards. Mann is the 17th player in team history to win Player of the Year, and Recek is the fourth UF freshman to be honored by the league in that capacity. Also honored Monday were junior setter Taylor Brauneis and senior right-side Tangerine Wiggs, who joined Mann and Recek on the All-SEC first team; senior MB Betsey Smith on the All-SEC second team; and Recek again on the All-Freshman team.

4 » Three members of the Gators football team have been named finalists for yearly national awards. Redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis is one of three finalists (Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins, Tulane’s Cairo Santos) for the 2012 Lou Groza Award and sophomore punter Kyle Christy is one of three finalists (Louisiana Tech’s Ray Allen, Ball State’s Scott Kovanda) for the Ray Guy Award, both of which will be announced on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. live on ESPN.

Joining them is defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is one of five finalists for the 2012 Broyles Award, which is presented to the top assistant college football coach in the nation. The other finalists are Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco, Texas A&M OC Kliff Kingsbury and Stanford DC Derek Mason. Quinn has UF’s defense ranked top-15 in the nation in pass efficiency defense (No. 1), scoring defense (No. 3), yards per play (No. 3), yards per attempt (No. 4), third-down defense (No. 5), rush defense (No. 6), interceptions (No. 6), yards per rush (No. 7), red zone touchdowns (No. 13) and red zone defense (No. 15).

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Punter Chas Henry: “I felt very, very fortunate.”

It is not common for a punter to be one of the best-known players on a football team – unless they make a colossal mistake that costs his squad a game or title. That was not the case for the Florida Gators in 2010 as Chas Henry stood out as a saving grace during the season, saving stalled offensive drives from disaster and (later in the year) doing his part as a kicker to score some points in dire situations.

The 2010 Ray Guy Award winner and one of the team’s most valuable players last season, Henry was not selected in the 2011 NFL Draft but was quite popular as an undrafted free agent when the lockout was lifted. Now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Henry sat down with OGGOA to discuss his new surroundings and look back on an interesting senior year in the Orange & Blue.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start off by talking about what has been going on with you recently the lockout is finally lifted and teams start calling – how did that go down and what was that situation like for you?
CHAS HENRY: “It happened all of a sudden. I was actually at my girlfriend’s house with her just sitting watching TV and all of a sudden I started getting all of these phone calls. I knew that free agency was supposed to start up at 10 a.m. the following morning, so I was just trying to figure out my plans for the week before I had to report off to camp. I’m sitting on the couch and all of a sudden my phone starts blowing up with the different area codes and everything, so I’m thinking, ‘Something must be going on.’

“First call I got was at 7:04 p.m. from a Houston Texans coach. A few minutes after that I got another call from another team, and a few minutes after that… Within about two hours I had about five different teams contact me. […] We started narrowing down choices, and I spoke to Coach [Andy] Reid and the general manager up here Howie Roseman – a Florida guy, a great Florida guy up here in Philadelphia. I spoke with them and just really liked everything that they had to offer. I was very excited about the possibility of coming up here to play. There’s a couple Florida guys up here with [Cornelius Ingram] and Riley Cooper, and they just told me how much of a great time they’ve had up here and how they really enjoy the coaching staff and players and everything. I felt like it was the best opportunity for me to come in and be a part of.”

AS: I spoke with Duke Lemmens about how the process was for him and he compared it to a mini version of recruiting. Is that how it went for you?
CH: “Exactly. This is the first time I’ve ever been recruited and I’ve had to make a decision like this. When I was recruited to Florida, Coach [Urban] Meyer recruited me and he offered me and I committed right there on the spot. I figured there was no other better place I could go than the University of Florida. I couldn’t pick a better school than the University of Florida. That was the best opportunity I could have ever imagined putting myself into. I told the coaches this time, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever been recruited, so you have to bear with me a little bit.’”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Chas Henry…after the break!
Continue Reading » Punter Chas Henry: “I felt very, very fortunate.”

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Eleven Gators who must step up in 2011

With a few days until No. 14 Florida Gators basketball plays its final regular season game, OGGOA decided to allow our Twitter followers to choose a content topic for Thursday. Overwhelmingly, our readers wanted to read something – anything – about Gators football. So that is exactly what we present to you here, 11 Florida footballers who will be counted on to step up big-time next season.

Redshirt senior QB John Brantley
2010: 200/329 (60.8 percent) for 2,061 yards, nine touchdowns, 10 interceptions

There is plenty of hype surrounding freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel, but the fact of the matter is the Gators have the best chance of being supremely successful in 2011 with Brantley behind center. Say what you will about his struggles in 2010 – blame them on the coaching staff not adjusting the offense to suit his skill set, the offensive line doing a poor job in pass protection or Brantley simply not living up the billing he received before the season. No matter what you choose to believe, Brantley will be given a chance to start fresh in 2011. If he makes the most of it and pans out the way Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews have personally told us he will, Florida’s QB problems will be solved by the same player who was universally panned for causing them a year ago. Whether or not he will live up those expectations, however, remains to be seen.

Redshirt sophomore WR Andre Debose
2010: 10 receptions for 96 yards (long 26); 22 kickoff returns for 587 yards (26.7 average), two touchdowns

Like Brantley, Debose did not live up to the hype in 2010. Unlike Brantley, he was not given much of an opportunity. Debose is a dynamic athlete who is explosive in the open field, something blatantly obvious by the job he did in the return game last season. He was criticized by former head coach Urban Meyer for his inability to learn all of the offensive plays and was “rewarded” early in the season with some packages that utilized his abilities. Those packages seemed to disappear as the year went on, and Debose ended up getting injured for the second time in as many seasons (hamstring in 2009, ankle in 2010). Though the Gators have some hungry pass-catchers looking to win the job across from redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thompson, none of them will likely have the potential impact game-in and game-out that Debose can bring to the table.

Junior RB Mike Gillislee
2010: 58 rushes for 325 yards (5.6 average), seven touchdowns

The first thing new head coach Will Mushcamp said he wanted to implement at Florida was a pro-style offense. With senior running back Jeff Demps (5’8” 190 lbs.) a bit undersized to run between the tackles on a consistent basis, the onus will be on Gillislee (and to a lesser extent redshirt freshman RB Mack Brown) to carry the rock for the Gators in 2010. Listed at 5‘11” and 198 lbs., Gillislee can add some bulk to his frame and showed flashes in the limited playing time he received last season.

The real question for Muschamp, and more specifically offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, will be how the team can best utilize Demps and redshirt senior RB/WR Chris Rainey. Demps will likely be the kick returner once again, but the coaching staff must find a way to get him heavily involved in the offense without having him carry the ball a dozen times each game. He was the team’s best offensive weapon last year, and his absence (even when he played, he was far less than 100 percent) was one of the main reasons Florida struggled down the stretch offensively.
Continue Reading » Eleven Gators who must step up in 2011

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Three Gators practicing for 2011 Senior Bowl

Though center/guard Mike Pouncey ended up choosing not to attend, three players representing the Florida Gators arrived in Mobile, AL to begin practice for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl. Weigh-ins and the first day of practice took place on Monday with little news coming out of Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Safety Ahmad Black, named by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock over the weekend as his No. 2 safety in the country, checked in at 5’9 3/8” and 183 lbs. with 9 5/8 in. hands, 29 1/2 in. arm length and a 73 1/4 in. wingspan. As expected, Black’s size was a topic of conversation amongst scouts who otherwise were impressed with his ability and tenacity.

He has signed with Joel Segal of Lagardere Unlimited, the agency that also represents both Pouncey twins and NFLers including Gerard Warren (New England), Alex Brown (New Orleans), Percy Harvin (Minnesota), Channing Crowder (Miami) and Riley Cooper (Philadelphia).

Without Pouncey in attendance, Marcus Gilbert was the sole representative of Florida’s offensive line. He came in at 6’6 1/2” and 329 lbs. with 9 7/8 in. hands, 34 in. arm length and an 81 1/8 in. wingspan. It is rumored that Gilbert, who is receiving a second-day projection, has signed with agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Punter/kicker Chas Henry, a first-team All-American and 2010 Ray Guy Award winner, is the third former Gators player on the South team. Though Henry’s representation is currently unknown, he will likely be selected during the second day of the 2011 NFL Draft even though most punters are signed as undrafted free agents or picked toward the end of the third day. At 6’3 3/8” and 220 lbs. with 9 3/8 in. hands, 33 in. arms and a 77 1/8 in. wingspan, scouts believe his talent is worth an early selection.

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Chas Henry named 2010 first-team All-American

Florida Gators senior punter Chas Henry, winner of the 2010 Ray Guy Award given to the nation’s best punter, was named an All-American first-team member by the Associated Press and Sports Illustrated on Tuesday.

Henry, who was also selected as a to the 2010 Walter Camp All-America first-team and was picked as a unanimous first-team All-SEC selection, punted 44 times for 2,042 yards with a 46.4 average this season. That average was not only the best in the nation this year but also set a school record.

Florida senior safety Ahmad Black earned AP second-team All-America honors. He and redshirt freshman kick returner Andre Debose were given honorable mention by SI. Black was also a unanimous All-SEC first-team selection.

Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press

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Florida punter Chas Henry wins Ray Guy Award

Florida Gators senior punter Chas Henry was named the winner of the 2010 Ray Guy Award at the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards in Orlando, FL, on Thursday night. The first player in University of Florida history to win the award, Henry was also one of three finalists for the honor in 2009.

Henry, who was also named a 2010 Walter Camp All-America first team at the ceremony, punted 44 times for 2,042 yards with a 46.4 average this season. That average was not only the best in the nation this year but also set a school record. A unanimous first-team All-SEC selection, Henry beat out 2009 Ray Guy Award winner, fellow semifinalist, and Georgia punter Drew Butler for this year’s award.

Though he was not honored for the kicking duties he was responsible for after junior kicker Caleb Sturgis was ruled out for the season with a back injury, Henry’s achievements on Thursday spoke to the impact he had as one of the most valuable players on the Gators in 2010.

Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Henry, McCarney, Driskel

1 » Updating a previous story, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow won the NFL‘s Rookie of the Week award for his two touchdown performance last week The award, which is voted on by fans online, is Tebow’s first NFL honor. Check him out as he makes his Monday Night Football debut against San Diego.

2 » Florida Gators senior punter Chas Henry was named one of three finalists for the 2010 Ray Guy Award on Monday, a honor presented each season to the nation’s top punter. Henry currently leads the nation with a 47.3 yards per punt average; he has landed 41.2 percent of his punts for 50 yards or more and has placed 15 inside the 20 yard line while his coverage unit has only allowed 11 to be fair caught. His competition includes Georgia’s Drew Butler (2009 winner) and Iowa’s Ryan Donahue.

3 » Yahoo! Sports college football reporter Tom Dienhart reported on Monday that Florida assistant head coach defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney is a “hot name” for the North Texas Mean Green head coaching position. “He may be the guy in Denton,” Dienhart said via Twitter. McCarney was last a head coach for the Iowa State Cyclones from 1995-2006 where he amassed a 56-86 record

4 » If you don’t know his name by now you probably should, because five/four-star 2011 QB commit Jeff Driskel will likely be the Gators’ signal caller of the future once he officially signs his National Letter of Intent early next year. Whether or not he has the talent and maturity to play next season remains to be seen, but his stellar performance in a tough loss last week opened the eyes of many who once doubted him. Driskel’s Hagerty High School fell to the more talented Lakeland High School 56-35 in the 5A playoffs, but he did his best so salvage the game for his team. Driskel accounted for 494 total yards of offense including going 15-of-29 from behind center for 182 yards, two touchdowns and an interception; rushing 20 times for 270 yards and two touchdowns; and catching a 42-yard touchdown pass. Check out these video highlights:

 

Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press

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