Snell’s Slant: Gators are bought in, ready to work

By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist

Hello, everyone. Did you miss me? After a long, boring summer of sports that really, honestly do not interest me one bit, college football almost back and soon to be gracing our beautiful high definition television screens once again.

Quite a few things have changed on the college sports landscape since you last heard from me following the Florida State loss, and the Florida football team has a legitimate opportunity to surprise some doubters as the 2014 season progresses.

I got the chance to do something this offseason that I have not done since I stopped playing for the Gators in 2003. I hung around with the team and met some of the current players. And most importantly, I came away impressed.

Continue Reading » Snell’s Slant: Gators are bought in, ready to work

Tags: , , , ,

SIX BITS: Prather, Grier, Phillilps, Patton, Wickline

1 » The Florida Gators on Sunday announced that senior forward Casey Prather (knee) is being listed as “doubtful” for Tuesday’s home contest against the Georgia Bulldogs as he is still dealing with a bone bruise he apparently suffered last Wednesday. Prather, Florida’s leading scorer who has posted double-digit point totals in all 14 game he’s played this season, has missed three practices already.

2 » The Independent Florida Alligator’s Adam Lichtenstein, citing an anonymous tip provided to the paper, uncovered a video posted on the Vine account of Gators four-star quarterback commit Will Grier (titled “Lax es gay”) that appears to show him using the homophobic slur beginning with “F” nine times before declaring, “[Lacrosse] is gay.” The video was posted to his account 269 days ago, exactly four months after he committed to UF. (The video linked above contains offensive language not condoned by OnlyGators.com.) As Lichtenstein correctly points out, “this is unacceptable behavior from Grier” and is something that should absolutely have been addressed by Florida. Though the school had no reason to address this publicly at that time – he was not a member of the program yet – one would think that those in charge of monitoring the social media accounts of Gators recruits would have strongly suggested he remove the video. After all, it has been hiding in plain sight for nearly nine months.

3 » According to Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls, Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips is one of three men being considered by head coach Charlie Strong to serve as Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator. Phillips has spent five years in an offensive coordinator role, holding that exact position at Kentucky from 2005-08 and working as “head coach of offense” at his alma mater in 2009 when he was named Rich Brooks’s successor. Prior to that, Phillips spent 13 of 14 years coaching wide receivers and was widely considered a coach who had not been given a fair opportunity to move up in the ranks. He was head coach at UK from 2010-12 before being fired and taking over as the Gators’ wide receivers coach in 2013. Phillips is entering the second year of a two-year contract and is set to earn $265,000 this season.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Prather, Grier, Phillilps, Patton, Wickline

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Florida QB Chris Leak: “I loved being a Gator.”

One of the most accomplished signal callers in Florida Gators history, quarterback Chris Leak led the charge in Gainesville, FL from 2003-06, a career that spanned two head coaches, three offensive coordinators and plenty of ups and downs for the team.

A four-year student-athlete, Leak started nine games as a true freshman in 2003 (racking up a 6-3 record) and made 47-straight starts to end his career with a 35-12 record as a starter, playing in all 51 games in which he was eligible. He compiled 11,213 yards, 88 touchdowns (adding 13 additional scores on the ground) and 42 interceptions while completing 61.4 percent of his passes,

With the 2006 Southeastern Conference Championship and 2007 BCS National Championship titles under his belt, Leak was also named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2003, SEC Player of the Week (four times), National Quarterback of the Year in 2006, and Most Valuable Player of the 2007 BCS Championship, all while being a four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

He bested Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews and Rex Grossman to own school records for career pass attempts (1,458), completions (895) and yardage (11,213); boasts the third-best career completion percentage in school history (behind Tim Tebow and Wayne Peace); has the second-most passing touchdowns at Florida (88, tied with Tebow); and holds the Gators’ record for consecutive completions (17 vs. Wyoming in 2005).

Leak has also seen the field for the second-most plays at UF (1,636) and totaled the second-most combined yardage (11,350), falling only behind Tebow in both categories.

After bouncing around the NFL and spending most of four seasons playing in the CFL, where Leak won a pair of Grey Cups with Montreal, he spent last season playing mostly for Orlando of the AFL and expects to return to the team next year. He is also currently working as a broadcaster with SiriusXM College Sports Nation and CBS Sports Network.

Leak sat down with OGGOA for 45 minutes last month for a wide-ranging two-part interview that encompasses his recruitment, career with the Gators, thoughts on his coaches, professional career and aspirations for Florida going forward.

Part One: Gators QB Chris Leak: “I went out to be myself.”

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Speaking of Urban Meyer, I know you had a great relationship with him. It’s kind of rare for a player to have that close of a bond with two different college coaches. Usually they’re loyal to the one that recruits them or they end up not liking that guy and instead gravitating towards the one who takes over or they have more success with in the long run. What is your opinion of how things transpired with Meyer leaving Florida, going to ESPN and then jumping to Ohio State less than a year later?
CHRIS LEAK: “After you see a coach winning a national title – and obviously Meyer won two during his time at Florida – you would think that [he would stay at that school until he retires]. You have to realize also that this is a business and things happen for a reason. I know the way that Urban Meyer loves to coach and that’s with high energy and a lot of times that can definitely… Obviously in the stories that I’ve read that came out that during his time, the balance that has made him successful with his family and football obviously got off track. And when you add in the health issues…that’s another dimension that makes it even tougher to deal with the balance in life. You know what? I’m happy to see him back in coaching. College football needs Urban Meyer. It’s great to see him back coaching and doing what he loves to do. He’s in his element at Ohio State because that’s where he had his first job. The thing is, just like it was a transition year for him in the SEC, I really don’t believe it will be a transition for him there. He knows how to coach in the Big 10. He knows the teams. He knows the players. He knows how to recruit in the Big 10. I really feel like he’s going to be able to turn things around there a lot sooner than people think.”

Read the rest of OGGOA’s exclusive interview with Chris Leak…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida QB Chris Leak: “I loved being a Gator.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Gators QB Chris Leak: “I went out to be myself.”

One of the most accomplished signal callers in Florida Gators history, quarterback Chris Leak led the charge in Gainesville, FL from 2003-06, a career that spanned two head coaches, three offensive coordinators and plenty of ups and downs for the team.

A four-year student-athlete, Leak started nine games as a true freshman in 2003 (racking up a 6-3 record) and made 47-straight starts to end his career with a 35-12 record as a starter, playing in all 51 games in which he was eligible. He compiled 11,213 yards, 88 touchdowns (adding 13 additional scores on the ground) and 42 interceptions while completing 61.4 percent of his passes,

With the 2006 Southeastern Conference Championship and 2007 BCS National Championship titles under his belt, Leak was also named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2003, SEC Player of the Week (four times), National Quarterback of the Year in 2006, and Most Valuable Player of the 2007 BCS Championship, all while being a four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

He bested Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews and Rex Grossman to own school records for career pass attempts (1,458), completions (895) and yardage (11,213); boasts the third-best career completion percentage in school history (behind Tim Tebow and Wayne Peace); has the second-most passing touchdowns at Florida (88, tied with Tebow); and holds the Gators’ record for consecutive completions (17 vs. Wyoming in 2005).

Leak has also seen the field for the second-most plays at UF (1,636) and totaled the second-most combined yardage (11,350), falling only behind Tebow in both categories.

After bouncing around the NFL and spending most of four seasons playing in the CFL, where Leak won a pair of Grey Cups with Montreal, he spent last season playing mostly for Orlando of the AFL and expects to return to the team next year. He is also currently working as a broadcaster with SiriusXM College Sports Nation and CBS Sports Network.

Leak sat down with OGGOA for 45 minutes last month for a wide-ranging two-part interview that encompasses his recruitment, career with the Gators, thoughts on his coaches, professional career and aspirations for Florida going forward.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: So let’s jump back to the beginning and start with your recruitment. I know a lot of people always assumed you would wind up at Tennessee because of your brother. Was that truly the case for a while? And as the process broke down, what made you wind up choosing Florida in the long run?
CHRIS LEAK: “I started off at an early age being offered in eighth grade by Jim Caldwell at Wake Forest; he was the head coach at the time. So I got started pretty early. I saw my brother, who back in 1998 was the No. 1 run-pass quarterback in the country…I got to see him go through the heavy recruiting process as well. Recruiting started off for me at a very early age. My parents did a great job of managing it for me, my meetings with coaches, school visits – unofficial and official visits. Tennessee was the leader because my brother was there after he transferred from Wake Forest. I wanted to have his mentorship during my time in school. That was kind of the plan.

“I felt like, with Tennessee, after what happened with my brother in the Georgia game, I just felt like my heart wasn’t in it. [His brother, C.J. Leak, was promised a chance to start when he transferred to UT. When Casey Clausen got injured in the game, he was given two series before being pulled.] It was a trust factor and I wanted to commit somewhere where I felt like I could trust the coaches to take care of my future, take care of me while I’m there as I’m away from home. It would have to help me obviously get a good education and do everything I want to accomplish at the collegiate level.

“I was going to go through the recruiting process anyway, the full recruiting process. Though Tennessee was the leader, Florida was always a close second. My parents told me they wanted me to go through the entire recruiting process to make sure that I am sure and that Tennessee was the right fit for me. Obviously as I went through the recruiting process and went on my official visits, I just felt like Florida felt more like a home away from home for me. I just felt like, when I visited the campus when Florida played Auburn back in 2002, a game which they won in overtime, it just kind of hit home. I really felt the love from the fans and the coaches. Ron Zook, I really felt like I could trust him with my future as well as the rest of the coaching staff moving forward.”

Read the rest of OGGOA’s exclusive interview with Chris Leak…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gators QB Chris Leak: “I went out to be myself.”

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ran Carthon: “I never run away from competition.”

Growing up watching his father play professional football, Ran Carthon found a passion for the game and knew he wanted to follow in his dad’s profession but blaze his own path to glory. So when his family moved from Osceola, AR to Key West, FL and he began playing high school football, Carthon hoped to be recognized for his efforts on the field rather than his father’s famous last name.

He received that recognition from the Florida Gators and committed to wear orange and blue throughout his college career. After working hard to earn time on the field and being given a second chance to shine under head coach Ron Zook, Carthon led Florida in rushing in 2003 with 595 yards and six touchdowns (he also caught 21 balls for 185 yards and another score).

He played in 48 games with 11 starts over his career, running for over 1,300 yards on 270 carries and scoring 12 total touchdowns.

Now a professional scout with the Atlanta Falcons, “The Mayor” (a nickname he was given in college for knowing everyone in Gainesville, FL) is not only still involved in football but also constantly working on ways to give back to the community.

Carthon sat down with OGGOA last week for a 45-minute exclusive interview that touches on his life growing up, advice for recent Gators commits, time at Florida, playing in the NFL and the newest charitable venture he is involved in, the Florida Players Network.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What was it like playing high school football in Key West? Did you find it was hard to get recognized?
RAN CARTHON: “Living in Key West was awesome and amazing; we had a lot of community support. Kind of like most football stories you hear, it was a small town community that really rallies around their high school sports. In terms of being recognized, honestly it was something we never thought about. We played a lot of Miami schools – and those schools had talented players – so we knew if we wanted to get on scholarship that we had to dominate those guys in order to get our recognition.”

AS: Did you feel any added pressure either living your life as the son of a well-known NFL player (New York Giants and Super Bowl-winning fullback Maurice Carthon)?
RC: “For me it was always like I wanted to create my own identity. Earlier on I fought against everything you read about – ‘son of former Giants player’ – and I wanted to establish myself and let people know that I can play this game. That was the initial thing. As I got older, I realized that I was fighting a losing battle. My dad is who he is and my talents would be recognized because of him because of the gene pool. After a few years, I gave up on that fight.”

AS: Florida has Bryan Cox, Jr. committed for 2012 and just earned a verbal pledge from Kelvin Taylor. Do you have any advice for those guys on how to live and play in the “shadow” of their respective fathers?
RC: “I would just say be who you are. The player that you are has gotten you to this point, gotten you recognized by elite schools. I’ve been following Kelvin since his eighth grade year as a senior at Glades Day. I’m very familiar with him and that’s just more so because of how much of a fan I was of Fred [Taylor]. Fred and Terry Jackson were probably two of the main reasons why I selected to go to UF. I thought under [Steve] Spurrier they were allowed to show everything they could do as backs. I had offers from schools that were predominately running the ball, but I felt like I was more versatile than that. For those guys – Bryan Cox, Jr. and Kelvin Taylor – those guys need to embrace who their father is but at the same time continue to do what got them to where they are.”

Read the rest of our interview with Ran Carthon…after the break!
Continue Reading » Ran Carthon: “I never run away from competition.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

SIX BITS: Tebow, Beal, Patriots, Mincey, Matthews

1 » A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday that Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow “tore cartilage on his first rib where it attaches to the sternum, bruised his lung and had fluid buildup in his pleural cavity” at the beginning of the third quarter of Saturday’s game against New England. If you were watching the game, you may remember Tebow being hit hard and backup Brady Quinn warming up on the sidelines. Tebow stayed in the game even though his team wound up being routed 45-10. “Because of the severe pain, Tebow had trouble sleeping over the weekend, then had an MRI on his chest Monday to determine the extent of the damage,” Schefter reports. “He has been undergoing rehab throughout the week.”

UPDATE: The Denver Post confirmed Tebow’s chest injuries but added that he also hurt his “right, non-throwing shoulder” during the game. Additionally, the injuries are bad enough where “Tebow in all likelihood would not have been able to play in the AFC championship game this week” if the Broncos had won last Saturday. The Post goes on to say that should Tebow be selected as a Pro Bowl alternate, “he is not likely to be able to play” in that game either even though no surgery is required and he is expected to be 100 percent for the start of conditioning workouts in April.

2 » Despite a request from CBS inviting Tebow to join the network’s NFL Today program on Sunday to preview and discuss the conference championship round of the NFL Playoffs, he has instead to spend some time away from football and not appear on the show, telling the Denver Post’s Mike Klis on Tuesday, “I’m not doing it.”

3 » In a new feature from ESPN, Dana O’Neil takes a look at Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal and his siblings, which includes two other former scholarship athletes – one a tight end at Northern Illinois and the other an offensive lineman at Alabama State. Beal lucked out when it came his turn to be recruited as his parents “Bobby and Besta learned from their own mistakes with their older boys” and were more prepared for the circus, “shepherd[ing] him through the heady experience by keeping him humble, reminding him that being a good teammate was as important as being a good player,” O’Neil writes. His selflessness is one thing that Florida head coach Billy Donvoan has praised him about since day one. Having apparently worked through some early struggles, Beal is focused on helping the Gators and doesn’t need his mom or his coach criticizing him to know what he does wrong on the court, even though he’ll happily listen and accept their advice. “I’m my own biggest critic, but now I try to go back to my room and contemplate my mistakes,” he said. “I watch film and try to learn from them. I’m trying to understand I need to embrace the adversity.”

4 » While Tebow was defeated on Saturday, the three former Gators playing for the New England Patriots will be advancing to the next round of the playoffs. Tight end Aaron Hernandez, one of the Patriots’ biggest contributors all game, appeared to suffer a concussion during the contest but told reporters Wednesday that he is good to go for Sunday’s game. “I feel great,” he said, “Ready to play.” Knowing head coach Bill Belichick, Hernandez (even if cleared to play Wednesday) will be listed as questionable all week heading into the game. Linebacker Brandon Spikes had some kind words for New England fans, praising the home crowd for being loud during Saturday’s game. However, according to Patriots.com writer Erik Scalavino, he laughed and said it was still nothing like playing in The Swamp.

5 » Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Gene Smith made it clear when speaking Tuesday night that signing the team’s free agents – including veteran defensive end Jeremy Mincey – will be his first priority in the offseason. Mincey had a career year in 2011, starting all 16 games for Jacksonville and totaling 57 tackles, eight sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception. In somewhat related news, former UF head coach Ron Zook is interviewing for the special teams coach job with the Jaguars. Mincey replied to OGGOA‘s tweet about Zook interviewing, throwing his support behind his former coach and saying, “I hope he gets it.”

6 » Nease High School – where Tebow got his start as a youngster in Jacksonville, FL – has hired none other than former Florida quarterback Shane Matthews as the team’s new head coach. A former assistant at Gainesville High School, Matthews has never been a high school head coach before but told The St. Augustine Record that he is excited about the opportunity. “I felt Nease had a lot to offer,” Matthews said. “It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do, but it had to be the right fit and I feel like this is.” He plans to run a balanced but fun offense and said that his former head coach Steve Spurrier’s teachings will undoubtedly be an influence in everything he does.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Silver Lining: A look at Urban Meyer to OSU

Urban Meyer is off to Ohio State to coach the Buckeyes, fulfilling a lifelong dream and continuing his storied career just 10 months after choosing to leave Florida because it was “time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field.”

Gator Nation was rocked when the more-solid-than-ever rumors began a week ago and continued its uproar Monday when it was confirmed and later officially announced that Meyer would indeed be heading to Ohio State.

Plenty is being said in regards to whether or not Gators fans have a right to be upset at Meyer for taking a job just months after declaring that he needed to reevaluate his health and relationship with his family but there is not one correct answer as to how Florida fans should feel about Meyer’s decision and the way in which this situation unfolded.

Whether the perception is that Meyer was dishonest when communicating his intentions for leaving Florida, a culprit of circumstance with his dream job suddenly becoming available years sooner than expected, or a college football addict unable to satisfy his fix while sitting behind a desk working for a major network, each observation has its own legitimate merits to be considered for evaluation.

Let’s take a more complete look at the situation by examining each angle of the story.
Continue Reading » The Silver Lining: A look at Urban Meyer to OSU

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Donovan, volleyball, Zook, WBK

1 » Though it has been airing all season on FOX Sports Florida, a new commercial featuring Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan may have eluded some of you unable to view the game. In the spot, Donovan is doing a mock press conference praising the different offerings from Florida Gulf Seafood. It’s well-worth a view.

2 » No. 17 Florida volleyball (24-5) was selected to be a participant in the 2011 NCAA Tournament when the seedings were announced Sunday. UF will take on Missouri in the tournament’s first round on Dec. 2 in Cedar Falls, IA, marking the 21st consecutive year that the Gators have earned their way into the championship event. Florida will enter the NCAA Tournament on a seven-match winning streak including five sweeps.

3 » Former Gators head coach Ron Zook, who has led the Illinois Illini for the last seven years, was fired by his employer on Sunday after his team lost six-straight games to close the 2011 season. Illinois’ epic collapse came after the Illini began the year 6-0 and Zook looked poised to return his team to heights it had last reached during the 2007-08 season. Illinois finished under .500 in five of Zook’s seven seasons at the helm; he left the Illini with a 34-51 record but will receive a $2.6 million buyout for his services.

4 » Gators women’s basketball (5-1) captured its fifth-straight victory on Saturday after defeating the La Salle Explorers and Charlotte 49ers in consecutive days at the Courtyard LaGuardia Turkey Classic in Brooklyn, NY. Florida topped La Salle 85-74 on Friday behind a career-high 28 points from redshirt senior guard Jordan Jones, who hit 9-of-18 shots, 6-of-12 attempts from downtown and all four of her free throws. Junior forward Jennifer George added a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 80 percent from the field. UF kept their momentum going Saturday with a 82-73 victory over Charlotte including a 48-point second half. Senior G Lanita Bartley scored a career-high 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting with seven boards, while George came close to her third-straight double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Florida will take on Belmont at home on Tuesday before beginning a three-game road trip.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 Page 1 of 3  1  2  3 »