Florida LB Ronald Powell to enter 2014 NFL Draft

Florida Gators linebacker Ronald Powell on Monday became the third junior to choose to forego his final season of eligibility and declare for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Powell, who missed the entire 2012 season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during spring practice and re-tearing the same ACL while trying to get back on the field mid-year, started eight of Florida’s 11 games in 2013 and led the Gators with four sacks.

“Ronald has informed me that he has made a decision to declare for the NFL Draft,” said head coach Will Muschamp in a school release. “This hasn’t been an easy decision for him. I talked to him several times over the holidays, but it was important for him to come back and look me in the eye and tell me what he wanted to do and why he wanted to do it. It’s one of the great experiences as a coach to watch young players mature. It’s been well documented the hardships he has had to overcome and he has always kept a positive attitude. I wish him the best of luck and, as I’ve said before, I encouraged him to return to get his degree.”

The former No. 1 overall recruit in the nation, Powell was a five-star prospect coming out of high school when he initially committed to head coach Urban Meyer, who convinced him to play college football across the country from his native California.

He has amassed 11 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and 84 total tackles over his three seasons of action, never living up to the hype of his pre-college billing in large part due to changes to the coaching staff and injury issues.

Powell released a heartfelt message via Florida explaining his departure.

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TWO BITS: Gators team awards, game-winners

1 » The Florida Gators football team participated in its annual banquet on Saturday in which members of the team are presented with a number of awards for everything from on-field performance to working hard in practice and how courageous a particular player may be throughout the season. Below are the 2013 award winners along with some award explanations and additional details.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Mike McNeely
* Second-straight year that McNeely won the award.
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Jaylen Watkins, Mark Herndon and Darrin Kitchens
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: Solomon Patton
Chris Patrick Courage Award: Solomon Patton, Damien Jacobs, Jon Halapio, Neiron Ball and Ronald Powell
* Second-straight year that Halapio and Powell each won the award.
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: Antonio Riles, Tim Clark, Caleb Brantley | Defensive: Case Harrison, Adam Lane, Cameron Dillard | Special Teams: Chris Thompson, Ryan Parrish

Players’ Choice Awards
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Offense: Jonotthan Harrison | Defense: Michael Taylor
Greg See Tenacity Award Offense: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison | Defense: Dominique Easley
* Second-straight year that Halapio and Harrison won the award for offense.
Most Valuable Player Offense: Solomon Patton | Defense: Dante Fowler, Jr. Special Teams: Jarrad Davis
James W. Kynes Award (Best Mental/Physical Toughness): Jon Halapio and Dominique Easley
* Presented to the “player who best exemplifies the mental and physical toughness and ‘iron-man’ determination.’ The award is traditionally won by offensive linemen.
Ray Graves Award (Team MVP): Solomon Patton
* Third-straight year that a senior offensive player won the award.
Fergie Ferguson Leadership Award: Jeremy Brown, Kyle Koehne and Darrin Kitchens
* Presented to the “player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”
Captains: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison, Solomon Patton, Trey Burton and Dominique Easley
* Second-straight year that Halapio was named a team captain.

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11/30: Florida vs. Florida State report; Purifoy declares, Foley speaks, Muschamp promises

The Florida Gators (4-8) lost their seventh-straight game on Saturday, falling 37-7 to the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Athletic director Jeremy Foley held an impromptu session with the media before the game, and head coach Will Muschamp spoke after the season-ending loss.

SENIOR DAY

DECLARATIONS BEGIN

Minutes after the conclusion of Saturday’s game, Florida junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy declared his intention to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. He told ESPN‘s Joe Schad as much after the game, but the Gators are unlikely to announce his decision (as well as those of others) for a few days.

Purifoy had an up-and-down season for Florida but did register an interception return for a touchdown earlier in the year and actually picked off Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston on Saturday. He struggled at times in coverage and with his discipline but will nevertheless be a second-round pick at worst in April. OnlyGators.com will have more on Purifoy’s declaration, as well as that of others, when the time comes.

“That is something I’ll discuss in the coming days. I’ve had discussions with a couple guys but I really don’t want to comment at this time about that,” Muschamp said.

INJURY UPDATES

Senior wide receiver Trey Burton was knocked from the game early in the first quarter after taking a zone read 50 yards down the field for one of his best plays of the season. Burton immediately went to the locker room and was ruled out with a shoulder injury, ending his career at Florida. As it turns out, the Gators actually planned to use Burton extensively on Saturday.

“We were probably going to have about 30-35 snaps with Trey, some of the misdirection runs now go out of the game plan so you got to make adjustments and you got to change,” Muschamp explained. “I hurt for Trey because he’s a senior and it was his last game in The Swamp. It was very difficult for him. He’s a great young man. But that kind of sums up what’s happened this year. It’s been very frustrating.”

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Friday Final: Bittersweet finale for Florida seniors

Florida Gators coaches and players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s season finale against the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles, which is scheduled to kick off at 12 p.m. from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, and air live on ESPN.

Below are some stories, notes and quotes that either broke towards the end of the week or fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the five posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links below).

Monday: Changes ahead for offensive staff | Will Muschamp talks coaching changes, fixing the Gators and more injuries
Tuesday: Brent Pease asked 17 questions about job status, future at Florida
Wednesday: Snell’s Slant: Beat Florida State? It can happen. | Muschamp provides updates on injuries, thoughts about Pease

FINAL GOODBYES FOR GATORS SENIORS

Fifteen Gators football players are guaranteed to step onto Florida Field for the last time as student-athletes on Saturday as they will have used up their eligibility as either true seniors or fifth-year seniors. Below is what many of them had to say about their careers, final home game and last time wearing a Florida uniform.

» Senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins: “It’s going to be very emotional for all of us. We’ve been here four years, some five. We have some who have been here six years. It’s a new chapter for most of us to after football and actually graduating. Some of us are graduating next month. It’s going to be very exciting for both us and our families. … This is our last game we’ll ever play in The Swamp in an orange and blue jersey, so all of the seniors I know are going to go out and give everything they’ve got.”

» Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio, who will have his parents and fiancée there to support him after running out of the tunnel: “I just hope I don’t cry like everybody else has been saying. It’s going to be very emotional coming out the tunnel one last time. I’m very excited but sad at the same time.”

» Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs, who transferred from a junior college: “It’s bittersweet. Not even just because of the simple fact that this has been a bad season. Mostly because I’m ready to move on to the next part of my life. So it’s bittersweet that way. … I’m pretty sure it’s going to be pretty emotional, yeah. It’s the last one. It’s probably not going to hit me until probably after a week later that it was my last one.”

» Senior do-everything Trey Burton, who will have multiple members of his family there as well as his wife and baby daughter: “A lot of mixed emotions. I’m really happy for my time here. I wouldn’t want to take anything back, all the challenges and all that type of stuff has helped me mature as a man. I’m just really happy with how things have gone. … I’m going to try not to cry. My family will be out there so I hope it won’t be too bad. I play and I have a lot of emotions for everything I do, so we’ll see. … I think it’s bittersweet for everybody. You don’t want your last game in college football to come and it’s coming.”

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No. 10 Gamecocks fight back to top Gators 19-14

The No. 10/11 South Carolina Gamecocks (8-2, 6-2 SEC) withstood a ground-and-pound attack by the Florida Gators (4-6, 3-5 SEC) on Saturday evening at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC, shutting out and therefore outscoring the visitors 13-0 in the second half to pull out a 19-14 victory.

The outcome left the Gators having dropped five games in a row for the first time since 1979 and losing for the first time under the leadership of head coach Will Muschamp when rushing for 150 yards or more in a game (previously 15-0). Florida also lost for just the second time under Muschamp when leading at the half (previously 18-1).

Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor led the way for UF with 21 carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns. USC only scored one touchdown on the evening but connected on 5-of-6 field goals to put its SEC East rivals away.

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Friday Final: Changes coming for Gators, Florida player updates heading into Georgia game

Florida Gators coaches and players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s neural-site contest against the Georgia Bulldogs scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m. from EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL, and air live on CBS.

Below are some stories, notes and quotes that either broke towards the end of the week or fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the six posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links).

Monday: Will Muschamp previews Georgia, updates injuries, talks new starters
Tuesday: Brent Pease talks changes to the offensive line and overall scheme
Wednesday: LT D.J. Humphries out 2-4 weeks, Florida-Georgia updates
Thursday: Overcoming embarrassment, can Gators’ defense return to form?

NEW LEADER IN THE BACKFIELD

Muschamp confirmed on Thursday during his weekly radio appearance that freshman running back Kelvin Taylor will be Florida’s starter on Saturday. “He’s earned the opportunity,” he said. “He’s really done a good job in the opportunities he’s had as the season has evolved.”

MORE CHANGES AT TACKLE

Though the Gators experimented with redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia at left tackle during the off week, he will remain in his current role. Unfortunately, sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphires going down with a sprained MCL on Monday means that redshirt sophomore Tyler Moore, who was actually benched as the starting right tackle in favor of junior Trenton Brown, will be back in the lineup.

“We were going to give Trenton Brown an opportunity to start at right tackle,” Muschamp explained. “Unfortunately, D.J. Humphries sprained his MCL Monday in practice and he’ll probably miss 2-3 weeks. We hope to get him back before then. But Tyler Moore will bump over to left tackle.

“Max has been playing inside and playing very well inside at left guard. We didn’t feel like it was good to move him and possibly create another void at the left guard position.”

BURNING REDSHIRTS

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10/30: Can Florida’s defense return to form?

Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday ahead of the eighth game of the season against the Georgia Bulldogs on Nov. 2.

OVERCOMING EMBARRASSMENT

Missouri embarrassed one of the nation’s top defenses two weeks ago, racking up 500 yards of total offense while playing with a quarterback who was making his first career start. The Tigers ran the ball down the Gators’ throats and shredded Florida’s secondary. Suffice to say, the players and coaches were sufficiently ashamed.

“There was obviously things we could’ve done much better in that game,” Durkin said. “We just need to handle [adversity], if that happens to us, bounce back quicker. We’re going to get hit on a play here and there, especially if you’re playing receivers like they got. Credit to them. A lot of 50-50 balls, they went up and made the play.

“We just gotta line back up and go play. I think at some point we didn’t react the way we need to on defense. That’s something that hasn’t happened with our group and obviously we hope it doesn’t happen again. … It was something our guys are not used to, and quite frankly, we don’t want them to be used to it.”

As disappointed as he was in UF’s performance two Saturdays ago, Durkin is confident that Florida will not put up a similar dreadful performance against Georgia this weekend.

“The way our guys practice, the way they prepare, the guys we’re coaching. I think we got guys with great character and guys that are really good football players. Their response this past two weeks with how they’re practicing and preparing tells me they’re ready to move on and they know what it takes and what they need to do,” he said.

Redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor is one of those players, and he was just as adamant as his coach that things would be different this time around.

“That’s not characteristic of us. That’s not what we allow. That’s a one-time thing. I can guarantee you this: that won’t happen again,” he said. “Last week was inexcusable.”

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10/30: D.J. Humphries (MCL) out 2-4 weeks

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made his scheduled appearance Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference and touched on a number of topics surrounding his team heading into Saturday’s neutral-site contest against the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, FL.

ANOTHER BIG LOSS

While he was practicing to save his starting left tackle job on Monday, sophomore D.J. Humphries sprained his MCL and has been ruled out of action for the next 2-4 weeks, Muschamp announced. “He’s a quick-recovery guy. It’s the other knee that he had sprained from earlier in the season. So we’re hoping just two weeks on it and get him back out there,” he said.

Humphries will be replaced on the left side of the line by redshirt sophomore Tyler Moore, who was on his way to losing his starting right tackle job after another poor performance last week. Junior transfer Trenton Brown will start at right tackle in his place. Redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia may also play some left tackle in Saturday’s game as he cross-trained at the position during the bye week.

INJURY UPDATES

The rest of the injury news was positive for a change.

Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy (shoulder) is fine and redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell (ankle) practiced Tuesday for the first time in more than two weeks. He and senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (head) are both “good to go” for the game. Redshirt junior LB Darrin Kitchens (shoulder) was also able to practice Tuesday, but his status remains up in the air at this time.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Freshmen DTs Joey Ivie and Jay-nard Bostwick have been playing well in practice and may see the field on Saturday. Both players are currently redshirt candidates as neither has stepped on the field this season.

» On whether freshman running back Kelvin Taylor reminds Muschamp of Fred Taylor: “I don’t think that’s fair with Kelvin, to compare him to his father. Kelvin’s his own player and he’s a really good football player. He’s got natural running instincts. He’s a one-cut runner, gets the ball north and south. He’s a guy that’s got some special ability. But the thing that’s really struck me as we’ve moved forward in the season is him doing a better job in protection and some of the other things you got to do at the running back position besides running the ball. He’s really worked extremely hard off the field on those things, and I’m really proud of him.”

» On if he feels bad for Georgia with their injury problems: “Not necessarily. I hurt for young men. These guys put a lot of time and effort into playing college football, and it’s hard, no matter where you are. By the time you put in offseason workouts, spring practice, summer workouts, people don’t realize the amount of time and effort they put in to playing college football. … You don’t want anyone to get hurt. That’s not good for anybody. That’s not good for college football.”

» On Bulldogs RB Todd Gurley: “He’s a back that, whether they block him or not, he gains positive yards. You don’t see many negative plays when he’s in the game. He runs. The thing that strikes me with the guy is he competes, he competes on every run. He goes after it every play. He’s a guy that’s certainly got the speed to take it the distance at any time. … He’s a big, physical back that’s got really good speed. He’s got the combination you want. He catches the ball out of the backfield well, he protects. He’s a complete back, no question.”

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