Florida’s new S.W.A.G. motto already being tested; Gators get three players cleared Thursday

The Florida Gators have come up with a new definition for the word “swag,” and it just so happens to be the team’s motto for the 2013-14 season.

“Strengthen – When – Adversity – Grows. We need to strengthen as adversity gets more and more in our face. We need to stay together and be connected,” explained senior center Patric Young on Thursday while in Birmingham, AL, for the 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Days.

Head coach Billy Donovan is in favor of the new saying and took some time to discuss the genesis of the motto after Young left the stage.

“Those guys came up with it themselves. It’s what they wanted to do. One of the things I’ve always believed in as a coach is you’ve gotta be able to handle adversity together. So they kind of came up with this thing — Strengthen When Adversity Grows — is kind of what it means,” he said.

“It’s really on them; they did it. It was up to them. I do think that for our team this year, one of the things I’m looking at is how well we can be connected. I think our guys have great relationships; they get along. But there’s a different bond and a different connectedness that they’re talking about to continually be a team that’s an elite team, and I think that’s what they’ve tried to work on.”

It would be difficult to believe that adversity could loom heavier over the Gators at any point this season than it already does just one week into fall practice.

Florida spent the first week practicing with just seven scholarship players despite having 11 on the roster. Neither senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) nor junior transfer guard Eli Carter (leg) had been cleared for contact, redshirt junior transfer C Damontre Harris is dealing with hamstring problems, and sophomore G Michael Frazier II has been bothered by a viral infection that Donovan feared was mononucleosis.

“We’re not a healthy team. We’re dealing with seven scholarship players in practice. We don’t have our full roster. I think our team, what it looked like on paper in the summertime, is not the team that we’re dealing with right now,” he said. “We’re a few weeks away from opening up. The practice with the guys we’ve had in practice has gone well. They’ve worked hard. But we have a long way to go right now.”

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Donovan, Young hold court at SEC Media Day

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan and senior center Patric Young met with the media on Thursday during the 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Day for basketball in Birmingham, AL.

ALREADY SHORTHANDED

The injury bug appears to have crept over from the football locker room to the basketball court as Donovan announced Tuesday that two additional Gators are missing from practice aside from senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) and sophomore guard Eli Carter (leg), neither of whom have been medically cleared to play.

Redshirt junior center Damontre Harris has not practiced yet due to “hamstring issues” that arose during preseason workouts. Trainers want him to be cautious and have therefore been holding him out of practice.

Sophomore G Michael Frazier II is suffering through “some kid of virus” that team doctors have not pinpointed as of yet. “We don’t know what it is,” Donovan said. “He’s had some blood work done, hopefully find something out [Wednesday].”

Donovan said Florida is “trying to make the best of the limited numbers in the time that we have to try and get better,” so the Gators’ walk-ons, one of whom is injured himself, are getting plenty of run.

His son, redshirt junior G Billy Donovan, a transfer from Catholic University, tore the labrum in his shoulder in August and has been playing with a brace rather than undergoing surgery and missing the majority of the season. “His arm got jerked up. He’s been battling and dealing with that, but he’s still coming to practice he’s still able to play. But I know he’s in some pain there,” the elder Donovan said.

Donovan also said he’s been pleased with the work of F Jacob Kurtz, who saw action in 20 games last season. “Jake’s done a really good job,” he noted. “I trust Jake. Jake’s been in the program now a couple years. He’s a great guy to have around, our players really like him and respect him. Those guys have had to help and they’ve been very, very involved in practice.”

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“Anxious” RG Halapio not concern-free just yet

The Florida Gators were banged up at the start of the 2013 season and though most were concerned about the health of the incumbent quarterback and new starting running back, arguably a better player – redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio – also remained sidelined and out of commission with his return date in question.

Halapio, a future NFL Draft selection who tore the pectoral muscle in his left shoulder while max bench pressing over the summer shortly after the 2013 SEC Media Days, has not yet played a down of football in 2013.

He was ruled out until the fourth week of the season before the opening game and did not return to practice until last Monday at the start of Florida’s first bye week of the year.

“The biggest thing last week was that was my first week back with the team doing actual stuff, so my endurance wasn’t as up to par as it used to be,” he said Wednesday. “Having that bye week and this week [to practice] really benefited me.”

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SIX VIDEO BITS: Gators, Bates, Spurrier, Muschamp, Embree, Easley, Williams

1 » Florida Gators football released this 2013 season promo. It’s quite good.

2 » Former Gators linebacker James Bates impersonates and tells stories about former Florida head coach Steve Spurrier. Bates was recently hired as a college football analyst by FOX Sports for the new FOX Sports 1 channel.

Check out four more Gators videos…after the break!
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2013 SEC Media Day Quotables: Coaches and players speak on Florida and other hot topics

The Florida Gators received their fair share of headlines at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Days on Tuesday but plenty of other coaches and players made waves as well for their comments and opinions.

Check out what Florida’s contingent had to say in the multiple links below.

Florida Gators at 2013 SEC Media Days: Main Post – News & Notes: Muschamp’s shot at Meyer, injuries, players, coaches | Game times vs. Toledo, Miami set | Muschamp: I’m “100% responsible” for players | Easley steals the show | VIDEOS: Florida players have fun interviewing each other

COACHES

» South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier on paying players $3,600-$3,900 per season in addition to their scholarships: “I’m going to keep fighting for our guys. I don’t know what will come. If President [Barack] Obama would say, ‘Spurrier, you and those coaches need to quit fighting for your players,’ that they get enough, they get enough full scholarship, then I’ll shut up about it. But I just believe that these athletes, because of the enormous amount [of money they earn for the schools], just a little bit to help out with their parents watching games and so forth. Okay, that was our little talk about expenses. This is not ‘pay for play.’ Please don’t say, ‘Spurrier says pay for play.’ This is just expense money. I saw the other day this year, the NFL rookies, the minimum is $405,000, NFL rookie. And a third year kid, $630,000. That’s pay for play. Don’t disguise or say $300 for expenses for a game, that’s not pay for play. Just some expense money for our guys to live a little bit better, and their parents, guardians, whatever. Us coaches, if it was a financial burden for our universities, our coaches all offered to pay for it, all 14. It came up to $270,000, $280,000 a year for the coaches. We’d pay it all. We want our players to get a little bit more than they get.”

» Spurrier on if he would turn Florida in for a recruiting violation in like Urban Meyer did: “Like that? Probably not that [smiling]. If they were obviously doing something [on purpose], we were obviously doing something [on purpose], I would hope they’d turn us in. Usually go through the league office is the way. Yeah, we don’t turn a lot of people in anyway. You can’t ever condone breaking the rules on purpose, though. We don’t condone that with anybody.”

» Spurrier on staying on longer with the Gamecocks than he did with the Gators: “I didn’t think about that. I did think I could go eight, nine, ten years. I was at a booster club. … I said my plan and goal is to be the winningest coach here. It was only 65 wins. If we could average about eight a year, maybe win nine one year, I could get to 65. It worked out that we got 66. Last two years we’ve added up well. … I have an excellent coaching staff. I got guys that can recruit, coach, do everything. It’s not a stressful job for me as maybe some coaches have. Summertime we get away from it a bit, get refreshed, ready to go during the season. Burnout is not something I’m going to get, not unless we go real bad. It can go real bad if you think it can’t. I know it can go real bad if we don’t watch ourselves. Hopefully it won’t.”

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Nine Gators placed on Preseason All-SEC Teams

Nine members of the Florida Gators football team were selected for 10 places on the 2013 Preseason All-SEC Teams on Thursday, as voted on by the media contingent in Hoover, AL, for the 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Days.

Florida had more than one player named to the First Team for the first time since 2010 as senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley, junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and junior punter Kyle Christy each received top honors.

Joining them with Preseason All-SEC nods are Second Team members redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio and junior CB Marcus Roberson. Sophomore running back Matt Jones, redshirt senior center Jonotthan Harrison, linebacker Ronald Powell and kick returner Andre Debose received Third Team honors. Purifoy was also placed on the Third Team as an all-purpose player.

UF had seven players named to the year-end 2012 All-SEC Team. Christy is the only one who remained in school as the other six graduated or left for the 2012 NFL Draft.

Florida’s nine selections matched Georgia for the third-most overall. Alabama had a whopping 16 Preseason All-SEC picks, and LSU finished second with 11.

It is the third-straight year that the Gators did not have a Preseason-All-SEC First Team representative on offense and the fourth-straight year Florida does not have an offensive playmaker on that list.

The media also predicted Florida to finish third in the SEC East; the Gators received 19 first-place votes compared to 149 for UGA and 75 for USC. UF did not receive a single vote to win the SEC Championship, though the media has not predicted the league champion correctly since 2008.

The SEC told OnlyGators.com on Thursday that the Preseason All-SEC Teams as selected by the league’s coaches have been pushed back for a mid-August release.

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VIDEOS: Florida Gators have fun interviewing each other at 2013 SEC Media Days

Florida Gators at 2013 SEC Media Days: Main Post – News & Notes: Muschamp’s shot at Meyer, injuries, players, coaches | Game times vs. Toledo, Miami set | Muschamp: I’m “100% responsible” for players | Easley steals the show

The Florida Gators contingent that appeared at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Days did not get much rest on Tuesday. After waking up at 5 a.m. work team workouts, junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley and redshirt senior guard Jon Halapio joined head coach Will Muschamp on a private jet and flew into Hoover, AL, only to be bombarded by questions from the 1,200+ reporters in attendance for a few hours.

As their long day came to a conclusion, the players decided to pick up the microphone themselves and interview each other about the day’s events and some other more personal topics. Check out the interviews below, courtesy of Florida’s GatorVision.tv.

Halapio interviews Easley:

Easley interviews Driskel:

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Easley predictably steals show at SEC Media Days

Florida Gators at 2013 SEC Media Days: Main Post – News & Notes: Muschamp’s shot at Meyer, injuries, players, coaches | Game times vs. Toledo, Miami set | Muschamp: I’m “100% responsible” for players | VIDEOS: Florida players have fun interviewing each other

Florida Gators fans have seen plenty of senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley’s faces – the jovial one he displays while dancing between snaps or on the sideline, the serious one he makes while holding his prized Chucky doll, the patriotic one he flashed while holding an American flag before running onto the field on Sept. 10, 2011, and the menacing one he sported while wearing a chain around his neck in that same tunnel on Oct. 1, 2011 – and that is why, despite promising he would not say anything “outrageous” at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Days on Tuesday, he simply could not help himself.

Easley was the talk of the event and predictably the most quotable player. Even though he was likely asked by school staffers to tone down some of his comments, his unique personality could not help but shine through.

Asked about legendary Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Easley admitted he did not recognize the name and legitimately wondered if the reference was to a cartoon. He later apologized via the school’s Twitter account. “I’m sorry, Alabama fans. I’m from New York and didn’t watch football growing up,” he said.

When told that his quarterback, junior Jeff Driskel, went hog hunting in the offseason, Easley explained that he has no desire to mess around with any animals in that manner.

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