Hype train rolls on for WR Demarcus Robinson

More than once this offseason – including at the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days on Monday – Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp called this season’s roster the most talented he’s had during his tenure at the school.

While corroborating that statement before the season is difficult considering Florida has lost a ton of top-end defenders in consecutive seasons and enters the 2014 campaign with its underwhelming specialists unchanged, the Gators certainly do possess a rebuilt stable of offensive talent.

Yet while Florida’s veteran wide receiver (redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar, incoming pass-catching tight end (redshirt senior Jake McGee) and three starting-caliber running backs (sophomore Kelvin Taylor, redshirt senior Mack Brown and redshirt junior Matt Jones) were all mentioned by the contingent in Hoover, Alabama, on Monday, it was a talent who frustrated and underwhelmed as a freshman that got the most praise.

“You heard it here first. He is that good,” sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III – a third-team Associated Press All-American, unanimous first-team Freshman All-American and unanimous first-team All-SEC nominee – said of the player.

Hargreaves was speaking to FOX Sports reporter Bruce Feldman about Florida sophomore wideout Demarcus Robison, the four-star prospect who was supposed to be a game-changer and big-time playmaker for the Gators as a freshman.

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Gators bristle at “hot seat” talk for Will Muschamp

Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley is not the only member of the athletic program dismissing the notion that head football coach Will Muschamp is on the proverbial “hot seat” entering the 2014 season.

Despite the fact that Muschamp is coming off a 4-8 campaign in 2013, Florida’s worst record since 1979, and has failed to put together a single dynamic offense in three seasons at the helm of the Gators, players on both sides of the ball insist that Muschamp’s job status is the furthest thing from the team’s mind.

“We don’t really listen to none of the outsiders,” explained junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. on Monday. “We’re all we got – my brothers, my coaching staff. That’s how it’s going to be here.

“Our job is to fight adversity and our job is to make the Gator Nation happy and get Florida back on top where they used to be. When we do things like that, there’s no worries about no job or no hot seat.”

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4 BITS: SEC Media Day, Driskel, softball, Tebow

1 » The Southeastern Conference announced Wednesday that Florida Gators redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will join head coach Will Muschamp as the school’s contingent at the 2014 SEC Media Days next week in Hoover, Alabama. Florida is one of just two SEC teams not bringing a senior on the trip, a departure from the past when the Gators tried to ensure all three spots were taken by players in their last year of eligibility. The event is scheduled from July 14-17 with Florida set to be the third contingent to go through the process behind league commissioner Mike Slive and Auburn. South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier will entertain on Tuesday, LSU’s Les Miles will follow suit on Wednesday and Alabama’s Nick Saban will kick things off on Thursday.

2 » Speaking of Driskel, UF’s school website announced that he will be working as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy from July 10-13. It is the second-straight year Driskel will be attending the event in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and he will represent the Gators as one of 40 college signal callers working as counselors. He also participated once as a camper during high school. “The few chances I did get to speak with [the Mannings at previous camps], it was really good experiences,” Driskel said. “They are down-to-earth people and I’m just fortunate enough they invited me back for another year. I’m really looking forward to going.” Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has a long history with former Ole Miss QB Eli Manning after working as his position coach, so Driskel will likely have another topic to discuss with the Mannings over the weekend.

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: SEC Media Day, Driskel, softball, Tebow

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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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