Two for Tuesday: Florida football opponent previews – Kentucky and Alabama

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

After a pair of seemingly “cupcake” games against Idaho and Eastern Michigan, Florida Gators football begins Southeastern Conference play in 2014 against an improving Kentucky Wildcats team before it faces arguably its biggest test of the year on the road at the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Florida kicks things off against Kentucky under the lights at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will air live on the SEC Network.

Head-to-Head

FLORIDA GATORS KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp (Year: 4) Head Coach: Mark Stoops (Year: 2)
2013 Record: 4-8 (3-5) 2013 Record: 2-10 (0-8)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Common Opponents: 1-4 Common Opponents: 0-5
Scoring Offense: T-112th (18.8 ppg) Scoring Offense: 107th (20.5 ppg)
Scoring Defense: 15th (21.1 ppg) Scoring Defense: 89th (31.2 ppg)

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ESPN, SEC Network reach agreements with Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks

Florida Gators fans across the state of Florida and country can rest easier as ESPN and the SEC Network announced Thursday that they have reached a deal for the channel to be distributed by Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks when it launches nationwide on Aug. 14.

Already set to be available on AT&T U-Verse, DISH Network, Google Fiber, Cox Communications and Xfinity TV, as well as a variety of local cable carriers, SEC Network will now be in approximately 60 million homes after these latest agreements.

“We know we have customers who want the SEC-ESPN Network, and are pleased to bring it to them,” said Andrew Rosenberg, Senior Vice President of Content Acquisition for Time Warner Cable in a press release. “This deal will help ensure that fans and alumni of SEC universities won’t miss any important games.”

Multiple reports over the last few weeks have DirecTV near a deal with ESPN to carry the SEC Network. It and Verizon FIOS are the only major providers not currently slated to have the channel when it launches.

Every major cable operator in Florida, plus DISH Network subscribers, now has access to the SEC Network. DirecTV is available throughout the state, while Verizon FIOS currently only available in Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

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Muschamp’s fifth trip through ESPN’s car wash

Updated at 5:00 p.m.

Joining a handful of other Southeastern Conference coaches in Bristol, Connecticut, on Tuesday, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp went through ESPN’s “car wash” by appearing on nearly a dozen of the network’s media platforms over the course of one day. It is the fifth time Muschamp is being put through the wringer by ESPN after previously participating in April 2011, July 2011, July 2012 and July 2013.

OnlyGators.com is following Muschamp’s media appearances throughout the day and updating this post live with the news, notes and quotes from all of his appearances. Due to most of Muschamp’s spots not airing live, this post will be updated into the night.

CAR WASH SCHEDULE*

Now that Muschamp’s day – which included one live television spot, a handful of taped segments, four taped radio interviews, two taped podcasts, a number of photo shoots and four print interviews – has come to a close, below is where you can find some of his segments before Tuesday comes to a close.

1:45 p.m. – SportsCenter (ESPN)
1:45 p.m. – SVP & Russillo (ESPN Radio)
6:30 p.m. – College Football Live (ESPNEWS)
7:45 p.m. – Sedano & Stink (ESPN Radio)
10:30 p.m. – Freddie Coleman (ESPN Radio)

Muschamp started the day with a customary ESPN Images photo shoot.

He then participated in a number of interviews, all of which will either be tape delayed on the radio or available on podcasts.

Muschamp’s day continued with some taped video segments set to air at yet-to-be-determined times. He taped two more radio interviews and filmed five different segments.

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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.

Continue Reading » Hype train rolls on for WR Demarcus Robinson

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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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2014 SEC Media Days – Mike Slive references Florida Gators in opening press conference

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. and sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will represent the team on Monday by participating in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Before Muschamp could take the stand and the Florida contingent had the opportunity to be swarmed by reporters, SEC commissioner Mike Slive held an introductory press conference to address a number of topics including the league’s success, updates to bowl game arrangements and an outlook for the future. Below are some highlights of comments made by Slive on Monday afternoon.

PRAISING SOME GATORS

Two now-former Florida student-athletes, right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers and center Patric Young, were singled out by Slive during his opening speech.

While running down the SEC’s multiple successes during the 2013-14 athletic campaign, Slive pointed out that Rogers won numerous awards while leading Gators softball to the first NCAA title in program history.

“Florida’s softball student athlete, Hannah Rogers, led Florida to its first national championship in softball and she was named the College World Series most outstanding player,” he noted. “Both A.J. [Reed] and Hannah were named Roy Kramer Athletes of the Year this year as voted by our league’s athletic directors.”

In the latter portion of his press conference, Slive used Young as a paradigm for what the SEC wants out of its student-athletes. He is someone who certainly excelled on the court but also was in great academic standing and contributed to the community both stateside and abroad.

“Florida’s basketball player Patric Young is an example of a student athlete who has made the most of his collegiate academic and athletic experience. He led the Gators to the 2014 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament title and the NCAA Final Four, was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year twice, was named the SEC male winner of the Brad Davis Community Service Award. Then he traveled to Africa where he encouraged children to focus on exercise and healthy lifestyle,” he explained.

“While doing all of that, Patric maintained a 3.4 grade point average. Student athletes like Patric, as well as many other student athletes like him, inspire us to protect intercollegiate athletics, to keep it healthy, vibrant and an integral part of higher education. We do this for the young men and women who seek an education, compete in sports, and ultimately make a difference in people’s lives.

“This is why it is critical for the NCAA to change, and to change in accordance with the vision proposed for the 21st century by the five conferences. This is one important way we will be able to provide academic and athletic opportunities for the generations of Patrics yet to come.”

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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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FOUR BITS: Wilbekin, Donovan, Crowder, Okine

1 » Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin has done an admirable job during his first two NBA Summer League games with the Memphis Grizzlies in Orlando, Florida. The Orlando Sentinel caught up with him on Sunday, and Wilbekin explained that he is doing well but having some difficulty adjusting to the limited minutes. The Grizzlies’ summer league coach, Shawn Respert, told the paper that he is pleased with what he’s seen from Wilbekin. “You can’t teach an overall IQ,” he said. “The guy plays with a pace that I think is healthy for a successful basketball team. He doesn’t force things. He knows when to push the gas pedal and when to push the brake. I think it’s just an innate ability that some players naturally have: to know how to play. With Scottie, I’m really proud of the fact of how he’s handled himself. He’s going to be very, very successful. He’s going to be a guy that, if you look in our league six or seven years down the road, he’s going to be an important part of a team that’s winning.”

Below is the rest of the Orlando schedule; all games air live nationally on NBA TV.
Monday, July 7 at 5 p.m. – Orlando (Vernon Macklin) vs. Houston
Tuesday, July 8 at 3 p.m. – Orlando (Macklin) vs. Memphis (Wilbekin)
Thursday, July 10 at 5 p.m. – Orlando (Macklin) vs. Boston
Thursday, July 10 at 7 p.m. – Memphis (Wilbekin) vs. Houston

2 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan last week participated in the Southeastern Conference’s summer teleconference and spoke briefly about a couple of issues somewhat concerning the Gators. Below are some of Donovan’s thoughts from the media availability:

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Wilbekin, Donovan, Crowder, Okine

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