OGGOA Week(end) in Review: July 26-29

Considering so much has gone on over the last few days in regards to the Florida Gators, the OGGOA Week In Review returns for its third edition. (Yes, it is just covering a four-day period, but let’s just all agree to ignore that.) Be sure to check out all of the posts in case you happened to miss a thing or two.

FOOTBALL RECRUITING / FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
» The day before Friday Night Lights was set to commence, Florida received a commitment from 2013 defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL), who vaulted the program five spots from 10th to 5th in the Rivals team recruiting rankings and immediately became the Gators’ highest-rated player of the cycle.

» Florida doubled up on commitments before FNL even began as three-star defensive end Antonio Riles (Lawrenceville, GA) chose UF over Georgia and committed even though he could not make it to campus for the event.

» There were rumblings all week that the Gators would receive a commitment from another highly-rated defensive prospect, but FNL came and went without him announcing his pledge. Four-star DE Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL) remained in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, however, and made his verbal commitment public.

» Florida received its fourth commitment in as many days on Sunday when 2014 defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Palm Bay, FL), expected to be one of the top players at his position when recruiting rankings are released for his class, ended his recruitment early and decided that he wanted to play for the Gators, too.

» More rumblings on Sunday indicated that Florida could go five-for-five in commitments and bring in a talented but underrated offensive playmaker on Monday though it remains to be seen if head coach Will Muschamp will give him a commitable offer and the opportunity to join the Gators.

2012 LONDON OLYMPICS
OGGOA has been offering full coverage of the Olympics all event long on this dedicated page, which includes a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, daily schedule and direct LIVE streaming links to each event as it takes place. Below are some notes in case you have not visited it yet and want a quick refresher.

» Ryan Lochte (United States) won two medals over the weekend including a gold in the Men’s 400 Meter Individual Medley, the fourth such medal of his Olympic career. Lochte also swam the final leg of the Men’s 4×100 Meter Freestyle Relay but got caught from behind over the final 50 meters; the team finished with a silver. He will compete in the Men’s 200 Meter Freestyle finals on Monday afternoon.

» Junior Elizabeth Beisel (United States) took silver in the Women’s 400 Meter Individual Medley, the first Olympic medal of her young career. She nearly won the gold but was bested over the last 150 meters.

» Thirteen other Gators (as well as one incoming freshman) competed in Olympic action over the four-day span though none of them were able to join Lochte and Beisel in bringing home medals as of yet. Striker Abby Wambach was dominant once again in soccer and got a black eye in her match on Saturday, though she scored a goal in retaliation and mocked her assailant during her celebration.

» “Gator Nation” is currently eighth in the Olympic medal standings with one gold and two silver. You can view the full medal breakdown on OGGOA‘s dedicated Olympics page.

FORMER PLAYERS SPEAK OUT
» Florida quarterback Shane Matthews praised Muschamp and the current Gators coaching staff while noting that he was frustrated with the way former head coach Urban Meyer and his staff developed play callers and recruited in his waning years.

» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said he definitely had more fun at Florida than QB Tim Tebow did and provided an interesting answer when he was asked how much class he attended during his junior season when he was helping the Gators win the second of their back-to-back basketball national championships.

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Matthews thrilled with Gators coaching staff

Former Florida Gators quarterback Shane Matthews has been quite vocal about his displeasure with his college team over the last few years, so much so in fact that it even earned him a spot (at least temporarily) in head coach Urban Meyer’s doghouse.

With Meyer now at Ohio State and head coach Will Muschamp at the helm in Gainesville, FL, Matthews told host Dan Hicken of Sports Radio 1010XL in Jacksonville that he sees a bright future ahead for his Gators.

“This coaching staff at Florida is the best we’ve ever had at that school – hands down from top-to-bottom – when you go from position-to-position and see where they’ve coached, what they’ve done,” he said. “I love the staff. It’s going to take time because we just don’t have the athletes that the other big boys in the conference do.”

Matthews, who took over as head coach of Nease High School in January, said his appreciation for the coaching staff begins at the top with Muschamp.

“I love him. I love him. I’ve known him for a long time,” he said. “I played for Nick Saban. His last year [2006] at Miami was my last year [in the NFL]. [Muschamp is] a combination of a little bit of [Steve] Spurrier and a lot of Nick Saban. I like the guy. He was dealt a bad deck of cards. I don’t think people realize how bad that situation is and was.”

Though Florida has brought in highly-ranked recruiting classes over the last few years, Matthews believes Meyer and company failed in their talent evaluations and relied on speed more than overall football talent toward the end of his tenure.

“We ain’t put anybody in the league the last couple of years, so that shows you how we were recruiting. They missed big-time,” he said. “We had a track team, which track teams don’t play on Sunday. You better run like a track player but be able to play football.”

Muschamp’s rocky first season as the man in charge of the Gators may be in the rearview mirror, but Matthews does not believe the coach is out of the woods yet. He said that Muschamp has plenty of tough decisions ahead of him starting with who he will name as Florida’s starting quarterback in September.

Read the rest of Matthews’s thoughts on the Gators…after the break!
Continue Reading » Matthews thrilled with Gators coaching staff

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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.

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Review – ESPN documentary series SEC Storied: “The Play That Changed College Football”

The second of four documentaries set to air on ESPNU this year as part of the SEC Storied documentary series, “The Play That Changed College Football” is an intricate look at the first Southeastern Conference Championship Game played in 1992 between the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0) and No. 12 Florida Gators (8-3).

Directed by Jeff Cvitkovic and narrated by Luke Perry, the film is centered on the thesis that one game – and more specifically one play – “helped shape how conferences are constructed and championships are decided.”

When the SEC expanded to 12 teams (adding Arkansas and South Carolina) nearly two decades ago, then-commissioner Roy Kramer chose to format the conference into two six-team divisions and add a championship game that was previously unheard of in Division I college football.

The prevailing thought was that a SEC team would never win a national championship because even if one got through the regular season undefeated, the team could be canalized in the title game and ruin its chances at national glory. What Kramer saw, however, was not the risk but instead the rewards of increased exposure, television revenue and conference prestige.

“You had a chance to have a team play for the national championship. Now, all of a sudden if they lose this game, they’re gonna lose their shot at a national championship. I was concerned we had shot ourselves in the foot,” he admitted.

The former commissioner is honest and forthcoming when admitting that, while he may be considered a visionary now, he was one play away from potentially being a pariah. Luckily for him, the former came true and not the latter.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s review of ESPN’s latest documentary…after the break!
Continue Reading » Review – ESPN documentary series SEC Storied: “The Play That Changed College Football”

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ESPN’s Inside the Program: Live with the Gators

*NOTE: Videos below are on “autoplay” so pause each to play one at a time.

On Monday, ESPN took a special look inside the Florida Gators football program with complete coverage on their television shows, radio station and website. OGGOA is following the coverage step-by-step throughout the day. Stay tuned.

Interview on Mike and Mike in the Morning:

Though ESPN‘s All-Access piece did not technically begin until 9 a.m., head coach Will Muschamp did a little promotional work in the morning by jumping on the radio (listen here) at 7:20 a.m. Asked by the hosts about redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, Muschamp once again reiterated his confidence. “I don’t have a whole lot of concern,” he said. “The first two days he has been really on. I think he is much more comfortable in what we’re asking him to do maybe as opposed to last year.”

Jesse Palmer says “good morning” to the team:

Opening up SportsCenter at 9 a.m. was a video of Palmer in the hallway of Florida’s team hotel at 7:30 a.m. in the morning. He proceeded to introduce the Inside the Program feature before blowing an air horn and subsequently waking up the team.

View this post in its entirety by clicking the link below.
Continue Reading » ESPN’s Inside the Program: Live with the Gators

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Eleven Gators who must step up in 2011

With a few days until No. 14 Florida Gators basketball plays its final regular season game, OGGOA decided to allow our Twitter followers to choose a content topic for Thursday. Overwhelmingly, our readers wanted to read something – anything – about Gators football. So that is exactly what we present to you here, 11 Florida footballers who will be counted on to step up big-time next season.

Redshirt senior QB John Brantley
2010: 200/329 (60.8 percent) for 2,061 yards, nine touchdowns, 10 interceptions

There is plenty of hype surrounding freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel, but the fact of the matter is the Gators have the best chance of being supremely successful in 2011 with Brantley behind center. Say what you will about his struggles in 2010 – blame them on the coaching staff not adjusting the offense to suit his skill set, the offensive line doing a poor job in pass protection or Brantley simply not living up the billing he received before the season. No matter what you choose to believe, Brantley will be given a chance to start fresh in 2011. If he makes the most of it and pans out the way Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews have personally told us he will, Florida’s QB problems will be solved by the same player who was universally panned for causing them a year ago. Whether or not he will live up those expectations, however, remains to be seen.

Redshirt sophomore WR Andre Debose
2010: 10 receptions for 96 yards (long 26); 22 kickoff returns for 587 yards (26.7 average), two touchdowns

Like Brantley, Debose did not live up to the hype in 2010. Unlike Brantley, he was not given much of an opportunity. Debose is a dynamic athlete who is explosive in the open field, something blatantly obvious by the job he did in the return game last season. He was criticized by former head coach Urban Meyer for his inability to learn all of the offensive plays and was “rewarded” early in the season with some packages that utilized his abilities. Those packages seemed to disappear as the year went on, and Debose ended up getting injured for the second time in as many seasons (hamstring in 2009, ankle in 2010). Though the Gators have some hungry pass-catchers looking to win the job across from redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thompson, none of them will likely have the potential impact game-in and game-out that Debose can bring to the table.

Junior RB Mike Gillislee
2010: 58 rushes for 325 yards (5.6 average), seven touchdowns

The first thing new head coach Will Mushcamp said he wanted to implement at Florida was a pro-style offense. With senior running back Jeff Demps (5’8” 190 lbs.) a bit undersized to run between the tackles on a consistent basis, the onus will be on Gillislee (and to a lesser extent redshirt freshman RB Mack Brown) to carry the rock for the Gators in 2010. Listed at 5‘11” and 198 lbs., Gillislee can add some bulk to his frame and showed flashes in the limited playing time he received last season.

The real question for Muschamp, and more specifically offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, will be how the team can best utilize Demps and redshirt senior RB/WR Chris Rainey. Demps will likely be the kick returner once again, but the coaching staff must find a way to get him heavily involved in the offense without having him carry the ball a dozen times each game. He was the team’s best offensive weapon last year, and his absence (even when he played, he was far less than 100 percent) was one of the main reasons Florida struggled down the stretch offensively.
Continue Reading » Eleven Gators who must step up in 2011

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Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

When college football fans think about Florida Gators football in the 1990s, three names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. A three-time first-team All-SEC selection (1990-92) who finished fifth in the 1991 Heisman Trophy voting as a junior, Matthews set Florida’s career passing yards record, led the SEC in passing for three consecutive years and led the Gators to their first official SEC Championship.

Finishing his college career 9,287 yards and 74 touchdowns, Matthews moved on to the NFL where he played for 14 seasons as mostly a back-up with Chicago, Carolina, Washington, Cincinnati, Buffalo and finally Miami.

Enshrined in the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2002, he spoke to us on Tuesday as a precursor to his involvement in the 90’s Gators Celebration benefiting Desire Street Ministries during this all-important weekend in Gainesville, FL (more information below).

Matthews gave us almost 30 minutes of his time; unfortunately, OGGOA experienced some technical difficulties during the interview. Even though 50 percent of the conversation was missed, we were able to recover a portion of it for publication, which you can read below along with some summary answers to our other questions.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent 14 years in the NFL, first seeing extensive playing time during your sixth season in 1999 (167-of-275 for 1,645 yards and 10 touchdowns). What did it feel when you were actually given the opportunity to show your stuff?
SHANE MATTHEWS: “The reason I lasted as long as I did in the NFL was because of my mind. I could learn plays in a second, an entire playbook in a day and never have to look at it again. I was only 6’3” 190 lbs. at the most. Didn’t have the arm strength or the size to take a pounding, but when I did get my chance, I had some good games and some good moments, but I also had some bad ones. That just comes with the position. You’re going to play well at times, you’re going to play poorly at times. I enjoyed my 14 years in the NFL. In 14 years, I think I only played in 35 games, so I knew my role on teams – didn’t rock the boat – tried help the other quarterbacks and the coaching staff knew they could count on me.”

AS: With Saturday’s game featuring two of Florida’s greatest coaches, how do you compare and contrast Spurrier and current head coach Urban Meyer?
SM: “Urban and coach Spurrier are a lot alike – extremely strong competitors. However, they run their programs differently. Urban’s a great motivator, kind of runs a tight ship and keeps everybody in line, where coach Spurrier is kind of that laid back southern personality. His practices are more laid back and relaxed by comparison. The biggest thing is, coach Spurrier is an offensive-minded head coach where Urban is a defensive-minded head coach. Both of them have done a tremendous job for the University of Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Shane Matthews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

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SIX BITS: Harvin, Haden, Miller, Wilbur, Kentucky

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin was added to the Minnesota Vikings injury report on Thursday with what is being called a hamstring injury. Minnesota did not decide to release how severe the injury is but the Vikings certainly need Harvin on the field Sunday night for their divisional rivalry game against the Green Bay Packers. Harvin has been a big scoring threat for Minnesota recently, returning a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown last week and hauling in two receiving touchdowns the previous week.

2 » Grabbing his first career interception last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden wants more playing time, and he just might get it, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. “I thought he had his best week of practice since he’s been with us,” head coach Eric Mangini said of how Haden prepared last week. “I think that he’s starting to understand what it means to be a pro. He’s starting to understand what it takes to prepare each week, and there’s no doubt in my mind that that week of preparation, the way that he was last week, led to his best performance since he’s been here. If he keeps developing, he’ll keep pushing for playing time. That’s what you want. That’s what I want. That’s what he wants, and I don’t mean I’m looking to replace anybody. I’m looking for him to get better to push those guys to replace them because that competition makes everybody better.”

3 » Miami Heat forward Mike Miller, who is currently participating in his first preseason with the team after being signed over the summer, injured and possibly broke the thumb on his shooting hand Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined for up to six weeks. Teammate and fellow former Florida player power forward Udonis Haslem told the Associated Press that doctors believe the injury is “not season ending.”

4 » Former Gators punter Eric Wilbur has been shining this season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL, and his ability to kick “high and deep angled” punts has provided his team with “a stunning field-position advantage,” according to the Hamilton Spectator. “We’re asking him to place the ball in a certain spot, so there were a couple which could have been better but overall it was excellent,” said special teams coach Dave Easley. “He gets tremendous height on the ball because he’s got a very, very strong leg.” Wilbur may be asked to kickoff as well next year for Hamilton though his eyes are still set on a bigger stage. “My ultimate goal is to be in the NFL,” Wilbur told the paper. “But I love it up here. I love the atmosphere, I love the games. If I have to stay up here, I’ll be happy.”

5 » Upsetting South Carolina last week at home, Kentucky’s fans were rightfully excited. After the final whistle blew, plenty of blue-and-white faithful stormed the field to celebrate – something that is seen all over the country after a home team upsets a top-ranked opponent. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Southeastern Conference, such celebrations are not allowed under league rules. That is why, on Thursday, Kentucky was fined $25,000 for a sportsmanship policy violation by the SEC. The policy that was violated states that “access to competition areas shall be limited to participating student-athletes, coaches, officials, support personnel and properly-credentialed individuals at all times. For the safety of participants and spectators alike, at no time before, during or after a contest shall spectators be permitted to enter the competition area.”

6 » Join former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel and Desire Street Ministries for a 90’s Gators Reunion Celebration from Nov. 12-13 in Gainesville, FL. Wuerffel and other Gator greats like WR Chris Doering, QB Doug Johnson, QB Shane Matthews, WR Travis McGriff, offensive tackle Jason Odom, safety Lawrence Wright and others will be in attendance to celebrate a great decade of Florida football while raising money for DSM. For more information on the event and how you can participate, please click here to read the invitation.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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