17 Gator Bites for Tuesday, May 7

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» The relationship between Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels and the Florida Gators has soured. According to ESPN 106.3 out of West Palm Beach, FL, Daniels is angry that two former Dwyer players who committed to Florida but have since left the program (quarterback Jacoby Brissett and tight end Gerald Christian) did not get the opportunities they were promised with the team. “I’ve said all along, I don’t think he’s been given the fair shot which was said was going to happen,” Daniels said in regards to Brissett. “It was made clear to him, and to everybody else, that it didn’t matter what Jeff Driskel did, it was [Driskel’s] job and going into next fall, it’s going to be the same way. I think he had no choice. If I was quarterback on that team last year, I might have been able to get some wins, the way their defense was playing.” He continued: “The way Jacoby was handled and the decision that was made…if it was my kid, I wouldn’t expect anybody to treat my kid like that, and I don’t think anybody should treat anybody like that. I think it was a complete lie about how he was going to be given a fair chance and I don’t think there’s anything to dispute that there wasn’t a lie.”

Despite all of this – including similar comments about how Christian “was frustrated and felt like the coaches were lying to him” – Daniels (a Florida alumnus) said he will not dissuade his students from playing for the Gators. “I can’t hold a grudge forever and I still talk to Coach [Will] Muschamp,” he said. “I would never steer a kid away.”

» Former Florida wide receiver Stephen Alli was selected with the second pick in the sixth round of the 2013 CFL Draft by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers over the weekend. Alli, who would have been chosen higher had he committed to playing in the CFL next season, will instead attend graduate school and continue his education at UF.

» He may currently be a free agent hoping for the opportunity to continue his NFL career, but former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow received a shred of good news this week when Forbes named him the most influential athlete in the United States. “A unique set of QB strengths and weaknesses and an affinity for wearing his Christian faith on his sleeve combine to make Tebow a compelling public figure, even as an NFL backup,” staff member Tom Van Riper wrote.

Check out 14 more interesting bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
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1/18: Dunker suspended, more Gators leave, injury updates, Sugar Bowl review, 2013 preview

Florida Gators head football coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday to wrap up the 2012 season, look ahead to the upcoming spring practice and discuss some of the recent changes and issues within the program.

PUNISHMENT HANDED DOWN

Muschamp announced Friday that freshman offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker has been suspended indefinitely from all team activities pending the outcome of his legal affairs. Dunker was arrested Monday on a third-degree felony charge of grand theft of a motor vehicle as well as a second-degree misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license. He was released on his own recognizance on Thursday and claims that he paid $600 for the scooter not knowing it had been reported stolen.

“I met with Jessamen Dunker [Friday] morning. I have suspended him from all team activities until we get more information,” he said. “I just met to him face-to-face [Friday] morning for the first time for 15 minutes. Once we get a little bit more information, then we’ll move forward, but he’s suspended from the team at this time. We’ll address that further when I know more.”

THREE MORE GATORS LEAVING PROGRAM

It was also announced Friday by Muschamp that redshirt juniors wide receiver Stephen Alli and defensive lineman Kedric Johnson will both be graduating in the spring and moving on from the Florida football program.

Muschamp said that Alli plans to go to graduate school; should he remain at UF, he will have the opportunity to join the team as a graduate assistant. Johnson “may play somewhere [else] next fall,” Muschamp said, and the two are planning to discuss it.

Furthermore, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Tommy Jordan, who never stepped on the field for the Gators due to nagging shoulder problems, has applied for a medical exception to remain on scholarship but no longer play football.

CLEANING UP SOME INJURIES

Muschamp once again noted that redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio (knee), redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green (ankle) and redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle) all had scopes on their various injuries this month.

“We expect all three of those [players] to participate at some point in spring. I don’t know when that will happen, how much contact there will be. I’ll know more as we move forward,” he said.

Junior WR Solomon Patton (broken arm) is “doing really well,” according to Muschamp. He has already been cleared for non-contact work during the spring.

Additionally, sophomore punter Kyle Christy had minor shoulder surgery and will be fine for spring football. “He played pretty well with it. I don’t know why we did surgery, but they felt like he needed it,” Muschamp said.

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
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17 Gator Bites for Monday, January 14

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Florida Gators junior forward Will Yeguete as seen Gator Chomping his way into your living room after his team took down LSU 74-52 on the road on Saturday. Animated GIF created for OnlyGators.com by photekxl.

» In addition to being the first center in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons in the league, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey learned Saturday that he has also been voted a 2012 NFL All-Pro by the Associated Press for the third-straight year. Pouncey was also named to USA Football’s All-Fundamental Team this season.

» Fresh off winning the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year award for the first time in her illustrious career, former Florida striker Abby Wambach received some more great news when she was allocated to her hometown team – the Western New York Flash – on Friday by the brand new eight-team National Women’s Soccer League. Wambach, a native of Rochester, NY, was like all players able to submit a list of requested destinations for the league’s initial allocation and of course put the Flash, which are set to play home games in Rochester, at the very top. Though not every player in the league received their top choice – including other U.S. Women’s National Team stars – most were happy with their destinations. None more so than Wambach.

» According to multiple reports, Gators freshman defensive back Willie Bailey has chosen Louisville as his transfer destination. Bailey chose to leave the program in early December in a decision that was a long time coming as he was not likely to see the field much for the duration of his career.

Check out 13 more Gator Bites…after the break!
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11/12: Driskel doubtful, injuries, Florida’s case

No. 6 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s tight victory over the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns and preview Saturday’s game against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.

INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, who went down with what is being called a sprained ankle during the third quarter on Saturday and did not return to the game, was listed as “doubtful” by Muschamp on Monday. He is currently in a precautionary walking boot and will spend Monday and Tuesday trying to rehab his ankle before being given an opportunity to test it out on Wednesday.

Joining Driskel on the “doubtful” list were redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle) and redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose, who hurt his knee in practice two weeks ago and has yet to play since. Specifics have not been provided.

Muschamp said he expects senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (knee), redshirt senior left guard James Wilson (knee) and redshirt sophomore running back Mack Brown (ankle) to return to practice Tuesday and be ready to play on Saturday.

He was not as optimistic about four other players that got hurt on Saturday, noting that he expects redshirt junior WR Stephen Alli (shoulder), sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders (knee), redshirt freshman defensive back Valdez Showers (shoulder) and redshirt sophomore guard Ian Silberman (shoulder) to miss practice on Tuesday. All four will be reevaluated on Wednesday, which is when a decision will likely be made as to whether or not they can play in the home finale.

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (89-80)

With the 2011-12 athletic season now in the books and the 2012-13 season about to begin, the focus has shifted to the return of Florida Gators football. For the second-straight year, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, in this series: The Countdown.

89 – Stephen Alli (Toronto, ON)
Redshirt junior wide receiver
6’6” 217 lbs.

Quick Bio/Career Stats: The only Canadian on the team, Alli made the SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll in 2009 despite not seeing the field in his true freshman season. He played in all 13 games in 2010 but spent most of his time on special teams, hauling in a total of three receptions for 17 yards on offense.

2011 Season: Though Alli played in all but one game in 2011, he saw almost all of his action on special teams and did not record any statistics.

2012 Outlook: Singled out as a leader by head coach Will Muschamp during spring practice in 2011, Alli did not get the opportunity to follow through on offense during the season. He was listed as the second X-receiver on the depth chart for the second-straight year in March but missed a number of spring practices with a groin injury. Muschamp said on May 8 that Alli would miss approximately three months of action after having successful surgery on a stress fracture on his leg. He rejoined the team in the middle of August but has not stood out as of yet among the receivers that have been getting regular repetitions during training camp.

88 – Clay Burton (Venice, FL)
Sophomore tight end
6’4” 232 lbs.

Quick Bio/2011 Season: The younger brother of Florida junior running back Trey Burton, Clay was an early enrollee as a freshman defensive end but transitioned to tight end in the fall of 2011 due to depth issues. He dressed for six games but only saw action in one, playing sparingly against UAB.

2012 Outlook: Still in the process of making the transition to tight end, Burton was listed as a reserve on the spring depth chart and is going head-to-head with plenty of others for playing time. Though the coaching staff has complimented his progress, Burton has a ways to go until he develops into a true tight end that can contribute on a regular basis.

Check out five more players in this edition of The Countdown…after the break!
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Gators WR Ja’Juan Story set to transfer

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Ja’Juan Story, who joined the Florida Gators as part of head coach Will Muschamp’s first recruiting class in 2011, decided on Thursday to leave the program and transfer to another school.

Story committed to the Gators before Muschamp took the helm but stayed solid in his commitment to Florida and followed through with signing his National Letter of Intent that February. After being redshirted his freshman season and far back on the depth chart heading into 2012, Story decided it was time to look for an opportunity elsewhere.

“Ja’Juan Story came to me [Thursday] and just didn’t feel like he was fitting. He did an outstanding job as a student here,” Muschamp said following the announcement on Friday. “He felt like he just needed to transfer and sometimes that happens. You don’t fit; you don’t feel like you’re fitting with what we’re trying to do and as we move forward with this. So we wish him all the luck in the world.”

He will be the 14th player to transfer off the Gators football team since Muschamp was hired to take over the program in Dec. 2010 and second offensive player (tight end A.C. Leonard) to do so in the last three weeks. Muschamp said following the school’s announcement that there will be some restrictions on where Story can transfer.

Despite not having great production at the position, Florida does have talent at receiver including redshirt senior Frankie Hammond, Jr., redshirt junior Andre Debose, redshirt sophomore Quinton Dunbar and freshman Latroy Pittman. Redshirt junior Stephen Alli and junior Solomon Patton could also play a bigger role this season.

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Muschamp: Time to “quit talking, start playing”

With the Florida Gators finally set to begin 2012 fall practice on Friday, head coach Will Muschamp and dozens of the players met with the media to discuss the upcoming season. Below are some highlights from Muschamp’s press conference, which lasted over 40 minutes. Though all practices will be closed to both fans and media, Florida has decided to hold fan day on Saturday, August 18, which will include a special open practice at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (9-11 a.m.) followed by fan activities in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center (3-6 p.m.).

INJURY UPDATES

» Sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck): fully cleared to practice
» Senior defensive lineman Nick Alajajian (back): “slowed” for the first 10 days
» Freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot): “slowed” for the first 7-10 days, limited but practicing some after having foot surgery in the spring
» Redshirt junior wide receiver Stephen Alli (leg): cleared by middle of camp
» Freshman defensive back Marcus Maye (knee): cleared by middle of camp
» Junior buck linebacker Ronald Powell (torn ACL): “knee has…taken well to surgery”

”WE NEED TO QUIT TALKING AND WE NEED TO START PLAYING”

As he did when he took over the program last season, Muschamp is once again taking a no-nonsense attitude into this season. He said early in his press conference that he is just as dismayed at the Gators’ record over the last two seasons as fans are and that he wants the team focused on improving day in and day out.

“We just got done with a team meeting. I said, ‘At 15-11 at the University of Florida [over the last two years], we need to quit talking and we need to start playing, at the end of the day. Let’s get on the field and play,’” Muschamp said.

Part of getting ready to play is building toughness in training camp. Muschamp hoped Florida would be able to practice with great physicality a year ago but insists that will be the case no matter what in 2012.

“Obviously more contact drills and some different things that we can do,” he said on what can be done differently. “A little bit of our issues last year was because of numbers, at the end of the day. We had a hard time, at times, especially as you work into camp and you have some attrition because of injuries in your roster. It’s hard to simulate game day situations when you’re only working with one line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. That was the case last year. That’s not going to be the case this year.”

BRISSETT? DRISKEL? BRISSETT AND DRISKEL?

With quarterback being the most important position on the football field, it should be no surprise that the battle between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel continues to be the hottest topic of conversation surrounding the team.

“Everybody wants to ask me about the quarterback position. I’ll be honest with you, I feel really good about that position because we got two really good players competing that are going to make each other better, our offense better and our team better,” Muschamp said.

He added that he cannot put a timeframe on when he will pick a starter but noted that decision-making, commanding the huddle and making big-time plays on the field will be the keys in determining who gets the job.

“We’ll know when the decision is right. I really feel that way. I’ve always felt that way about every position. You’ll know when it’s right,” he said.

Read much, much more from Muschamp at media day…after the break!
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2012 SEC Media Days – Muschamp ready to roll

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt senior linebacker Lerentee McCray and seniors LB Jon Bostic and running back Mike Gillislee represented the team on Wednesday by appearing at a number of press gatherings at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Media Days in Birmingham, AL. Below are highlights from Muschamp’s session along with some player comments.

TEAM INJURY UPDATE

» Junior Buck LB Ronald Powell (torn ACL): Cleared for all weight room activities including straight-ahead running but not changing direction or taking blocks. “He’ll play for us this year,” Muschamp said. “When that will be, I don’t know yet. There’s nobody that’s worked harder or has handled the situation better or more mature than Ronald has. He’s really grown up this summer, and I’m very proud of his efforts.”

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Stephen Alli (stress fracture – leg): Underwent successful surgery after spring practice concluded and is expected to be cleared in the “middle of August.”

» Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (fractured wrist): Having surgery Wednesday for an injury he suffered over the summer, should be cleared on Sept. 1.

» Freshman safety Marcus Maye (torn meniscus): Should be cleared for training camp after having surgery while still a senior in high school.

* Muschamp said no players are currently slated to be suspended for any games.

STARTING QUARTERBACK REMAINS A QUANDRY

The battle between sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel lasted all spring and as expected has continued into the summer session, should infiltrate fall training camp and may even extend into the regular season, Muschamp confirmed.

“If you saw our spring game, you saw what I saw for 14 practices – two guys that are very even in their competition. They’re even going into fall camp; they’ll get equal reps,” he said. “I would like to name a starter before the season, but I’m not going to put a timetable on that. If we need to play both of them, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do what we got to do to win football games.

“Both guys have a similar skill set, so it’s not like there’s one offense we run with one and one with another. And there’s a possibility you could see both in the game at the same time. But they’re both guys that can contribute to our football team. Jeff and Jacoby have handled the competition very well. It’s been good for our football team. Their competition has made each other better, has made our offense better, has made our football team better. I’m really pleased with how that has worked and how it will work in fall camp.”

START FAST – START STRONG

Florida has traditionally begun seasons on a roll, but the Gators will be faced with some tough tests early in 2012 with a pair of conference road games against Texas A&M and Tennessee in the second and third weeks. Muschamp has been using those contests as motivation to ensure that he players are ready to go right out of the gate.

“I know that’s been a really good motivating factor for our players to understand that we need to start fast,” he said. “They understand the pride that we have in playing at home. We didn’t play well at home against our rival the last time we were in the stadium. So it’s critical for us, Sept. 1st against Bowling Green, to play well and be prepared well.

“Those other two games, we can get a leg up on the competition in the SEC by playing [well] early. I look at it as a great opportunity for our football team, a great motivating factor for our players this summer to report in shape, which they will be, and ready to go with a great mindset to have an outstanding year.”

Muschamp is pumped to turn things around beginning with fall training on Aug. 3 following a “very frustrating, disappointing first year” under his watch that “didn’t meet the expectation level that we expect at Florida on the field.”

“I do feel like we have built a very solid foundation for where we were headed,” he said. “We did not get the results we wanted on the field [last year]. But I feel like within the locker room, the weight room, the attitude of our football team, the discipline of our team, we’re headed in the right direction. I think we have an outstanding foundation. Every decision I make is for the long term success of our program. As I said plenty of times, we’re building a program, not a team. That’s where we are right now.”

Read the rest of Muschamp’s thoughts on the Gators…after the break!
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