Florida’s D.J. Durkin named nation’s top recruiter

A second-year Florida Gators assistant whose position groups shined in the 2012 Gator Bowl in January, linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin was named Rivals.com’s Recruiter of the Year on Monday.

Assigned to the state of North Carolina, Durkin landed four of the area’s top 13 players including five-stars offensive tackle D.J. Humphries and defensive end Jonathan Bullard. He was also the lead recruiter for seven of Florida’s 23 total commitments.

“I am very, very fortunate to be recruiting at a place like Florida because I think the place almost sells itself,” Durkin told Rivals. “It is a great academic institution and there is obviously great football tradition here. We play in a great football stadium in the best conference in the world. I think the place really sells itself.

“When you have a head coach like Coach [Will] Muschamp, who does a great job with the players and has a great knowledge of the game and really recruits as hard as anyone, it makes my job kind of easy.”

Durkin is the second Gators coach in three years to earn Recruiter of the Year honors. Former Florida offensive coordinator (now Temple head coach) Steve Addazio won the award from ESPN in 2010.

Rivals also named Gators tight ends coach Derek Lewis one of the top 25 recruiters in the nation for the 2012 cycle. Lewis reeled in arguably the country’s top two tight ends in four-stars Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson.

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The Silver Lining: A look at Urban Meyer to OSU

Urban Meyer is off to Ohio State to coach the Buckeyes, fulfilling a lifelong dream and continuing his storied career just 10 months after choosing to leave Florida because it was “time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field.”

Gator Nation was rocked when the more-solid-than-ever rumors began a week ago and continued its uproar Monday when it was confirmed and later officially announced that Meyer would indeed be heading to Ohio State.

Plenty is being said in regards to whether or not Gators fans have a right to be upset at Meyer for taking a job just months after declaring that he needed to reevaluate his health and relationship with his family but there is not one correct answer as to how Florida fans should feel about Meyer’s decision and the way in which this situation unfolded.

Whether the perception is that Meyer was dishonest when communicating his intentions for leaving Florida, a culprit of circumstance with his dream job suddenly becoming available years sooner than expected, or a college football addict unable to satisfy his fix while sitting behind a desk working for a major network, each observation has its own legitimate merits to be considered for evaluation.

Let’s take a more complete look at the situation by examining each angle of the story.
Continue Reading » The Silver Lining: A look at Urban Meyer to OSU

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FOUR BITS: Larson, Foley, jump pass, Burton

1 » Once Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan reinstated junior forward Erik Murphy one month ago, it appeared quite obvious that he would make the same decision once redshirt freshman F Cody Larson‘s legal situation was settled. Now that Larson has received a longer probation period and a re-invoked 120-day suspended sentence after violating his probation, Donovan official decided he could rejoin the team after being indefinitely suspended since April. “I think both guys have been through a lot,” Donovan said on Monday, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I think both those guys are really, really remorseful. I don’t think the incident is a reflection of who they are as people. They come from great families. [...] I’ve seen a lot of growth from these kids since the incident. That’s encouraging.”

2 » According to a report from USA Today, Florida’s Jeremy Foley is the second-highest paid athletic director in the country, earning $1.55 million in pay. He only ranks behind Vanderbilt’s David Williams ($2.56 million), who holds multiple positions at the school including serving as a general counsel and a fully tenured law professor. The Gators paid Foley a retention bonus of $200,000 in 2011, but he will hit an even bigger one on Jan. 31, 2012 when he is owed $550,000. Additional retention bonuses include $150,000 in 2013, $250,000 in 2014 and $100,000 per year from 2015-18 (though he would likely receive a new contract well before then).

3 » If you were irritated that the LSU Tigers ran the jump pass play on Saturday, the team’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales may be to blame. Gonzales, who used to coach receiver at Florida before being overlooked for the offensive coordinator job in favor of Steve Addazio, left UF in a huff to take the same job at LSU. Gators redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard said after the game that he was a bit suspicious of the play call. “That was cold,” he said. “They did it against us. I looked at Billy on the sidelines, and he was laughing. I figured he had something to do with that.” According to some of the Tigers’ players, that play has been available all season. “”It was something that we always had,” tight end Mitch Joseph, who caught the pass, told the Times-Picayune, “but I couldn’t believe we called it this game. It just happened to be Florida.”

4 » One other tidbit stemming from the Florida-LSU game is a small war of words that has erupted between Gators sophomore running back Trey Burton and Tigers star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Asked to compare Alabama and LSU after the game, Burton said he would choose to face the Tigers’ defense again because the secondary was “not as good as advertised” while Alabama was stronger and more physical. Mathieu, learning of this, took offense and tweeted the following on Sunday: “I love the fact that Trey Burton from Florida opens his mouth and says OUR SECONDARY is not good, lol Boy you are Soft as cotton!” Burton wound up sharing Mathieu’s comments and subsequently changed his Twitter avatar – to this.

Extra BIT » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow talks about playing but losing Sunday’s game, in which he replaced Kyle Orton behind center after the half.

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8/8: Wenger, Robey, McCray, Powell speak

With the Florida Gators heading into their first full contact practice ahead of the 2011 season, redshirt senior center Dan Wenger, redshirt junior C Sam Robey, redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray and sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell met with the media to discuss how they are adjusting under the new coaches.

COACHING DIFFERENCES APPARENT

No matter who was asked, it is quite obvious that there are plenty of differences between the old coaching staff and new coaching staff – not necessarily in a good or bad way.

Asked how head coach Will Muschamp differs from Urban Meyer, McCray had some poignant thoughts. “He treats us like adults. He give us standards and then we’ve got to be held to those standards,” he said*. “If we mess up, that’s our fault. He doesn’t baby us and treat us like kids. He treats us like adults.”

Robey said the techniques of new offensive line coach Frank Verducci differ from the philosophy employed by Steve Addazio. “Coach Verducci’s great. It’s a whole different pace than Addazio,” he said. “It’s just more emphasis on our hands – a different type of coaching style.”

Perhaps no one can speak about the coaching style (at least offensively) better than Wenger, who transferred to Florida this year because of Verducci and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. He said that players need to be aware of one thing in order to stay on their good side. “We’re taught to just be always focused – always zeroed in on what we’re doing at the time,” he said. “There’s no room for slacking off – mentally or physically – whether it be in the classroom or on the field. Just be on top of everything and make sure you have your notebook out.”

WENGER HAPPY TO BE IN ORANGE & BLUE

From nearly never playing again to having a legitimate opportunity to see plenty of field time in 2011, Wenger could not be happier about his transition to playing for the Gators. After suffering two concussions while playing for Notre Dame, Wenger could not get clearance from doctors to return to the field. After visiting Florida and undergoing a battery of tests, he is finally good to go. “I went through probably seven hours of testing just for the concussions,” he said. “Then I had to drive back up here to Gainesville myself to do more testing.”

It was Wenger who reached out to Verducci when the NCAA gave him his clearance to play, and he is thrilled that Muschamp gave him an opportunity to play football once again. “I actually reached out to them. I had gotten the clearance from the NCAA; they had granted me a sixth year of eligibility,” he explained. “I received all my release papers. Once I told coach Verducci the situation, he brought it up to Coach Weis and Coach Muschamp, and they were all for it.”

After just a few weeks in Gainesville, Wenger already feels like a part of the team thanks to how inviting his teammates have been and how much they have looked to him for advice and help in learning the system. “It was pretty weird initially,” he admitted. “It was very surprising to me how welcoming the guys were. It wasn’t that awkwardness of, ‘Oh, here’s the new guy. He’s going to try to steal my position.’ I’m going to be a team guy – whatever needs to be done, whatever I can do to help us win I’m going to do. I’m not holding anything back, not holding any secrets. I played in this system under Coach Weis for four years, so any help I can give to anyone, I’m going to give it to them.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

Wenger on competing with redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison: “We’re pushing each other to our best abilities. He knows that I’m right behind him. […] It’s that good team competition that is going to build us stronger and make us better football players and a better team in general.”

McCray on the tone of practices: “The first couple of days, we’ve been going hard. We have to get in the groove of things and get back to football speed. We’ve been training for the whole summer, so we’ve got to get back into football shape right now.”

McCray on what has been accomplished so far: “Just getting the reads down, working on our technique and fundamentals, staying low, playing with pad level, DBs getting their coverages down, things like that, communication.”

McCray on also playing some linebacker: “It’s going pretty good right now. It’s a mental lapse sometimes, but I have to do it to help the team win.”

Powell on how he approached fall practice: “I definitely wanted to really understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. Really start working with my hands. I did a lot of footwork stuff, because I knew I was going to be asked to do a lot of coverage on the tight end and stuff like that.”

Powell on if he didn’t understand everything last year: “Coming in as a freshman, the game is so fast that really you’re just trying to get the play down. Now not only understanding the play but…Why do I have to use the blood technique on this? Why do I have to be back-and-forth? Stuff like that.”

Powell on how he has matured in the offseason: “To be honest, I was the type of guy that stayed to myself. If a guy wanted to talk to me, I wouldn’t talk to him. Now I have to step in and be a leader. I got to still be me – be friendly, ‘How’s your day going?’ Get to know guys and what they’re going through.”

Redshirt senior G James Wilson on how long he’s been healthy since joining the team: “I made it through my sophomore year halfway through…so I’ve probably made it through a full season [combined].”

Wilson on how he feels now: “The last time I really had any problem was spring ball. Ever since then it’s been nothing but good news.”

* Quote courtesy of the Palm Beach Post.

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TWO BITS: Pouncey’s entourage, Hill’s issues

1 » Florida Gators center/guard Mike Pouncey already knew his answer when the higher-ups called to officially invite him to the 2011 NFL Draft. Now just days away, Pouncey is preparing to be a first-round selection and had to choose who would be joining him in the green room. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Shannon Owens, Pouncey will be accompanied by his agent, parents, brother (Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey), former teammate (New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez) and former position coach (Temple Owls head coach Steve Addazio).

2 » Plenty of NFL scouts speak to reporters under the condition of anonymity before the draft, and one did just that when discussing the mindset of Florida safety Will Hill with Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald recently. “The guy is ignorant and crazy,” the scout said when discussing Hill’s questionable off-the-field character. “I wouldn’t touch him.” Though he is still compared favorably to fellow Gators S Ahmad Black due strictly to his prototypical size and speed, the immense character concerns surrounding Hill could very well see him go undrafted or picked much later than Black in the draft.

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FOUR BITS: tennis wins SEC, Bush breaks record

1 » No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (21-1, 10-0 SEC) captured at least a share of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship for their efforts during the regular season on Sunday by defeating the No. 14 Tennessee Volunteers (16-5, 8-1 SEC) 4-0 at home. The SEC title is the program’s 25th in 32 years and is the University of Florida’s 199th all-time. Florida still has South Carolina to contend with on Saturday before entering the 2011 SEC Tournament beginning April 21.

2 » Senior first baseman Megan Bush of the No. 10/11 Gators softball team set the SEC’s career home run record over the weekend. First tying and then surpassing former Florida outfielder Francesca Enea, Bush smacked her 61st homer on Saturday and her record-breaking 62nd on Sunday. She has now hit 18 on the season and has been a source of consistent offense all season for the Gators.

3 » Competing in the 2011 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Florida redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior forward Alex Tyus both impressed NBA scouts with their respective performances. Macklin finished the event as the third leading scorer with 57 points and seventh-place rebounder with 24 boards in three games. Tyus posted 41 points over the weekend, was third in rebounding (27) with 16 offensive boards and blocked six shots.

4 » The Philadelphia Inquirer took an in-depth look at new Temple Owls head coach Steve Addazio over the weekend, publishing a feature story about his coaching methods, personality and life journey that landed him in Philadelphia, PA.

Extra BIT » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah’s father, former tennis player now musician Yannick Noah, was the subject of death threats and racist slurs from neo-Nazis in central France last week. Read more on the story in translated form from the French newspaper France Soir.

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Meyer says Gators used spread out of necessity

With quarterback Tim Tebow graduating and a number of talented play makers leaving for the NFL, it was a known fact that the Florida Gators had to reinvent themselves going into the 2010 season. So it certainly came as a surprise to both fans and analysts when head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio did not adjust the offense to fit then-redshirt junior QB John Brantley‘s skillset.

During an interview Wednesday on ESPN, Meyer did something he never chose to do while still wearing the orange and blue: provide an explanation as to why the offense was not better tailored for Brantley to succeed from the get-go.

“We wanted to do some more pro-style stuff, but our fullback was hurt for the year, our tailback got hurt for the year and we didn’t have a tight end,” he said. “That just mounted and then we got to the point where we had to win. The best way to win was to do some of the stuff – some of the spread stuff.”

Florida was aware the tight end situation was a rough one going into the season with then-redshirt freshman Jordan Reed‘s transition to the position being delayed by a knee injury suffered during fall practice. The Gators had also not truly utilized a fullback since Meyer took over the program and certainly had reserve running backs behind then-junior Jeff Demps who were more apt for a pro-style set.

“It’s going to be all positive,” Meyer said of Brantley’s situation. “We tried to adapt. We had issues at other positions. Tim Tebow had all the success, but you look around him and he had a first-rounder here, a first-rounder there. Johnny we had an exodus of juniors that left for the NFL Draft a year ago – I think we had nine guys drafted.”

Nevertheless, Meyer believes those things are in place now and that Brantley has a great chance to succeed in the new system.

“It’s going to be a very good transition,” he said. “You have a tight end now in the program – Jordan Reed’s going to go to tight end. You have a fullback in Trey Burton. Those kids weren’t even playing those positions a year ago. I think it’s going to be very smooth. Charlie Weis’s record is very impressive with development of quarterbacks. It’s going to be all positive for him.”

He is also pleased with how the Gators as a whole have adapted to the new coaching staff put in place days after his resignation.

“I can’t imagine a transition going better. Very rarely in college football – or any sport – when a coach leaves a program that there’s a smooth transition,” Meyer said. “The guys get along, the guys are helpful and there’s communication. It couldn’t be better. I love Florida. I’m very impressed with Will Muschamp and his coaching staff. I know there’s a bunch of good, young players there. They’re going to keep on marching in Gainesville and have a great year.”

Photo Credit: ESPN

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FOUR BITS: Honor roll, Claye, Loeffler, Mitchell

1 » Forty-six student-athletes attending the University of Florida were named to the 2010 Southeastern Conference Fall Academic Honor Roll on Wednesday in a release by commissioner Mike Slive. The football and soccer teams led the way with 19 players apiece receiving the honors; volleyball added the other eight. Notable players on the list include senior punter Chas Henry, senior defensive end Duke Lemmens, senior DE Justin Trattou, redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis, freshman quarterback Trey Burton, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. and redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins. Florida’s total of 46 was tied (Vanderbilt) for third-best in the SEC, following South Carolina (79) and Georgia (47).

2 » Florida Gators junior jumper Will Claye has joined sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps and junior jumper Christian Taylor on The Bowerman’s 2011 watch list. Awarded by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), The Bowerman honors the sport’s best overall athlete each year.

3 » Left without a job when new Gators head coach Will Muschamp decided not to retain him as quarterbacks coach, Scot Loeffler has found a new position as offensive coordinator and QB coach of the Temple Owls under former Florida offensive coordinator now Temple head coach Steve Addazio. Loeffler is the sixth assistant coach with a Gators connection to be hired by Addazio for his first staff. He joins Owls defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, wide receivers/special teams coach Zach Smith, offensive line coach Justin Frye, defensive line coach Sean Cronin and strength and conditioning coach Frank Piraino. OwlScoop.com first reported the signing via Twitter.

4 » While Florida waits for redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario to complete his transfer season, Rosario’s former team, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, is benefiting from a UF transfer. Former Gators forward Jonathan Mitchell, now a senior, had a game-winning four-point play for the Scarlet Knights in their 77-76 upset victory over No. 10/9 Villanova on Wednesday. Check out the video by clicking here.

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