George Edwards named UF defensive coordinator

It is being widely reported that the Florida Gators have hired Miami Dolphins linebackers coach George Edwards as their newest defensive coordinator. It is currently unknown if he will share duties with assistant defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chuck Heater or if he will take on all of the responsibilities himself.

Edwards, an 18-year coaching veteran, started his career with the Gators as an assistant under Steve Spurrier in 1991. He would then fill a similar role with Appalachian State (1992-95) and Duke (1996) before being hired by Georgia as a defensive line coach in 1997. Edwards moved to the NFL to coach the defensive line for the Dallas Cowboys (1998-2001) but was snatched up by the Washington Redskins and then-head coach Spurrier as an assistant defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2002.

The Redskins promoted him to defensive coordinator in 2003, but he only lasted until the end of Spurrier’s tenure. Hired by the Cleveland Browns to coach linebackers in 2004, Edwards was stolen away in 2005 by then-Dolphins head coach Nick Saban in a lateral move. He has been retained by Miami through two head coaching changes to Cam Cameron and Tony Sparano, who moved him to inside linebackers coach in 2008.

The Miami Herald reports that Edwards “has been on coach Urban Meyer’s list of coaching candidates in the past so it makes sense for him to be on the Gators radar.” In 2003, then-Gators head coach Ron Zook offered Edwards the defensive coordinator position that would eventually go to Charlie Strong.

Prominent names Edwards has coached throughout his career include Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud (Georgia); Dexter Coakley (Dallas); LaVar Arrington, Jesse Armstead and Jeremiah Trotter (Washington); and Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas and Joey Porter (Miami). Former Florida now Dolphins LB Channing Crowder has referred to Edwards as “the best assistant coach in the NFL, period.”

Florida Gators (Projected) 2010 Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Urban Meyer

Interim Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Offensive Line: Steve Addazio
Quarterbacks: Scot Loeffler
Wide Receivers: Billy Gonzales (LSU) Zach Azzanni
Running Backs: Kenny Carter (Louisville) Stan Drayton
Tight Ends: Brian White

Defensive Coordinator: Charlie Strong (Louisville) George Edwards Chuck Heater?
Assistant Defensive Coordinator, Safeties: Chuck Heater
Associate Head Coach, Defense/Defensive Line: Dan McCarney
Linebackers: Charlie Strong (Louisville) D.J. Durkin
Cornerbacks: Vance Bedford (Louisville) TBD

Special Teams: Urban Meyer D.J. Durkin
Recruiting Coordinator: Billy Gonzales (LSU) TBD
Director of Player and Community Relations: Terry Jackson

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More Gators honored on SI All-Decade lists

Sports Illustrated completed its All-Decade lists Tuesday covering everything from the top male athletes of the 2000s to the decade’s biggest flops. Florida Gators teams, players and alumni earned their way toward eight more notable distinctions.

Because the honors are many, you must view them all after the jump!
Continue Reading » More Gators honored on SI All-Decade lists

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Charlie Strong hired as Louisville head coach

Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has been announced as the 21st head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. Strong was named the front-runner to replace former head coach Steve Kragthrope by Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich after the regular season concluded, though Jurich waited to speak to Strong and Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley until after the Gators competed in the 2009 SEC Championship. The two first met Sunday evening in Gainesville, FL, and spoke about the job throughout the week as Jurich waited for the University of Louisville‘s Athletic Association Board of Directors to approve the hiring of Strong. That endorsement came Wednesday afternoon, and a school press conference scheduled for 4 p.m. confirmed Strong’s future with the Cardinals.

“I’ve done a lot of homework with this hire, and I was amazed how well-respected and revered Charlie Strong is throughout the country ,” Jurich said at the press conference. “He commands a lot of respect from people within the game, including ex-players and coaches around college football. However, after meeting him in person, I was even more impressed. Tony Dungy had a huge impact on me with this hire. He was passionate about Charlie as a coach and as person. I respect the opinions of Urban Meyer, who was part of our staff at Colorado State, and Jeremy Foley, who is one of the most respected athletic directors in the country. They both raved about Charlie as a football coach and his great character.”

During his first address to the Louisville faithful, Strong first paused and then cried when asked by a reporter if he thought he would ever get the chance to be a head coach. “Because you just never knew if it would happen,” he said. Strong also described the meeting when Jurich offered him the job as “very emotional” for his family. “Coaching is taking young men and making an impact and influence on their lives to make them better people,” Strong said. “I want them to know that their sole purpose here is to get a degree and to go win football games.”

Strong got his start as a graduate assistant at Florida from 1983-84 and has spent the majority of his 27-year coaching career with the Gators. He returned to the team in 1988 as outside linebackers coach for two seasons before leaving and coming back in 1991 under head coach Steve Spurrier as assistant head coach/defensive tackles coach. In 1999, he became the first African-American coordinator in Southeastern Conference history when he was hired by Lou Holtz of the South Carolina Gamecocks to coach the defense. His most recent stint with Florida began in 2002 as defensive coordinator under then-head coach Ron Zook. Strong survived the transition of the team to current head coach Urban Meyer, who eventually gave him complete control of the defense and the additional title of assistant head coach. He also served as the Gators’ interim coach (effectively the second African-American head coach in SEC history) in Florida’s 2004 Peach Bowl loss to the Miami Hurricanes.

Throughout his career, Strong has been known as a terrific recruiter who is able to connect on a personal level with his players. He has coached in 19 bowl games, including 12 in January, due in part to his installation of an aggressive, attacking scheme that puts pressure on the quarterback and forces turnovers. Strong has developed six first-round NFL Draft picks and 15 players who were drafted in the third round or higher (prior to the 2010 draft). Since 2003, Florida’s defense under Strong has intercepted 132 passes, good for No. 3 in the nation and best in the SEC. No SEC defense has forced more turnovers (139) or interceptions (95) than the Gators since 2005, and only one other school in the nation (Boston College) has picked off more passes. Florida’s defense has also paced the SEC in total rushing yards allowed and rushing yards per game allowed since 2005 while remaining at the top of the league in red zone scoring defense over the last two seasons (second in the nation – East Carolina).

Because of the recent success of the Gators under Meyer, the coach has lost a number of his assistants to promotions. Doc Holliday was with Florida from 2005-2007 as associate head coach/safeties coach/recruiting coordinator before leaving to become the West Virginia Mountaineers associate head coach while also coaching tight ends, fullbacks and running the team’s recruiting. Co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Greg Mattison left after the 2007 season to coach linebackers for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens (he is now the team’s defensive coordinator). And most recently, former offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen was hired as the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs before the 2009 BCS National Championship. Mullen took tight ends/assistant offensive line coach John Hevesy with him as his assistant coach/offensive line coach/running game coordinator.

Strong was bombarded by phone calls from assistants around the country looking to earn a spot on his Louisville staff before he was even officially interviewed for the position. Rumors are swirling that he may tap either Florida wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Billy Gonzales or running backs coach Kenny Carter to become his offensive coordinator. (Gonzales has since denied these rumors, though it is believed that Meyer has already spoken with Notre Dame Fighting Irish running backs coach Tony Alford about replacing Carter should Strong bring him along.) Some are also speculating that Strong could ask assistant head coach/defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney or assistant defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater to join him as his defensive coordinator. Either McCartney or Heater is expected to be named the Gators’ defensive coordinator in succession of Strong.

The Cardinals told Strong that he could stay with the Gators to coach in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, and according to a statement he gave the St. Petersburg Times, he will do so.

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Poll Reviews: FIU/FSU MVP, most important

Over the past two weeks, OGGOA asked you to participate in three polls. The first two determined your Most Valuable Players for the Florid International Golden Panthers and Florida State Seminoles games, while the third determined which administrator was most important to University of Florida athletics. An OGGOA-record total of 875 combined votes (292 average) were cast, and the results are in:

Who was your Florida Gators MVP vs. FIU?
QB Tim Tebow (50%, 92 votes)
QB John Brantley (25%, 47 votes)
RB Chris Rainey (13%, 25 votes)
LB Brandon Spikes (12%, 22 votes)

Who was your Florida Gators MVP vs. FSU?
QB Tim Tebow (77%, 203 votes)
TE Aaron Hernandez (21%, 55 votes)
LB Brandon Hicks (1%, 4 votes)
RB Jeff Demps (1%, 3 votes)

Tebow’s third and fourth OGGOA MVP honors came in back-to-back weeks for the first time all season. His previous victories were against Georgia and Arkansas. Both victories are well-deserved, especially the Florida State one seeing as Tebow put up five touchdowns and had his best performance of the season.

Who has done more for the Florida Gators?
AD Jeremy Foley (39%, 166 votes)
HC Steve Spurrier (32%, 135 votes)
HC Urban Meyer (27%, 114 votes)
HC Billy Donovan (2%, 9 votes)

Reviewing the results of this poll, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the respect and appreciation for what Foley has done for UF’s athletic program is wide-spread. Often times, fans look at the coaches and players and do not know who is really taking care of things behind the scenes. Though I do not need to convince you to vote for Foley, this is just a taste of what he has done since becoming the athletic director in 1992. He hired Meyer, Donovan, Becky Burleigh (soccer), Tim Walton (softball) while retaining Buddy Alexander (men’s golf) and Mary Wise (volleyball) and helping the Gators finish as the top-ranked overall program in the Southeastern Conference in 15 of his 16 years.

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Streaks and records following Florida at USC

- The No. 1 Florida Gators extended their nation’s-best and school-record win streak by recording its 20th consecutive victory on Saturday. The Gators’ winning streak is now sixth in Southeastern Conference history, tying the Auburn Tigers (1993-94).

- Defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks by 10 points, Florida’s has now won 19 of their 20 straight games by double digits.

- Head coach Urban Meyer moved into first place on the list of all-time winningest SEC coaches in conference games (minimum five years), going 32-8 with a .800 percentage.

- Senior quarterback Tim Tebow matched Kevin Faulk’s SEC record of 53 touchdowns with a one-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. Tebow has set three all-time SEC records this year (rushing touchdowns, rushing yards by a QB).

- UF is now 23-4-3 all-time against South Carolina and 10-4-1 on the road in Columbia, SC. They have won 18 of their last 19 games against the Gamecocks and gone 4-1 against former head coach Steve Spurrier.

- The Gators have now won 12-straight SEC Eastern Division games.

- Florida’s defense forced three turnovers – two interceptions and a fumble – giving it 11 in the past four games. It also collected a season-high six sacks including four in the fourth quarter, two from senior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham.

- Senior kick return Brandon James became the SEC’s all-time leader in kickoff return yardage, amassing 2,538 yards on 105 returns (Derek Pegues, Mississippi State).

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Gators win, first perfect SEC season since 1996

The No. 1 Florida Gators (10-0, 8-0 SEC) completed their first perfect Southeastern Conference season since 1996 with a 24-14 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-5, 3-5 SEC) in Columbia, SC, at Williams-Brice Stadium. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow accomplished a feat of his own on Saturday, tying the SEC touchdown record with a rushing score in the fourth quarter.

The Gators went up 7-0 early in the first quarter after Tebow threw a slant to wide receiver Riley Cooper who took it for 68 yards into the end zone. It would not take long for the Gamecocks to answer, as running back Brian Maddox capped a 14-play, 84-yard drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game. Florida kept up the pressure, adding a 32-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis and a 17-yard rushing score from redshirt junior Emmanuel Moody to take a 10-point lead with 10:28 left in the second quarter.

From there, things started to unravel for the Gators. After recovering a fumble, UF was hardly able to move the ball, and Sturgis missed a 52-yard field goal attempt. The Gamecocks capitalized with another lengthy drive that resulted in a nine-yard passing touchdown from QB Stephen Garcia to tight end Weslye Saunders. Florida would then, on consecutive drives, punt twice, miss a 54-yard field goal and turn the ball over on downs after Tebow was stopped on a dive play around midfield.

With South Carolina threatening to score and in the middle of an 11-play, 49-yard drive that began at 6:29 in the third quarter, junior defensive tackle Justin Trattou intercepted a tipped pass thrown by Garcia and returned it 53 yards to the Gamecocks’ 26 yard line. The Gators would turn that miscue into Tebow’s record-tying score, going back up by 10 with a quarter to play. Struggling to get to Garcia all day, Florida’s defense – led by senior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham – would record four of its six sacks in the fourth quarter. Junior cornerback Joe Haden (who also had two forced fumbles and 11 tackles on the day) intercepted Garcia and returned the ball 20 yards with 3:19 left to ice the game.

After the game, Gators head coach Urban Meyer called Trattou’s interception one of the greatest plays in Florida football history. Trattou, who is playing with a torn left biceps, was humble in accepting praise for his heads-up play. “Every week, someone has to step up,” Trattou said. “It’s usually someone different each week. Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier was candid when discussing Trattou’s game-changing play. “That turnover took a lot of steam [out of us],” Spurrier said. “Give Florida credit. They played pretty well. I don’t know if by their standards they thought they played super.”

Florida finishes its 2009 regular season schedule with two consecutive nonconference games against the Florida International University Golden Panthers and Florida State Seminoles. The Gators will then head to Atlanta, GA, to face the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game.

Game Notes:
- South Carolina wore camouflage uniforms created by Under Armor to honor veterans hurt defending the United States as part of the Wounded Warrior Project. After his touchdown pass, Garcia saluted the crowd in keeping with the theme of the day.
- In addition to missing two field goals beyond 50 yards, Sturgis placed a kickoff out of bounds and pulled a 28-yard field goal wide left in the fourth quarter, finishing only one-for-four on the day.
- The Gamecocks attempted a fake punt in the first quarter that would have been successful save for an illegal shift penalty.
- Cooper had two additional scoring opportunities in the game, missing one catch that was slightly overthrown in the end zone and plainly dropping another in a similar spot.

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Week 11: No. 1 Florida Gators at South Carolina

Location: Williams-Brice Stadium – Columbia, SC [Capacity: 80,250]
Time: 3:30 p.m. (EST)
Weather Forecast: 75°F – Partly Sunny

Sirius: 218; XM: 200

Florida Gators South Carolina Gamecocks
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Steve Spurrier
Record: 9-0 (7-0) Record: 6-4 (3-4)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -17.5, O/U 43.5
Head-to-Head Stats: Gainesville Sun

- Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow…who has rushed for nine touchdowns this season, bringing him to 52 for his career, breaking the all-time SEC record held by Herschel Walker (Georgia, 1980-82). Tebow broke Walker’s record two weeks ago with a 23-yard score against Georgia. He has also set the SEC career record for rushing yards by a quarterback, passing Matt Jones (Arkansas, 2001-04).
- South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier…who is taking over play calling duties for the first time all season.
- Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes…who returns to action this week following a one-game suspension for attempting to gouge the eyes of Georgia Bulldogs running back Washaun Ealey two weeks ago. Spikes has missed three of the last four games, two of them due to injury.
- Special camouflage jerseys…which will be worn by the Gamecocks as part of the Wounded Warrior Project to honor military veterans.
- Florida’s 2009 senior class…who go into Saturday’s game with a 44-6 SEC record and have a chance to becoming the winningest class in conference history. The SEC record of 45 wins is shared by the 1996 Gators, 1994 Alabama Crimson Tide, 1998 Tennessee Volunteers and 2005 Georgia Bulldogs.

- The Gators are in the middle of the longest winning streak in school history with 19 consecutive victories. They also hold the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and the best in the SEC in the past 15 years since the Auburn Tigers won 20 straight from 1993-94. 18 of Florida’s 19 wins have been by a double digit margin.
- Florida has won 11 straight games against Eastern Division opponents and three straight against South Carolina.
- The Gators have won 17 of its last 18 games against the Gamecocks, with its last loss coming in Columbia four years ago. Spurrier is 1-3 against his former team while Florida is 22-4-3 all-time against South Carolina.
- The Gators lead the SEC in rushing offense (240.7) and third-down efficiency (.451). They also come in No. 2 in total offense (438.7) and scoring offense (35.0).
- On defense, the Gators have only surrendered eight touchdowns all season (fewest of any team in the nation) and average 10.1 points per game (No. 1 in the nation). The defense has also only allowed 12 field goals for a total of 91 points and has recorded eight interceptions over the past three weeks (best in the nation).
- South Carolina is on a seven-game home winning streak, though they have never defeated the No. 1 team in the nation.

Read OGGOA’s complete Florida vs. South Carolina preview after the jump…

Continue Reading » Week 11: No. 1 Florida Gators at South Carolina

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SIX BITS: Donovan on Boynton. Spurrier > Meyer? Johnson to play? Henry honored. More commits.

1 » Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan is doing his best to keep the pressure off five-star freshman guard Kenny Boynton. “He’s one guy on the team and I hope that our other players want to step up and provide more for him,” Donovan said. “But we are not going into this putting a lot of emphasis on him to make us productive. He’s going to be a good player here, but I think that the expectation that he’s going to be this total impact player is unfair to him.” Boynton has already been impressive in Florida’s two exhibition games and will certainly play a large role when the Gators open the 2009-10 season on Sunday.

2 » OGGOA makes it a point to not direct you to many of Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi’s columns. Why? Well, our mothers always told us that if you do not have something nice to say, don’t say anything. That being said, when he decides to write a column proclaiming loudly that South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier is “still a greater Gator” than head coach Urban Meyer, we feel like it is something you should check out and decide for yourself.

3 » On Wednesday, Spurrier told the media that injured defensive end Cliff Matthews, who had previously been ruled out with a shoulder injury, could return to face Florida on Saturday. Matthews ran around at practice on Monday and has been cleared by doctors, yet coaches are still calling him a game-time decision. “Even if he does play, [defensive coordinator Ellis] Johnson said there will be small, specialized packages for him. In other words, don’t expect a fully healthy, ready-to-go Matthews,” The Post and Courier reported Friday.

Three more BITS on Henry and a bunch of new UF commitments after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Donovan on Boynton. Spurrier > Meyer? Johnson to play? Henry honored. More commits.

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