SIX BITS: ESPN, Lattimore, Steelers, Henry, Noah

1 » Earlier this week, ESPN‘s Kirk Herbstreit broke down Saturday’s game between the No. 2 Florida Gators and No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks on the network.

2 » After releasing a star-filled injury report earlier in the week, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said Thursday that it looks like almost all of his big-name players will be in action on Saturday against Florida. The one exception, of course, is defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who has an injured shoulder but will also be suspended for punching a player during last week’s game against LSU. Running back Marcus Lattimore (hip) is still not slated to start but is expected to play after going through a full practice on Thursday. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (foot) is also good to go, as are a number of players who were hit with a flu bug over the course of the week, Spurrier said.

Check out four more BITS in this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: ESPN, Lattimore, Steelers, Henry, Noah

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10/17: Muschamp, Spurrier on SEC teleconference

No. 2 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier made appearances Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference and touched on a number of topics surrounding their respective teams and the game on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

INJURY UPDATES

The Gators wound up playing without three starting offensive lineman on Saturday, but the good news is that all three look to be in the mix to take on the Gamecocks. Muschamp said that redshirt senior left guard James Wilson (eye) practiced on Tuesday and that both redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison (elbow) and senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (concussion) were returning to the field Wednesday.

He also noted that junior defensive end Dominique Easley (knee) and redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (hamstring) returned to action on Tuesday though freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman (ankle) remains questionable.

Spurrier said that a number of South Carolina’s players have been bit by a flu bug over the last 2-3 days and that some of his defensive linemen have been dealing with ankle sprains. One player in particular, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, has a bad shoulder injury and is doubtful. He may not play even if healthy as Spurrier noted that the player will probably face team discipline for throwing a punch in last week’s game against LSU.

In his post-practice press conference on Wednesday, Spurrier added that star running back Marcus Lattimore did not practice with a bruised hip. “I don’t know how to list him. We’re not sure he is going to be able to play,” he said. Spurrier mentioned that Lattimore will not start the game (that job will go to Kenny Miles) but could be used as a reserve depending how he is feeling.

He then went on to list big-time defensive end Jadeveon Clowney as limited with a foot injury, another major surprise. Spurrier maintained that both of his defensive tackles have sprained ankles, which makes them questionable, and then rattled off the names of a handful of players who have missed significant practice time with the flu.

MUSCHAMP PRAISES SPURRIER

Muschamp was asked about Spurrier’s impact on the Southeastern Conference and college football in general. He delivered some hefty praise to the first coach ever to win a national title at Florida.

“Honestly, if you really – being an SEC guy and growing up in this part of the country and being a huge fan of Southeastern Conference – there’s really two coaches that come to the forefront of your mind as far as what they’ve done for this league. That would be Bear Bryant and Steve Spurrier. For winning, bringing championships to the University of Florida and understanding what that’s about. Those would be the two guys that jump out in my mind. That’s just personally my opinion. You look at what he did. When he came to our league, it was more of three yards and a cloud of dust league. He came in and spread the ball out a little bit. He was credited with throwing a bunch but heck, they were 50-50. They ran the ball extremely well when he was here. It became a little bit more of a throwing league and things changed defensively. It helped advance this league from an offensive mindset, in my opinion. Again, that’s my opinion. Those would be the two guys that would jump out to me as coaches in this league that for a long period of time had tremendous success.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Spurrier on if him coaching against Florida is still a story: “I don’t think it’s much of a story now that it’s eight years that we’ve gone and played each other, the fourth time I’ve been down there coaching. I guess it is a little unusual to be on the other team when you come into the ballpark and your name is on the wall up there. I think everybody handles it pretty well.”

» Muschamp on the atmosphere in The Swamp: “Our fans are outstanding, the best in the country. I’ve been in a lot of arenas and none like this one as far as I’ve been in pro and college. It’s an electric atmosphere. You can feel it on campus already.”

» Muschamp on not throwing the ball vertically: “We’ve identified who we are and Brent [Pease] has done a fantastic job. You know, Brent is not a stat guy. Most of these offensive guys are all stat guys, that’s all they care about. He cares about winning football games and doing what we need to do to win the game. That’s a credit to him.”

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Steve Spurrier comments on Florida Gators

In his weekly press conference, South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier was asked a number of questions about his former team, the Florida Gators. A starting quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner and national championship-winning coach for the Gators, Spurrier still has love for Florida that he has never hidden since rejoining the college ranks. Below is what Spurrier said on Tuesday.

» On how special it will be to go back and play at Florida again: “Florida is always going to be my school. I love Florida and my wife and my daughters and even Steve Jr. got a graduate degree from there. Did you know that? [...] So, we’re Gators, but we’re Gamecocks now. We’re Gamecocks now. And when my coaching days are over, I’ll be more of a Gator then. But I’m a Gamecock now, and this is our team. I certainly hope the Gators finish second in the [SEC] East this year. That would be a good finish for them and hopefully we finish first, certainly. But they’re having a very good year. I like Will Muschamp and obviously Jeremy Foley and the guys down there. We’re still good friends. It’s, I think, healthy competition.”

» On the Gators winning without throwing the ball much: “There’s all kind of ways to win the game and the best one is to play outstanding defense, special teams and run the ball. There’s been a lot of champions that ran the ball.”

» On his love for all of the teams he coached, when he was specifically asked to qualify his statement of being “more of a Gator” when he retires: “Well, that’s because I went to school there. [...] When I get through coaching, I’m going to be Duke, Florida and South Carolina. I’ll have feelings for all three schools and I still have feelings for Duke, a lot of feelings. I wouldn’t be coaching today if it wasn’t for Duke University. They hired me twice when I didn’t have a job and I certainly wasn’t in demand, I guess, for a job. So I owe basically my entire coaching career to Duke University and the people up there. So I always pull for those guys. But I hope when my coaching days are over to keep a condo here that I have at Carolina Walk over here. So I hope to do that in four or five years, something like that. Keep some connections up here. Certainly hope to.

» On if he has seen his statue outside of The Swamp: “Yeah, it’s been there a couple of years. [...] I drove by it once, I think. Once or twice. I’ve been down there about one day a year. [...] I thought the guy did a super job who did the statues.”

» On why Florida has been successful this season: “They’ve won all their close games. [...] Florida has had a knack of winning close games, which you got to do to be [6-0] going into their [seventh] game. They’ve won some good close ones and won in the fourth quarter. [...] They’ve played extremely well at the end. That’s how you go [6-0].”

» On his evaluation of the Gators: They’re a physical team, play solid, fundamentally sound all the way around. Their offensive coordinator is different, so they’re not getting in the shotgun and trying to throw it all over the place. The quarterback can run, obviously. He ran for 177 last week and set a school record. They’re definitely a running team, pretty much like we are, but we didn’t do it very well last game. They’re playing real smart, and that’s how you win a lot of games, playing real smart.”

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10/15: OL, Joyer praised; Driskel not concerned

Three Florida Gators players – sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, redshirt senior defensive lineman Omar Hunter and senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic – met with the media on Monday to discuss No. 2 Florida’s victory against the Vanderbilt Commodores and the upcoming game against the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks.

A PATCHWORK OFFENSIVE LINE?

Florida was without the entire left side of its offensive line on Saturday as redshirt senior left guard James Wilson (eye) did not make the trip to Nashville, TN, senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (concussion) got knocked out of the game and even redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison (elbow) went down with an injury. Filling in for the trio, respectively, were redshirt sophomore Ian Silberman, freshman D.J. Humphries and redshirt senior Sam Robey. Those three still managed to open up holes and hold blocks to the tune of 326 rushing yards for the Gators.

“We had three guys go down. Whenever you have three starters go down, that’s huge, especially if they’re O-linemen. We had three guys that stepped up and that’s what we’ve been doing all year long. When a guy goes down, the next guy is going to have to go up. We have great depth and that really helped it out on Saturday,” Driskel said.

Though head coach Will Muschamp said Monday that all three should be healthy enough to play Saturday against South Carolina, there is a prevailing doubt that one or more will be unable to suit up by game time with Wilson being the most likely to fall into that category. Hunter, who has practiced against the reserves for months, believes Florida will not lose a step with reserves in the game.

“I don’t think there’s a drop-off. Those guys come out each and every day in practice and they go just as hard as our starters,” he said. “Robey is a very experienced guy, being a senior. Ian, he’s been around a long time too, and he works hard during practice. [Humphries is] young and aggressive. He doesn’t let too many things get to him. He never gets too high or too low or anything. It’s going to be a great match-up.”

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Florida Gators doing best to ignore BCS hype

Gator Nation was energized on Sunday night when it was officially announced on ESPN that the Florida Gators, one year removed from a 6-6 regular season that appeared to leave little hope for the program in the near future, were ranked No. 2 in the first BCS standings released for the 2012 season.

Florida, which was ranked No. 1 by the computers and edged Oregon for the No. 2 overall spot, was immediately the hot topic of conversation by broadcasters.

Did the Gators deserve to be the No. 2-ranked team?

Most believe the answer to that question is yes considering Florida has racked up a 5-0 record in the Southeastern Confernece with three come-from-behind second-half victories (two on the road), two wins over ranked opponents (one that was a top-five team) and another over a team that is currently ranked in the top 25.

Can Florida maintain its high ranking?

That is where the debate raged and will continue until the end of the regular season.

If you ask the Gators about being just one spot behind defending national champion Alabama in the latest BCS, you will not hear much debate or celebration for that matter.

“I guess it’s something that came out [Sunday],” senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic said dismissively on Monday. “It’s only halfway through the season. We still got a long way to go. We still have some more SEC opponents on our schedule ahead of us. Everything is not said and done yet.”

“It’s whatever,” redshirt senior defensive lineman Omar Hunter added. “That’s not going to get you to Atlanta or to the national championship. [We] still got a lot more games to play and it’s whatever right now.”

In fact, sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel was the only player who even mentioned Florida being deserving of some praise even if it is an empty honor at this point.

“We don’t get too caught up in the rankings, but we’re undefeated and we had a tough schedule,” he said. “The rankings don’t matter until the end of the season, but we’re 6-0 and that’s what we look at. We can’t be any better than we are now.”

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TWO BITS: soccer shocked, Spurrier featured

1 » No. 21 Florida Gators soccer (0-1) was thrashed in their season opener on Friday, dropping the match 4-1 to the visiting Miami Hurricanes (1-0) at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Miami was fast and furious in the first half, taking an early 3-0 advantage thanks to goals at 12’ (header off a corner kick), 17’ (inside the box) and 31’ (rebound off a saved corner kick). Senior midfielder Erika Tymrak got a goal back for Florida at 57’, but UM regained its three-goal lead by knocking in a rebound at 67’ to ice the match for the Hurricanes. The Gators now must play three-straight road games over the next two weeks against top 10 opponents including No. 8 North Carolina and No. 2 Duke in Chapel Hill, NC as well as No. 4 Florida State in Tallahassee, FL.

2 » In an ESPN The Magazine feature former Florida quarterback/head coach Steve Spurrier discusses his entire career including what initially drew him to UF as a high school football player. Check out the rest of the feature including Spurrier’s thoughts on coaching the Gators and how he draws parallels with South Carolina.

“The last visit I made was to Gainesville, where Ray Graves had started in 1960. He was an East Tennessee guy like me. He played at Tennessee for General Neyland, but he wasn’t satisfied just to let places like Alabama and Tennessee do their thing while everyone else laid down because they were supposed to. He was attracted to the Florida Gators program because it had never done much, and he wanted to shake things up. He also wanted to throw the ball and see what happened. It’s not that he didn’t want to run it all the time and play defense like everyone else. He just knew Florida couldn’t. He wanted to do something different. I liked the sound of that.” [...]

“Most of the SEC had beaten up on Florida over the years, so maybe they took us lightly. But we’d come in there throwing it around the field, and you could see them thinking, What is this? Everyone had been running the single wing for 100 years, so we looked radical. Whenever another team beats you with something new, it’s natural to take that back to the office and say, Do you think we might could do some of that? I’m not saying the SEC suddenly became a place where people started passing all the time. But it got them thinking.”

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Florida Gators, WR coach Aubrey Hill part ways

Florida Gators wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill has resigned from his position with the team, the school announced on Friday.

Hill, who has been twice named by Yahoo! Sports in connection with major recruiting violations in his former position with the Miami Hurricanes (Aug. 16, 2011 | July 20, 2012), resigned for “personal reasons” according to head coach Will Muschamp.

“I have too much love and respect for this program to become a distraction as I deal with some personal issues,” Hill said in statement released by the school. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with Coach Muschamp, a tremendous staff and great group of players. The future is very bright here and the University of Florida will always have a special place in my heart. Go Gators.”

Muschamp said in a release that he appreciated Hill’s decision to move on.

“Aubrey informed me he was resigning for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the University of Florida,” he said. “Aubrey didn’t want to be a distraction to our team and our football program and he thought it was best for him to move on. I appreciate Aubrey’s efforts and wish him the best moving forward. He will always remain a Gator.”

A Miami, FL native, Hill is a Gators alum who played for head coach Steve Spurrier from 1991-94 when Florida won their first three SEC titles. He served as a graduate assistant under Spurrier from 1996-98 and coached wide receivers at four stops over 12 years before being hired by Florida. He also served as the Hurricanes recruiting coordinator only for the 2010 season, his last year with the team.

Filling in for Hill at least temporarily will be offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who also coaches the Gators’ quarterbacks, and offensive graduate assistant Bush Hamdan. Pease previously coached wide receivers at Boise State from 2006-10, and Hamdan was a backup quarterback in his offensive system.

Muschamp will likely hire a new coach after the season.

Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is an early candidate to take over Hill’s recruiting coordinator duties; Florida already has 21 players verbally committed for the 2013 cycle as of press time and has an early jump on its 2014 class.

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FOUR BITS: Florida Field, Bullard, Pease, Donovan

1 » With renovations to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium almost consistently occurring since 2003, it was only a matter of time before the University of Florida also decided to make some changes inside the bowl. In June the Florida Gators completely removed the playing surface and installed a new field of Celebration Bermuda grass, a renovation that takes place once every 7-10 years, according to Florida’s senior associate athletics director of internal affairs Chip Howard. OGGOA learned late Tuesday evening that what is being painted on that new grass will also be changing. According to information obtained by this website, the Gators will be removing the block “F” from midfield and replacing it with a Gator Head, the school’s primary athletic logo. Additionally, Florida will replace the Gator Head logos that were previously found on the 35-yard lines with the slanted “F” that is steadily being used more and more including in the end zones.

UF has also begun the process of changing the font adorning The Swamp‘s famous orange walls (see the picture above from July 27). It is believed that all four will retain their respective sayings – “This is…The Swamp,” “This is…Gator Country,” “Home of the Florida Gators” – in the new lettering. Making adjustments to the walls and field are not new for the Gators. The block “F” at midfield at one time replaced the intertwined “UF” that is still used occasionally by the baseball team. The walls were previously painted blue with orange letters in a different font prior to being repainted orange with the lettering that many have grown used to over the last few decades. One of the walls also used to read “This is…Florida Field” before former head coach Steve Spurrier coined the term “The Swamp” in the 1990s and the school decided to make a change.

Read three more BITS of Gators news…after the break!
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