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!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Florida Field, Bullard, Pease, Donovan

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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!
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Alvarez added to College Football Hall of Fame

Former Florida Gators wide receiver Carlos Alvarez was officially inducted into the prestigious College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2012 class in a ceremony held Saturday in South Bend, IN.

One of 79 All-American players and nine coaches made eligible for selection by the voting committee last year, Alvarez was voted in May 2011 to be one of 16 inductees (14 players, two coaches) enshrined in July 2012.

He played on the Gators for three seasons (1969-71) and still holds three school records for career receiving yards (2,563), receptions in a single season (88) and receptions in a game (15). Alvarez also set the then-University of Florida and Southeastern Conference career receptions mark with 172 catches in 1971.

“I’m hardly ever speechless, but I am,” he said in May when he learned of the honor. “When you look at college football and the number of people who have played…I feel honored just to be mentioned.”

Alvarez is the third Florida player elected to the Hall of Fame since 2006.

He is also the ninth overall representative of the Gators to be enshrined in the hall, joining coaches Charlie Bachman (1978), Doug Dickey (2003) and Ray Graves (1990), and players linebacker Wilber Marshall (2008), running back Emmitt Smith (2006), quarterback Steve Spurrier (1986) and defensive ends Dale Van Sickel (1975) and Jack Youngblood (1992).

“Carlos is a great example of all that is good in college athletics. His tireless work and commitment to excellence translated into success both on and off the field,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a school release. “He has maintained his level of commitment and success in his professional career as well. I’ve had the opportunity to see Carlos a number of times when he visits Gainesville and he remains a tremendous ambassador for our program. The honor is well deserved.”

Photo Credit: University of Florida archives

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2012 SEC Media Days – Slive, Spurrier, highlights

The 2012 Southeastern Conference Media Days began on Tuesday in Birmingham, AL and will last for three days concluding on Thursday. Though the Florida Gators contingent will meet the media on Wednesday morning, below are some highlights from the first day of the event, which featured SEC commissioner Mike Slive and representatives of South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.

COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE

» On improved minority hiring in the league: “Today we have three minority head football coaches, eight minority head basketball coaches and five minority women’s basketball coaches, all bucking a national trend as outlined in a recent [Associated Press] article. I am very grateful that the hiring of minority coaches in the Southeastern Conference is no longer a story; it is simply part of who we are.”

» On providing student-athletes with a true “full ride” scholarship: “It remains important for us to continue to focus on increasing the amount of a full scholarship to provide student-athletes with financial resources to meet the full cost of attendance. And we also need to eliminate rules, for example, that are hurdles for former student-athletes to come back after their eligibility is exhausted. And if they’re committed to getting their degrees, we need to have financial aid rules that allow us to do that.”

» On avoiding a situation like what recently occurred at Penn State: “We must maintain an honest and open dialogue across all levels of university administration. There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who come in contact with it, especially those who cannot protect themselves. No one program, no one person – no matter how popular, no matter how successful – can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution.”

» On the current SEC Network and plans for a national network: “The SEC Network syndicated package that now reaches 80 million homes and includes such markets as New York, Chicago, Boston and LA, amongst others. On a Saturday afternoon, it’s ESPN’s third most widely distributed platform behind only ESPN and ESPN2. [...] There has been a whole lot of speculation about ‘Project X.’ Is it still a secret? I don’t think so. But we now call it ‘Project SEC.’ Our objective long term to work with our television partner to provide fans with greater access to favored teams, more opportunities to watch rivals and more insight into who we are: a conference of 14 great universities. I’d love to say more. I know you want me to say more. I won’t say more. I will, though, before I get too much older and before you get too much older.”

SOUTH CAROLINA HEAD COACH STEVE SPURRIER

» On how things have changed at USC: “A lot has changed at South Carolina in seven years. Yeah, I got a couple good friends that have been there for 30, 40 years and so forth. One of the guys said, ‘We used to come to the ballpark hoping for a good game. If we’re playing Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, we were just hoping for a good game, not get blown out. Now we sort of come to the ballpark thinking we’re going to beat those guys. We’re sort of mad if we don’t.’ I said, ‘That’s the way you’re supposed to feel, mad or a little upset if you don’t beat them.’”

Read the rest of this post (including more from Spurrier)…after the break!
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2012 SEC Spring Meetings notes – Day one

The Southeastern Conference is currently holding the 2012 SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, FL with head coaches, athletic directors and presidents representing each school in attendance to discuss a number of league and national issues over the course of the week from Tuesday-Friday. Below are some notes and quotes from day one:

» Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp said redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball, who himself said months ago that he was cleared to return to the team, has one more hurdle to overcome before being allowed to return to the field. “He’s got one more appointment with the doctor. I think he should be fine. He is in Gainesville,” Muschamp said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “You never know, something might pop up at the end. But he’s going back for one more deal to make sure he’s really cleared. Our medical people would not clear him if they thought there was an issue of any sort. I totally trust their opinion. Nor would he want to play if there was any chance for anything happening.” Ball, when mentioning that he was cleared previously, was likely talking about being able to join his team in the gym and do similar activities.

» As he noted at numerous Gator Gatherings in May, Muschamp again explained that sophomore tight end A.C. Leonard is doing everything asked of him since his arrest and is doing what it takes to make his way back onto the team. “He’s got some things he continues to do. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do up to this point,” Muschamp said. “He’s got to continue to make good choices and decisions with regard to our football team. If he continues to do that, we’ll handle it.” Muschamp added that Leonard was technically never suspended from the team itself but rather from “team activities” such as practice and the spring game. Leonard is almost certainly facing suspension in the fall with the number of games determined by how well he does at continuing to be a positive member of the team going forward.

» South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and LSU head coach Les Miles were both adamant Tuesday that SEC games played outside their division should not count toward a berth in the SEC Championship. The basis for their argument is that some teams have more difficult permanent rivalry games (think Florida-LSU) while other teams have it easier and that one game could be the difference between winning your division or not. Muschamp disagrees with both Spurrier and Miles, saying he believes every game should count equally.

» Despite stories from back in March stating that LSU was trying to get out of its annual game against UF, CBSSports.com reported Tuesday that the SEC plans to announce a 12-year conference schedule on Friday based on a previously reported 6-1-1 format (six divisional opponents, one permanent cross-division rival, one game on rotation). Rather than that rotational game being a home-and-home lasting two years (it would take 11 years to play every team at least once), it will change every year so the league is on a six-year rotation. The report also notes that LSU and Florida, as expected, will remain permanent cross-division rivals. The rest of the permanent cross-division games will be: Alabama-Tennessee, Arkansas-Missouri, Auburn-Georgia, Mississippi-Vanderbilt, Mississippi State-Kentucky, Texas A&M-South Carolina.

» Basketball will play an 18-game conference schedule in 2012-13. With divisions eliminated prior to last season, the SEC has decided to rely on the latest football designations to help sort out the schedule. The Gators will have Kentucky as their permanent rival that they play twice each season. Florida will then play the other 12 teams once for a total of 14 games. The remaining four games will come from a three-year rotation among the 12 teams (likely two from each “division”).

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Gator Bites for Wednesday, May 23

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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Former Florida Gators forward Chandler Parsons of the Houston Rockets was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie second team on Tuesday, falling just seven points short of earning a first-team nod. Parsons averaged 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals while starting 57 of 63 games for Houston in his rookie season.

» Hoping to achieve a similar feat in his rookie season, Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal is currently getting ready to work out for teams as he prepares for the 2012 NBA Draft. He will have some help towards that goal thanks to the league, which invited him to be one of 60 players who will compete at the 2012 NBA Combine in Chicago, IL. Gators senior point guard Erving Walker was not included on the list.

» Florida head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease made it a point to note that they plan to bring on a quarterback commitment each and every year. To that end a pair of three-star 2013 signal callers, Ryan Buchanan (Jackson, MS) and Tim Boyle (Middleton, CT), will be visiting Gainesville, FL over the weekend. Though UF has struck out with some big name quarterbacks this recruiting cycle and has four signal callers that will be on the roster for at least the next two years, the coaches have not changed their minds about brining another one into the fold. “It’s a very difficult position to evaluate and then take the right guy,” Muschamp said at a Gator Gathering on Tuesday, according to InsidetheGators.com. “Guys that worry about depth charts, we don’t want them. You hit it with them one time, if they ask you to go over it a second time. If they ask a third time, you need to move on.” If the Gators have their way, either Buchanan or Boyle will put an end to their search for a 2013 quarterback.

» Speaking of recruiting, things are getting interesting (or aggravating, if you prefer) for Florida basketball as the team looks to add at least one more player before heading into the 2012-13 season. South Carolina transfer power forward Damontre Harris, a former four-star recruit who averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while playing 25.9 minutes per game last season, was supposed to make his decision between UF, Kansas or staying at USC last week but has yet to make a call. The Gators are also under consideration by Virginia Tech transfer F Dorian Finney-Smith, another former four-star recruit who averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 36.6 percent from three last season. Finney-Smith has only “narrowed” his list to Florida, Georgetown, Iowa State, Louisville, Marquette, Ohio State and Texas. He will take visits and speak to coaches before making his decision.

» Joining the undecided party is 2012 four-star PF Montrezl Harrell (Tarboro, VA). Formerly a VT signee, Harrell decided to pursue other opportunities after the team fired head coach Seth Greenberg and is heavily considering playing for UF, which is one of a handful of schools on his short list (Alabama, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Carolina are the others). The Gators may have an inside track on Harrell due to head coach Billy Donovan being the head coach for the USA Basketball U18 National Team during training camp from June 5-12 in Colorado Springs, CO. Harrell will be playing on the team and have the opportunity to see first-hand what it would be like to practice and play for Donovan. Some are of the opinion that Louisville, a team he did not list when mentioning his top five, has an opportunity to be his eventual destination.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Wednesday, May 23

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FOUR BITS: Alajajian, Spurrier, Tebow, Stewart

1 » Though junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell’s injury was more serious and detrimental to the Florida Gators considering he is an entrenched starter on defense, the unit also lost another player to surgery recently. Florida announced Wednesday that senior defensive tackle Nick Alajajian had successful surgery on his right wrist on Tuesday. Alajajian, who moved over to defense after spending three years with the Gators as an offensive lineman, is expected to be healthy enough to return for fall camp.

2 » South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier opened up to ESPN.com recently about a number of topics including his team’s game against Georgia being moved back four weeks (“I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”), Nick Saban (“If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win, because they’ve always won there at Alabama.”) and how his career might come to an end (“When I leave, they’re not going to pay me $4 million because I had another five years on the deal and got fired. I ain’t going to be one of those guys.). But he also spoke about Florida and a conversation he had with head coach Will Muschamp upon him taking over the Gators in 2011.

“I told Will that he had one of the hardest jobs in America because of what’s happened down there prior to him coming. I don’t know that they have that much greater a team than most others in the SEC now. They’re pretty good. But it’s a tough job because of what Urban [Meyer] has done and prior history. Those fans are expecting 10 to 12 wins every year. Our fans are going to expect nine to 11, which is fair, and that’s good. I hope our players expect it, too.”

3 » Unlike a number of current and former Denver Broncos expressing their support and faith in quarterback Tim Tebow following his trade to the New York Jets, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (who had some of his best games with Tebow behind center) told 790 The Zone out of Atlanta, GA that he is not said to see him go elsewhere. “I ain’t going to say I was sad because the only thing they remember is that pass,” he said. “You gotta go back and look at the rest of the games. I wasn’t getting no balls and you had to make some of these plays where some players were open and he is not making the throws, but I don’t want to talk bad about Tim, but hey I am happy we got Peyton.” Thomas went on to praise Tebow for being a tireless worker and said there was no real tension in the locker room; he added that his former teammate has to learn how to read defenses better and recognize open receivers.

4 » Florida center and London, England native Azania Stewart was one of 20 players invited in April to a women’s basketball camp hosted by Great Britain that will help determine the 12 players that will represent the union in the 2012 London Olympics. Stewart has plenty of European basketball experience and that should give her chances of making the team a boost. Should she do so, Stewart would be the third Gators women’s basketball player in school history to represent her country in the Olympics following in the footsteps of Tammy Jackson (1992) and DeLisha Milton-Jones (2000, 2008).

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Ran Carthon: “I never run away from competition.”

Growing up watching his father play professional football, Ran Carthon found a passion for the game and knew he wanted to follow in his dad’s profession but blaze his own path to glory. So when his family moved from Osceola, AR to Key West, FL and he began playing high school football, Carthon hoped to be recognized for his efforts on the field rather than his father’s famous last name.

He received that recognition from the Florida Gators and committed to wear orange and blue throughout his college career. After working hard to earn time on the field and being given a second chance to shine under head coach Ron Zook, Carthon led Florida in rushing in 2003 with 595 yards and six touchdowns (he also caught 21 balls for 185 yards and another score).

He played in 48 games with 11 starts over his career, running for over 1,300 yards on 270 carries and scoring 12 total touchdowns.

Now a professional scout with the Atlanta Falcons, “The Mayor” (a nickname he was given in college for knowing everyone in Gainesville, FL) is not only still involved in football but also constantly working on ways to give back to the community.

Carthon sat down with OGGOA last week for a 45-minute exclusive interview that touches on his life growing up, advice for recent Gators commits, time at Florida, playing in the NFL and the newest charitable venture he is involved in, the Florida Players Network.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What was it like playing high school football in Key West? Did you find it was hard to get recognized?
RAN CARTHON: “Living in Key West was awesome and amazing; we had a lot of community support. Kind of like most football stories you hear, it was a small town community that really rallies around their high school sports. In terms of being recognized, honestly it was something we never thought about. We played a lot of Miami schools – and those schools had talented players – so we knew if we wanted to get on scholarship that we had to dominate those guys in order to get our recognition.”

AS: Did you feel any added pressure either living your life as the son of a well-known NFL player (New York Giants and Super Bowl-winning fullback Maurice Carthon)?
RC: “For me it was always like I wanted to create my own identity. Earlier on I fought against everything you read about – ‘son of former Giants player’ – and I wanted to establish myself and let people know that I can play this game. That was the initial thing. As I got older, I realized that I was fighting a losing battle. My dad is who he is and my talents would be recognized because of him because of the gene pool. After a few years, I gave up on that fight.”

AS: Florida has Bryan Cox, Jr. committed for 2012 and just earned a verbal pledge from Kelvin Taylor. Do you have any advice for those guys on how to live and play in the “shadow” of their respective fathers?
RC: “I would just say be who you are. The player that you are has gotten you to this point, gotten you recognized by elite schools. I’ve been following Kelvin since his eighth grade year as a senior at Glades Day. I’m very familiar with him and that’s just more so because of how much of a fan I was of Fred [Taylor]. Fred and Terry Jackson were probably two of the main reasons why I selected to go to UF. I thought under [Steve] Spurrier they were allowed to show everything they could do as backs. I had offers from schools that were predominately running the ball, but I felt like I was more versatile than that. For those guys – Bryan Cox, Jr. and Kelvin Taylor – those guys need to embrace who their father is but at the same time continue to do what got them to where they are.”

Read the rest of our interview with Ran Carthon…after the break!
Continue Reading » Ran Carthon: “I never run away from competition.”

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