Report: Gators set to lose Floyd, Elam to draft

According to the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser, the Florida Gators are preparing for a pair of juniors – defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam – to declare for the 2013 NFL Draft but are also expecting to keep at least two other prominent third-year players.

Two sources told the paper that “[junior defensive end] Dominique Easley and [redshirt junior Will linebacker] Jelani Jenkins are coming back for their senior seasons.”

Floyd and Elam have long been considered the two likeliest juniors to turn pro after the 2013 Sugar Bowl as each is expected to be selected in the first or second round.

The Gainesville Sun‘s Pat Dooley reported on Dec. 10 that “Floyd is gone.”

Sources close to Elam have told OGGOA throughout the season that his brother, Kansas City Chiefs safety Abram Elam, will play a big part in helping decide his future. Abram has told Matt in the past that he would prefer that he stay in school unless he assured of being a first-round selection.

Easley and Jenkins may be joined for one more year of college football by redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed, who remains a “wildcard,” according to Lieser.

Dooley also reported in early December that Floyd, Elam, Jenkins and Reed submitted paperwork to be evaluated for the NFL Draft. Easley did not.

Floyd, Elam and Easley all deflected questions about their respective futures during media opportunities this week in New Orleans, LA.

The Gators have not had an underclassman declare for and get selected in the draft since cornerback Joe Haden, center Maurkice Pouncey, DE Carlos Dunlap, S Major Wright and TE Aaron Hernandez were all chosen in the first 113 picks of the 2010 NFL Draft. S Will Hill left early but went undrafted in 2011.

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12/29: Elam, Bostic, Jenkins, Brissett, Floyd

No. 3 Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and a handful of players met with the media after practice on Saturday to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals and provide thoughts on the team heading into the game.

ELAM’S IMPORTANCE AND FUTURE

Not every team has player as passionate and tough as junior safety Matt Elam. A first-team All-American who may very well be playing his final game at Florida, he was asked on Saturday what play he will remember from the 2012 season. “Maybe the LSU game. That strip was a big play. That saved the game. That probably was the biggest play of the year,” he said.

His teammates agree. “Right after they showed that the ball did come out and they said it was our ball. That might be the play,” senior linebacker Jon Bostic noted.

Elam is Florida’s best playmaker on the defensive side of the ball but may very well be taking his talents to the next level. According to Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels, who spoke to the Palm Beach Post, Elam’s time in the orange and blue may be through on Wednesday. “I think he’s got his mind made up. He’s gone,” Daniels said.

Whether or not he does decide to leave, something that neither he nor the coaching staff plan to discuss until after the bowl game, he has made a huge fan out of his defensive coordinator.

“The biggest transformation to me that I’ve seen from my first year of coaching Matt to now is how physical he is. And I think that really has to stem from the time and effort that he spent in the weight room changing. He’s getting stronger,” Quinn said.

“We play him at the line of scrimmage a lot, whether it’s at safety or nickel. And I think he can blitz. He can cover. But to me the physical style he plays with is one of the things that really jumps out on your team. He can blitz. He can cover. But just the physical nature that a guy can bring to your club really is a huge advantage.”

Read the rest of what the Gators had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12/29: Elam, Bostic, Jenkins, Brissett, Floyd

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12/28: Sugar Bowl importance, Lewis’s return

No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and a handful of players met with the media after practice on Friday to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals and provide thoughts on the team heading into the game.

NOT TAKING ANYTHING FOR GRANTED

On Thursday, Muschamp discussed why it was critical for the Gators to win their 12th game of the 2012 season. One day later, he explained when Florida hit rock bottom one year ago and how the program has pulled itself up by the bootstraps.

“The month of October [2011] wasn’t a whole lot of fun,” he said. “Two games – Alabama and LSU – we got physically dominated. We had our opportunities in some other games. We didn’t make enough good decisions as coaches or players to put ourselves in position to win those games.”

Senior left tackle Xavier Nixon acknowledged that the coaching staff identified the problem soon after those losses and began working to put the Gators back together. “We had a problem with complacency and we found out how to deal with that, and we’ve become a better team,” he said.

Now Florida is back at the top of the heap, a great accomplishment for a second-year coach like Muschamp but one he promises that the program is not taking for granted.

“Certainly when you’ve hit the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, at a place like the University of Florida, it makes you appreciate things a little bit more,” he said. “That’s something where you’ve got to stay grounded in your approach as a player and a coach to understand you don’t just roll the hat out there and win football games. It takes work, it takes preparation, it takes recruiting, it takes development, it takes strength program, it takes character building, it takes all of those things to encompass to have the type of program you want to have at Florida.

“We understand that every day. I understand getting out of bed every day knowing that just because it happened yesterday doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again. You got to make it happen and that’s what I think these players understand a little bit more.”

That never-say-die attitude has defined the Gators’ season. Including the awful performance against Georgia, in which Florida was perhaps a play or two away from potentially winning the game, it always found a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

Junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins pointed to a strip-fumble made by junior safety Matt Elam on a deep pass during the LSU game as one play in particular that was a paradigm of the entire 2012 campaign.

“I think that play defined our season. It just showed that we won’t quit,” he said. “Every game we’ve showed it. That’s one play that’s come out that’s shown it. He could have gave up on the play or could have just made the tackle, but he went the extra mile to make the strip.”

That is why Wednesday’s game is so critical. In addition to giving the Gators the 12th win they are pining for, it also shows that the turnaround is complete.

“This is a very important game for the program. I believe it’s a statement game,” redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray said. “Coming out of the season last year, we had to make a statement versus Ohio State going into the season of what it was going to be. Ohio State finished undefeated. We beat them last year and we finished 11-1. It’s a big statement to finish strong in your bowl game.”

Read the rest of what the Gators had to say…after the break!
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12/27: Strong, Louisville talk Florida, Sugar Bowl

No. 21 Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong met with the media on Thursday upon his team’s arrival in New Orleans, LA to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the No. 3 Florida Gators and provide updates on his team.

» Strong’s opening statement: “I was here three years ago on the other sideline coaching at the University of Florida preparing for Cincinnati. The next day I left for Louisville and our goal the first season was just get to a bowl game. It was the same scenario we had this season when we had to go to Rutgers and pull off a big win. […] We know we are playing an excellent football team in the University of Florida. We are happy and excited, and it’s really great for the school and the city of Louisville and the administration. To represent them is such an honor.”

» Strong on moving Florida senior Jon Bostic from safety to linebacker: “Bostic is a really good football player and I went to visit him as many times as the administration would let me. Bostic was too big to play safety and it was just a matter of time before he could eat his way into playing linebacker. But I have to hand it to the university for giving me the opportunity to recruit such a talented player like him.”

» Strong on coaching the Gators: “My success started at Florida. I was a part of two national championship teams and worked for so many outstanding coaches. One after the next, those coaches gave me opportunities and built tremendous programs with tradition. That same tradition is what we are trying to establish at Louisville as the program continues to get better each year. Though, it was a great experience at Florida and a lot of fun.”

Continue Reading » 12/27: Strong, Louisville talk Florida, Sugar Bowl

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12/27: Gators arrive in New Orleans for Sugar Bowl

No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Thursday upon his team’s arrival in New Orleans, LA to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the Louisville Cardinals and provide updates on his team heading into the game.

TRANSFERS CONFIRMED

Muschamp confirmed two more transfers, which gives the Gators three in the last two weeks. He said that both redshirt junior offensive tackle Matt Patchan and sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders “just needed a fresh start given their situations.”

“I really appreciate their time at Florida, and we wish them the best,” he added.

He also spoke about keeping Florida players out of trouble and how those practices have unfolded over the last year or so. “It’s a continual education and stressing to the players everyday about making good choices,” Muschamp said. “Everyone makes bad decisions here and there, but these are good kids. It’s also about recruiting the right kind of guys and understanding the standard of excellence at the University of Florida on and off the field.”

Senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic explained that he is proud of how the team has stayed out of trouble most of the year but is nevertheless sad to see Saunders leave the program. “Our guys have been smart all year. We work together to have each other’s back and stay out of trouble. We all make sure that we are always going in the right direction,” he said. “[Saunders is] one of our brothers and it’s tough to see him leave the program. Though at the same time, this might be what’s best for him personally.”

GETTING TO 12 WINS

Though the coach admitted that the Cardinals are going to put up a fight on Jan. 2, Muschamp has been “very pleased” with the team’s preparation through practice last Friday when everyone dispersed for the holiday break. He has also put a great importance on winning this game for Florida.

“It’s absolutely critical. We are trying to become just the sixth team in Florida history to reach 12 wins, which is huge considering how successful this program has been,” Muschamp said. “It’s also an opportunity to finish the season ranked in the top five, possibly No. 3. These things are important to our program as we continue to move forward. This is a one-game season. We haven’t played in a long time but there’s a lot of motivation to play well in this game since it’s a BCS game. We have a special team, and they deserve a special night. We want to send them out the right way and that can only be done with a win.”

The seniors that have stuck with this program through thick and thin will be all-in next Wednesday, but sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel also sees this as a great opportunity to completely knock the 2011 season out of the team’s memory and focus on moving forward.

“It goes back to the offseason. We didn’t have a season that Florida expects year in and year out, so we kind of took that to heart in the offseason. We trained hard, we practiced hard and we really came together. It’s kind of cool to see all the hard work in the offseason pay off during the season,” he said.

Driskel is excited for the opportunity to win a bowl game as a starter “on a national stage [in] one of the biggest games of the year.” He continued, “We’re honored to be in the game. We’re honored to be in the Sugar Bowl, so we’re going to practice well and we’re going to prepare well so we can play well when the game rolls around.”

Read the rest of what the Gators had to say…after the break!
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Track the Florida Gators en route to New Orleans

The No. 3 Florida Gators are on their way to New Orleans, LA, to practice for a week before facing the Louisville Cardinals in the 2013 Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 2013 at 8 p.m. As a long-time special ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive feature, the following is the flight information for the Gators, who are flying over on an American Airlines Boeing 757-200 twin-jet. You can also track the flight live while it is in the air!

ORIGIN: Gainesville Regional Airport (KGNV)
DESTINATION: Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (KMSY)

DURATION: 1 hour 23 minutes

DEPARTURE: 10:57 a.m. EST [scheduled 11:00 p.m. EST]
ARRIVAL: 11:20 p.m. CST [scheduled 11:23 p.m. CST]

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12/19: Quinn and Hunter talk practice, juniors

With the team beginning preparations for the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the Louisville Cardinals in New Orleans, LA on Jan. 2, No. 3 Florida Gators defensive coordinator Brent Pease and redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter sat down with the media to discuss the team’s defense and how it is shaping up for the bowl game.

FOWLER IS “SPECIAL,” POOLE IS IMPRESSING

Head coach Will Muschamp has propped up sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy all season for making great strides in his game during practices leading up to the 2012 Gator Bowl. Asked Wednesday who has made similar strides so far in these bowl practices, Quinn pointed to two players in particular.

“In the front seven, one that is really coming on that you can see is [Buck linebacker] Dante Fowler. He’s played all year. He’s playing really at a high level right now and to me you can see the momentum, the confidence and the understanding at a faster rate. That part has been exciting,” Quinn said. “On the back end, one guy that has caught my attention that is doing a good job right now is [CB] Brian Poole. I’d say those two players are really ones to me that have caught my eye, and I thought they’ve had a good camp in terms of the work and stuff they’ve put in.”

For players like Purifoy last year and Poole this year, Quinn said it is all about growth and development. Freshmen may not pick up terminology or technique in the few practices before the season begins, so the coaching staff may not have the necessary confidence in them to play them early. As the season goes on, the players are able to pick up a lot more and are then able to display the improvements they have made in bowl practices when younger players get more time on the field.

Asked to point out players that have impressed him in bowl practice, Hunter named Purifoy, Fowler, junior DT Damien Jacobs, freshman defensive end Jonathan Bullard and sophomore CB Marcus Roberson. He had plenty of praise for Fowler in particular.

“That kid’s special. He’s special. He’s what I wanted to be my freshman year. He is very special. He’s going to be a great player here. Quick, powerful guy,” Hunter said. “I think he can play inside at three-technique; I think he can play outside at the end. He can cover tight ends. He’s just a special athlete, special football player. He’s learning the system more than anything. He’s getting smarter. He’s a smarter football player than he was when he first came in. These practices [are] where the coaches can help the younger guys more because the seniors know everything.”

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
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12/17: Muschamp on players, Sugar Bowl, Phillips

No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss the last two weekends of practice, preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl and update the statuses as well as provide his thoughts about a number of players on the team.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (foot) and redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Ian Silberman (shoulder) will both miss the bowl game. Each player had successful surgery on his respective injury recently but will not be able to return in time. Furthermore, redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (torn pectoral) has been doing individual work with the team but has not been cleared to play just yet. Muschamp said there are no other players expected to be absent for the bowl game, though he did mention previously that sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders would not play.

TRANSFER CONFIRMED

Muschamp confirmed that freshman defensive back Willie Bailey, a three-star recruit who did not play this season, has decided to leave the program and pursue opportunities elsewhere. “Willie Bailey has decided to transfer. He and I met last week and felt like he wanted to move on. We will support him in that,” he said.

He also noted that there should not be any more transfers before the bowl game but things could certainly change after Jan. 2. “We’re good right now. Obviously after the bowl game you sit down and evaluate where a young man is but right now we’re good to go,” Muschamp added.

RETURNING TO PRACTICE

Florida has practiced each of the last two weekends but has spent that time mostly working on fundamentals and getting back to basics. Muschamp said that the Gators will begin preparing for the Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday. Florida will then take a break for the holidays before resuming practice in New Orleans, LA, the site of the Sugar Bowl, on Dec. 27.

One thing he has tried to do since the end of the regular season is come up with a balance for the team between resting and getting away from it all but still remaining sharp football-wise.

“It’s really important for them to get away and decompress a little bit from football. You look at bowl games, with this long of a layover, it’s a one-game season. That’s how you really got to approach it,” he said. “You got to put all of your energy into it. I don’t like focusing too early on a bowl game because I think the players get too stale with the preparation. They get tired of watching the same film over and over and over again.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12/17: Muschamp on players, Sugar Bowl, Phillips

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