FOUR BITS: transfer, Sugar Bowl, graduation

1 » Florida Gators freshman defensive back Willie Bailey, a three-star recruit out of Hallandale, FL who did not see the field in his first season with the team, has decided to transfer and pursue his college football career elsewhere. According to Bryan Holt of InsidetheGators.com, who spoke with Bailey’s high school coach ($) and confirmed that the decision has been made, the transfer was a long time coming though he left still very fond of Florida. The Gators are expected to see plenty of attrition this offseason with some players transferring, others graduating with eligibility remaining and even other potentially leaving early for the NFL. The school has not yet confirmed Bailey’s transfer, and the player has not determined his future destination.

2 » It is still very early in the 2012-13 season, but Florida basketball has been turning heads with its play through seven games this campaign. The Gators are now ranked second nationally in scoring defense and third in scoring margin, meaning the team is still putting up plenty of points while holding opponents to low averages. Perhaps most impressive is that Florida has accomplished all of this without a full complement of players. Read more about what the Gators have done so far and what can be made of the team’s early non-conference success in my newest commentary for ITG.

3 » Florida is having a tough time selling tickets to the 2013 Sugar Bowl, and a recent report from the Orlando Sentinel makes the situation seem dire. According to the Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson, who spoke with UF senior associate athletic director of communications Steve McClain, the Gators have sold just 6,500 tickets to the game despite being contracted to purchase a total of 17,500. Florida’s opponent in the game, the Louisville Cardinals, has already sold more than 14,000 tickets out of its 17,500 allotment. This is the second time in as many Sugar Bowl appearances that the Gators have struggled selling tickets. Florida only sold approximately 12,000 tickets to the 2010 contest, which was also quarterback Tim Tebow’s last game in a Gators uniform. The Southeastern Conference can buy up to 3,000 tickets out of Florida’s allotment, which means the school is still on the hook for approximately 8,000 tickets. More tickets will certainly be sold in the next two weeks, but UF will not come close to selling out of its allotment as fans prefer to save significant money and watch at home or purchase tickets closer to the game at cheaper prices due to the overwhelming inventory available. If more than 7,000 tickets go unsold after the SEC helps out, those tickets will cost the university approximately $1 million.

4 » A total of 25 former and current Gators student-athletes are set to receive their degrees during fall commencement on Dec. 15. Below are some standout names on the list, which can be viewed in full by clicking here.

David Eckstein^ – Baseball – Political Science
Daniel Pigott – Baseball – Building Construction
Jon Bostic – Football – Health Education and Behavior
Frankie Hammond, Jr. – Football, Track & Field – Telecommunication
Omarius Hines – Football – Anthropology
Omar Hunter – Football – Anthropology
Lerentee McCray – Football – Anthropology
Matt Patchan* – Football – Anthropology
Sam Robey – Football – Criminology
Caleb Sturgis – Football – Sport Management
McKenzie Barney – Soccer – Telecommunication
Erika Tymrak – Soccer – Criminology
Kathryn Williamson – Soccer – Psychology
Teresa Crippen – Swimming – Sport Management
Genevieve LaCaze – Track & Field – Applied Physiology and Kinesiology
Tangerine Wiggs – Volleyball – English

^ Eckstein (1994-97) is 37 years old.
* Patchan has a year of eligibility remaining.

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Muschamp, Strong speak about Sugar Bowl bids

On Sunday, after the No. 3 Florida Gators and No. 21 Louisville Cardinals were officially announced as the participants in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, head coaches Will Muschamp and Charlie Strong spoke to the media, accepting their respective bid to the bowl and discussing their own team heading into the game. Below are highlights from that media availability that were not otherwise featured in OGGOA‘s story on Strong from Sunday evening.

» Muschamp on the opportunity to play in the game: “We’re honored to play in New Orleans. New Orleans is a great place with a lot of Gators. It was our first national championship in 1996. This will be our seventh BCS bowl appearance, which is first in the SEC. A lot of respect for Louisville and their football team they have and of course Charlie strong, who was a huge part of two national championships here at the University of Florida in ‘06 and ‘08. He’s an outstanding defensive coordinator and a good friend.”

» Muschamp on not having a chance to play for the national title: “It is what it is. The system we have in place is what we have. We had our opportunity in Jacksonville, didn’t quite get it done to get into the national championship game. But we’re going to play in the sugar bowl and represent our conference. That’s a huge honor in itself to represent the University of Florida every time you step on the field. We have great motivation for this game, regardless of the circumstances.”

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » Muschamp, Strong speak about Sugar Bowl bids

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Sugar Bowl against Florida a well-deserved treat for “good guy” Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong and Florida Gators defense are terms that go hand-in-hand, except this time Strong will not be leading one of the best units in the country onto the field but rather trying to figure out a way to score on it.

All of that will occur in one month when Florida and Strong’s Louisville Cardinals square off in the 2013 Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in New Orleans, LA.

It will be one day short of exactly three years from the last time he donned orange and blue and coached the Gators’ defense against Cincinnati in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Florida allowed just three points in the first half and cruised to an impressive victory.

“We are so excited here at the University of Louisville to be playing an opponent like the University of Florida,” said Strong on Sunday after the game was announced. “I spent so many years there and I just think back; it seems like it yesterday we were in the Sugar Bowl playing Cincinnati for the last time being at the University of Florida.”

Though he is years removed from the program, Strong praised the Gators’ defense and said he watches Florida play each and every week. In fact, he still communicates with some of the players he helped recruit, most of whom are in their final seasons at UF.

“You look at the defense and you’re so familiar with the guys there, when you think about those guys,” he said. “Lerentee [McCray], he has been there forever, Omar [Hunter] and [Jelani] Jenkins, all those players, Frankie Hammond at wide receiver; and Caleb Sturgis, I thought my man was done but he’s still kicking there. You look at [Jon] Bostic and how well he’s played. Then you look at the quarterback position with [Jeff] Driskel being a dual threat where he can run and throw the ball.

“That’s an outstanding program; a program that’s built with toughness, offensive and defensive line, a very tough program. So it’s going to be an exciting matchup.”

Strong certainly seemed enthused on Sunday. His passion for the Florida program sounded as genuine as it was when he was a coordinator. He also took some time to praise the school’s administration, head coach Will Muschamp and what the Gators have accomplished so far this season.

Read the rest of this story…after the break!
Continue Reading » Sugar Bowl against Florida a well-deserved treat for “good guy” Charlie Strong

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No. 3 Florida Gators set to face No. 21 Louisville Cardinals in 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl

Coming off an 11-1 regular season, a five-game improvement from a year ago, the No. 3 Florida Gators have been awarded a spot in the 2013 Sugar Bowl where the team will take on the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals (10-2) on Jan. 2 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. The game will air live at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Florida and Louisville will be participating in the 79th annual version of the game. It is the ninth time the Gators will play in the Sugar Bowl but the first for the Cardinals.

UF holds a 3-5 all-time record in the Sugar Bowl, last playing against and defeating Cincinnati 51-24 on Jan. 1, 2010. Florida is also 2-0 all-time against Louisville; the teams have not met since 1992.

The Gators were originally expected to face the Oklahoma Sooners in the game. However, a strong finish to the season by Northern Illinois Huskies moved them up to No. 15 in the final BCS standings and into a game. The Huskies earned a guaranteed berth because they finished in the top 16 of the BCS standings and ahead of at least one automatic qualifying conference champion, thus knocking the Sooners out of an at-large bid and moving the Cardinals into the Sugar Bowl.

The game has an additional level of intrigue as Louisville is currently led by former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who took over as head coach in 2010. Also on Strong’s staff are former UF defensive backs coach Vance Bedford (defensive coordinator), running backs coach Kenny Carter (same position) and defensive graduate assistant Tommy Restivo (DB coach).

The Cardinals’ roster also includes Gators transfers wide receiver Robert Clark, tight end Gerald Christian and cornerback Adrian Bushell.

Florida will be appearing in its 22nd consecutive bowl game, a mark that ranks first in the Southeastern Conference and second nationally. The Gators are 20-19 all-time in bowls; UF has won four straight and six of its last seven.

Sugar Bowl Committee President Jack Laborde: “We’re very excited to be welcoming the University of Florida and the University of Louisville to New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Each year, we have the pleasure of welcoming thousands of fans to this great city and showing off all it has to offer – world-class cuisine, trend-setting music, outstanding gridiron competition and more. We look forward to introducing our unique flavor of hospitality to all of the players, coaches, administrators and fans from these two great schools.”

Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan: “We’re very pleased to have the opportunity to host these two outstanding teams in this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl Committee has worked hard over the years to present outstanding match-ups that produce thrilling games. In Will Muschamp and Charlie Strong, we have two of the country’s top young coaches and we know both will have their teams ready to play on January 2nd. We have little doubt that this game will produce another memorable chapter in the great history of the Sugar Bowl.”

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11/26: Jenkins out, players praised, bowl notes

No. 4 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s important 37-26 victory over the then-No. 10 Florida State Seminoles and preview the next few weeks of inaction.

INJURY UPDATES

Exciting the game early, redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins learned that he broke a small bone in his foot and will be out 4-6 weeks. Muschamp said he was having surgery on the foot Monday and will probably miss the bowl game.

Florida is relatively healthy otherwise. Redshirt sophomore LB Neiron Ball (ankle) will be back in time for the bowl game. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel (ankle) is sore but fine coming out of the Florida State victory. Redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison (ankle) got dinged up and is in a boot but will be OK as well. Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Leon Orr (kidney infection) should be able to return to physical activity this week.

As far as sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders, Muschamp said he remains out for the bowl game with what was mentioned a few weeks ago to be the hamstring injury.

Reporter: “Saunders, you said a couple weeks ago wouldn’t…”
Muschamp: “Yeah, he won’t be in the bowl game.”
Reporter: “Is that injury or discipline?”
Muschamp: “Yep. he won’t be in the bowl game.”
Reporter: “Because of?”
Muschamp: “Injury.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 11/26: Jenkins out, players praised, bowl notes

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FOUR BITS: Bond, Manuel, Dwyer, swimming

1 » Florida Gators guard Jaterra Bonds, who is second on the women’s basketball team in points this year, was named to the 2011 Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team on Tuesday. She won the SEC Freshman of the Week award twice this season and scored a career-high 22 points one week ago.

2 » Former Gators safety Marquand Manuel, a sixth-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, completed an eight-year NFL career in 2009 and has been hired as an intern with the football staff, according to the University of Florida. Manuel, who played under former head coach Steve Spurrier from 1998-2001, totaled 308 tackles (nine for loss), six interceptions, 22 passes defended, eight sacks and six fumble recoveries in his college career. He played in both a SEC Championship and Sugar Bowl and was an honor student at UF. In the league, he saw extensive time from 2002-2006 with Cincinnati, Seattle and Green Bay. Manuel caught and returned an interception 32 yards in the 2005 NFC Championship game to help send Seattle to Super Bowl XL, a game in which he started. He also spent a full season as a starter with Green Bay the following season before being released by the team and bouncing around the NFL until deciding to call it quits.

3 » Florida senior swimmer Conor Dwyer has been chosen as the cover athlete for the March 2011 issue of Swimming World Magazine, which is a College Championships Preview issue. Dwyer is the defending NCAA National Men’s Swimmer of the Year and is having yet another fantastic season.

4 » Gators swimming, under head coach Gregg Troy, has announced a significant restructuring of the program due to the 2012 London Olympics. Troy was named head coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Swimming Team and, with Florida’s blessing, will need some assistance handling both gigs next season. Below is a portion of UF’s release, which can be read in full here.

The University of Florida men’s and women’s swimming program will undergo an organizational restructuring in preparation of the 2012 Olympic year, head coach Gregg Troy announced Tuesday. Assistant head coaches Martyn Wilby and Anthony Nesty have each been promoted to the title of associate head coach, while assistant coach Steve Jungbluth has been named recruiting coordinator. Assistant coach Leah Martindale-Stancil will retain her duties on deck as well as her role as swim camp director, while Erva Gilliam has been elevated to the director of swimming operations.

“The restructuring of our program will provide us with an opportunity on deck to really focus in on the first-hand development of premier performances by our swimmers,” Troy said. “With the number of current and post-graduate swimmers here on our campus that are training towards the 2012 London Olympics, the delegation of administrative duties will allow us more time on deck to really work hand-in-hand with the training of each of our student-athletes, allowing them to compete for SEC, NCAA and Olympic Championships.”

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DE Trattou: “I’m glad we went out the right way”

Having returned home to New Jersey now that his Florida Gators career has come to a close, defensive end Justin Trattou took some time out from training for upcoming NFL workouts to sit down with OGGOA for a wide-ranging interview.

Trattou, who plans to return to Gainesville, FL to showcase his talents for NFL scouts and coaches at Florida’s Pro Day, recounted his collegiate career and looked ahead to his future during our conversation. Check it out below!

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You made all-state as a junior and senior and won the New Jersey state title in your final season. What was it like to see four years of hard work pay off?
JUSTIN TRATTOU: “It was definitely a huge accomplishment. My senior year, me and those guys, we went to the state championship in my sophomore and junior year and lost both times. That senior year we went 12-0, ran the table and then blew out St. Peters 41-0. That was a great way to go out. And then I ended up going to the All-American game and did well there, so it was definitely a good way to go into college.”

AS: For a while you were committed to Notre Dame, but you eventually switched to Florida. What made you change your mind, and how did all that come about?
JT: “After my season ended, I kind of just committed to get it out of the way and concentrate on my senior year. I didn’t want to be bothered by people. After I won the state championship and everything was all good, I started looking around again. Took a visit down to Florida and immediately fell in love with the place – The Swamp and the whole atmosphere. I knew that was the place for me.”

AS: Was it tough telling Notre Dame that you had switched?
JT: “At the end of the day, I’m the one that has to live it out. I didn’t owe anybody anything, so it was definitely my choice.”

AS: During your recruitment, Charlie Weis was the Notre Dame head coach. Obviously he’s now the offensive coordinator at Florida. Can you talk about the type of recruiter he was – his demeanor in your home, how he spoke to you, etc?
JT: “It was always good. Obviously I ended up committing there, so… He was definitely good. For me personally, I just wanted to go to Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Justin Trattou…after the break!
Continue Reading » DE Trattou: “I’m glad we went out the right way”

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Jenkins spurns NFL for another year with Gators

Florida Gators junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, arguably the team’s best defensive player in 2010, has officially decided to return for his senior season rather than begin his professional career declare for the 2011 NFL Draft.

“After careful consideration, I’ve made the decision to return to school for my senior year. I spent some time with my family and Coach [Will] Muschamp and came to the conclusion it was in my best interest to return to school,” said Jenkins, according to a University of Florida release. “Coach Muschamp was very supportive throughout the whole process, regardless of my decision, but he wanted to make sure I had all of the facts. I’m looking forward to working towards my degree, completing my rehab and getting back on the field with my teammates.”

Jenkins, who has totaled 106 tackles, eight interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), two sacks and two forced fumbles in three seasons at Florida, earned All-SEC honors from both the Associated Press (first team) and Southeastern Conference coaches (second team) this year for his stellar play.

“I’m excited that Janoris has made a decision to come back to school,” Muschamp said. “I would have supported him in whatever decision he made, but I commend him for making a mature decision. It would have been real easy for Janoris to make an emotional choice and leave early, but with our contacts in the NFL, we were able to assist him in understanding his draft status and he made an educated decision that will be beneficial to him in the long term.”

Projected to be a first-round pick as a junior before the season began, Jenkins was considered the third-best cornerback and No. 11 overall player available in this year’s draft, according to ESPN and Scouts, Inc.

He was ready to declare for the draft before sitting down with Muschamp.

With his return, Muschamp and young secondary coach Travaris Robinson have a reliable senior to champion an otherwise inexperienced unit. Florida will likely be starting sophomores at both safety positions (Matt Elam, Josh Evans) and may do the same at cornerback depending who wins the position battle in the offseason.

Jenkins sent Gators fans into a frenzy Sunday evening with the innocuous tweet “Gator Nation I’m back…” and did not follow up with any additional information. He confirmed his decision Monday morning with another tweet, “Headed to class with nothing but ‘joy.’ Gator Nation I’m back…”

OGGOA learned on Sunday that Jenkins has long had a desire to earn his degree and staying in school was always a strong consideration for him. He is pursuing a degree in anthropology and is believed to be on track to graduate next year.

He is only the second true freshman in school history to start at cornerback on opening day (Joe Haden) and was named to the 2008 SEC All-Freshman Team. Jenkins helped the Gators win the 2009 BCS National Championship by totaling five tackles in the game. He was equally effective in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, recording five solo tackles (one for loss) and a pass break-up in Florida’s win.

Jenkins registered 43 tackles, three interceptions and one sack as a junior in 2010 while playing most of the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He had surgery after the regular season to correct the injury and missed the Gators’ 37-24 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions in the 2011 Outback Bowl.

After speaking with two sports medicine experts, OGGOA has learned that Jenkins’ injury would not have prevented him from working out for NFL scouts before draft day should he have decided to play in the league next season.

Fellow junior, safety Will Hill, will declare for the draft though his intentions have not been made official yet. UF will release a statement if and when Hill’s decision to pursue a professional football career is official.

OGGOA RELATED 1/5: Will Hill to forgo senior season, enter NFL Draft

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
 

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