FOUR BITS: Miller, Young, Bre. Beal, J. Powell

1 » When Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James came together over the summer and decided to play for the Miami Heat, each made concessions in their maximum contracts in order to sign two others players – former Florida Gators power forward Udonis Haslem and guard/forward Mike Miller. Haslem, who injured his foot early in the season, has yet to play since and is a much-needed piece for Miami in the middle. Miller, who recovered from an offseason injury and has been seeing plenty of minutes with the Heat, is simply not playing up to snuff. His 5.6 points per game, 39.9 field goal percentage and 69.7 free throw percentage are career lows, and he is also hitting only 36.4 percent of his three-point attempts (second-worst of his career). What Miller has done is stepped up his rebounding and defense, but Miami will need his shooting stroke to improve if they hope to make a title run.

2 » There is no doubting Florida defensive line coach Bryant Young’s 14-year NFL career. He’s played in the Super Bowl, been named to multiple Pro Bowls and has garnered numerous other honors throughout his career. But as a football coach? Young is just getting started and told University of Florida senior writer Scott Carter that he specifically wanted to coach in college rather than the pros. “Being on this level, you really have a chance to help shape and mold a young man,’’ Young said. “That was really intriguing to me. The game is a little different but still competitive. We are all trying to win, but the message could be a little different in terms of steering a young man in the right direction and helping them realize they have a bright future ahead of them. They are able to go to school and their athletic ability has afforded them a free education. I think the message that needs to be clear is that it’s important that they understand that they need to secure their future by getting their degree.’’

You can check out the rest of the feature story by clicking here, though some choice quotes from Young have been republished below:

Q: What have you learned in your first two years as a college coach that’s different from the NFL?
A: Definitely patience [laughter]. I think on any level you need patience, more so in high school than in college, but on the college level you still have to have patience. In the league, you expect the guys to know it a little bit more. But in college you are really teaching them some things they may not already know or reinforcing some things they might know a little.

Q: What’s your initial impression of the Gators’ defensive linemen?
A: Young and not a veteran group. The guys are eager to learn and they are doing everything that you ask them. They are coachable and they want it. I’m excited for them. It’s a fresh start for them and just learning each guy in the group and understanding who I am and building that trust. It’s a fun group.

3 » Transferring from the Gators after last season, linebacker Brendan Beal immediately found a home with the Minnesota Gophers and is getting ready to finally step on the field this fall. In an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Beal said his experience at Florida will help him at Minnesota. “I was around the best,” he said. “I’ve been around guys like [Tim Tebow] and Brandon Spikes. I was there for the national championship. I know what it takes. I know we have the ingredients to be successful. I just want to fill that middle linebacker role and be the quarterback of the defense.” He also spoke about trying to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Gainesville, FL. “I had never experienced a traumatic injury like that; I never got hurt in high school,” Beal said. “I was doubting myself. I didn’t know what I was going to do. So, yeah, a sports psychologist helped me out a lot. I took a whole new different approach to life.”

4 » According to Rivals Florida recruiting analyst Chris Nee, the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban are heavily pursuing Gators four-star 2012 linebacker commitment Jeremi Powell (Largo, FL). Powell is also receiving a lot of interest from the Tennessee Volunteers and will probably take trips to both schools even though he remains solid to Florida at this time.

Late Wednesday, Powell spoke with Mark Wheeler of InsideTheGators.com and had this to say about his commitment: “I’m about 99% committed to Florida. I’m going to go to Alabama to see a game, because they want me to, but like I told them, I’m Florida, I’m all Florida. I’ve never been out of the state of Florida in my life. Ever. I’m going to go on my visits if they are going to pay for them. Why wouldn’t I go on a free trip? It’s an opportunity to travel and see other places.”

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TWO BITS: Meyer visits Utah, Weis happy at UF

1 » Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer has been making his rounds of other college football programs over the last month and paid a visit to the Utah Utes, where he also used to coach, on Thursday. After addressing the team and surveying the program, Meyer spoke with the Desert News about how it feels not to be coaching these days. “I guess it’s been great. I don’t know. I’ve got a knot in my stomach right now, missing it awful bad,” he said. Meyer also told the paper that his new job with ESPN will have him work only 60-70 days a year.

2 » In addition to meeting with the media last week, new Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis sat down with the school’s senior writer Scott Cater to discuss the journey that led him to decide to run UF’s offense for at least the next few years. Weis shared a touching story about Super Bowl XXXVI, explained how his son is closer with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick than he is these days and discussed starting a charity because of his daughter and children sharing her condition. He also talked about his decision to coach the Gators and shared a little bit of his philosophy.

“Too many coaches wait until it’s too late,” Weis said of when he would adjust his game plan if it’s not working. “They’ll wait until halftime, but the game might be over already. There have been games where I’ve thrown out the game plan nine plays in.’’ He also talked about his in-game play calling. “One of my pet peeves is coaches who take too long to get a play in,’’ he said. “I call them quick. I like to rapid fire. I was fortunate to be around people who were really good at [play calling], regardless of the level. I like to sit there and say that it’s all you, but it’s an acquired trait that you either get it or don’t get it, like the timing of a play call.’’

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Coordinators Weis, Quinn energized and excited

With the Florida Gators set to begin 2011 spring practice on Wednesday, the team’s two new coordinators – Charlie Weis (offense) and Dan Quinn (defense) – met with the media Monday to discuss a variety of topics including personnel, schemes, position changes, their respective relationships with head coach Will Muschamp and transitioning from the NFL back to college football.

LEAVING THE NFL FOR THE GATORS

For Weis and Quinn, each had different reasons for trading in a comfortable job in the NFL for a new opportunity with Florida. Weis’s main concern was his family. His daughter Hannah is a special needs child, and his family being spread across the country in three different locations was not desirable. Instead, Weis and his son Charlie Jr. (who will be a student assistant on the team seeing as he aspires to be a football coach) will be in Gainesville, FL while his wife and daughter primarily reside in South Bend, IN when the weather is warm before traveling down south for the winter.

“It was a fairly easy decision but almost all of it was directly related to family issues,” Weis explained. “When Will called and I thought about how I could best take care of my family, the fact that my son could end up going to school here, my wife’s a horse person so I’m buying a house in the Ocala area – so I got serious brownie points on that end right there, too. The fact that I could take care of my wife and my daughter and my son and kind of mesh everything together, really it’s as simple of an answer as that one.”

Quinn’s decision was more about familiarity and the desire to work with an old friend again. “When the opportunity came to come work with [Muschamp], it really was an easy [decision] for me. I thought the guy had all the right stuff about him as a coach, so when I had the opportunity to come to a place like this, it really was easy for me,” he said. “I had a great experience in the NFL – loved it and made some terrific connections – but it was just a new challenge for me and something I was looking forward to doing. […] Will and I see football a lot in the same way. That connection is what brought me here. We do see things along the same line.”

Read everything Weis and Quinn had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » Coordinators Weis, Quinn energized and excited

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Muschamp shakes up staff with TE coach hire

With running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton departing for the Ohio State Buckeyes last week, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced Wednesday during his National Signing Day press conference that some changes have been made to his first coaching staff.

Muschamp hired Derek Lewis to coach tight ends and shifted former TE coach Brian White‘s responsibilities to coaching running backs. Additionally, wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill will take over Drayton’s recruiting coordinator duties.

Lewis, Minnesota’s tight ends and assistant special teams coach since 2007, was a graduate assistant with the Texas Longhorns from 2005-06. He had a solid career as a four-year letterman at Texas from 1995-98 and spent two seasons in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams (1999-2000), with whom he earned a Super Bowl ring.

“A lot of Gator fans will remember him,’’ Muschamp said of Lewis. “He caught the pass against Nebraska [in 1996] that won Texas the Big 12 Championship and vaulted Florida into the national championship game. He has helped the Gators in the past.”

A running backs coach from 1991-92 with UNLV and 1995-2006 with Wisconsin (where he was also offensive coordinator from 1999-2006), White takes over a job he has plenty of experience doing. Some of the players White has seen succeed under his tutelage as RB coach include Ron Dayne, Michael Bennett, Anthony Davis and Brian Calhoun – all four of whom were selected in the NFL Draft. He also produced eight 1,000-yard rushers in his first eight seasons with Wisconsin.

As projected by OGGOA on Jan. 27, Hill steps into the recruiting coordinator role after holding the position for the Miami Hurricanes in 2010.

“I’m really pleased with the job he did recruiting and what he brings to the staff, especially as a former Gator,” Muschamp said of his decision to give Hill the added responsibilities.

Position20102011
Offensive coordinatorSteve AddazioCharlie Weis
Quarterbacks coachScot LoefflerCharlie Weis
Defensive coordinatorTeryl AustinDan Quinn
Defensive line coachDan McCarney*Dan Quinn
Assistant: Bryant Young
Running backs coach
Recruiting coordinator
Stan DraytonBrian White
Offensive line coach
Running game coordinator
Steve AddazioFrank Verducci
Wide receivers coach
Recruiting coordinator
Zach AzzanniAubrey Hill
Tight ends coachBrian WhiteDerek Lewis
Linebackers coach
Special teams coordinator
D.J. DurkinD.J. Durkin
Defensive backs coachAustin/Chuck Heater*Travaris Robinson
Strength & conditioningMickey MarottiMickey Marotti

*McCarney was also assistant head coach; Heater held the role of co-defensive coordinator. Muschamp has not named an assistant (or associate) head coach as of press time.

Photo Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

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TWO BITS: Teryl Austin hired? Joe Haden’s chain

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive coordinator Teryl Austin may have a new job…thanks in part to a fellow former Florida defensive coordinator having moved on. With Greg Mattison leaving the Baltimore Ravens to take the same job with the Michigan Wolverines, Baltimore decided to promote secondary coach Chuck Pagano to his old position. That left an opening on the team for Austin, who according to the National Football Post, has already interviewed to be the Ravens’ secondary coach and is “considered the leading candidate to land the job.” Before joining the Gators, Austin was the secondary coach for the Seattle Seahawks from 2003-06 and Arizona Cardinals from 2007-09; he participated in one Super Bowl with each team.

2 » Last April, OGGOA posted this picture of Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden showing off a unique “Gator Boy” chain at the 2010 Orange & Blue Debut. The Fab Empire found this picture of Haden sporting the ice while out on the town last week, so we figured it was worth sharing here once again.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Miller, visits, MJD, Chickillo

1 » A victory by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship ensured that, for the ninth consecutive season, a former Florida Gators player will be going to the Super Bowl. Rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who has started every game of the 2010-11 season for Pittsburgh but left Sunday’s game in the first quarter with a high-ankle sprain (left), could also become the 14th former Gators star to win a ring. “I know in my heart that I’m playing in that game,” Pouncey said according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I had the same injury before on my other ankle and I know how to attack it. I know how to approach things.” Should the Steelers be victorious in Super Bowl XLV, it would be the third-straight year a Florida player has won a ring (Pittsburgh-Starks, New Orleans-McCray). Editor’s note: Steelers left tackle Max Starks would also receive a ring, though he has missed most of the season after injuring his neck earlier in the year.

2 » Getting off to a slow start this year after returning from a serious thumb injury he suffered during preseason training camp, Miami Heat guard Mike Miller went nuts on Saturday with two of his team’s best players on the sideline. Playing a season-high 33 minutes, Miller went 12-of-20 (and 6-of-11 from downtown) for 32 points, seven rebounds and three assists and set a franchise record with 22 points in the second quarter alone. He was 5-for-18 before Saturday’s game and had only scored 15 points on the season. “It’s not like I forgot how [to shoot],” Miller said. “It’s just a matter of getting out there and doing it. It was a matter of time.”

3 » UF received official visits from four-star cornerback Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and three-star offensive tackle Jacob Fisher (Traverse City, MI) over the weekend, both of whom were hosted by players and took in Florida’s big basketball win over Arkansas with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Roberson, currently committed to Texas Tech (where his uncle Otis Mounds is the CB coach), may be up for grabs depending how he feels his visit went. Fisher, on the other hand, has his recruitment completely open and is strongly looking around. A former Michigan commit, he decided to weigh his options after head coach Rich Rodriguez was fired.

4 » When Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler left the NFC Championship game on Sunday with a knee injury, many current and former NFL players took to Twitter in order to bash him. An interesting – and to Gators fans “offensive” – tweet came through from the account of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who likened Cutler’s sitting on the sidelines to Florida head coach Urban Meyer resigning. “Hey I think the Urban Meyer rule is effect right now. When the going gets tough… QUIT,” Jones-Drew wrote. “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee. I played the whole season on one…” Editor’s note: Jones-Drew missed the final two games of the 2010 season (while Jacksonville was still in playoff contention) with a knee injury.

Extra BIT » Though the new coaching staff, including head coach Will Muschamp made a strong case to get him to switch, four-star defensive end Anthony Chickillo decided to reaffirm his commitment to the Miami Hurricanes over the weekend.

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Pouncey, Wright, Noah, Horford

1 » After head coach Josh McDaniels was fired, murmurs surrounded the Denver Broncos specifically about whether or not his replacement would be a fan of rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. Now that John Fox has been hired as the team’s new head coach, questions about Tebow’s safety in Mile High have been quieted. The issue now is whether or not he will be tabbed as the team’s starter in 2011. “Just like any position, they’ll compete and we’ll go from there,” said Fox on the Dan Patrick Show when discussing Tebow and veteran Kyle Orton. “It’s too early for me to say. I’m going to evaluate guys on grass and we’ll have to see when we get those opportunities.” Most of Denver is calling for Tebow to be given the reigns to the offense after he started the final three games of the 2010 season; Fox hopes to be convinced of the same next year.

2 » The Beaver County Times sat down with Pittsburgh Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey and pick his brain about the team’s playoff run. One of two Florida Gators rookies remaining in the NFL Playoffs, Pouncey was candid in his answers. “It’s so much better,” he said of winning an NFL playoff game compared to playing in big games at Florida. “There is so much more on the line. In college, it was awesome. We had a great group of guys. But it was amazing. It was unbelievable. Man, our fans were awesome. For them to be out there with that much energy, it was crazy.” Pouncey also said winning a Super Bowl would be “the greatest accomplishment ever.”

3 » Chicago Bears safety Chris Harris injured his hip in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, paving the way for Major Wright to see extensive playing time against the Seattle Seahawks. Though Harris will be back against the Green Bay Packers, Wright is expected to see more playing time than usual in relief of his teammate.

4 » Catching up with injured Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, who is currently on the outside looking in, NBA.com reports that the former Gators star will have a pin removed from his injured right thumb in a week’s time and will finally begin rehabilitation on the thumb shortly after. “It’s been long and sometimes frustrating not being able to be out there with my teammates,” Noah said on Monday. “Physically, I feel pretty good. I’ve been doing a lot of cardio and working out. I feel strong and I’ll be ready to get back and help the team. I’m just trying to control what I can control right now. I’m all about getting this pin out of my finger and getting my hand back to 100 percent. Hopefully it’s before that because I would love to play in that game.” The article also discusses Noah inviting a dozen children to a game on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, his thoughts on point guard Derrick Rose and how good he believes the team can be this season.

5 » Speaking of former Florida stars in the NBA, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford is once again having an impressive season. In addition to averaging a career-high 16.5 points per game, Horford set a new career-high in blocks with seven on Monday night. He also scored 23 points (on 10-of-16 shooting), grabbed nine rebounds and dished six assists in his team’s victory against the Sacramento Kings.

6 » Swimmers Gemma Spofforth (who graduated in December) and senior Conor Dwyer have been named the 2010 recipients of the Ben Hill Griffin Award. Recognizing and honoring the top female and male student-athlete who excels in both athletic and academic achievement as well as extra-curricular involvement, the award is presented by the University Athletic Association. Spofforth is the third woman to win the award in back-to-back seasons (Angie McGinnis-2006-07, Nicole Haislett-1992-93); she and Tebow (only three-time winner) were honored in 2009. Dwyer is the third men’s swimmer to get the award (Ryan Lochte-2004, Greg Burgess-1993).

Photo Credit: NBA.com

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TWO BITS: Weis high on Brissett; surgeries

1 » Friday marked new Florida Gators offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Charlie Weis’s first day on the job, and he spent it in West Palm Beach, FL trying to recruit four-stars quarterback Jacoby Brissett and linebacker Curt Maggitt of Dwyer High School. Former Florida head coach Urban Meyer had previously offered Brissett the opportunity to greyshirt, but a visit by Weis followed by a phone call to new head coach Will Muschamp after the meeting netted Brissett an official scholarship offer on Friday. Maggitt already had an outstanding offer to join the Gators.

Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels told the Palm Beach Post that Weis showcased one of his Super Bowl rings and told “a ton of stories about what he’s done and situations he’s handled.” Brisset will take an unofficial visit to Gainesville, FL over the weekend to get a look at the school and watch the Florida-South Carolina basketball game (a former schoolmate plays for USC). The Gators hope to convince both Brissett and Maggitt to take an official visit to Florida before the recruiting cycle closes. [Read more of what Daniels had to say from the Post.

With Gators freshman QB Trey Burton expected to move to the defensive side of the ball (possibly safety), Florida would have five quarterbacks on its roster should Brissett commit. Redshirt junior John Brantley announced he is not transferring, five-star frosh Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) is already enrolled, and both redshirt freshman Jordan Reed and freshman Tyler Murphy are currently listed as QBs. Reed is also a tight end and could permanently switch to that position, and Murphy could theoretically change positions as well though he has come out and said he only wants to play quarterback.

2 » Muschamp announced Friday that freshman LB Neiron Ball and redshirt sophomore guard David Young both underwent surgery this past week. Ball, who played in all of Florida’s contests on special teams in 2010, had surgery to repair a sports hernia. Young had hardware cleaned out of his left knee from a prior surgery and only participated in two games this past season. Expectations are that Ball will be able to get work in during spring practice, but Young will most likely have to wait until the summer.

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