Florida CB Jeremy Brown returns from injury

Updated at 11 p.m.

Making an appearance Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference’s weekly media teleconference, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced that redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown has resumed practicing with the team after missing the season opener against Bowling Green.

Brown, who sat out the entire 2011 season with a knee injury after starting at cornerback for Florida in 2010, returned to working out extensively with the team this summer but fractured his wrist and had surgery on July 18.

He was reevaluated on Aug. 28 to see if he could begin practicing before the first game of the season but was not cleared and did not play last Saturday. Muschamp said he rejoined the team this week and impressed with what he was able to do on the field.

“Obviously Jeremy Brown coming back is going to be a difference for us as well,” he said Wednesday. “Jeremy Brown is ready to go. He actually looked really good [Tuesday], moving around and some things. He will play in the game.”

Speaking later in the day, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said that Brown’s ability to come back once again from a major injury is a testament to his work ethic and spirit. It also sets a great example for the team as a whole.

“Jeremy Brown coming back really is a great story of, ‘hang in there and keep persevering.’ I was really excited to see him come back,” Quinn said. “You know he’s had some set-backs over the last year and a half.

“For him to get out and be back I thought was really a big lift for our team and a good message, too, to say you don’t always get a chance to control what happens but you do have a chance to control how you react to it. I thought that was a good message for him and for the younger players on the team. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way but if you keep hanging in there usually you can come out the other end.”

The Gators very much need Brown against the Texas A&M Aggies. Muschamp expects Florida to be rotating defensive backs all game long, something he feels is quite necessary considering the speed of the Aggies’ offense and how many snaps they will be taking over the course of the game.

“We’re going to be in some situations where we’ll have six DBs on the field, especially with a high-tempo offense like [Texas A&M runs],” he said. “They’re going to be on-the-ball snapping. So they’re going to be taking a lot of snaps. It’s going to be hot, so we’re going to have to roll and play a bunch of guys.”

The wrist injury was Brown’s fourth major ailment since joining the Gators as a true freshman in 2008. He began experiencing back problems that summer and missed his freshman year as well as the entire 2009 campaign.

When Brown did play in 2010 he started 10 of the 11 games in which he played, missing the final two regular season contests with a strained hamstring before returning to compete in the Outback Bowl. He was eighth in the SEC with five passes defended and also registered three interceptions that season.

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ESPN College GameDay at Texas A&M on Sept. 8

ESPN College GameDay will eminate from College Station, TX next Saturday as the Texas A&M Aggies (0-0) host the No. 23 Florida Gators (1-0) in a game that is not only the season opener for the home team but also their first-ever league game as a newly-established member of the Southeastern Conference.

Florida will take on Texas A&M at Kyle Field on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The game will be aired live on ESPN at 3:30 p.m.

The Gators will be making their first appearance on the program in two seasons after last being featured three times in 2009 – at home against Florida State, on the road at LSU and in a neutral site game against Alabama in Atlanta, GA for the SEC Championship.

ESPN will take the program to College Station for the third time since it began in 1993; the Aggies last hosted GameDay on Nov. 4, 2006.

College GameDay begins with a one-hour show at 9 a.m. on ESPNU before shifting over to ESPN for the primary two-hour broadcast beginning at 10 a.m. It features host Chris Fowler, analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack and contributor Samantha Steele.

The network will put Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Herbstreit (color commentary) and Heather Cox (sideline reporter) on the call for the featured contest.

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TWO BITS: Texas A&M schedule, Mann moved

1 » The Texas A&M Aggies, with their week two game against the Florida Gators set to be their first-ever league contest as a member of the Southeastern Conference, will now open their entire 2012 campaign against Florida after their season opener set for Aug. 30 was postponed due to the threat of Hurricane Issac. The storm, which is currently heading through Louisiana, forced Louisiana Tech (Texas A&M’s week one opponent) to call off the game and reschedule it for Oct. 13, which luckily was a bye week for both programs. The adjustment gives the Aggies at least four additional days to prepare for the Gators, which will host Bowling Green on Sept. 1 before travelling the following week to College Station, TX for the showdown on Sept. 8.

2 » According to The Gainesville Sun, Florida freshman Jafar Mann has been moved from defensive tackle to offensive guard effective immediately. Mann, a three-star prospect who was likely set to redshirt anyway this season (but now almost certainly will), is being moved from a position of depth to one of relative weakness. The move may or may not have been pushed forward by the Gators coaching staff after the team lost a commitment from 2013 three-star Joshua Outlaw earlier this month. Florida only has two offensive linemen committed for next season and may not have more than one more player on their board for the next six months.

UPDATE: Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn explained Wednesday that moving Mann was done to work him out at both positions and see where he performs better. He could wind up back at defensive tackle when all is said and done.

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FOUR BITS: Muschamp, Allen, Pitchford, Hill

1 » Despite the lack of actual conflict between Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies top man Kevin Sumlin, the city of College Station, TX took the barbs as an opportunity to create the following video promoting their city while simultaneously making some light-hearted jokes at Muschamp.

2 » Former Gators forward Adam Allen, who never truly played for Florida again after injuring his knee as a true freshman, left the team for good after seeing 25 seconds on Senior Night in his redshirt junior season. Allen was graduating from the University of Florida and saw no further reason to remain on the team considering he would be unable to play for head coach Billy Donovan. Now over a year removed from the game, Allen has decided to attend Rollins College in Winter Park, FL for graduate school and announced this week that he will also have the opportunity to play basketball while enrolled. Allen, whose knee injury still limits him, told OGGOA (he served as a columnist here during the 2011-12 basketball season) that will not be able to play full-time at Rollins but will do whatever he can to help the team.

3 » Speaking of former Gators basketball players, Florida freshman transfer Walter Pitchford has officially committed to Nebraska after visiting the school over the weekend. “I just thought it was the right decision,” Pitchford told Rivals.com. “I’m comfortable with everyone on the staff and the players. I just felt like I really got along with everyone and this was the right fit for more.” A former three-star recruit, Pitchford was a late UF commitment during the 2011 cycle but played very limited minutes last season. He decided following the season to leave the program and move closer to home and chose a school that is a two-hour flight from Michigan. Pitchford will apply for a hardship waiver (citing family reasons for his transfer) that would allow him to be eligible immediately at Nebraska but chances are he will have to sit out the 2012-13 season.

4 » A future Gators basketball star also got some good news on Saturday when ESPN released its latest top-100 players list for the 2013 season. Florida five-star point guard commitment Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) has been turning heads this entire offseason and jumped 12 spots on the list up to No. 6 overall. Already ranked No. 8 by Rivals, Hill is now a consensus top-10 player and has the opportunity to vault even higher with a stellar senior campaign. The Gators’ primary remaining target for 2013, five-star forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL), is listed as the seventh-best player by ESPN and sixth-best by Rivals. He has plenty of offers but will likely choose between UF and Kansas. Working in Florida’s favor is the fact that Walker and Hill are close and have discussed playing together at the next level.

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Sumlin cracks back at Muschamp’s barb

For two guys who have not been head coaches in the Southeastern Conference for long, Florida’s Will Muschamp (one year, five months) and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin (five months) may be forming the beginnings of a rivalry that the Gators’ head coach sparked last week with a relatively innocent jab.

“You ever been to College Station?” he asked rhetorically to a group of Florida fans at a Gator Gathering in Lakeland FL. “It’ll be the only time you go.”

Sumlin was apparently none-too-pleased when he heard about Muschamp’s barb, responding Wednesday with a very simple comment in a mind-your-own-business vein.

“He needs to worry about his own team,” said Sumlin, who has coached in the state of Texas since 2008, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Muschamp is plenty worried about the Gators, which after a 7-6 season in his first go-around with the team are looking to make a big jump in year two.

Sumlin is in the first year of his rebuilding project after being hired to replace head coach Mike Sherman in December.

Florida will have an opportunity to get off to a hot start when they open up the 2012 SEC slate against, you guessed it, Texas A&M at Kyle Field on Sept. 8. The game will be the Aggies’ first in their new conference and, as the Chronicle notes, “might be the most hyped game in history between two programs coming off 7-6 seasons.”

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Florida softball passes road test in Palm Springs

Participating in the 2012 Cathedral City Classic at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex in Palm Springs, CA over the long weekend, No. 1 Florida Gators softball (13-1) won four of the five games they played and went 2-1 against top 25-ranked opponents. Though Florida may get knocked down from their top ranking when the new polls are released Tuesday, the Gators still found plenty of success over the weekend.

Florida started the event with back-to-back games against top competition on Thursday afternoon. UF defeated the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies in a 1 p.m. start before falling to the No. 5 Washington Huskies at 3:30 p.m.

The Gators scored six runs on five hits in the early contest, using sharp hitting from junior catcher Brittany Schutte (1-2, 2 RBI, R, SB) and senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) to help propel them to a 6-5 victory. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers pitched a complete game, striking out seven while giving up four earned runs (three in the top of the seventh) on nine hits with two walks.

Freshman RHP Lauren Haeger suffered her first loss of the season in the latter contest, allowing five runs (three earned) on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts in 5.0 innings. Washington led 1-0 through 2.5 innings, but Florida took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third after a triple from freshman second baseman Katie Medina (2-3, RBI, R) and a single by freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-4, RBI) sent two runs in. UF would not score again, leaving six on base over the course of the contest), as UW scored pairs of runs in the top of the fifth and six to pull away with a 5-2 win.

Gators head coach Tim Walton gave Haeger an immediate opportunity for redemption, throwing her in the team’s 1 p.m. game against the Brigham Young Cougars on Friday. Florida took down BYU 3-0 thanks partially to Haeger (4-1), who struck out five while scattering five hits and two walks in six innings. Fellow freshman RHP Alyssa Bache came on for the final inning, striking out two to earn her first save of the season. UF scored all three of their runs on two dingers including a solo shot by junior designated hitter Ensley Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and a two-run bomb by sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB) one inning later.

Gammel and Coyle found their power strokes again in the Gators’ second match-up on Friday, a 5-1 victory over the No. 8 Texas Longhorns. Florida got to the plate in the top of the first, but Texas matched the score with a run of their own in the bottom of the second. Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and Coyle (1-3 RBI, R) then each connected on home runs in the top of the fourth, vaulting UF ahead of UT permanently. Haeger (1-2, 2 RBI) and Schutte (0-2, RBI, BB, SB) were responsible for the other runs in the game, while Rogers only gave up four hits while striking out eight in a complete game outing that did not include an earned run.

Rogers (8-0) earned her third win in as many days on Saturday by striking out five and scattering five hits with only one walk in a complete game outing as the Gators took down the Boise State Broncos 3-0 to close out their road trip. Schutte (1-3, 2 RBI) hit a two-RBI single in the top of the first to give Florida an early advantage, and junior right fielder Kelsey Horton (1-3, RBI, R) smacked a solo homer in the fifth to extend UF’s lead.

It should come as no surprise that some of the team’s best performers over the weekend – Schutte, Coyle, Gammel and Medina – all hail from the state of California.

The Gators returned to Gainesville, FL on Saturday and will remain in town by hosting an event next weekend. Florida will take on Eastern Michigan on Thursday before competing in the Lipton Invitational from March 2-4. UF will take on EMU again on Friday as part of the event along with Gardner-Webb (twice), Tennessee State and Campbell. The Gators are set to open Southeastern Conference play on March 7.

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Florida vs. Texas A&M post-game notes

The No. 13 Florida Gators beat up on the No. 22 Texas A&M Aggies 84-64 on Saturday afternoon at the 2011 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in Sunrise, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and game MVP junior guard Kenny Boynton shared their thoughts on the victory.

BOYNTON’s BIG HOMECOMING

For the second-straight year, Boynton returned home to South Florida and picked up the MVP award in the OBBC. He accomplished the feat this time around by, as Donovan said, playing within himself and not losing sight of what was important in the game.

“With Kenny playing here before and playing like he did a year ago, the thing I just told him [before the game] was to let the game come to you. Just play and just take what the defense is giving us and do what we’re doing. There’s going to be enough opportunities for him,” he said. “There’s a mindset you have to have. I don’t think it’s ever easy when you come back [and play at home]. One thing I told Patric Young when he went back to play at Jacksonville: ‘All those people in the stands – they’re still going to love you regardless of what happens.’ When you’re back home, you want to do well you want the team to do well. There is so much you want to happen in a positive way. It says a lot about Kenny mentally coming in, staying focused on what the team needed to do. As a result, he had a great game because I think he really played the right way.”

Boynton dropped six threes on his way to a team-high 22 points and was efficient from beyond the arc, appearing to take controlled, balanced shots at every opportunity. Donovan explained that his mindset has changed a lot this year – all for the better.

“When he’s got his legs under him and he’s on balance, he can make deep shots and if guys are closing to him, he can get it off. I’m really happy for him this year. It’s been a lot of fun for me as a coach,” he said. “When he got here as a freshman, he was such a prolific scorer and he did it from behind the line because he could get it off. He went through a great learning process where he had a chance to play a lot as a freshman and then last year he added some different things. Right now, offensively, he’s becoming more and more complete. His turnover ratio is really good. He’s making pull-up mid-range jump shots. He’s making runners. With him doing that, it’s opening up other areas for him behind the line. The biggest thing that he’s doing right now is he’s finally realizing how long a game is.”

REMEDYING THE FREE THROW WOES

The Gators entered Saturday’s game ranked 318th nationally in free throw shooting, hitting just about 59 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe. Florida did much better this week, shooting 77 percent (23-of-30) from the line, playing to Donovan’s opinion that UF is not as bad as it may seem in that area.

“We’re a better free throw shooting team than the stats show,” he said. Kenny’s a good free throw shooter, as is Erving [Walker]. Brad [Beal] made his free throws; he was 6-for-6. I think Will [Yeguete] and Pat need to continue to get better. It was good to see that Casey [Prather] missed his first two; he came back and made two later. How good of a free throw shooting team are we percentage-wise? I know we’re better than 59 percent. They’ve worked at it, they’ve put the time in and we need to just keep doing that.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on how Florida started the game: “I thought the first half was the best we’ve played all year.”

» Donovan on how the game went: “These guys offensively and defensively I thought played really well. I wish we would have handled the lead a little bit better coming out of the locker room. We shared it, we passed it, we moved it. We had inside-outside action. Kenny and Erving and Brad really did a great job, when they got in the lane they knew when to take it in the rim, when they got in the lane they knew when to throw it out to each other.”

» Donovan on having some early foul trouble: “Overall playing the game in the first half really without Patric against that kind of frontcourt, I thought our defense was disruptive enough with the press at half court that we were able to weather that battle with Will and Pat being in foul trouble.”

» Donovan on junior forward Erik Murphy returning to the starting lineup: “We do need Erik’s ability to shoot the ball, stretch the defense, size, rebounding. He can do some different things offensively. We needed to get him back in there. It was nothing that Will did wrong; actually Will did a great job in his absence.”

» Boynton on winning the MVP award: “It’s always great to come back home and have a great performance. This is our third year here. The first year we lost but the last years we won. I thought I played good overall, but I’m more happier with the win.”

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Boynton scores 22 as Florida routs Texas A&M

It was another happy homecoming for junior guard Kenny Boynton, who scored 22 points and earned his second-straight Orange Bowl Basketball Classic Most Valuable Player award as he led the No. 13 Florida Gators (8-2) in an 84-64 rout of the No. 22 Texas A&M Aggies (8-2) in Sunrise, FL on Saturday.

Boynton’s six three-pointers led the way for the Gators, which hit 11 treys on the afternoon and reached double digits in that category for their eighth time in 10 games. Florida shot 36 percent from the line, 48 percent from the floor and – more importantly – 77 percent from the free throw line (23-of-30).

The Gators outrebounded the Aggies 30-26, the ninth time in 10 games they have accomplished that feat despite often being at a size disadvantage.

Florida opened the game with a 9-1 run and, following a Texas A&M free throw, completed another 9-0 run to take an early 18-2 advantage. The Aggies missed their first seven shots and did not hit a field goal in the first eight minutes.

A stretch of three triples (two from Boynton, one from junior forward Erik Murphy) put UF well out in front near the end of the first half, and the Gators kept the pressure on in the second half to pull out the 20-point victory.

Senior point guard Erving Walker (9-for-10 from the charity stripe) and freshman G Bradley Beal (6-for-6 from the line) each scored 16 points; Walker added six assists, while Beal grabbed four rebounds, dished three dimes and notched three steals. Murphy finished 4-of-6 with 13 points and five rebounds.

Defeating their first ranked opponent of the season in their fourth neutral site game this year, Florida returns to Gainesville, FL for a two-game home stand beginning with Mississippi Valley State on Monday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on FOX Sports Florida (check your local listings).

FLORIDA FAN HITS $25,000 HALF-COURT SHOT
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