The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 20

Couple thousand student season tickets remain unsold

Attendance at sporting events is a growing problem across the nation, and the Florida Gators have been attempting to do whatever they can to try and address the issue in order to reach full capacity at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium each week.

Florida has wired the stadium to drastically improve cellular phone reception (though high-speed wireless internet, at a cost of about $3 million, has not yet been implemented throughout the stadium), begun offering more affordable tickets to recent graduates, opened spring and fall practices to all comers and even formed a council of boosters and students to ensure the program is doing everything it can to get its tickets sold.

UF also worked with the Southeastern Conference and its television partners to ensure that its early-season games were played in the late afternoon or evening, rather than the grueling early-afternoon heat.

Unfortunately for the Gators, the problem has only continued to grow. What was once limited to declining season ticket sales from boosters, those unwilling to spend thousands of dollars to get a couple of seats in The Swamp on Sunday, has now jumped across the field to the student section.

A Florida spokesman told OnlyGators.com last week that the school had “a couple thousand” student season tickets unsold with just two weeks to go before the start of the season. Pressed for a more specific number with 10 days left, the spokesman divulged this week that there are approximately 2,000 student season tickets available (as of press time) with that number shrinking minimally each day.

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Previewing Florida’s 2014 Friday Night Lights


Mixing pomp and circumstance with football drills and relationship building, the Florida Gators use their annual Friday Night Lights camp at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as both a recruiting tool and means of evaluating some of the best high school football players in the country. The Gators often host top-tier prospects over the FNL weekend but also find diamonds in the rough while coaching up the recruits.

The Swamp will once again filled with some of the top young talent in the nation on July 25, so much so that covering every player that plans to step on the field is a near impossibility. Below are a list of 10 players (in no particular order) to keep an eye on either because of their talent or high level of interest in attending Florida.

OT Martez Ivey (Apopka, FL) –
One of the top offensive tackles in the nation, Ivey is down to Florida and Auburn. His trip to Friday Night Lights should help him feel more comfortable with the Gators, but he will not make a decision until he sees how UF plays in 2014 and determines whether the coaching staff recruiting him will be around next year. A big Florida fan, the Gators are ultimately the team to beat for his services but can just as easily beat themselves and send him across the conference to play for the Tigers.

ATH Ray-Ray McCloud (Tampa, FL) –
McCloud has set his commitment announcement for Monday at 6:30 p.m., and his decision to spend the weekend before that choice is made in Gainesville speaks volumes. Florida is the favorite to pick up one of the most talented athletes in the country but is in competition primarily with UCLA and Clemson. He plays running back, wide receiver and cornerback and will likely do so for the Gators, but as is the case with Ivey, will be keeping an eye on how the team performs in 2014 even if he does choose UF.

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2014 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut Review

The 2014 Orange & Blue Debut is in the books with the Florida Gators coming away from their spring game without a winner as the first-team Blue and second-team Orange left the field tied at 23-23 at the end of the fourth quarter.

Florida’s offense certainly looked much improved, though there were questions about the Gators defense – specifically the line – especially by the time the scrimmage concluded.

OnlyGators.com offered free live coverage of the event as well as head coach Will Muschamp post-spring game press conference and now wraps it all up with evaluations, notes and quotes in the Orange & Blue Debut Review.

OFFENSE

» The running backs showed off with redshirt senior Mack Brown (Blue) toting the rock eight times for 55 yards and a touchdown. Brown pulled off a tremendous 19-yard rush by stopping short on an off-tackle run, reversing field and carrying the ball down to the one-yard line before rumbling into the end zone on the next play.

» Sophomore Kelvin Taylor (Blue) only got five total touches in the scrimmage (one reception for no gain) but looked impressive while on the field. Faced with three defenders on his way to the goal line, Taylor juked inside to avoid all three and took the ball down to the two-yard line on an 11-yard gain. He found pay dirt on the next play for the first touchdown of the game.

» Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (Blue) completed 10-of-17 passes for 125 yards and 31-yard touchdown on a drag route to sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (Blue) in the first half. Robinson took Driskel’s pass across the middle and charged upfield for the score. Driskel went 0-for-3 on his first series but calmed down, made some nice passes and moved his unit nicely in both the run and pass game. Driskel finished 19-of-33 for 171 yards.

Muschamp said he was “real pleased” with how Driskel played, especially considering he had not played football all offseason until these 15 spring practices. “Probably one of the better throws he had today was a throwaway, a scramble pass in a one-minute situation before half that he threw out of bounds. Decision making and all those things will continue to improve as he processes information within what we’re trying to do. I think he’s in the shotgun and that’s what he was recruited here to do.”

» Robinson finished with five receptions for 53 yards on the afternoon and also had a fourth down conversion when he caught a pass on a curl route and took it for a first down. “I think we’re as deep as we’ve been at wideout with some guys that can make plays on the ball,” Muschamp said. “Demarcus Robinson is a home run threat on every play,” Driskel added.

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2014 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut Preview

OnlyGators.com will offer full coverage of the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut via an on-site live blog on Saturday, April 12 as fans are unable to watch the spring game live for free either on television or online.

A live blog link is now available, so be sure to check OnlyGators.com to bookmark the page and stay with us as we take a first look at Florida football ahead of the 2014 season.

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather: Sunny, 80 degrees, winds east at 8 mph
Time: 1:30 p.m. (EDT)

TV (5:00 p.m. Tape Delay): Sun Sports (Larry Vettel, Nat Moore, Jessica Blaylock)
SiriusXM: None | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Free Online Video: None | Mobile Video: None
Free Live Updates: OnlyGators.com and @OnlyGators on Twitter

Reference: Roster | Schedule

EXPANDED VIEWING INFORMATION

Television:
Florida’s 2014 spring game will not air live on television but rather on tape delay at 5 p.m. due to a conflict with the Tampa Bay Rays. OnlyGators.com contacted Sun Sports and the Gators but received conflicting information as to why the game was not available live elsewhere on television, even as a pay-per-view broadcast.

Saturday, April 12 at 5:00 p.m. | Sunday, April 13 at 10:00 a.m.
Tuesday, April 15 at 12:00 p.m. | Thursday, April 17 at 12:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 19 at 12:00 p.m. | Tuesday, April 22 at 4:30 p.m.

Online:
While the game is not being offered live on television, you can pay $3.99 to stream the Orange & Blue Debut live online as a pay-per-view via GatorVision.tv.

However, OnlyGators.com is running a free live blog during the Orange & Blue Debut, so you can also check here on Saturday for full coverage without paying a cent.

EVENT FORMAT

Unlike 2013, when Florida only had six healthy offensive linemen and head coach Will Muschamp felt the team did not have enough healthy players to play a true spring game, the Gators will be reverting back to that format with four 12-minute quarters and a running clock, which will only stop during the two-minute drill at the end of each half.

Though Florida, for marketing purposes, held a “selection show” picking the first 12 players of each team, Muschamp previously stated that the Gators will run “good-on-good” during the game, meaning the first-team offense will play against the first-team defense and the same for the second-team units.

Therefore, even though there are supposed to be two teams – one wearing orange, the other blue – going against each other, both defenses will wear orange and both offenses will wear blue. Good luck keeping score.

Injury report, player notes and much more…all available after the break!

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FOUR BITS: UConn wins, One Shining Moment, Orange & Blue Debut, Gator Growl

1 » Two days after eliminating the (1) Florida Gators in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the (7) Connecticut Huskies went on to win the entire thing, claiming the national championship with a wire-to-wire 60-54 win over the (8) Kentucky Wildcats. UConn’s victory was a fitting end to the 2013-14 season for Florida, which saw one of only two teams to hand it a loss during the campaign capture the title as opposed to a team in Kentucky that it beat three times in a single season.

2 » The 2013-14 incarnation of CBS‘s famous One Shining Moment tournament recap featurette included six appearances by the Gators starting with a little girl doing the Gator Chomp at the beginning. Senior center Patric Young was shown three times, first at “the ball is tipped” (0:25), then for his big block against Pittsburgh (1:39) and finally on a dunk (1:47). Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin‘s halftime buzzer-beater three-pointer against Pittsburgh was not included, but he was shown celebrating afterward (2:10). UF was also in the video on a play in which it got dunked on by UConn.

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9/30: Muschamp on Easley to NFL, injuries, Hogs

No. 18/19 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss Saturday’s 24-7 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats and his team’s upcoming home game against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, Oct. 5. The contest will kick off at 7 p.m. and air live on ESPN2.

HEADING TO THE NFL

Asked about senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley future and whether he would consider applying for a medical redshirt and playing a fifth season, Muschamp announced that there was no question Easley would be moving on with his career.

“Dominque’s definitely going to go to the NFL,” he said. “He’s a guy that’s had two ACLs. I think that’s the best move for him right now is go and prepare himself for April and getting ready for that. He and I talked briefly about it. That’s what he wants to do, and I support it 100 percent.”

Muschamp said he is not concerned about teams being worried in regards to Easley’s injury history. He thinks what Easley has been able to do on the field will be more than enough to convince teams to draft him.

“He’ll have plenty of interest. He’s going to be a productive guy on the next level. He’s a really good football player,” Muschamp said. “He’s extremely intelligent. He gets the game. His tape speaks for itself in how he plays the game, how he approaches the game. He’ll be fine. There will be a lot of organizations that want him in their organization.”

Muschamp also noted that he has not spoken at length with redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose regarding his future though the two did touch base. Debose would have to apply for a second medical hardship waiver but would likely have it granted considering he did not play a single down in 2013.

INJURY UPDATES

Aside from season-ending injuries, the Gators appear to be relatively healthy heading into their next game. Redshirt sophomore running back Valdez Showers (ankle), who has missed the last two games, should be back in practice by Tuesday but will definitely see the field by Wednesday at the latest. Muschamp also noted that junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) could have played against the Wildcats if needed but was held out as a precaution considering he was a game-time decision.

Redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot) will remain out for this week, but sophomore TE Kent Taylor (ankle) should be back in uniform for the game. Muschamp had not previously announced Taylor’s injury but noted Monday that he has missed 2-3 weeks of action.

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Highlights from Reddit AMA with Jesse Schmitt

Former Florida Gators walk-on running back Jesse Schmitt held a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) question-and-answer session on Monday and revealed some interesting facts about the four years he spent playing college football in Gainesville, FL.

Below are some of Schmitt’s most interesting responses, slightly edited for clarity.

» On a crazy workout story involving Omarius Hines: “Our former RB Omarius Hines is the most muscular human being I’ve ever met. He looks like an action figure, and I am in no way exaggerating that. It’s insane. Apparently, during a leg press set, his quadriceps muscle actually tore through his skin. Basically, his leg exploded. This was all way back though, maybe 2009-2010. But he couldn’t work out for the longest time after that, and they still never let him max out leg press ever again. I wasn’t around for this, mind you, so I heard that second hand. But I believe it.”

» On the intensity of tight ends coach Derek Lewis: “Before every game, Coach Lewis is pacing through the locker room, screaming a motivation for the upcoming game. Not necessarily nice things about the other team, but to the effect of ‘They come in the Swamp? And they think they can play with you? No sir, not here, no way.’ And he gets progressively more and more worked up. Usually its good stuff, we get a chuckle out of it, some guys get hyped up, and it’s just part of the pre-game tradition.

“But before the LSU game, he was in great form. That was our biggest home game last year, No. 10 Florida vs. No. 2 LSU. We knew we they were a good team, we knew we were too. Everyone was psyched, and Coach Lewis even more so. We walk-ons heard him in the main part of the locker room raving like usual, and then a gigantic crash. I ran out to see he had punched THROUGH a whiteboard we had up to diagram plays and game plan, completely shattering it.

“Worse still, when he ripped his arm back through it, the jagged edges cut his arm, badly. I mean, arterial spray badly. Luckily there were some towels nearby, someone slapped them on him, the trainers were literally 25 feet away, and they got him to Shands Hospital. He could easily have died, if medical help wasn’t right there.

“After we won that game, he joyously yelled out in the locker room, ‘I’m gonna damn near kill myself before every game! Get me another board! I’ll punch that one too!’”

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QB Danny Wuerffel discusses hall of fame, disease, Florida football and New Orleans

Former Florida Gators quarterback and 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2013 on Dec. 10 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, NY.

Wuerffel, who was first up for induction in 2012 but not chosen on his first ballot, is the seventh Florida player and 10th representative of the Gators (three coaches) to earn induction into the prestigious group. He joins defensive end Dale Van Sickel (1975), QB Steve Spurrier (1986), DE Jack Youngblood (1992), running back Emmitt Smith (2006), linebacker Wilber Marshall (2008) and wide receiver Carlos Alvarez (2011) as players in the career-defining club. Coaches Charlie Bachman (1978), Ray Graves (1990) and Doug Dickey (2003) are also members.

The winner of seven awards in 1996, the Davey O’Brien Award in 1995, two SEC Player of the Year honors and two first-team All-American nods, Wuerffel threw for an astounding 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns in his four-year career at Florida, both of which remain school records. He also led the Gators to the program’s first national championship and four-straight SEC titles.

In 1995, his efficiency rating of 178.4 set a single-season collegiate record. In his Heisman year of 1996, Wuerffel led the nation with an SEC-record 39 touchdowns while setting another SEC record with 3,625 yards and registering a 170.6 efficiency rating, making him the first quarterback to ever post a rating of 170+ in consecutive seasons.

At the conclusion of his collegiate career, Wuerffel held four national records, 12 conference records and 32 school records.

He was enshrined in the Gators’ Ring of Honor in 2006 and is also immortalized in a bronze statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

In a recent interview with OnlyGators.com, he revealed that he will return to The Swamp on Sept. 21 for the Tennessee game as he will be honored on the field for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development, and on his way to a full recovery from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease that he was first stricken with in 2011, Wuerffel discussed his illness, Florida football and more in a 30-minute exclusive conversation earlier this month.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: It has been a while since we last spoke. Let’s hear some good news about your recovery and how are you feeling these days.
DANNY WUERFFEL: “I’m happy to report that I’m feeling very blessed and fortunate. I think I’m probably in the 90-95 percent range from where I was before. Actually, Guillain-Barre is usually something that comes, attacks your body and then you get over it to whatever degree you recover. Rarely do you have ongoing symptoms or another bout with it. In the world of difficult health issues, this is often one of the kinder ones to struggle through because I know a lot of friends that have ongoing, chronic struggles that really have no end in sight. So I feel very fortunate.”

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