FOUR BITS: Quinn, Black, Strong, Rosario

1 » Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who has mostly been out on the road recruiting since the Seattle Seahawks were eliminated from the NFL Playoffs, has been assigned the Jacksonville, FL area as his primary recruiting grounds, according to The Florida Times-Union. The Times-Union’s Hays Carlyon reports that Quinn visited a number of area high schools on Friday and notes that Florida could be interested in two Yulee High School players over the next two seasons – tight end/linebacker Kelvin Rainey in 2012 and running back Derrick Henry in 2013.

2 » When former Gators safety Ahmad Black presented the game ball from the 2011 Outback Bowl to Ian Lockwood, it was obvious the two (and then-head coach Urban Meyer) had formed a special bond. In Mobile, AL for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl, Black spoke with the Pensacola News Journal about his friendship with Lockwood and how the two became so close so quickly. “He opened the door to the Florida football program,” said Lockwood’s high school football coach Chad Lashley. “That has meant the world to Ian. It just shows the unbelievable character of Ahmad and his concern for other people. With him getting that interception, it was just the perfect ending.” You can read more thoughts from Black and Lashley by clicking here.

3 » Taking the Louisville Cardinals to a 7-6 record and earning Big East Co-Coach of the Year honors in 2010, head coach Charlie Strong appears to be in line for a new contract with a substantial raise, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal, which spoke with athletic director Tom Jurich. “We want to do [give him a raise], but this staff has been busy and they’re doing a great job, so when signing day is over and we get some time, we’re definitely going to address that,” Jurich said. “It’s been great that he’s been able to keep his staff together to this point, and I can tell you those guys are really getting after it and they’re having a great time. They’re on a rocket ship right now, and it’s fun to watch.” Louisville doing what it can to keep Strong now may prevent him leaving until a significantly better job is available a few years down the road. He currently earns $1.6 million per season.

4 » Redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario is biding his time helping Florida improve during practice while he waits out a NCAA-mandated transfer season. An article written for CNN profiling Rosario’s hall of fame high school head coach Bob Hurley, Sr. notes that the player once the star of one of Hurley’s teams and describes him as a “hot-tempered kid who used basketball as a refuge from the life in a housing project.” Rosario recounted his time playing for Hurley. “He started disciplining me like I was one of his sons,” he said. “It was to the point where I was like, ‘Wow, I had never been pushed like this in my life.’ I learned how to be a man and not a boy.”

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Charlie Strong hired as Louisville head coach

Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has been announced as the 21st head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. Strong was named the front-runner to replace former head coach Steve Kragthrope by Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich after the regular season concluded, though Jurich waited to speak to Strong and Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley until after the Gators competed in the 2009 SEC Championship. The two first met Sunday evening in Gainesville, FL, and spoke about the job throughout the week as Jurich waited for the University of Louisville‘s Athletic Association Board of Directors to approve the hiring of Strong. That endorsement came Wednesday afternoon, and a school press conference scheduled for 4 p.m. confirmed Strong’s future with the Cardinals.

“I’ve done a lot of homework with this hire, and I was amazed how well-respected and revered Charlie Strong is throughout the country ,” Jurich said at the press conference. “He commands a lot of respect from people within the game, including ex-players and coaches around college football. However, after meeting him in person, I was even more impressed. Tony Dungy had a huge impact on me with this hire. He was passionate about Charlie as a coach and as person. I respect the opinions of Urban Meyer, who was part of our staff at Colorado State, and Jeremy Foley, who is one of the most respected athletic directors in the country. They both raved about Charlie as a football coach and his great character.”

During his first address to the Louisville faithful, Strong first paused and then cried when asked by a reporter if he thought he would ever get the chance to be a head coach. “Because you just never knew if it would happen,” he said. Strong also described the meeting when Jurich offered him the job as “very emotional” for his family. “Coaching is taking young men and making an impact and influence on their lives to make them better people,” Strong said. “I want them to know that their sole purpose here is to get a degree and to go win football games.”

Strong got his start as a graduate assistant at Florida from 1983-84 and has spent the majority of his 27-year coaching career with the Gators. He returned to the team in 1988 as outside linebackers coach for two seasons before leaving and coming back in 1991 under head coach Steve Spurrier as assistant head coach/defensive tackles coach. In 1999, he became the first African-American coordinator in Southeastern Conference history when he was hired by Lou Holtz of the South Carolina Gamecocks to coach the defense. His most recent stint with Florida began in 2002 as defensive coordinator under then-head coach Ron Zook. Strong survived the transition of the team to current head coach Urban Meyer, who eventually gave him complete control of the defense and the additional title of assistant head coach. He also served as the Gators’ interim coach (effectively the second African-American head coach in SEC history) in Florida’s 2004 Peach Bowl loss to the Miami Hurricanes.

Throughout his career, Strong has been known as a terrific recruiter who is able to connect on a personal level with his players. He has coached in 19 bowl games, including 12 in January, due in part to his installation of an aggressive, attacking scheme that puts pressure on the quarterback and forces turnovers. Strong has developed six first-round NFL Draft picks and 15 players who were drafted in the third round or higher (prior to the 2010 draft). Since 2003, Florida’s defense under Strong has intercepted 132 passes, good for No. 3 in the nation and best in the SEC. No SEC defense has forced more turnovers (139) or interceptions (95) than the Gators since 2005, and only one other school in the nation (Boston College) has picked off more passes. Florida’s defense has also paced the SEC in total rushing yards allowed and rushing yards per game allowed since 2005 while remaining at the top of the league in red zone scoring defense over the last two seasons (second in the nation – East Carolina).

Because of the recent success of the Gators under Meyer, the coach has lost a number of his assistants to promotions. Doc Holliday was with Florida from 2005-2007 as associate head coach/safeties coach/recruiting coordinator before leaving to become the West Virginia Mountaineers associate head coach while also coaching tight ends, fullbacks and running the team’s recruiting. Co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Greg Mattison left after the 2007 season to coach linebackers for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens (he is now the team’s defensive coordinator). And most recently, former offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen was hired as the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs before the 2009 BCS National Championship. Mullen took tight ends/assistant offensive line coach John Hevesy with him as his assistant coach/offensive line coach/running game coordinator.

Strong was bombarded by phone calls from assistants around the country looking to earn a spot on his Louisville staff before he was even officially interviewed for the position. Rumors are swirling that he may tap either Florida wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Billy Gonzales or running backs coach Kenny Carter to become his offensive coordinator. (Gonzales has since denied these rumors, though it is believed that Meyer has already spoken with Notre Dame Fighting Irish running backs coach Tony Alford about replacing Carter should Strong bring him along.) Some are also speculating that Strong could ask assistant head coach/defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney or assistant defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater to join him as his defensive coordinator. Either McCartney or Heater is expected to be named the Gators’ defensive coordinator in succession of Strong.

The Cardinals told Strong that he could stay with the Gators to coach in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, and according to a statement he gave the St. Petersburg Times, he will do so.

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FOUR BITS: Strong nearing deal with Louisville, scholarship offer, Tebow’s NFL evaluation

1 » According to The Orlando Sentinel, the talks between Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and Louisville Cardinals athletic director Tom Jurich are ongoing. Jurich told the Sentinel that things are “proceeding great,” and the conversation between the two will continue Tuesday afternoon.

2 » On the subject of Strong, the University of Louisville announced that the school’s Personnel Committee of the Athletic Association Board of Directors will be meeting Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. FanHouse reports that the meeting has been scheduled to gain approval for Strong to be hired as the school’s next head football coach.

3 » The Gators have offered a football scholarship to highly touted 2011 inside linebacker recruit Anthony Wallace (Dallas, TX) according to ESPN. Florida’s offer is already Wallace’s 13th.

4 » KC Joyner, aka “The Football Scientist,” evaluated senior quarterback Tim Tebow in his ESPN Insider column on Tuesday. Joyner believes Tebow’s “intangibles are off the charts,” but his “metrics leave much to be desired.” Characteristics working against Tebow are his elongated throwing motion and tendency to lock onto receivers; he also does not read blitzes or pass-rushing tricks well, will not step forward on play-action fakes and is uncomfortable working in the pocket. “Tebow’s charisma and ticket-selling abilities may cause some team to draft him higher than his current skill set says he should be taken,” Joyner concludes.

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FOUR BITS: Strong, SEC title, Syracuse, baseball

1 » Louisville Cardinals athletic director Tom Jurich spoke with the Louisville Courier-Journal on Monday about his continuing talks with Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to become his school’s next head football coach. Jurich he is “further along today than I was yesterday, so that’s good,” but that he would have another conversation with Strong on Tuesday. “I don’t really have a status update, it’s on-going,” Jurich said. “I tell you what though, he’s very impressive, a very impressive guy, he’d be great for our community.” An official contract offer has not yet been made, and the Gators are expected to make Strong a counter offer to stay on board.

2 » Two days after their heartbreaking loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 SEC Championship, Florida players put the blame on themselves for not playing like they practiced throughout the week. “We thought we would have won the game with the way we practiced,” senior linebacker Ryan Stamper said. “It was just like any other practice — probably one of our better practices. We had juice in the locker room; we had juice when we went out on the field. We just couldn’t get the job done.”

3 » Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan told reporters on Monday that the team may be without sophomores guard/forward Ray Shipman (mid-foot sprain) and sophomore center Kenny Kadji (lower back) for Thursday’s game against the No. 7 Syracuse Orange (8-0) in the SEC/Big East Invitational from the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL. Both players received MRIs and are considered questionable for the game. “We’re down to eight right now,” Donovan said. Speaking of Florida basketball, the team moved up to No. 10 and No. 11, respectively, in this week’s AP Top 25 and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ polls. Beginning the season unranked, the Gators are an undefeated 8-0 including a win over the then-No. 2 Michigan State Spartans.

4 » Shortstop recruit Casey Turgeon (Dunedin, FL), one of the best players in the state, committed to the Florida baseball program before his junior high school season.

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Louisville AD met with Strong, job not offered (yet)

Named by numerous inside sources as the front-runner for the Louisville Cardinals head coaching job last week, Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong sat down for a meeting Sunday night in Gainesville, FL, with Tom Jurich, the school’s athletic director. Jurich, who waited to contact his Florida counterpart Jeremy Foley and then Strong until after the 2009 SEC Championship, said last week that he wanted to “get the program rolling” but not “be a disruption to their program.”

As OGGOA reported on Wednesday, Jurich was prepared for a lucrative counter offer from the Gators to keep Strong as their defensive coordinator and left the meeting (which was “several hours” long) feeling one was on the horizon. “We’ve got a little more work to do,” Jurich told ESPN’s Pat Forde after meeting with Strong. “I know Florida wants to keep him. I was very, very impressed by him,” he said. “He’s a quality guy.”

However, Jurich left the meeting without officially offering the job to Strong, though he will continue discussing it with him over the next few days. Jurich also told ESPN that he was given a noteworthy recommendation of Strong by former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy. “Not a bad recommendation,” Jurich said.

Should Strong leave, it will be the second time in as many seasons that the Gators have lost a coordinator after the SEC Championship game with former offensive coordinator Dan Mullen being hired as the Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach in 2008. Assistant defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater and assistant head coach/defensive line coach Dan McCarney would be the leading candidates to replace Strong should he accept the job. One of the two could join Strong as his defensive coordinator wherever he winds up, and rumors have begun that Strong plans to bring Florida wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales along with him as his offensive coordinator should he take a head job.

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Louisville AD expects UF counter offer for Strong

Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has been named as the leading candidate to become the next head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, and University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich has been quite open about that fact. While Jurich has not contacted Strong yet and will not do so until after the 2009 SEC Championship game, he has answered questions about his desire to see Strong as his next coach.

“I want to get the program rolling, I want to get after it, but I gave my word to several people that I didn’t want to be a disruption to their program,” Jurich told the Courier-Journal on Wednesday. “A lot of guys are still playing for a lot of important things. I’m the last person I want to get in the way.” The Orlando Sentinel spoke with Jurich Thursday and received a similar response. “I have too much respect for Urban [Meyer] and Jeremy [Foley] to be a distraction,” he said.

The Sentinel also reports that Jurich will not travel to Atlanta, GA, for the game and, contrary to other reports, is not expected to meet with Strong until after the weekend is over. In fact, Jurich and Louisville are of the belief that Florida will make a lucrative counter offer to keep Strong as its defensive coordinator.

Though Strong has interviewed for head coaching jobs in the past, he has always been turned down. One of the reasons why, according to Strong and others, is that his wife is white and that fact made many in the “Good ‘Ol Boy Network” uncomfortable. Jurich said that is not an issue for him whatsoever. “I haven’t heard that from too many people, but that doesn’t affect me at all We want someone with class and integrity, and I’m a real big guy when it comes to passion.”

Should Strong leave, it will be the second time in as many seasons that the Gators have lost a coordinator after the SEC Championship game with former offensive coordinator Dan Mullen being hired as the Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach in 2008. Like Mullen, Strong would likely stay on to coach the Gators in their January bowl game. Assistant defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater and assistant head coach/defensive line coach Dan McCarney would be the leading candidates to replace Strong should he accept the job. One of the two could join Strong as his defensive coordinator wherever he winds up.

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SIX BITS: Strong is No. 1, vote for Tebow, Alabama players, Jones vs. Haden, volleyball in NCAAs

1 » Over the past few days, OGGOA has reported that Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is the leading candidate to replace Steve Kragthorpe as head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. Yesterday, it was reported that Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich planned to wait until after the 2009 SEC Championship game to contact Strong after asking Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley for permission. Jurich expanded on his stance to the Courier-Journal Tuesday evening. “I want to get the program rolling, I want to get after it, but I gave my word to several people that I didn’t want to be a disruption to their program,” he said. “A lot of guys are still playing for a lot of important things. I’m the last person I want to get in the way.”

2 » Senior quarterback Tim Tebow has been named as one of three finalist for the 2009 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, which is given annually to the top quarterback in college football. The other two finalists are Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy and Houston Cougars QB Case Keenum. Fans are given 5 percent of the vote and can cast their ballot for Tebow to win the award every day until Dec. 6 by visiting http://www.VoteOBrien.org.

Check out four more very informative Florida Gators BITS after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Strong is No. 1, vote for Tebow, Alabama players, Jones vs. Haden, volleyball in NCAAs

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Charlie Strong leading candidate for Louisville job

Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is the leading candidate to become the next head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, numerous sources have told Pat Forde of ESPN.

Cardinals athletic director Tom Jurich has had no contact yet with Strong, sources said. Jurich told his counterpart at Florida, Jeremy Foley, that he will not interfere with the Gators’ preparations for the SEC championship game Saturday against Alabama. However, shortly after that game is over, Jurich is expected to contact Strong, and an interview could take place as early as Sunday.

With sources saying that Strong is “the clear front-runner” for the job, ESPN’s Chris Low reports that “assistants around the country are already lining up to try and get onboard with Strong at Louisville.” Should Strong leave, it will be the second time in as many seasons that the Gators have lost a coordinator and head coach Urban Meyer will need to find a replacement. Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen was hired as the Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach after the 2008 SEC Championship game. Like Mullen, Strong would likely stay on to coach Florida in their January bowl game.

Assistant defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater and assistant head coach/defensive line coach Dan McCarney would be the leading candidates to replace Strong should he accept the job. One of the two could join Strong as his defensive coordinator wherever he winds up. Should a team like the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have any interest in Strong, they will have to act fast after the conference title game.

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