Gators’ 2011 freshmen pick uniform numbers

Athletes care about their uniform numbers, and now that Florida Gators football is preparing to begin practice for the 2011-12 season in just about a month, it was time for the team’s newest members to choose theirs. The freshman roster as of May 2011, according to the University of Florida‘s media guide, is as follows:

» No. 5 – Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL), four-star cornerback
» No. 15Louchiez Purifoy (Pensacola, FL), four-star cornerback
» No. 16 – Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), five-star quarterback
» No. 17 – Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL), four-star quarterback
» No. 20 – Valdez Showers (Madison Heights, MI), three-star cornerback
» No. 21 – Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL), four-star safety
» No. 26 – De’Ante Saunders (Deland, FL), four-star cornerback
» No. 33 – Chris Johnson (Ocala, FL), three-star safety
» No. 41 – Hunter Joyer (Wesley Chapel, FL), three-star fullback
» No. 44 – Kyle Christy (Brownsburg, IN), three-star punter
» No. 55 – Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT), four-star linebacker
» No. 63 – Trip Thurman (Dover, DE), four-star guard
» No. 65 – Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT), three-star guard
» No. 80 – Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL), four-star wide receiver
» No. 81 – A.C. Leonoard (Jacksonville, FL), four-star tight end
» No. 86 – Clay Burton (Venice, FL), three-star defensive end
» No. 97 – Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL), three-star defensive end

There have also been a number of uniform number changes for current Gators:

» No. 1 – Chris Rainey, redshirt senior running back (formerly No. 3)
» No. 2 – Dominique Easley, sophomore defensive tackle (formerly No. 58)
» No. 3 – Jelani Jenkins, redshirt sophomore linebacker (formerly No. 43)
» No. 4 – Sharrif Floyd, sophomore defensive tackle (formerly No. 73)
» No. 92 – Lynden Trail, redshirt freshman defensive end (formerly No. 85)

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FOUR BITS: freshmen, Tyus, Sweeting, McDonald

1 » Orientation for freshmen student-athletes is underway as both of the Florida Gators incoming basketball commitments and the remaining 12 football signees are now in Gainesville, FL getting their college careers started. Five-star guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and three-star forward Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI) join four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL), four-star defensive back Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL), three-star DB Chris Johnson (Ocala, FL), three-star offensive lineman Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT), three-star fullback Hunter Joyer (Wesley Chapel, FL), four-star DB Louchiez Purifoy (Pensacola, FL), four-star DB Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL), three-star DB Valdez Showers (Madison Heights, MI), four-star linebacker Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT), four-star wide receiver Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL), four-star OL Trip Thurman (Dover, DE) and three-star defensive end Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL) as the latest players to don the Orange and Blue hoping to make Gator Nation proud. The players will be meeting with academic advisers, taking physicals, beginning workouts, taking drug tests as they prepare to begin workouts and college life in general.

2 » With the 2011 NBA Draft approaching on Thursday, Florida forward Alex Tyus appears to understand exactly what is likely to happen over the course of the event. “Honestly, for Thursday, I’m not expecting to get drafted,” Tyus told InsideTheGators.com’s Kyle Maistri. “But anything can happen.” Having only worked out for four teams since participating in the 2011 Portsmouth Invitational (where he had a strong showing and was one of the event’s standout performers), Tyus understands that his best bet at earning a spot on a NBA bench may come as an undrafted free agent or by working on his game some more in the NBA Development League or overseas. OGGOA will have extensive coverage leading up to, during and after the NBA Draft.

3 » Down two sets in his opening round match at Wimbledon, former Gators tennis player No. 69 Ryan Sweeting came back to defeat opponent No. 50 Pablo Andujar 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(7-1), 6-1. His reward? Taking on the ATP’s top-ranked player in the world, Rafael Nadal, Wed. at 11:30 a.m. in the second round of the event. Nadal, of course, is 2-0 all-time against Sweeting, last defeating him 6-3, 6-1 at Indian Wells earlier this year. Sweeting won his first ATP World Tour event in 2011 and is 10-9 overall this year.

4 » In a conversation with The Sacramento Bee, former Florida defensive end Ray McDonald expressed his desire to earn a starting job in the NFL. Set to become an unrestricted free agent when a new labor deal is signed, McDonald (currently of the San Francisco 49ers) could re-sign with his current team or look elsewhere. “I know I’m an every-down player, a starter,” he said. “And that’s what I’m looking to do this year. I’m not looking to back up anybody. I’m looking to start this year. […] I’ve been waiting four years for this. [Being a free agent] would make my life. That would change everything as far as me going ahead with my future in my NFL career. So that’s some good news – no, excellent news – for me.”

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Florida Gators 2011 National Signing Day notes

Courtesy of the University of Florida‘s University Athletic Association:

EARLY ENROLLEE BIOS

Mike Blakely • Running back
5-9 • 205
Bradenton • Manatee H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect rated the No. 6 running back in the nation and the No. 10 overall prospect in the state of Florida and No. 40 in the country according to Rivals.com… Also rated No. 74 in the ESPNU 150 class… Finished his junior season with 1,400 yards rushing and 227 yards on kick and punt returns with a total of 23 touchdowns… Added another 1,000-yard season as a senior, with 19 touchdowns on the ground… Was a first-team all-state running back in 2009… Participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2011… Chose Florida over Auburn, Clemson, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and USC… Coached by Joe Kinnan.

Clay Burton • Defensive Line
6-4 • 245
Venice • Venice H.S.
Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A three-star prospect rated the No. 35 linebacker according to Rivals.com… Ranked the No. 19 weakside defensive end in the country by Rivals.com… Finished his junior season with 80 tackles and 13 sacks… Participated in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl… Chose Florida over LSU, Mississippi, Tennessee, Notre Dame and West Virginia among others… Coached by John Peacock.

Kyle Christy • Punter
6-1 • 185
Brownsburg, Ind. • Brownsburg H.S.
Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A three-star prospect rated the No. 2 punter nationally according to Scout.com… Completed 31 of 37 extra points and five of eight field goals with a long of 45 yards his junior year… Participated in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in 2010… Named AP Indiana 5A All-State Honorable Mention… Chose Florida over LSU… Coached by Brett Comer.

Jeff Driskel • Quarterback
6-4 • 238
Oviedo • Hagerty H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Maxwell Football Club National High School Player of the Year… Gatorade Florida Player of the Year… Rated the No. 1 quarterback nationally according to Scout.com and Rivals.com… Threw for a career 4,844 passing yards and 36 touchdowns and helped lead the Huskies to their first winning season in their fourth year as a varsity program… Had 1,819 yards and 15 touchdowns passing, 1,333 rushing yards with 20 touchdowns and caught two touchdown passes his senior year… Threw for 1,427 yards with 11 touchdowns and ran for 170 yards with five touchdowns his junior year… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game in 2011… Chose Florida over Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Mississippi and Clemson, among others… Coached by Nate Gierke.

A.C. Leonard • Tight End
6-3 ● 245
Jacksonville ● University Christian H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect and No. 5 tight end nationally according to Rivals.com… Member of the ESPNU 150 class and Rivals100 class… Averaged 20 yards-per-catch as a tight end… On defense, he recorded 21 sacks and 60 tackles with 10 for a loss… Also had two blocked punts, one blocked extra point, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game… Chose Florida over Alabama, Miami, Nebraska, UCF and FIU… Coached by Heath Nivens.

Javares McRoy • Wide Receiver
5-8 ● 170
Lakeland ● Lakeland H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: A four-star prospect according to Scout.com… First-team All-State wide receiver for 5A classification in his junior year… Averaged 20 yards-per-catch… Listed as the No. 28 wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com… In his sophomore year, he posted a 10.65 100-meter time at the FHSAA 4A Regional Track meet… Chose Florida over Auburn, California, Florida State, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas Tech… Coached by Bill Castle.

De’Ante “Pop” Saunders • Defensive Back
5-8 ● 173
DeLand ● DeLand H.S.

Enrolled at UF in January of 2011… PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Rated a three-star prospect according to Scout.com and Rivals.com… In 2010, the 6A Florida Athletic Coaches Association Player of the Year for Seminole and Volusia counties… In his junior year, ran for 1,634 yards and 23 touchdowns… As a kick returner, had 580 yards and three touchdowns and led the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball to 6A state title game in his junior year… First-team All-State defensive back for 6A classification and named All-Central Florida Defensive Player of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel in 2009… Participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game in 2011… Chose Florida over South Carolina, Mississippi, Clemson, Cincinnati, USF and FIU… Coached by Kevin Pettis.

SIGNEE BIOS (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Florida Gators 2011 National Signing Day notes

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FOUR BITS: Pittman, Jordan, Fraine, gymnastics

1 » Wide receiver recruit Latroy Pittman (Citra, FL) became the Florida Gators first commitment for the 2012 recruiting cycle on Aug. 17. When head coach Urban Meyer stepped down in December, Pittman paused for a second even though it has been “my dream to play there since I was three,” as he said himself last year. With new head coach Will Muschamp and WR coach Aubrey Hill now in the fold, Pittman told The Gainesville Sun that he remains as committed as ever after visiting campus over the weekend. “I feel so at home when I’m up there,” he said, according to the paper. “It’s like a feeling you get when you just know something feels right, that no other place can give you that factor.”

2 » With three-star offensive lineman Chase Hounshell (Kirkland, OH) switching his commitment to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Monday evening, Florida is left with only two commits at that position for 2011. One of those two players, three-star Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT), was supposed to be an early enrollee set to begin classes at the University of Florida last week. Instead Jordan decided not to join UF in the spring and said he would be back in the summer. Shutting off communications, Jordan was rumored to be wavering in his commitment by assumption due to his decision to go silent. In a conversation with Ridgefield Patch, Jordan explains he remains committed to the Gators and simply wanted a break from the stress of school and recruiting. “I am going to take the semester off and go back in the late spring,” Jordan said at one of his high school’s basketball games. “I have been working my butt off to graduate early and now all this stuff is happening. It just seemed like I needed a break.” He also spoke about Muschamp and new offensive line coach Frank Verducci. “I am really excited about that staff they are putting together there,” he said. “I just thought it was better to come back here while all this was going on and they figure out how it is all going to work. But I still plan on going there and am really excited about the future.”

3 » The fourth former Florida player to earn this honor, goalkeeper Katie Fraine will play in Women’s Professional Soccer in 2011 after being selected in the league’s draft held last Friday. Only one of two goalkeepers selected in the draft, Fraine joins former Gators Heather Mitts, Abby Wambach and Stacy Bishop in the league. She will be teammates with Wambach on the Washington Freedom. Fraine left the Gators as the school’s career leader in solo shutouts (27) who played a big role in helping Florida win the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship.

4 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (2-0, 1-0 SEC) is off to a fast start this season with back-to-back victories over the then-No. 10 Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-1) and No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats (2-1, 0-1 SEC). Florida took down Nebraska 196.925-194.950 in front of over 5,000 fans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Jan. 8 and followed up that performance with a 196.775-192.90 win against Kentucky on Jan. 14. The Gators took home five events against the Cornhuskers with sophomore Ashanée Dickerson winning four of them. Dickerson won two more against the Wildcats; freshman Alaina Johnson and sophomore Marissa King each captured two of their own.

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FOUR BITS: early enrollees, Dowling, Outback

1 » Though National Signing Day is nearly a month away, half of the Florida Gators current 2011 commitments have already enrolled at the University of Florida for the spring semester. Five-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), four-star tight end A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL), four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL), four-star athlete/safety De’Ante Saunders (DeLand, FL), four-star wide receiver Javares McRoy (Lakeland, FL), four-star linebacker Clay Burton (Venice, FL), three-star offensive lineman Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT) and kicker/punter Kyle Christy (Brownburg, IN) will all be taking classes at UF by Monday. The Gators have eight more commitments to sign in the first week of February and have more than half a dozen spaces to fill before then.

2 » Five-star 2010 commitment S Jonathan Dowling, who was kicked off the Florida football team in November due to a violation of team rules, recently decided to transfer to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and is petitioning the NCAA for a waiver so he does not have to miss another season. According to the Bradenton Herald, new Gators head coach Will Muschamp “made a last-ditch effort” to get Dowling back on the team but was rebuffed even though the player reportedly passed his first semester of classes.

3 » Some believed that Florida did not necessarily deserve the opportunity to play in the 2011 Outback Bowl due to their regular season performance but apparently the committee knew exactly what they were doing in scheduling them to face the equally underwhelming Penn State Nittany Lions The Outback Bowl drew a 7.6 overnight rating on ABC, up 105 percent from the 2010 contest between Northwestern and Auburn (3.7 on ESPN) and up 171 percent from the 2008 game which featured South Carolina and Iowa (2.8 on ESPN). UF-PSU drew the highest overnight rating for a non-BCS college football bowl game on broadcast television since 2008, according to SportsBusiness Daily, and even out-drew the 2011 Fiesta Bowl later that night (6.7).

4 » Four-star WR Kelvin Benjamin, a long-time Gators target who was scheduled to visit Florida next week after Muschamp initially convinced him to delay his decision, committed to the Florida State Seminoles over the weekend and will no longer take a trip to Gainesville, FL. Benjamin, who was choosing between the big three colleges in Florida, is considered an impressive WR prospect and adds yet another big name to head coach Jimbo Fisher‘s 2011 recruiting class.

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Muschamp already hitting recruiting trail hard

With the current Florida Gators coaching staff worrying about the 2011 Outback Bowl (and their jobs) and the Texas Longhorns out of bowl game contention, new Florida head coach Will Muschamp was able to focus on retaining the Gators’ 2011 recruiting class immediately after taking the position on Saturday. Making plenty of phone calls while traveling for in-home visits and to round out his staff, Muschamp has already made an impression on a number of prospects.

COMMIT – Five/four-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL): In Gainesville, FL, last weekend for an official visit, Driskel received a call from Muschamp and continues to be fully committed. He will enroll early in January.

COMMIT – Four-star cornerback Nick Waisome (Groveland, FL): Having made it a point to say that he remains “100 percent committed to Florida,” Waisome received calls from and decided to accept visits to Florida State, LSU and South Carolina after head coach Urban Meyer stepped down. He has since only visited FSU and plans to go back to UF this upcoming weekend to meet Muschamp. Also an early enrollee, Waisome will likely stick with the Gators unless something goes horribly wrong in the meeting.

RECRUIT – Four-star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (Belle Glade, FL): After visiting Tallahassee, FL, during the weekend of the Florida State-Florida game, Benjamin turned his attention toward FSU, canceled his planned UF visit and decided to announce his commitment on Thursday. However, he spoke with Muschamp Monday evening and has decided to delay his announcement at least one full month so he can take his originally scheduled visit to Gainesville on Jan. 14. Benjamin will also pay another visit to Florida State and take a trip to Miami (FL) as well.

COMMIT – Four-star linebacker Ryan Shazier (Plantation, FL): Muschamp made it a point to immediately visit Shazier, who remains a verbal to UF but opened up his recruitment to LSU and Ohio State when Meyer resigned. OSU head coach Jim Tressel has already paid a visit to Shazier, and he will reciprocate on Thursday by heading to Columbus, OH. He plans to announce his decision on Friday but was impressed with Muschamp when he visited. “He talked about the type of staff he wants to put together, and the type of team he wants to put on the field at Florida,” Shazier told Scout. “He’s in the process of deciding who he is going to keep, and who he might bring in. It was the first time I’d ever met Coach Muschamp, and he has a lot of passion for the job. Coach Muschamp and Coach Meyer are the same in their approach, but they are different in coaching styles. Coach Muschamp is a defensive coach, and his specialty is the linebacker position, and I really like that. I liked Coach Meyer, but I believe I’m more in tune with Coach Muschamp. Tonight’s visit with Florida kind of clarified things for me, and it helped being able to speak to the head coach.”

Read who else Muschamp has already made an impression on…after the break!
Continue Reading » Muschamp already hitting recruiting trail hard

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Going camping: Top recruits visit Florida in June

Over the last two weeks, plenty has been going on with the Florida Gators as far as recruiting for the 2011 season is concerned. Since June 10, the Gators have received in four commitments, including four-star wide receiver Javares McRoy (Lakeland, FL) [article], three-star fullback Hunter Joyer (Tampa, FL) [article], three-star offensive lineman Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT) [article], four-star linebacker Ryan Shazier (Plantaiton, FL) [article].

Additionally, the team got a commitment without an official offer from three-star LB Rahim Cassell (Lakewood, CA) [article], and 2012 WR Latroy Pittman (Citra, FL) [article] is all but ready to pick Florida before his junior year of high school even begins.

However, the Gators still have plenty of work to do in order to enhance the current eight-person 2011 class, and the team made a lot of headway as recruits participated in football camps and took visits to the University of Florida in recent weeks.

Update yourself on some of the top 2011 recruits and targets…after the break!
Continue Reading » Going camping: Top recruits visit Florida in June

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Gators grab commitment from four-star LB Shazier

Just hours after three-star offensive lineman Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT) accepted his scholarship offer from head coach Urban Meyer, four-star linebacker Ryan Shazier (Plantation, FL) decided to join the Florida Gators as the newest member of the team’s 2011 recruiting class.

One of the country’s top-ranked linebackers, Shazier received offers from more than three dozen schools including almost every major program in the country (Alabama, Ohio State, etc.) but decided to give his commitment to Florida in the end.

“Me, my mom and dad and my little brother went up to Florida to visit and we loved it,” Shazier told The Gainesville Sun. “We had a great time there. We felt that it was the best place for me for what I want to do academically and athletically. For me and my family (Florida) is where my heart is at and that’s the best place for me.”

At approximately 6’3” and 200 lbs. with a 4.5 40-yard dash, Shazier recorded 90 tackles and 19 sacks for Plantation High School as a junior in 2009. He is listed as the No. 71 overall recruit by ESPNU (No. 8 LB) and No. 165 overall by Rivals (No. 9 LB).

“I just committed today,” Shazier told Scout.com (subscription required). “Coach Meyer was real happy and said they are going to love to coach me. Today’s visit was great and my family loved it they are all on board and 100% Gators. I talked to Coach Durkin for a long time and he told me it made his day and he loved it. Coach Durkin was telling me he can’t wait to see me in a Gator uniform. My whole entire family is just happy we are Gators and I am done with recruiting.”

Photo Credit: Davide De Pas/ESPN

OGGOA RELATED: Three-star OL Tommy Jordan chooses the Gators

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