The Silver Lining for Thursday, November 20: Gators coaching search candidates, mailbag

Florida Gators coaching search

Ah, a coaching search. So much fun. Such little stress. Not taxing whatsoever on my time, energy or sleep patterns, which are already way too out-of-whack. The simple fact is that this will likely be a long and tedious search and no one will experience that as much first-hand as athletic director Jeremy Foley, who not only has to go through the entire process but is also tasked with making the all-important decision.

As this process unfolds, you are going to see such a wide variety of lists and reports posted by different media outlets that your head may spin. My hope with the candidate list that OnlyGators.com posted on Sunday was that you would understand it to be a pros-and-cons breakdown of some of the most talked-about names for the job that also provided you with a comprehensive list of names that could fit what the Gators are looking for in their next coach.

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The Silver Lining for Thursday, October 9, 2014: Wider lens on the Treon Harris incident, Cleatgate

Due to a shift in schedule for the Florida Gators, this week’s The Silver Lining was pushed to Thursday. It will next be published on Wednesday, Oct. 15.

Taking a wider lens to the Treon Harris incident

This was originally written at 2:03 a.m. because no matter how I attempted to begin discussing this issue, I found my final product to be unsatisfactory. In fact, this is my fourth fifth (following the Huntley Johnson press release) draft of the same segment of this column, which I hope communicates how serious and important I consider this subject.

The details – and more importantly, the facts – of the sexual battery investigation involving Florida freshman quarterback Treon Harris remain a mystery at this time, and there is unlikely to be anything truly substantial that comes out until the University of Florida Police Department decides whether to charge Harris with a crime.

Harris’s attorney, Huntley Johnson, is just doing his job by publicly stating that he expects Harris to be cleared of the accusation and hopes the situation resolves itself in a timely fashion. The press release Johnson issued on Thursday is standard operating procedure for cases such as this with Johnson getting out in front of everything by presenting a mountain of circumstantial evidence in an effort to paint Harris as innocent, whether he committed the crime or not. Granted, there is more information than usual in Johnson’s release, but the concept of the release itself is quite common.

Even if everything Johnson wrote on Thursday is determined to be completely accurate, sexual battery may still have been committed that morning. “No” means “no” and “stop” means “stop” at any time, whether it is said before or during a sexual encounter.

Similarly, the UFPD continues to do its job, in conjunction with the Gainesville Police Department, by conducting a thorough investigation including the significant collection (and eventual analysis) of forensic evidence. The University of Florida and University Athletic Association also did their job by acting swiftly and justly, suspending Harris indefinitely pending the results of this initial investigation.

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Florida teammates – QB Mornhinweg, DE Willis – get in fight outside The Swamp

Updated at 2:45 p.m. with additional details.

The same day as a Florida Gators freshman quarterback was accused of sexual battery, another had a run-in with the law – and a teammate – outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Redshirt sophomore backup quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg and freshman defensive end Gerald Willis were involved in a fight outside The Swamp in Gainesville, Florida, early Monday evening. The Gainesville Sun first reported the incident.

According to the police report, obtained by OnlyGators.com on Tuesday afternoon, a complaint was received by the University of Florida Police Department at approximately 7:06 p.m., but by the time officer Stephanie Williams arrived on the scene, the incident was “already resolved and all involved parties were separated.”

The players declined to press charges against each other, and both are listed on the police report as victims.

“It was a misunderstanding between two teammates,” a Gators team spokesman told OnlyGators.com Tuesday afternoon.

Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson was at the scene by the time Williams arrived, and the officer also spoke with assistant athletics director George Wynn, “who was in his office” and “had no knowledge of the physical fight.”

Robinson told Williams that the Gators “would deal with the issue internally,” but she still went on to speak with the players involved.

Williams met with Mornhinweg in the stadium’s training room and observed that he had “small lacerations on his lower lip,” which he admitted was from the fight.

From the police report obtained by OnlyGators.com:

Mornhinweg stated the fight was over a pair of football cleats. Mornhinweg stated that his football cleats went missing and they were later located by UAA staff in the locker of Willis. Mornhinweg stated that today outside the stadium, he spoke with Willis about his cleats being found in Willis’ locker. The two individuals then got into a verbal argument over the cleats that escalated into a physical fight between the two. Mornhinweg completed a Complaint Withdrawal Affidavit with no intent to prosecute Willis. UAA staff took Mornhinweg to Shands South ER to have the lacerations on his lip treated.

Willis was not on the scene at the time of the incident, so Williams met with him on Tuesday to obtain his side of the story.

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Florida football preview: 54 facts, stats and tidbits

In an attempt to preview the 108th season of Florida Gators football, OnlyGators.com decided to find 108 interesting facts, important statistics and relevant historical tidbits about the team. The process proved to be more daunting than initially expected.

Below you will find 54 different notes to prime you for the 2014 campaign, which kicks off against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday, Aug. 30 live from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, at 7 p.m.

1. Florida finished 2013 with a 4-8 record, putting together its first losing season since it went winless (0-10-1) in 1979. UF rebounded to finish 8-4 in 1980, setting an NCAA record for best turnaround in major college football history at the time. The Gators were also the first team ever to play in a bowl game after failing to win a game the season prior.

2. Will Muschamp (43) is the second-youngest coach in the SEC behind Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen (42).

3. Muschamp’s 22-16 record through three seasons (2011-13) is the worst for a Florida head coach in that span since Charley Pell went 15-19-1 from 1979-81.

4. Kurt Roper is Muschamp’s third offensive coordinator in four seasons and UF’s fifth in the last seven years, while Mike Summers is Muschamp’s third offensive line coach in four seasons.

5…starters played in all 12 games for Florida in 2013.

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Keanu Neal, young defensive linemen emerging; Gators evaluate each other before season

About a dozen Florida Gators players met with the media over the last couple weeks to discuss fall practice and how the team is coming together ahead of the season. With less than a week until the start of the 2014 campaign, OnlyGators.com is cleaning out its notebook and present you with a bunch of their thoughts.

TWO SECONDARY STARTERS

When head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday afternoon unveils the team’s first depth chart since last November, one position group that will draw some of the most attention in the secondary. A unit full of talented starters that was ravaged by defections (graduations, early departures, a transfer), the secondary currently only has two players that have locked down roles at this time – sophomores cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and safety Keanu Neal.

Hargreaves, after a stellar freshman campaign, is already a known quantity. Neal, on the other hand, earned his job during training camp after impressing with some big hits during the 2013 season.

“Just my effort [has improved],” he explained. “This year seems like everything clicked versus last year. My recognition on plays and things like that is a lot better.”

Muschamp singled out Neal early in fall camp as the best safety on the roster, locking him into a starting role early and never backing off from that stance. Suffice to say, the player was flattered.

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Florida Gators WR coach Joker Phillips resigns; Chris Leak to coach wide receivers

Updated on Thursday at 5:15 p.m.

After just one year on the job, wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips has resigned from his position with the Florida Gators.

Graduate assistant Chris Leak, a four-year starter at quarterback and national championship-winning signal caller for the Gators in 2006, will take over coaching the position as a full-time staff member.

The second African-American head football coach in Southeastern Conference history, Phillips spent most of his 26-year coaching career with Kentucky before he was fired by the program during the 2012 season, his third as the Wildcats’ head coach.

He joined Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s staff that December, signing a two-year contract that was supposed to keep him at Florida through the 2014 campaign.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity that the University of Florida and Will Muschamp provided to me and my family, but at this time I have decided to step down from my position on the UF coaching staff for personal reasons,” he said in a school release.

Neither Phillips nor UF provided any specific reason for his departure, though ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, citing a source, noted Phillips “resigned because of possible recruiting violations.” McMurphy retracted prior assertions that Phillips was forced to resign whether by Muschamp or someone else at the school.

FootballScoop.com‘s Scott Roussel cited a separate source which said “the issue at hand is a ‘bump’ [with] a [high school] junior” and that Phillips was “turned in by another program in Florida.” A “bump” in college recruiting is when a coach converses with a high school recruit outside of the allowable time periods at a “chance encounter,” whether the interaction was intended by the coach or not.

A source close to the program confirmed to OnlyGators.com that Phillips was indeed turned into the NCAA for a “bump” violation by a representative of Miami but could not say whether that incident led to his resignation.

Thursday update: Charles Robinson and Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports report that Phillips’s resignation came on the heels of the NCAA receiving “a photo of the coach sitting in a restaurant with a high school recruit during a mandated dead period in recruiting.” Citing three sources, the duo further reports that “the photo was turned over to the NCAA by an individual with ties to the Miami Hurricanes athletics program. Should the NCAA determine Phillips improperly recruited during a mandated dead period, it could be considered a major NCAA violation.”

Read the rest of the original story…after the break!
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Gators add CB/ATH Jalen Julius to 2015 class

The Florida Gators on Wednesday added their third defensive back pledge of the 2015 recruiting cycle, gaining a verbal commitment from a fast-rising local product in speedy athlete Jalen Julius (Orlando, Florida).

Unranked and unrated by Rivals.com, Julius was offered by the Gators on March 23 and took just over one month to come to his decision, telling recruiting analyst Blake Alderman that he chose UF over Auburn, Ohio State and Tennessee after he and his family came to a unanimous decision.

“Florida has a great environment. My aunt knows Coach T-Rob [Travaris Robinson] on the staff and my mom likes Florida and then I like Florida,” he told Alderman at InsidetheGators.com ($). “I think the team has good chemistry and the coaches are easy going. It’s a good place for me because my connections with them.”

Primarily an offensive player during his first three years of high school, Julius (5-foot-11, 173 pounds) is considered an athlete and committed to the Gators as a cornerback. He is also a likely candidate for kick and punt returner. [Highlights]

Former Florida CB Keiwan Ratliff is Julius’s 7-on-7 coach and has been training him on the defensive side of the ball.

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Florida adds four-star CB Marcus Lewis

The Florida Gators have landed yet another highly-touted recruit to their extremely talented secondary, gaining a verbal commitment Thursday from four-star 2015 cornerback Marcus Lewis (Washington, D.C.).

Ranked No. 76 nationally and rated as the second-best player in his area by Rivals, Lewis (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) had committed to Virginia Tech in November 2013 but decommitted days later after initially making the decision without enough research or knowledge of his potential opportunities.

Lewis, who will be transferring from Gonzaga High School to IMG Sports Academy (Bradenton, FL) in June, boasts an impressive offer list with Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame and Ohio State, among others, showing considerable interest in his services.

Florida came on strong for Lewis in April and did not take long to land the top-tier prospect. The Gators – specifically head coach Will Muschamp and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, the team’s top recruiters – used playing time, opportunity and talent development as their pitch.

“IM 100 %COMMITTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA!!!!!!!!!!!!! #GatorNation!!!! #FloridaFamily!!!!” he tweeted.

Lewis’s commitment was first reported by Rivals.com‘s Adam Friedman.

UF may start a freshman cornerback for its second-straight season and has a history of developing talent in the defensive backfield. Three Florida cornerbacks will be selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, likely within the first two days of the event.

Lewis joins three-star safety Deontai Williams (Jacksonville, FL), the Gators’ other secondary commitment, as part of the 2015 class. He is the sixth overall pledge.

If he follows through with his commitment, Lewis will be the 19th Rivals 250 defensive back to join Florida over the last six recruiting cycles.

The Gators added four-star CB Jalen Tabor out of the nation’s capital in 2014.

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