FOUR BITS: offense, LSU, Meyer, Olympics

1 » X&O Labs, a football research company for coaches, took a special look on Tuesday at the Florida Gators offense and how the team’s downhill running game was able to dominate the LSU Tigers last Saturday. Noting that new offensive coordinator Brent Pease has “has implemented some of the same heavy, unbalanced formations that he used at Boise to gash defenses,” senior research manager Mike Kuchar outlined five of the different formations and went into even greater detail in the video below.

2 » Asked to explain this week why they were so gassed on Saturday in Gainesville, FL, LSU players told the Shreveport Times that heat-related fatigue was at fault. “It is Florida,” said linebacker Kevin Minter, who cramped up in the third quarter after dominating the first half and still finished the game with a school-record 20 total tackles. “The humidity is ridiculous. […] We had a lot of miscues when we were breathing hard. You can’t let fatigue take over.”

3 » With the Gators having started the season 5-0 and looking like a team rejuvenated under head coach Will Muschamp, it was only a matter of time before new Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was asked about presumably leaving the cupboard bare for his successor. “I don’t want to get into all that cupboard is bare [stuff], because that’s one man’s opinion, and we’ve got to move on,” he told the Associated Press. “I’m very proud of those guys. Love those guys.” Meyer also said he was proud of Florida’s victory over LSU. “Always be a Gator. I keep in touch with some of those players. Great win. Great, tough win against a tough opponent, absolutely,” he said.

4 » The University of Florida honored on Saturday nearly two dozen athletes and coaches that participated in the 2012 London Olympics. In the video below, courtesy of GatorVision.tv, swimmers Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer and triple jumper Christian Taylor are all interviewed about their respective experiences. (Note that Dwyer thought a 6-0 halftime lead by LSU could realistically result in a 13-10 win for Florida.)

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Gator Bites for Thursday, September 27

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» In his second contribution to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah discusses helping host a basketball tournament that featured members of different local gangs all playing together “to promote peace and bring some positivity into the neighborhood.” Noah, through his Noah’s Arc Foundation, helps “children develop a stronger sense of self” in order to help fulfill their dreams.

What I witnessed was different gangs, different religions and different kinds of people joining forces to address the problems that affect a community they all share. I felt we accomplished our goal on a micro-level for that one day, and hopefully the effects will stretch far beyond.

» Washington Wizards rookie guard Bradley Beal recently sat down for some interviews as he prepares to begin his first NBA season. Beal spoke to a member of the Wizards’ staff about going through his first media day as a professional (Video) and The Wall Street Journal (video below) about being a young man suddenly coming into money as a professional basketball player.

Check out 10 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, September 27

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Florida QB Chris Leak: “I loved being a Gator.”

One of the most accomplished signal callers in Florida Gators history, quarterback Chris Leak led the charge in Gainesville, FL from 2003-06, a career that spanned two head coaches, three offensive coordinators and plenty of ups and downs for the team.

A four-year student-athlete, Leak started nine games as a true freshman in 2003 (racking up a 6-3 record) and made 47-straight starts to end his career with a 35-12 record as a starter, playing in all 51 games in which he was eligible. He compiled 11,213 yards, 88 touchdowns (adding 13 additional scores on the ground) and 42 interceptions while completing 61.4 percent of his passes,

With the 2006 Southeastern Conference Championship and 2007 BCS National Championship titles under his belt, Leak was also named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2003, SEC Player of the Week (four times), National Quarterback of the Year in 2006, and Most Valuable Player of the 2007 BCS Championship, all while being a four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

He bested Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews and Rex Grossman to own school records for career pass attempts (1,458), completions (895) and yardage (11,213); boasts the third-best career completion percentage in school history (behind Tim Tebow and Wayne Peace); has the second-most passing touchdowns at Florida (88, tied with Tebow); and holds the Gators’ record for consecutive completions (17 vs. Wyoming in 2005).

Leak has also seen the field for the second-most plays at UF (1,636) and totaled the second-most combined yardage (11,350), falling only behind Tebow in both categories.

After bouncing around the NFL and spending most of four seasons playing in the CFL, where Leak won a pair of Grey Cups with Montreal, he spent last season playing mostly for Orlando of the AFL and expects to return to the team next year. He is also currently working as a broadcaster with SiriusXM College Sports Nation and CBS Sports Network.

Leak sat down with OGGOA for 45 minutes last month for a wide-ranging two-part interview that encompasses his recruitment, career with the Gators, thoughts on his coaches, professional career and aspirations for Florida going forward.

Part One: Gators QB Chris Leak: “I went out to be myself.”

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Speaking of Urban Meyer, I know you had a great relationship with him. It’s kind of rare for a player to have that close of a bond with two different college coaches. Usually they’re loyal to the one that recruits them or they end up not liking that guy and instead gravitating towards the one who takes over or they have more success with in the long run. What is your opinion of how things transpired with Meyer leaving Florida, going to ESPN and then jumping to Ohio State less than a year later?
CHRIS LEAK: “After you see a coach winning a national title – and obviously Meyer won two during his time at Florida – you would think that [he would stay at that school until he retires]. You have to realize also that this is a business and things happen for a reason. I know the way that Urban Meyer loves to coach and that’s with high energy and a lot of times that can definitely… Obviously in the stories that I’ve read that came out that during his time, the balance that has made him successful with his family and football obviously got off track. And when you add in the health issues…that’s another dimension that makes it even tougher to deal with the balance in life. You know what? I’m happy to see him back in coaching. College football needs Urban Meyer. It’s great to see him back coaching and doing what he loves to do. He’s in his element at Ohio State because that’s where he had his first job. The thing is, just like it was a transition year for him in the SEC, I really don’t believe it will be a transition for him there. He knows how to coach in the Big 10. He knows the teams. He knows the players. He knows how to recruit in the Big 10. I really feel like he’s going to be able to turn things around there a lot sooner than people think.”

Read the rest of OGGOA’s exclusive interview with Chris Leak…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida QB Chris Leak: “I loved being a Gator.”

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Gators QB Chris Leak: “I went out to be myself.”

One of the most accomplished signal callers in Florida Gators history, quarterback Chris Leak led the charge in Gainesville, FL from 2003-06, a career that spanned two head coaches, three offensive coordinators and plenty of ups and downs for the team.

A four-year student-athlete, Leak started nine games as a true freshman in 2003 (racking up a 6-3 record) and made 47-straight starts to end his career with a 35-12 record as a starter, playing in all 51 games in which he was eligible. He compiled 11,213 yards, 88 touchdowns (adding 13 additional scores on the ground) and 42 interceptions while completing 61.4 percent of his passes,

With the 2006 Southeastern Conference Championship and 2007 BCS National Championship titles under his belt, Leak was also named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2003, SEC Player of the Week (four times), National Quarterback of the Year in 2006, and Most Valuable Player of the 2007 BCS Championship, all while being a four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

He bested Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews and Rex Grossman to own school records for career pass attempts (1,458), completions (895) and yardage (11,213); boasts the third-best career completion percentage in school history (behind Tim Tebow and Wayne Peace); has the second-most passing touchdowns at Florida (88, tied with Tebow); and holds the Gators’ record for consecutive completions (17 vs. Wyoming in 2005).

Leak has also seen the field for the second-most plays at UF (1,636) and totaled the second-most combined yardage (11,350), falling only behind Tebow in both categories.

After bouncing around the NFL and spending most of four seasons playing in the CFL, where Leak won a pair of Grey Cups with Montreal, he spent last season playing mostly for Orlando of the AFL and expects to return to the team next year. He is also currently working as a broadcaster with SiriusXM College Sports Nation and CBS Sports Network.

Leak sat down with OGGOA for 45 minutes last month for a wide-ranging two-part interview that encompasses his recruitment, career with the Gators, thoughts on his coaches, professional career and aspirations for Florida going forward.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: So let’s jump back to the beginning and start with your recruitment. I know a lot of people always assumed you would wind up at Tennessee because of your brother. Was that truly the case for a while? And as the process broke down, what made you wind up choosing Florida in the long run?
CHRIS LEAK: “I started off at an early age being offered in eighth grade by Jim Caldwell at Wake Forest; he was the head coach at the time. So I got started pretty early. I saw my brother, who back in 1998 was the No. 1 run-pass quarterback in the country…I got to see him go through the heavy recruiting process as well. Recruiting started off for me at a very early age. My parents did a great job of managing it for me, my meetings with coaches, school visits – unofficial and official visits. Tennessee was the leader because my brother was there after he transferred from Wake Forest. I wanted to have his mentorship during my time in school. That was kind of the plan.

“I felt like, with Tennessee, after what happened with my brother in the Georgia game, I just felt like my heart wasn’t in it. [His brother, C.J. Leak, was promised a chance to start when he transferred to UT. When Casey Clausen got injured in the game, he was given two series before being pulled.] It was a trust factor and I wanted to commit somewhere where I felt like I could trust the coaches to take care of my future, take care of me while I’m there as I’m away from home. It would have to help me obviously get a good education and do everything I want to accomplish at the collegiate level.

“I was going to go through the recruiting process anyway, the full recruiting process. Though Tennessee was the leader, Florida was always a close second. My parents told me they wanted me to go through the entire recruiting process to make sure that I am sure and that Tennessee was the right fit for me. Obviously as I went through the recruiting process and went on my official visits, I just felt like Florida felt more like a home away from home for me. I just felt like, when I visited the campus when Florida played Auburn back in 2002, a game which they won in overtime, it just kind of hit home. I really felt the love from the fans and the coaches. Ron Zook, I really felt like I could trust him with my future as well as the rest of the coaching staff moving forward.”

Read the rest of OGGOA’s exclusive interview with Chris Leak…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gators QB Chris Leak: “I went out to be myself.”

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TWO BITS: Meyer and Tebow, Floyd and Elam

1 » Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow went out for dinner in Morristown, NJ recently in a sit down that was reportedly not completely focused on trading stories and favorite bible verses. According to the New York Post, Meyer “pitched Tebow on the idea of helping him recruit for the Buckeyes” while the player “focused on the food, even picking at Meyer’s meal of [pappardelle] after having plowed through his own.” It should be noted that the Post’s story is primarily focused on how Tebow consumed “four heaping plates of food during a single meal” and not the topic of conversation between the two diners.

2 » With the Gators now at 3-0 and 2-0 in SEC play, NFL analysts are beginning pay extra attention to some of Florida’s most talented players. In the latest editions of their Big Board and Top 32, respectively, Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay each listed one UF player as talented enough to be selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Kiper placed junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd at No. 20 on his Big Board ($), noting that “his quickness is more menacing on the interior and he has a great burst, drawing double-teams and penetrating.” McShay entered junior safety Matt Elam at No. 27 on his list of the Top 32 ($), saying that “he’s simply playing too well to be kept out of the rankings.” He continued: “He’s solid in run support and coverage, and always seems to be around the ball, like when he was making 10 tackles last week against Tennessee.”

Two five-star recruits for the Gators in 2010, Floyd and Elam receiving recognition and interest at this point is not surprising. It has long been believed that both players could leave the team early though a source close to Elam’s family told OGGOA last week that Abe Elam, Matt’s brother and a seven-year NFL veteran currently playing for Kansas City, would only allow Matt to depart if he is a sure-fire first-round selection.

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Hammond’s consistency, Burton’s versatility important for Florida Gators in 2012

For a team desperately in need of offensive playmakers, redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. and junior do-everything Trey Burton could fill a major void for the Florida Gators in 2012.

The duo combined for just 455 yards of offense and four touchdowns (all from Burton) in 2011 but have both been singled out by head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease for the positives they respectively bring to the table.

Hammond has made great strides with consistency in his performances, something Muschamp in particular has noticed as of late.

“Everyone looks at vertical plays down the field – and that’s great – but you got to be able to block. You got to be able to make the tough catches across the middle. You got to know your assignments and understand the timing and the different things in the throwing game,” he said Monday, noting that Hammond does all of those things.

“He’s a guy that’s an experienced player. He’s a guy that brings that to the table as well. I think he has really tried to step up as far as in that [wide receiver] room is concerned for some of the younger players. I think it has been really good for him and them.”

Hammond was pleased to hear that the coaching staff has noticed the one area of his game in which he worked so hard to improve in the offseason.

“It’s very good, just knowing that that’s one of the things I try to focus on, just being consistent. I don’t want to be one of those guys that is up-and-down, make a good play, make a bad play,” he said. “As a receiver you want to be consistent because you develop the trust in the quarterbacks, knowing that when they throw the ball most of the time you’re going to come down with it.”

With four months remaining in his college football career, Hammond realizes that now is the time for him to take that next step and translate his talents to the field.

Read the rest of this story…after the break!
Continue Reading » Hammond’s consistency, Burton’s versatility important for Florida Gators in 2012

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Gators soccer notches upset, volleyball sweeps

Florida Gators soccer, coming off a disappointing loss to open the season that dropped the team out of the top 25, rebounded in a major way over the weekend while playing a pair of matches on the road in Chapel Hill, NC.

After fighting tooth-and-nail with the No. 19 North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1-1) on Friday in what would ultimately end up as a scoreless draw following two overtimes, Florida (1-1-1) came back from two goals down to pull off an impressive 3-2 upset of the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (3-1) in overtime on Sunday.

The Gators trailed by two goals early in the contest, allowing Blue Devils midfielder Gilda Doria (10’) and Cassie Pecht (29’) to find the back of the net. Florida would cut their deficit in half just 10 minutes later as sophomore forward Jillian Graff kicked in a pass from sophomore midfielder Havana Solaun at 39’.

UF knotted the match at 65’ thanks to a bit of luck after a corner kick by senior MF/F Erika Tymrak deflected off a Duke player and was scored as an own goal.

The two teams held even through the end of regulation, but the Gators would come out on top just minutes into extra time when Tyrak once again came through in the clutch by booing the golden goal off a pass from redshirt senior F/MF McKenzie Barney.

Florida is now riding a wave of momentum into Friday’s road match against No. 3 Florida State, which is set to air at 7 p.m. live on ESPN3.com. The Gators will follow that up with two home games before beginning league play on Sept. 14.

No. 18 Florida volleyball (3-0) may not have had been faced with the same challenges that their soccer counterparts were, but the Gators were equally impressive while hosting the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational from Aug. 24-25 in Gainesville, FL.

The Gators swept all three of their weekend opponents, picking up consecutive 3-0 victories over the Florida International Panthers (0-1), Florida A&M Rattlers (0-2) and Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (2-1) over the course of two days.

Junior middle back Chloe Mann (42 kills, 48 points) led the way for Florida with averages of 14 kills and 16 points over the three contests. Joining her with impressive performances of their own were freshman outside hitters Ziva Recek (29 kills, 30 points) and Berkley Whaley (21 kills, 27.5 points).

Gigi Meyer, the daughter of former UF head coach Urban Meyer and a member of the FGCU volleyball team, competed in the event as well. She registered 60 assists over her team’s three matches (10 against Florida).

Next up for the Gators is the Nike Big Four Classic from Aug. 31-Sept. 1 in University Park, PA. Florida will take on No. 2 Texas and No. 6 Stanford in the two-day event.

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FOUR BITS: Patriots, WWE, Fallon, Tebow

1 » New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose team now has six former Florida Gators on its roster after signing running back Jeff Demps last week, explained Thursday why he has picked up so many players from the team over the years.

Via the Boston Herald.

“First of all, obviously, Florida has a lot of good football players. It’s a great football state. The University of Florida has great athletes and great players at their school, as do a lot of the other Florida schools. I had a good relationship with Coach [Urban] Meyer, as I do with Coach [Will] Muschamp, so maybe we had a little more insight or opportunity to evaluate or whatever. And we felt like those particular players that we drafted there fit our system and what we were doing. Now, not everybody worked out. Some worked out better than others. But that particular class — the [Jermaine] Cunningham, [Brandon] Spikes, [Tim] Tebow, [Aaron] Hernandez, [Percy] Harvin the year before that, [David] Nelson, the receiver [Riley] Cooper — those guys in those couple years there. For whatever reason, [Meyer] asked me to speak at a clinic. Charlie [Weis] was there last year.

“So I just had a little more opportunity to interact with those players in that school, and they were available at the particular times that we were drafting and so forth. Some of it was coincidence. Some of it was maybe a little more homework in a player like Aaron Hernandez, that talent-wise obviously should have been drafted a little higher than what he was, but we were comfortable with Aaron and taking him the time we did. That’s worked out pretty well for us, so sometimes that little bit extra getting to know the player, the person and so forth can come into play. You never know in the draft process. You just never know how it’s going to go.

“Certainly, coincidence is a part of it. Demps, we didn’t really — the guy was running track, so the way it turned out this year, a lot of that was coincidence. It wasn’t that big of a plan, but we’re happy we have the opportunity to work with Jeff and see how it goes.”

2 » On the latest edition of the WWE’s YouTube program Outside the Ring, former Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard (known by his wrestling name of Titus O’Neil, one half of The Prime Time Players) takes tag team partner Darren Young on a tour of UF. The duo check out some major sites on campus, visit the athletic facilities, meet with Muschamp and Billy Donovan and do some Gator Chomps along the way.

3 » Model-turned-television host Tyra Banks was a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday and participated in a skit called Brainstorm in which one person (Banks) gives an answer and another (Fallon) provides the humorous question afterward. The first two answer-question segments on the skit had to do with former Gators, namely Tebow and Olympian Ryan Lochte.

4 » Speaking of Tebow, he was a guest on the WFAN radio show co-hosted by former New York Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason on Thursday but did not get the verbal beat down in person that Esiason has previously provided him with over the airwaves. Esiason previously said that, if he were a member of the Jets front office, he would cut Tebow because he does not benefit the team in any way. On Thursday, however, he was mostly complimentary of Tebow while lobbing him some softball questions that the player, of course, knocked out of the park.

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