FOUR BITS: Florida Gators defense edition

1 » ESPN’s SEC blogger Chris Low sat down with Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to speak about his career and the 2009 UF defense. “I told Urban Meyer this summer that Charlie’s a better coordinator than he was three years ago,” South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier said in an interview. “Not only do they have outstanding athletes, but they’re very well-coached, disguise coverages very well and seem to know what the other team is doing all the time.” Great interview by Low; I highly recommended that you give it a once over.

2 » Expanding on Strong is the Gainesville Sun, who adds more from Spurrier and picked the brain of LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles as well. Spurrier continued, “Charlie, like all good coaches, if there is a better way to do something, he looks for it.” Miles agreed. “The way he attacks you,” Miles said, “he’s constantly stirring the pot looking to be better.” Strong’s defense faces their toughest test of the season Saturday against the Arkansas Razorbacks. If some Florida fans had their way when Meyer was hired, Strong wouldn’t even be the one coaching the unit. “I got killed [for retaining Strong] … e-mails, phone calls, letters. What are you doing?” Meyer said. “Florida’s defense wasn’t very good. But I did some research. Obviously, it was a great hire. I’m glad he’s part of our staff. I fight to keep him every year. He’s on top of his game right now.”

3 » Defensive end Carlos Dunlap could very well be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Yet you never would have thought that if you were following him throughout last season. Back then, he was just a player with great potential – a guy who had all of the talent and ability in the world but did not work hard enough for Meyer or Strong to make them think he could be a solid contributor to the Gators defense. Now? All of that has changed and something clicked in Dunlap that is fueling him to be the dominant force that was always inside him. “He is much, much improved right now from any time last year,” Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney said. “He’s working harder. His attitude is better. His practice habits are better. I’m really proud of him.”

4 » The Gators coaching staff’s focus on Saturday’s game against the Razorbacks is not one dimensional. In addition to trying to beat the Arkansas on the gridiron, Florida wants to win over the recruits that will be in the stands. That list of recruits just got bigger as Gators coach McCarney contacted junior defensive tackle Brodrick Lee of Tarpon Springs High School and invited him to take an unofficial visit to Gainesville on Saturday. 6’2″ and 285 pounds, Lee draws double teams in high school and is very athletic. He has already drawn interest from the Auburn Tigers, but the Gators being involved is obviously a coup for the youngster.

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Florida Gators cereal box released Thursday

If you are a resident of the state of Florida, it may be a good idea to head over to a grocery store today – that is, if you are interested in picking up a Florida Gators-themed box of cereal. That’s right, head coach Urban Meyer and the 2008 National Championship trophy are prominently featured on the 2009 edition of what has recently become an annually produced product.

According to friend of the program (see right sidebar) Sarah Talalay of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “this box of frosted corn flakes is the sixth in the limited edition series produced in a partnership between Florida’s Dairy Farmers and Gator Sports Marketing, which handles UF’s sponsorship and advertising.” More than 20,000 have been produced and are currently on sale at Winn-Dixie, Albertsons and Sweetbay. In the past, these cereals have also been available at Publix.

This year, in addition to releasing the Gators-themed cereal box, Florida Dairy Farmers have announced a contest to win a refrigerator and a year’s supply of milk. Visit the link above for more information on the cereal and the contest.

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CB Jenkins still not recovered from concussion

The talk of college football two weeks ago was Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow being knocked out of the Kentucky Wildcats game with a concussion. Barely being mentioned in the same time span was the injury to cornerback and special teams stud Moses Jenkins. Like Tebow, Jenkins suffered a concussion that Saturday in Lexington, KY. Unlike Tebow, Jenkins had whiplash to go along with it and has yet to be cleared to practice, let alone play in a game.

Not all concussions are the same and Jenkins’ slower recovery is not raising any additional concerns – yet. He is undergoing the same baseline tests and taking the same precautions Tebow did, just simply not showing the same progression. Head coach Urban Meyer is calling Jenkins “50-50″ for the Arkansas Razorbacks game, but the fact of the matter is that Jenkins will not play Saturday. And maybe not the week after that either.

OGGOA will update Jenkins’ health as more information is made available.

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Gators special teams must stop Hogs’ Johnson

Offense and defense are the most publicized parts of any team, but it is special teams that often wins or loses close football games. Just ask Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, who also coaches special teams and has been purposefully dominant in that area throughout his career. “It’s not interesting to people, but that’s how you win,” Meyer said in 2008 about special teams. “If you want to win, that’s how you do it.”

Unlike many of their opponents, the Gators put extra emphasis on the unit, utilizing many of their starters and best players on kick blocking, coverage and, of course, in the return game. Standouts over the past few years have included defensive lineman Jarvis Moss, cornerback Joe Haden and running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. “Special teams are high on [coach Meyer’s] priority list,” punter Chas Henry said. “Starters want to play on special teams.”

Sure they do; they get rewarded for it. “A lot of teams take special teams for granted. Here, it’s a privilege to play on the kickoff team or the punt return team,” said senior quarterback Tim Tebow, who was on the hands team as a true freshman. “[Meyer] rewards guys who do good on special teams. It’s not just overlooked like it is at some places. That’s why they play so hard. “

Continue Reading » Gators special teams must stop Hogs’ Johnson

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OGGOA Exclusive: Vols coach Kiffin not giving up on Gators five-star commit Elam

Last Tuesday, OGGOA broke the news that prized Florida Gators recruit, five-star safety/athlete Matt Elam of Dwyer, had reaffirmed his commitment to the University of Florida. This revelation came following a two hour conversation he had with head coach Urban Meyer, who reassured Elam of his ability to earn playing time as a freshman and be an impactful member of the Florida secondary from the day he steps foot on campus, regardless of how many other players UF signs at his position. “I talked to my coach [Meyer] a little,” Elam said. “We talked about the safety situation and our relationship. I committed for a reason. I’m not going to back down. It’s all Florida.”

Prior to OGGOA‘s report, Elam had spoken publicly about being impressed by two visits he had taken recently to the West Virginia Mountaineers and Tennessee Volunteers. “At first I just wanted to take a look,” Elam said about his Tennessee visit. “But I saw things and talked to [defensive coordinator] Monte [Kiffin]. I saw how they used their safeties and they put them in a position to make plays. They do have a chance [to sign me].” Elam would later say that, while both visits opened his eyes as to what else was out there aside from Florida, he was simply doing his due diligence.

Apparently, Elam showing a shred of interest in the Vols has gotten head coach Lane Kiffin smelling blood in the water. Kiffin visited Dwyer today, “pressing [Elam] pretty hard” to change his mind and decommit from the Gators, according to a source close to the player. This source also told OGGOA that it believes Elam’s commitment to Florida and Meyer is firm, but relinquishes that “Kiffin is a hell of a salesman.”

Elam plans to graduate in the fall and enroll at UF in the spring in order to get a leg up on the 2010 season. From now until then, anything can happen. “This is just part of what [Elam] has to go through until February,” the source said.

…and while we are on the subject, I just came across an Orlando Sentinel article about Elam keeping the memory of his murdered siblings close to him. Very touching story and a must-read for anyone following Elam or Gators recruiting.

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TWO BITS: Tebow’s new role; Meyer interviewed

1 » Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow has been called plenty of things in his four years at the University of Florida. From being called “Superman” to having thousands of Chuck Norris-like facts written about him, much of the focus has been on Tebow’s dominating presence both in the huddle and in life. On Saturday, as friend of OGGOA Dan Shanoff points out, Tebow morphed into another version of himselfTrent Dilfer. That’s right. Dilfer – the former Baltimore Ravens quarterback who was considered the quintessential “game manager” when leading his team to a Super Bowl.

2 » Head coach Urban Meyer spoke about Tebow, the impressive Gators defense, recruiting in South Florida, the success of wide receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy in the NFL and much more with Joe Rose on 560 WQAM. Click here to listen to the recorded interview.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow is tough; Meyer and recruits; airing it out; alcohol changes for Fla-Ga

1 » Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow has always been a tough person and even tougher football player. He has scored a touchdown on a broken leg (for Nease in high school), played with a fractured hand, run over players with a hyper-extended knee and played through seasons with injuries to his back and shoulder. But coming back from a concussion is not about being tough. It is about the brain – both protecting it and using it to make sure you do not return too soon.

2 » The worst part for a head coach about having their phone number leaked is not just changing the number but making sure everyone has the new one. This includes staff, players, parents and, perhaps most importantly, recruits. One thing you can be sure of, however, is that Urban Meyer is a recruiting powerhouse all his own and took care of that situation swiftly. “Oh, we e-mailed the recruits and all that, so it’s OK,” Meyer said on Monday. “We’re doing alright. We got a plan.”

3 » As referenced Monday in his press conference, Meyer seeks to improve the Gators’ passing attack. Even though, as one OGGOA reader pointed out, Florida’s appears to be ahead of pace in that area compared to 2008, it is not where Meyer wants it to be. “I think we’re pretty close,” Meyer said. “I like where we’re at.” For Tebow though, stats are not everything. “We’re 5-0 and very happy with that,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we score 13 points or 2 points, as long as we win the game.” It would still do the Gators good to improve in their aerial attack. “Hopefully we’ll keep progressing and getting that timing, getting that rhythm and getting that feel,” Tebow said.

4 » The event formerly but no longer officially referred to as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is doing even more to curb alcohol consumption. There will be fewer places to buy alcohol at the Jacksonville Landing and no longer will vendors be allowed to walk around the property selling shots. University of Florida President Bernie Machen has been adamant about making Florida-Georgia weekend safer, and the city of Jacksonville, FL, is willing to abide him in a new plan that was submitted on Friday.

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Monday press conference – Gators vs. Razorbacks

Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer and senior quarterback Tim Tebow (along with other players and coaches) speak with the media every Monday afternoon. Here are some notes from their press conferences. More information and quotes will come later.

Continue Reading » Monday press conference – Gators vs. Razorbacks

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