FOUR BITS: women’s bball, baseball, softball, gym

1 » Having returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, nine-seed Florida Gators women’s basketball (20-12) picked up a hard-fought 70-65 victory over the eight-seed Ohio State Buckeyes (25-7) in first-round action on Sunday. Florida led early and maintained their advantage throughout the contest, eventually pulling away in the final few minutes for the win. Junior forward Jennifer George led the way for the Gators with 16 points (she also added six rebounds), but senior guard Lanita Bartley was the player of the game with 15 points, four boards, three assists and two steals. Florida will now face top-ranked Baylor (35-0) and player of the year Brittney Griner on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. live on ESPN2.

2 » No. 1 Gators baseball (19-1, 3-0 SEC) extended their winning streak to a school-record 17 games, sweeping their series against the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-13, 0-3 SEC) with another pair of wins on Saturday and Sunday. Florida outscored Vanderbilt 23-5 over the weekend, beginning with a 10-2 victory in their Southeastern Conference opener on Friday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The Gators pulled out a 5-1 win on Saturday on the heels of one of junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson’s best outings. Johnson improved to 3-0 while recording a career-high nine strikeouts in 6.0 innings and giving up just two singles. UF was up 1-0 through 4.5 innings but scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth including two RBIs apiece from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/3, HR, R, BB) and senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/5, R). Florida captured Sunday’s contest with an 8-2 victory behind another solid outing from sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (2-1, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 6 K). The Gators offense was fueled by a trio of solo homers from Tucker (1/3, RBI, 2 R, BB), freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1/4, 2 RBI, R) and freshman second baseman Casey TurgeonSEC Player of the Week award in his career on Monday.

3 » No. 4 Florida softball (26-2, 7-1 SEC) also swept a conference opponent over the weekend, taking down the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-12, 2-6 SEC) by a combined score of 17-3 over three days at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers and freshman RHP/first baseman Lauren Haeger dominated the weekend for the Gators. Rogers (14-1, S 2) earned two victories and a save, while Haeger (8-1) picked up a win and also went 5/8 over the three-game stretch with a homer, six RBIs and a run scored.

4 » No. 6 Florida lacrosse (8-2) defeated the William & Mary Tribe (2-6) 21-8 on the road Saturday. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led Florida with five goals, and UF added four more each from junior attackers Kitty Cullen and Gabi Wiegand and freshman M Shannon Gilroy.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, gymnastics, Leak

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (17-1, 1-0 SEC) extended their winning streak to a school-record 15 games on Friday by toppling the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-11, 0-1 SEC) 10-2 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (3-0, 6.2 IP) matched a season-high with six strikeouts while allowing two earned runs on six hits. Behind 2-0 through 4.5 innings, Florida rallied for a five-run bottom of the fifth as eight batters stepped to the plate. The Gators added four more runs in the bottom of the seventh and another in the eighth to pull away for the decisive victory. Senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/5, 3 RBI, R) and freshman first baseman Taylor Gushue (1-4, 2 RBI) led the way offensively but junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-4, RBI) and senior outfielder Daniel Pigott (3-5, RBI) each crossed the plate twice for Florida. Game two against the Commodores is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday (CSS), and the Gators will conclude the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. (FSF).

2 » No. 4 Florida softball (24-2, 5-1 SEC) got back to their winning ways on Friday with 9-1 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-10, 2-4 SEC) at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (13-1) put together a complete game in a run-ruled five-inning outing, giving up one earned run while striking out two, walking two and scattering four hits. Freshmen 1B Lauren Haeger (2-3) and designated hitter Bailey Castro (1-1, HR, R, 2 BB) each notched three RBIs to help fuel the Gators’ offense. UF will wrap-up their three-game series USC by hosting them twice more on Saturday (Sun Sports) and Sunday at 1 p.m.

3 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (11-1) posted the second-highest total in the nation this season to conclude the 2012 regular season with a 197.900-196.475 victory over the No. 7 Utah Utes (7-3) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville. Sophomore Alaina Johnson captured event titles in the vault (9.90), uneven bars (9.95) and balance beam (9.925) while also winning the all-around (39.675). She split two of her titles with teammates as juniors Ashanée Dickerson (uneven bars) and Marissa King (balance beam) matched her scores. King also split the floor exercise event title with freshman Kytra Hunter (9.95). The Gators will next compete in the 2012 SEC Championships on March 24 before moving on to the NCAA Regionals on April 7.

4 » In his first game as starting quarterback of the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks, former Florida signal caller Chris Leak completed 21 of 31 passes for 196 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Jacksonville, the league’s defending champion, scored 38 unanswered points in the second half to pull away for a 52-28 victory.

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Verducci out, Davis in as Florida OL coach

When former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis left the Florida Gators to take the head coaching job with the Kansas Jayhawks, it was assumed that offensive line coach Frank Verducci, who worked with Weis at Notre Dame, would soon follow.

Verducci instead stayed put in Gainesville, FL for the time being has now moved on “to pursue other interests,” according to a Florida release, as the Gators announced Monday that the Utah UtesTim Davis will take over for him in 2012.

The Gainesville Sun reports that Verducci was fired after pursuing jobs in the NFL (including one with the Kansas City Chiefs). A source close to the team tells OGGOA that head coach Will Muschamp was not properly informed about the job search.

A veteran coach with more than two decades in the business, Davis has worked on the offensive line with Walla Walla (1988), Idaho State (1989), Utah (1990-96, 2011), USC (2002-04), the Miami Dolphins (2005-06) and Minnesota (2009-10).

He was also a volunteer, student assistant and graduate assistant at Utah, Wisconsin and Arizona for seven years (1981-87) and served double duty as offensive coordinator at Walla Walla and tight ends coach at Utah (1994-96).

Following his time as assistant offensive line coach under Nick Saban at Miami, Davis spent a year as Saban’s director of player personnel with Alabama (2008). He added the role of running game coordinator when he took the Minnesota job in 2009.

Davis and Muschamp are connected through Saban, both having served on the Dolphins’ coaching staff during the 2005 season. Muschamp spent just one year in the NFL before returning to college the following season.

“He was a guy that brought energy and passion to the job every day,” Muschamp said of Davis’s attitude while with Miami. “He is going to bring toughness. I thought he did a great job with our offensive line [with the Dolphins]. Everywhere he has been and he’s coached they have been able to run the football and create the play-actions of it, be able to spread the field, understand the protections and do what you’ve got to do to be able to keep the quarterback upright.

“You look at some of the guys he has worked for and you talk about Barry Alvarez, you talk about Nick Saban, you talk about Pete Carroll. You talk about those guys and what they have accomplished. He knows what it takes to be successful.”

Davis actually pursued the offensive line coach job with Florida when Muschamp took over in 2011, but Weis’s relationship with Verducci obviously took precedent.

“It wasn’t available then,” Davis said. “I told [Muschamp], ‘Well, I’m going to be persistent. I’m going to keep trying.’ I always wanted to work and coach in the SEC, especially with guys I know and have coached with.”

Though Davis has been a part of three BCS bowl teams and two national championships as a member of USC’s coaching staff, he has never coached alongside new Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

He did, however, work on staffs with current Florida running backs coach Brian White and tight ends coach Derek Lewis. Davis spent his four-year tenure at Wisconsin with White, three years of which White also served as offensive coordinator. Lewis, an assistant with Minnesota from 2007-10, worked with Davis for two years.

“It was easy [to make the move] because of Will and Dan and Brian and D-Lew,” he said. “You don’t make a decision like this – leaving your home state and everybody you know – without having somebody you know. That’s one of the things in coaching you can’t do. You have to be able to connect yourself with the guys you work with.

“The SEC is the premiere conference in the country, and you get a chance to work with guys you’ve worked with who are very successful, very motivated, they want to be the best. You’re working in a great environment and a great program like Florida. It’s everything that you dream about.”

Photo Credit: Mike Terry, Deseret News

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TWO BITS: Meyer visits Utah, Weis happy at UF

1 » Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer has been making his rounds of other college football programs over the last month and paid a visit to the Utah Utes, where he also used to coach, on Thursday. After addressing the team and surveying the program, Meyer spoke with the Desert News about how it feels not to be coaching these days. “I guess it’s been great. I don’t know. I’ve got a knot in my stomach right now, missing it awful bad,” he said. Meyer also told the paper that his new job with ESPN will have him work only 60-70 days a year.

2 » In addition to meeting with the media last week, new Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis sat down with the school’s senior writer Scott Cater to discuss the journey that led him to decide to run UF’s offense for at least the next few years. Weis shared a touching story about Super Bowl XXXVI, explained how his son is closer with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick than he is these days and discussed starting a charity because of his daughter and children sharing her condition. He also talked about his decision to coach the Gators and shared a little bit of his philosophy.

“Too many coaches wait until it’s too late,” Weis said of when he would adjust his game plan if it’s not working. “They’ll wait until halftime, but the game might be over already. There have been games where I’ve thrown out the game plan nine plays in.’’ He also talked about his in-game play calling. “One of my pet peeves is coaches who take too long to get a play in,’’ he said. “I call them quick. I like to rapid fire. I was fortunate to be around people who were really good at [play calling], regardless of the level. I like to sit there and say that it’s all you, but it’s an acquired trait that you either get it or don’t get it, like the timing of a play call.’’

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FOUR BITS: basketball, softball, gym, tennis, lax

1 » Participating in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament beginning on Thursday, Florida Gators women’s basketball did a great job beating the Arkansas Razorbacks 68-59 in the event’s opening round but ended up falling to the top-seeded No. 4 Tennessee Lady Vols 92-75 in quarterfinal action on Friday. Florida (18-14) saw five players reach double-digit point totals in the opening game with sophomore forward Jennifer George, junior guard Deana Allen and redshirt junior F Ndidi Madu scoring 12 a piece while freshman G Jaterra Bonds and redshirt junior G Jordan Jones each posted 11. Unfortunately for the Gators, the Lady Vols routed them for the third time this season, beating them by 17 Friday after wins of 43 and 22 earlier in the year. Allen (13), Madu (13), Bonds (12), Jones (10) all scored double-digit points while junior G Lanita Bartley led the team with 14.

2 » Achieving a much better outcome over the weekend was No. 2/3 Florida softball (19-0), which swept the 2011 Lipton Invitational at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL with five victories in three days. UF beat Valparaiso 13-4 and Syracuse 2-0 on Friday before throttling the North Dakota State 18-0 and Pacific 10-2 on Saturday. The Gators closed the tournament with a 9-0 victory over NDSU, combining to outscore them 27-0 in a two-game span. Florida senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (11-0) won three of the five games, only giving up one earned run and four hits in 14.2 innings while striking out 20. Finishing the sweep was freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (8-0), who spelled Brombacher and won both of her games while allowing two earned runs and seven hits while striking out 14 in 13 innings of work.

Senior second baseman Aja Paculba, sophomore outfielder Brittany Schutte and senior first baseman Megan Bush all had spectacular weekends. Paculba (9-17) hit a pair of homers while knocking in five RBI and scoring eight runs. Schutte (5-15) hit two home runs in the opening game and another each in the final two games to total four over the weekend along with 14 RBI, eight runs and six walks. Bush (8-16) was equally impressive with two homers, eight RBI, five runs and three walks. Not to be outdone, freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan hit a grand slam in the third game of the weekend, and sophomore catcher Kelsey Horton hit dingers in back-to-back games.

3 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (12-1, 5-1 SEC) helped set a NCAA attendance record on Friday, defeating the No. 5 Utah Utes (7-2) 197.00-196.75 in front of 15,558 fans at the Huntsman Center. Florida won the match overall by capturing the vault, bars and beam team events even though they lost the floor by .075. Event winners included sophomore Ashanée Dickerson on the beam (9.875) and vault (9.90), where she tied freshman Alaina Johnson and sophomore Marissa King. Johnson and freshman Mackenzie Caquatto tied to win the bars (9.925), too. With the regular season now complete, UF will defend their SEC title at the 2011 SEC Championships beginning March 19.

4 » No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (13-1, 2-0 SEC) and No. 11 Florida men’s tennis (9-3, 2-0 SEC) each came away from their respective SEC opening weekends with a pair of decisive victories. The women swept the LSU Tigers (2-6, 0-1 SEC) 6-0 and No. 16 Arkansas 7-0 on the road, while the men stayed home and beat the Tigers (3-6, 0-1 SEC) 6-1 and Razorbacks (3-7, 0-2 SEC) 7-0. No. 7 sophomore Allie Will and No. 26 sophomore Lauren Embree won both of their singles matches over the weekend for the women, while No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix and No. 28 sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. mirrored their performances on the men’s side.

Extra BIT » Continuing their steady rise in the sport, No. 14 Florida lacrosse (4-1) defeated the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (2-2) 15-10 after fighting back from a 5-5 tie on Saturday afternoon at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Standout sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen once again led the way for the Gators with foul goals, while sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns added three of her own.
 

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TWO BITS: baseball and softball complete sweeps

1 » Simply put, the Boston College Eagles (2-4) were no match for No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (7-0). Already up two games, Florida completed the series sweep against Boston College with a 7-2 victory Sunday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (2-0) had another stellar outing as the team’s starter; he allowed one earned run and five hits but struck out five in 5.1 innings of work. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) led the Gators offensively with an outstanding performance including a two-run homer.

Florida started things off in the bottom of the second with a four-run rally that included RBI hits from sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-2, RBI, R), senior second baseman Josh Adams (0-3, RBI) and sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-3, 2 RBI, R), who drove in two on a one-out triple. The Gators added another run in the third when left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-3, RBI) singled to second base to score first baseman Brian Johnson (1-4, R), who tripled to center field with one out. After Whitson gave up his sole earned run in the sixth, Zunino added his two RBI in the eighth. The duo of juniors left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone and RHP Greg Larson got UF into the ninth, combining to strike out three in 2.2 innings. The Eagles had once last chance in the top of the ninth with sophomore third baseman/RHP Austin Maddox (2-4, R) on the mound; he surrendered one run before retiring the final two batters to end the inning.

2 » Playing all weekend at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, CA, No. 4/5 Florida softball (14-0) dominated their competition, winning a total of five games against Indiana, No. 11/12 Texas, San Diego State, No. 2/2 UCLA and the Utah Utes (5-10). The Gators took down the Utes 7-3 on Saturday to conclude the event behind 6.2 innings from ace senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher. Brombacher struggled with her command a bit, giving up six hits and four walks while only striking out three; the defense behind her was porous as well, committing two errors and allowing an unearned run. Junior CF Michelle Moultrie (3-3, 3 RBI, R) was clutch at the plate for Florida, as was 1B Megan Bush (1-2, HR, RBI, R, BB), who hit a solo shot in the fourth to tie the game at 1-1. Moultrie finished the event 10-17 with three triples, a double, nine RBI, five runs, three walks and 17 total bases. Senior 2B Aja Paculba (2-4, RBI) hit 9-18 with two doubles, four RBI and two walks at the event.

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Price: Meyer had no choice but to change his mind

In the Dec. 7, 2009, issue of Sports Illustrated, S.L. Price profiled Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer in what OGGOA called a “must-read” article. Part of the reason why Price’s piece was so intriguing was the access Meyer gave him to his family and information he provided about his medical history. Now that the media is roundly criticizing Meyer for waffling on his decision to step down for his health and family, Price discusses the story from a different perspective, saying that in order “to understand Meyer’s flip-flop, one must first understand his past.”

Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife, explained to Price in July how hard her husband takes a loss and the type of damage it does to his psyche. “He’s miserable,” Shelley said. “He can’t sleep, and he can’t eat: He’s in the tank. The 2004 Utah season was the best ever, because we didn’t lose a game. Last year we lost to Ole Miss, and he went into the depths as he always does. He sits alone, and the worst thing is if we have people over. He just wants to sit all by himself. He goes in the den, he doesn’t want to talk to anybody, doesn’t want to see anybody. He usually puts the TV on and he usually just wants me to come sit with him. He can’t sleep that night. Terrible, terrible. And he’s up by 5 a.m. the next morning and in (his office) watching that film: What went wrong? It’s the most distraught thing you’ve ever seen, because it’s all his fault — in his mind: It’s my fault. What did I do? I didn’t put the players in the position to win.

Most of all, Meyer’s change of heart came about not just because he loves the players and program at Florida (his “second family”) but also due to the fact that “he was as happy as he’d ever been,” Price writes. “In Gainesville, he had finally been at a school long enough to build a program his way, with his recruits, his system. For the first time, he had a built a machine capable of creating its own self-sustaining fuel.”

“He’s finally stayed somewhere long enough to where the team is where he wants it,” Shelley said. “I told him that: Bowling Green was two seasons, same thing at Utah. We’ve been here four seasons, he’s getting the guys he wants in here, everybody’s buying into the program, everybody knows the expectations and the rules: This is what you’ve been working for. Why would you want to leave it now?

And therein lies the paradox for Meyer going back on his initial decision. He has worked his entire life, putting all of this stress and anxiety literally on his heart, in order to land the job of his dreams. Yet everything he has done to reach the pinnacle of his profession is exactly what is endangering his life. How do you give up something you have worked your entire life for without at least trying to change and perform your job in a healthier manner? “Anyone who knows Meyer understands he had no choice but to change his mind,” Price concludes. “Whether he can solve his problem, whether he can coach without killing himself or his family, is the question of the season.”

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Who will replace Urban Meyer as head coach?

With the shock of the resignation of Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer still ringing through the ears of Gator Nation, one of the major questions arising is a simple one: “Who will replace him?” OGGOA has complied a list of the most likely and most rumored candidates that could replace Meyer:

Check out the full list of potential replacements after the jump!!!
Continue Reading » Who will replace Urban Meyer as head coach?

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