Florida Gators part ways with DE Gerald Willis III

Coming off a rocky first season with the program, freshman defensive end Gerald Willis III has been dismissed by the Florida Gators, which announced Tuesday that he will transfer from the program.

Willis, who got into an embarrassing public altercation with a teammates in Oct. 6, was in Florida’s doghouse for most of the season, missing two games at the start of the 2014 campaign for undisclosed reasons.

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Florida DL Bullard to return for senior season

Florida Gators junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard announced Monday that he will not join four teammates who chose to forgo their final season of eligibility and declare early for the 2015 NFL Draft. Instead, Bullard will return to the Gators for his senior campaign despite the coaching staff being completely overhauled.

“I wasn’t projected to go where I want to go,” Bullard said in a statement released by the school. “I want to leave a bigger mark on the Florida program than what I have.”

Bullard promised to keep a level head when making his decision, noting that he would consult former Florida head coach Will Muschamp after receiving his evaluation back from the NFL. Muschamp has long held that he would only recommend players to declare early if they are projected to be first-round selections.

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Top 14 for 2014: Florida Gators best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2014 (see the Not Top 14 for 2014), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2014. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 14 for 2014.

14 » RARE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL UPSET

Gators women’s basketball has struggled to find relevancy but there was no question Florida had its engines running on Jan. 5 when it pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history, an 83-73 upset win over No. 6 Kentucky. The win broke a six-game losing streak for UF against UK and was head coach Amanda Butler’s first win over a top-10 ranked opponent after going 0-17 previously in such games. Florida had lost 19-straight regular-season games against top 10-ranked opponents, earning its last victory to such a team in Feb. 2006.

13 » TEBOW TIME ALL THE TIME

Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had a life-changing 2014 after agreeing to sign a long-term broadcasting deal with ESPN. Tebow was featured on the network’s national title broadcast that season and was later assigned to the SEC Network where he served as one of three analysts for the channel’s Saturday pre-game show, SEC Nation. Tebow has drawn rave reviews throughout 2014 for his passionate opinions and consistent on-air knowledge. He also proved to be unbiased, lambasting the leadership on Florida’s offense when the team struggled during the middle of the season. One Tebow moment – a spot-on impersonation of former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier – was OnlyGators.com’s most-watched Vine with 1.3 million loops as of press time.

Tebow also closed 2014 with a brilliant on-air prediction, which you can check out below.

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NOT Top 14 for 2014: Moments Gators can forget

At the conclusion of each year, OnlyGators.com takes a look back at the top on-field moments and off-field stories from the previous 12 months. For the second-straight year, which will go down as another difficult and controversial one for the Florida Gators, we sort through the Not Top 14 for 2014 – games, actions and stories that fans of the program will look to put in the rear view mirror as the clock strikes midnight. Don’t forget to check out the Top 14 for 2014 (COMING THURSDAY) to begin 2015 on a positive note!

14 » SEE YA NEVER

Over the final two months of 2014, the Gators football program saw three seniors decide – whether through purposeful actions or team rules violations – to end their careers early. Learning he would not be starting at Vanderbilt, redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr argued with then head coach Will Muschamp and was sent home on a bus before the game; he later tried to explain his side of the story. On the final day of the year, redshirt senior wide receiver/kick returner Andre Debose (mutual decision) and senior DT Darious Cummings (violation of team rules) were ruled out for the bowl game. Debose had an up-and-down hear overall, suffering a defenestration in the spring and barely playing on offense during the season; he was excellent as Florida’s all-purpose returner, however, and ends his career tied for the SEC record in kick return touchdowns (four).

13 » CHARACTER CONCERNS

Maurkice and Mike Pouncey kept their noses clean when they were with the Gators and continue to be fan favorite from their time at Florida. However, since becoming professional football players, some character questions have been raised – stemming in large part from the brothers wearing “Free Hernandez” hats last year – and those continued in 2014. Pouncey was one of the main players named in bullying allegations levied by former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, and both Pounceys were accused of serious assault during a night club incident in Miami. The brothers were not ultimately charged with assault from that evening’s incident but all of the allegations continued to paint UF in a bad light.

12 » UNEXPECTEDLY UNDRAFTED

It started in the 2014 NFL Draft when a pair of Gators junior cornerbacks that declared early – Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Robersonwere not selected. Purifoy had a drug incident in the offseason that contributed to him not being drafted – and both players dealt with character concerns – but it was nevertheless a surprise. (Purifoy and Roberson, respectively, signed undrafted free agent deals with the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams. Both saw limited action this season with Purifoy getting cut by the Colts, dropped by the Seattle Seahawks after a waiver claim [failed a physical] and ultimately suspended four games by the NFL for an undisclosed reason.)

There was even more of an expectation that center Patric Young would be picked in the 2014 NBA Draft with many believing he could go as high as the lower portion of the first round. Instead, Young fell out of the first and did not even get picked in the second as many NBA teams chose to select international players that they could stash and not sign to contracts. Young ultimately signed with the New Orleans Pelicans but was later cut by the franchise and is now playing in Turkey. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Casey Prather also went undrafted, and though Wilbekin performed well in NBA Summer League action, he did not get an opportunity in the league either.

11 » BAD OMENS

Though there was some positive momentum for the football program as the 2014 season approached, with the roster looking healthy and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper expected to turn things around for Florida, a number of bad omens cast doom over the Gators’ campaign. It started with the Orange & Blue Debut spring game, which ended in a tie. Though there was no reason to continue the game per se, fans in attendance hoped to see a little bit of extra Florida football action and left disappointed.

The ominous offseason continued with wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips resigning from his position in June after Miami staffers reported him for a recruiting violation. Muschamp named former Gators quarterback and team graduate assistant Chris Leak as the replacement receivers coach, giving UF four different coaches at that position in as many seasons. The last omen was even more obvious than the first two with lightning storms cancelling Florida’s season opener against Idaho. Though options were considered to play the game at a later date in the season, it was ultimately decided to take the contest off both teams’ schedules with the Gators and Vandals only playing 11 contests in 2014.

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The Silver Lining: McElwain’s staff decisions, comments from Muschamp and Mullen

You’re getting what you wanted

Over the last two seasons – and a little before that as well – my inbox, the @OnlyGators Twitter account and the comments section here on OnlyGators.com have each been inundated with requests and demands for Will Muschamp to lose his job. And while it may have taken longer than many of you have wished, it happened. Muschamp was fired, athletic director Jeremy Foley hired a new head coach Jim McElwain and – though some of you were not pleased with that replacement – the program is headed in a different direction.

Well, you know what happens when one head coach gets fired and another is hired in his place? The coaching staff changes, too. That’s the name of the game. It’s how this process works and thinking otherwise is absolutely foolish.

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Silver Lining: McElwain’s unanswered questions

Questions went unanswered in Jim McElwain’s press conference for good reason

When the Gators hired Will Muschamp four years ago, he had no problem whatsoever laying out specifics about what Florida football would look like under his leadership. He declared that the Gators would be a pro-style, blue-collar, lunch pail-toting team from their first practice through his last day, and while he saw most of that through, obviously the offense underwent radical changes with similarly lacking results throughout his four seasons.

New head coach Jim McElwain took a completely different approach during his introductory press conference. Granted, he was asked fewer questions about his football philosophies than Muschamp when he was behind the podium, but McElwain responded to the questions by refusing to provide specifics and diverting the subject in one way or another.

Asked what style of offense the Gators will run in 2015, McElwain said, “Whatever works. I’ve seen some pretty good stuff that’s worked here in the past. We’ll get that going.” Was he referring to a return of the fun-and-gun under Steve Spurrier? “I don’t know what you call it, but it will be a blast,” he said. “How about the Humane Society?”

A man who obviously likes to share his sense of humor (Muschamp has one too, though it took him four years to get comfortable in his own skin), McElwain’s “Humane Society” reference was a call back to one of his non-answers earlier in the press conference, when he was asked about who has influenced him offensively throughout his career.

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Florida Gators press conference: Jim McElwain introduced as head football coach

Final update added at 6 p.m.

Affable and entertaining, Jim McElwain was introduced Saturday as the 24th head football coach in the history of the Florida Gators.

McElwain came right out of the gate and detailed his high level of appreciation for the opportunity to coach Florida, calling the Gators job something special and one of very few at the highest level in college football. He went on to discuss some of his philosophies, his upcoming agenda and how he plans to move forward over the next month, all of which has been captured and broken down here on OnlyGators.com.

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Report: Florida RB Matt Jones to enter NFL Draft

Florida Gators junior running back Matt Jones will forgo his remaining eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL Draft, according to a report from Nick de la Torre of Gator Country.

“Always Bleed Orange And Blue!!,” Jones wrote Monday via his Twitter account.

Jones is the third Gators underclassman to declare for the draft, joining junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (a potential first-round pick) and redshirt junior offensive lineman Tyler Moore. Other players with a year of eligibility remaining may follow the trio, namely junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard and left tackle D.J. Humphries.

Jones, a two-year starter who suffered from a serious viral infection and devastating knee injury that cut his 2013 campaign short, was Florida’s leading rusher this season with 817 yards and six touchdowns on 166 carries. He also caught 11 passes for 65 yards and added a receiving score. In five games last season, Jones gained 339 yards on 79 carries, scoring just twice.

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