1 » Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has yet to sign on the dotted line of a Louisville Cardinals head coaching contract, but the fan base is already getting riled up for his arrival by local papers touting his excellence. Monday night, the focus was on Strong’s personable relationship with the players he recruited and coached at Florida, including freshman linebacker Jon Bostic among others. “He coaches every player different out there because he knows how certain players will react,” Bostic said. “He does whatever it takes to get the job done.” Florida’s administration is still trying to keep Strong in Gainesville, FL.
2 » Using a 20-1 run to end the first half, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-4) took down the Florida women’s basketball team (3-5) 51-38 on Monday in the Women’s Jimmy V. Classic. Senior Steffi Sorensen scored 13 points to lead the Gators, though the team shot just 22 percent from the floor. Even though Florida outscored Rutgers by one in the second half, their 14-point halftime deficit was too much to overcome. The Gators next game is against the Old Dominion Monarchs (1-5) on the road Friday at 7 p.m.
1 » The Tennessee Volunteers may be 7-5 with a .500 record in the Southeastern Conference, but far be it for head coach Lane Kiffin to keep his mouth shut – especially when getting a chance to talk about the coaching staff of the No. 1 Florida Gators. When asked about the SEC Championship game, Kiffin responded in the only way possible for him. “Florida has better players, Alabama has better coaches,” he said.
2 » Florida junior transfer running back Emmanuel Moody (ankle) practiced at full speed on Tuesday and will be active for Saturday. Head coach urban Meyer worked the Gators on the field turf practice field in order to best simulate the Georgia Dome field.
3 » The Gators have appeared in the SEC Championship game nine times while the Crimson Tide have only made six appearances – all against Florida. In those games, Alabama is 2-4 with wins in 1992 and 1999.
4 » Starting the last three games, freshman left tackle Xavier Nixon has been a notable addition to Florida’s offensive line. The rebuilt unit has only allowed senior quarterback Tim Tebow to be sacked four times; he was sacked 21 times in the nine prior games. “You need that presence inside, and when coach [Steve] Addazio did that, that was a great tactical move,” Meyer said. “X has gotten a lot better. X did not play great Saturday. He had some missed assignments, but the one thing about him is he plays hard. He has a passion. He’ll get better.” Junior right guard Mike Pouncey agrees. “Xavier’s been playing good,” he said. “He’s been playing better than the other guys that were in there. Moving Carl [Johnson] inside is a big key.”
5 » During his post-practice press availability, Meyer showed his respect for Florida State Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden. “I’m good friends with coach Bowden, and I have a lot of respect for him,” he said. “He’s great for college football. [44 years of coaching] is a long time. [I] just want to go another week. You admire a guy that had the stamina and [did] it the right way. That’s the thing you always admire about coach Bowden – he’s done it the right way.”
6 » Florida women’s basketball (3-4) fell 72-71 to the Florida A&M Rattlers (4-2) in the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The Gators trailed by 12 points with 48.2 seconds remaining but scored the last 11 points to cut the deficit to one with 1.5 seconds left on the clock. Sophomore center Azania Stewart scored a career-high 17 points, though Florida only shot 36.9 percent.
1 » While the No. 1 Florida Gators will technically be the visiting team on Saturday in the 2009 SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA, they have opened as a five-point betting favorite against the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide. During their current nation-leading, school-record 22-game winning streak, the Gators have defeated 21 opponents by a double digit margin.
2 » Proponents of a playoff system for the National Championship should be pleased that Saturday’s match-up of No. 1 vs. No. 2 is a de facto play-in for entry into the BCS National Championship game in Pasadena, CA. This is the second consecutive year that the top two seeds will face each other in the SEC Championship. In 2008, Alabama was No. 1 while Florida was No. 2. It would be a tough task to find two teams as similar as the Gators and Crimson Tide, even if one tried.
3 » Alabama head coach Nick Saban expects running back Mark Ingram to be “fine” for Saturday’s game against Florida. Ingram, considered by many to be the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, left Friday’s game against the Auburn Tigers with a hip pointer and did not return. For the Gators, junior linebacker A.J. Jones (MCL) will miss the game while redshirt junior transfer running back Emmanuel Moody (ankle) and sophomore cornerback Janoris Jenkins (hip) are probable, according to statements from head coach Urban Meyer.
4 » Senior transfer wide receiver Carl Moore has been granted a medical redshirt and will return to the Gators for the 2010 season. A JUCO transfer in 2008, Moore struggled in his first season with Florida and had chronic back issues leading up to and during 2009. Moore’s size and trustworthy hands make him a valueable asset to the Gators’ receiving crops. Still waiting for an official word on his requested medical redshirt is junior cornerback Moses Jenkins, who suffered a serious concussion against the Kentucky Wildcats and has yet to return to action.
5 » The No. 15/15 Florida volleyball team (23-5, 16-4 SEC) received the No. 16 overall seed in the 2009 NCAA Tournament field of 64. The Gators will host the College of Charleston Cougars (18-12) on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The winner will play the victor of the Florida International Golden Panthers vs. Miami Hurricanes match in second-round action on Friday at 7 p.m.
6 » Gators women’s basketball (3-3) hit a season-high 12 three-pointers on their way to a 71-60 victory over the Golden Panthers (2-4) on Sunday. Sophomore guard Jordan Jones scored a season-high 25-points while shooting .500 (5-of-10) from beyond the arc and 9-of-16 overall. Next up is the Florida A&M Rattlers as part of a doubleheader with men’s basketball beginning Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
Facing their toughest test on the court since the 2006-2007 season, the Florida Gators basketball team (4-0) will take on the No. 2/2 Michigan State Spartans (4-0) in the opening game of the 2009 Legends Classic on Friday at 8 p.m. in Atlantic City, NJ. Florida will then face either the UMass Minutemen or Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday at either 5:30 p.m. or 8 p.m.
This is the sixth meeting between the Gators and Spartans, with Michigan State holding a 3-2 lead in the series. The Spartans won the last meeting 68-56 in Tampa in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament and also defeated the Gators 89-76 in the 2000 National Championship. Florida head coach Billy Donovan and Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo are contemporaries, having known each other since the early 1990s.
1 » All it took was a short car ride from Gainesville, FL, to Jacksonville, FL to earn senior linebacker Ryan Stamper’s commitment to the Florida Gators. Stamper wasn’t even a consideration until head coach Urban Meyer got his hands on some game film. After a quick meeting with Stamper’s mother, who was all about her son staying close to home and playing for a man like Meyer, well, the rest is history. “I decided to come to Florida,” Stamper said. “Best decision I made in my life.” Nicknamed “Old Man Stamp” and “Dad” by his teammates, the monikers are more about respect than they are his lack of speed (off the field). “”He has game speed,” sophomore safety Will Hill said. “If you’re in the game, it’s a whole different mentality. If you just run the clock in the 40, yeah, he’s slow. But if there’s a ball on the field and he’s going after a player, he’s far from slow.” Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong recognizes Stamper’s impact on the team. “He takes his job very seriously,” Strong said. “He studies the game and is one of the most dependable guys on our defense. I would go as far as to say that of all our defensive players, he’s probably been the most consistent.” Maybe that’s why Meyer said Stamper could very well coach the Gators some day.
2 » While we are talking about recruitments, senior kick returner Brandon James has a story of his own. Growing up in St. Augustine, FL, James was a Florida State Seminoles fan and hoped throughout high school that his local team would recruit him. Now all James wants is to beat his former favorites for the fourth time in his Florida career. “Definitely there’s extra motivation, especially when you know you were good enough to play somewhere,” James said. “So when you play them, you just try to do your best and just try to make plays when you are on the field. I know every time I’ve played against them since I have been here, you come out with a little bit more extra juice and a little more fired up, ready to get at it. Through the years I’ve made a couple of plays against them so I’m sure Saturday I’ll be ready to go.’ Coach Meyer is real big on beating your rivals and to be undefeated against them is real big. It’s real big for me because after growing up with Florida State my team or whatever and not getting recruited by them and now, coming to college and being undefeated against them is real good.”
1 » Florida Gators basketball (2-0) looks to keep on rolling as they take on the Troy Trojans (2-0) Friday at 7 p.m. in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Shooting a combined 3-for-29 (10.3%) from behind the arc, the Gators are bucking a trend head coach Billy Donovan set upon his arrival to Gainesville, FL. Florida has traditionally been among the best in the Southeastern Conference in three-point shooting percentage as Donovan has made it a priority both in his recruiting and game plans. “I think for guys like Kenny [Boynton] and Erving [Walker], it is probably somewhat uncharacteristic,” Donovan said. “They have been shooting the ball well in practice. Chandler [Parsons] and Dan [Werner] are guys that maybe have been a little more up and down in their careers.”
2 » There’s plenty of other Gators sports action on the docket for the weekend. Men’s and women’s swimming & diving begin their participation in all-day weekend tournaments Friday. Women’s basketball (1-1) faces the No. 25 Pittsburgh Panthers (1-0) in Pittsburgh, PA, on Friday, and No. 13/13 volleyball (20-4, 14-3 SEC) heads to Knoxville, TN, to serve against the Tennessee Volunteers (20-7, 13-4 SEC) – both matches are scheduled for 7 p.m. Volleyball will then travel to Lexington, KY, to take on the Kentucky Wildcats (26-2, 16-1 SEC) on Sunday at 2 p.m.
3 » Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes has been named as one of the five finalists for the 25th annual Butkus Award honoring the nation’s top linebacker. Other finalists include Rolando McClain of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Sergia Kindle of the Texas Longhorns, Sean Weatherspoon of the Missouri Tigers and Eric Norwood of the South Carolina Gamecocks.
4 » Redshirt juniors running back Emmanuel Moody (sprained ankle) and defensive tackle Terron Sanders (rib/back) have been ruled out for the Florida International Golden Panthers game on Saturday. According to head coach Urban Meyer, senior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham is “50-50” for the game with an unspecified injury. This is a good week to rest any banged up players prior to the regular season finale against the Florida State Seminoles next weekend.
Florida Gators women’s basketball (1-1) hosted the No. 13/10 Florida State Seminoles (2-0) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Tuesday evening, dropping a heartbreaker 66-62. The Gators, who were attempting to upset the ranked Seminoles, took the lead 62-60 with 2:04 remaining but would not score another point as FSU would regain control with 37.4 second left on the clock. Florida senior forward Sharielle Smith recorded 18 points and 13 rebounds for her fourth career double-double in the contest.
Up next for the Gators is a trip to Pittsburgh, PA, on Friday to face the No. 25 Pittsburgh Panthers at 7 p.m. It is the team’s first road game of the season.
Florida Gators soccer, cross country and women’s basketball were all in action this weekend coming off a Friday that saw softball, soccer and volleyball compete just one hour apart from another.
Just two days after defeating the Illinois State Redbirds in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Championship at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus, OH, the Florida soccer team (16-6-2, 8-1-2 SEC) fell in a heartbreaking 1-0 overtime loss to the Oregon State Beavers (14-7-1, 4-5 Pac 10). Having reached the round of 16 in 2006, 2007 and 2008, the Gators’ loss was the earliest exit for the team in four years. UF had multiple opportunities to score throughout the first 90 minutes, but a ball would not see the net until a turnover in the defensive third resulted in a through ball from Oregon State’s Rachael Axon to Melinda Ingalls for the goal. The Beavers’ first overtime win of the season ended the Gators season and hopes of a title.
The No. 3 women’s cross country team, on the other hand, found success this weekend, winning the NCAA South Region Championship on Saturday morning. Earning an automatic bid to the National Championship on Nov. 23, redshirt sophomore Rebecca Lowe led the way by winning the individual title while the Gators placed five runners in the top 17 and earned six All-South Region honors. Florida won their third regional title in program history, their first in over a decade (1998).
Men’s basketball was not the only Florida team to take their shot at the Stetson Hatters on the hardwood. The women faced them first on Saturday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, earning an 85-63 win to open the season. Leading the way for the Gators were freshman forward Jennifer George and redshirt sophomore transfer guard Jordan Jones, who combined for 38 points in their first career games in the Orange and Blue. Florida shot 50 percent from the field, grabbed 14 steals and was 7-of-18 from beyond the arc. Jones also led the team in assists (5) and George helped out on the boards (5) while seniors F Sharielle Smith (9) and G Steffi Sorensen (6) led the way in rebounds. The Gators will face the No. 15/12 Florida State Seminoles on Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Gainesville, FL.