FOUR BITS: Tebow 3:16, top 25s, Azzanni, Weis

1 » One of the most famous moments in professional wrestling history actually occurred outside of the ring as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was being coronated King of the Ring in 1996. As he was being interviewed, Austin caught a glimpse of a John 3:16 sign in the crowd and spouted, “You talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16, Austin 3:16 says I just whopped your ass!” The “Austin 3:16” phrase immediately became a hit in what is now known as WWE and spawned signs from fans, T-shirt sales and plenty of other merchandise. With Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow throwing for exactly 316 yards and averaging 31.6 yards per completion on Sunday against Pittsburgh (the final quarter-hour rating of the game was also a 31.6 overnight), Austin was asked by TMZ if he minded that it was being used with Tebow nowadays. “Austin 3:16 still rules,” he told the website. “If Tebow can throw for 316 yards again this weekend then hell, he can have the numbers and I’ll have no problem with it. A guy named John was using it before me so if Tebow can do it again, more power to him! I wish him all the luck in the world. [...] I’m not a Denver fan but Tim’s a great role model for kids.”

2 » In the final USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll of the 2011-12 season, the Florida Gators earned a single vote, meaning the team was listed at No. 25 by one participating coach. The final rankings had Alabama as the unanimous No. 1 (59 first-place votes), four Southeastern Conference teams in the top eight and eight SEC teams receiving at least one vote. Missouri and Texas A&M, the two teams joining the conference next year, each received votes though neither finished in the top 25. The Associated Press Top 25 had Alabama as the overwhelming No. 1 (55 of 60 first-place votes) with LSU in second (one first-place vote) and Oklahoma State in third (four first-place votes). Four SEC teams were ranked in the top nine and six received votes with Auburn the only one unranked. Missouri got 23 votes in the AP poll, but Texas A&M did not receive any.

3 » Former Gators wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who was on the staff for just the final year under head coach Urban Meyer, has spent the past season as offensive coordinator and WR coach at Western Kentucky. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Azzanni is a top candidate to take over as WR coach for Wisconsin if head coach Bret Bielema has his way. “One of the [offensive coordinator] candidates knows Azzanni and would be fine with him as receivers coach,” the paper reports. “The other candidate doesn’t know Azzanni personally but would likely be on board with the hire.”

4 » Speaking of former Florida coaches, ex-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who has taken over as head coach with the Kansas Jayhawks, has pulled two more Gators onto his staff. Weis announced Monday that he has hired former Florida graduate assistant Adam Sitter as director of high school relations and former Gators defensive quality control coach Scott Vestal as assistant director of football operations. He also plucked former Gators assistant strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Holsopple, who was named director of strength and conditioning with the Jayhawks last week.

Extra BIT » The artist who wrote and sang “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion),” a song that became popular in 1985, rewrote the single in Oct. 2011 due to being inspired by Tebow and what he was doing with the Broncos. John Parr told FOX31 Denver on Monday that he chose to do so in order to “honor…the way he lives his life as being a great example.” Though a studio version of the song has been available for a while, it is new to OGGOA, so feel free to listen to it below. (Thanks to reader Ajay for the heads-up.)

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Muschamp names five coaches, retains three

New Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced the first five members of his coaching staff on Sunday in an official statement from the University of Florida.

Muschamp decided to retain current Florida running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton, linebackers coach/special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin and tight ends coach Brian White. He also confirmed that former Gators pass catcher Aubrey Hill had been hired as wide receivers coach and announced that former Auburn Tigers All-SEC first team cornerback Travaris Robinson will coach the defensive backs.

“I thought it was important to have some continuity in the staff – D.J., Stan and Brian bring that to the table,” Muschamp said. “They are also solid recruiters. Aubrey is obviously a Gator, and it’s always a plus when you have someone coach at their alma mater. He understands the passion and the expectations here, and I know he is excited to return to Gainesville.

“Travaris worked on our staff and Auburn is a winner. He has competed at the highest level in this sport and is a good young coach with strong ties to the South Florida area, which will benefit us in recruiting.”

A Miami, FL native, Hill is a Gators alum who played for head coach Steve Spurrier from 1991-94 when Florida won their first three Southeastern Conference Championships. He served as a graduate assistant under Spurrier from 1996-98 and has coached wide receivers since 1999 including stints at Duke (1999-2003), Elon (2004), Pittsburgh (2005-07) and Miami (2008-10). He served as the Hurricanes recruiting coordinator only for the 2010 season.

Robinson is a four-time letterwinner for Auburn (1999-2002) who played two years in the NFL and worked as a graduate assistant under Muschamp when he was the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. Also a native of Miami, he coached at Western Kentucky (2008) and Southern Miss (2009) before being hired to the Texas Tech Red Raiders staff as an assistant secondary coach by former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville.

Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Addazio, who has been hired as head coach of the Temple Owls, will be replaced by Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis with an announcement expected for Monday. Associate head coach and defensive line coach Dan McCarney left the team before its bowl game to take the top job with the North Texas Mean Green.

Position20102011
Offensive coordinatorSteve AddazioCharlie Weis
Quarterbacks coachScot LoefflerCharlie Weis
Defensive coordinatorTeryl AustinDan Quinn
Defensive line coachDan McCarney*Dan Quinn
Assistant: Bryant Young
Running backs coach
Recruiting coordinator
Stan DraytonBrian White
Offensive line coach
Running game coordinator
Steve AddazioFrank Verducci
Wide receivers coach
Recruiting coordinator
Zach AzzanniAubrey Hill
Tight ends coachBrian WhiteDerek Lewis
Linebackers coach
Special teams coordinator
D.J. DurkinD.J. Durkin
Defensive backs coachAustin/Chuck Heater*Travaris Robinson
Strength & conditioningMickey MarottiMickey Marotti

*McCarney was also assistant head coach; Heater held the role of co-defensive coordinator.

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2011 Outback Bowl post-game news and notes

With the 2011 Outback Bowl now in the books and the Florida Gators set to undergo a major shake-up on the coaching staff and within the program, this is as good of a time as any to share some news and notes that OGGOA picked up over the past weekend.

SENIOR BOWL PARTICIPANTS

A source close to the players told OGGOA on Saturday that senior safety Ahmad Black, senior center/guard Mike Pouncey and redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will all participate in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl.

UPDATE: When rosters were officially announced on Sunday, punter/kicker Chas Henry has also accepted an invitation to play on Jan. 29.

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow – the No. 25 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft – and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper both participated in the game last year.

JUNIORS DECLARING FOR THE DRAFT

Though nothing has been officially confirmed, most close to the program believe junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins will indeed declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Jenkins, considered to be one of the top three defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties) available, is projected as a first round pick even though he is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder (an injury he played with most of the season).

Also expected to declare is junior S Will Hill, who was projected to be a high pick before the season but has failed to live up to the expectations of both analysts and fans. ESPN grades Hill out as a 68 in its “draftable defensive backs” projections, eight points below Black (76) and 24 under Jenkins (92). In addition to his on-the-field problems, Hill is believed to have a poor attitude off the field and has been disciplined numerous times this past season. People he has spoken with personally have been told he will not be returning to Florida for his senior year.

WALKING OFF THE FIELD BEFORE CELEBRATING

Though a number of the Gators’ injured players – including those who were hurt during the game – remained on the field to celebrate after Florida’s 37-24 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions, a few healthy players ran directly into the locker room instead. Hill, redshirt senior wide receivers Carl Moore and Justin Williams and redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose all hurried off the field. Though Hill is likely to declare for the draft and both Moore and Williams are leaving/graduating, Debose’s departure was curious.

Checking in on Debose, OGGOA has learned that he has been quite disappointed with his time at UF thus far, a feeling that is not surprising considering he missed his first season due to injury and was only used sparingly in 2010 as a kick returner even though he showed explosive ability and the Gators struggled offensively. A source close to the team told us that Debose does not practice nearly as hard as the other young receivers and truly does not have a full grasp of the playbook, something head coach Urban Meyer noted early in the season. Not to make a mountain out of a mole hill – Debose simply could have been exhausted or sick or feeling down after being benched due to muffing two kickoffs – his exit from the field so suddenly is worth noting.

With a new coaching staff coming in and the ability to get a fresh start with an offensive coordinator and position coach, Debose may be getting exactly what he needs.

TWO OTHER CURRENT COACHES ARE GONE

In addition to offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin moving on, the Palm Beach Post has confirmed that co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater (surprisingly) and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni (not surprisingly) will not be retained. “I will not be back next year,” Heater told the paper. With reports that Florida has hired former player Aubrey Hill as their new WR coach, Azzanni’s departure is not as much of a shock as Heater’s.

QUARTERBACKING YOUR 2011 GATORS IS…

Perhaps the most important position on the field – quarterback – is the Gators biggest question from a personnel perspective going into next season. Though redshirt freshman QB Jordan Reed said he was perfectly fine with moving to tight end to start the season, he has showed some ability behind center and may hope to get that opportunity in a spread offense elsewhere. Redshirt junior QB John Brantley, who has publicly acknowledged he is considering transferring, will have a pro-style offense in place at Florida should he choose to stay. Their decisions could be independent or related depending what Muschamp has to say and what Brantley’s family helps him decide.

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Muschamp could have coaches hired by Tuesday

Speaking with the media on Wednesday as the Florida Gators prepare for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions set for Sat., Jan. 1 at 1 p.m., athletic director Jeremy Foley said that he expects new head coach Will Muschamp to have most of his staff in place by Tues., Jan. 4.

“Some pieces are falling into place; still, there’s other pieces that have to fall into place,” Foley said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “He’s making a lot of good progress there and will be in position next week to hit the ground running and go recruit.

“January 4th you have to hit the ground recruiting, so I’m not going to say the whole staff will be in place by then, but we’ve got to have some coaches on the road. We will have some coaches on the road. I think things get really, really hectic the first part of next week.”

As of press time, director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti is the only confirmed member of Muschamp’s staff. It is a widely held belief that he will retain a few of the Gators’ current coaches though most hires will be from outside the program.

Because Muschamp has decided to consult head coach Urban Meyer on a number of matters, he will likely receive strong endorsements for some current assistants.

“He’s certainly respectful of the fact that this is Urban’s last deal,” Foley said, according to the University of Florida. “He’s not going to be in the forefront. We probably talk every day. He’s, trust me, rocking and rolling hard putting a staff together. Every time I talk to him, I know he’s chomping at the bit to get to Gainesville and get going recruiting and get this thing rolling.

“I know people are wondering why we haven’t announced this or announced that. It’s because that’s part of the plan. You wait until football seasons are over, individual teams are done playing and then you can start figuring out what are the final pieces of this puzzle.”

DEPARTING COACHES
Offensive coordinator/offensive line Steve Addazio » Named Temple head coach
Assistant head coach/defensive line Dan McCarney » Named North Texas head coach
Defensive coordinator/cornerbacks Teryl Austin » Does not anticipate being retained

REMAINING COACHES
Co-defensive coordinator/safeties Chuck Heater
Running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton
Quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni
Tight ends/fullbacks coach Brian White
Linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin

Photo Credit: Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun

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11/3: Austin, Azzanni, Henry discuss Georgia

Florida Gators defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Teryl Austin, wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and senior punter/kicker Chas Henry spoke to the media Wednesday, taking a look back at the team’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, FL, last Saturday.

THANK THE OL FOR THE UP-TEMPO OFFENSE

After Florida’s victory over Georgia, head coach Urban Meyer credited Azzanni with helping implement and set-up the Gators’ new up-tempo offense. On Wednesday, Azzanni said it was the willingness of the offensive line to adapt to the new system that made it work so well against the Bulldogs. “Our O-line has been really great about it because they’re the guys who had to buy in,” he said. “The little skinny guys on the outside can run all day, it’s the big boys that had to buy in – they’ve been great.”

And why was Azzanni so instrumental in this offense being successful? “That’s just my background. That’s the world I’ve lived in for the last eight years of my career,” he said. “I just put it out there on the table and every week we’ve been a little more, a little more. Those guys have been great. We’re not running any new plays or anything, it’s all the same thing, it’s just how we’re doing it. Just to get a spark in the offense. I can’t say enough for coach [Urban] Meyer and coach [Steve] Addazio for believing in me and letting me put that out on the table and saying, ‘Hey, I think this will help us and spark this offense a little bit.’ I can’t say enough for those guys trusting me and letting me help out and get this thing rolling.”

HENRY LAUGHED AT “CHOKE” FROM SIDELINE

As he prepared to kick what he thought would be a 37-yard game-winning field goal, Henry was confused. Not because of the pressure of the situation or a “choke” signal from Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham but rather the fact that the Bulldogs called a timeout. Recounting the situation, Henry recalls, “I’m ready. I didn’t even know they had a timeout, I completely forgot. I’m like, ‘This is the kick.’ All of a sudden I hear the whistle blowing and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ I start laughing like, ‘You’re going to ice me? I’m not the kicker. You’re going to ice me?’”

Moments later Henry noticed Grantham grabbing his throat, gesturing towards him and screaming. “I see a guy doing the choke. So I take my helmet off, I give him a little smooch at him – blew him a little kiss,” he said. Henry added that Grantham’s immaturity did not bother him; he said it was just a part of the emotion of the game.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Grading the Florida Gators vs. Georgia game

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive grades the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Georgia Bulldogs at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, which took place at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL.

QUARTERBACKS: B+
Was redshirt junior John Brantley spectacular on Saturday? Certainly not. His 16-of-25 performance for 193 yards and an interception proves that. However, if you combine his offensive contributions with his willingness to share the starting quarterback role, ability to operate in Florida’s no-huddle offense and the output of freshman Trey Burton (2-of-2 for 26 yards, 17 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns), you have a top-notch performance from this unit. Throw out Brantley’s interception as a miscue from sophomore wide receiver Omarius Hines and you have a mistake-free showing that also included a perfect clutch pass to redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson and his second longest throw of the year – a 40-yard dart. With an increased ability to see the field, healthy backfield and more streamlined offense, Brantley should only improve as the season continues – something to keep an eye on week-to-week.

RUNNING BACKS: B+
Head coach Urban Meyer noted leading up to the Georgia game that Florida must have explosive home run plays in its running game in order to succeed with their plan to win from an offensive perspective. That was achieved Saturday, though the biggest play came on a 51-yard option keeper by Burton. Junior running back Jeff Demps (at around 90 percent health) and redshirt junior WR Chris Rainey (running the ball due to depth issues) got all the work in the backfield with Rainey getting the majority of the carries (16 to Demps’ nine). For not having played in five weeks and practicing the entire offseason mostly at WR, Rainey had a more than respectable performance averaging 5.2 yards per carry and totaling 89 on the game. Demps ran the ball for 38 yards (4.2 average). The duo certainly exceeded expectations but was certainly not stellar comparative to what the unit has done in the past.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the Georgia game after the jump…
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Week 9: Gators post-game news and notes

Snapping a three-game losing streak, the Florida Gators (5-3, 3-3 SEC) snuck a 34-31 overtime win by the Georgia Bulldogs (4-5, 3-4 SEC) at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, FL, at EverBank Field. With so much to discuss, OGGOA presents some important notes and quotes following the contest.

OH HENRY!

By now everybody knows what happened Saturday – after missing his initial field goal attempt wide left in the first quarter, Florida senior punter Chas Henry nailed two in a row including a 37-yarder in overtime to ice the game. However, what is not known is how much that one kick meant to Henry. “It was the best feeling I’ve ever had,” he said. “The main thing that went through my mind was how I let my team down two weeks ago against Mississippi State. That was one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through. I got so much support through the coaches, my family and friends, and my brothers in the locker room. The internal family we have is as strong as you can get. I let them down one time. I was never going to let it happen again. It felt great. Unbelievable.”

Henry’s field goal was so emotional that it caused head coach Urban Meyer to immediately drop to his knees according to those on the scene. Why exactly did he do that? “After he hit that field goal? It was Chas Henry hitting a damn field goal. Think about that for a minute. That’s not easy,” Meyer said. I didn’t realize I did that. It was a good moment.”

Meyer gave Henry three opportunities to kick field goals Saturday because he had confidence in the young man after seeing how he played in practice on Thursday. “He’s got a strong leg; he just has not majored in that,” he said. “We thought we were going to have Caleb [Sturgis]. Caleb came out Wednesday and kicked beautifully. Then his back, he could’ve pushed it but we’re not going to do that – it could hurt him for a long time if he hurts it more. On Thursday, Chas came out and hit every field goal. We always go right-left, right-left, right-left, right-left, and he went right up to 42 yards, I think he was seven-for-seven.”

THRICE IS NICE FOR WILL THE THRILL

Though only two of his three interceptions will count when looking at the box score 10 years from now, senior safety Will Hill’s performance will be remembered for some time. Following in the footsteps of some of the Gators’ other terrifying free safeties, Hill came through when it counted by saving a two-point conversion and starting Florida’s celebration early with an 89-yard interception return (that did not go for a score) in overtime. He had been struggling all season and even failed in protection on an early Georgia touchdown, but Hill got some of his mojo back by the time the whistle sounded.

“[Ahmad] Black had good coverage on A.J. [Green],’’ Hill said of the overtime interception. “He tipped the ball and it just fell in my lap. I just saw an opportunity and made the best of it. I was struggling earlier in the season and coaches never gave up on me, teammates never gave up on me. And for me to come out and playing like this, it’s just like paying the team back.’’

“Big play of the day,” Meyer said of Hill’s overtime pick. “And from what [defensive coordinator] Teryl Austin mentioned in [the locker room], he said it was Will Hill’s best game. We’ve been waiting for that all year. Will Hill played very well tonight.” Austin had his thoughts as well. “You saw it today. He played. He played like a Florida safety plays,” he asid. “He made some wonderful plays out there today. He was physical, he hit guys, he intercepted the ball, he did a great job for us today. Really proud of him.”

FLORIDA FINDS A LONG-LOST “EDGE”

Aside from injuries and execution, one of the main reasons the Gators’ offense has been so vanilla this year is because the team found it difficult to find an edge. Meyer believes Florida found exactly that over the last two weeks and wishes he would have identified it and installed it earlier this year. “I could kick myself for not doing that more this summer,” Meyer said of using a steady two quarterback rotation. “I did not anticipate…Trey Burton’s one of those guys, I didn’t know he was that good as a runner. I thought he was pretty good and then he was dynamic. Jordan Reed did a nice job, came in and gave us some two-plus yardage plays. We’re going to do more of that. We have to find that edge. Florida’s always had the edge.

“In ’05 we really didn’t really have one, and then ’06 we had some edge when we recruited Percy [Harvin] and then Dallas [Baker] came on. Then obviously Tim [Tebow] went crazy in ’07, ’08 you had a bundle of them – there’s edges all over the place. […] We’re just still trying to find what that edge is. You can’t play offensive football without it. You can sit and run between the tackles, you can run perimeter plays or you can throw, and if you don’t have that edge than it’s just a mess. And that’s kind of where we’ve been. We’re looking at tempo as an edge, multiple quarterbacks as an edge and development of players. You want to get that speed back with [Chris] Rainey and [Jeff] Demps, that helps us a lot as well.”

RAINEY’s REDEMPTION

Ask any of his teammates or the player himself, and it is obvious Rainey has had a tough few weeks after being suspended indefinitely following his arrest. In addition to being scolded by the coaching staff, administration and the media, Rainey has been hard on himself and made a concerted effort to turn his life around. Saturday’s game was the first he had played in more than a month, and Rainey made the most of it going off for 241 all-purpose yards including 84 rushing yards.

“Rainey stood up after the game and thanked God for giving him a second chance. He’s taking full advantage of it,” said senior center Mike Pouncey, one of Rainey’s best friends. “He thanked the whole administration – [athletic director] Jeremy Foley and the president [Bernie Machen] – and he thanked God as well. He thanked everyone for giving him a second chance because without Jeremy Foley and President Machen, it wouldn’t be possible for him to play right now. I love Chris like a brother. [...] He’s been living with me since high school, and we have a special relationship. I felt his pain those weeks he was out. He loves football. He’s a great person, and I know that was one of the happiest moments of his life just to be out there with us playing.”

Meyer attributes Rainey’s presence to many of the other big plays made during the game. “The threat of a perimeter issue opens up – the Trey Burton touchdown, that was a lot of the Tim stuff we used to do when you had Percy,” he said. “If you have a threat of this [holds arms out], it sometimes opens that [em>points arms to middle] up. That’s the mix of perimeter and interior rushing. That’s a direct result of having a perimeter.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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10/11: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Updated 11:45 p.m. (ET)

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday after the Florida Gators participate in a game the previous Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

INJURIES CONTINUE TO MOUNT

Just as Florida was lucky enough to a number of its starters back healthy another rash of injuries has hit the team. In addition to junior running back Jeff Demps missing Saturday’s game with a sprained foot, sophomore RB Mike Gillislee appeared to hurt his ankle, redshirt freshman guard Jon Halapio broke a finger, and both redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson and freshman safety Matt Elam suffered concussions. Halapio had surgery on Sunday and will miss Saturday’s Mississippi State game, but Demps, Gillislee, Thompson and Elam are all expected to be able to play.

Speaking of injuries, redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley expressed for a second time in three days that his ribs are neither broken nor fractured nor cracked and that his thumb is just sprained. This counters rumors and a report from ESPN‘s Joe Schad that claimed Brantley was more injured than he and Meyer were letting on. Meyer did indicate that Brantley had some shoulder issues during the week because he was overcompensating for his injured ribs; however, he was fine to go on Saturday and will be starting once again this week.

HOME RUNS AND RED ZONE ISSUES TO BLAME

Meyer noted that the two biggest issues facing the Gators offense are the lack of home run plays and inefficiency in the red zone, not play calling. Those two factors, combined with unforced errors in the form of turnovers and penalties, were what limited Florida the most on Saturday.

ADDAZIO FULLY SUPPORTED

Though fans have been getting on offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio for his play calling, he received plenty of praise and support from his head coach and players on Monday. Meyer said Addazio has “a tough job, obviously I think he can handle it” while redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley said, “I trust coach Addazio and his play calling.” Senior center Mike Pouncey added that the team is “moving the ball, just ain’t making the plays when they’re there to be made” and that Addazio does not deserve the blame whatsoever.

The dive play was booed extensively during Florida almost-game-winning scoring drive at the end of the fourth quarter, something that confused Pouncey and redshirt senior wide receiver Carl Moore (and likely many others, too), both of whom said it did not bother them. Pouncey specifically noted that the Gators were “going down to win the game” on that drive, making the boos quite ridiculous.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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