May 22, 2016

Florida claims SEC All-Sports Trophy for 26th time in 29 years

GAINESVILLE -- Florida did it again. 

For the ninth-straight year, the Gators won the SEC All-Sports title, sweeping the 2015-16 GateHouse Media men’s, women’s and overall divisions for the 15th-time in program history. 

“Throughout the season, Gator teams have competed among the nation’s best, as the Southeastern Conference is such a competitive league across all sports,” UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a release. 

“This sweep of the SEC All-Sports trophies shows the tremendous commitment and drive out student-athletes and coaches.”

Texas A&M finished second, while Georgia finished third, as scores are computed by taking the points earned in each sport and dividing them by the number of teams participating. Points are awarded based on the number of teams in each sport. 

UF, which has won the award 26 times in school history, captured conference titles in gymnastics, soccer, softball, men’s swimming and diving and women’s tennis this year. The Gators also picked up six SEC Athletes of the Year honors in 2015-16, too. 

Florida should only continue its overall dominance in the weeks to come, too, as the Gators have a number of top teams competing for conference and national titles led by the No. 1 women’s softball team. 

2015-16 SEC All-Sports Overall Standings

1. Florida (172.5 points)

2. Texas A&M (156 points)

3. Georgia (132.5 points)

4. Auburn (125 points)

5. Kentucky (118 points)

6. Alabama (105 points)

7. Arkansas (103 points)

8. Tennessee (97.5 points)

9. South Carolina (97 points)

10. Mississippi (89 points)

11. Missouri (88 points)

12. LSU (88 points)

13. Vanderbilt (62.5 points)

14. Mississippi State (61 points)

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May 20, 2016

Golden Nugget: Florida's over/under win total set at eight

GAINESVILLE -- A year after surprisingly capturing the SEC East and winning 10 games, the Florida Gators are projected to fall back to earth a bit in 2016. 

The Golden Nugget released its annual college football win totals this week, and the Las Vegas sportsbook pegged the Gators’ over/under (-125) at eight wins. 

While Florida must replace a bevy of defensive talent (Vernon Hargreaves III, Keanu Neal, Jon Bullard and Alex McCalister are all off to the NFL) and still has lingering questions at quarterback and on the offensive line, eight wins is a very reasonable line considering the team's plush schedule next season.

Florida’s non-conference slate includes UMass, North Texas and Presbyterian (teams a combined 6-29 in 2015), with other likely wins coming against Vanderbilt, Missouri, South Carolina and Kentucky. 

The Gators would only need to win one of their remaining tough games -- i.e. at Tennessee, at Arkansas, LSU, Georgia and at Florida State -- just to push. 

The Golden Nugget also released early lines for the first week of games, and UF opened as a 37-point favorite against UMass. The Minutemen were just 3-9 last season, losing to Notre Dame by 35 and Colorado by 34 in their lone two games against Power 5 foes. 

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May 17, 2016

Gators ranked No. 21 in Athlon Sports preseason Top 25

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators checked in at No. 21 in Athlon Sports’ preseason Top 25, as the popular college football magazine is set to hit newsstands on May 24. 

The Gators were one of six SEC teams ranked, slotting behind No. 1 Alabama, No. 7 Tennessee, No. 8 LSU, No. 10 Ole Miss and No. 17 Georgia. Alabama and UT were picked to meet in the SEC Championship Game, with the Crimson Tide predicted to win the league.

On UF, Athlon Sports said …  

“The defense is still among the best in the SEC, but Florida has to find some answers on offense after averaging 12.6 points over the final six games of 2015. Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is expected to start at quarterback.”

Athlon Sports preseason Top 25 

1. Alabama

2. Florida State

3. Ohio State

4. Clemson

5. Michigan 

6. Oklahoma 

7. Tennessee

8. Notre Dame

9. LSU

10. Ole Miss

11. Washington

12. Stanford

13. Michigan State

14. Baylor

15. UCLA

16. Houston

17. Georgia

18. TCU

19. Louisville 

20. Iowa

21. Florida

22. North Carolina

23. USC

24. Oregon

25. Oklahoma State

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May 16, 2016

Roundup: Gators claim No. 1 seed, lax stunned in OT & more

GAINESVILLE -- Here’s an instant recap of Florida’s weekend in sports ...

* The No. 1 baseball team took 2 of 3 from No. 7 Vanderbilt, rebounding from Saturday's 5-0 loss with a series-clinching 10-6 win on Sunday. Freshman second baseman Decon Liput led Sunday's scoring onslaught with a three-run homer in the first inning, as the Gators totaled 13 hits -- tying their season-high in a conference game -- one day after mustering just three singles against Vandy ace Kyle Wright (complete-game shutout with 10 strikeouts). 

Florida’s series win didn’t come without a cost though, as hot-hitting first baseman Peter Alonso fractured a bone in his hand on Friday and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season and the SEC Tournament.

* Despite losing 2-1 to Auburn in the SEC Tournament semifinals Friday, the top-ranked Gators softball team was selected as the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed for the second-straight season. The two-time defending national champions will begin their title defense this weekend hosting the Gainesville Regional, needing to knockoff Florida Atlantic, Central Florida and Alabama State. 

* The No. 2 women’s lacrosse team was stunned in overtime against No. 11 Penn State, as the Nittany Lions upset the Gators 14-13 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Gators lost at home for just the second time this season, ending a dominant year where they won the Big East Championship and were the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament. 

"Certainly, nobody wants to lose at this point,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary told the school’s website. 

“I credit our senior class. They are such an amazing group of young women. What they have done with this team -- I credit them with their leadership and their love for their teammates. They brought us together and our team chemistry was second-to-none. In that locker room after the game there were a lot of sad faces, but those seniors stepped up, they had some incredible words of wisdom for the younger players. I can't say enough about them, they will be missed." 

* Both of Florida’s tennis teams advanced to the NCAA’s Round of 16, as the No. 1 women’s tennis team swept No. 25 Syracuse and will face No.15 Stanford in Tulsa, Okla. The Gators have won 18-straight matches since losing to the Cardinal in Stanford on Feb. 28. 

Meanwhile, the No. 9 men’s tennis team swept No. 17 South Florida, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last seven years. The Gators will take on SMU. 

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May 12, 2016

Gators add former Va Tech guard Jalen Hudson

GAINESVILLE -- For the second time in as many days, Florida landed another guard off the transfer market. 

Virginia Tech guard Jalen Hudson picked UF over Texas on Wednesday, announcing his decision on Twitter. 

While the Gators have yet to confirm the transfer, Hudson is the second guard to commit to Mike White's program this week, joining College of Charleston graduate transfer Canyon Barry

Unlike Barry, Hudson must sit-out next season due to NCAA rules, but the 6-foot-5 guard will have two seasons of eligibility starting in 2017-18. As a sophomore, Hudson averaged 8.4 points and 2.3 rebounds for the Hokies last year, shooting just 40.1 percent from the floor but a respectable 34.6 from behind-the-arc. He scored a season-high 28 points in Va. Tech's NIT win over Princeton. 

Hudson told ESPN.com he chose Florida over Texas because, “I believe in what Coach White is building. I think Florida gives me a great opportunity to perform at a high level, win at a high level and ultimately pursue my dreams of playing in the NBA.”

With the additions of Barry and Hudson, the Gators have now filled their 13 scholarship spots for 2016-17. 

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May 10, 2016

Wide receiver Ryan Sousa transferring from Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Florida redshirt sophomore receiver Ryan Sousa is transferring from the program, announcing the move on Twitter late Monday afternoon.

The former three-star prospect from Lake Nona never recorded a catch at UF, playing in just two games in 2015. 

Despite UF's shaky receiver corps last season, Sousa, who was originally a Florida State commit, couldn’t ever crack the rotation. This spring, he struggled with drops during the open portions of practice and was buried further down the depth chart following the emergence of several early enrollees. 

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May 09, 2016

Prized graduate transfer G Canyon Barry headed to UF

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Mike White landed an impact scorer off the transfer market Monday, as College of Charleston guard Canyon Barry is headed to UF. 

The 6-foot-6 swingman averaged 19.7 points a game last season and is the youngest son of Hall of Famer Rick Barry. 

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman first reported the news, saying Barry, who is immediately eligible as a graduate transfer, chose Florida over Kansas, Ole Miss and Miami, his father’s alma mater. 

Later, Barry and White confirmed the report on Twitter.

Injuries derailed Barry’s 2015-16 season for the Cougars, as the guard missed the final two months of the year with a shoulder injury. In just 13 games, Barry shot 37.6 percent from 3 and 84.5 percent from the charity stripe -- continuing his dad’s legacy of shooting free throws underhanded. 

The swingman should immediately bolster Florida’s shooting and depth next season. Barry is capable of playing multiple positions and is a career 34.4-percent from behind-the-arc. A 4.0 student, Barry plans to pursue a graduate degree in nuclear engineering.  

He explained his decision to transfer to UF in a statement Monday. 

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 3.38.26 PM

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May 06, 2016

UF's Jim McElwain assesses quarterbacks heading into offseason

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s four-headed battle at quarterback was the storyline of spring camp.

Luke Del Rio emerged as the frontrunner to start the Sept. 3 opener against UMass, but second-year coach Jim McElwain also walked away impressed by the play of graduate transfer Austin Appleby and early enrollees Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks. 

The Gators ranked 86th nationally in passing last season (207.1 yards per game), yet after an encouraging spring by both the quarterbacks and the receivers, McElwain expects Florida’s offense to be much more explosive in 2016. 

“I’m really happy with [the quarterback] room and really happy with the arm talent in that room,” he said during Wednesday’s SEC Teleconference. 

“I look forward to being able to push the ball vertically down the field.”

In a rare bit of candor, McElwain then offered his assessment on what each quarterback needs to improve upon this offseason. 

Starting with Del Rio, McElwain said the redshirt sophomore must avoid “trying to do too much.”

“He needs to let the game kind of come to him, and I thought he did that in the spring game,” McElwain said. 

Late in the spring, Del Rio struggled with turnovers and accuracy issues. But then in the Orange & Blue Debut, the quarterback delivered a nearly flawless performance and heads into the summer with an edge in the competition. 

Although Appleby wasn’t perfect in the spring game, McElwain said the Purdue transfer mostly needs to work on “not being so hard on himself.”

Like Del Rio, Appleby had accuracy issues at time during camp, and according to Florida’s coach, the senior struggled shaking off poor plays. 

“He’s one of those perfectionists and sometimes he lets the negative play maybe impact the next one, rather than clap it off and move forward.”

As for the freshmen, McElwain said Franks, who threw three interceptions in the spring game and looks destined for a redshirt season, needs to gain “an understanding that not every play needs to be a home run.”

“Just take what the defense gives you,” McElwain said. 

McElwain’s message was even simpler for Trask, who emerged as an intriguing project after coming to UF as a little-known two-star project

“Kyle is a guy that just [needs to] continue understanding what we’re trying to accomplish,” McElwain said. 

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May 05, 2016

G Brandone Francis-Ramierz transferring from Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Florida redshirt freshman guard Brandone Francis-Ramierz is transferring, the school confirmed Wednesday. 

Francis-Ramierz’s decision had been rumored for some time, and the 6-foot-5 swingman made the move official in a series of tweets. 

Francis-Ramirez averaged just 2.0 points and 1.0 rebounds in 2015-16, struggling to stay in coach Mike White’s rotation due to shooting woes and defensive lapses. 

The Dominican Republic native came to UF as a Top-50 prospect, but he was forced to redshirt the 2014-15 season because of academic eligibility issues.  

In his only year at Florida, Francis-Ramirez was mired in a season-long shooting slump, finishing just 20.2 percent from the floor and a ghastly 16.9 percent from downtown. 

He averaged 10.8 minutes a game, sitting out five of UF’s last seven games.  

“I want it to work out for him,” White told the school website, adding that Francis-Ramierz will likely transfer to a junior college. 

“We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

Francis-Ramirez joins little-used guard DeVon Walker as the second player to transfer from the program this offseason. The Gators now have two openings on the roster and are recruiting potential graduate transfers. 

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May 04, 2016

McElwain: Callaway and Harris remain suspended indefinitely

GAINESVILLE -- Spring practice is over, but Florida's star receiver Antonio Callaway and former starting quarterback Treon Harris remain indefinitely suspended.

During Wednesday’s SEC Teleconference, Gators head coach Jim McElwain was asked if there were any updates on Callaway and Harris and McElwain curtly answered, “No. Status quo.”

The two Miami natives have been away from the team for nearly four months, missing early offseason workouts and then all of spring camp. 

McElwain has refused to address or detail the suspensions, but according to Callaway’s attorney -- Huntley Johnson -- the record-setting receiver was suspended by the university on Jan. 27 for violating the school’s student code of conduct. Johnson has maintained that Callaway should be reinstated immediately, saying Callaway's early December allegation "has no merit."

Johnson does not represent Harris. 

IVEY PROGRESSING

Florida offensive lineman Martez Ivey is recovering well from offseason shoulder surgery, McElwain said. 

The 6-foot-5, 302-pound sophomore started Florida’s last eight games in 2015, as the former five-star prospect played both tackle and guard. 

“He’s been great. In fact, he’s back to doing a lot of things we need to do in the weight room,” McElwain said. 

“He had a really good spring from a standpoint of rehabbing. He’s actually ahead. Yet, we need to make sure we don’t push it too soon.”

QUOTEABLE

“I kind of got to worry about us. But I’m sure that they should be [favored] and beat the heck out of us. We’re just going to be lucky to show up. I don’t really get caught up in that, obviously that’s not my gig. We’ve got a lot or work here to do to get our organization in line.”

McElwain, sarcastically replying to a reporter’s question on if Tennessee should be the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC East in 2016. 

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Florida Gators formalizing plans for summer satellite camps

GAINESVILLE -- Jim McElwain has a plan. 

After the NCAA reversed course and lifted the ban on satellite camps, Florida’s second-year coach is ready to take advantage of the new rules. 

“We’re in the process of putting our traveling show together and it should be fun,” McElwain said Wednesday on the SEC Teleconference. 

“Looking forward to it.”

McElwain offered no specifics, but according to the website Football Brainiacs, Florida plans to co-host camps in Dallas and Houston with former UF assistant and current Texas head coach Charlie Strong. 

“The rules the way they are, we’ll use it to let our guys get out to places and instruct some camps and do some evaluation along the way,” McElwain said. 

Satellite camps have become a controversial topic this offseason, as Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer took advantage of prior rules by guest-coaching camps across the country last year -- including in the Gators’ backyard.  

In early April, the NCAA banned the camps at the request of multiple conferences, headlined by the SEC. 

However, just three weeks later the ban was overruled. 

Schools can only host satellite camps within a certain window, though, as all off-campus camps must take place around the same time as teams host their own summer camps on campus. 

“They’ve all got to fall within your camp dates anyway. It’s a matter of making contacts and setting up a plan,” McElwain said. 

“It’s one of those deals where you’re going to do whatever you can within the rules to help you be successful and that’s what everybody is doing. I don’t get much caught up with that kind of stuff. Just point me in a direction and we’ll do what we can.”

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May 02, 2016

2017 Mock Draft(s): Tabor, Davis projected as 1st round picks

GAINESVILLE -- With the 2016 NFL Draft in the books, a number of sites have already pumped out 2017 mock drafts.

Too early? Ridiculous? Useless?

Sure!

But mock drafts are mostly silly exercises anyways, so you might as well take look at what others are saying about a pair of Florida's star defensive players.

According to analysts, All-SEC cornerback Jalen Tabor is a consensus first-round pick. In 2015, UF’s rising junior actually outplayed All-American teammate Vernon Hargreaves III, who went No. 11 overall to Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Tabor, who measures a hair taller than 6-foot and weighs 191 pounds, is bigger than Hargreaves and has better ball-skills. He led the SEC with 18 passes defended, intercepting four passes and returning two picks for touchdowns.

Most projections have Tabor somewhere in the ‘teens, but one mock draft lists the cornerback as a Top 5 pick.

CBS Sports -- No. 11 to the Tennessee Titans

"The Florida secondary loses Vernon Hargreaves, but Tabor had 10 more pass break-ups last season than the 2016 first-rounder and competes with unwavering confidence."

Bleacher Report -- No. 16 to the New York Jets.

“The No. 2 cornerback job is up for grabs in New York, and while the Jets did add Juston Burris in the fourth round, a lockdown starter coming in the first-round of the 2017 draft makes sense for general manager Mike Maccagnan's crew.

Tabor was a star in the Florida defense—a group that was and is loaded with future NFL talent when you watched them in 2015. Tabor even out-shined first-rounder Vernon Hargreaves on film at times, impressing with his 6'1", 192 pound frame and length. Where Hargreaves was shorter and more technical, Tabor brings elite size and length, plus the speed to turn and run with the best of the best at receiver.”

The Big Lead -- No. 13 to the Chicago Bears.

“Two scouts told me he had a better year with the Gators last season than Vernon Hargreaves who was taken 11th overall. Tabor’s slightly bigger and had four interceptions in 2015. Was the 10th best player in the high school class of 2014, according to Rivals.”

SB Nation -- No. 10 to the Miami Dolphins

“Drafting Xavien Howard in the second round [in 2016] was a need-based pick, but Tabor projects as a true No. 1 corner.”

Walter Football -- No. 4 to the Tennessee Titans

“Tennessee's glaring weakness on the defensive side of the ball is in the secondary. Upgrades have to be made at cornerback and safety, and given the team's other needs, it may not be able to address both positions until 2017.”

Sporting News -- No. 16 to the New York Jets

"While Vernon Hargreaves stole most of the attention at Florida this past year, Tabor was also one of the most respect defensive backs in the SEC in 2015. With better size than Hargreaves (6-1 listed), he’ll have a chance to be drafted similarly. Jets need long-term planning for the cornerback position."

************************************************************************************

Meanwhile, Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis, a heat-seeking missile from the weak-side spot, also showed up in several mock drafts. Davis opted to return for his season after finishing second on the team in tackles with 98. Davis also added 11.5 TFL, one interception and 3.5 sacks last season.

CBS Sports -- No. 20 to the Baltimore Ravens

"A loose athlete with quick read-react skills, Davis would fit well next to C.J. Mosley as an inside linebacker in Baltimore' scheme."

Bleacher Report -- No. 18 to the New York Giants

“An absolute thumper at linebacker, Jarrad Davis was all over the field when you turned on the Florida tape in 2015. He's a complete three-down 'backer with the movement and instincts to lock down a defense as a 4-3 or 3-4 middle linebacker.

The New York Giants don't traditionally draft linebackers in the first round, but Davis should be the exception. He would be a freak in a defense with Devon Kennard at strongside 'backer and a gigantic hole at the other two linebacker spots. Draft Davis in Round 1, plug him into the defense and you'll see instant improvement over what the Giants' front seven has been able to do in recent seasons.”

Walter Football -- No. 24 to the Minnesota Vikings

“Chad Greenway was retained for 2016, but he announced that this upcoming season would be his last in the NFL. As a result, the Vikings will have to find a third linebacker sometime in the near future.”

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May 01, 2016

2016 NFL Draft recap: Seven Gators get drafted, two ink FA deals

GAINESVILLE -- The 2016 NFL Draft is over, and Florida continued its tradition as a football factory. 

The Gators produced seven selections during the weekend’s three-day extravaganza, tying Alabama for the most among league schools

All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III went No. 11 overall to Tampa Bay, returning to his old stomping grounds as a star at Wharton High. 

Just six picks later, explosive safety Keanu Neal reconnected with former UF defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in Atlanta at No. 17 overall. 

On Friday, hybrid defensive lineman Jon Bullard had to wait a while to hear his name called, but the All-American was eventually taken in the third round by the Chicago Bears. 

During the final rounds Saturday, four former Gators came off the board, with linebacker Antonio Morrison and receiver Demarcus Robinson going in back-to-back picks in the fourth round. Morrison went to Indianapolis and Robinson was scooped up by Kansas City. Tailback Kelvin Taylor was a sixth-round pick by San Francisco, while defensive end Alex McCalister was a seventh-round pick, landing in Philadelphia. 

Meanwhile, tight end Jake McGee (Carolina) and nickel-back Brian Poole (Atlanta) both inked free-agent deals after going undrafted. 

Finally, two former Florida quarterbacks were selected over the weekend, as N.C. State’s Jacoby Brissett was taken by New England in the third round and Jeff Driskel, who finished his career at Louisiana Tech, joined Taylor as a sixth-round pick headed to the Niners. 

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April 27, 2016

Florida Gators F Devin Robinson withdraws from 2016 NBA Draft

 GAINESVILLE -- Florida forward Devin Robinson will return for his junior season, withdrawing his name from the 2016 NBA Draft the school announced late Tuesday.  

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 9.0 points and 5.6 rebounds last season, starting 18 games. He entered the draft without an agent but his plans were foiled due to a significant foot injury. Last week, Robinson underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot and the injury is expected to sideline the forward for four-to-six months. 

Gators coach Mike White told Gatorsports.com, “It’s going to be extensive. He’s going to have to be patient. It’s going to be a long process with his recovery.”

Robinson was considered a late second-round pick, so as a fringe prospect the injury made his decision to return to school a rather simple one. 

GATORS ANNOUNCE SIGNEES

Florida inked 6-foot-11, 205-pound center Gorjok Gak (Victory Rock Prep, Bradenton) over the weekend, completing White’s first true recruiting class at Florida. 

Gak was originally committed to Oklahoma State but was released from his NOI after the Cowboys fired coach Travis Ford. 

The three-star prospect averaged 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds as a senior. He joins Oldsmar Christian teammates -- four-star guard Eric Hester and three-star forward Dontay Bassett -- as UF’s 2016 signees. The Gators’ class ranked No. 58 nationally, per 247Sports. 

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April 25, 2016

Gators claim three conference titles in fantastic sports weekend

GAINESVILLE -- Roundup!

Here’s an instant recap of Florida’s weekend in sports:

* The No. 2 women’s lacrosse team claimed the Big East Championship with a 13-8 win over Connecticut. 

* The No. 11 men’s tennis team upset Georgia 4-2 to win the conference tournament title. 

* The No. 3 women’s tennis team downed UGA to clinch the program’s 20th SEC Tournament title.  

* The No. 2 baseball team took 2 of 3 from Georgia, as Florida’s starting pitching dominated the Bulldogs (21.3 innings with just one run) during the three-game series.

* The No. 1 softball team swept Mississippi State, including Delanie Gourley’s no-hitter Friday and a walk-off homer by freshman outfielder Amanda Lorenz on Sunday. 

Not too shabby, huh? Three championships, multiple wins over a border-rival and several outstanding individual performances. 

Here are some notable sights and sounds from the weekend:

* Amanda O’Leary’s lacrosse team won its sixth-straight conference title (four American Conference championships, two Big East titles). 

"It's fantastic. It's a great tribute to these seniors. It's something for them to remember forever,” O’Leary told the school’s website. “We demanded a lot of them and they delivered."

* UF righty Logan Shore continued to flex his pitching prowess, tossing a two-hit shutout Friday and breaking a 32-year-old school-record with 13 consecutive wins. Shore faced the minimum against the Bulldogs, as the junior needed just 101 pitches to compete his gem. During Florida’s 6-0 win, speedster Buddy Reed (a surefire first-round pick in this summer’s MLB Draft) stole home.

* Not to be outdone, Florida’s softball ace Delanie Gourley threw a no-hitter in a 16-0 rout over Mississippi State. In a bit of a bizarre coincidence, Gourley -- and the Gators -- managed to match the feat of the Chicago Cubs, who won 16-0 over Cincinnati behind flamethrower Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter Thursday. 

“It's hard to get a no hitter in general,” Gourley told the school’s website. “Let alone in the SEC. I wasn't even thinking about it. I just came out, did my stuff, my team played great, and that was it."

On Sunday, Lorenz drilled a walk-off two-run homer on her birthday to complete the sweep over the Bulldogs. 

* With its 4-2 victory over Georgia, Florida’s women’s tennis team won its 16th straight match and is rolling heading into the NCAA Championships. 

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April 21, 2016

NFL Mock Drafts: Projections on Hargreaves, Neal & Bullard

GAINESVILLE -- The 2016 NFL Draft is in one week, so let’s take a look at the latest mock drafts and where Florida’s trio of defensive standouts are projected to get selected. 

All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and hard-hitting safety Keanu Neal will both be in Chicago on April 28. Hargreaves is a consensus first round pick, while Neal, who performed well during UF’s Pro Day, is considered a Top 50 prospect. 

Gators defensive tackle Jon Bullard will not attend the draft and remains a likely Day 2 pick. 

CB VERNON HARGREAVES III

Round 1: No. 14 to Oakland Raiders - Mel Kiper, ESPN

Round 1: No. 15 to Tennessee Titans - Todd McShay, ESPN

Round 1: No. 9 to Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Pete Prisco, Will Brinson, Rob Rang, CBS

Round 1: No. 14 to Oakland Raiders - Jared Dubin, CBS 

Round 1: No. 10 to New York Giants - Chris Burke, SI

Round 1: No. 9 to Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis, NFL.com

Round 1: No. 9 to Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Peter Schrager, FoxSports

S KEANU NEAL 

Round 1: No. 30 to Arizona Cardinals - Dane Brugler, CBS

Round 2: No. 62 to Carolina Panthers - Chris Burke, SI

Round 3: No. 75 to Oakland Raiders - Mel Kiper, ESPN

Round 2: No. 35 to San Diego Chargers - Peter Schrager, FoxSports

DT JON BULLARD 

Round 2: No. 41 to Chicago Bears - Dane Brugler, CBS

Round 2: No. 51 to New York Jets - Chris Burke, SI

Round 3: No. 74 to Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Mel Kiper, ESPN

SUMMARY

Florida’s junior cornerback remains one of the first defensive backs off the board on most analysts’ mock drafts. The two blockbuster trades have shaken up the top of the first round though, so Hargreaves is no longer considered a surefire Top 10 pick. Hargreaves has also battled some recent nitpicking from scouts and analysts, many of whom have raised concerns about the cornerback’s overall size, speed and ability to be a No. 1 guy. 

Said ESPN’s Mel Kiper, “He has been the best pure cover cornerback in college for the past two years on the aggregate, and even if you have concerns about the size and speed, the tape makes up the difference.”

Meanwhile, Neal remains a fringe first round prospect, and is most likely to get selected somewhere early on Day 2. The physical safety projects as a future starter (with a high ceiling should he improve his cover skills and tackling technique), but with such a deep draft class it will be tough for Neal to sneak into the first round. 

Bullard has slid a bit on most draft boards lately, as the versatile senior has been leapfrogged by other defensive linemen with projected higher ceilings. Bullard is what he is -- a blue-collar, powerful, penetrating lineman with the ability to play inside or as a five-technique end. He was very productive in college, too, but he played through a lot of injuries and he doesn’t possess ideal size for the position. 

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April 13, 2016

Foley: "Very good chance" Florida-Miami meet in Orlando in 2019

GAINESVILLE -- Last October, reports surfaced that the Florida-Miami rivalry would likely be renewed in 2019

But after six months of radio silence, Gators athletics director Jeremy Foley essentially confirmed the rumors on Wednesday. 

The Gators and Hurricanes would meet in Orlando in the newly renovated Citrus Bowl.  

Foley told the Sun, “There’s a very good chance it will happen, but that’s not final yet.”

He later added, “I’m confident it will happen. Hopefully we’ll know something in the next couple of months.”

Florida and Miami have played just six times since the annual series was discontinued in 1987. The Hurricane beat the Gators 21-16 in 2013 -- the most recent meeting in the rivalry. 

The timing on Foley’s statement comes just one day after Florida head coach Jim McElwain was asked about playing Miami at a campus event Tuesday.

“It’s something we’ve talked about,” McElwain said. 

“There might be some things in the works, and yet, I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag there at al. It’s definitely not one of those things that we’re dodging them, I’ll say that.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

April 09, 2016

10 takeways from UF's spring practice & Orange & Blue Debut

GAINESVILLE -- With spring camp in the books, here are 10 thoughts on Florida’s 15 practices and Friday’s Orange & Blue Debut.

1. Luke Del Rio is positioned to become Florida's ninth starting quarterback since Tim Tebow. Del Rio delivered a flawless performance in the spring game, exiting camp as the heavy favorite to out-right win UF’s latest quarterback derby. The Oregon State transfer competed 10 of 11 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns -- with the noted caveat that Del Rio was carving up second- and- third-teamers. 

Still, it was an impressive performance by the redshirt sophomore, and considering Del Rio’s experience in the system and general accuracy, it would be quite a surprise if anyone else takes the first snaps again UMass on Sept. 3. 

2. Duke Dawson could be Florida’s next star in the secondary. The junior struggled for two years seeing limited snaps, but with several standouts off now to the NFL (Vernon Hargreaves, Keanu Neal, Brian Poole), Dawson stepped up this spring and embraced a newfound opportunity. Dawson grabbed a stranglehold on the nickel-back spot with an outstanding camp, as the former safety looks much more comfortable playing inside.

Dawson flashed as an upgrade in coverage compared to Poole, picking off two passes Friday night, including a 26-yard pick-six.  

3. Florida’s pass rush shouldn’t miss a beat in the fall. The Gators’ edge rushers (veterans Bryan Cox Jr. and Jordan Sherit, along with youngsters Keivonnis Davis and Jabari Zuniga) gave UF’s offensive tackles fits Friday night, combining for 4 sacks and a forced fumble. Had it been a real game, the group likely would’ve doubled their total. 

It's been that way most of the spring, too, as Davis and Zuniga both had really solid camps, while Cox, now a redshirt senior, appears primed for a breakout season…

4. … And yet, Florida’s offensive line still needs lots of work. The Gators allowed the most sacks in the nation last season (45), and their tackles didn’t do a whole lot this spring to inspire much confidence. The interior OL appears improved, but sophomore tackle Fred Johnson had a tough spring, while starting left tackle David Sharpe was inconsistent, too. The Gators will get former five-star recruit Martez Ivey (shoulder surgery) back in the fall, and they need him to be ready to play because there aren’t many options behind Sharpe or Johnson. 

5. Kylan Johnson vaults into the mix at linebacker. Florida doesn’t have a ton of depth at linebacker, but Johnson concluded a strong spring with a standout performance Friday night. The former safety earned the start opposite of star linebacker Jarrad Davis, recording a team-high eight stops. The 6-1, 230-pound redshirt freshman also added an interception and a hurry, showcasing his versatility in the box. While Alex Anzalone is likely to start in the fall, Johnson emerged as another viable option -- especially against spread offenses.  

6. Florida’s tight ends and tailbacks will be focal points in the passing game. Throughout the spring, McElwain praised both groups’ ability to make plays and the two units showed why on Friday night. 

Of UF’s 27 completions in the spring game, 14 went to tight ends or tailbacks. C’yontai Lewis led all players with five catches for 79 yards, while JUCO-tailback Mark Thompson had three receptions for 25 yards. Lewis and DeAndre Goolsby (who caught a touchdown) are a formidable duo inside, as each tight end has the ability to challenge defenses vertically and make plays after the catch. 

7. Feleipe Franks needs to redshirt. The four-star quarterback had a disastrous debut, throwing three interceptions on his first four pass attempts. The early enrollee is swimming mentally, struggling with reads and pass-progressions. The arm talent is obvious (see: late touchdown to Lewis) but a full year to learn the system and put on some weight would do wonders for Franks’ development and future confidence. 

8. The Gators have a kicker. Eddy Pineiro wasn’t perfect Friday night, missing a pair of 50-yard field goals, but the Miami native displayed his rocket leg on nearly every kick. The JUCO-transfer bombed all his kickoffs, nailed all five PAT’s and drilled two field goals from 52+ yards. 

Florida missed five extra points last season and didn’t hit a field goal longer than 43 yards, so Pineiro already represents an instant upgrade. 

9. Many of UF’s early enrollees will see significant snaps in the fall. Along with Pineiro and Thompson, wideouts Dre Massey (2 catches for 29 yards and a score) and Joshua Hammond (3 catches for 24 yards) made plays Friday, concluding strong showings all spring by both receivers. Defensively, linebacker David Reese flashed some (3 tackles, 1 sack) and definitely should have a role on special teams. Freshman safety Chauncey Gardner remains in the mix for a starting job, too. 

10. The Gators avoided the injury bug in camp. Aside from a few minor dings, McElwain’s team didn’t sustain any devastating injuries over the last month. Several notables didn’t play much (or at all) Friday night (defensive tackle CeCe Jefferson, linebacker Daniel McMillian, wideout Ahmad Fulwood) but avoiding any serious setbacks was key for a team that still has some depth issues. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton  

April 06, 2016

Gators QB Kyle Trask emerging as an intriguing project

GAINESVILLE -- Kyle Trask was a two-star recruit and a backup quarterback at Manvel High in Texas, but the 6-foot-4, 227-pound early enrollee has emerged as an interesting arm in Florida’s four-headed battle for the starting job. 

Although the freshman will almost certainly not win the competition, Trask has impressed both coaches and teammates throughout spring practice, oftentimes showcasing the best pure arm-talent of anyone in the group. 

“As far as the eye test, the kid is big and he can throw,” UF superstar cornerback Jalen Tabor said. 

“I tried to bait him into one play in the scrimmage and he baited me. He threw it right over my head, I'm like, 'Oh, I thought I had it,' but he put it right on a dime. He can definitely drop dimes."

Trask played behind D’Eriq King, a Houston signee, in high school, but Florida’s coaches were intrigued by the freshman’s measurables, competitiveness and potential upside.  

“I say this about that guy -- overtime you tried to say, ‘Well, I’m not so sure, and he did something that said you are sure,’” Gators offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said. 

"If you just turned on the film when he played in the games and looked at his production, it’s pretty darn good now. You look at the decision making, the size, arm strength, accuracy and say, ‘What box aren’t you checking, what are we missing here.'”

Trask threw for 10 touchdowns as a senior, and while he came to UF as a project, the early enrollee is quickly overcoming his inexperience and could potentially see the field sooner than many people anticipated. 

“I love Trask,” Tabor said.

“He has the prettiest ball. Now it’s different when you get under the live bullets in the SEC. Guys like Dante Fowler, Jarvis Jones coming after you. Can you still step up in the pocket and deliver a ball to help your team win? That’s the only question I have for him.”

GRIER FINDS A LANDING SPOT

Former UF starting quarterback Will Grier transferred to West Virginia, the school announced Wednesday. Grier must sit out the 2016 season but will have two years of eligibility remaining. Grier was suspended for a calendar-year on Oct. 12 for violating the NCAA’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He later left Florida in December and it remains to be seen whether or not his suspension will run concurrently with his transfer. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

April 04, 2016

UF forward Devin Robinson mulling entering the NBA Draft

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s sophomore swingman Devin Robinson could test the NBA waters, according to coach Mike White. 

The Gators' 6-foot-8 forward averaged 9.0 points on 46 percent shooting in 2015-16. He shot 34 percent from 3, adding 5.7 rebounds. 

Robinson was Florida’s sixth-man for much of the season before starting the team’s final nine games of the year.

“Devin’s got a very high ceiling,” White said Monday. 

“He’s very talented. I think in the back of everyone’s mind, especially with the new rule, most guys at this level are always at least somewhat considering it. I don't know whether he declares or not but I think we find out soon."

Under the new rules, Robinson could enter the draft, participate in the combine and then decide to return to school -- so long as he doesn’t hire an agent. 

White “would like to see Devin come back,” but Florida’s coach supports any decision Robinson makes. 

“I’d like to continue coaching him,” White said, adding that Robinson is home in Virginia mulling the decision. 

“I thought he made a very big jump this year. And I think he could make a equally as big if not bigger jump next year.”

According to most draft rankings, Robinson would be wise to return to school, as DraftExpress.com ranks the forward No. 71 overall and CBSSports.com lists Robinson as the 98th best prospect

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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