October 19, 2014

Gator Grades: Kaboom

BildeWill Muschamp | Matt Stamey/GainesvilleSun

GAINESVILLE -- It’s not even the beginning of the end anymore for Will Muschamp.

That was Georgia Southern. 

Saturday night was worse

The Gators were humiliated -- in primetime -- on homecoming for the second straight season, embarrassingly falling to Missouri 42-13. It was a nightmare, dumpster-fire performance.

The Tigers were fresh of a shutout shellacking at home to No. 10 Georgia. Maty Mauk was terrible again. They didn’t eclipse 120 yards on offense … yet they still won by four touchdowns. 

#ItsgrimUF was the theme a year ago. Now, it’s eulogizing time.  

OFFENSE - F

There’s little left to say about a dreadful attack that continues to invent new ways to lose. 

The two-quarterback system was a bust, as both Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris struggled protecting the football. 

The Gators coughed up the ball six times and had just 66 yards by halftime. A rapture couldn’t have saved this offense.

Every drive was Gun. Meet Foot. 

Driskel, hampered by an ankle injury, was woeful once again. Muschamp all-but feed his third-year starter to the wolves in the third quarter before mercifully pulling the junior. Harris, with a limited playbook, wasn’t much better until it was too late. The freshman was indecisive and had as many errant throws early as Driskel. 

Florida’s revamped offensive line crumbled against Mizzou’s fearsome front-four, surrendering six sacks. 

DEFENSE - B+

Missouri had just 20 yards after halftime … and still outscored UF 22-13 in the second half. The Gators’ defense did its damnedest to put out all the self-inflicted fires, but the ugliness by the offense (and special teams) was too much to overcome. 

The Tigers had success running the ball in the first half, and once they jumped out to an insurmountable lead (for Florida’s offense) they simply stopped trying to score. 

Florida yielded just 2.4 yards per play, but a lack of sacks (just one) and forced turnovers (Marcus Maye’s interception was the lone takeaway) allowed Mizzou to just slowly grind the game away.    

SPECIAL TEAMS - F

A week after a dominating special teams effort, Florida had a putrid performance Saturday evening.

Marcus Murphy ran roughshod on returns (96-yard kickoff touchdown, 82-yard punt touchdown), and the Tigers also comically blocked an extra point late in the fourth quarter. 

Andre Debose did nothing (four punt returns for six yards), while Gators punter Kyle Christy averaged just 38 yards on five punts. 

OVERALL - F

In this section last week: "The ship may not be sunk, yet, but I’m not sure how much more water it can hold." It’s officially overflowing. 

For a team that’s lost 10 of 13, Saturday night’s ugliness was still unimaginable. In a mind-blowing stat (courtesy of ESPN), Muschamp's Gators are the only team in the last decade to lose a game -- TWICE -- when allowing fewer than a 120 yards.

All other teams are 94-0. Chew on that. 

Athletic director Jeremy Foley once famously stated, “What should be done eventually, must be done immediately.” We’ll know soon enough if that statement still holds true.  

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October 17, 2014

McCalister talks breakout year, former hoop dreams

Florida-Gators-2014-Florida-Football-Kentucky-Wildcats-The-Swamp-overtime-Alex-McCalister-leaping-stands-LAlex McCalister | David Bowie/GatorCountry.com

GAINESVILLE -- Alex McCalister dreamed of playing basketball for Roy Williams. Instead, the 6-foot-6, 255-pound North Carolina native has developed into a menacing pass rusher for the Florida Gators.

“He didn’t even know who I was,” McCalister said of UNC's legendary hoops coach.

McCalister was a star basketball player in high school, but football was his true destiny. 

Florida’s redshirt sophomore was guided towards football by his high school coaches. With raw and freakish athleticism, many major colleges viewed McCalister as a long-term project with limitless upside.

He's been worth the wait.

McCalister has gone from project to player, and is suddenly a budding star opposite preseason All-American Dante Fowler Jr.

He leads the Gators in sacks (4.0) and tackles for loss (5.0). Earlier this week, he spoke on his previous basketball aspirations, development and early-season production.

On translating the preseason hype into production… 

“Coming out [this fall] my goal was to be a part of this team, bring something to this team. So, fulfilling those pass-rush goals, and keep working and keep working, just trying to help the team, that’s it. But I am glad I am producing for this team.”

On the “project” label out of high school

“Just that word, the ‘project.’ I mean, everybody wants to come in and play. Even my second year, my sophomore year, I still wanted to play but I was still that project. I still had to develop, I still had to learn. The biggest hurdle was really just accepting that, knowing that you are a project guy and you’ve got to just keep fighting, keep fighting, keep hurdling that stuff. And now it’s pretty much paying off. I’ve just got to keep working. Still got a long way to go.”

On his hoops skills…

"I don’t think nobody here can beat me. I say I’m top 3 on the team. I’m definitely [the best].”

On learning how to maintain weight… 

“[Gaining weight] wasn’t that fun. Not in the beginning. It was overwhelming. I came in at like 215. It was like you’ve got to eat, eat, eat if you want to play. OK, I’m eating but I’m not gaining weight. But I finally learned that too. I learned how to manage it. Eat certain amount of meals throughout the course of the day. I finally got that.”

********** BONUS QUOTE **********

“[He was] a stick. Like the dude from ‘A Bugs Life.’ The little stick figure. … He’s playing good. He’s long, extremely long, like 7-foot long. He can rush the passer. He can play the run. He’s playing good coming off the edge and getting to the quarterback. It’s just another good thing having him and Dante on both edges of the ball.”

--- Senior linebacker Mike Taylor, on McCalister’s sophomore season and inital impressions when the defensive end first arrived on campus

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October 15, 2014

Chris Walker still not "a savior," suspended 3 games

Ncb_u_walkcts_600x400Chris Walker | Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports 

GAINESVILLE -- Florida forward Chris Walker will miss the team’s first three games (including an exhibition contest) for violating team rules, coach Billy Donovan announced Wednesday. 

At the team’s media day, the 6-foot-10, 225-pound sophomore declined comment on his suspension, only saying, “It’ll be tough, but I’ll get through it.”

Walker, a former five-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American, played just 18 games in 2013-14 after failing to qualify academically until December and later serving a NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits. 

“He has such a long way to go as far as being reliable, accountable and disciplined,” Donovan said.

Walker averaged just 1.9 points, 1.3 rebounds on 4.8 minutes last season, and many expected the talented big-man -- currently projected as a 2015 NBA first-round pick -- to play a key role this year. 

Maybe, but maybe not, according to Donovan. 

“His biggest challenge this year is going to be his ability to manage expectations,” he said. “Chris Walker played four minutes a game and everybody thinks he’s this savior. I can’t really tell you he is ready to handle that or even capable of handling that.”

Donovan continued: “I’ve never seen a guy have more hype coming into the middle of a season. … I don’t know what kind of impact he’s going to make. He’s got a long way to go.”

Meanwhile, freshman point guard Brandone Francis is academically ineligible for the entire 2014-15 campaign, per Donovan. 

“He needs to prove himself academically,” Donovan said. 

Francis is enrolled at UF, but the 6-6 guard from the Dominican Republic, who moved to Jacksonville and finished high school at Arlington Country Day School, won’t practice with the team the first semester. 

“There’s things he has to do academically while he’s here to get himself eligible to play,” Donovan explained. “If he progress like we hope he will, he’ll be allowed to come back to practice for the second semester.”

INJURY UPDATE

Swingman DeVon Walker will miss the entire season with a torn ACL sustained during summer workouts, but Donovan said the junior guard may return to practice in January or February. 

Eli Carter (leg) and Dillion Graham (hips, ankle) are cleared for contact but both players remain limited as the Gators open practice. Carter and Graham both missed the entire 2013-14 season, receiving medical redshirts.  

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October 14, 2014

SEC announces 2015 schedule, UF to host Ole Miss

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GAINESVILLE -- The Southeastern Conference announced the 2015 football schedule Tuesday night, with Florida’s slate officially set. 

While the Gators’ opponents were previously announced, the release confirmed the dates with Mississippi, New Mexico State (UF's opener), East Carolina and Florida Atlantic. 

UF will host Ole Miss, a playoff contender this year, on Oct. 3, kickstarting a brutal stretch during the heart of the season. 

Following the showdown with the Rebels, the Gators will play four of five games away from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium -- with trips to Missouri, LSU, Jacksonville (Georgia) and South Carolina. 

The 2015 FLORIDA GATORS SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 - New Mexico State

Sept. 12 - ECU

Sept. 19 - at Kentucky 

Sept. 26 - Tennessee

Oct. 3 - Ole Miss

Oct. 10 - at Missouri 

Oct. 17 - at LSU

OPEN

Oct. 31 - Georgia (Jacksonville)

Nov. 7 - Vanderbilt 

Nov. 14 - at South Carolina 

Nov. 21 - FAU

Nov. 28 - Florida State  

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SEC commissioner Mike Slive to retire July 2015

Img19595605Mike Slive | USATSI

GAINESVILLE -- Due to a recurrence of prostate cancer, Mike Slive will retire as SEC Commissioner on July, 31, 2015, the conference announced Tuesday.

Slive -- the league’s commissioner since 2002 -- leaves a historic legacy as the architect of the nation's most dominant conference. 

During 74-year-old’s 13-year tenure -- the SEC’s “golden age” -- the conference won seven straight BCS national times, 60 additional national championships, expanded into Texas and Missouri, launched an unprecedented TV network and increased revenues by record numbers.

“Mike possesses all of the qualities of a great leader – visionary, consensus builder, integrity, intuition and commitment, but more than anything he is a great friend to so many of us in this league,’’ said UF athletic director Jeremy Foley to Gatorzone.com.

“He’s led this conference to historical milestones during his tenure and the impact he’s had on collegiate athletics management and structure will be felt for many years. I look forward to working with him during his final year and in his future role as a consultant to the league.”

According to the release, Slive’s medical prognosis is “good,” and he will serve as a consultant for four years following his retirement. 

"I have been blessed in more ways than I can count and I will have as much passion for this job on my last day as I did on my first," Slive said.

"I consider my health situation a temporary detour in a remarkable road that has allowed me to meet amazing people, experience incredible events and celebrate historic victories. I will relish my final year in this position and look forward to being the biggest fan of the SEC for many years to come."

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October 13, 2014

QBs Driskel, Harris both to play against Missouri

Jeff-driskel-ncaa-football-louisiana-state-floridaJeff Driskel | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

GAINESVILLE -- Florida will play two quarterbacks in a pivotal must-win against Missouri on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN2), coach Will Muschamp announced Monday.

Embattled starter Jeff Driskel will continue to work with the first-team offense, but dynamic true freshman Treon Harris will see extended snaps, too.

“We’ll work through the week and we’ll see how things go,” Muschamp said. “Right now, Jeff will probably start, but they’re both going to play.”

Driskel turned the ball over three more times in UF’s 30-27 gut-punching loss to LSU. The junior leads the conference in interceptions (8) and has eight total turnovers the last three weeks. 

Harris, a former star at Miami Booker T. Washington, was scheduled to see snaps against the Tigers before he was investigated for an alleged sexual assault last Monday. The freshman was suspended for a week, before the university reinstated him late Friday afternoon after the accuser withdrew her complaint.

Harris -- who watched the LSU loss from the press box -- missed a week of practice and film-study, a concern for Muschamp.

“He’s a freshman. It means more than a third or fourth year player, certainly,” Muschamp said. “We’ll see today.”

Meanwhile, Driskel lamented Florida’s missed opportunities against LSU -- some his own fault, others not -- and said the offense “is close” to eliminating the costly mistakes. 

Driskel has never played in a two-quarterback system before, but said he’s open to whatever is best for the team to succeed. 

“Believe it or not, I’m not worried about me, I’m worried about the team,” he said. “I want the team to play well. If it’s going to help the team, I’m all for it. We’re confident in Treon. I think the guys are confident in me as well. It’s not going to be something that’s going to divide the team or anything like that.”

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October 12, 2014

Gator Grades: Booted

BildeMatt Stamey/Gainesville Sun

GAINESVILLE -- (Breathe, y’all)

Florida dropped a gut-punching and dramatic affair to an average LSU team, finding a way to lose over and over again on a wild evening in The Swamp.

Tigers kicker Colby Delahoussaye nailed a 50-yard field goal with three seconds remaining, moments after the Gators looked poised to win the game outright.

Florida had little business escaping Tennessee with a victory two weeks ago, and the football gods weren’t as kind Saturday night.

OFFENSE - D

About that up-tempo, spread offense: Florida totaled 306 yards on just 57 plays.

Much-maligned quarterback Jeff Driskel can’t win for losing. Florida’s third-year starter was awful and awesome all in the same game, but if anything can go wrong for Driskel, it will.

He turned the ball over three more times, including the decisive tipped-pick with under 30 seconds left in the game.

Florida’s offensive line was up and down, as the Gators failed to establish an explosive running game against the nation’s No. 90 ranked unit. Andre Debose’s 35-yard jet sweep was UF’s longest run of the game.

Demarcus Robinson hurled in a perfect 11-yard touchdown, and later, Driskel’s 73-yard bomb, yet Florida Florida’d, failing to score a touchdown on first-and-goal at the 3-yard-line.

The playcalling was poor and the offense was ghastly in the third quarter: 16 yards on 10 plays.

Brandon Powell was a bright spot, but Kelvin Taylor remains M.I.A. (pass protection woes). 

DEFENSE - C-

The total yardage was fine (305 yards, just 4.2 y/p), but UF’s defense was inconsistent against a very subpar offense.

Florida’s front four mauled LSU on passing downs (four sacks), yet the Gators’ front-seven was gashed by dynamic freshman tailback Leonard Fournette (140 yards, two scores).

The busted coverage on 3rd-and-25 was inexplicable and was a microcosm of the night for the unit: When a big play was needed, it wasn’t made.

Without Vernon Hargreaves III for much of the game, the revamped secondary played well (aside from the key bust). Jalen Tabor continues to impress, as does Alex McCalister (2 sacks) and Bryan Cox Jr. (5 tackles, 1 TFL).

In a seesaw game where the Gators turned the ball over three times, zero takeaways were a killer.

SPECIAL TEAMS - A

Debose was electrifying, and would’ve been the Gators’ hero had they won the game.

He sparked three Florida touchdowns, including two dynamic punt returns — one for a 62-yard touchdown.

Kyle Christy was solid again (47.5 yard average on four punts) and the coverage (punts and kickoff) units were really good. 

OVERALL - D

Florida played hard, but it simply found a way to lose. Whether it was Driskel gift-wrapping turnovers or the defense folding at key moments, the Gators gave the game away.

Will Muschamp’s hot-seat is scorching. The ship may not be sunk yet, but I’m not sure how much more water it can hold. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Late Driskel pick sends Gators to gut-wrenching loss

LSU Florida Football (12)Jeff Driskel | John Raoux/AP

GAINESVILLE -- Murphy’s Law strikes again.

Beleaguered quarterback Jeff Driskel appeared poised to rally Florida (3-2, 2-2 SEC) to a nail-biting win over LSU, only to see a potential game-winning touchdown dropped, and then later, a ball tipped for an interception to setup the Tigers’ winning score.

Colby Delahoussaye nailed a 50-yard field goal with just three seconds left in the fourth quarter, sending LSU (5-2, 1-2 SEC) to a controversial but dramatic 30-27 win over UF and increasing the temperature on Florida coach Will Muschamp’s already scorching hot seat.

“It’s a really tough loss,” Driskel said. “Hat’s off to LSU.”

With 26 seconds remaining, Driskel forced a throw over the middle to Latroy Pittman, who tipped the ball to LSU defensive back Ricky Jefferson. 

Pittman was scarily injured on the play and was carted off the field. Although the wideout was completely immobilized by medical personnel, he gave the crowd a thumbs up with his right arm as he left the field.

“We think Pittman will be fine,” Muschamp said.

Still, it was surreal scene that marred an ugly but entertaining game.

And ultimately a gut-wrenching loss for the Gators.

LSU ran the ball on first down, but a scrum at the end of the play forced the officials to put seven seconds back on the clock -- even though LSU had no timeouts remaining.

With new life, Delahoussaye drilled the long kick.

Muschamp said he’s never seen officals put time back on the clock in that situation and would have a discussion with Steve Shaw, the conference’s head of officals, Sunday.

The Gators held the game’s momentum late in the quarter, pinning LSU deep in its own territory and forcing a 3rd-and-25.

But Florida (defensive backs Brian Poole and Keanu Neal) badly blew a coverage, and Anthony Jennings found Travin Duval for 41 yards up the sideline.

“Just poor communication,” Muschamp said. “10 guys got it [the defensive call] and one didn’t. … You cut a guy lose on a play like that and you don’t deserve to win.”

Jennings (10-for-21, 110 yards) wasn’t any better than Driskel (14-of-25, 183 yards), as LSU leaned on explosive freshman tailback Leonard Fournette.

The 6-1, 230-pound back ran wild, displaying his special blend of size, speed and video-game moves. He powered for a career-high 140 yards and two scores.

Fournette ran over, past and through UF’s defense, injuring All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III on a thunderous run in the second quarter. Florida’s top defensive player did not return.

The Gators’ offense was largely stagnant without workhorse tailback Matt Jones, who barely played with a bum ankle.

Florida tried to run the offense with Driskel as the power runner -- without a ton of success. Florida’s 6-foot-4, 230-pound quarterback bruised his way for 71 yards on 21 carries. 

He rumbled for a first down early in the game and delivered a fiery, emotional reaction historically reserved for Tim Tebow. Otherwise, it was another forgettable night for the third-year starter.

Driskel turned the ball over three times, negating many of his finer moments -- a beautiful 11-yard touchdown to Demarcus Robinson -- during Florida’s comeback.

LSU went up 27-24 on a splendid 11-yard, one-handed touchdown reception by Duval.

The Tigers then dared Driskel to beat them deep. And he did.

Finally. 

But Florida wasted the perfect 73-yard pass to Robinson, stalling on the 3-yard-line and settling for the tying field goal.

Tight end Tevin Westbrook dropped an easy go-ahead score with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter.

Although the offense struggled (306 total yards), Andre Debuse flashed his best Percy Harvin impression, sparking three Florida touchdowns.

The sixth-year senior jumpstarted a frenzied crowd, igniting The Swamp with a 62-yard punt return touchdown early in the first quarter. It was Debose’s fifth touchdown return of his career, setting a school record. Later, he added a 53-yard return to setup a score late in the fourth quarter. He also rushed for 35 yards on a jet sweep.

Despite the team’s usual shakiness, Florida didn’t play like a group distracted by the turmoil from the Treon Harris fallout.

On Friday, Harris’ accuser withdrew her sexual assault complaint, and the university and the UAA quickly reinstated Florida’s freshman quarterback.

Harris wasn’t on the sideline Saturday night, with The Associated Press reporting Florida didn’t want the freshman to be the game’s storyline and the constant focus of TV cameras.

“It was a very taxing week for him. I’m very proud of the way he’s handled the situation,” Muschamp said.  “Everybody is a victim in this situation. No one wins in this situation.” 

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October 10, 2014

Harris' accuser withdraws sexual assault complaint

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GAINESVILLE -- Treon Harris’ accuser withdrew her sexual assault complaint Friday and, the university and the UAA quickly reinstated Florida’s freshman quarterback.

Although Harris will not play Saturday against LSU (7:30 p.m., SEC Network), he is completely eligible moving forward.

“We have been notified that the University and legal process is complete,” coach Will Muschamp said.

“Treon has been reinstated to the team, but he will not play Saturday. This has been a learning experience for everyone involved. Treon has been honest with me throughout the process and is looking forward to rejoining his teammates.”

Earlier Friday afternoon, UF assistant vice president of media relations and public affairs Janine Sikes announced, “The student who accused Treon Harris of sexual battery has withdrawn her criminal complaint. This means she is not pursuing criminal charges against him at this time but maintains the right to do so in the future. The police report will be released when it is available.”

Sikes added, “The university always will take swift and decisive action when we have concerns about the safety of our students.”

Harris was suspended by Florida on Monday after the 19-year-old was accused of sexually assaulting a female student at an on-campus dorm around 3 a.m. Sunday.

On Thursday, Harris’ attorney, Huntley Johnson, adamantly defended him in a statement, saying, “Mr. Harris is not guilt of a crime and did not mistreat this young lady in any way that night.”

He continued: “Misstatements in the media have painted a picture that is inconsistent with the evidence.”

In the graphic statement, Johnson said the accuser had sexual relations with another man an hour before the alleged incident with Harris, and that she had text messaged Florida’s freshman quarterback immediately after he’d rallied the Gators to a 10-9 win over Tennessee in Knoxville.

Harris was ultimately never charged. Under Florida law, Harris’ accuser could be charged if authorities believe she filed a false report.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Johnson told the Orlando Sentinel.

“The university did the right thing.”

The Tornadoes’ head coach Tim ‘Ice’ Harris Jr., Treon’s older brother, tweeted, “Thank god! Love my family. #Harris #F5.”

Later, Harris posted on his Instagram account for the first time since the allegations were made public, saying, “I wanna thank everybody who supported me through this whole situation with the prayers and the love. #TheComeBack #GodIsGreat.”

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October 09, 2014

Esq. Huntley Johnson: Suspended QB Treon Harris "not guilty," paints accuser as the "sexual aggressor"

Florida-Gators-quarterback-Treon-Harris-Florida-Football-2014-Eastern-Michigan-The-Swamp-rushing-downfield-LTreon Harris | gatorcountry.com 

GAINESVILLE -- Suspended University of Florida quarterback Treon Harris is under investigation for an alleged sexual assualt against a female student early Sunday evening in an on-campus dorm, but his lawyer, Huntley Johnson, adamently defended the former Miami Booker T. Washington standout in a statement Thursday

The complete release...

"We are releasing this statement in an attempt to help clarify the circumstances surrounding the investigation of Treon Harris.

The status of Mr. Harris as a student at the University of Florida is that he was given an interim suspension pending a resolution by the administration of the University. After an appeal of the decision to suspend Mr. Harris, the University decided to allow Mr. Harris to continue his online courses. Because he is not allowed on campus, Mr. Harris is currently not attending those classes which occur in a classroom.

In terms of the criminal case, as most of you are aware, the University released a redacted police report yesterday evening. Currently, Mr. Harris has not been arrested and the criminal investigation is ongoing.

First, we want to dispel the idea that the alleged victim and our client didn’t know each other. Our client and the alleged victim knew each other to the extent that they had each other’s cell phone numbers and had previously spent time together of their own accord for the purpose of socializing together.

We want to dispel the idea and rumors floating around that our client forced his way into the alleged victim’s apartment. Those rumors are patently false. Mr. Harris has never been inside the young lady’s room. We understand that all of the evidence was gathered from our client’s room, which is where the interaction between the two parties took place.

We know that an individual has given testimony to law enforcement that he had sexual relations with the alleged victim less than an hour before the alleged sexual conduct with our client took place. In fact, testimony indicates that the young lady in question was the sexual aggressor in that interaction.

Our investigation has produced no evidence whatsoever that the young lady in question was impaired.

We have provided law enforcement with multiple witnesses that will indicate what the interaction was between the alleged victim and our client before they returned to our client’s room: they were smiling and they were holding hands. They returned to the Springs Residential Complex in a car driven by another female student who was a friend of the alleged victim.

We have provided multiple text messages to the authorities investigating this incident. These texts were exchanged among the alleged victim, Mr. Harris, and the other gentleman mentioned above.

When these text messages are released, they will show that the young woman making these allegations initiated the conduct with Mr. Harris while he was still in the locker room in Knoxville. Shortly after the team plane landed, texting continued between Mr. Harris and the alleged victim.

We believe the evidence will show the alleged victim was in fact in the sexual aggressor with not one, but two young men early last Sunday morning.

Misstatements in the media to date have painted a picture that is inconsistent with the evidence. That said, we have fully cooperated with this investigation. Mr. Harris agreed to a search of his dorm room. Mr. Harris agreed to a search of his phone. Mr. Harris gave a voluntary statement to law enforcement. We have turned over at least six (6) eyewitnesses to the events in questions to law enforcement. We have turned over the text messages to law enforcement. We have suggested to law enforcement multiple locations from which they should secure video surveillance. We have provided law enforcement with information gathered from the Internet that this young woman posted on Sunday, after the alleged misconduct, where she is smiling and happy. There is no indication of any physical or mental trauma.

We have previously indicated that we do not believe that Mr. Harris will be arrested or prosecuted. That is because of our experience and the facts of this case. He is not guilty of a crime and he did not mistreat this young lady in any way that night."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

October 08, 2014

UFPD releases heavily redacted Treon Harris report

Ncf_u_treonharris_ms_600x400Treon Harris / ESPN.com

GAINESVILLE -- Late Wednesday afternoon, the University of Florida Police Department released an 18-page report on the alleged sexual assault incident at the Springs Residential Complex involving 19-year-old Florida quarterback Treon Harris,  but the heavily redacted document (17 ½ pages blacked-out) offered minimal information on what exactly occurred in the wee hours Sunday morning. 

Harris, who was suspended indefinitely Monday, has not been charged as the investigation continues. 

Janine Sikes, assistant vice president of media relations and public affairs, cited privacy laws as the reasons behind the redacted document. Sikes also outlined the steps for the UF student code of conduct review -- mandated by the Department of Education Title IX federal statute. 

According to Sikes, even if Harris isn’t charged with sexual assault, he could still face student code of conduct sanctions.

Florida coach Will Muschamp, who canceled his regularly scheduled news conference Monday, (reluctantly) addressed reporters Wednesday for the first time since the allegation became public. 

“It’s a very serious charge and there’s been no change in Treon’s status,” he said. “I think our statement Monday was self-explanatory.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

Cleat-Gate? Hardly

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GAINESVILLE -- Will Muschamp remained somber discussing Treon Harris’ alleged sexual assault investigation, but Florida’s coach managed to laugh rehashing UF’s other off-the-field incident Monday evening.

Muschamp called the fistfight between sophomore quarterback Skyler Morhinweg and freshman defensive end Gerald Willis III “a tremendous misunderstanding.”

“I tell you what, we’ve made a big one out of this,” he said.

Around 7 p.m. Monday, UFPD was dispatched to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to breakup a scuffle over a pair of missing cleats.

The two players exchanged punches but no charges were filed.

“Nobody stole anything,” Muschamp said. “If anybody stole anything, they wouldn’t be on this football team anymore. I can assure you of that. We had a disagreement, and I wish it would have been handled a little bit differently.”

Before Monday’s practice, Willis -- a New Orleans native -- couldn’t find his cleats on UF’s “air-drying system,” grabbing a pair inscribed with No. 17. The “excitable freshman” thought the shoes belonged to friend and fellow defensive end Jordan Sherit. Instead, the cleats actually belonged to Mornhinweg, who now wears No. 8 after changing from No. 17 last season.

“We’ve got an air thing that takes the wetness out of the cleats,” Muschamp explained.

“Skyler last year was No. 17 and Jordan Sherit’s No. 17 this year. Gerald was coming from class and trying to get ready for practice. Couldn’t find his cleats on the air thing, and he grabbed No. 17 because he’s buddies with Jordan Sherit and he thought that’d be OK. Went out to practice, and there was a disagreement on the cleats and whose cleats they were. Nobody stole anything. If anybody stole anything, they wouldn’t be on this football team anymore. I can assure you of that. We had a disagreement and I wish it would have been handled a little bit differently. Me and brother Mike used to fight all the time. It happened in our family. Maybe our family is really different from everybody else’s. Me and my brother Pat, I never won. Took swings. Never won. That’s the way it goes. Families [fight], it’s what happens.”

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Muschamp addresses Harris' suspension

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GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp said the sexual assault allegation against freshman quarterback Treon Harris is “a serious charge,” adding he agrees with the school’s stance to suspend the former Miami Booker T. Washington standout. 

“I think our statement Monday was self-explanatory,” Muschamp said Wednesday. “This was a serious charge and there’s been no change in Treon’s status.”

Muschamp addressed the media for the first time since Harris was suspended indefinitely Monday morning, saying, "It is what it is. You handle situations in this role and you move forward. You manage your football team and that's what we've done.”

Muschamp issued multiple “no comments” on the pending investigation, refusing to answer any inquires on Harris’ future, distractions or how he addressed the situation to his team.

“I feel very comfortable in how we’ve handled this situation,” he said.  

Harris is under investigation for an alleged sexual assault of a female student early Sunday morning. Hours earlier, the freshman quarterback sparked UF’s 10-9 comeback win over Tennessee with two fourth-quarter scoring drives.

The University Police Department is leading the investigation and said the police report won’t be released Wednesday. According to The Gainesville Sun, authorities want to interview Harris again. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 05, 2014

Gator Grades: Houdini'd

Florida Tennessee Football (4)Adam Lau/AP

KNOXVILLE, TENN. -- Yuck.

Florida threw up all over themselves in Neyland Stadium, only to see Tennessee choke the game away and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

The Gators had little business winning Saturday, but for the 10th straight time they beat the Volunteers, as freshman quarterback Treon Harris sparked the 10-9 escape.

Harris was the “hero,” but fellow freshman Jalen Tabor was the true shining star with his momentum-shifting strip sack.

Ugly doesn’t do justice describing the game, and yet Florida rallied on the road, sits at 3-1 (2-1 SEC) and faces a less-than-daunting schedule moving forward.

College football is wacky.

OFFENSE - D+

Florida totaled just 232 yards, as quarterback Jeff Driskel was dreadful and his teammates did him little favors.

The Gators were scoreless through three quarters and looked to threaten the nation’s longest non-shutout streak.

UF’s third-year starter tossed three picks and constantly locked onto his initial target, but Florida’s wideouts dropped at least five passes and the offensive line had its worst game of the season.

Florida’s offense is a radioactive mess. Matt Jones ran hard (114 yards on 23 carries), but every play is a constant crawl and grind for the Gators. 

Jones’ 32 yard run (setting up the game-winning field goal) was UF’s most explosive play -- by 16 yards. 

Harris provided a spark, but field position and the team’s emotional boost largely dictated his success. 

DEFENSE - A

The Gators’ defense was dominant Saturday (3.42 yards per play), bottling up a Vols’ unit with plenty of playmakers. It was a spectacular response after getting shredded against Kentucky and Alabama.

The secondary changes worked, especially inserting Tabor into the starting lineup. Florida’s pass rush finally got going (six sacks).

UF’s red zone defense was ridiculous, suffocating the Vols for minus-six yards and an interception on four trips. UT managed just three field goals, and its lack of execution close to the end zone doomed its upset bid.

In all, Florida forced two turnovers and held the Vols to just five third down conversions (5-of-17).

SPECIAL TEAMS - B

Kyle Christy punted fine early, but he had two really poor kicks that doomed his overall average (35.3 yards on eight punts).

Austin Hardin’s 49-yard game-winning field goal was as impressive as it was shocking.

Andre Debose’s 45-yard punt return touchdown was correctly negated (block in the back), and otherwise the sixth-year senior had a quiet afternoon.

OVERALL - B-

The Gators stunned a loud and checkered Neyland Stadium, exiting Tennessee with plenty of problems but some promise too.

Florida -- right now -- is not a good football team, but a road win -- over a rival for the 10th straight time -- is positive building block for the rest of the season.

Not let's see what happens. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 04, 2014

GameDay Thread: Florida at Tennessee

Unnamed

KNOXVILLE, TN. -- It's fork in the road time, folks. 

Either Will Muschamp & Co. win, (briefly) calming a seething fan base and reentering the SEC Eastern Division race. ... Or, it's the beginning of the end. 

The Gators have topped the Volunteers nine straight times, but UT is actually a 2.5-point favorite today. 

In the understatement of the week: Muschamp needs this win. Like, really, really badly. 

Three keys: early momentum (the stadium is rocking and Neyland is checkered out), penalties and third down. 

If the Gators can control the line of scrimmage and run the ball, they win. If they can't do that, then it's going to be a long afternoon in sunny Tennessee.

********** UT/UF STORYLINES **********

Gators, Muschamp need must-win to quell fan base

Florida unfazed by underdog status

Gators confident despite defensive woes

Jeff Driskel ready to face UT amid avalanche of criticism 

Changes possible in the secondary

Driskel remains No. 1 option at quarterback, offense "stay the course"

Injuries sideline key defenders

Muschamp not happy with defensive line play

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

 

 

October 01, 2014

Gators not lacking for confidence

15898716-standardVasha Hunt - al.com

GAINESVILLE -- Florida was steel-clubbed at No. 2 Alabama less than two weeks ago, but one surely wouldn't know it the way UF's players are talking in advance of this Saturday's division matchup at Tennessee (noon, SEC Network). 

Florida yielded 42 points and a school-record 645 yards to the Crimson Tide, losing for the eighth time in its last 10 games dating back to last season. 

That's all in the rear-view mirror. 

On Tuesday, senior safety Jabari Gorman called UF's defense "great" several times during a short interview with reporters. 

When prodded for clarity on exactly Florida's "greatness" on a unit ranked No. 113 in the country, Gorman said, "When we go over film you can see the potential. You can see the little things, and all it is about is the little things. If we can take care of the little things we can be a great defense.” 

Later, junior tailback Matt Jones emphatically stated Florida "should have beaten [the Tide]"

"I mean, we had 'em," Jones said.  "We should have executed better. And like I said, on third down we didn't convert as we should. They were a very beatable team, and they just pulled away from us.”

Then, on Wednesday, sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis fired a shot a UT tailback Jalen Hurd. 

The Vols' five-star freshman totaled 216 rushing yards against No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 13 Georgia, but Davis said Florida's defense is ready to truly introduce Hurd to the Southeastern Conference.

"I don't think he can hang with us. He's a good athlete but we've got a whole defense coming for him," Davis said. 

"Georgia was a big test for him, that's a physical team, but I feel like we have more to offer for him. We're going to come down and we're going to talk to him a little bit with the pads. We're not going to talk with our mouth, we're just going to hit him and get back lined up. ...  We have to let him know what it is and we have to welcome him to the SEC."

Trash-talk -- even the most innocent natured -- is always fun. On the surface, the Gators are a confident team. Whether they're simply breathing hot air doesn't really matter, they know Saturday is a must-win anyways.

"Every game is a must-win," sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III said. 

Added coach Will Muschamp: "They're all must-wins. Whe has it ever changed? I mean really."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 30, 2014

The Decider

Ncaa-football-idaho-floridaKurt Roper / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

GAINESVILLE -- Will Muschamp has long maintained he has never called an offensive play as Florida’s head coach.

However, influencing (or making) other offensive decisions remain the head coach’s call, according to coordinator Kurt Roper.

Roper said he and Muschamp have “always been on the same page” early in their first year together. But Florida's offensive coordinator also acknowledged Muschamp ultimately holds the decision-making power on personnel changes and in-game strategy.

As criticism swirls around quarterback Jeff Driskel’s job security, Roper said the staff has “100 percent confidence in Jeff” and that freshman Treon Harris simply isn’t ready to compete for the No. 1 spot.

But, it’s not even his call.

“Will is the one that will have that conversation,” said Roper on benching Driskel. “It's plain and simple his decision. But again, we have 100 percent confidence in Jeff right now and he's the guy we feel like we're going to win football games with."

Specifically asked about the play-calling late in the first half at Alabama (UF trailed 21-14 with 1:44 remaining and simply ran out the clock), Roper again stated he and Muschamp “work great together."

“And I was in 100 percent agreement with [Muschamp’s call to run-out the clock]. In a 100,000 seat stadium and it wasn’t like we were being productive on offense at that point that you got a chance to go in one score down to tie the game. And so, you know, I’m one of those guys that’s maybe a little bit more old school that way offensively, cut my teeth a little bit in the era where, ‘Hey, that’s just smart football.’ You know what I mean? Now if you’re being productive and you’ve got 30 points at halftime and those things, maybe you’re more aggressive. But based on what was happening offensively, that was just a smart decision that I agree with 100 percent and always will."

Will Muschamp. The decider. 

THIS & THAT

Florida (2-1, 0-1 SEC) opened as a one-point favorite over Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) before the line quickly shifted in UT’s favor. UF is now a one-point underdog. ... Florida 2-2 following an idle date under Muschamp, including a 31-17 victory over Tennessee last season. … CBS announced it will utilize its six-day option for its double-header (noon and 3:30 p.m.) slate on Oct. 11. The network will chose two games on a blockbuster weekend that includes No. 15 LSU at Florida.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 29, 2014

The Whole Nine Scars: Florida's (nearly) decade of dominance over division-rival Tennessee

Jonotthan-harrison-ncaa-football-tennessee-florida-e1405208604547-850x560 Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

GAINESVILLE -- Florida has won nine straight against Tennessee, last losing in controversial fashion in 2004 -- formally known as the Dallas Baker unsportsmanlike conduct game -- at Neyland Stadium.

Ron Zook piloted the Gators then, while the Volunteers are now on their fourth different head coach.

It’s been that long.

In recent years, Florida has taken advantage of the Vols’ demise, winning seven straight by at least double-digits.

But under second-year coach Butch Jones, UT is considered a promising program on the rebound and is actually a one-point favorite at home on Saturday (noon, SEC Network).

Can the Vols get a statement win -- even against a floundering Gators team -- this weekend?

We’ll see.

First, here’s a look at Florida’s series dominance over the last decade. 

2013: 31-17 – Jeff Driskel broke his leg on a pick-six, but backup quarterback Tyler Murphy rallied UF with two scores in a game featuring plenty of gaffes and follies.

2012: 37-20 – The Gators rushed for 336 yards and scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to shock the Vols -- ranked for the first time in the series since ’07.

2011: 33-23 – Shifty all-purpose tailback Chris Rainy tallied 233 total yards, including an 83-yard touchdown reception. Rainey also blocked a punt, as the Gators held on late after jumping out to a 30-6 lead.

2010: 31-17 – Florida dominated the line of scrimmage, holding Tennessee to just 29 yards rushing on 23 attempts (1.3 yards per carry), while tallying three touchdowns and 150 yards on the ground.

2009: 23-13 – Lane Kiffin did his best to muck up an ugly contest, but the Gators slowly wore down the Vols, running for 208 yards and two scores in a lackluster game. 

2008: 30-6 – The eventual national champions jumped out to a 27-0 lead and held Arian Foster & Co. to its lowest point total during the nine-game losing streak.

2007: 59-20 – Heisman Trophy quarterback Tim Tebow scored four touchdowns, as Florida rattled off the final 31 points in a game separated by just a single score midway through the third quarter.

2006: 21-20 – Tebow -- then a freshman -- plunged for two yards on a 4th-and-1 to secure a win after Florida rallied from a 10-point deficit. Tebow ran for four first downs on seven attempts.

2005: 16-7 – The Gators took advantage of three special teams miscues, holding the Vols scoreless after halftime in Urban Meyer’s SEC debut. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 27, 2014

Boom goes the dynamite? Not so fast

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GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp isn’t going anywhere.

Yet.

Despite a venomous and vociferous mob calling for Muschamp’s firing, the embattled head coach will survive the rest of the year and be evaluated at season’s end, according to UF athletic director Jeremy Foley.

Foley told Mike Bianchi at The Orlando Sentinel that Muschamp -- in his fourth season with the Gators -- will have the rest of the regular season to prove his mettle and turnaround a dwindling program.

"You never judge or evaluate a program based on one game or one season," Foley told the Sentinel.

"That's just not how we do things here. We're going to evaluate where we're headed – where the players are, how is recruiting going, what type of staff we have — are we a better (program)? That's going to be plain for all of us to see, but it's also going to be played out over the course of 11 games and we'll see where we are when we get to the end of the season."

Foley fired Ron Zook -- just 23-14 at Florida – mid-season in 2004, but Muschamp won’t endure a similar fate.

The Gators are fresh off a record-setting, three touchdown loss to No. 3 Alabama, leaving Muschamp with a career 24-17 mark as the head coach at UF.

While Muschamp’s entire body of work will be evaluated at end of the year, he won’t see a fifth autumn in Gainesville unless the Gators start winning some conference games.

Florida is just 1-6 in its last seven SEC contests, with marquee showdowns with Tennessee (Oct. 4), No. 17 LSU (Oct. 11), Missouri (Oct. 18), No. 12 Georgia (Nov. 1) and No. 13 South Carolina (Nov. 15) all remaining on its slate.

“The meat of our schedule is coming up,” Muschamp said. “We need to stay the course right now. Everything is still out there in front of us.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 21, 2014

Gator Grades: Welp...

Florida Alabama FootballJeff Driskel - Bryan Anderson/AP

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- So needing triple-overtime to beat Kentucky in The Swamp was a bad omen after all. 

No. 3 Alabama steam-rolled Florida, self-destructing just enough to keep the game from being a total laugher on the scoreboard. 

The Gators were outgained by 445 yards. That is not a typo. Florida was straight worked on Saturday afternoon. 

UF yielded the most yards in school-history (645), the most points in the Will Muschamp Era (42), the second-most passing yards in school history (449) and a 200-yard wideout. 

Are grades really necessary? 

OFFENSE - F

Florida couldn’t run. Florida couldn’t pass, but oddly Florida actually blocked ok. 

In all though, the offense looked a lot like last year’s toothless attack. The Gators gained just 200 yards, as quarterback Jeff Driskel was dreadful. Possibly an understatement. 

Florida’s veteran quarterback was 9-of-28 for 93 yards with three turnovers (2 picks) and two scores (1 rushing). Florida was terrible on third down (just 2-of-13) and ran just six plays in the third quarter. 

There was no Treon Harris or Brandon Powell sightings. Not exactly sure why not. 

DEFENSE - F

Many Florida historians thought UF’s shellacking in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl (Nebraska gained 629 yards in a 62-24 win) was an unbreakable record. 

Guess not. 

Lane Kiffin out-coached Muschamp’s prized possession, dialing up explosive play after explosive play. Senior quarterback Blake Sims was excellent, slicing up Florida’s woeful secondary (also: Amari Cooper really helps). Alabama’s rushing attack went off after halftime as UF’s defense got gassed. 

The Gators missed at least two dozen tackles, practically negating four forced turnovers.  

SPECIAL TEAMS - B+

Punter Kyle Christy was Florida’s best player on the field Saturday, averaging 52.7 yards on seven punts. 

He pinned the Tide inside the 20-yard line three times. He was excellent. 

Florida’s coverage units were solid, but Andre Debose was unable to do anything on returns. 

OVERALL - F

Alabama miscues (four turnovers, 11 penalties and poor special teams play) allowed Florida to hang around long after the Gators shouldve been buried ... and it still didn’t matter. UF was fortunate to not lose by six touchdowns. With plenty of issues to sort out, Florida's first idle date falls at the perfect time. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 20, 2014

GameDay Thread: Florida at Alabama

Unnamed

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Live from beautiful Bryant-Denny Stadium, where unranked Florida hopes to send No. 3 Alabama to just its fourth home loss since 2008. 

The stadium is rocking -- video montages of Tide beating Gators in 2009 SEC Championship Game, Bear Bryant and Lynyrd Skynyrd will have that affect, but can UF's up-tempo offense give Alabama enough fits to silence crowd?

Florida is a two-touchdown underdog (+14.5). Gators cover but Tide wins. Too much Yeldon-Henry-Drake. 

********** PREGAME STORYLINES/FEATURES **********

Will Muschamp is waiting for his watershed moment as a head coach, aims to defeat his longtime mentor

Gators QB Jeff Driskel hopes for better result against Tide

Vernon Hargreaves III braces for matchup with Amari Cooper

Muschamp encouraged by 3OT win 

Alabama QB Blake Sims on Florida's radar

Gators not hiding anything for Tide

Who y'all got this afternoon?

Will Florida's tide turn or will Alabama roll?

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

September 18, 2014

Q&A: Chaz Green

Hi-res-154981576_crop_northimg.bleacherreport.net

GAINESVILLE -- For the first time since he was a redshirt freshman, Chaz Green -- a three-year starter at right tackle -- played on the left side in Florida’s triple-overtime win over Kentucky.

Replacing injured starter D.J. Humphries, Green flipped positions and manned Driskel’s blindside, squaring off against UK's talented bookends Alvin Dupree and Za'Darius Smith.

But Green's challenge gets even harder this Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS). 

Alabama’s perilous defensive line awaits (the Tide rotate as many as 10 linemen up front), and Green discussed the upcoming matchup, the Gators' underdog role, Roderick Johnson’s debut as a starter and much more.

On Alabama’s defensive front…

“Yeah, they’re deep across the board. They have good talent and they’re also coached well, they bring a lot of different fronts. It’s something we definitely have to pay attention to this week with film and at practice. … No. 47 [Senior Xzavier Dickson] stands out. I was watching some film last night. I’ll be going against him. He’s very, very talented. I’ll have to have good technique against him.”

On playing the role of underdog… 

“I don’t [see it that way]. As a team, I think we take them one game at a time. We don’t pay attention to the rankings and all that. We’ve just got to take it one week at a time and show who we are. … I personally like [being the underdog] that way instead of being a frontrunner. Like I said, we’re out here to show what we can do.”  

On playing left tackle for the first time in years… 

“I thought I did pretty well. The first half I had some issues cutting off the back-side. We knew that was going to be an issue last week with the scheme that they ran with those ends. As the game went on, I think we showed that we can get that taken care of.”

On Roderick Johnson’s first start at right tackle...

“I thought he played well. As a young guy, I’ve been in that position before, so I thought he played very well. He’s got a big challenge this week, too.”

On learning about UF's potential after a trip to 'Bama…

“Given the bunch that Alabama has I would say that it’s a good measuring stick if that’s what you mean.”

On if beating the No. 3 Tide could put Florida back on the map… 

“I don’t know what the map means. Like I said, we don’t pay attention to none of that. I know it may sound arrogant or something, but we’re just focused on getting better each and every week, going out there putting on the best show we can and just playing with each other. Personally, I don’t get involved in all the outside stuff. I’m not a big guy on Twitter. It’s just something that we just try to go out there and just improve week in and week out.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 16, 2014

Jones the "best back" in the SEC?

USATSI_7475002Matt Jones - cbssports.com

GAINESVILLE -- Gators center Max Garcia turned heads Tuesday, calling teammate Matt Jones “the best back” in the Southeastern Conference. 

The senior offensive lineman meant no disrespect to Heisman frontrunner Todd Gurley, South Carolina’s Mike Davis or the two-headed attack Florida will face this weekend -- Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry -- but Garcia backed Jones after the tailback’s monster performance against Kentucky. 

“Not a lot of people are talking about him in the SEC, but we feel like he’s the best back,” Garcia said. “Just to see him work hard like that and be our workhorse on offense, just to see him break tackles -- I think he broke like 16 tackles or something -- that just motivates the offensive line to block just a little bit more, take another bite.”

Jones, a junior, rushed for 156 yards on 29 carries in UF’s 36-30 triple-overtime thriller against UK. He scored the winning touchdown, a 1-yard plunge, after four straight carries in the final period. It was the tailback’s second-career game over the century mark, tallying 176 yards against the Wildcats in 2013. 

“In that last overtime, we just sat there and said, ‘Let’s give it to him and see what happens,'" coordinator Kurt Roper said.

“If it wouldn’t have worked, if we would’ve stalled out at the 10 [yard line] or whatever, we would’ve stalled out. But he was getting the football at that point.”

***** CLICK LINK FOR VIDEO, TIRED OF AUTO-PLAY *****

Jones is most definitely not the top tailback in the SEC. 

In fact, he’s hard-pressed to find himself in the top 10 -- Gurley, Yeldon, Davis, Henry, Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams of Arkansas, Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne all rank ahead of Jones -- but the junior could emerge as a true bellcow this fall.  

What do y’all think? 

How would you rank the running backs in the SEC? 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 15, 2014

Nothing to see here

 

GAINESVILLE -- The best -- but most controversial -- play of quarterback Jeff Driskel’s career almost didn’t happen.

Facing 4th-and-7, down a score in overtime, Florida’s frenzied game-tying touchdown -- a beautiful fade to wideout Demarcus Robinson -- immediately infuriated Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, as the Gators appeared to catch a lucky break.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 7.38.50 PM

The 40-second play clock expired -- at best -- as the ball was snapped, but officials didn’t throw a delay of game penalty so Driskel's clutch play sent the game to a second overtime.

Correct call -- according to the Southeastern Conference league office.

Kentucky appealed the ruling, but the league (essentially) supported the officials’ judgment. 

"At the request of the University of Kentucky, consistent with SEC protocol, the conference office reviewed the fourth down play in the first overtime of the Kentucky-Florida game and has determined the officials applied the proper mechanics and guidelines that are in place to determine when a flag should be thrown for delay of game. The back judge is responsible for delay of game calls. The procedure for the back judge is for his eyes to stay on the clock when it nears zero. When the clock hits zero, he immediately looks from the clock to the ball. If the ball is moving, there is no delay of game. If the ball is stationary, a delay of game penalty is called.''

The Gators were without a timeout, using their lone stoppage earlier in the drive, and coach Will Muschamp said he had one thing on his mind amid all the confusion.

“Hurry up."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 14, 2014

Gator Grades: Utter relief

Kentucky_Florida_Football_8021011_ver1.0_640_480Matt Jones - naplesnews.com

GAINESVILLE -- About that cynicism?

Well … Florida won, but it needed three overtimes to beat Kentucky in a thriller that spanned two days. … Kentucky.

JoJo Kemp’s upset proclamation nearly proved prophetic.

It took a record night from Demarcus Robinson, the best pass of Jeff Driskel’s career and a gutsy effort from guys like Matt Jones (159 yards, game-winning score), Brian Poole (1 INT, game-saving pass breakup) and Antonio Morrison (team-leading 10 tackles), but a win is still a win.

Florida is 2-0 headed to doomsday Tuscaloosa. 

OFFENSE – B-

The Gators gained plenty of yards (532) but quarterback Jeff Driskel was dreadful in the first half (just 7-of-20) and electric wideout Demarcus Robinson was Florida’s passing game. The sophomore delivered a sensational performance, finishing with over 1/3 of Florida’s total offense (216 yards receiving) -- the majority coming after the catch. Driskel rebounded with a solid second half, saving Florida’s season (and potentially Will Muschamp’s job) with a great pitch and catch on 4th-and-7 in overtime. The offensive line couldn’t pass protect a lick, but the interior run blocking was strong throughout. Also where was Brandon Powell? Treon Harris?

DEFENSE - C

The Wildcats averaged 5.77 yards per play Saturday night. They averaged 4.80 yards per play against Ohio. The Gators stuffed UK’s run game, forcing six first-half punts, but Florida’s secondary was spotty all evening. The Gators were burned by busted coverages (see: Garrett Johnson running wide open for a 30-yard touchdown) and bad communication. UF picked off three passes (two via deflections) but Patrick Towles’ unheralded wideouts won plenty of one-on-one matchups. Poole’s play in overtime was huge, as was Keanu Neal’s interception late in regulation. 

SPECIAL TEAMS – B+

Frankie Velez was 2-of-3, missing a crucial kick early in the fourth quarter. Austin Hardin shanked his 52-yarder as time expired, but was solid on kickoffs. Kyle Christy boomed all six punts (48.7 y/p), allowing Florida to dominate field position. Andre Debose electrified the crowd with a pair of nice returns.

OVERALL – C+

We'll see soon enough if Saturday's performance was real or a mirage. The cynicism can wait a week. The Gators are 1-0 in the SEC. They didn’t fold. They found a way to win, even if it took a fortuitous bounce or a no-call. Florida loses that game in 2013. It remains to be seen how the Gators respond moving forward.   

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 13, 2014

GameDay Thread: Florida vs. Kentucky

Unnamed

GAINESVILLE -- Can the Wildcats win in Gainesville for the first time since 1979?

Probably not. 

Although Mark Stoops' team is an improved bunch, the Gators have won the last six meetings by an average of 36.5 points -- and I wouldn't expect that to change tonight. 

Florida needs another solid contest before a trip to Tuscaloosa and I think it covers the 17.5 spread.

Too many playmakers + rowdy crowd = bad combo for UK.

ICYMI:

Will Muschamp had some fun this week, calling into the Gator Hotline as "Bill from Gainesville," joking with athletic director Jeremy Foley.  

 

*************** UF-UK STORYLINES *************** 

Gators lose Jake McGee, turn to Clay Burton at tight end

Roper wants Florida to speed up tempo

UK tailback JoJo Kemp predicts upset 

Treon Harris shines in debut

Gators focus on ball security

Florida refuses to be overconfident

It's a gorgeous day in town, y'all. 

Enjoy the game. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 11, 2014

Honey Thunder: reformed, ready to shine (again)

 

GAINESVILLE -- Demarcus Robinson finally proved what all the fuss has been about.

The dynamic wideout exploded against Eastern Michigan last Saturday, reeling in six receptions for 123 yards, skying for a 70-yard touchdown.

“Hopefully, plenty more to come,” he said, grinning.

Robinson -- who tallied his first career score -- flashed his playmaking skills, elite athleticism and joystick jukes, validating coach Will Muschamp's favorite moniker: "It's not add water, instant player." 

Is that how you envisioned last season?

"Yes," Robinson said. "[It was frustrating] missing the playing time on the field. Not being on the field when I know I could’ve been on the field.”

Instead, it took the sophomore -- or Honey Thunder, as he calls himself -- a little longer to produce than most anticipated.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound wideout from Peach County High (Ga.) -- the same school as former Florida standout Jacquez Green and Robinson’s uncle, Marcus, an 11-year NFL vet -- struggled mightily transitioning away from home last year. 

Robinson missed three games due to suspensions in 2013, and was forced to sit out Florida’s 2014 weather-suspended opener against Idaho due to a “university sanction.” But the sophomore feels his off-the-field troubles are in the past and he’s matured from his tribulations.

“It’s very difficult being away from your family which you’ve been with for 19 years or 18 years,” Robinson said.

“Being with your mom, being with somebody taking care of you and looking over you, then being on your own and making decisions on your own that you’ve never had to make before. It was kind of difficult.”

He continued: “[It’s all about] being more humble, more mature about things. Being more smart about my decisions and the choices that I make.”

Robinson caught just five passes all last season, but another strong training camp put him in the spotlight as Florida’s most talented receiver.

He delivered last weekend.

Robinson praised the efforts of teammates helping him hurdle his issues, specifically highlighting star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III as a supportive friend.

Offseason mentoring from his uncle was key to his development and maturation too, saying he received a phone call following his breakout performance from Marcus.

“He told me I had a great game,” Robinson said. “He said he watched every play. He’s just a good guy all around, let’s me know what I did good and bad.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 09, 2014

Q&A: Clay Burton

20140906_mje_sv7_575.jpg.0_standard_730.0 Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

GAINESVILLE -- With Jake McGee’s season-ending injury, Clay Burton is no longer Florida’s starting tight end in name only.

Burton is now the de facto starter. For good. 

The former defensive end turned tight end reeled in seven passes for 42 yards in UF's opener against Eastern Michigan -- more than doubling his career totals (3 receptions for 24 yards) in one game.

It was a breakout performance for the beleaguered senior, plagued by drops since his transition to offense.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end spoke about his offseason development, his productive performance and the urgency of stepping up in McGee’s absence.   

On his evolution as a player…

“It’s just a lot of hard work that’s kind of finally coming to the surface. I’m thankful for the opportunity to compete and play and earn the job. I’m just ready to have a great senior season and help the team win.” 

On specific work towards improvement…

“We have a JUGS machine, I did that. And just doing a little extra with Jeff [Driskel] and stuff like that, just trying to get out there every time. Whenever Jeff would go out and throw extra, I would try to get with him and stuff like that. Just extra stuff. … You could say there was more urgency because it was my last year.”

On UF's revamped offense optimizing tight ends…

“It felt great. Just really doing anything I could to help the team win. Felt great. The fact I was catching a lot of balls, something I haven’t done in the past, I really enjoyed it.”

On transforming his body… 

“This offseason I've lost like 15 pounds, so that's kind of like goes into what I did in the offseason to try to help myself get lighter and be able to run a little better and stuff like that, better conditioning."

On replacing McGee...

"Whatever his production was going to be as a starter I've just got to keep on doing what I've been doing. I kind of felt like it was always on me, you know, but just keep playing well."

*************** BONUS QUOTES ***************

Coach Will Muschamp on Burton’s transformation… 

“He’s changed his body a little bit. He’s slimmed down. He’s quicker than he’s been, he’s faster than he’s been. He worked extremely hard on the JUGS machine all summer. He hasn’t had many drops at all through fall game and working into game week. All those things, he’s a player who has done everything we’ve asked him to do to put himself in a position to be successful, and he certainly was Saturday.”

Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper on Burton’s breakout performance…

“I can't say that I was surprised. We've been out there quite a bit in practice. I think he’s a guy that has been steady for us the whole time. I think he understands. He's got a lot of experience to grow back on. He just gets the game now because he's older. He plays with a great base and he understands how to be in good positions, so that just carried over to the passing game. Same thing. He gets big picture, so he knows where he fits into schemes and gets in the right spots and makes those plays.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 08, 2014

Humphries sidelined, Gators forced to shuffle OL

1bVu7w.St.56D.J. Humphries (70)

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s offensive line depth -- its principal concern entering 2014 -- will be tested one week into the season.

Starting left tackle D.J. Humphries (high ankle sprain/bone chip) will be sidelined at least two weeks, forcing the Gators (1-0) to reshuffle a unit thin on experience.

Senior starting right tackle Chaz Green will shift to left tackle, while redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson slides into the lineup at right tackle. True freshman David Sharpe is now the backup at both tackle spots.

“Rod is certainly capable of playing very well, and I think he will,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said.

“David [Sharpe] is a young guy who is a very good big athlete. He’s 6-6 330 pounds. He moves his feet extremely well. Trenton [Brown] has got enough reps at the right tackle position for us to feel very confident in all four players playing well.”

Both freshmen tackles performed admirably in extensive playing time against Eastern Michigan, but the challenge increases immediately with Kentucky (2-0) and No. 2 Alabama the next two weeks.

Humphries’ injury will not require surgery, and Muschamp said,  “I hope to get him back after the open week (Sep. 27).”

QUOTABLE

"It's a 2014 Florida team vs. a 2014 Kentucky team. That's all it is to me."

-- Muschamp, on the insignificane of Florida's 27-game winning streak against the Wildcats.  

THIS & THAT
After missing UF’s opener, starting sophomore nickel back Marcus Maye (strained hamstring) is probable for Saturday’s game against the Wildcats. Freshman cornerback J.C. Jackson (Immokalee) reinjured his shoulder and his status is uncertain moving forward. … Florida’s heavyweight bout against Alabama on Sep. 20 will be televised by CBS at 3:30 p.m. ET, the league announced Monday. The Gators travel to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 2010, a 31-6 loss in Urban Meyer’s last season at Florida.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

Numbers never lie?

20140906mjesv7341Matt Jones - Florida Today 

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators lead the nation in six significant statistical categories: scoring offense (65.0 ppg), total defense (125.0 ypg), scoring defense (0.0 ppg), passing defense (45.0 ypg), turnover margin (+5) and red zone defense (.000). 

Excuse me? Oh, they played Eastern Michigan? 

Nevermind. Carry on. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 07, 2014

Gator Grades: Alright, Alright, Alright

C4s_inside1090714_13808825_8colDemarcus Robinson - Tampa Bay Times 

GAINESVILLE -- Whew. 

A week after rain and lightening soiled Florida's original opener, the Gators poured points on poor Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon in The Swamp. 

It was a pay-day game (EMU received $850,000 for the beatdown), but UF badly needed a frustration release. 

The Gators couldn't have asked for a better opponent, as the Eagles were awful and played scared the whole game.

The "statement win" deserves an asterisk, but the Gators don't care. 

OFFENSE - A

Holy moly. Kurt Roper's revamped unit gashed EMU's pitiful defense, gaining 655 yards on a swift 86 snaps. The quartet of tailbacks scored five touchdowns, while 11 different receivers caught passes. Demarcus Robinson is the truth (the hype was legit this time, wow!). The Gators didn't hold anything back (no vanilla talk this year), but perhaps the most encouraging sign for the offense is that is still has legitmate issues to sort out ... yet scored seven touchdowns. Jeff Driskel wasn't a world-beater (continues to struggle with his progressions, accuracy comes and goes) and the offense stalled several times in the redzone. 

DEFENSE - A

The Gators pitched a shutout. You can't do any better than that. [I wrote that last week, still stands.] Florida forced five turnovers, its front-four dominated the line of scrimmage and it yielded just two plays inside its own territory. The Gators tallied nine tackles for loss, as the Eagles appeared terrified to run or pass. UF's youthful secondary was never challenged. One negative, several stupid penalties could come home to roost in the future. 

SPECIAL TEAMS - A

Frankie Velez was perfect kicking field goals (3-3, although his kicks look like ducks every time), and Kyle Christy was sharp in his return as Florida's starting punter. The kickoff coverage unit had some issues, but maybe they were just tired running down the field so many times. 

Andre Debose's electrifying 55-yard punt return was a top 10 play on ESPN. The sixth-year senior finally looks healthy and could be a lethal returner all season. The directional kicks didn't work (Austin Hardin booted the ball out of bounds twice), but that's just nitpicking. 

OVERALL - A

EMU stinks. Really stinks. But the Gators needed to release some rage following a miserable 4-8 season. We'll see soon enough if Saturday's performance was real or a mirage. The cynicism can wait a week.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 06, 2014

GameDay Thread: Florida vs. Eastern Michigan

Unnamed

GAINESVILLE -- FOOTBALL?!?!?!?!? FOOTBALL?!?!?!?

(Maybe?)

The Gators and Eagles are set to kickoff at 4 p.m. (SEC Network), as grey clouds and darkening skies hover over Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. There's currently a flood warning in town until 12 a.m., but the heavy rain has managed to stay away. For now. 

The forecast isn't nearly as promising, but lightening delays appear unlikely. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 2.51.43 PM

Florida is a 38-point favorite, and while that's a lot of points, I think the Gators cover. EMU allowed nearly 500 yards and four touchdowns to Morgan State. The weather is a concern (for spread purposes), but the Eagles are a dreadful team -- especially against a hungry group desperate to end a seven-game skid dating back to last season.    

********* SEASON PREVIEWS *********

Gators' chance to rebound rest with quarterback Jeff Driskel

Grading the Gators: position-by-position look

Florida schedule predictions 

SEC capsules 

 ********* UF VS. EMU ********

Matt Jones is ready to make up for lost time

"Pray for them"

Gators won't make up Idaho game

Three suspended players reinstated

Muschamp fires back at critics 

Florida eager for season opener do-over

Hopefully there's actual football to watch ... and cover.

 

Enjoy the afternoon, everybody. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 05, 2014

Tear down this wall?

 

GAINESVILLE -- Eastern Michigan hasn't been to a bowl game since 1987. The Eagles have won just four games over the last two years. 

Apparently, the not-so-smashing sledgehammer entrance is will continue

The Gators and Eagles (1-0) kickoff at 4 p.m. (SEC Network) on Saturday. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 03, 2014

Muschamp fires back at critics

871632acde9d4f8a96c264661649c931-1 The Associated Press 

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp staunchly defended his decision to reinstate three suspended players -- defensive tackles Darious Cummings and Jay-nard Bostwick and wideout Demarcus Robinson -- for Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan (4 p.m., SEC Network).

The Gators’ weather-cancelled opener against Idaho lasted just a single play, but Muschamp determined the punitive measure was enough and testily criticized those who questioned the reinstatements.

“It's not just about suspending players for games, OK?,” Muschamp said, emphatically, on the SEC coaches’ teleconference.  

“There are a lot of things that go into discipline. It's about altering and changing behavior, which we've done here. I think our discipline speaks for itself and how we've handled our football team. So it's not just about missing games, if it was just about suspensions, you never have an issue, right? So I mean at the end of the day it's more than (just suspensions) and there are a lot of things that go into those situations, a lot more than people know.”

But Muschamp refused to add any additional details to the reinstatements, simply saying, “It's very frustrating for me as a coach or any coach to have someone being critical and you don't even have all the information. So at the end of the day I make the decisions in this program I handle the discipline in this program and it's been handled very well.''

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September 02, 2014

That's gold, Jerry! Gold!

M3TZ5797Gatorzone.com

GAINESVILLE -- "I learned this from [Tennessee] Coach [Phillip] Fulmer. He said, 'You really want those offensive linemen knowing their role and knowing where they fit. When they walk into a restroom and there’s five urinals, the center goes to the middle one. The right guard goes to the second one.' That’s the mindset. I think we’ve been able to create that through spring of, hey, those guys are working at those positions. Hopefully communication is really good there.”

-- Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, on the unity and development of Florida's starting offensive line. 

September 01, 2014

Three Gators reinstated

Hi-res-071ccca549000ba181f1c659a2aefb7e_crop_exactDemarcus Robinson | James Crisp - Corbisimages

GAINESVILLE -- The resolution to Saturday’s weather-suspended opener remains up in the air, but Florida coach Will Muschamp determined a single, 10-second play was punishment enough for three suspended players. 

Sophomore wideout Demarcus Robinson (university sanction) and defensive tackles Darious Cummings and Jay-nard Bostwick (violation of team rules) have been reinstated, and will play Saturday against Eastern Michigan (4:30 p.m., SEC Network). 

“They will be back this week,” Muschamp said. “Not just as far as the suspension of the game, but they’ve handled a lot of other things for me.”

According to Muschamp, Robinson’s university sanction “has been resolved.”

Florida’s coach was asked specifically if the players would be suspended should Idaho return to Gainesville later in the year, with Muschamp saying, “I can’t even answer that question. No 1., we don’t know the situation of the game right now.”

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August 31, 2014

Gators Grades: Seriously...

Bilde-1 Rob C. Witzel - Gainesville Sun

GAINESVILLE -- Florida was particularly sharp in its weather-soiled opener against Idaho. 

OFFENSE - A

Kurt Roper's revamped unit produced zero turnovers on no snaps. That's still pretty good! Quarterback Jeff Driskel led the team on the field without injury or incident. Progress!

DEFENSE - A

The Gators pitched a shutout. You can't do any better than that. 

SPECIAL TEAMS - A

Valdez Showers' 64-yard return stands as Florida's greatest highlight since last October. 

OVERALL - INC

Unfortunately, Will Muschamp's seven-game losing streak still stands. 

August 30, 2014

GameDay Thread: Florida vs. Idaho

Unnamed

GAINESVILLE -- It's baaaaaaaacccckkkkkkk. 

I know the college football season officially kicked off in the middle of the week, but whatever.

Today, it really starts. 

Florida hosts Idaho tonight at 7 (ESPNU), as the Gators look to end their seven-game losing streak. 

There's a 70+ percent chance of thunderstorms, but Florida fans just hope the offense is raining touchdowns.

BOOM!

********** UPDATE **********

Florida announced wideout Demarcus Robinson (university sanction) and defensive tackles Darious Cummings (violation of team rules) and Jay-Nard Bostwick are suspended for tonight's opener. 

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

If you missed ESPN "College GameDay" this morning, the Jimmy Kimmel-inspired "Mean Tweet" read is a must watch (Dan Mullen became an American hero). OnlyGators.com captured Will Muschamp's brief segment, but seriously, click the link. You'll die at Mullen's response. 

 

I'll pick Florida's game a little later, but in the meantime, if you missed a feature or article during the week, no worries. Read up now!

********* SEASON PREVIEWS *********

Gators' chance to rebound rest with quarterback Jeff Driskel

Grading the Gators: position-by-position look

Florida schedule predictions 

SEC capsules 

********* UF VS. IDAHO ********

Kurt Roper bring postive approach to offense

Gators face tough decision on whether to run Driskel

Former Deerfield Beach tailback Brandon Powell offers Gators speedy 'change-up'

Dante Fowler Jr. hopes to feast on Gators' opposing quarterbacks, spark anemic pass rush

Jabari Gorman brings much-needed experience to UF secondary

Former Booker T. Washington High standout Treon Harris wins backup quarterback job 

Gators' defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin very confident in unit 

Florida releases Week 1 depth chart 

Enjoy the game, y'all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 29, 2014

Desperate for 1-0

GAINESVILLE -- Florida, fresh off its worst season in 35 years, hasn’t won a game in nearly 11 months.

Senior linebacker Michael Taylor can barely remember the taste of victory. 

“Arkansas? In like October or something,” he said.

“Way too long.”

The Gators are desperate to end their seven-game losing streak and the lowly Idaho Vandals, losers of 22 games in the last two seasons, could be the perfect remedy.

“Everybody starts out the season undefeated, so I think it's a good chance to start fresh and really showcase all we've done throughout the spring and summer,” quarterback Jeff Driskel said.

“There’s a lot of excitement around our program right now.”

Florida holds the second-longest opener winning streak in the country (24) and Taylor admitted the team is desperate for a locker room celebration and a happy home crowd.

“Definitely excited to get a victory because we haven’t had a victory in a while around here,” he said.

“We’re definitely excited to get this thing started, the whole campus is excited, coaches excited, players excited so we’re definitely ready to showcase our talent. … The seven game losing streak was definitely tough to bear, to have to play through and witness. Getting a win will definitely help; definitely help the whole feeling around the stadium.”

The Gators and Vandals kickoff Saturday at 7 p.m. (SEC Network). 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 28, 2014

Like Father, Like Daughter

M3TZ5797(Courtesy Gatorzone.com)

GAINESVILLE -- "We all have nerves, there’s no doubt about it. I don’t think it’ll ever go away. I was taking my daughter this summer to a swim meet. I could see her getting upset in the back of the car and I was like, “Reese, what’s going on?” She said her tummy was hurting. She was getting anxious to swim in a 6-year-old swim meet. That was an interesting thing to me. I was trying to calm her nerves, and I was like, 'Daddy gets nervous on game day, too, and it’s OK. It’s natural.'

"She swam her first race, and when she came out of the pool, first thing she came up and says, 'My tummy feels better, dad.' Once it started, the nerves go away. It’s natural. You’re going to get the nerves. Once it gets going, it goes away and you’re focused in."

--- Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, on pregame butterflies: at a 6-year-old’s swim meet or a college football game.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 27, 2014

Q&A: Alex McCalister

263-RItpj.AuSt.56

GAINESVILLE -- Dante Fowler Jr. traded Big Macs for quarterbacks as his New Year's resolution, but the junior defensive end needs help resurrecting Florida's poor pass rushing production. 

Enter: Redshirt sophomore end Alex McCalister. 

The 6-foot-6, 245-pounder came to UF as a project, raw but with impressive measurables.

Three years later and 40 pounds heavier, McCalister is ready to display his "freakish" athleticism and is now studying film of NFL icons J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. 

Fowler -- McCalister's roomate and best friend -- teased the sophomore as Florida's surprise impact player this fall.

Recently, McCalister spoke about his 7-foot-2 wingspan, his development and his relationship with position coach Brad Lawing. 

On his slow and steady development…

"Getting that extra weight playing in the 240-250 range is way easier now. When I first came in at like 206 I really couldn't push anything. Now I can hold the point, push the point and the pocket back with that weight.”

On his go-to moves as an edge rusher…

“I [use] my speed and power. I'll stick out my long arm. My long arm pass rush is my golden ticket. There's not a lot of people that can stop that. The long arm my pass rush move. It's because I have a long wingspan [7-2], so using that to my advantage, bigger people can do speed and power, quicker people can do footwork, mine is my left. I use my left.

On the importance of his emergence opposite Fowler… 

“Most teams are going to set to Dante as a big threat, so that just allows others to come aboard, come along and show what they can do to get to the quarterback as well.”

On his relationship with position coach Brad Lawing…

“Coach Lawing’s my dog, Big Law-dog. Coach Lawing has showed me a lot. He’ll show you everything really. He’s been coaching for 92,000 years, so you can learn a lot from coach Lawing.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 26, 2014

Depth Chart dispatch: UF releases Week 1 two-deep

GAINESVILLE -- Drumroll, everyone. Game week is officially here.

Florida coach Will Muschamp met with reporters Tuesday afternoon discussing a myriad of topic -- most notably, the depth chart. 

There were few surprises, but highlights included Treon Harris as the No. 2 quarterback -- for now anyways, Clay Burton over Jake McGee at tight end (first play must be a run) and the addition of nine 'OR's (see: nearly all the special teams jobs, backup cornerback, tailback, right guard). 

As I noted, the kicking situation will remain fluid all season. I still think Kyle Christy wins the punter battle and Kelvin Taylor will be UF's No. 1 tailback. 

*************** Florida's "unofficial" depth chart ***************

Unnamed

Unnamed-1

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 25, 2014

Projected two-deep? The Gators' 2014 depth chart

Icb8Y.St.56

GAINESVILLE -- Florida will release its 2014 depth chart on Tuesday.

It’s largely an academic exercise, as coach Will Muschamp said late last week, “Kids and parents want to start. Coach Muschamp cares about who finishes.”

Really it’s a crapshoot. Florida rotates a ton of players, so the two-deep is probably written in pencil anyways.

But here she goes.

I should note: This is both my best guess at UF’s listed depth chart coupled with reading between the coach-parlance and listing who actually is second string on the field … and not on a piece of paper.

For example: Trip Thurman will not be listed as the backup at three positions, but rest assured, he is Florida’s super-sub offensive lineman and will be the first guy off the bench if any of the regulars inside go down.    

********** OFFENSE **********

POSITION

FIRST TEAM

SECOND TEAM

QUARTERBACK

Jeff Driskel

Treon Harris

RUNNING BACK

Kelvin Taylor

Matt Jones

‘B’ BACK

Matt Jones

Jake McGee

WIDE RECEIVER (x)

Quinton Dunbar

Demarcus Robinson

WIDE RECEIVER (z)

Ahmad Fulwood

Demarcus Robinson

WIDE RECEIVER (s)

Latroy Pittman

C.J. Worton

TIGHT END

Jake McGee

Clay Burton

LEFT TACKLE

D.J. Humphries

Roderick Johnson

LEFT GUARD

Tyler Moore

Trip Thurman

CENTER

Max Garcia

Trip Thurman

RIGHT GUARD

Trenton Brown

Trip Thurman

RIGHT TACKLE

Chaz Green

Roderick Johnson

********** THE SKINNEY **********

Harris wins the quarterback battle with his ability as a special package runner.

The wideout positions are a mess, as Florida will move Dunbar around to get Robinson on the field with Fulwood. Alvin Bailey and Andre Debose aren’t listed, but both receivers will figure into the mix. 

The tight end and ‘B’ positions are tricky -- and perhaps the most interesting note to examine when the official depth chart is released. Where exactly is Jones listed? Guys like Hunter Joyer and DeAndre Goolsby will see snaps. But how many, and where, is largely dependent on how the Gators designate Jones and McGee.

Mack Brown is probably the technical backup tailback, but he won’t see traditional No. 2 carries with Jones and Brandon Powell vying for snaps. 

Lastly, Green or Brown could be the backup left tackle, but recently, Muschamp has praised the efforts of Johnson.

********** DEFENSE **********

POSITION

FIRST TEAM

SECOND TEAM

BUCK

Dante Fowler Jr.

Alex McCalister

NOSE TACKLE

Leon Orr

Jay-nard Bostwick

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Darious Cummings

Joey Ivie

DEFENSIVE END

Jon Bullard

Bryan Cox Jr.

WEAK-SIDE BACKER

Michael Taylor

Daniel McMillian

MIDDLE BACKER

Antonio Morrison

Jarrad Davis

STRONG-SIDE BACKER

Neiron Ball

Jeremi Powell

CORNERBACK

Vernon Hargreaves III

Jalen Tabor

SAFETY

Keanu Neal

Marcell Harris

SAFETY

Jabari Gorman

Duke Dawson

CORNERBACK

Brian Poole

J.C. Jackson

NICKELBACK

Marcus Maye

Brian Poole

********** THE SKINNEY **********

The front-seven is rather straightforward. Davis didn’t do enough in camp to warrant a starting gig over Morrison or Taylor, but he’ll play plenty. The backup SAM spot is whatever, as even Ball won’t be on the field all that much. 

Hargreaves and Neal are assured starters. Beyond that? It’s secondary roulette. Poole, Maye and Gorman could all be shuffled around.

In truth, I have the least confidence in Harris as a No. 2 safety, but where exactly the freshmen corners slide in is anyone's guess too. Jackson was the best in camp, but Tabor has the most upside. They’ll both play a lot. Nick Washington could sneak his way into a rotational spot at safety (over Dawson) if Duke moves to nickel. 

********** SPECIAL TEAMS **********

POSITION

FIRST TEAM

SECOND TEAM

KICKER

Austin Hardin

Frankie Velez

PUNTER

Kyle Christy

Johnny Townsend

KICK RETURNER

Andre Debose

Chris Thompson

PUNT RETURNER

Demarcus Robinson

Brandon Powell

********** THE SKINNEY **********

Townsend is a natural redshirt candidate, while the competition at kicker probably never ends all season. Velez earning a scholarship could be nothing more than a generous gesture to a hard-working fifth-year senior, or it’s a wake-up call to Hardin. 

Thoughts? Comments?

Pull. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 23, 2014

McNeely, Velez awarded scholarships

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp awarded a pair of walk-ons scholarships Friday, honoring wideout and special teams contributor Michael McNeely and kicker Frankie Velez in a team huddle at the end of practice.

 

“We had two available scholarships. Both of those guys will contribute to our football team,” Muschamp said.

“Mike has been a fantastic special teams player and just a wonderful young man and has done everything we've asked him to do. He will be a huge contributor on special teams. Frankie is still in competition for field goal mixing duties and extra point duties and I think he has done a fantastic job in camp and has been here for five years and done everything we've asked him to do as far as those things. Plugging in last year. Both of those guys very well rewarded.”

Muschamp was a former walk-on at Georgia before earning a scholarship, and called the ability to honor others among the more gratifying experiences as a head coach.

“Awesome, absolutely awesome,” he said. 

“I earned a scholarship when I went to school and I’ll never forget the feeling when my coach, Ray Goff, walked up to me and said you earned your scholarship. That means you have now gained the respect of your staff and your teammates, not that you didn’t have it before. But now you’re recognized as one of the guys, not that you weren’t before. And that’s why walk-ons are so important to me. They’re treated no different than a scholarship player. They’re not going to get as many turns and opportunities because obviously we have invested ourselves into some of these scholarship players that we feel like may be further along. But we’re not always right either. So there’s nothing better than that feeling of seeing that today and being able to do that on the field with Frankie and Mike. They’re two very well-deserved young men.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 22, 2014

Fowler, Hargreaves III earn first-team honors

LJrqo.St.56

GAINESVILLE -- The Southeastern Conference released the 2014 coaches’ preseason all-conference teams Thursday, and Florida had seven players selected including star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. 

Hargreaves and Fowler earned deserved first-team honors, while no player from Florida’s offense was named to the first team. 

Right tackle Chaz Green was selected to the second-team offense, and junior offensive tackle D.J. Humphries and tailback Matt Jones were third-team picks. 

Lastly, junior linebacker Antonio Morrison was a third-team linebacker, while sixth-year senior Andre Debose was the coaches’ third return specialist. 

Alabama and LSU led all squads with 11 selections. 

The real question: Which players will earn honors at season’s end?

My guess: VG3, Fowler Jr., Debose, TE Jake McGee, DE Jon Bullard and just maybe, QB Jeff Driskel. 

Y'alls turn. 

Pull. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 21, 2014

Muschamp accepts ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

 

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp completed the popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday evening, accepting a challenge by Alabama coach Nick Saban, formers Gator golfer Chris Dimarco and UF softball coach Tim Walton. 

Muschamp, who completed the ice bath with his son Whit, then challenged his nine assistant coaches, Gators trainer Paul Silvestri and his three first round picks with Florida: safety Matt Elam, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and defensive tackle Dominique Easley.

He also noted he would contribute a donation to ALS research. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 19, 2014

About-face: What depth concerns?

Will-muschamp

GAINESVILLE -- Just three days after calling Florida’s depth along both lines of scrimmage his principal concern (or worse: “a huge issue”), Gators coach Will Muschamp said he was “misquoted somehow.”

“We don’t have depth issues on the offensive and defensive line,” Muschamp explained.

“We have depth that doesn’t that have experience on the offensive and defensive line. We have good depth. We’ve got 15 scholarship offensive linemen. We’ve got 16 scholarship defensive linemen. … We have very good depth. We have some guys that haven’t played a lot.”

Semantics.

Muschamp is absolutely correct that Florida is healthy (unlike a year ago) with plenty of talented players (unlike a year ago) behind its prospective starters along the offensive and defensive lines.

But inexperience still = questionable depth.

That’s not a debatable point.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 18, 2014

Unranked: Gators No. 27 in AP preseason poll

GAINESVILLE -- For the first time since 2003, Florida will open the season unranked.

RON ZOOK RETURNS!

The Associated Press released its preseason poll Sunday, and the Gators stand as the consensus preseason No. 27 team in the country.

Like with the USA Today Amway coaches’ poll, Florida received the second-most “others” votes following its disastrous 4-8 season in 2013. 

But the Gators will have plenty of opportunities to prove their naysayers wrong this fall. Florida plays six teams ranked in the preseason top 25, including No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Alabama. 

The Gators are the first team since 2010 Penn State to square off against the preseason top two teams, per Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News. 

In all, eight Southeastern Conference teams are ranked in the preseason poll: Alabama (No. 2), Auburn (No. 6), South Carolina (No. 9), Georgia (No. 12), LSU (No. 13), Ole Miss (No. 18), Texas A&M (No. 21), Missouri (No. 24). 

The real question: Where does Florida finish the season? Ranked or on the outside looking in?

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

August 16, 2014

Durkin talks pass rush, Gerald Willis & more

03_140807_DurkinDJ_0381_TimCasey(Courtesy gatorzone.com)

GAINESVILLE -- While all eyes will be on Florida’s revamped offense this fall, the Gators’ defense hopes to improve its consistency too.

Coordinator D.J. Durkin spearheaded the nation’s No. 8 unit in 2013, but dispirited by the team’s woeful attack and a season-ending injury to leader Dominique Easley, the defense never found its true traction.

Florida returns seven starters this year, led by all-conference stars Dante Fowler Jr. and Vernon Hargreaves III. The secondary is inexperienced, albeit with a slew of talent, while Florida’s linebackers are a talented but enigmatic group.

Recently, Durkin discussed a number of topics, including the desire to improve the team’s pass rush, the youth in the defensive backfield and more.

On Florida’s pass rush…

“Our guys have done a good job all through camp with that. We’re finding some more guys that can win some one-on-ones. Coach Lawing is doing a great job with those guys. They’re developing. We’ve got to keep them coming. …Dante Fowler’s doing a great job. Jon Bullard’s doing a great job, Alex McCalister’s coming on; We’re even using Neiron Ball and Jeremi Powell in pass rush situations up at defensive end. I think those guys can really get it. We’ll keep it going. Gerald Willis is a young guy too.” 

On Willis’ role this season…

“[He’ll play] Somewhere. Somewhere.  He can play, he’s good. He’ll play and help us. Gerald’s got to keep learning the defense and being in the right spot and all the typical things for a normal freshman. But he’s going to play."

On the five freshmen in the secondary…

“It's been great. We've had great competition. Competition makes everyone better, and they're battling really good. So Quincy [Wilson], J.C. [Jackson], Jalen Tabor, Duke Dawson, all those guys out there, Deiondre Porter as well, they've all had days where you could say this guy is better than the other. But the good news is they're all competing and playing well. They're going to help us."

On key adjustment for young cornerbacks…

"The biggest thing with guys coming out of high school is breaking some habits they may have of things they were doing and got away with in high school technique-wise that we've got to break. They're doing a good job with it. They're taking coaching well and getting rid of those habits. The receivers they're going against every day, those guys are pretty darn good they're going against. They're seeing game speed right now from those guys. That to me has them prepared well because of who they're going against."

On Marcus Maye's emergence at nickel-back...

"That was something we just tried out here going into camp and he's looked really good doing it. Obviously, he has great coverage ability. That nickel spot is a unique thing. That guy's got to be able to bliz, cover, man cover, zone cover, do all those things. Marcus kind of has a feel for it."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

August 14, 2014

The Good, the Bad & (just one) Ugly: Harris shines again, other Thursday practice observations

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GAINESVILLE -- On a sizzling (really boiling) Thursday morning, Florida completed its seventh open practice of training camp, as freshman quarterback Treon Harris continued his red-hot week.

The Booker T. Washington standout, currently battling for UF’s backup job, was impressive for the third straight practice, showcasing his arm-strength, accuracy and decisiveness. Harris produced the day’s top play: a gorgeous seam-route to freshman wideout C.J. Worton, drilling the receiver in stride for a 40-yard touchdown against solid coverage.

With his ability as a duel-threat option, especially as a special package short-yardage runner, Harris appears to separating himself in the battle with fellow freshman Will Grier.

Although Grier has a greater command of the offense, his touch has been suspect of late and his frame could use a year of development.

Meanwhile, Harris had a poor first week of camp, but the freshman is rapidly progressing and has been very sharp in recent practices. 

A decision could be made soon. Stay tuned.

As for the rest of practice, the Gators ran through plenty of special teams drills (punt/kickoff return/field goal practice), 2-minute hurry-up, positional drills and more.

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Lightening Round Style…

GOOD 

WR Ahmad Fulwood & WR Quinton Dunbar (consistent, solid route runners), DB Marcus Maye (best day yet), LB Antonio Morrison (sharp again), freshmen secondary, namely DB Jalen Tabor (highlight-reel tip-pick), RB Mack Brown (long wheel-route touchdown), WR/KR Andre Debose (knee appeared fine, speed fluid)

BAD

WR Demarcus Robinson (too many drops), RT Chaz Green, DB Marcell Harris (too inconsistent), TE Clay Burton (drops, effort), Jabari Gorman (poor eye control)  

UGLY

Nada, well, maybe the No. 2 offensive line (a work in progress indeed) but overall it was a strong practice by the Gators

INJURY UPDATE

Starting tailback Kelvin Taylor (hamstring strain) returned to practice after missing three days.

Dante Fowler Jr. (undisclosed) was non-contact and mostly worked out in “the pit,” but defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said Fowler “is fine” and the day-off was "just precautionary.”

Linebacker Daniel McMillian, offensive lineman Trip Thurman (shoulder) and cornerback Duke Dawson (shoulder) joined Fowler in the pit. 

Tailback Adam Lane (undisclosed), cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (knee bruise) and J.C. Jackson (shoulder) were all non-contact.

Junior tailback Matt Jones (knee swelling) missed practice for the fourth straight day.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton