March 10, 2017

SEC Tournament: Florida-Vanderbilt Preview

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn.

The No. 2 seed Gators open Southeastern Conference Tournament action in Nashville at 7 p.m. against No. 7 seed Vanderbilt. Here’s a quick glance at the matchup

How they got here:

As a top-four seed, Florida (24-7) earned a coveted double-bye in the conference tournament. Vanderbilt (18-14) advanced to the quarterfinals following a 66-41 win over 10th-seeded Texas A&M on Thursday. Guard Joe Toye scored a team-high 18 points while Riley LaChance added 14.

Regular season matchups

Vanderbilt swept the Gators in the regular season, taking a 68-66 win in Gainesville on Jan. 21 and then closing out the regular season with a 73-71 win in Nashville. Overall, the Commodores have won four straight against the Gators dating back to last season and are the only conference team second-year UF coach Mike White has not recorded a win against.

Players to watch

Florida

KeVaughn Allen: While the sophomore shooting guard paces the team with a 13.9 points-per-game average and has made a team-best 67 3s, he has a tendency to be streaky and disappear late in games. Florida will need Allen to get hot early and stay hot in order to have a chance to snap its losing streak against Vanderbilt.

Kasey Hill: The lone four-year senior on Florida’s roster, Hill is the team’s de-facto leader on and off the court. The 6-1, 175-pound point guard is having a career year in scoring (9.6 points per game), rebounding (2.3 per game) and assists (4.6 per game). But since dishing out a career-best 12 assists against Auburn, Hill has recorded just 11 assists while turning the ball over 18 times in Florida’s past five games.

Canyon Barry: The SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year, Barry is averaging 12.5 points off the bench and has shown improved defensive prowess over the season.

Vanderbilt

Luke Kornet: Kornet can do it all. He’s third in the conference with 64 blocks. He’s second on Vanderbilt’s team with 13.5 points per game and is making 85.3 percent of his free throws. He can score in the paint. He can make jump shots. He can defend the glass and be a force in the post. In two games against Florida this year, Kornet has scored 35 points on 11-of-23 shooting while also corralling 10 rebounds and blocking three shots.

Riley LaChance: LaChance is the Commodore’s most dangerous offensive weapon from beyond the arc. Heading into Friday’s matchup, the junior has made a blistering 48.8 percent of his three-pointers.

Postseason projections

Florida

The Gators are projected to be a No. 4 seed East Region by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and would play their first two games in Orlando. If the seedings hold, Florida would open against East Tennessee State and would play the winner of No. 5 Notre Dame and 12th-seeded UNC Wilmington in the second round.

Vanderbilt

Lunardi projects the Commodores to be an 11th seed also in the East Region. If the seedings hold, Vanderbilt would start by facing No. 6 seed Wisconsin. If the Commodores advance, they would face the winner of No. 3 seed Florida State and No. 14 seed Winthrop for a spot int eh Sweet 16.

March 07, 2017

Mike White named SEC Coach of the Year, three players also honored

After leading Florida to a 24-7 record and a second place finish in the Southeastern Conference, second-year UF head coach Mike White was named the conference's coach of the year, the league office announced Tuesday.

Under White's tutelage, the Gators are bound for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2013-14 season.

“It’s a prestigious honor," White told reporters in Gainesville on Tuesday. "I’ve always been a fan of the Southeastern Conference and it’s an honor to be a part of this conference. Any time you get an award, and I don’t want to take it lightly, but I also understand awards follow good teams."

And his team earned recognition as well.

Graduate transfer Canyon Barry was named the conference's Sixth Man of the Year, an award given to the best player coming off the bench. Barry, a 6-6, 215-pound guard, finished the regular season averaging 12.5 points per game -- second on the team only to KeVaughn Allen. Barry also broke Florida's record for most consecutive free throws made at 42.

Allen was named to the coaches' All-SEC first team. The sophomore shooting guard paced Florida with a 13.9 points-per-game average and made a team-best 67 three-pointers. Senior point guard Kasey Hill landed on the conference's second team and also earned a spot on the SEC All-Defensive team.

"I have good players. I have a good team," White said. "I have a really, really good staff, and when you’re staff is a team themselves, they’re hitting on all cylinders and all pulling in the same direction and you have good talent and you have good kids, you win games. When you win games, guys get awards. I’m really happy for the individual awards our guys achieved. They’re all very well deserved.”

March 06, 2017

Amanda Butler fired after 10 seasons as Florida women's basketball head coach

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-Photo by Jordan McPherson

Amanda Butler had the chance to make a name for herself in the coaching world at the University of Florida, at the same place and on the same court that she played on for four years as a college student. 

On Monday, her 45th birthday, her chances ran out. UF announced Butler had been fired after 10 seasons. It is the first coaching change under new athletics director Scott Stricklin.

“Amanda obviously loves the University of Florida. She worked tirelessly trying to grow this program and help it achieve consistent success, and her efforts will always be appreciated,” Stricklin said in a release. “These decisions are always difficult, and more so in this instance because of the person Amanda is and how well she is liked throughout our department.

Butler, who played point guard for the Gators from 1990-1994 and turned 45 on Monday, led the Gators to four NCAA Tournament appearances. The Gators, however, never made it out of the first weekend in any of the appearances. Florida never finished higher than fourth in the SEC regular-season standings. 

“I appreciate the opportunity that was given to me as a young head coach to return to my alma mater, a place I love and where I developed many special relationships and memories,” Butler, who finished with a 190-137 record as UF's coach, said in a release. “The future is bright for the program.”

The Gators finished the 2016-17 season with a 15-16 record (5-11 in SEC play), their second losing record in the last three seasons. The season looked promising heading in, with UF ranked No. 20 in the country in the preseason. However, senior guard Simone Westbrook tore her ACL before the season began and star combo guard Eleanna Christinaki transferred out of the program in December after she opted not to accept a half-game suspension for "violation of team culture." UF played most of the season with eight or nine healthy players, four of them freshmen.

“We will immediately begin the process of finding a new women’s basketball coach," Stricklin said. "I believe this program has the resources and support to achieve sustained success and compete for championships.”

Stricklin has had success finding successful women's basketball coaches before. As the AD at Mississippi State, Stricklin hired Vic Shaeffer in 2012 to lead the Bulldogs' women's basketball program. After going 13-17 and 22-14 in his first two years at the helm, Shaeffer has led Mississippi State to three-straight years with at least 27 wins for the first time in program history. The Bulldogs are 29-4 this year and ranked seventh in the country ahead of the NCAA Tournament.

March 05, 2017

UF athletics update: March 5, 2017

In addition to the football team beginning spring practice and the 12th-ranked men’s basketball team finishing second in the Southeastern Conference, a lot has been going on in the world of Florida athletics. Here’s a brief update on each of the other teams currently in the midst of their seasons.

Baseball

The No. 2 ranked Gators are off to a 10-2 start this season, are a perfect 9-0 in their weekend series and most recently finished off a three-game sweep of Columbia by scores of 7-0, 7-2 and 8-4. The pitching staff -- led by weekend starters Alex Faedo, Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar along with senior closer Frank Rubio -- have carried the team in the early part of the year while the offense continues to find its groove. Florida has a collective 2.62 ERA through the first dozen games. Only three hitters are above .300 to start the year.

Gymnastics

The third-ranked Florida gymnastics team finished second in the SEC regular-season race following a lackluster appearance at No. 2 LSU on Sunday. Florida had a season-high eight routines out of 24 score below a 9.8 in the Gators’ 198.150-196.600 loss to the Tigers. It was UF’s first meet of the year with a team score below 197. The highlight for Florida was Alex McMurtry’s 10 on vault, the second of her career on the event and her fifth perfect score overall. It was one of just five scores at or better than a 9.9.

Florida (7-2, 5-2 SEC) finishes its regular season at home against West Virginia on Friday before heading to Jacksonville for the SEC Championships the following week.

Softball

The No. 3 Gators finished their pre-conference slate at 20-1 and found just about every way possible to win. Florida recorded 13 shutouts during its first 21 games -- including a perfect game by senior Delanie Gourley against Iowa on Thursday -- and had 10 games where the team scored at least eight runs (including 7 of those shutout victories). Heading into SEC play, which begins March 11 against Missouri, UF’s pitching staff holds a .70 ERA and has struck out 213 batters compared to just 23 walks. Junior Kayli Kvistad (team-best .479 batting average), redshirt freshman Sophia Reynoso (.456 batting average, team-best 26 hits) and freshman Jamie Hoover (team-best 24 RBI) are pacing the offense.

Track and Field

Florida heads into the two-day NCAA Indoor Championships on Friday following a third-place showing at SECs by the men’s team and an eighth-place performance by the women. UF has 17 total entries (11 men; six women).

Swimming and Diving

The men’s team won its fifth straight SEC Championship back in February, while the women finished seventh. NCAAs are set for March 15-18 for the women and March 22-25 for the men.

Lacrosse

No. 3 Florida lacrosse is off to a 3-1 start to the season and has won three straight after a season-opening 13-10 loss to North Carolina. UF’s high-octane offense is averaging 15.75 goals per game and is led by senior Mollie Stevens (13 goals), junior Shayna Pirreca (12 goals) and senior Sammi Burgess (10 goals).

Women’s Basketball

The women’s basketball team’s season came to an end following a 67-48 loss to Texas A&M in the second round of the SEC Tournament. Florida finished the season at 15-16, its second losing season in the past three years.

Tennis

The top-ranked women’s team is a perfect 10-0 to start the year. The 13th-ranked men’s team is 8-5 to start the season, with four of the five losses coming against top-16 opponents.

No. 12 Florida hoops falls to Vanderbilt in regular-season finale, holds No. 2 seed in SEC Tournament

Despite shooting better from the field and holding a slight rebounding margin, the No. 12 Florida Gators men's basketball team fell 73-71 on the road to Vanderbilt on Saturday to close out the regular season.

Canyon Barry paced Florida's offense with a team-high 15 points off the bench, while KeVaughn Allen added 13 -- all in the first half.

But Florida (24-7, 14-4 SEC) was unable to stop Vanderbilt's Luke Kornet. The center tallied a game-high 24 points on 7-of-17 shooting and sank 8 of his 10 free throws -- including six of eight down the stretch to allow Vanderbilt (17-14, 10-8 SEC) to sweep the season series despite the Gators leading by as many as 12 points.

With the loss -- and the subsequent 71-63 win by No. 9 Kentucky -- the Gators will be the No. 2 seed in next week's SEC Tournament in Nashville and earned a coveted double bye. Florida will face the winner of 10th-seed Texas A&M and seventh-seed Vanderbilt on Friday, with tipoff set for 7 p.m. 

The full bracket with dates and times can be found here (Note the tipoffs are in central time).

March 01, 2017

Kasey Hill not letting Senior Night hype get in way of winning

Kasey Hill knows the importance of Wednesday’s game against Arkansas.

Yes, it will be his final game in the O’Connell Center.

Yes, it marks the beginning of the end of the point guard’s UF career.

But Hill isn’t focusing on that.

With No. 12 Florida coming off a 76-66 loss to Kentucky -- the Gators’ first defeat in five week -- and two games left before the postseason begins, Hill and UF are using this final week of the regular season to regain their stride when it matters the most.

“I just want to go out and win," Hill said.

Continue reading "Kasey Hill not letting Senior Night hype get in way of winning" »

Two-way players and one interesting rule could give UF baseball a unique advantage this season

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-Photo by Jordan McPherson

GAINESVILLE

Kevin O’Sullivan has a set of luxuries on his baseball team this season that have been few and far between during his first nine seasons as the head coach of the Florida Gators: Two-way players.

They are those rare players who have the ability to contribute to the team both on the mound as a pitcher and in the field as position players.

In total, O’Sullivan has seven of these two-way players at his disposal this season. Six of them are freshmen.

“I've always enjoyed those type of players,” O’Sullivan said back in the fall. “I think they're better baseball players.”

They also allow O’Sullivan the opportunity to get creative with how he plays matchups with his bullpen.

Continue reading "Two-way players and one interesting rule could give UF baseball a unique advantage this season" »

February 28, 2017

No. 2 Florida baseball tops UCF 4-3

GAINESVILLE

Nick Horvath saw the signal from coach Kevin O’Sullivan with one out left to go, trotted from center field and made his way back to the mound.

Two innings earlier, the junior lefty fought back from a 3-0 count with the bases loaded to force a groundout on a full count and strand all three UCF runners.

Another full-count battle ensued, this time with Knights pinch-hitter Austin Griffin. And then, with his 17th pitch of the night on his second mound appearance, Horvath struck out Griffin swinging to preserve No. 2 Florida’s 4-3 win over UCF on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium and earn his first save of the season.

“You have to go right at them,” Horvath said. “Right from the get-go.”

In a game where Florida (7-1) recorded just four hits, the Gators opened scoring in the third inning with a Blake Reese double to center field that was about 5 feet short of clearing the fence. Reese himself scored three at-bats later when UCF shortstop Brennan Bozeman failed to properly field a Jonathan India groundball.

Reese added more insurance in the fourth with a bloop single to shallow center to score Keenan Bell before UCF (7-1) attempted to mount a comeback. The Knights scored a run each in the sixth and seventh before Mark Kolozsvary cranked out a solo home run on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the seventh to give UF its decisive score.

Freshman Nate Brown, making his first career start, earned the win after three scoreless innings of work. The righty scattered three hits, struck out five and walked two before giving way to a trio of freshmen in Kirby McMullen (2.0 innings), Andrew Baker (1.0 inning) and Garrett Milchin (0.1 inning). The trio of relievers combined to give up five hits and a pair of runs with one strikeout to two walks against a veteran UCF lineup that had six upperclassmen in the starting lineup.

“There’s a lot to be said about players who have 400 or 500 college at-bats under their belt and guys who are coming to the mound for the first time that have never pitched before in a live game,” O’Sullivan said. “From that standpoint, I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Horvath recorded the pivotal two outs in the seventh before senior Frank Rubio took over to pitch a perfect eighth and get two outs in the ninth. Horvath, who went to center field after his first appearance, came up with a pair of runners on for a situational matchup facing a lefty batter to clinch the game.

Florida will now travel to Orlando for a second midweek game against UCF on Wednesday.

Spring Practice Notes: Quarterbacks have solid first practice

On the final play of Florida's fastball period that ushered in spring practice on Tuesday, quarterback Feleipe Franks fired a pass down the right sideline.

Tyrie Cleveland rose up, caught the pass over cornerback Duke Dawson and landed in the end zone. Touchdown.

"Those guys aren’t afraid to throw the ball down the field, no doubt about it," UF coach Jim McElwain said. "We’ve got a couple guys that can chase it down. That’s fun to see."

It was a solid start to the first practice of the season for the redshirt freshman.

And it was the type of performance McElwain wanted to see from both Franks and fellow redshirt freshman Kyle Trask as they begin their battle to be the Gators' next starting quarterback.

Both Franks and Trask had more positives than negatives during the portion of practice the media was able to watch on Tuesday. Their teammates have been supporter as well.

"They both were trying to compete. They were both trying to make plays," senior wide receiver Brandon Powell said. "That's what you want to see out of your quarterbacks. I mean, it's Day 1, but we'll see how it progresses."

Left tackle Martez Ivey added: "They got to get their first-game jitter out, and after that there’s no ceiling for them. The sky’s the limit.”

More practice notes

McElwain said the team was ahead of schedule following their first practice and was happy with the carry over from the returning players. 

That's something he'll need with a new starting quarterback expected to lead the team and eight defensive starters from a year ago no longer on the roster.

"As you look roster wise, we are relatively young in age and yet we've got some experience," McElwain said. "And you can see that a lot of the guys really carried through on that, and I was really excited about the tempo in which they practiced, the way they attacked it and really the way they helped each other get better -- the competition part was fantastic. And that's exciting to see."

Opening fastball starters

Quarterback: Feleipe Franks

Running back: Jordan Scarlett

Wide receivers: Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland

Tight ends: DeAndre Goolsby and C'yontai Lewis

Offensive line (L-R): Martez Ivey, Tyler Jordan, TJ McCoy, Fred Johnson, Jawaan Taylor

Defensive line: CeCe Jefferson, Taven Bryan, Khairi Clark, Keivonnis Davis

Linebacker: Vosean Joseph, Cristian Garcia, Kylan Johnson

Cornerback: Chauncey Gardner and Duke Dawson

Safeties: Marcell Harris and Nick Washington 

 

2017 Spring Football Primer: Early Enrollees and Position Breakdowns

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-Photo by Jordan McPherson

Take a deep breath, everyone. You can finally say it. Football is back. The Gators open spring practice on Tuesday with the first of 15 practices that will culminate with the Orange & Blue Spring Game on April 7.

A lot notable faces -- among them Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Jarrad Davis, Joey Ivie, David Sharpe, Alex Anzalone, Marcus Maye and Austin Appleby -- are gone, but a talented group returns for head coach Jim McElwain’s third season at the helm as UF attempts to reach the Southeastern Conference Championship for the third straight year.

As things start to get underway, here is a one-stop-shop primer for what to expect from the team this spring.

 

Continue reading "2017 Spring Football Primer: Early Enrollees and Position Breakdowns" »

February 27, 2017

Florida Gators Baseball Week in Review: Week 2

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Photo By Jordan McPherson

Welcome to the second installment of the Florida Gators Baseball Week In Review. Every Monday, I will take a look back at the Gators’ performances, pull out some highlight performances and give a preview for what will be ahead in the following week.

Summary

Florida, ranked as high as No. 2 in the country, dropped its midweek road game against Jacksonville on Tuesday, 3-2, in walk-off fashion before coming back to Gainesville to sweep the Miami Hurricanes by scores of 1-0, 2-0 and 6-2. The series marked Florida’s first sweep over Miami since 2012 and the first time the Gators ever posted back-to-back shutouts against the Hurricanes in a rivalry dating back to 1940.

Continue reading "Florida Gators Baseball Week in Review: Week 2" »

February 23, 2017

Quick hits from Jim McElwain's pre-spring practice press conference

Florida coach Jim McElwain spoke with reporters for about a half hour Thursday morning to give a preview of spring practice, which begins Thursday. Here are some quick highlights.

Injuries

Seven players will be held out entirely from spring practice as they recover from injuries. They are: OL/DL Antonio Riles (torn ACL), WR Freddie Swain (shoulder), QB Luke Del Rio (non-throwing shoulder), DB Quincy Lenton (foot), DB Jeawon Taylor (shoulder), LB David Reese (wrist) and DL Jordan Sherit (knee). 

In addition to that group, three more players -- receiver Dre Massey, early enrollee linebacker James Houston and defensive back C.J. McWilliams -- will only participate in non-contact drills as they recover from ACL injuries.

The injuries leave Florida with just 56 healthy scholarship players heading into the 15-practice spring schedule, including just seven in the secondary.

Quarterback Competition

The battle for the starting quarterback spot will likely come down to redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask as most expect, but McElwain said early enrollee Kadarius Toney -- listed as an athlete on the roster -- will have some opportunities at quarterback this spring.

The third-year head coach said Thursday he is hoping to add a running element to his quarterback position, something he wasn't able to do much with during last season's SEC Championship run.

"It's something we did a little bit with Austin [Appleby], and yet this gives us a little bit more as we move forward," McElwain said. "I mean, we also had those packages in for Dre Massey that we worked on extensively and were able to use it for one kickoff, right?"

McElwain also added that he is looking to see which young player showcases the natural ability to lead the offense.

"The biggest piece we're looking for first and foremost is somebody to step up and say, 'You know what, I'm going to take this and I'm going to lead this team and help the parts around me play better,'" McElwain said. "Now with that, it can't be forced -- it's got to be natural. And really the understanding of how and what we need to do is really what we're looking for.  ... Whether it's routes on air, the accuracy of the throws and where it needs to be and all those type of things and understanding the importance of every moment means something, take advantage of it."

Position changes

Two scholarship players will be changing position groups this spring. Backup offensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones is moving to the defensive line, while tight end Cam Knight will play linebacker.

In addition, offensive lineman Martez Ivey will slide over to left tackle after primarily playing guard during his first two seasons. Defensive backs Duke Dawson and Chauncey Gardner will open the spring as Florida's primary outside corners. Dawson spent most of his Gators career playing in the nickel, while Gardner was a hybrid corner/nickel/safety as a freshman last season.

New Numbers

Florida's five early enrollees have been given their playing numbers. They are as follows:

Kadarius Toney - 17

James Houston - 41

Kyree Campbell - 55

Kadeem Telfort - 76

Kemore Gamble- 88

February 20, 2017

By the numbers: A breakdown of the men's basketball team's eight-game win streak

The No. 13 Florida Gators are riding an eight-game win streak heading into their Tuesday home matchup against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Since the win streak began on Jan. 25 some three weeks ago, the Gators (22-5, 12-2 SEC) have seen records fall and players accomplish career-best marks.

There were the two 100+-point conference wins currently bookending the streak, the school-record 19 3-pointers against LSU, the back-to-back-to-back 30+-point wins, the Chris Chiozza triple-double off the bench against Missouri and the 22-point win against Kentucky, to name a few.

But to get a deeper sense of just what this Florida team has accomplished over the past seven games, let’s allow the numbers to do the talking.

Continue reading "By the numbers: A breakdown of the men's basketball team's eight-game win streak" »

Florida Gators Baseball Week in Review: Week 1

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Photos by Jordan McPherson

Welcome to the first installment of the Florida Gators Baseball Week In Review. Every Monday, I will take a look back at the Gators’ performances, pull out some highlight performances and give a preview for what will be ahead in the following week.

Summary

The Gators, who opened the season as the No. 3 team in the Baseball America poll, swept William & Mary in a three-game weekend series to open the 2017 season. Florida rallied from a 4-1 deficit on opening night to take a 5-4 win before posting scores of 8-1 on Saturday and 11-6 on Sunday to complete the sweep. UF outhit the Tribe 33-19 over the three games and five players post batting averages at or above .400.

Continue reading "Florida Gators Baseball Week in Review: Week 1" »

February 16, 2017

Florida baseball season preview: Outfield

 

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- Photo by Jordan McPherson

In the final installation of our four-part season preview of the Florida Gators baseball team, let’s take a look at the outfielders.

Sophomore Nelson Maldonado

Career stats: .256 batting average, 30 RBI, 6 home runs, 1.000 fielding

Outlook: Maldonado will start in right field and serve as the most veteran presence in a youth-laden starting outfield. The 5-10 right-handed power hitter started 59 games as a freshman in the corner outfield positions. After a slow start freshman year, a 15-game stretch in which Maldonado was used solely used mostly as a pinch-hitter and given spot starts, he came into his own in three-game series vs. Harvard where he went 4-for-11 at the plate with five RBI and his first career home run. He showed sparks of his power from there, most notably during UF’s home win against Florida State on March 15 and with a two-homer game on the road against Kentucky. He’s generally a sound defender as well and will likely extend the territory he covers in right this year with the departure of defensive stalwart Buddy Reed.

Sophomore Blake Reese

Career stats: .286 batting average, 0 home runs, 1 RBI, 1.000 fielding

Outlook: Reese began his collegiate career as a backup middle infielder and primary pinch-runner. Come Friday, he’ll be starting in center field, looking to fill big shoes and a lot of ground like Buddy Reed, Florida’s top infielder before him. Reese is still perfecting his craft in the outfield, but the switch hitter has come into his own after months practicing at a foreign position. He can hit for power from both sides of the plate despite being just 5-11 and 180 and will be a threat on the basepaths once again this year.

Freshman Austin Langworthy

Career stats: N/A

Outlook: Langworthy will be the only freshman to start in the field on Opening Day for the Gators this year, doing so in left field. He’s a 5-9 left-handed batter who has had no problem clearing the McKethan Stadium fence during the fall and spring. Expect to see him in the back half of the order to start the year.

Senior Ryan Larson

Career stats: .260 batting average, one home run, 39 RBI, .983 fielding percentage

Outlook: For three years, Larson more or less platooned with in the corner outfield spots. This year, however, the senior will likely be used mostly as a defensive substitute late in games. Larson is a quality defender with a knack for getting base hits. He will also add depth as a middle infielder.

Freshman Andrew Baker

Career stats: N/A

Outlook: Baker will likely be limited to work on the mound for the first month of the season while he recovers from surgery on his non-throwing hand, but once he is fully cleared, the freshman will likely get spot starts in center field.

Junior Nick Horvath

Career stats: .143 batting average, 5 RBI, 2 home runs, 1.000 fielding

Outlook: Horvath is arguably Florida’s best defensive outfielder and will likely gets looks as a substitute late in games, similar to last year. Horvath, a lefty, will likely also have an extended role out of the bullpen.

Other Options

Freshman Kirby McMullen and freshman Austin Bodrato

Outlook: Both two-way playing freshmen were used more on the mound than in the field during scrimmages. They could get an occasional pinch-hit appearance, but it looks like they will be used more as pitchers than in the field.

Overall Evaluation

The group is young. The outfield lost a chunk of its depth due to a trio of transfers in Jeremy Vasquez, Danny Reyes and Eddy Demarius along with Buddy Reed being drafted. What the group lacks in experience, however, it can likely make up for in its potential. The trio of Langworthy, Reese and Maldonado has a lot of upside. The second weekend of the season against Miami will put the group to the test defensively.

To McElwain, new football assistants are 'natural fits'

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GAINESVILLE

The phrase kept popping up.

As Florida coach Jim McElwain on Thursday introduced his three new assistants -- defensive backs coach Corey Bell, offensive line coach Brad Davis and running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider -- he repetitively mentioned how they were natural fits for the program, exactly what he needs with spring camp opening up on Feb. 28.

There were plenty of candidates for each position, McElwain said.

But in the end, he kept coming back to these three.

“That’s something we hit a home run on,” McElwain said before the new members of his staff took to the lectern for his turn in the limelight.

Here’s a quick look at each of the three new hires. 

Continue reading "To McElwain, new football assistants are 'natural fits'" »

February 15, 2017

Gators starting center John Egbunu out for season with torn ACL

John Egbunu, the starting center for the 15th-ranked Florida men's basketball team, will be out for the remainder of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during the first half of Florida's 114-95 road win over Auburn on Tuesday night.

“We’re all disappointed for John,” second-year UF head coach Mike White said in a release on Wednesday. “He’s been playing really well of late, so it’s a tough blow to him and our team. He’s a great young man, and unfortunately injuries are a part of basketball. He’ll be back even stronger.”

Egbunu, a redshirt junior and former transfer from the University of South Florida, averaged 7.8 points and a team-best 6.6 rebounds this season for the 15th-ranked Gators before the injury. He played in 24 games, including 19 starts. His expected recovery time is 10-12 months.

During Florida's seven-game win streak, the 6-11, 255-pound center was averaging 8.6 points and seven rebounds and committed just 11 total turnovers.

This marks the second straight year Egbunu's season ends with an injury. Egbunu tore a ligament in his right thumb in practice before the 2016 Southeastern Conference Tournament and did not play in Florida's three National Invitation Tournament games. He had surgery in the offseason.

With Egbunu sidelined for the rest of the season, the Gators will have to rely on sophomore Kevarrius Hayes and senior Schuyler Rimmer to carry the bulk of the production from the center position.

Hayes has been Egbunu's main backup this season and also started for a seven-game stretch earlier in the year while Egbunu recovered from a hamstring injury. The 6-9, 218-pound Hayes is averaging 6.2 points per game on a 63.6-percent shooting efficiency this year and is also contributing an average of 3.8 rebounds per game.

Rimmer has mostly been used this season when both Egbunu and Hayes were in foul trouble. In 15 total appearances, the 6-10 Stanford transfer has 22 total points and 14 rebounds.

Gorjok Gak, a 6-11 post player who has seen action in just 10 games as a freshman, is also out for 10-14 days with a foot sprain.

Florida baseball season preview: Infield

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-Photo by Jordan McPherson

The third part of our four-part series breaking down the Florida Gators baseball team takes a look at the infield. Florida lost just one mainstay from last year’s group in first baseman Peter Alonso, who was drafted by the New York Mets in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

Junior SS Dalton Guthrie

Career stats: .296 batting average, 3 home runs, 48 RBI, .976 fielding

Outlook: For the second straight season, Guthrie should be the go-to guy at shortstop and will likely hold down the leadoff spot in the batting order for the third year in a row. The right-handed contact hitter has a knack for getting on base (166 career hits, .364 on-base percentage) and easily sets the tone for the team on both offense and defense. In the field, Guthrie is laser-focused at shortstop, making nearly impossible grabs for groundballs through the left side seem routine and making routine plays look like a run-in-the-mill practice session.

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February 14, 2017

Florida baseball season preview: Relief pitching

FrankRubio

-Photo by Jordan McPherson

The second part of our four-part series breaking down the UF baseball team focuses on Florida’s bullpen.

Senior Frank Rubio

Career stats: 3-2 record in 41 appearances, 3.77 ERA, 62 innings pitched, 32 strikeouts, 13 walks

Outlook: Expect to see a lot of Frank Rubio this season. The senior walk-on and former St. Thomas Aquinas standout is arguably the most polished of Florida’s bullpen pitchers, and coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he won’t be afraid to throw the sidearm righty on the mound. Rubio has seen his workload increase each year he has been with the team and has seen his arsenal of pitches become more polished as well. His fastball touches 93 mph and his slider is a quality strike-inducing pitch. 

 

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February 13, 2017

Florida baseball season preview: Starting pitching

Faedo

Photo by Jordan McPherson 

This is the first of a four-part series breaking down the Florida Gators baseball team ahead of its season opener against William & Mary on Friday. To start things off, let’s take a look at the starting pitchers, which will also include the possible midweek starters.

Weekend Rotation

Junior Alex Faedo

Career stats: 19-4 record in 39 appearances, 3.20 ERA, 166 innings pitched, 192 strikeouts, 37 walks

Outlook: For two years, Faedo was the third man in the rotation behind Logan Shore and A.J. Puk. Come Friday, Faedo will have his turn in the limelight. The junior righty uses a three-pitch mix headlined by his fastball that rests in the mid-90s. He’s coming off a sophomore season in which he led the team in wins (13) and strikeouts (133). Over the summer, the 6-5 righty played with the Team USA Collegiate National Team, during which he 3-0 and posted a 0.56 ERA, struck out 21 and walked just three walks in 16 innings of work. Faedo missed fall practice after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees, but has looked solid in the spring.

Quoteworthy: “[It’s] borderline impossible, at least for me, that’s how I feel when I go up there against him. I don’t know how any team can score a run off of him.” - Junior catcher/DH JJ Schwarz

Sophomore Brady Singer

Career stats: 2-2 record in 23 appearances (one start), 4.95 ERA, 43.2 innings pitched, 38 strikeouts, 17 walks

Outlook: Singer was relegated to the bullpen during his freshman and experienced the highs and lows anticipated of most first-year players. Over the course of fall and spring practice, though, Singer has been virtually untouchable. His fastball has touched 98 mph at points and he’s also throwing his slider and change-up for strikes. If Singer can continue locating his pitches like he has in scrimmages,  he has the potential to be a deadly force on the mound in the Saturday role.

Quoteworthy: “Everyone has trouble hitting him. It's just a power fastball and he's gotten so much better with his command over the fall and the spring, so I feel bad for the teams that have to face him this year because he's tough. He's tough to face." - Sophomore third baseman Jonathan India

Sophomore Jackson Kowar

Career stats: 3-0 record in 12 appearances (six starts), 3.37 ERA, 34.2 innings pitched, 44 strikeouts, 10 walks

Outlook: Kowar held his own early in his freshman year as a midweek starter, but a collapsed lung forced him to miss the back half of his freshman season. Now healthy, Kowar is back to form and is ready to lock down the third spot in the weekend rotation. His fastball rests in the 91-94 mph range and Kowar has been able to command it on both sides of the plate.

Quoteworthy: “[With] Jackson, you just never know. He's got an explosive fastball but you gotta worry about his changeup and his curveball and you just think along, and then you go, 'oh crap. that was 96.' So it's not fun.” - Junior shortstop Dalton Guthrie

Overall Evaluation

Florida’s weekend rotation is arguably one of, if not the, best in the country on paper heading into the season. Faedo has the potential to be the top overall pick in the draft once June rolls around, and Singer and Kowar could both be high first-round selections next year. The group may be as heralded as the starters from a year ago, but their potential is high.

“I don't think anybody's going to feel real sorry for us with Faedo, Singer and Kowar on the weekend,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “That's probably what we anticipate right now.”

Potential Midweek Starters

Freshman Nate Brown

Career stats: N/A

Outlook: Since spring practices have begun, Brown has started against Faedo in every scrimmage. O’Sullivan has raved about the freshman since Fall practices began in October. Brown is a 6-1 righty and comes to UF as the top-ranked right-handed pitcher from Wisconsin, according to Perfect Game. Teammates have compared his consistency to Logan Shore, who served as UF’s Friday-night starter for the better part of three seasons and set the school record for consecutive wins.

Freshman Tyler Dyson

Career stats: N/A

Outlook: Dyson has been a positive surprise since stepping on campus. His fastball has touched 95 mph and O’Sullivan pointed out his potential to have a big role on the team early at different points throughout camp. Dyson is a two-way player who transitioned from being an infielder (he played third base in high school) to a pitcher during his senior year at Bradenton’s Braden River High. He could easily log a few midweek starts early, especially in the first month when Florida has three consecutive weeks with Tuesday-Wednesday midweek matchups.

Freshman Nick Long

Career Stats: N/A

Outlook: Long had a rough time finding his groove during Fall scrimmages but has shown surprising improvements over the last couple weeks. He will likely find himself in the bullpen, but if his endurance is high enough, O’Sullivan might trot the 6-0 righty out for a start or two.

Overall Evaluation

Unlike last season, Florida doesn’t have a proven, tried-and-true pitcher to start on midweeks like they did with Dane Dunning. O’Sullivan will likely mix and match his top freshmen over the first month to see who he likes before deciding on a regular midweek guy.

On Tuesday, we will take a look at Florida’s bullpen.


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