September 28, 2016

UF baseball coach Kevin O'Sullivan becomes highest-paid college baseball coach

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It looks like Kevin O'Sullivan isn't leaving Gainesville any time soon.

The University of Florida baseball coach, heading into his 10th season at UF, signed a 10-year contract extension over the summer that keeps him with the Gators until at least 2025 and makes him the highest-paid college baseball coach in the country, the Miami Herald confirmed on Wednesday. 

The details of the contract: $1.25 million per year along with a $500,000 signing bonus. The contract also has a buyout clause worth $500,000 for each year remaining on the deal.

Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball was the first to report the contract extension.

O'Sullivan has revolutionized the Gators baseball program since he took over for Pat McMahon in 2008. Florida has won five total Southeastern Conference titles (three regular season championships, two tournament championships) and reached the NCAA Tournament in all nine years under O'Sullivan, the only school to do so during that time. The Gators have also reached the College World Series five times, finishing as the runner up in 2011. He has a UF-best .677 winning percentage since taking over at UF (396-189) with just one losing season (2013; 29-30 record). His 396 wins are the third-most in Florida history, trailing Joe Arnold (434) and Dave Fuller (557).

Sixty-nine of O'Sullivan's players at Florida have gone on to be selected in the Major League Baseball Draft, including eight in the 2016 draft this past June.

He has brought in top-10 recruiting classes every season, including three top-ranked classes (2009, 2013, 2015). UF's 12-member recruiting class this year was ranked sixth by Collegiate Baseball and has six players who were selected in June's draft but opted to come to school instead.

Florida is coming off a 52-16 season in which it set a school record for regular-season wins before being bounced from the College World Series after opening losses to eventual NCAA Champion Coastal Carolina and Texas Tech.

O'Sullivan's contract extension is another step that shows Florida's commitment to keeping the baseball program as one of the elite programs in the country.

Earlier this month, the University Athletic Association announced that a renovation to the baseball complex at McKethan Stadium is part of its $100 million master facility plan.

Additions to the baseball stadium include new club seating, a second-level concourse, an expanded press box and improved player amenities.

Incoming athletics director Scott Stricklin, who will be replacing Jeremy Foley beginning Nov. 1, also has a vested interest in baseball, having previously served as Auburn’s baseball contact as an associate media relations director from 1993-98. He also worked for the Mississippi State baseball team’s media department when he was a student there.

"I love college baseball," Stricklin said Tuesday. "I've seen a lot of SEC baseball games from my roles in different schools in the past, and I'm really excited to work with Sully and what he's got built here. And I'm looking forward to getting more details on what the vision is from the updating the baseball stadium. I think it's a great sport; right? And Florida's been really good at it, and I think we're going to make sure this facility matches that."

Teleconference notebook: Luke Del Rio, Brandon Powell and more

Florida head coach Jim McElwain talked about a handful of topics during his time on Wednesday's weekly Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. Here are a few highlights:

Del Rio will practice today

After sitting out Florida's 38-28 loss to Tennessee with a sprained MCL and not participating in practice on Monday and Tuesday, starting quarterback will return to practice Wednesday in a limited fashion.

Del Rio injured his left knee two weeks ago in the Gators' 32-0 win over North Texas when a Mean Green defensive lineman took a low hit on Del Rio's planted leg.

"He'll throw some (skeleton drills), some routes on air and probably two of the different team periods just to take a look," McElwain said. "We'll see how it goes and see how it responds from there."

Powell cleared to play

The SEC overturned Brandon Powell's first-half suspension for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt that stemmed from him "throwing a punch."

"We've received word that he'll go and you know nothing from there," McElwain said.

In the second half against Tennessee last week, Powell threw his arm out in the air in the direction of Tennessee defensive back Rashaan Gaulden, who flopped as if he was hit. The referees ejected Powell afterward.

"He was full go from Monday afternoon on," McElwain said.

On the season, Powell has recorded 15 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown this season.

Quotables

McElwain on how he hopes his team will respond: "I like the way they've been Monday and Tuesday. Obviously today is a big practice for us from a situation standpoint and yet the focus has been really good and the leaders have been really good, so it's too early to tell. I don't have a crystal ball and yet I think we'll bounce back pretty good." 

On Les Miles' firing at LSU: "This guy has done so much for this league. He's done so much on a national stage. He's obviously, I feel for those families within the organization but more so, you know what, the players and the lives he's touched. I hate to see it and I've got the utmost respect for what he's done and really more so what he's put into other peoples' lives in making a difference. He's a guy we're gonna miss."

On Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb, a Gainesville native: "Even at contact, his legs are constantly moving and he runs behind his pads. Now what do I mean by that? His body lean, his quickness in his jump cuts, especially in the power game, in the inside running game, that's very impressive. And when he gets to the second level, he can go ahead and give you a leg and take it away. He's a hard guy to tackle and get clean shots on and I think that's what really separates him and makes him what he is."

September 27, 2016

Scott Stricklin approved as next UF athletics director

The UF Athletic Association's board of directors on Tuesday morning unanimously approved Scott Stricklin to replace Jeremy Foley as Florida's athletics director.

The Independent Florida Alligator's Ian Cohen was the first to report.

A press conference will be held at 1 p.m. to formally introduce Stricklin.

Foley announced his retirement on June 13 and will step down from his post on Nov.1 after holding the position for 25 years.

"This is a new era for UF," Florida president Kent Fuchs said at the meeting, according to Cohen. "... I couldn't be more pleased."

UF reportedly reached out to Stricklin for a second interview last week after he turned down an initial offer from Florida about a month ago, according to the Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi.

Stricklin has been Mississippi State’s Director of Athletics since May 2010, during which time the program has seen its share of success.

The football team has reached reached a bowl game in each of the past six seasons and spent five weeks at the top of the AP Poll in 2014, marking the first time Mississippi State held the No. 1 spot in program history.

He oversaw the approval for more than $130 million in facilities renovations and upgrades, including a $75 million expansion to the program’s football stadium and the creation of a $25 million football complex.

He was named a 2015-16 Under Armour Athletics Director of the Year, an award which “highlights the efforts of athletics directors at all levels for their commitment and positive contributions to student-athletes, campuses and their surrounding communities,” according to the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.

Stricklin began at MSU in media relations in 1990, according to his bio on Mississippi State’s athletic website. He had stints at Auburn, Tulane, Baylor and Kentucky, before returning to Starkville in 2008 to serve as the athletic program’s senior associate athletic director of external affairs. He became athletic director two years later.

Foley, who started as an intern in the UF Athletic Association in 1976, took over as UF’s Athletics Director in 1992 and has led the program to unparalleled success.

Under Foley’s direction, UF won 27 national titles in 13 sports. Among them are the school’s first three in football (1996, 2006, 2008) and back-to-back titles in men’s basketball (2006 and 2007). The school also won consecutive national championships in women’s tennis (2011 and 2012), softball (2014 and 2015), women’s gymnastics (2013-2015) and men’s track and field (indoor: 2010-2012; outdoor: 2012-2013; 2016). At least one UF team has won a national title for seven consecutive years.

“I never imagined this day to come,” Foley said during his retirement press conference on June 14. “I love what I do and love this place. But at some point in time you have to self-evaluate what's right for the place, in my opinion, and what's right for yourself in your opinion. So that's what I'm doing here.”

September 21, 2016

Highlights from Gators coach Jim McElwain on Wednesday's SEC Teleconference

Second-year UF coach Jim McElwain spoke about a handful of topics during his time on Wednesday's SEC Coaches Teleconference. Here are some highlights:

On sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who is still dealing with a lingering quad injury: "He tried to go a little bit [Tuesday] and you know, he kind of ran around there a little bit. I know he'll do everything he can to play, but as you probably know, guys have to practice on Wednesday and they've got to be able to show they can go. The one thing I will never do is put someone out there that isn't able to really go produce. Time will tell, but I'm expecting him to have at it, but we'll know a lot more after today's practice."

On Luke Del Rio's role this week following the knee injury: "He’s spent a ton of time down in the training room. He’s been, you know, came out to practice the other day and signaled and was there kinda, you know, in all the game plan things. So that room, you know, and you hear me talk about that, the room itself is the same. In other words, those four guys are in there going through the install and he’s preparing himself just like he’s the starter. And that really is what you expect from that position, and the guys around him, the team, they know he’s there. And we’ll take him on the trip for part of that reason. You know, we travel four quarterbacks and he’ll be a guy."

On not playing Rocky Top during practice: "I guess we’ll hear it enough when we get there, so there’s probably no reason to do it now."

On the fact that two SEC schools will be starting Purdue transfer quarterbacks (UF with Austin Appleby; LSU with Danny Etling): "Well, I guess that gives us something to write about. I don't really know what you want me to say. That's really good trivia. I love useless information so I'm going to log that one. Really what makes today the best is the fact that it's Earth, Wind & Fire's 21st of September today. I've kind of been singing that song all day, but let me put some thought into that Purdue thing. That's pretty cool."

 

On if he's ever seen a duck pull a truck (for context, please go here): “You know, somebody told me about that. That’s a classic right there. I gotta find out what the heck that means. But I guess I have watched an Aflac commercial, but I’ve never seen that duck do it, so I don’t know.”

Highlights from Gators coach Jim McElwain on Wednesday's SEC Teleconference

Second-year UF coach Jim McElwain spoke about a handful of topics during his time on Wednesday's SEC Coaches Teleconference. Here are some highlights:

On sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who is still dealing with a lingering quad injury: "He tried to go a little bit [Tuesday] and you know, he kind of ran around there a little bit. I know he'll do everything he can to play, but as you probably know, guys have to practice on Wednesday and they've got to be able to show they can go. The one thing I will never do is put someone out there that isn't able to really go produce. Time will tell, but I'm expecting him to have at it, but we'll know a lot more after today's practice."

On Luke Del Rio's role this week following the knee injury: "He’s spent a ton of time down in the training room. He’s been, you know, came out to practice the other day and signaled and was there kinda, you know, in all the game plan things. So that room, you know, and you hear me talk about that, the room itself is the same. In other words, those four guys are in there going through the install and he’s preparing himself just like he’s the starter. And that really is what you expect from that position, and the guys around him, the team, they know he’s there. And we’ll take him on the trip for part of that reason. You know, we travel four quarterbacks and he’ll be a guy."

On not playing Rocky Top during practice: "I guess we’ll hear it enough when we get there, so there’s probably no reason to do it now."

On the fact that two SEC schools will be starting Purdue transfer quarterbacks (UF with Austin Appleby; LSU with Danny Etling): "Well, I guess that gives us something to write about. I don't really know what you want me to say. That's really good trivia. I love useless information so I'm going to log that one. Really what makes today the best is the fact that it's Earth, Wind & Fire's 21st of September today. I've kind of been singing that song all day, but let me put some thought into that Purdue thing. That's pretty cool."

 

On if he's ever seen a duck pull a truck (for context, please go here): “You know, somebody told me about that. That’s a classic right there. I gotta find out what the heck that means. But I guess I have watched an Aflac commercial, but I’ve never seen that duck do it, so I don’t know.”

September 20, 2016

Quincy Wilson to Tennessee: 'Florida Gators are going to win. Simple as that.'

Quincy Wilson cut right to the chase.

Before a question could be asked, the UF junior cornerback and former standout at Fort Lauderdale's University School let reporters know how Saturday's matchup between No. 19 UF and No. 14 Tennessee was going to play out.

"We have a message from DBU to Tennessee," Wilson said as he stepped foot into Florida's Indoor Practice Facility. "Have you ever seen a duck pull a truck? Ducks don't pull trucks. Nobody has ever seen a duck pull a truck. Florida Gators are going to win, simple as that."

While possibly not the direct source, the analogy Wilson referenced appears in the '90s TV show "Martin": "If I tell you a duck can pull a truck, then shut up and hook the sucker up."

Ducks and trucks and metaphors aside, Wilson looks at recent history and sees the game playing out in Florida's favor.

The Gators have won 11 straight in the rivalry, dating back to a 16-7 win in 2005.

The rivalry has gotten closer in recent years, though, with Florida having to rally from double-digit deficits each of the last two years to win by one point (28-27 in 2015; 10-9 in 2014). The Volunteers, who are the preseason favorite to win the SEC East, are favored to win the game in Knoxville, which is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. on CBS and will host ESPN's College GameDay.

So why is Wilson so confident?

"I know what type of players we have on our team," he said. "I know what everybody can do, what we show in practice, how hard we go.

"I know that we can't be stopped."

So far this year, Florida hasn't been stopped. The Gators defense leads the country in average yards allowed (), average points allowed and total sacks (18), but those numbers come against a trio of teams in Massachusetts, Kentucky and North Texas -- not necessarily the stiffest of competition.

Saturday, Wilson said, is a chance to prove the numbers aren't a fluke. 

"We're going to go out there and play Gator football," Wilson said, "and win."

September 18, 2016

Gators move up to No. 19 in AP Poll

The Gators are climbing up the AP poll yet again this week.

Fresh off a 32-0 shutout victory over North Texas where Florida limited the Mean Green to just 53 yards of offense, UF rose four spots to No. 19 in the AP poll, released on Sunday afternoon. The Gators ranked 16th in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Alabama once again held down the top spot in the AP poll, with Ohio State, Louisville, Michigan and Clemson rounding out the top five.

After playing its first three weeks at home, UF will travel to Knoxville to face No. 14 Tennessee on Saturday. The game, a matchup of undefeated SEC East teams vying for a trip to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, will kick off at 3:30 p.m. on CBS and will be home to ESPN’s College GameDay. It will be the first top-20 showdown in the series since 2006.

Once again, eight SEC schools are in the top 25: Alabama (1), Texas A&M (10), Georgia (12), Tennessee (14), Arkansas (17), LSU (18), Florida (19) and Ole Miss (23).

The full top 25 list is below (first place votes in parenthesis):

1.) Alabama (50)

2.) Ohio State (4)

3.) Louisville (6)

4.) Michigan (1)

5.) Clemson

6.) Houston

7.) Stanford

8.) Michigan State

9.) Washington

10.) Texas A&M

11.) Wisconsin

12.) Georgia

13.) Florida State

14.) Tennessee

15.) Miami

16.) Baylor

17.) Arkansas

18.) LSU

19.) Florida

20.) Nebraska

21.) Texas 

22.) San Diego State

23.) Ole Miss

24.) Utah

25.) Oklahoma

September 14, 2016

Injury report grows heading into North Texas game

The injuries are mounting up.

A half-dozen Florida players could miss Saturday's night game against North Texas, UF coach Jim McElwain announced on Wednesday in his final press conference before the game.

Highlighting the list is sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway (quad), who is highly questionable-to-doubtful for the game against the Mean Green, which is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.

“Callaway went bits and pieces. ... Got three periods in and that was about it," McElwain said. "Did a couple of things. We’ve got to see that. It loosened up really good this morning when he was in for treatment. We got a lot out of that. Didn’t think we got a lot out of it this afternoon.

In addition to Callaway, starting right guard Tyler Jordan is out for at least two weeks with an eye injury. Jordan started both games this season and the final three games of 2015 at guard. In Jordan's absence, redshirt freshman Richerd Desir-Jones is expected to start at right guard. Sophomore Fred Johnson and freshman Jawaan Taylor are expected to split reps at right tackle, McElwain said, adding he hopes to rotate between eight and nine linemen on Saturday.

Here's a synopsis of the rest of the group:

  • Freshman linebacker Jeremiah Moon injured his thumb and will require surgery. He is out indefinitely. Moon made appearances in both games this season and has recorded three tackles.
  • Wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland had another hamstring setback and will be out against North Texas.
  • Center Cam Dillard (elbow) and cornerback Joseph Putu (leg) also suffered injuries this week.
  • Wide receiver Dre Massey, who is out for the year after suffering a knee injury in the season opener against Massachusetts, underwent surgery on Wednesday. McElwain said it went well. 

Callaway 'wasn't himself' during practice on Tuesday

The effects of UF wide receiver Antonio Callaway's quad injury lingered into Tuesday's practice, but coach Jim McElwain remained optimistic that the sophomore could improve this week.

Callaway injured his quad late during the Gators' 45-7 win over Kentucky on Saturday. Despite the injury, the sophomore and former Booker T. Washington standout still had a career game, posting a career-best 129 receiving yards on five catches. His 78-yard catch-and-run over the middle on a deep pass from quarterback Luke Del Rio in the second quarter highlighting the outing.

"You know what, he tried. He went through most of it," McElwain said. "It's an interesting thing that the more you run and get it kind of heated up, the looser it becomes, but he definitely wasn't himself. And yet, you know, a lot of times on Tuesdays, still, that's the case. I'll be looking [and] excited to see how he looks today, especially if it goes all the way through practice because you could see he could run a little bit better as he worked through it."

Callaway has not been ruled out for Saturday's game against North Texas.

September 13, 2016

2017 SEC football schedule released. Here's how the Gators' season shapes up

The Southeastern Conference released the 2017 football season's conference slate. With that, the dates for all of UF's games next season are finalized. Here's what the Gators'  schedule looks like:

Sept. 2: Vs. Michigan (in Arlington, Texas)

Sept. 9: Vs. Northern Colorado

Sept. 16: vs. Tennessee

Sept. 23: at Kentucky

Sept. 30: vs. Vanderbilt

Oct. 7: at LSU

Oct. 14: vs. Texas A&M

Oct. 21: BYE

Oct. 28: vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville) — 3:30 p.m. on CBS

Nov. 4: at Missouri

Nov. 11: at South Carolina

Nov. 18: vs. UAB

Nov. 25: vs. Florida State

Dec. 2: SEC Championship Game (should Florida advance)

September 12, 2016

McElwain 'nervous' about Callaway injury

Antonio Callaway's status for Saturday's night game against North Texas is up in the air.

UF coach Jim McElwain said on Monday that the sophomore is being held out of practice today and could have limited reps for the rest of the week.

"I'm a little nervous about with his leg," McElwain said. "We'll see how that plays out as it goes on."

Callaway injured his quad late during the Gators' 45-7 win over Kentucky on Saturday. Despite the injury, the sophomore and former Booker T. Washington standout still had a career game, posting a career-best 129 receiving yards on five catches. His 78-yard catch-and-run over the middle on a deep pass from quarterback Luke Del Rio in the second quarter highlighting the outing.

Should Callaway not play against North Texas on Saturday, that will put a heavier burden on junior Brandon Powell. It also leaves room for increased reps from the rest of the wide receiver corps, including junior C.J. Worton and freshmen Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond. 

Even though the Gators are facing a bottom feeder Mean Green team that went 1-11 last year, McElwain said he isn't going to change how he handles Callaway's injury.

"Once you're cautious, that’s when you run into problems and that goes for anything you do in life," McElwain said. "You can't go into anything being cautious because as soon as that happens that’s when bad play happens that’s when you play."

September 11, 2016

Gators back in AP Poll at No. 23

Following Florida's 45-7 blowout of Kentucky to open Southeastern Conference play, the Gators re-entered the Associated Press' top-25 poll.

UF checked in at No. 23 in the poll, released Sunday afternoon.

Alabama once again held down the top spot in the poll, with Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan and Clemson rounding out the top five spots.

The Gators climbed back into the poll after claiming their 30th straight win against the Wildcats on Saturday -- the longest active uninterrupted streak in Division I football.

UF totaled 564 yards of offense and forced four turnovers on defense. The Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) had a shutout until the final five minutes of the game.

The SEC leads the way in the poll with eight representatives. However, the top-ranked Crimson Tide is the only school from the conference in the top 10. In addition to Alabama and Florida, the SEC representatives in the top 25 are No. 15 Tennessee, No. 16 Georgia, No. 17 Texas A&M, No. 19 Ole Miss, No. 20 LSU and No. 24 Arkansas.

Florida closes out a three-game homestand to start the season on Saturday when it faces North Texas. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNU.

The full top 25 list is below (first place votes in parenthesis):

1.) Alabama (56)

2.) Florida State (4)

3.) Ohio State

4.) Michigan (1)

5.) Clemson

6.) Houston

7.) Stanford

8.) Washington

9.) Wisconsin

10.) Louisville

11.) Texas

12.) Michigan State

13.) Iowa

14.) Oklahoma

15.) Tennessee

16.) Georgia

17.) Texas A&M

18.) Notre Dame

19.) Ole Miss

20.) LSU

21.) Baylor

22.) Oregon

23.) Florida

24.) Arkansas

25.) Miami

September 07, 2016

Wednesday UF notes: Luke Del Rio progression, injury updates and more

Some quick hit UF football notes from Wednesday

  • UF coach Jim McElwain said on Wednesday’s SEC Coaches Teleconference that he felt starting quarterback Luke Del Rio “did pretty darn good” in his first career start on Saturday against UMass. A redshirt sophomore, Del Rio threw for 256 yards and a pair of touchdown on 29-for-44 passing. Del Rio was the only SEC QB to complete 65 percent of his passes, throw for 250-plus yards, two touchdowns and zero interception in college football's opening week. “I’m kind of looking forward to seeing how he progresses,” McElwain said.
  • McElwain has embraced the opportunity to have Steve Spurrier working in the same building as him. With Spurrier, the former Heisman trophy-winning quarterback and national championship-winning coach, back in the building where he put Gators football on the map, McElwain has taken the chance to pick his brain. “Just being able to visit with him just about things that come up, with as many years as he sat in this chair, the different ways he might have approached (game preparation) ... has really been fun,” McElwain said.
  • Junior wide receiver and South Dade High alum C.J. Worton practiced and repped with the first team during the open portion of practice on Wednesday. He missed UF’s season opener with a high-ankle sprain he sustained during a mid-August practice. "He'll roll like those other guys did last week,” McElwain said. “They all played pretty much the same amount of plays. It just adds to that rotation. It picks up where obviously without Dre [Massey] going, there's some more snaps there that we can take some reps off of those other guys.”
  • Defensive back Duke Dawson (shoulder) and linebacker Daniel McMillian (high ankle sprain) were also full participants in practice.
  • UF announced it will host McElwain’s alma mater Eastern Washington during the 2020 season. This is the first nonconference game the Gators have announced for that season outside of the annual Florida-Florida State game. While Eastern Washington is a Football Championship Subdivision team, the Eagles are no pushover. They defeated Washington State of the Pac-12 45-42 on Saturday and defeated Oregon State 49-46 during the opening weekend of the 2013 season, “It’s an opportunity to get them some more exposure,” McElwain said. “We’re going to have to lace it up.”

September 06, 2016

Gators drop out of AP top 25

Even with a season-opening 24-7 win over UMass, the Florida Gators couldn’t hold their spot as one of the top 25 teams in the country.

The Gators, ranked as the Associated Press' preseason No. 25 team, dropped outside of the top 25 in this week’s rendition of the poll, released on Tuesday afternoon.

Alabama maintained hold of the No. 1 spot after its 52-6 rout of USC on Saturday. Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and Michigan round out the top five.

The SEC, following an overall lackluster opening week, has six teams in the top 25 (Alabama, No. 9 Georgia, No. 17 Tennessee, No. 19 Ole Miss, No. 20 Texas A&M, No. 21 LSU) and saw three of its conference members fall from their position in last week’s poll.

The conference went 7-7 in Week 1 with just one intraconference game (South Carolina/Vanderbilt).

Despite dropping out of the AP poll, the Gators held firm at No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

 

The full AP top 25 ranking is below (first place votes in parenthesis):

1.) Alabama (54)

2.) Clemson (2)

3.) Florida State (4)

4.) Ohio State

5.) Michigan (1)

6.) Houston

7.) Stanford

8.) Washington

9.) Georgia

10.) Wisconsin

11.) Texas

12.) Michigan State

13.) Louisville

14.) Oklahoma

15.) TCU

16.) Iowa

17.) Tennessee

18.) Notre Dame

19.) Ole Miss

20.) Texas A&M

21.) LSU

22.) Oklahoma State

23.) Baylor

24.) Oregon

25.) Miami

September 05, 2016

JUCO transfer wide receiver Dre Massey out for season

UF wide receiver Dre Massey suffered a season-ending knee injury during Florida's 24-7 season-opening win against UMass on Saturday.

Coach Jim McElwain said Massey will have surgery once the swelling subsides.

“There’s obviously a disappointment anytime something like that happens," McElwain said Monday. "And yet, the beautiful thing about teammates, family is they’re there to support, elevate, pick him up. ...  know it was disappointing for him, and yet he’s got a lot of ball in front of him. He’ll get this thing handled. He’s a guy that will work at the rehab piece."

Massey suffered the injury on the opening kickoff, but managed to play through the first half with the weak right knee. He did not record a catch in the game.

"That showed his toughness and his want to do what he can for this football team," McElwain said.

McElwain was hoping that Massey, a versatile 5-9, 180 pound receiver who transferred to UF from Holmes (Miss.) Community College, would help complement receivers Antonio Callaway and Brandon Powell to bring energy back to Florida's offense, which has struggled over the past five years.

With Massey sidelined and the Gators opening Southeastern Conference play against Kentucky on Saturday, UF will rely on a quartet of freshmen to help Callaway and Powell in the passing game. First-year receivers Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain had a respectable season opener, combining for seven catches and 49 yards.

Fellow freshmen Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells were suspended for Saturday's win because of an offseason arrest after shooting BB guns at a UF residence hall. They still face felony charges for the crime. McElwain said they will both rejoin the team for this weekend's SEC opener.

Junior C.J. Worton, who has been hampered with a high ankle sprain, also has a chance to return to the field this weekend, McElwain said.

In other UF football news from Monday:

  • Starting outside linebacker Daniel McMillian sprained his ankle during the season opener. His status for the foreseeable future is up in the air. If McMillian is sidelined, redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson or true freshman Jeremiah Moon could slide in and start alongside Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis. Johnson, who transitioned from safety to linebacker this offseason, had a strong spring camp. Moon has also turned heads since enrolling in August.
  • Cornerback Jalen Tabor and tight end C'yontai Lewis return from their one-game suspensions this week. Tabor is listed as a starting outside corner opposite Quincy Wilson. Lewis is listed alongside DeAndre Goolsby as the possible starter at tight end. "Like I said, they’re great players and great people and care a lot about this team, care a lot about how they can affect the people around them," McElwain said. "We need their energy."
  • Quarterback Luke Del Rio said he plans to graduate in December with a degree in family, youth and community sciences. Even though he's listed as a redshirt sophomore, Del Rio is in his fourth year of college (one at Alabama, one at Oregon State, two at UF).When asked what he plans to do after graduating, Del Rio responded: "Hopefully get a Masters, I don’t know what in yet, but hopefully get a Masters. That is the plan."

September 04, 2016

Three Takeaways from Florida's 24-7 season-opening win over UMass

No. 25 Florida used a late offensive outburst to take a 24-7 season-opening win over Massachusetts. It wasn’t the prettiest of sights, but here are three things Gator fans can take away from the game.

1.) Even Steve Spurrier’s presence couldn’t help the Gators make offensive plays

The Gators had 77 plays on offense Saturday night.

Only three ended up going for at least 20 yards.

On the night where UF honored offensive mastermind Steve Spurrier and, Florida was tried and true to its ways from the past five years and struggled to be explosive on offense against UMass.

"When you try to force [explosive plays], that’s when you turn the ball over, that’s when you get behind," said quarterback Luke Del Rio, who averaged 8.8 yards per completion in his first collegiate start. "Trying to make plays, that doesn’t work. It might work every now and then, but you’re going to lose more times than you win.”

Del Rio ended up settling for screens and checkdowns for most of the game. 

Some of that was by design. Other times it was because the pocket collapsed and he needed to make a play. The rare attempts for long passes were either overthrown or dropped.

The running backs averaged 3.7 yards per carry, with just one of Florida’s 29 carries going for double digits.

The slow and steady method worked Saturday, but the Gators 

“We’ve gotta get ‘em,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “We dropped a couple. … That’s something we’ve got to get a little bit better at, obviously. Like I said, this will be a big week for us in preparation for this game against an SEC opponent that probably thinks they’ll win.”

2.) The Gators have a kicker again

For three years, UF fans winced each time Austin Hardin stepped out to attempt a field goal. And with good reason, too. Hardin’s three-year career ended with him making 16 of his 36 tries (44.4-percent clip). Last year alone, Hardin missed nine of his 14 field goal tries and an almost unheard of five extra-point attempts.

Enter Eddy Pineiro.

The former soccer standout at Miami Sunset who never attempted a field goal in a live game easily made all three of his field goals on Saturday, tries from 40, 49 and 48 yards.

“This is a dream come true, I’ve worked my butt off,” Pineiro said. “Whoever says they don’t get butterflies or any emotions are a complete liar.”

After each kick sailed through the uprights, the crowd roared. Fans chanted his name each time he stepped up for a kickoff (once he realized which side of the field he needed to be on).

And he did enough to keep the game in Florida's favor.

"It’s always nice to have a reliable kicker and we’re really proud of what he’s done," Del Rio said. "He came in here and he earned the spot. We put him in some pressure situations in camp and he delivered, so we’re proud of him.”

3.) UF realized just how much it needs Jalen Tabor

With All-SEC corner Jalen Tabor suspended for Saturday's game, McElwain had the opportunity to give other players additional reps.

When Duke Dawson exited in the first quarter with an arm injury, UF's secondary depth slowly began to crumble.

It showed.

Sophomore Chris Williamson was burned twice, once on a 24-yard completion on fourth and 14 to end the first quarter and again on a 53-yard catch-and-run from Andy Isabella one drive later.

In the second half, UMass quarterback Ross Comis found Isabella on a slant route that turned into a 30-yard gain.

With Dawson indefinitely sidelined, the Gators need all the help in the secondary that they can get. 

That starts with getting their preseason All-American back on the field to pair with junior Quincy Wilson on the outside and safety Marcus Maye.

"It’s going to be huge," linebacker Jarrad Davis said about Tabor's return. "It’s going to help us with the pass rush a lot, he’s going to be back there locking guys down like he always does and we’re going to have a lot more numbers, be able to rotate guys in and out.”

 

August 29, 2016

Breaking down Florida's Week 1 depth chart

The 25th-ranked Florida Gators on Monday released their depth chart for Saturday’s season opener against UMass. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the team heading into Week 1:

QUARTERBACK

Redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio is the starter and Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby is his backup. This was to be expected. UF’s scholarship freshmen – Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask – are still battling for the No. 3 spot. UF coach Jim McElwain said on Monday that he hopes to give both reps early in the season, if possible. “Obviously we have to have an established third at some point,” McElwain said. “We'll kind of see where it goes from there. We haven't made a definitive decision there on that and yet that's something that we need to look down the road at, no doubt about it."

RUNNING BACK

The starting spot is still up for grabs. On the depth chart, UF has the No. 1 back listed as either sophomore Jordan Scarlett OR junior college transfer Mark Thompson OR sophomore Jordan Cronkrite, with redshirt senior Mark Herndon and true freshman Lamical Perine at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. Cronkrite looked to be the frontrunner during the limited portion of practice the media is allowed to see, but he was “banged up” early last week and missed a pair of practices, allowing Scarlett and Thompson the opportunity to gain traction in the battle. During the Gators’ media day earlier in the month, McElwain viewed the running back group as “being as strong as anything on our football team.” All five have an opportunity to receive playing time in the early going of the season before McElwain decides whether to go with a feature back or use a by-committee approach.

WIDE RECEIVER

The Gators have junior Brandon Powell and sophomore Antonio Callaway lined up as the starting outside receivers and junior college transfer Dre Massey as the starter in the slot. This is intriguing, as all three provide versatility and speed to the field. However, what they bring in versatility, they lack in size (Callaway is the biggest of the three at 5-11 and 197 pounds). Behind them are the quartet of senior Ahmad Fulwood, junior C.J. Worton and freshmen Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain. Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells -- another pair of freshmen -- are suspended for the season opener and therefore not on the depth chart.

TIGHT END

With redshirt sophomore C’yontai Lewis suspended, junior DeAndre Goolsby has sole possession of the starting spot for Saturday. He’s the only eligible tight end with valuable playing experience (21 games, six starts). Behind Goolsby are redshirt sophomore Moral Stephens and true sophomore Camrin Knight, a pair which has shown flashes throughout camp but will likely be relegated to spot roles during the season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The starting five from left to right are as expected: Junior David Sharpe, sophomore Martez Ivey, redshirt junior Cam Dillard, sophomore Tyler Jordan and sophomore Fred Johnson. They are the five most experienced offensive linemen McElwain has at his disposal. Backups to watch out for are redshirt sophomore tackle Kavaris Harkless and freshman Jaawan Taylor. Guard Antonio Riles is out for the year with a torn ACL.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Florida’s listed starting defensive line Bryan Cox Jr. (end), senior Joey Ivie (nose tackle), redshirt junior Caleb Brantley (defensive tackle) and redshirt junior Jordan Sherit (end). Don’t expect the group to stop there, however. With redshirt sophomore Taven Bryan, sophomores CeCe Jefferson and Keivonnis Davis and redshirt freshman Jabari Zuninga in the mix, there will be a continuous battle for playing time along the defensive line. One surprising note: True freshman Antonneous Clayton, the No. 2 ranked defensive end and 26th-best player in the 2016 recruiting class according to 247sports, was not listed on the depth chart.

LINEBACKER

Florida’s lone three linebackers with playing experience top the chart. Senior Jarrad Davis is in the middle, redshirt junior Alex Anzalone is on the strong side and senior Daniel McMillian is starting on the weak side. Behind them are redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson (a high school quarterback turned safety turned linebacker) and a trio of true freshmen in David Reese, Jeremiah Moon and Vosean Joseph. Expect to see the freshmen receive a heavy dose of playing time early in order to get acclimated to college ball before SEC play.

DEFENSIVE BACK

With All-SEC corner Jalen Tabor suspended for the season opener, junior Duke Dawson is slated to take his place on the outside opposite Quincy Wilson. Dawson, however, is also listed as the starting nickel corner, so if the Gators go with three corners, JuCo transfer Joseph Putu could get some opportunities for extensive playing time. At safety, redshirt senior Marcus Maye has solidified one of the two spots. The second is still up for grabs with redshirt juniors Nick Washington and Marcus Maye vying for the position. Freshman corner Chauncey Gardner should see some playing time early in the year as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Basically, the starting spots are as expected here. Eddy Pineiro is the kicker. Johnny Townsend is the punter. The combination of Powell, Massey and Callaway will be used on kickoff and punt returns. One player to look out for: Kicker Jorge Powell, who McElwain said will be utilized for onside kicks.

Callaway cleared to play in Gators' season opener; two freshmen receivers suspended

UF coach Jim McElwain confirmed Monday that sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway has been cleared to play in the Gators' season opener on Saturday against UMass.

"He should be ready to go," McElwain said, adding he found out from the university on Friday that Callaway is able to play.

Callaway's status for Saturday was up in the air following a reported sexual assault accusation that had him suspended from the university from January until the start of the Summer B semester in late June. He was found not responsible in the incident during a Title IX hearing on Aug. 12. However, there was controversy surrounding the investigation because the hearing judge -- Jacksonville-based attorney Jake Schickel -- is a UF football and basketball booster. The complainant in the case boycotted the hearing because of it.

Callaway has been practicing with the team since the Gators opened camp in August, with most of his reps being with the first team.

Last season, Callaway set a UF freshman record for receiving yards (678). He also paced the Southeastern Conference in yards per catch (19.4) and recording six touchdowns (four receiving, two punt return.

“That guy’s a pretty good player," McElwain said, "so I think it should be pretty good." 

While Callaway will line up against the Minutemen, two freshmen receivers will not make their debuts on Saturday.

McElwain said Monday that Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells, will be suspended following their BB gun incident in the summer.

They join juniors Jalen Tabor, redshirt sophomore C'yontai Lewis as well as an unnamed senior as players suspended for Saturday's game.

August 25, 2016

Davis, Tabor headline Gators on Coaches' Preseason All-SEC teams

The Southeastern Conference released its Coaches' Preseason All-SEC football teams on Thursday.

Eight Gators made the cut.

Leading the pack for UF are senior linebacker Jarrad Davis and junior defensive back Jalen Tabor, the only two UF players who landed on the 28-member first-team.

Davis is the most experienced returning linebacker on Florida's roster. He finished last season second on the team with 98 tackles — including 11 behind the line of scrimmage — in 14 games. The 6-2, 238-pound linebacker also recorded seven quarterback hurries and 3.5 sacks.

Tabor, an outspoken cornerback, looks to pick up where he left off last season. He led the SEC and was 13th nationally last season with 18 defended passes (4 interceptions, 14 pass breakups). Tabor also recorded two pick-sixes.

Tabor, who was also named to ESPN's preseason All-America first-team, is suspended for Florida's season opener against UMass following a violation of team rules.

Offensive lineman Martez Ivey, defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. and punter Johnny Townsend earned second-team recognition, while offensive lineman David Sharpe and defensive backs Marcus Maye and Quincy Wilson landed third-team preseason accolades.

SEC West powerhouses Alabama and LSU led the conference with 13 representatives on the three preseason teams, with the Crimson Tide boasting an SEC-best seven first-team members.

 

August 23, 2016

Sophomore running back Jordan Cronkrite headlines post-scrimmage injury report

Jordan Cronkrite, just like the rest of Florida's running back corps, has impressed second-year UF coach Jim McElwain throughout practice.

But for the next few days, the sophomore will be on the sideline while the rest of the group gets extra reps.

McElwain said Tuesday that Cronkrite was "banged up" during Friday night's scrimmage. He's expected to return to practice on Thursday, McElwain added.

A former standout at Miami's Westminster Christian, Cronkrite is viewed as the front-runner in a deep backfield for the starting running back job left vacant after Kelvin Taylor departed for the NFL.

Last season, Cronkrite finished with 157 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries. He also had 89 receiving yards and a touchdown on six catches, with his biggest game of his fledgling career coming against South Carolina (6 carries, 24 yards, touchdown; 2 catches, 49 yards, touchdown).

Some other notes from McElwain's press conference on Tuesday:

  • McElwain said the team had a lot of tempo during Friday night's scrimmage and had the opportunity to experiment with situational drills. He said Luke Del Rio -- who was named the starting quarterback one day prior to the scrimmage -- "had a little bounce and that was good to see." The one downside? The offense had three turnovers. “We kind of misjudged throws that were thrown into coverage rather than take what the defense gives us in two of those cases," McElwain said.
  • Wide receiver CJ Worton (foot) and offensive lineman Andrew Mike (undisclosed) are both being held out of practice for the time being. McElwain said he expects to have Worton back on the field at some point this week.
  • Offensive lineman Martez Ivey and linebacker Alex Anzalone, both of whom are limited during training camp as a precaution, have been "really good," McElwain said.
  • The Gators are practicing at night on Tuesday and Wednesday in an attempt to get acclimated to the team's early-season night games. UF's season opener against Massachusetts on Sept. 3 and its Sept. 17 matchup with North Texas are both slated for 7:30 p.m. starts.

 


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