January 22, 2017

Week in Review: Where does UF men's basketball go from here?

All Mike White could do was shake his head.

Costly turnovers, scoring droughts and an inability to defend a sharp-shooting Vanderbilt team compounded the 19th-ranked Gators, who fell to the Commodores 68-66 on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd in the O’Connell Center.

After seven straight wins and a 5-0 record to open Southeastern Conference play, Florida finds itself in the midst of a two-game losing streak and searching for answers.

“We took about six steps backwards,” White said after the game.

So how does Florida get back to where it was a week ago?

Continue reading "Week in Review: Where does UF men's basketball go from here?" »

January 21, 2017

McElwain: Gators will 'kick the door down' in Year 3

During a first-half timeout in the No. 19 Florida basketball team's 68-66 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday, UF football coach Jim McElwain and six of his top returning players took to half court.

Fresh of a second straight SEC East season -- and subsequently a second straight loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game -- McElwain proclaimed Year 3 will be the year the Gators break through on the gridiron.

"When we get back to Atlanta," McElwain said to the sell-out crowd in the O'Connell Center that included a large number of high profile recruits, "we're going to kick the door down."

With National Signing Day less than two weeks away, McElwain is hoping to create as much momentum for the Gators as possible.

As of Saturday, Florida's recruiting class is ranked 24th nationally, according to 247sports' composite team rankings. That puts UF ninth in the SEC and fifth in the SEC East. UF's recruiting class is only 15 strong at this point and does not have a five-star commitment.

The Gators are coming off a 9-4 season where they went undefeated at home for the first time since 2012.

January 20, 2017

No. 19 Gators hoops looking to bounce back against Vanderbilt

Mike White admitted he didn’t get much sleep the past couple nights.

How could he after the way his 19th-ranked Florida team’s 57-53 loss to No. 24 South Carolina?

The Gators finished Wednesday’s loss with a season-low 19 made field goals and failed to convert a three-pointer for the first time in 850 games. UF missed its first nine baskets in a game that remained scoreless for nearly the first six minutes.

“My goodness,” White said Friday. “We just couldn’t buy a basket.”

But when the Gators look to rebound from their loss with a noon home game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, White is hoping the loss to South Carolina is merely a one-time affair.

For the Gators (14-4, 5-1 SEC) to keep their NCAA Tournament resume where it is, they might need that to be the case.

Continue reading "No. 19 Gators hoops looking to bounce back against Vanderbilt" »

January 19, 2017

Luke Del Rio has successful shoulder surgery, will miss spring camp

UF announced Thursday that quarterback Luke Del Rio underwent successful surgery on his non-throwing shoulder and will miss all of spring camp as a result.

Del Rio, the lone quarterback left on Florida's roster with collegiate experience and has two years of collegiate eligibility remaining, missed the final five games of the season with the injury. Graduate transfer Austin Appleby played the final five games of the year, leading UF to a 3-2 record over that span. Del Rio also missed two games after suffering a knee injury against North Texas.

In six games last season, Del Rio completed 56.7 percent of his passes for 1,358 yards and eight touchdowns. He also threw eight interceptions, six of which came in his final three games after returning from the knee injury.

With Del Rio out of commission for the time being, the bulk of the reps in spring practice will go to Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, a pair of freshmen who did not see action in their first season at UF.

Franks, a former four-star recruit out of Crawfordville, Florida, served as the Gators' backup quarterback after Del Rio's shoulder injury. Trask, a two-star product from Manvel, Texas, was the third-string signal caller to close out the year.

 

January 17, 2017

No. 19 Gators hoops travels to face No. 24 South Carolina

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-Photo by Jordan McPherson

Mike White knows the state of his team.

The Florida Gators are in the midst of a seven-game win streak and are playing some of their best basketball of the season.

Confidence is rising for a team that has missed the NCAA Tournament each of the past two years.

But by no means does White think his team has peaked.

“I think it's hard and not a lot of other guys would admit it, but there's probably not many teams that are putting 40 [minutes] together consistently,” White, UF’s second-year head coach, said Tuesday. “Those are the best teams in the country. We're not one. We hope to get there.”

But with a road matchup matchup against a turnover-forcing South Carolina team looming, the 19th-ranked Gators are looking to put as close to a perfect performance together as possible.

Tipoff for the game is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday from Colonial LIfe Arena. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Ball handling looks to be the name of the game on Wednesday. The Gators (14-3, 5-0 SEC) come into the game ranked ninth nationally in turnover margin (+5.4). South Carolina (14-3, 4-0 SEC) is second in the SEC and 22nd overall in the category (+3.6).

“They thrive off turning you over and getting in transition, especially at home,” White said. “They have a great ability to get hands on basketballs, to overpressure you into making unsound decisions, speeding you up. So slowing down, playing off two feet, coming to jump stops, meeting passes, securing the basketball, a lot of fundamental ‘Basketball 101’ things are very important against this defense that creates a ton of havoc.”

Senior guard Sindarius Thronwell paces the Gamecocks’ offense, averaging a team-best 18 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Sophomore PJ Dozier -- who White considers one of the most versatile players in the SEC -- is also averaging just shy of 15 points per game.

For the Gators, most of their offensive production as of late has come from two of its top bench players in graduate transfer Canyon Barry and redshirt freshman Keith Stone.

Over the past four games, the two have combined to score 111 points on a 57.6-percent shooting efficiency (34-for-59). They’ve also made 17 of UF’s 33 three-point baskets in that span.

Last time out

Florida is coming off a gutsy 80-76 overtime home win against Georgia, a game where UF trailed for the entire first half and missed a handful of opportunities to put the game away in the second half. The Gators went on a couple multiple-minute scoring droughts after taking a lead or pulling within one possession -- the most noticeable one a 3:31 span after Barry hit back-to-back three-pointers midway through the period. Hill also missed two of his four free throws in the final 24 seconds that would have sealed the game instead of forcing overtime. UF outscored UGA 13-7 in the five-minute extra period to come away with the win.

Bracketology

In Joe Lunardi’s latest ESPN bracketology, Florida is projected to be a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament in the West Region. This would put the Gators in Salt Lake City to open up the tournament. UF is one of four SEC teams in Lunardi’s latest bracket, joining No. 1 seed Kentucky (South Region), No. 7 seed South Carolina (East Region) and No. 10 seed Arkansas (West Region).

Miami is currently slated as a No. 10 seed in the South Region, while Florida State is a No. 3 seed in the East.

More Rankings

In addition to being 19th in the latest AP poll, the Gators boast the toughest non-conference strength of schedule, the second-toughest overall strength of schedule and the fifth-highest RPI ranking.

More Sellouts

UF announced Monday that its home games against Vanderbilt (Saturday) and Kentucky (Feb. 4) are both sellouts, bringing the season total to five.

January 15, 2017

This week in UF sports: Keith Stone's development, another football assistant gone, lacrosse almost tops US National Team and more

In the early going of an overtime period against Georgia, Florida redshirt freshman Keith Stone took a feed from Kasey Hill just beyond the arc.

Stone, a 6-8 wing who has provided sporadic contributions for the No. 23 Gators, aimed his shot and fired away.

Swish.

"I was wide open,” Stone said. “So coach said knock it down."

The three-point basket gave Florida the lead for good as the Gators went on to defeat Georgia 80-76 in front of a sell-out crowd in the O’Connell Center.

The win improved UF to 5-0 in conference play and extended the team’s win streak to seven games.

But it also showed how much of an impact Stone can provide when he’s on his game.

Continue reading "This week in UF sports: Keith Stone's development, another football assistant gone, lacrosse almost tops US National Team and more" »

January 13, 2017

No. 3 Florida gymnastics dominates home, SEC opener against No. 14 Kentucky

GAINESVILLE

Florida gymnastics coach Jenny Rowland wasn’t with her team this week as the third-ranked Gators went through practice.

The second-year head coach also missed the first two rotations of Friday’s home debut and Southeastern Conference opener against No. 14 Kentucky as she returned from a beret judging training session in Indianapolis.

But when Rowland walked into the brightly lit Exactech Arena midway through UF’s balance beam routine and glanced at the score, she liked what she saw.

Despite a few mishaps on the balance beam and a tumble out of bounds on the floor, the Gators posted their highest score in program history to open conference play, defeating the Wildcats 197.600-196.950 in front of an announced O’Connell Center crowd of 7,683.

“They’re self-sufficient,” Rowland said. “They can come to a meet and be ready to go. Some of them may need a spot here or there, but that’s how we train. … They’re golden. They’re confident.”

Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC) received top performances from veterans and newcomers alike. Junior Kennedy Baker tied for the all-around with a 39.575 and didn’t post a score below 9.875 on an apparatus.

Rachel Slocum, a junior who transferred to the program from Eastern Michigan competing in the lineup for the first time, scored a meet-high 9.950 on the vault while

And true freshman Amelia Hundley dazzled for the second consecutive meet to finish with just behind Baker and Kentucky’s Mollie Korth in the all-around with a 39.500 score. Hundley’s performance was catapulted by solid scores on the uneven bars (9.925) and floor exercise (9.900). Through two collegiate meets, she has yet to score lower than a 9.800.

“I just tried to take it one routine at a time,” Hundley said. “I tried to not get overwhelmed by everything.”

But the Gators weren’t without their flaws.

After taking a 98.975-98.500 lead halfway through the competition, Florida had near falls on the beam from freshman Rachel Gowey, sophomore Alicia Boren and junior Alex McMurtry. Florida didn’t have to count a score below 9.8, but the middle-of-the-road scores allowed Kentucky (1-1, 0-1 SEC) to inch to within a .300 margin heading into the final rotation.

Freshman Maegan Chant fell out of bounds on her final tumbling pass on the floor exercise, resulting in a meet-low 8.975 score and a rare poor performance on UF’s best apparatus.

Florida will go on the road to face North Carolina next week before returning home for a meet with Auburn on Jan. 27.

January 09, 2017

Steve Spurrier re-entering College Football Hall of Fame

The Head Ball Coach is being honored once again.

Steve Spurrier, UF's first Heisman winning quarterback in 1966 and the coach who brought the team to its first national championship 30 years later, will become a two-time inductee to the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of its 2017 class, announced Monday.

Spurrier is just the fourth person to be elected to the hall of fame as both a player and a coach. The other three are Amos Alonzo Stagg, Bobby Dodd and Bowden Wyatt.

He was inducted as a player in 1986, 20 years after he finished his playing career and four years before he started his 12-year run at Florida as a coach that saw the Gators win six Southeastern Conference Championships in addition to the national title.

The full list of 2017 inductees for the College Football Hall of Fame is below:

Players:

  • BOB CRABLE – LB, Notre Dame (1978-81)
  • MARSHALL FAULK – RB, San Diego State (1991-93)
  • KIRK GIBSON – WR, Michigan State (1975-78)
  • MATT LEINART – QB, Southern California (2003-05)
  • PEYTON MANNING – QB, Tennessee (1994-97)
  • BOB McKAY – OT, Texas (1968-69)
  • DAT NGUYEN – LB, Texas A&M (1995-98)
  • ADRIAN PETERSON – RB, Georgia Southern (1998-2001)
  • MIKE RUTH – NG, Boston College (1982-85)
  • BRIAN URLACHER – DB, New Mexico (1996-99)
     

Coaches:

  • DANNY FORD – 122-59-5 (66.9%); Clemson (1978-89), Arkansas (1993-97)
  • LARRY KEHRES – 332-24-3 (92.9%); Mount Union (Ohio) (1986-2012)
  • STEVE SPURRIER – 228-89-2 (71.8%); Duke (1987-89), Florida (1990-2001), South Carolina (2005-15)

January 08, 2017

UF sports roundup Jan. 8, 2017: Gymnastics, track and field, women's basketball, men's tennis

The football team finished its season with a 30-3 win in the Outback Bowl and the 24th-ranked men's basketball team is off to a 3-0 start in Southeastern Conference play.

But what about the rest of the UF athletics program? As spring sports begin to get underway, here's a quick recap of what has happened throughout the week.

Gymnastics

The preseason No. 5 Florida gymnastics team handily won its season-opening meet against N.C. State, topping the Wolfpack 197.100-194.925 on Sunday in Raleigh, North Carolina.

It was Florida's second-highest season-opening score in program history.

Junior Kennedy Baker won the all-around with a 39.500 score, including a 9.925 on floor and a 9.900 on vault.

Three newcomers made their collegiate debut for the Gators (1-0) in the win. Amelia Hundley finished third in the all-around with a 39.375 and did not post a score lower than a 9.800. Rachel Gowey competed on the uneven bars (9.200) and beam (9.875), while Maegan Chant made her debuts on vault (9.825), bars (9.800) and floor (9.700).

Florida will make its home debut on Friday when it hosts Kentucky. The meet is set to start at 6:45 p.m. and a live stream will be available through SEC Network+.

 

Track and Field

Freshman Grant Holloway headlined a slew of top-10 Florida performances at Clemson's Orange and Purple Classic to open the 2017 indoor season on Saturday.

Holloway won the 300-meter dash in a school-record time of 32.8 seconds, a mark that also ranks as the second-fastest by anyone under the age of 20, the third-best in collegiate history and 38th-best in the world. Holloway also posted the second-fastest 60-meter hurdles time in UF history at 7.63 seconds

Also posting top-10 performances at the meet:

  Freshman Clayton Brown, whose 2.25-meter performance on the high jump ranks as the fifth-best mark in UF indoors history

  Freshman Timetria Mitchell -- a graduate of Miami's Northwestern High -- whose 8.38-second performance in the 60-meter hurdles is the fifth-fastest in UF history.

  Junior Lloydricia Cameron -- another Northwestern High graduate -- who bettered her ninth-place spot in the shot put with a 16.35-meter throw.

  And redshirt sophomore AJ McFarland, who moved up to fourth in UF's weight throw rankings with a 20.78-meter performance.

The Gators will next compete and the Commodore Invitational hosted by Vanderbilt on Friday and Saturday.

Women's Basketball

The UF women's basketball team's slide has continued.

The Gators lost both games this week -- a 78-67 road defeat to LSU on Thursday and an 81-62 loss at home Sunday to No. 5 South Carolina -- to fall to 9-7 on the season and 0-3 in conference play. It's the first time the Gators have lost their first three conference games since the 2006-07 season.

The road doesn't get any easier for Florida, which will hit the road to face No. 4 Mississippi State on Thursday before coming home to face a 10-6 Georgia team that has won three of its last four.

Men's Tennis

The men's tennis team sent nine players to compete in the USA F3 Futures pro tournament in Plantation, two of whom have advanced to Monday's final round of qualifying. Junior Chase Perez-Blanco has won all three of his initial matches in straight sets. Freshman Johannes Ingildsen, a Denmark native, needed three sets to win his opening qualifying round matchup against Andrew Hiller before winning his next two games in straight sets.

The main draw will feature 32 singles players and will run from Tuesday through Saturday.

The men's tennis team, coming off an SEC Tournament Championship and an NCAA Tournament run last season that saw them reach the quarterfinals, will begin its dual season on Jan. 21 with a doubleheader against Georgia Southern and Kennesaw State.

 

January 07, 2017

KeVaughn Allen scores 23 to lead No. 24 Florida over Tennessee

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-Photo by Jordan McPherson/For the Miami Herald

With the Florida Gators holding onto a one-point lead against Tennessee with about eight minutes to play, KeVaughn Allen pushed down the court, took a pass from Chris Chiozza and drained a three-pointer that signaled the beginning of the end.

About 30 seconds later, the sophomore shooting guard hit another.

And then he hit a third about three minutes later to essentially shut the door on the Volunteers.

Behind Allen’s season-high 23 points, the No. 24 Gators defeated Tennessee 83-70 in the O’Connell Center for their fifth straight win.

“It feels good to see shots go in, but we really can’t just feed off the shot,” said Allen, who is averaging 17 points on 29-of-68 shooting (42.6 percent) over the win streak. “We’ve just got to feed off of our defensive energy and just try to make that into offense.”

The Gators (12-3, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) did that late against Tennessee.

In a game that featured six ties and 13 lead changes in the first 30 minutes, Florida broke out of a tough first half and pulled away late. The Gators outscored the Volunteers 23-11 in the final eight minutes. Allen scored 14 of those points. Overall, UF shot 66.7 percent from the field in the second half.

It was also a juxtaposition to Tuesday’s conference win against Ole Miss, in which Florida almost let the game slip away in the final minutes. UF also scored 25 points off 19 Tennessee turnovers and outscored the Volunteers 32-28 in the paint. Both teams shot 50 percent from the field.

“It was better than our last time out,” second-year UF coach Mike White said. “When shots are going in, of course, it’s only going to affect the score positively. Just really shot the ball well down the stretch.”

And Florida did pulled out the win despite early foul trouble from both of its main big men. John Egbunu and Kevarrius Hayes both had four fouls with more than nine minutes left to play and combined to score just five points in 21 total minutes. This forced White to rely third-string center Schuyler Rimmer late. The senior and Stanford transfer finished with three points and three rebounds in a season-high 16 minutes.

“He’s as much of a company guy as I’ve ever coached,” White said of Rimmer. “Whether he plays three minutes or eight minutes or has four DNPs in a row, he doesn’t care. It’s not about him. It’s about Florida basketball. It’s about winning. He’s a great teammate every day.”

Forward Justin Leon added a career-high 19 points and graduate transfer guard Canyon Barry added 15 off the bench.

Sophomore forward Admiral Schofield led Tennessee (8-7, 1-2 SEC) with 18 points off the bench before fouling out with 3:48 left to play.

Florida will next travel to Alabama for a 9 p.m. game on Tuesday before returning home for a noon tip against Georgia on Saturday.

January 06, 2017

No. 24 Florida hoops preparing for physical Tennessee

Mike White and the Florida Gators left their conference home opener against Ole Miss on Tuesday with a win.

But they didn’t walk out of their newly renovated home with much excitement.

A late 20-point lead almost went to waste in the final minutes as the Rebels played aggressively and the Gators gave away a handful of sloppy possessions.

“They knew it was coming,” White said of the post-game pep talk he had with his team. “With us being a little bit older, a little more mature, a little more bought in I think, our guys have actually talked about that before we even stepped in the locker room.”

The No. 24 Gators (11-3, 2-0 SEC) hope to have learned their lesson and find a way to generate consistent play from start to finish on Saturday when they host a physical Tennessee team for a 5:15 p.m. tip.

The game will be played in front of a sell-out crowd -- the second in three home games after starting the season with 11 consecutive contests on the road.

“We're finally back at home, so everybody's excited to get their chance and come see us play live,” UF forward Justin Leon said. “I think that gives the fans an extra edge, a boost to want to be there and participate.”

It helps that Florida’s producing, too.

The Gators are second in the conference only to Kentucky with a +12.3 scoring margin, a mark that ranks 41st nationally. Four players are also averaging at least nine points per game, with sophomore shooting guard KeVaughn Allen (14.1) leading the way.

“We're playing a lot better than we were last year,” said Leon, who is second on the team among players with at least 50 attempts in shooting efficiency (.464). “Everybody wants to see us be a good team and with us playing the way we've been playing, it gives the fans something to want to see."

A win against Tennessee (8-6, 1-1 SEC) will provide Florida with another chance to keep moving in the right direction.

On paper, the Volunteers’ record is nothing eye popping.

But Tennessee has held its own against top opponents, taking now-No. 15 Oregon to overtime and losing by two to now-No. 14 North Carolina on the road. Senior guard Robert Hubbs III leads Tennessee with 15.2 points per game.

“Really physical, hard-playing, competitive team,” White said. “Better than their record indicates. And that’s not coach-speak, who can go look at their season schedule, box scores and outcomes. They’ve played some really good teams very competitively.”

The Volunteers dominated Florida last year, too, taking the lone meeting 83-69 and leading by as many as 30 points at one point during the second half.

“We know if we don't come out there with the right mindset,” Leon said, “they can come out here and beat us like they did last year."

Gators DT Caleb Brantley declares for NFL Draft

UF redshirt junior defensive tackle Caleb Brantley announced Friday in a first-person post on SEC Country that he will forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft.

The 6-2, 297-pound lineman from Crescent City, Florida, is highly touted by scouts for his size and skill on the interior of the defensive line. WalterFootball.com ranks Brantley as the top nose tackle in the draft class, and ESPN analyst Todd McShay has him ranked as the 14th-best player on his big board. He's projected to be a first-round draft pick.

"Brantley is more of a disruptor than someone who is going to put up eye-popping production," McShay wrote. "He has a good combination of quickness and functional strength to excel as an interior player at the next level. When he's at his best -- as he was in back-to-back games against LSU and Florida State (5.0 tackles for loss) -- Brantley can be a load to handle in the running game."

In his final season, Brantley recorded a team-best 9.5 tackles for loss and had 31 tackles overall along with three quarterback hurries and 2.5 sacks. He finished his UF career with 81 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

One of his biggest moments came in the second quarter of Florida's 16-10 win over LSU that secured the Gators as the SEC East champions. With LSU surging into the red zone and on the verge to go up 14-0 early, Brantley tackled Tigers tailback Derrius Guice five yards behind the line of scrimmage and forced a fumble. Teammate Kylan Johnson recovered to force the first of what would eventually be three red-zone stops for the Gators in the win.  

Brantley is the fifth UF draft-eligible junior to declare, joining cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson, linebacker Alex Anzalone and offensive lineman David Sharpe. The deadline to make a decision is Jan. 16.

Former UM head coach Randy Shannon promoted to UF's defensive coordinator position

After two years as Florida's linebackers coach and calling a sound defensive game during UF's 30-3 Outback Bowl win against Iowa to close out the season, Randy Shannon -- the former University of Miami head coach -- has been promoted to the Gators' full-time defensive coordinator position, UF announced Friday.

Shannon, 50, served as the interim defensive coordinator for the bowl game after Geoff Collins left to become the head coach at Temple.

“I appreciate the opportunity Coach Mac has given me to be the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida," Shannon said in a release. "We will continue to work together as we have the past two years to put together a plan so our players are in a position to be successful in football and in life.”

The Gators were successful in his first game calling the defense. Florida held Iowa to just 226 yards of offense -- including a season-low-tying 55 passing yards -- and forced three fourth-quarter interceptions to seal the game.

And Florida did it with six defensive starters -- including all three of its top linebackers -- sitting out the game with injuries.

Overall, Florida finished the season ranked fifth in total defense (292.8 yards allowed/game) and sixth in scoring defense (16.8 points allowed/game).

“Coach Shannon has been a big part of our success over the last two years. It’s been really cool to watch him handle his business," UF coach Jim McElwain said in a release. "He really connects with our players and they have a lot of respect for him. More than being a great coach, he is a great mentor and teacher to these young men and that is one of our greatest measuring sticks as coaches.”

Prior to his tenure at UF, which began with the 2015 season, Shannon also served two stints with the University of Miami, the first as a position coach from 1992-1997 and the second as defensive coordinator (2001-2006) and then head coach (2007-2010). He's also had stops at TCU (2012, linebackers coach), Arkansas (2013-14, linebackers coach) and the Miami Dolphins (1998-2006, the last six years as the defensive coordinator).

Shannon has fielded eight top-10 defenses since 2001, including both seasons so far at UF. The Hurricanes won the 2001 national title behind Shannon’s top-ranked defense, a group that forced 27 interceptions and 45 total turnovers while allowing an average of just 9.4 points per game.

He's also had 22 players that he has coached who were drafted in either the first or second round of the NFL draft, 12 of whom came during his second stint at UM. Among the notable names he’s coached are linebackers Ray Lewis and Jonathan Vilma, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, and safeties Sean Taylor and Ed Reed.

There's potential to add up to four more to that list this season in cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson, linebacker Jarrad Davis and defensive lineman Caleb Brantley, all of whom have been projected to go anywhere in the first two rounds.

January 05, 2017

UF cornerback Jalen Tabor heading for NFL Draft

A couple weeks ago, UF cornerback Jalen Tabor said if he was going to declare for the NFL Draft after this season, he was going to do it "the right way."

He wanted to make sure he had the chance to thank everyone who helped him through his journey.

He took that opportunity on Thursday.

The All-American cornerback announced through an article on The Players' Tribune that he is forgoing his final season of eligibility and declaring for the NFL Draft. He is projected as a first-round draft pick by almost every mock draft and is the No. 16 prospect on ESPN analyst Todd McShay's big board.

"It’s an exciting time for me," Tabor wrote in his post, titled "A Letter to The Gator Nation." "I’ve decided to do what’s best for me and my family by continuing to pursue my dreams. But I’m not saying goodbye. I’m saying see you later. Hopefully I’ll make y’all proud and show how my passion for this game continues to shine through."

Tabor finished the season with team-best numbers in interceptions (four) and defended passes (10) while also recording 33 tackles and recovering a fumble. In 37 games (26 starts) over his three-year career, Tabor accumulated nine interceptions and 37 total defended passes. His 28 career pass breakups are tied with Vernon Hargreaves for the eighth-most in program history.

"Tabor has some of the best ball skills among cornerbacks in this draft class," McShay wrote. "... His technique still has some room to grow, but it's hard to ignore Tabor's natural anticipation and elite production."

Tabor is the fourth UF player this year to announce he's leaving school early in favor of the NFL Draft, joining left tackle David Sharpe, fellow cornerback Quincy Wilson and linebacker Alex Anzalone. The deadline for a non-senior to declare for the NFL Draft is Jan. 16.

January 04, 2017

UF linebacker Alex Anzalone thanks Gator Nation, declares for NFL Draft

Redshirt junior linebacker Alex Anzalone announced in a personal letter on UF's athletic website, FloridaGators.com, that he is forgoing his final year of eligibility and declaring for the 2017 NFL Draft.

"Looking back on my journey, I never would have imagined how much this school would impact me," Anzalone wrote. "The relationships I have built with my teammates, friends, coaches and support staff will not only last a lifetime, but truly show how special this university is.

"We've had our ups and downs these past four years, but the commitment and love that so many people have for this program is what makes the University of Florida great.

"I am beyond thankful for being a Gator."

Anzalone is coming off his best season at Florida, finishing third on the team with 53 tackles and recording three sacks and six quarterback hurries along the way. He missed the final five games after injuring his arm against Arkansas.

But before his breakout year this season, Anzalone's career was filled with injuries and limited opportunities early on. After playing mostly on special teams during his first two seasons, the 6-3, 241-pound linebacker from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, started and played in just the Gators' first two games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury that led to a medical redshirt. 

WalterFootball.com ranks Anzalone as the 10th-best inside linebacker prospect in the draft and projects him to be selected between the third and fifth rounds.

With Anzalone's departure, along with the departure of seniors Jarrad Davis and Daniel McMillian, the Gators will see a youth movement at the linebacker position next season. Highlighting the group is true freshmen David Reese and Vosean Joseph as well as redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson. The trio played a pivotal role on the defense late in the season following Davis' and Anzalone's injuries. True freshmen Jeremiah Moon and Rayshad Jackson and walk-on Christian Garcia could also see extensive playing time next season.

Anzalone is the third UF player this year to announce he's leaving school early in favor of the NFL Draft, joining left tackle David Sharpe and cornerback Quincy Wilson. The deadline for a non-senior to declare for the NFL Draft is Jan. 16.

January 03, 2017

Center Cam Dillard transferring from Florida

Offensive lineman Cam Dillard announced via his Twitter account Tuesday night that he plans to transfer from the University of Florida for his final season of collegiate eligibility.

Dillard, who just finished his redshirt junior season, will be immediately eligible to compete as a graduate transfer.

"This school has provided me with a great education and even better friends that I will cherish for the rest of my life," Dillard wrote. "It has been a great ride here with great people surrounding me. I am excited to see what God has in store for my family and I." 

Dillard, a 6-4, 313-pound lineman, played in 25 games during the last three years for the Gators, 19 of which were starts. He started the first eight games this year at center for UF before missing the final five games with a left knee injury.

The Canton, Michigan, native is the second offensive lineman to leave the team following the season. Starting left tackle David Sharpe announced earlier Tuesday that he was going to forgo his senior season in favor of the NFL Draft.

Dillard is also the second UF player to transfer away from the team this season. The other is running back Jordan Cronkrite, a former standout at Westminster Christian.

 

UF cornerback Quincy Wilson going pro

For three seasons, UF cornerback Quincy Wilson has played in the shadow of his teammates.

First it was Vernon Hargreaves, a year ahead of him and now playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being selected in the first round of last year's draft.

Then it was Jalen Tabor, his classmate who he forged a friendship with since they enrolled together.

Still, Wilson showcased his ability to be a lockdown corner during his three years as a Gator. Now, he's ready to prove he can do it in the NFL.

Wilson, a former Fort Lauderdale University School standout, told Sports Illustrated that he will forego his senior season in favor of the 2017 NFL Draft where he has the potential to be a first-round selection.

“I think Florida did the best job they could to prepare me for this moment,” Wilson said in an interview with Sports Illustrated. “I came to play with the best defensive backs and become a great defensive back. They’ve done everything they could to help build me into the football player I am today.”

Wilson wrapped up his three-year career with the Gators with 84 tackles, six interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and 17 defended passes in 39 career games.

He showed off his consistency and athleticism in his junior -- and now, final -- year, grabbing three interceptions and finishing second on the team with nine total defended passes.

Highlighting his performance this year are an acrobatic, one-handed interception on the sideline against Kentucky and his pick-six against Missouri.

“He’s always been good," Tabor said about Wilson before Florida's 30-3 win in the Outback Bowl. "We always been fighting. I feel like he always been good and we always know what we can do."

Scouts and draft analysts have taken notice of the 6-1, 213-pound corner who has the size and speed necessary to play at the pro level.

WalterFootball.com ranks Wilson as the second-best cornerback behind Alabama's Marlon Humphrey and cites Wilson's combination of speed, size and athleticism. ESPN analyst Todd McShay has Wilson as the 25th best player on his draft board

Wilson is the second UF player to announce he is foregoing his senior year for the NFL Draft. Left tackle David Sharpe made the same decision earlier Tuesday.

Gators offensive lineman David Sharpe declares for NFL Draft; corner Duke Dawson returning for senior season

Two of Florida football's draft-eligible juniors have made their decisions.

Starting left tackle David Sharpe announced Tuesday afternoon that he will forego his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft.

Cornerback Duke Dawson, who has played mostly in nickel packages this season, announced that he will return to UF for his senior season.

Sharpe started all 13 games this at left tackle for the Gators this year and has played in 33 games overall throughout his three-year career (27 starts). The 6-6, 357-pound lineman is ranked as the seventh-best offensive tackle by WalterFootball.com, which projects Sharpe as a third-to-fourth round pick. 

Even with Sharpe's departure, Florida still has six offensive linemen with starting playing experience. Sophomore Martez Ivey, who was a tackle in high school and has played guard for most of his UF career, can slide over and assume the left tackle spot. Freshman All-SEC tackle Jawaan Taylor will likely hold onto the starting right tackle spot. Redshirt junior center Cam Dillard, sophomore guard/tackle Fred Johnson, sophomore guard/center Tyler Jordan and redshirt freshman center T.J. McCoy are all expected to be with the team next season. 

"I just want to thank the University of Florida for everything they've done for me and 3 years of life changing experiences," Sharpe wrote on his Twitter account. "... I Appreciate all the support throughout the years and I'll always love Gator Nation."

As for Dawson, the former four-star recruit from Cross City, Florida, played in 12 games this year with seven starts at slot corner, the position formerly held down by cornerback Brian Poole, who is now playing for the Atlanta Falcons and had a solid rookie season despite going undrafted. Dawson finished the year with 24 total tackles (3.5 for loss), an interception returned for a touchdown and a team-best seven pass breakups.

"Boy boy boy after sitting with my parents and coaches this was one of the toughest decisions in my life at this point," Dawson wrote, "after having a great season and many more to come I will be returning for my senior season!!!"

Dawson's return provides Florida with another player in a secondary that is expected to lose a bevy of talent. Redshirt senior safety Marcus Maye's collegiate career is over, and junior corners Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson are expected to turn pro. Safeties Marcell Harris and Nick Washington -- both fourth-year juniors -- have the option to turn pro as well.

Underclassmen have until Jan. 16 to declare for the NFL Draft.

December 22, 2016

UF facility summary provides insight to standalone football complex

Football Complex

- Rendering courtesy of UF Athletic Association

The University of Florida released new information surrounding its proposed standalone football complex.

A 56-page facility summary finalized on Monday paints a general picture of the soon-to-be three-story structure. Its estimated budget is $60 million and is expected to be completed by June 2019.

According to the facility summary, the distance between the football team’s current facilities and the practice fields is “not ideal.”

The football team’s current offices are housed in the Heavener Complex attached to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and the weight room is in the stadium’s south end zone. Following the completion of the complex, the 25,000-square-foot weight room in the football stadium will be renovated and become a weight room for all UF athletes.

“The proposed new facility would be co-located with the practice fields solving the current issues with travel time and safety concerns with athletes crossing the road fully dressed for practice etc.,” the project plan reads. “Expansion of the existing space was looked at but was not really optimal for the adjacencies needed internally to the facility itself, not to mention the needed colocation to the practice fields.”

As previously reported, the 130,000-square-foot standalone football complex will be located on the north end of James G. Pressly Stadium, which is home to UF’s soccer and track and field programs and is immediately west of the football team’s practice fields. It will overtake the grass area where the track team’s throwing events took place.

Amenities inside the facility will include an entry lobby, a locker room with a players lounge, a hydrotherapy room with a “spa-like feel,” a recruiting room and meeting rooms, among others.

Adjacent to the football complex will be an athletes-only dining hall, large enough for all about 450 athletes, according to the project.

The standalone football complex is part of the UF Athletic Association’s $100 million facility master plan, which also includes renovations to the baseball and softball complexes.

The plan was approved in September by the UAA under former athletics director Jeremy Foley.

At the time of the announcement, Foley said the goal was to ensure funding went to facilities and items that would benefit the athletic program.

“We’ll build something that the football team can really use and be really good,” Foley said. “That’s kind of what we do.”

It’s the second big facility upgrade for the football team in the last as many years. In 2015, UF unveiled its $17 million indoor football practice facility.

“We’re getting a lot of really good things going on as far as commitment to the facilities,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “The things we need to do … that’s for the sustainability of the University of Florida football program and its brand. We’ve been behind, but we’re catching up. I know that’s something that is making a lot of people nervous around the country, and that’s a good thing.”

December 21, 2016

Gators hoops dominates in home opener against Arkansas-Little Rock

With his players huddled around him minutes before the tipoff that would usher in the newly renovated Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Florida men's basketball coach Mike White gave his team a quick message.

"Let's have fun. Let's battle. Let's get a little better," the coach said.

By the look at their performance against Arkansas-Little Rock, it seems the Gators took the speech to heart.

Behind five players with double-digit scoring, a first career double-double from senior point guard Kasey Hill and newfound success from three-point range, the Gators defeated the Trojans 94-71 on Wednesday in front of an announced crowd of 10,655.

It was a long road leading up to Wednesday's home debut.

The Gators (9-3) spent 11 games on the road to start the season. They traveled nearly 2,600 miles, spanning the state of Florida and making a trip to New York City in the middle.

"It's been crazy, but it definitely brought us together," Hill said in a post-game interview on the SEC Network. "... It helped us a lot. Playing on the road is tough, and we finally got a chance to play here in front of our fans."

On Wednesday, there was no traveling. For the first time since March 1, the Florida Gators men's basketball team played at home. For the first time this season, they had the Rowdy Reptile student section in their corner.

And in return, they put out their best offensive performance of the season right before beginning Southeastern Conference play.

Florida shot 59.6 percent from the field (34 for 57) and made a season-high 16 three-pointers, two shy of the school record set back in 1996.

Junior forward Devin Robinson paced Florida with a career-high 21 points and tacked on seven rebounds. Sophomore shooting guard KeVaughn Allen added 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting (3-of-5 from three-point range) while also recording five rebounds and three assists. Graduate transfer guard Canyon Barry (15 points), sophomore center Kevarrius Hayes (12 points, eight rebounds),and Hill (11 points, 11 assists) also ended the game with double-digit points. 

Florida went into halftime with a 56-27 lead, making 14 of its final 18 shots before the break. The team made 22 of its 32 shots from the field, a 68.8-percent shooting efficiency that stands as the Gators' best first-half performance of the year. Allen, Robinson and Hill combined to score 40 points on 15-of-19 shooting, including an 8-of-11 mark from three-point range. 

UF extended its lead to as much as 35 midway into the second half before Arkansas-Little Rock (9-4) began to close the gap. The Trojans outscored Florida 29-17 in the final 13 minutes of the game. Lis Shoshi led Arkansas-Little Rock with 19 points and was one of three UALR players with at least 10 points.

"When you make shots, you can't change your identity," White said in a post-game interview on the SEC Network. "You can't get out of a stance and feel better about yourself. It wasn't our best defensive performance and somehow, you have to find your best offensive performance and your best defensive performance and find that for 30 [minutes] and then find it for 35 and at some point we've got to do it for 40."

Florida will have the rest of the week off before opening SEC play on the road against Arkansas on Dec. 29. After that, the Gators will play three of its next four games at home.


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