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33 posts from September 2007

September 30, 2007

Blame Lakeland for Chris Rainey's bum shoulder

Because Lakeland doesn't hate me enough already ... it's the Dreadnaughts' fault Florida running back Chris Rainey's season is over. Rainey will have shoulder surgery soon, Florida coach Urban Meyer told reporters on Sunday. "He had an unstable shoulder when he arrived at Florida," Meyer said.

This is how it happened...

GAINESVILLE -- Guess they don't care much for the kid's future. That was my initial reaction when Lakeland's coaching staff made the decision to leave its star running back, Chris Rainey, in last season's Class 5A state championship despite an obvious shoulder injury.

Rainey Rainey, who finished the game with 276 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns, told reporters after the game that he played the end of the fourth quarter and two overtimes with a dislocated shoulder. I'm no doctor but playing football with a dislocated shoulder doesn't sound like the best idea. You know those injuries you hear about that can't get any worse if the athlete continues to play? Just as long as the player can take the pain, he'll be fine. A dislocated shoulder is not one of those injuries.

Castle3webSo blame Lakeland for Rainey's chronic shoulder problems. And blame Lakeland if Rainey doesn't ever reach his full potential at Florida. Guess that's the price you've got to pay when you want to win three state championships in a row. (As if two wasn't enough.) Of course, Lakeland coach Bill Castle (pictured) isn't paying that price today. He's only reaping the rewards. Was it worth it, Bill? Of course, that's a silly question. Knowing you, I'm sure that question has never even popped into your mind.

How else can you explain allowing a 5-foot-6, 150-pound running back to shoulder the load of your offense for an entire season when you already knew that little guy had a big problem with his shoulder? Rainey had his first shoulder surgery BEFORE his senior season at Lakeland. He missed the spring game and didn't play in a kickoff classic.

Skipping ahead to the 2006 playoffs...

"His shoulder, it kind of turned out on him a little bit, so we had to pop it back in," Castle told the Tampa Tribune after Lakeland's first-round playoff game.

Note to Castle: Sitting Rainey for the rest of the playoffs was the biggest decision you had to make in 2006. And you blew it, pal. You jeopardized a young man's future to win a few stupid high school football games. Rainey, of course, wasn't going to tell his coaches that he couldn't play. No chance. Just about the only thing bigger than Chris Rainey's charismatic personality and infection smile is his love for football. Giving Rainey the choice to either play football or sit out is like asking a magnet to refuse metal.

That's why you're going to shake your head in disbelief at the number of times Rainey carried the ball after he dislocated his shoulder in that first-round contest.

Round 2: Rainey rushed for 256 yards and four touchdowns.

Round 3: Rainey rushed for 140 yards on 20 carries.

Round 4: Rainey rushed for 326 yards on 22 carries.

Round 5: Rainey rushed for 276 yards on 26 carries.

Rainey finished his senior season with 2,439 yards. Too bad he might never carry a football again. Don't scoff. That might turn out to be true. No matter how many times you sew a shoulder back together after a dislocation it's never quite the same and always susceptible to another dislocation. And that's the case for Everyday Joe on the Street. The odds of reinjuring your shoulder probably go up a few MILLION percentage points when you're a running back in the Southeastern Conference.

Is Meyer, like Castle, going to put Rainey in a position to injure his shoulder even more? Don't count on it. Rainey's days of carrying the football are over at Florida. Look for him to make the switch to cornerback next season after he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Rainey met with defensive coaches during the preseason to talk about the switch and, according to Florida assistant Charlie Strong, Rainey even practiced with the defense a few times before the season started.

Moving Rainey to cornerback is in the best interest of both Rainey and Florida.


Rankings: Florida ninth...and you'll never believe who's at No.6

-"No.10 If Auburn holds Florida's offense to 20 or fewer points, then a drink an Alabama Slammer. And then drink another, and then drink another, and then drink another" ... Sound familiar?

GAINESVILLE -- One of the strangest Saturday's in college football this decade leaves us with this: South Florida is ranked ahead of Florida in the latest Associated Press college football poll. The Bulls beat then-No.5 West Virginia on Friday night while Florida lost to unranked Auburn. South Florida was previously ranked No.18.

Reminder: South Florida's football program is 11 years old. Florida's football program is 101 years old.

Five Top 10 teams were beaten this weekend (and seven in the top 13) but that doesn't explain why LSU jumped USC for the top spot. Both teams won. (Guess voters finally came to their senses.) 

AP Top 25

1. LSU (33) 5-0 1,593
2. USC (32) 4-0 1,591
3. California 5-0 1,475
4. Ohio State 5-0 1,420
5. Wisconsin 5-0 1,271
6. South Florida 4-0 1,203
7. Boston College 5-0 1,172
8. Kentucky 5-0 1,143
9. Florida 4-1 1,031
10. Oklahoma 4-1 992
11. South Carolina 4-1 900
12. Georgia 4-1 885
13. West Virginia 4-1 861
14. Oregon 4-1 837
15. Virginia Tech 4-1 639
16. Hawaii 5-0 586
17. Missouri 4-0 561
18. Arizona State 5-0 497
19. Texas 4-1 449
20. Cincinnati 5-0 377
21. Rutgers 3-1 299
22. Clemson 4-1 265
23. Purdue 5-0 218
24. Kansas State 3-1 214
25. Nebraska 4-1 198
Others Receiving Votes
Florida State 101, Miami (FL) 83, Illinois 59, Auburn 52, UCLA 49, Texas A&M 29, Michigan State 16, Michigan 15, Connecticut 9, Alabama 6, Arkansas 5, Colorado 5, UCF 5, Penn State 4, Virginia 3, Kansas 3, Boise State 3, Washington 1.
Dropped From Rankings: Penn State 21, Alabama 22.


Mullen coached despite emergency surgery

GAINESVILLE -- Before we take a closer look at Auburn 20, Florida 17, Gator Clause must first address more important things than winning and losing. Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen should be commended for his dedication to Florida football. The 36-year-old assistant called plays from the Gators' coaching booth on Saturday night despite undergoing an emergency appendectomy around 2 a.m. on Saturday. Mullen had a quite a scare but he is doing fine. What a trooper, right?

-Florida is probably wishing it had recruited Auburn kicker Wes Byrum right about now. Byrum, a Fort Lauderdale native who attended St. Thomas Aquinas, kicked the Tigers' game-winning field goal to end the game. Those Gator chomps Byrum offered a shocked Ben Hill Griffin Stadium probably weren't necessary. Each of the last four meetings between Florida and Auburn have been decided in the games' final minutes. Byrum was asked after the game if his dream was to kick a game-winning field goal against Florida, Florida State or Miami. Byrum said no. His dream was to kick a game-winning field goal against Lakeland. St. Thomas lost to Lakeland in three consecutive Class 5A state championships.

-Florida freshman free safety Major Wright (also a St. Thomas alum) made his first career start on Saturday. For a few minutes in the second half it appeared that his forced fumble was going to be the play of the game.

-Auburn held Florida scoreless in the first half. The last time that happened was way back in 1992 against South Carolina. Florida trailed the Gamecocks 3-0 at the break but won the game 14-9.

-Tim Tebow's rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter was his eighth of the season. That ties a school record for rushing touchdowns by a Florida quarterback in a single season.

-Tebow passed for 201 yards. He has now passed for at least 200 yards in every game this season. The sophomore quarterback rushed for 75 yards. He has now rushed for at least 60 yards in his last four games.

-Anyone expect Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox to throw for more yards than Tebow? Not me. Cox had 227 passing yards.

-Penalties continue to be a problem for Florida. The Gators were flagged seven times on Saturday for 44 yards. The worst mistakes came on special teams. Jamar Hornsby ran into Auburn's punter in the first quarter, extending the Tigers' drive. Auburn then marched down the field for its first touchdown. A procedural penalty (not enough players on the line of scrimmage) ruined the Gators' fake punt attempt in the third quarter. Of course, Wright's forced fumble two plays later canceled out that mistake.

-Florida's defense did well for most the third and fourth quarters but couldn't stop Auburn when it mattered most. The Tigers gained three crucial first downs to set up Byrum's 43-yard field goal.

-Was anyone other than me surprised on the option call to Kestahn Moore on second down of the Gators' final drive?

-You've got to feel bad for Florida receiver Andre Caldwell. After missing two weeks with a sprained knee, Caldwell returned to action on Saturday only to pull a hamstring. Florida coach Urban Meyer hopes to have Caldwell back for next week's visit to Baton Rouge, La.

-Percy Harvin had another impressive game. Harvin caught seven passes for 119 yards, including an amazing catch in the fourth quarter than set up Florida's game-trying score (two-yard run by Tebow). (In case you haven't caught on, I've been kidding about Harvin being weak. He might be Florida's toughest player.)

-Florida has plenty of work to do this week in preparation for LSU. Getting more offensive skill players involved seems like a high priority.


September 29, 2007

Gator drinking games: Win or lose, Drink yourself blind before tonight's game

Because a blog entry on "keys to the game" would be a ridiculous waste of my time ... (don't fumble, score more points, wear your helmet, blah, blah, blah)

GAINESVILLE -- Win or lose, the most important task on game day for a Gator fan (any fan for that matter) is to drink yourself blind. Whether in you're home, at the sports bar or driving in your car, your not a true Florida fan if you're not roaring drunk by halftime. In the spirit of spirits, here's a drinking-game checklist for tonight's game against Auburn.

Lemon_drop 1. If Percy Harvin is not in the starting line-up, then drink a Lemon Drop. Like Harvin, this drink is weak. Harvin, who has been limited in practice all week due to a (hip pointer?), is expected to play. Maybe Harvin should be the one drinking. You know, that numbing since of invincibility.

2. If Kyle Jackson is in the starting line-up, then drink a Mind Eraser ... in memory of Reggie Nelson, of course. Jackson, who hasn't played very well this season (That's me being civil and diplomatic. See, it can be done.), might be replaced in the starting line-up today by freshman Major Wright, which leads to task three in this drinking game...

3. Every time Wright misses a tackle, drink a Harvey Wallbanger. Wright isn't much better than Jackson (at this point in his career).

HurricanecupfCruisehug726508 4. If Deonte Thompson plays, then drink a Hurricane. Or, maybe that's backwards? The Hurricanes should drink if Deonte Thompson plays. Florida coach Urban Meyer said Deonte Thompson could play today. That's a less than ideal situation for the Gators, who would like to redshirt Thompson this season. Of course, playing Thompson a few plays would use up a year of his eligibility and might discourage Thompson from transferring to Miami. This idea (Thompson transferring) was generated by an upstart sports website in Miami that credited their information to unnamed sources. The Miami website guys are now mad at me for calling them out (even though I really didn't call them out). Whatever. Hey, Inside the U, I've got a 1980's Risky Business leather jacket you can borrow if, like Tom Cruise, you need some thicker skin.

Mojito 5. If Javier Estopinan (Miami) gets a sack, then drink a mojito. Florida's pass rush has been criticized this week by the Gators' coaches. If Estopinan records a sack, then it's probably time for a sweet and refreshing cocktail.

6. If Dorian Munroe (Miami) deflects a pass, then shoot an Incognito. He hasn't received much attention, but of all Florida's young defensive backs, Munroe is the only player who seems confident enough to actually make a play.

7. If Tim Tebow carries the ball more than 15 times, then drink a Red Snapper. Florida's quarterback rushed the ball 27 times against Ole Miss, exposing himself to an injury every time. If Tebow snaps anything, Florida's offense will be easier to catch than a bottom-feeding red fish. 

Crown 8. Sticking to the Crown Royal based drinks (only fitting for Tebow), drink a Royal Flush if Tebow tosses four or more touchdowns against the Auburn Tigers. Nothing beats a Royal Flush and if Tebow has another impressive game his statistical hand strength will be better than any other Heisman Trophy candidate's in the nation.

9. If Moses Jenkins gets in the game, then drink an Ultimate Screwdriver. Jenkins (Lauderdale Lakes) needs to be redshirted. Meyer said that Jenkins has improved tremendously since the fall camp and might earn playing time today on special teams. That would be a complete waste. Jenkins has the potential to contribute to this team's defense in a couple of years. His eligibility needs to be saved.

10. If Auburn holds Florida's offense to 20 or fewer points, then a drink an Alabama Slammer. And then drink another, and then drink another, and then drink another.


September 28, 2007

Donovan's recruiting gaze shifts to South Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan has made a commitment to recruiting South Florida in recent years and the work appears to be paying off. Donovan picked up his second commitment from the area on Thursday for the Gators' recruiting class of 2008.

Eloy Vargas, a 6-10 power forward from Plantation American Heritage, joins Ray Shipman of Miami Monsignor Pace as the Gators' South Florida arm of Florida's highly rated recruiting class. Shipman, a 6-3 small forward, committed to Donovan several months ago.

Vargas Vargas, the second 6-10 commitment of the 2008 recruiting class, has drawn comparisons to former Florida great Joakim Noah. While Vargas is flattered by the compliments, the Dominican Republic native says he's a better offensive player than Noah.

"We're different because I can shoot and dribble better," Vargas said.

Like a teenaged Noah, Vargas will need to put on a few pounds before he makes the transition to college basketball. His mid-range jumper, however, comes ready-made and will be difficult for teams to defend against.

Vargas says he migrated to South Florida three years ago for the opportunity at a better life and a possible future in basketball. He didn't speak any English when he first moved and there is still a slight language barrier between himself and English-speaking reporters. His game translates, however, and that's all that matters.

Vargas says that Spanish speaking Florida point guard Walter Hodge accompanied him during his official visit to Gainesville. Hodge, not lacking in the personality department, is quite the salesman, according to Vargas.

"We had a lot of fun," Vargas said.

Expect Donovan to continuing recruiting the South Florida area for at least the next two years. Vargas' high school teammate, Kenny Boynton Jr., is a premier shooting guard. Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest features sophomore point guard Brandon Knight is considered the best at his position in the country.

"Florida is recruiting [Boynton Jr. and Knight] very hard," Vargas said.

2008 commitments: Allan Chaney (6-8, 220) New London, Conn.; Kenny Kadji (6-10, 240) Bradenton; Ray Shipman (6-3, 180) Opa Locka; Eloy Vargas (6-10, 210) Hollywood; Erving Walker (5-6, 140) Middle Village, N.Y.


September 27, 2007

UF's Breakfast Club a bizarre and brutish experiment?

GAINESVILLE -- Here's the latest reminder that college football players are not treated like human beings, rather freaks on a leash or lab rats or some kind of carnal sub classification of our species.

It's called the Breakfast Club. Like the movie Breakfast Club, young adults are detained and corralled. In the movie, kids are forced to sit in chairs (detention). In UF's Breakfast Club, kids are forced to eat (degrading). The more calories (and cholesterol) the better. Who cares about these players' long-term health, right? Anything to slap on a few more pounds for the sake of game day. It's paid for by a civically oriented institution (UAA), which provides entertainment for the populous.

Members of UF's Breakfast Club include mostly freshmen, ordered to meet in a cafeteria and eat breakfast under the supervision of "nutritionists." UF calls them nutritionists. This is a loose use of the word. "Fat doctors" would be a better description. These fat doctors watch while players eat dozens of eggs, rows of sausages and skyscrapers of pancakes.

"It makes me not enjoy eating anymore," said freshman D-lineman Duke Lemmens.

Lemmens reported to Florida a So-Cal free spirit. A native of Westlake Village, Cali., he still portrays that image with his beatnik Southern California wardrobe and hang-loose attitude. He doubles up the surfer clothes when its time to weigh in.

"When you're forced to [eat] and you've got to weigh in every day and you're trying to put on heavier clothes so you just get that extra half-pound it takes the taste out of the food," Lemmens said.

It might just be me, but I could care less if a program pays a player, buys a player's mom a house or car, pays off the farm, etc... If the NCAA really wanted to clean up college football, then it would penalize programs for dehumanizing the players.

OK, this rant might be a little too cynical. OK, it definitely is. But understand that I'm writing it just to offer a different perspective on the inside workings of major college football. I understand that the football team's on-staff nutritionists do not approach their jobs like mad scientists. Fact is, Florida force feeds its players with information on how to build muscle mass. But do these same nutritionists debrief football players on the transition back to reality? (Eating like a normal person once their football careers are over.) I hope so. In the end, eating like a pig is not healthy no matter how you spin it.

In related news ... Video of Florida Gator Duke "Bob" Lemmens combining his football responsibilities. (Eating while rushing the passer).


September 25, 2007

Tim Tebow beat Halo 3 without bullets

Halowishlist19LATEST TEBOW TALL TALE: Florida quarterback Tim Tebow beat the new video game Halo 3 in 30 minutes and 27 seconds, according to Tebow's roommate Tony Joiner.

"He was just pistol whipping the whole time," Joiner said. "It was a frag fest. But what did you expect? I mean, this is the same guy who once scored over two mill[ion] on Dance Dance Revolution."


GAINESVILLE -- Three of Florida's top four receivers are either injured or hurting or on the mend. Percy Harvin (hip pointer) did not practice on Tuesday for the second straight day. Andre Caldwell (knee) is not expected to play against Auburn, according to Meyer. All-I-do-is-catch-touchdown-passes Riley Cooper (ankle) is expected to play, but then again he was expected to play against Ole Miss, too.

FinechineCaldwell and Cooper missed the Ole Miss game and the lack of receiving options hurt the Gators. Harvin was left to pick up the slack (12 catches, 121 yards) and he apparently overexerted himself. Meyer is concerned about Harvin (pictured) missing practice this week but gave no indication that reduced practice time will equate to limited field time come Saturday night.

Florida cornerback Markihe Anderson (knee) will miss at least another week. Offensive lineman Maurice Pouncey (ankle) is expected to be available for the game. Kicker Joey Ijjas (pulled groin muscle) hasn't attempted a kick this week and will not, by order of Florida's athletic trainers, until Thursday. Defensive lineman Brandon Antwine (hyper-extended elbow) is expected to rejoin the rotation this Saturday. He practiced on Tuesday.


TrattouFreshmen defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens were the last two players to walk off the field today. Trattou said he and Lemmens were putting in extra time to improve their pass rush. Florida needs the help, the Gators have seven sacks this season but only two quarterback hurries. Expect to see Trattou and Lemmens in the game on Saturday when Florida faces third-and-long situations.

Florida wants more pass rush out of their defensive line but there aren't many viable options right now. Expect more blitz packages against Auburn, testing the Tigers' young offensive line. Brandon Spikes, please allow me to introduce you to Brandon Cox. Y'all play nice, ya' hear.


Helmetauburn1Florida holds a three-game winnig streak against Auburn in The Swamp and has won five of the last six. While the Gators' have dominated the Tigers at home, Auburn has beaten Florida four of the last five games when Florida is ranked in the top four of the Associated Press poll. Adding to the upset red-flag factor, the last time an unranked Auburn team played a ranked Florida team (2001) the Tigers beat No. 1 Florida 23-20.


Fayson_2Looking for this guy. Anyone seen Jarred Fayson? He did not touch the ball against Ole Miss, which was surprising since Florida's offensive options were limited without Cooper and Caldwell. Should Florida give Fayson more touches or keep running Tebow 27 times a game?

"I'm just waiting to get the call," Fayson said.



Prepare yourself for drunken madness...

In honor of inebriation ...

GAINESVILLE -- In the words of my best friend Kevin Bryant "The Skinny Bandit" Jackson, "prepare for drunken madness" next Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.

Kickoff for Florida vs. Louisiana State Part I (a.k.a. The Greatest Game Since McDonald's Monopoly; Book title: A Quiet Death; Movie title, with Cajun accent: Tebow in de' 'Bye-ooh'; B-rated movie title: Tim Tebow and the Rise of the Flesh Eating Nutrias; Newspaper headline: 'Gators Gumbo-ed') is set for 8:30 p.m.

The place will reek of bourbon by that time. I cannot overstate the psychosis that will befall, be-spell, be-hammer Tigers Stadium if both teams win this weekend. It will be the biggest regular season home game in the history of LSU football and even the ground will be drunk by kickoff. The bottles and flasks will fly, friends.

Kevinkeith_dancing*In case you were wondering, The Skinny Bandit (guy on the left looking skinny) was indeed named after Bear Bryant. That's how we roll in Bama. The Skinny Bandit would be an appropriate name for Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville, but The Skinny Bandit assures us a swift death (double-tap, back of the head) if his name and Tuberville's ever appear in the same sentence.


David Nelson borrowed Chris Leak's identity...seriously, he really did

GAINESVILLE -- So, picture this. Florida wide receiver David Nelson is sitting in the ballroom of a cruise ship last spring break when the ship's master of ceremonies announces to a crowd of about 600 people that "none other than the MVP of the BCS national championship game, Florida quarterback Chris Leak, is floating toward the Bahamas on this very cruise ship."

Davidnelson This, of course, was news to Nelson (pictured), at the time a no-name Florida wide receiver. He was taking the cruise with some friends from back home Georgia way and had no idea Chris was taking the same vacation. "Chris is on this cruise? No way. He never told me..."

Then, out of nowhere, the ballroom's spotlight zeroes in on Nelson.

"Chris Leak, ladies and gentlemen," says the M.C.

Applause, cheers, whistles, Gator chomps, etc... Just imagine, honey, Chris Leak on this very same cruise with us. It sure is a small world. But...I thought he was shorter.

"I was sitting at my table and had no idea what was going on, Nelson said. "I looked up and my eyes were hug. Everyone just gave a standing ovation. At this point I can't be like, 'No. I'm not,' so I just stood up and waved and sat back down."

Nelson (6-5 compared to 5-10 Chris Leak) is totally freaked out now. What to do? Go along or disapoint? Go along, of course. After all, what happens on a cruise ship stays on a cruise ship. Or so I'm told. "It had HUGE benefits," Nelson said.

Leak "Word spread fast," Nelson said. "Not everybody eats at the same time. As soon as I left, there was a waiting line of people that had their cell phones saying that Chris Leak (pictured) was on board. It was amazing because not everyone on that ship was from Florida. There were a lot of Arizona and California people. There were people from everywhere because it was spring break. Most of them were college students, so it was amazing to see how many of them knew football and how famous [Leak] is nationwide."

Ah, nothing quite like impersonating a national celebrity on a spring break cruise ship full of college co-eds. Did we mention yet about the "HUGE benefits?"

Pretty soon the case of mistaken identity turned into an all out gag. Nelson (Leak) was a star. Autographs, photo opps, the captain of the ship even invited Nelson (Leak) to the bridge.

"I had a lot of people offer to get me things or buy me things," Nelson said. "I guess I was just the most popular person on the ship. Everywhere I went people were taking pictures of me or shaking my hand and telling me good job on the season."

Tigerwoodspicture1 Now, it should be pointed out that this was not the first time someone thought Nelson was Chris Leak. The guy just has one of those got-to-be-famous faces that you know you've seen somewhere but just can't place it. Like when the Florida football team was watching a highlights video during its annual Night of Champions. Tiger Woods popped up on the screen and just about the whole team burst into laughter. "They were rolling," Nelson said. "The way he talks and walks -- they were just giving me a hard time about it. [Florida linebacker] Brandon Spikes just calls me Tiger Woods now. He doesn't even call me my name anymore. I don't even think he knows my name anymore."

Just like Nelson nearly forgot his own name back on that cruise. But it's tough being Chris Leak.

"For the rest of the trip I just had to try and play damage control," Nelson said. "People would come wanting autographs. With little kids I didn't know whether to say I'm not Chris Leak and embarrass the kid, or just sign it and tell Chris later."

Nelson actually did sign autographs as Chris Leak. He says he just scribbled a few unreadable words Aroadshow each time. Imagine: Some kid is going to grow old with a phony Chris Leak autograph. Maybe he'll pass it down to his kids. Pretty soon it will be one of the sports world's most infamous pieces of sports memorabilia. Maybe, 200 years from now, it will be worth $10,000 on PBS' Antiques Roadshow (pictured). Maybe O.J. Simpson will steal it.

The gig was up, finally, after nearly three days. Some Florida fans called him out. It's not like Nelson defended his Chris Leak-ness when challenged. Nothing wrong with being David Nelson these days either. He told the ballroom's M.C. to make an announcement to everyone about the mistake.

"It just got to the point where some people who actually went to Florida, some students that I didn't know, were kind of upset by it," Nelson said. "I wasn't trying to do anything or hinder Chris' reputation. I wasn't trying to act like I was Chris Leak by any means, but there was just so much going on that I was overwhelmed by it and I didn't know what to do."

Reporter: You should have said you were Tim Tebow.

Nelson: "Yeah, I may have been able to drive the boat. They may have thrown the captain off and let me drive it."


September 24, 2007

Oklahoma State coach loses his cool; Calls his players children

Here's a link to columnist Jenni Carlson's column in the Daily Oklahoman ... CLICK ME

GAINESVILLE -- Off topic here but I feel compelled. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy embarrassed himself and maybe the entire state of Oklahoma on Saturday when -- instead of talking about an important win for his program -- he decided to dress down a columnist during the Cowboys' post-game press conference.

I'm not going to waste much time on this, but Gundy's meltdown provides a little insight into why Oklahoma State (A) continues to be the redheaded stepchild of the Sooners and (B) why Carlson's column was so dead-on accurate.

(A) Need any other proof besides OSU's loss to Troy a week after Florida demolished the Sun Belt Trojans? Shouldn't Gundy be more worried about winning football games than a column in the Oklahoman? I'm sure he is --  hope he is for the sake of Oklahoma State fans -- but today the perception is that Gundy lacks focus.

(B) Gundy's planned tirade (he says it wasn't, yeah right) only strengthens the validity of Carlson's column. Carlson writes that Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid is a momma's boy. There could not have been any better way for Gundy to illustrate this opinion than by screaming about how a columnist hurt Reid's feelings.

Reid is SO dejected. His feelings are SO hurt. Reid can't handle a little criticism. Reid is a baby. He's crying into his pillow right now. That's the message Gundy sends. He even calls his quarterback -- a 21-year old man -- a child. Gundy then tries to play the but-he's-only-an-amateur-athlete card. Pleeeease, we all know that defense is about as worthless as wet toilet paper. Division I-A college football is a business and Division I-A college football players are employees. End of discussion. The quarterback for a BCS conference university is a public figure and open to just as much public criticism as the head coach. Ever been to a college football game and witnessed a quarterback getting booed by his own fans? Enough said. As a general rule, reporters and columnists refrain from overly criticizing college players for game-time mistakes. But Reid should be held accountable for laughing it up on the sidelines during an OSU loss. He did get benched for a reason, right?

It's obvious Gundy coddles the ego's of his players. Maybe if he treated his players like men and not children then OSU would win more football games.




Can Tebow take the Heisman? Will his body hold up? Let the debate begin

A blog entry to go with my story in today's paper. Here's the link. CLICK ME...

Heismanpose GAINESVILLE -- There's no denying Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is a Heisman contender. By 9 a.m. this morning Tebow already had 78 percent of the vote by Miami Herald readers in an Internet poll. I imagine his popularity among national sports writers isn't that strong but I know a few Heisman voters that would cast a ballot for Tebow if the vote were held today.

But who cares about the old sports writers. Fans get to vote for the Heisman, too. That's right. In case you didn't know, a vote was added to the award to represent college football fans. So, you guys/gals, my well-informed readers, I pose the questions to y'all and I'm hoping for some answers.

Should Tebow be happy with a trip to New York at the end of the season to watch Steve Slaton of West Virginia pick up the award?

Will Tebow even be among the finalists for the award by season's end or will he suffer too many injuries running the ball 27 times per game?

Since it appears Tebow is going to put up the numbers even if Florida loses, how many games can Florida lose and Tebow still earn a trip to New York?

Can Tebow win the award or does being a sophomore unofficially disqualify him for the award in the eyes of most stuffy sports writers?

If Florida beats Auburn and then LSU, does that make Tebow the favorite to win the award?

If not Tebow then who?


Passing: 1,097 YDS | 10 TD
1 INT | 68.4 CMP%
Rushing: 356 YDS | 7 TD


DARREN MCFADDEN, Arkansas running back

Rushing: 518 YDS | 4 TD
Passing: 42 YDS | 1 TD
Receiving: 51 YD | 0 TD

STEVE SLATON, West Virginia running back

84 ATT | 500 YDS | 9 TD
6.0 AVG | 58 LNG
7 REC | 114 YDS | 1 TD

PAT WHITE, West Virginia quarterback

Passing: 622 YDS | 6 TD
0 INT | 72.3 CMP%
Rushing: 288 YDS | 6 TD

BRIAN BROHM, Louisville quarterback

Passing: 1,697 YDS | 15 TD
3 INT | 67.9 CMP%
Rushing: 13 YDS | 1 TD

Also on the Heisman watch list: Ray Rice, Rutgers running back; Colt Brennan, Hawaii quarterback; Andre' Woodson, Kentucky quarterback; Matt Ryan, Boston College quarterback; DeSean Jackson, Cal wide receiver; John David Booty, USC quarterback; Mike Hart, Michigan running back; Dennis Dixon, Oregon quarterback.


September 22, 2007

Halftime observations: Finally, we have a game

OXFORD, Miss. -- I can't express how excited I am to finally cover a football game that's not a blowout by halftime. Two quarters gone here at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and Florida leads Ole Miss 14-6.

It has been the Percy Harvin show and not much else so far. Harvin has nine catches for 109 yards in the first half compared to 103 passing yards for Ole Miss. The Gators' first touchdown drive featured six passes from Tim Tebow to Harvin. The final pass to Harvin went for a 19-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. Harvin caught a pass in the flat and raced through Ole Miss' defense for the score.

This game is close not because of Ole Miss' defense but rather a faultering Florida offense. The Gators have gained 261 yards of offense on 39 plays but key mistakes have scuttled drives. Florida has nine penalities for 78 yards.

Florida should thank its defense for the first-half lead. It's a bend-but-don't-break performance so far with Ole Miss settling for two field goals. The Rebels missed another field goal (48-yarder) after Derrick Harvey sacked Ole Miss quarterback for a six-yard loss on third down. Ole Miss is 1-of-6 in third-down conversions.

-Once again Brandon James' skills as a returner have helped Florida carry a lead into halftime. James has two returns for 75 and a long of 55 yards on the opening kick, which led to Joey Ijjas attempt. He missed a 42-yard attempt.

James also had a kickoff return to the Mississippi 48 nullified by a holding penalty by Javier Estopinan.

Tebow rushed for the Gators' second score, a nine-yard play that carried two Ole Miss defenders into the end zone.


Pregame notes: A lot of Hotty Toddy in The Grove

OXFORD, Miss. -- Just walked through the magnolia grove here at the University of Mississippi. I now understand why Ole Miss has produced more Miss Americas than any other university in the country. Wow! Talk about Hotty Toddy! I had planned on taking pictures of this sundress and bourbon phenomena that is The Grove. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera died.

Red slacks are the cool thing here for the fellas. If you're wearing red slacks and a blazer you're some kind of big shot.

-Receiver Andre Caldwell, who isn't expected to play today because of a sprained knee, worked out on the field before the game.

-Maurice Hurt appears to be playing right guard today. He is prepping with the first team offense. Starting right gaurd Maurkice Pouncey injured his ankle against Tennessee.

-Hey Miami, guess what, Deonte Thompson is taking snaps with the first team offense during the pre-game drills. Either Thompson is filling in part-time today for injured receivers Caldwell and Riley Cooper or the Miami-driven rumors of Thompson transferring to UM has earned him playing time.


September 21, 2007

Before I go walking in Memphis...

Sitting here in my hotel room still waiting for Will Hill to call ...

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- So, I crunched the numbers and did the math and analyzed the variables and rubbed the Buddha and came to the same conclusion of just about everyone else in America. Ole Miss doesn't stand a chance tomorrow. My prediction: Florida 39, Ole Miss 10.

With tomorrow's story safely in the digital hands of my wonderful Miami editors, it's off to Beale Street and the wonderful aroma of slow-cooked pork. Dinner at Rendezvous (dry rub ribs!!) tonight but first things first, taking a dip in the Mississippi River. Just kidding.

For your viewing pleasure I'll leave you with a YouTube video picking fun at Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron and his deep Cajun accent. I'm sure you'll find this obnoxious (Memphis radio guy needs a beating) and offensive (damn those Rebel flags).


September 20, 2007

5-star recruit Will 'The Thrill' Hill the newest Florida commitment

Hill is supposed to call me this morning (Friday) before I fly to Mississippi so check back for a Q&A.

GAINESVILLE -- The nation's top-ranked high school safety committed to Florida tonight on ESPNU. Will Hill of Jersey City, N.J., is the second five-star safety recruit to join the Gators 2008 recruiting class. Dee Finley of Auburn, Ala., another safety commitment, is rated No.2 nationally at his position.

Will_hill"[Hill] is a great kid and good student and he's going to bring a lot of leadership and savvy to Florida," Hill's high school coach Rich Hansen said. "He's a player Florida will be able to build things around."

Hansen has certainly built things around Hill. The coach is 34-1 over the past four seasons with Hill in the starting line up. Hill has started at safety for Jersey City St. Peter's Prep since his freshman season. He began playing quarterback his sophomore season. A little bit of Will Hill trivia: The only high school team to beat Hill (Don Bosco in a 2006 state championship game) featured current Florida defensive end Justin Trattou. 

Last week, Hill (pictured) told The Miami Herald that he would end the recruiting process and commit this week if his official visit to Gainesville went well. Things apparently went very well. Hill had an official visit scheduled for USC but he will not take that trip now, according to his high school coach.

Hill plays safety and quarterback for New Jersey St. Peter's Prep. The 6-3, 203-pound athlete runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. If Hill commits to Florida, many people think Finley of Auburn, Ala., will decommit and remain in Alabama. I'm not one of those people, especially since Auburn is on Florida's schedule this season and the Tigers don't stand a chance if they can't find a quarterback.

My take: expect either Hill or Finley to be converted to a weak-side linebacker. Freshman Jerimy Finch made this transition during the preseason and it seems both Hill and Finley are cut from the same mold. Finch was the nation's top-rated safety of last year's recruiting class. He broke his leg last week against Tennessee and will seek a medical redshirt for this season.

LIST OF CURRENT 2008 FLORIDA COMMITMENTS (Note: These commitments are non-binding oral agreements. Players sign in Feb.)

Jeremy Brown, DB, (5-10, 163 pounds), Orlando

Dee Finley, DB, (6-3, 210 pounds), Auburn, Ala.

Franklin Green, RB, (5-11, 201 pounds), Savannah, Ga.

Will Hill, Ath, (6-3, 210 pounds), Jersey City, N.J.

Janoris Jenkins, DB, (5-10, 167 pounds), Pahokee

Earl Okine, K, (5-11, 180 pounds), Saint Augustine

Chaz Sutton, DE, (6-4, 236 pounds), Savannah, Ga.



In demotion, Jackson displays grace and class

GAINESVILLE -- I started writing this blog as a straight news piece about Kyle Jackson and Major Wright and who will start this Saturday at free safety against Ole Miss -- the senior or the freshman. I got halfway through the piece before holding down the backspace button and starting from scratch. Instead, I'm going to write about Kyle Jackson, Florida's senior free safety, and how impressed I have been this week with his character. I might even throw Urban Meyer a compliment or two.

Before we begin, let me preface the rest of my words with this:  As a beat reporter, it's not really my place to write opinions about players. Just the facts, as the saying goes. That's the traditional job description of a beat reporter. Of course, describing a sporting event would not be possible without the opinions of the writer or radio announcer. How I see a game, a touchdown, or a tackle will not be the same way another reporter or another fan sees the same game, touchdown or tackle.  Other than that, I'm suppose to remain objective. That's my promise to the reader as a journalist. Then along came this thing called the blog. Blogs are supposed to be opinionated and create discussions or debates with readers. Opinions vary throughout the business on beat reporters writing a blog. (And really the only reason beat reporters have blogs is to keep up with this crazy new trend called the Internet.) Should blogs written by a beat reporter be opinionated? Should they just be glorified notebooks? You see, the problem is this: If a beat reporter writes that Barry Bonds hits a home run in the newspaper but then the same beat reporter writes in her/his blog that Barry Bonds muscled it out of the park on account of a "nutritious diet," then that beat reporter would have a pretty hard time in the clubhouse for rest of the season. My boss told me that he wants Gator Clause to remain objective but also be a fun alternative to my beat coverage. I'm about to break the rules a little bit now for two reasons: 1. That's what I do best. 2. I don't think Kyle Jackson is going to get very upset with me calling him a class act. (Jeez, that was a long preface.)

JacksonJackson (pictured) missed two tackles early in the first quarter against Tennessee and the gaffes earned him a view from the sidelines. Wright finished the game at free safety. So, who's going to start against Ole Miss? That has been the question posed to Florida coach Urban Meyer all week. Meyer gave his most newsworthy response on Wednesday when he told reporters that it would be a "game-time decision." That's pretty vague, I agree. But newsworthy nonetheless since Meyer had previously said Jackson was still the starter.

Meanwhile, Jackson has worn the broken crown of a deposed senior starter all week. But rather than deflect blame or refuse to speak with reporters, Jackson has approached the situation with grace and dignity. This might sound a little sappy, well, it is, but I'm going to leave it on the page anyway. I think it's useful insight into understanding what makes this a championship-caliber football team. No one gives up. Not even the lame-duck seniors who have lost their jobs to underclassmen.

"I guess [Meyer] thought I had some intentions on giving up, but I told him that I've invested too much to quit," Jackson said. "I'm a Gator and I'll be here."

That's powerful stuff, folks. Meyer said on Tuesday that even if Jackson doesn't start, then his talents will still play an important role in the team's success. Interpret it this way: Florida's defense is not the same force it was last season. Not even close. It's going to take more than a few ultra-talented underclassmen to weather the Southeastern Conference. It's going to take strong leadership from guys like Jackson to keep the defense's passion high and its intensity level pegged at 8,000 RPMs. Anything less will not survive Florida's midseason gauntlet of Auburn, LSU, Kentucky and Georgia.

Sure, Jackson was depressed after being called off the field against Tennessee. He questioned himself. His confidence waned. The self-pity lasted all of one day. Jackson got a call from Meyer late Sunday night. The coach/master psychologist told Jackson he wasn't giving up on one of his "most invested players." Meyer also told Jackson that he loved him.

"[Meyer] still knows I'm a great player and he said he's not giving up on me," Jackson said. "He said that I'm too good a player, I just need to make that extra step on a tackle. I've been playing football for too long and I know I've got it. It's just that extra step on tackles and that's what everyone wants to see, so I've got to bring it."

Meyer told Jackson on Monday that he stayed up all night watching the game film of Jackson's missed tackle of Tennessee's Lucas Taylor. The coach reassured Jackson that he has "got everything else: the reading ability and that knack for the ball."

"I know that," Jackson said. "I feel myself out there and my angles and everything are good. It's just that tackling."

Don't miss the point of this poignant exchange between Meyer and Jackson. It doesn't really matter whether or not Jackson corrects his problems on the field. It's that Jackson never had a problem off the field even when he was embarrassed and then benched in front of more than 90,000 Florida fans last Saturday.

Meyer is a pretty good coach for a lot of reasons but getting his players to believe in themselves is his best skill. Everyone seems to contribute no matter how subtly. That's just my opinion. Jackson is my proof.


September 19, 2007

Joiner-Tebow kiss hits YouTube...hilarious

So, this is pretty funny. Comments anyone?



September 18, 2007

My take on the Tasering incident at UF


GAINESVILLE -- Anyone incensed by this other than me? I don't know what upsets me more: That this disgusting show of fascism happened at a university in the U.S. or that many of the people on the MiamiHerald.com message boards actually support such behavior? You silly sheep, you products of an assembly line education, you anti-Americans. Thank you Andrew Meyer for your patriotism. OK, those sentiments might be a little extreme, but regardless of what you assume or believe about WHY this happened, the truth of the matter is that a university student was Tasered during a public forum. Everything else is inconsequential. So what if he was obnoxious, so what if he rushed to the microphone, so what if he asked too many questions, SO WHAT IF HE STAGED IT or was seeking attention or has a history of practical jokes. The point is a student was assaulted by police during a public forum on a college campus for reasons unwarranted. Wake up people.


Thompson bologna, again; Thoughts on Ole Miss point spread; Q&A with BIG-TIME Miami recruit

AndersonGAINESVILLE -- Bad news for cornerback Markihe Anderson. The sophomore's knee is injured again and this time the healing process could take a lot longer than two weeks. Thompson missed the Gators' first two games with a strained MCL ligament. Now the one-time projected starter ails from an injured PCL, another knee ligament. Florida coach Urban Meyer said that Anderson could be out for an extended length of time but not for the season.


-This is Thompsongoing to be the last time (hopefully) that I have to write about Deonte Thompson until he actually plays in a game. Thompson, a freshman receiver, is happy in Gainesville and not going anywhere, according to Meyer. An Internet website which covers the Miami  Hurricanes has reported for the last two days that Thompson is unhappy at Florida and wants to transfer to Miami. In my opinion, this sounds like a gullible Internet reporter is sponging up some garbage from a Miami assistant football coach and then squeezing it all over the Internet FIELDS. You know, to see what grows.

Moonbt -Florida is a 21-point favoriFire_logo12te to beat Ole Miss. Nice spread. Tim Tebow could play Saturday's game in pink moon boots and a Rhein Fire Starter jacket and beat Ole Miss by 28.


Wright-Senior free safety Kyle Jackson is going to start against Ole Miss, according to assistant coach Doc Holliday. Major Wright will receive a significant amount of playing time, though. My take on the free safety situation is this: Boost Kyle Jackson's morale with playing time but have Major Wright (pictured) ready for the trip to Baton Rouge.

-Freshman right guard Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) is questionable for Saturday's game.

-Freshman Jerimy Finch (broken leg, ligament damage) will seek a medical redshirt.

-Is OWho_caresle Miss' Brent Schaeffer going to start at quarterback against Florida? Is Seth Adams going to start at quarterback against Florida? Does it really stinking matter?

Brandon Harris Q&A

Harris -I caught up with Miami Booker T. Washington recruit Brandon Harris the other day. Brandon is a smart kid and I've watched him play for a couple years now. A cornerback, Harris is ultra-athletic and pretty much plays every position for the Tornadoes. His older brother ran track at the University of Miami. Brandon's dad, Tim, is the football coach at Washington and currently has the Tornadoes ranked No. 6 in the nation and No.2 in the latest Beef O' Brady's Top 25 poll (Florida power poll).

Q: I've heard you were a lock for Miami for two years. Are you seriously considering Florida or are you just getting a free trip out of the deal?

A: "I'm taking this whole thing very seriously. I like Florida a lot. So far my only trips are for Florida, LSU and Miami."

Q: What have you done on your trip to Florida?

A: "We've had a lot of fun. We went out [Friday] night and that was fun."

Q: "Out? As in out to the club?"

A: "Yeah. It was cool. Some of the players went...but none of the ones who were playing."

Q: When you see a freshman cornerback [Joe Haden] starting for Florida, how does that affect your decision making in this whole recruiting process? Good thing or bad thing?

A: "It's a plus to see that because you know you can at least compete for a job right away. That's all I really need."


September 17, 2007

Dear Deonte: What are you thinking?

GAINESVILLE -- An upstart Internet website dedicated to covering the University of Miami reported on Monday that Deonte Thompson is unhappy at Florida and might be considering a transfer to The U. ... Nice try U guys.

It's true that Thompson hasn't set foot onto Florida Field for a game yet, but that doesn't mean he's disgruntled and ready to transfer to Coral Gables. The truth of the matter is you're more likely to start a fire underwater with a flashlight than to ever see Thompson at Miami. Thompson's roommate Major Wright indicated to reporters after practice on Monday that Thompson is fine. (And didn't Thompson jilt Miami at the 11th hour in February and sign with the Gators?)

Hey, Major. Since reporters can't speak with Deonte until he plays a game, do me a favor and pass this message onto your roommate.

Dear Deonte:

You're probably a little upset that you've been glued to the bench like a wad of forgotten bubble gum, especially when every other freshmen on the team is running around making plays. Even back-up receiver David Nelson played 30 plays against Tennessee. And still you sat and watched.

Look, kid, if you haven't figured it out already, I'll spell it out. You are going to be R-E-D-S-H-I-R-T-E-D. Take this as a compliment. Florida wants you to be the next Percy Harvin. And everyone knows that there can't be two Percy Harvins at the same time. Redshirting is not a bad thing and if you had any sense in your brain you would be happy to get any extra year at Florida. Take the time to actually learn how to catch a football and run a proper route. These are things Percy didn't know how to do last year.

And, hey, at the rate Florida's receivers are pulling up lame, your coaches won't even get to redshirt you at all. Andre Caldwell (knee) is going to miss the Ole Miss game and Riley Cooper (ankle) might not play either.

The season is only three games old. Your college football career is only three games old. Keep doing what you have been doing (working hard) and everything will work itself out.


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