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21 posts from February 2008

February 29, 2008

5-star OL James Wilson transferring; This is a problem for the Gators

GAINESVILLE -- Florida redshirt freshman offensive lineman James Wilson is apparently tranferring, according to Wilson's facebook.com page. Wilson was rated the No.1 offensive guard prospect (No.2 among ALL PLAYERS) in the nation in 2006 by Rivals.com.

WilsonWilson's website profile reads, "I'm transferring." The five-star recruit, considered one of the Gators' best young offensive lineman, did not return phone calls on Friday night. Attempts to confirm the news through Florida's sports information staff were also unsuccessful.

A five-star recruit out of Ponte Vedra Beach Nease High School, Wilson was high school teammates with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Wilson, who picked Florida over USC, said he chose the Gators over the Trojans because he wanted to block for Tebow.

It's unclear where Wilson (6-5, 305 pounds) might transfer but several of his former high school teammates play for Wake Forest of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Wilson is the fifth Florida player to leave the Gators this offseason. The list includes running backs Chevon Walker and Bo Williams, receiver Jarred Fayson, quarterback Bryan Waggener and now Wilson.

MY OPINION? The Gators could stomach the losses of Williams, Walker, Waggener and even Fayson. Losing Wilson, who Florida coach Urban Meyer loved and expected to be a starter sooner than later, is a blow for the Gators.

-jo-

February 26, 2008

Gators add secondary coach; coaching changes finalized

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer finalized his staff today with the hiring of Vance Bedford, a longtime defensive backs coach.

Bedford, who coached at Michigan in 2007, will coach cornerbacks for Florida, replacing former assistant Doc Holliday, who left Florida for West Virginia. Bedford, a Texas native, coached with Meyer at Colorado State.

"I am excited to be working with Coach Meyer again," Bedford said. "I'm eager to get to Gainesville and work with a championship program."

Bedford recently ended his second stint at Michigan. He also coached the Wolverines' secondary from 1995-1998, a stretch that included instructing Heisman winner Charles Woodson. Bedford has also served as a defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and a defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears.

"[Vance] has coached at all levels, from high school to the NFL, and has a proven ability to work with and develop some of the top defensive backs in the nation," Meyer said. "Vance will be a great addition to our coaching staff."

Bedford caused a stir while in Oklahoma State when he referred to fair-weather fans as roaches. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy later fired Bedford.

VANCE BEDFORD FILE
Feb. 2008 -         Florida (Cornerbacks)
2007                    Michigan (Secondary)
2005-2006          Oklahoma State (Defensive Coordinator)
1999-2004          Chicago Bears (Defensive Backs)
1995-1998          Michigan (Secondary)
1993-1994          Oklahoma State (Defensive Backs)
1987-1992          Colorado State (Defensive Backs)
1986                    Navarro Junior College
1985                    Forest Brook High School, Houston, Texas 

Personal Information
Birthdate: August 20, 1958
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Education: Texas (1983)
Marital Status: Married to the former Margaret Bulloch.

LIST OF NEW COACHING ASSIGNMENTS
Steve Addazio - Assistant Head Coach, Offense/Offensive Line 
Vance Bedford - Cornerbacks
Kenny Carter - Running Backs
Billy Gonzales - Recruiting Coordinator/Wide Receivers 
Chuck Heater - Assistant Defensive Coordinator/Safeties 
John Hevesy - Tight Ends/Assistant Offensive Line 
Dan McCarney - Assistant Head Coach, Defense/Defensive Line 
Dan Mullen - Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
Charlie Strong – Defensive Coordinator, Associate Head
Coach/Linebackers
 

-jo-

February 20, 2008

COURTSIDE BLOG: Florida vs. South Carolina (final)

GAINESVILLE -- Florida beat South Carolina 85-82 at O'Connell Center on Wednesday to give the Gators their 10th 20-season in as many years. More importantly, the Gators figured out how to win a close game in league play.

Florida had a comfortable lead midway through the second half but South Carolina cut Florida's lead to two points in the final minute. Unlike its loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday, Florida kept its cool in the final seconds against South Carolina to earn an important win.

Florida guard Nick Calathes led Florida with 17 points, four rebounds and seven assists. Center Mo Speights had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Florida is off this weekend and back in action next week Wednesday at Georgia. Georgia is tough at home and a Florida win will help its efforts to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

LIVE ACTION BELOW
(Live blogging had to cut short tonight because of deadline issues. Gotta make that deadline, folks.)
Gators and Gamecocks trading three-pointers at a remarkable rate now. South Carolina has two three-pointers this half but Florida has three. Werner and Calathes have made back-to-back treys to give Florida a 13-point lead. UF 59, USC 46; 15:53.

Three-pointer for Florida's Walter Hodge to begin the half and then Mo Speights slammed another monstrous dunk. Hodge is 4-of-7 from three-point range. UF 53, USC 40; 17:38.

HALFTIME BELOW
A FEW HALFTIME NOTES: Both teams are shooting an incredible percentage from three-point range. Florida has made 7-of-11 three-pointers for 63 percent while South Carolina has made 6-of-9 three-pointers for 66.7 percent...Florida reserve Adam Allen has made 3-of-3 from behind the arc...Florida guard Nick Calathes already has six assists.

LIVE ACTION
Pretty exciting end to the first half. Calathes stripped South Carolina guard Devan Downey with a minute left and assisted Marreese Speights, who offered one of his most powerful dunks of the season. South Carolina's Dwayne Day responded with a three-pointer and then Florida's Jai Lucas scored at the buzzer with a driving lay-up. UF 46, USC 36; HALFTIME

Allen makes another three-pointer. UF 42, USC 31; 149. Bye-bye Allen. Billy D subbed him.

Allen still in the game. We're assuming Billy D is sick of watching Chandler Parsons play terrible defense. South Carolina is 5-of-7 from three-point range (71 percent). Calathes scores a lay-up on an assist from Allen. UF 37, USC 31; 3:43.

OK, Allen has swished two three-pointers. Let's see if Billy D benches him. UF 35, USC 31; 4:57.

Country Boy Adam Allen in the game. He'll swish two three-pointers and then Billy D will bench him for the game.

Gamecocks on a 7-0 run after two baskets inside from Mike Holmes and a three-pointer from Evaldas Baniulis. Baniulis has nine points (3-of-3 from three-point range). UF 26, USC 22; 7:59.

Was going to say Florida was playing consistent man-defense, but then UF's Chandler Parsons left Devan Downey wide open for a three-pointer. UF 22, USC 15; 11:50.

Florida's Dan Werner and Alex Tyus have combined to score the Gators last nine points. Tyus had a dunk to Florida a 12-7 lead (15:40) and Werner followed that with a three-pointer (nice assists Walter Hodge). UF 19, USC 12; 13:47.

The Gators are off to a quick start, taking a 10-5 lead after two three-pointers from Walter Hodge and a nice defense -- WHAT!?! -- from guard Jai Lucas.

PREGAME BELOW
Florida (19-7, 6-5 in SEC) has lost four of five games entering tonight's home game against South Carolina (12-12, 4-6 in SEC). It's not exactly do or die time just yet, but the Gators certainly need a win tonight to improve their chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

A few pregame notes: Nick Calathes is just one of two players in the country averaging 15 points, five rebounds and six assists per game...Florida is 10-0 when hitting 40 percent or better from three-point range. The Gators have made just 22 percent of their three-point attempts in their seven losses...Marreese Speights has drawn a team-high 12 charges this season...Calathes has 159 assists, just 32 shy of breaking the school record of 190 by Ronnie Montgomery (1987-88).

STARTERS
South Carolina
F Dominique Archie 6-7 11.0 ppg
F Dwayne Day         6-5  5.3 ppg
F Evaldes Baniulis  6-7  4.9 ppg
G Devan Downey    5-9  19.8 ppg
G Zam Fredrick      6-0  15.4 ppg

Florida
F Dan Werner           6-7   8.9 ppg
C Marreese Speights 6-10 13.8 ppg
G Walter Hodge       6-0   10.3 ppg
G Nick Calathes       6-5   15.2 ppg
G Jai Lucas              5-11  9.1 ppg

February 19, 2008

Post of the Year so far goes to this guy

In response to some testy Miami fans, a poster named Davey offered these refreshing words. Davey writes...

Why don't you stupid ignorant girlie-men get a life. The jerk who says 'gayturds' all the time is an imbecile and a LOSER. Anyone who always belittles the opponent and people is stupid, lowlife, slimey, scUM.
Learn to respect all people and opponents.
UM is going to get better. FSU is going to get better. Florida has a long ways to go defensively before they can compete at the highest level again. The Miami and Florida game coming up in six months will be a high-scoring game that is a toss-up. The FSU/Florida game in eight months will be the same -- high scoring and a toss-up. RESPECT all people and all opponents. Then we can all have fun here and enjoy the STATE OF FLORIDA dominance in football again. Please people - GROW UP.

February 15, 2008

Call me crazy: UF should hire Roland Smith

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer said in his recruiting press conference that he wants to position one assistant coach in Miami-Dade County to recruit the fertile area. This will be a demanding job and will require someone who knows the area. Call me crazy, but I think that person is former Miami Northwestern High coach Roland Smith.

Smith would be the best possible replacement for former Florida assistant Doc Holliday, who recruited South Florida for years and most recently coached safeties at Florida. He was respected throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties but will never command the kind of attention Smith would receive on his first day on the job in Miami. The guy is a Miami hero.

Before you pass the idea off as nonsense, take a quick look at Smith's resume. He grew up in Miami, played defensive back for the University of Miami, coached high school at Miami mega-power Miami Northwestern and put together what many believe to be the best high school team in state history, the 2007 Bulls. Smith didn't coach the team in 2007 but he was certainly the team's architect. Smith led the 2006 Bulls to a state championship before being forced out by the school's administration. (Everyone remembers the whole Antwan Easterling fiasco, right? Good, no need to review it.)

ANYWAY, nine of those players from the 2007 Miami Northwestern team signed with the University of Miami in Febuary. I don't think this blog needs anymore explanation. Florida wouldn't miss a beat in recruiting Miami-Dade if it hired Roland Smith.

-jo-

February 14, 2008

Score! More recruiting websites found

GAINESVILLE -- Stumbled across a new recruiting website this morning while surfing the web. Check out MapGameDay.com. Pretty neat site, actually. It thumbtacks recruits' hometowns atop a topographical map.

For example, Frankie Hammonds Jr.'s hometown of Hallandale is exactly 284.71 miles from Gainesville. The Florida recruit who grew up farthest from Gainesville? Receiver Carl Moore of Roseville, Cali. (2,290.48 miles). Safety Will Hill of West Orange, N.J., grew up 893.83 miles from Gainesville.

-jo-

Florida's RPI takes huge dip after loss to LSU

GAINESVILLE -- The computers don't like Florida this morning. The Gators' RPI ranking dipped to 60 after losing to Louisiana State on Wednesday night, according to a recreation of the ratings percentage index produced by kenpom.com.

Florida, previously ranked No.43 in the RPI, entered Wednesday's game second in the SEC East while LSU was the league's worst team. An RPI of 60 is probably not good enough to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Only one 19-win team has a lower RPI than Florida, Robert Morris at No. 155.

Further damaging the Gators' regular-season resume: the Gators have lost three of their last four games. The NCAA Selection Committee takes into account a team's final 10 games of the regular season when selecting teams for the NCAA Tournament.

Florida's non-conference strength of schedule ranks No.316 out of 341 teams, according to kenpom.com (the best college basketball website around). That weakness isn't going to help the Gators much when compared to team's with similar RPI rankings.

A weak non-conference schedule isn't helping Florida's cause but neither is a weak Southeastern Conference. Florida's only quality all season was the blowout against Vanderbilt. (Temple? RPI ranking of 60; Kentucky? RPI ranking of 84.)

Games against South Carolina and Georgia are must wins and Florida needs two more wins after that to insure an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament (just my opinion). Florida's remaining schedule: at Vandy (21-4), South Carolina (11-12) at home, at Georgia (11-10), Miss. State (16-7) at home, Tennessee (21-2) at home, at Kentucky (12-10), SEC Tournament.

-jo-

February 13, 2008

COURTSIDE BLOG: LSU vs. Florida FINAL

LSU 85, Florida 73; Here's a link to my story in Thursday's Miami Herald: "Donovan's worries are realized in loss to LSU"

GAINESVILLE -- Florida was overmatched tonight against an LSU team that has won but nine games this season. What does this mean for the Gators? They better win a few more regular-season games to impress the NCAA Selection Committee.

The magic number for an at-large bid remains at 23 wins (just my opinion). Florida was supposed to get its 20th win of the season here at O'Connell Center tonight. The schedule doesn't get any easier. (And don't look now but Florida might have to play LSU in the first round of the SEC Tournament.)

TONIGHT'S LEADERS
LSU (9-14, 2-7 in SEC)
C Chris Johnson 19 points, six rebounds, four blocks, three assists
F Anthony Randolph 22 points, five rebounds, two blocks
G Marcus Thornton 20 points, 4-7 from three-point range

FLORIDA (19-6, 6-4 in SEC)
G Nick Calathes 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists
F Dan Werner 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists
G Walter Hodge 10 points, six rebounds
F Adam Allen 6 points

LIVE BLOG BELOW

-All over but free throws now.

Gotta five Florida a little credit. They don't have much of a chance left to win this game but they're not giving up. Speights' just dunked but LSU's Anthony Randolph is having the best game of his career. He just made five straight points to give him 22 points on the night. LSU 77-65, 2:01.

So much for momentum. Florida just gave it all back with a 9-0 LSU run. Marcus Thornton started the run with a three-pointer and LSU added two quick points with a Florida turnover followed by an Anthony Randolph dunk. Doesn't look like LSU will be giving this game away.

Speights just took a feed from Werner and jammed home the most powerful dunk of his life. Rowdies going crazy now as Florida has cut the lead to four, LSU 55-51, 9:22.

Florida on a 7-0 run (two Werner field goals and a Calathes three-point play). Rowdy Reptiles screaming in my ears. LSU 55, Florida 49 10:21.

Interesting line-up for the Gators right now. Tyus, Parsons, Mitchell, Hodge and Lucas. Mitchell nails a three-pointer, LSU 50-42, 13:43.

LSU's Anthony Randolph (almost as skinny and almost as tall as Johnson) is on his own personal run. He's scored six and could make it seven with a free throw after this timeout. LSU 50-37; 15:24.

Werner is off tonight. 0-of-4 from three-point range.

Three Florida turnovers to the begin the half and another three-pointer from LSU's Chris Johnson. Not looking good for the Gators. LSU 44, Florida 35; 17:27.

-The second half is about to begin and Florida coach Billy Donovan is still giving the same referee an earful. Veteran reporters on press row are saying this is the worst they've ever see Donovan react to a questionable call.

HALFTIME THOUGHTS BELOW
What's wrong with Florida guard Nick Calathes these days? He struggled in the win against Georgia and he's not having a good game tonight against LSU. Calathes has four points, four rebounds and three assists. That's a pretty productive half but he looks kind of slow tonight.

-Florida needs to find an answer for LSU big men Chris Johnson and Anthony Randolph. The two players are dominating inside with a combined 19 points.

-Donovan gave one of the refs the long stare at halftime. Wouldn't be surprised to see Donovan get a technical foul in the second half.

FIRST HALF BELOW: LSU 41, Florida 33
Werner is sucking wind and just nodded to Donovan for a substitution. He needs a break after a terrible three-point attempt. LSU on a five-point run thanks to a three-point play by Anthony Randolph and a runner from Marcus Thornton. LSU 36-27, 3:19.

Hodge and Calathes nail back-to-back three-pointers, cutting LSU's lead to 31-27, 5:09.

Allen with his second three-pointer of the game. Is Country Boy finally emerging from his midseason funk? LSU 27-19, 6:50.

Parsons answers with a driving slam dunk of his own. Impressive power move from Mr. Parsons.

Wow! This LSU team is athletic. How are they so bad? Well, LSU isn't playing bad tonight. Garrett Temple, a 6-0 guard, just drove through the lane for a jam, LSU 25-12, 9:21.

LSU's Terry Martin makes his second three-pointer in a row and Adam Allen answers with a three of his own. LSU 25-12, 9:53.

Timeout in the O'Dome. Florida has more turnovers (five) than field goals (four).

"Coat Rack" swishes a three-pointer. This is getting ridiculous. No...now it's ridiculous. LSU made another three-pointer. LSU 20-8, 12:03.

Jonathan Mitchell is the only Gator contributing right now. He just made a 18-footer and took a charge. Oh, but "Coat Rack" dunked again, LSU 14-4, 13:57.

Chris "Coat Rack" Johnson is going to be tough to guard tonight. Speights doesn't appear quick enough for the job. Johnson just slammed down his second dunk of the game and was fouled in the process. LSU Marcus Thornton swishes a three-pointer, LSU 12-2, 15:34.

The Human Coat Rack scores LSU's first two baskets of the game, LSU 4-2, 17:54.

OH MY GOSH! LSU center Chris Johnson is so skinny (6-11, 185 pounds). This guy looks like a coat rack.

PREGAME NOTES BELOW
Florida trails LSU 58-37 all time but has won four of the last five meetings between the two schools. LSU is playing its second game without former head coach John Brady, who was recently fired.

-Florida coach Billy Donovan is close friends with Brady and called him earlier in the week to offer his support. LSU interim head coach Butch Pierre lost his head-coaching debut with a 47-45 loss to Tennessee.

-This is the Tigers' third game since the return of center Chris Johnson, who broke a bone in his right hand on Jan. 2 against Tulane.

-The story line for Florida is simple tonight. The Gators are expected to win but Donovan will be looking for his young team to make improvements on the defensive end of the court. Donovan criticized his team for playing poor defense after last week's win against Georgia. The win against the Bulldogs snapped a two-game skid.

-The dance team is dancing.

LSU (8-14, 1-7 in SEC) starting five
F Anthony Randolph 6-10, 190, freshman, 14.1 ppg/8.6 rpg
C Chris Johnson 6-11, 185 pounds, junior, 11.6 ppg4.9 rpg
G Alex Farrer 6-5, 200 pounds, sophomore, 2.7 ppg/1.5 rpg
G Garrett Temple, 6-5, 185 pounds, junior, 6.6 ppg/3.5 apg
G Marcus Thornton, 6-4, 190 pounds, junior 19.5 ppg/5.9 rpg

FLORIDA (19-5, 6-3 in SEC) starting five
F Dan Werner, 6-7, 235 pounds, sophomore, 8.7 ppg/6.8 rpg
C Marressee Speights 6-10, 245 pounds, sophomore 14 ppg/7.9 rpg
G Walter Hodge 6-0, 170 pounds, junior, 10.3 ppg/2.9 apg
G/F Nick Calathes, 6-6, 194 pounds, freshman, 15.4 ppg/6.2 apg
G Jai Lucas, 5-11, 155 pounds, freshman, 9.5 ppg/2.3 apg

-jo-

RECRUITING TOUR BUS: State's Croom keeping pace in SEC West

Let's take a trip around the Southeastern Conference and see how the other guys faired on National Signing Day. For the next couple of weeks I'll analyze the recruiting class from each school in the SEC. Check back and find out all the interesting information I've uncovered about the Gators' competition...This is part 3 in an 11-part series.
Previous tour stop links (CLICK THE SCHOOL): Auburn, Alabama.

GAINESVILLE -- It was dark when the imaginary tour bus motored down a desolate Mississippi highway in search of Mississippi State University. People in Miami do not know darkness like this. The tour bus missed the exit to MSU and doubled back. This is cowbell country.

People call me crazy but Mississippi State has long been one of my favorite campuses in the SEC. Not only is it home to one of my favorite college football players, freshman quarterback Wesley Croom_2 Carroll, Mississippi State is just plain fun. Folks say there's nothing to do in Starkville, Miss. Those people lack imagination and four-wheel drive.

State coach Sly Croom certainly lacks no imagination. He inherited a mess but has transformed State into a legitimate contender in the ultra-competitive SEC West. The Bulldogs won eight games in 2007 and beat Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl. Most impressive were wins against Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky and rival Ole Miss. One would think the momentum of such an impressive season would have buoyed recruiting in Stark Vegas. Truth is, Croom already had a quality recruiting class committed to State before the Bulldogs' surprising season. 

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (Distance from Gainesville: about 615 country miles)
Helmet_msuCommitments: 27
Top three: DT Templeton Hardy (6-3, 295 pounds); DB Charles Mitchell (5-11, 187 pounds); ATH Rashun Dixon (6-2, 227 pounds)

Missed out on: A quarterback...any quarterback. The career-ending hip injury to junior quarterback Michael Henig has left State with only three scholarship passers. Both Mississippi State and Ole Miss thought they might have a chance to steal away quarterback prospect Jim Youngblood from Arkansas when former 'Hogs coach Houston Nutt left for Ole Miss. Youngblood, however, stayed put in Fayetteville, Ark., canceling visits to both Mississippi schools after speaking with new Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.

MccardellSleeper: DE Shane McCardell (6-5, 220 pounds, Beaumont West Brook, Texas) Mississippi State identified McCardell late in the recruiting process. Once State offered McCardell, several other schools, including Texas, became interested. Texas offered McCardell but the defensive end remained true to Mississippi State and signed with the Bulldogs. Croom wanted to improve his team speed with this signing class and McCardell reflects that philosophy. McCardell runs a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, according to State's football website.

SeanfurgesonFloridians: WR Charles Bailey (6-2, 173 pounds, Jacksonville Bartram Trail); LB Sean Ferguson (6-4, 225 pounds, Miami Norland); Corey Broomfield (5-10, 157 pounds, Palm Bay Bayside); LB Kirkland Gainous (6-2, 205 pounds, Tallahassee Lincoln). Ferguson, PICTURED, committed to Mississippi State after a long recruiting process, which included offers from Rutgers, South Florida, FAU and FIU. Bailey is the son of Charles Bailey Sr., a scout for the Jacksonville Jaguars.


Recruiting insider
: State graduated two starters along the defensive front and retooled at Charlesmitchell the position with seven defensive line commitments. Defensive tackles Josh Jones and Templeton Hardy are expected to compete for playing time next fall. Hardy chose the Bulldogs over SEC West rivals Ole Miss, Alabama and LSU. Jones is an equally impressive runner stopper. Croom signed 16 players from the state of Mississippi, trouncing Ole Miss for homegrown talent. Ole Miss, which underwent a coaching change after the 2007 season, signed six in-state prospects. Defensive back Charles Mitchell, PICTURED, the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year, is one of the best prospects out of prep power Clarksdale High in the last 25 years, according to longtime Clarksdale coach Jim Hughes. WR O'Neal Wilder (6-5, 190 pounds, 4.5 in the 40-yard dash) received attention from Miami before committing to the Bulldogs.

Impact freshman: ATH Rashun Dixon (6-2, 227 pounds, 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash) Rashundixon is the younger brother of current Mississippi State running back Anthony Dixon. Rashun could contribute immediately for the Bulldogs if he actually shows up on campus this summer. A Jackson (Miss.) Tate High product, Rashun is also a talented baseball player and will likely be drafted this summer. If the money is right, Dixon could be putting his college football career on hold for a couple years (or maybe forever). If Dixon does enroll at Mississippi State, he could play a number of positions for the Bulldogs in 2008. If nothing else, he'll be a major special teams contributor his freshman season.

ONE BIG QUESTION: Can State keep pace in the West? Ignore the recruiting website team rankings, Mississippi State signed a competitive class on National Signing Day. State filled its immediate needs along the defensive line with several talented prospects and the Bulldogs added several potential stars at defensive back. Croom has established himself as the top recruiter in the Magnolia State but that foundation will now be tested with proven recruiters surrounding Starkville to the north, south, east and west. State can co-exist with Houston Nutt and Ole Miss but the Bulldogs can't afford to lose some of their state's top talent to Alabama, LSU and Southern Miss. 

TOUR BUS PODCAST: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Tom_cruise_i_mean_jo_2Here at Gator Clause, State coach Sly Croom is one of our favorite coaches in college football. He's honest, humble, intelligent, a direct link to one of the SEC's greatest coaches (Paul "Bear" Bryant) and the gods of college football rewarded him handsomely in 2007 (See the Egg Bowl). What does Croom need to do in 2008 to build even more momentum? Joe Goodman, PICTURED, rings the traditional Mississippi State cowbell in his latest recruiting tour bus podcast. [CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON TO LISTEN]

Next stop: Baton Rouge, La., and the home of the LSU Tigers. Distance to Baton Rouge from Starkville: 303. Total miles logged: 580 miles. Schools covered: Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State.

TOUR BUS LINKS (CLICK ON THE SCHOOL): Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi State.

BLOGS FROM GREAT SPORTS WRITERS [CLICK THE WRITER]: Kyle Veazey covers Mississippi State for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Gregg Ellis covers Mississippi State for the Northeast Mississippi (Tupelo) Daily Journal.

-jo-

Vanderbilt's Carter the latest Florida assistant

GAINESVILLE -- Florida hired Vanderbilt assistant Kenny Carter today to be the Gators' running backs coach. Carter replaces Stan Drayton, who left Florida for a similar position at the University of Tennessee.

Carter was unavailable for comment this afternoon but his wife, Bonnie, said the family was currently making plans to move to Gainesville. Get well soon, Bonnie! (She's got a cold.)

KennycarterCarter adds a wealth of experience to the Gators' staff. He coached receivers at Penn State (2001-2003) before joining Vanderbilt's staff as the recruiting coordinator and running backs coach (2004-2007). Prior to his stint at Penn State, Carter coached running backs at Pittsburgh (2000) and outside linebackers at LSU (1999).

Carter graduated from The Citadel in 1990 and coached at his alma mater from 1994-1996. He was an assistant at Furman in 1993, the year Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson was named the Paladins' head coach.

Carter is the second assistant to join the Gators' coaching staff in less than a week. Former University of South Florida assistant Dan McCarney, a defensive line coach, joined the Gators' staff over the weekend. McCarney replaced former Florida assistant Greg Mattison, who was hired by the Baltimore Ravens.

Florida is yet to name a replacement for assistant coach Doc Holliday, who accepted a position at West Virginia in January. Holliday coached safeties at Florida and recruited Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.   

-jo-

February 10, 2008

It's official: Mattison to the Baltimore Ravens

GAINESVILLE -- Florida co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison accepted a position with the Baltimore Ravens' today.

The move was expected after the Gators' hired assistant Dan McCarney away from the University of South Florida on Thursday. McCarney and Mattison both coach the defensive line.

This is the second time the Ravens have tried to hire Mattison away from the Gators. Mattison, who began coaching in 1971, has never coached professional football. He will coach linebackers for Balimore and new head coach John Harbaugh.

Harbaugh and Mattison have been friends for nearly 25 years. Mattison was the defensive coordinator for Western Michigan in the 1980s while John was the linebackers coach. John's father, Jack, was the head coach.

Mattison, one of Florida coach Urban Meyer's best friends, is the third assistant coach to leave the Gators' staff this offseason.

-jo-

On the kid who lied about being recruited...

Surely you've heard this one by now...
Here's a link to the story in case you haven't: Fernley's Hart Admits Fabricating Story

GAINESVILLE -- So, some kid in Nevada made up this elaborate story about being recruited by Cal. Then the kid tells everyone he committed to Cal. Then, when signing day comes, the kid has to face reality. He made it all up. He sucks just like the rest of us and now must become a sports writer.

Just about every sports columnist in the country has written about this kid, including Mitch Albom of the Detriot Free Press. Albom pretty much gets it right. The recruiting craze is to blame. No question about that. The culture created by this phenomenon is not helping in the development of these young men.

I've referred to the guys who work for Internet recruiting websites as the worst things about college sports world since Day One. Kids these days are committing early just so they don't have to be hounded by websites every day of their senior years of high school. There's an easy answer to the problem. If you're a high school student being recruited for athletics, then don't talk to a single reporter until you've signed a National Letter of Intent. Talk to the press on National Signing Day and then be done with it.

In the case of this kid lying about being recruited, who really cares? Not me. He fessed up. (Guess he kinda had to.) Anyway, let it go. This is just one isolated occurrence. The real problem isn't some moron in Nevada. (They play football in Nevada.) The real problem: the kids who really stop at nothing to get on that National Signing Day podium. As in, there's a big difference in being a [donkey] and sticking a syringe full of steroids in your ... [pants].

It happens, folks. It happens a lot and, boy, do I mean it. It has been a major national problem at the high school level for some time now. You think Major League Baseball doesn't test its players properly? There is absolute no testing going on at the high school level. Kid shoots up over the summer and no one knows. Kid runs a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash at the summer combine. Kid gets a scholarship. Rinse and repeat.

This is the real reason (I hope) that Congress is pressuring Major League Baseball to clean up its act. I don't really care if grown men ruin their bodies to break some silly sports record or make a bunch of money. I do care if kids watching at home mistake these losers for heroes. (For the record, "Clean" Ken Griffey Jr. was my guy.)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog post has been amended by the author. Joseph Goodman sincerely regrets upsetting the good people at Rivals.com and Scout.com. These companies actually do great work, although I callously poked fun at them earlier.

-jo-

RECRUITING TOUR BUS: Alabama cashing in on Saban investment

Let's take a trip around the Southeastern Conference and see how the other guys faired on National Signing Day. For the next couple of weeks I'll analyze the recruiting class from each school in the SEC. Check back and find out all the interesting information I've uncovered about the Gators' competition...Part 2 in an 11-part series.
Previous tour stop links (CLICK THE SCHOOL): Auburn.

GAINESVILLE -- After taking a day off from the road (had to make a detour and cover the Gators' basketball game on Saturday), the recruiting tour bus wheeled into Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Sunday morning and found the place hung over from a three-day bender. The folks in T-town have been Cartag1partying nonstop since coach Nick "I Took a Pay Cut" Saban offered the Crimson Tide faithful (and they have certainly been faithful) one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. As they say in the Yellowhammer State, stars fell on Alabama. (Sorry, couldn't resist. Click on license plate tag for an explanation.)

SabanmoneybagsAlabama's recruiting efforts have been limited for the last 15,000 years after the NCAA uncovered one of the biggest scandals in college football history. Does the name Albert Means ring any bells? NCAA sanctions, heavy handed to be sure, reduced the mighty Alabama football program to a shadow of its former self. Alabama hit rock bottom in 2007 after finishing the regular season 6-6. It appears the Tide finally has begun the long road back to respectability with a promising recruiting class in 2008. Capstone brass paid Saban $4 million per to resurrect the program. The investment appears to be paying off.

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (Distance from Gainesville: 395 miles)
Helmet_alaCommitments: 32
Top three: WR Julio Jones (6-4, 215 pounds, Foley, Ala.); OL Tyler Love (6-7, 285 pounds, Mountain Brook, Ala.); ATH Burton Scott (5-11, 194 pounds, Prichard, Ala.)

Missed out on: Hoover, Ala., defensive end William Green chose the Florida Gators over the Crimson Tide. He shied away from the Tide because Alabama received four early commitments from other top-rated defensive ends. Green told me he picked the Gators because of the depth chart and, "Coach Meyer was honest the whole time."

UndraSleeper: DE Undra Billingsley (6-4, 260 pounds, Birmingham, Ala.) The best high school prospect out of Woodlawn High since former Auburn and current Arizona Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby. Billingsley needs to add some muscle to his frame but when he does, this defensive end will be a major force in the Southeastern Conference. While Billingsley may take a year to contribute on the field, his leadership will make an immediate impact. Billingsley graduated Woodlawn with a 3.95 GPA. (FYI: Bobby Bowden graduated from Woodlawn, but that was back when they were still mining iron ore out of nearby Ruffner Mountain.)

Floridians: QB Star "Headline Writer's Dream" Jackson (6-3, 182 pounds, 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Lake Worth); WR Melvin Ray (6-2, 185 pounds, 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Star Tallahassee North Florida Christian). Alabama didn't get many kids out of the Sunshine State but the two Saban did pull are top-notch athletes. Star Jackson, PICTURED, is the Crimson Tide's quarterback of the future (Maybe the near future; Oh, boy, I can already see the headlines now). He throws a pretty ball, can complete the touch pass and, while he's considered a pro-style quarterback, has the ability to scramble for a first down. Jackson's only downside: He didn't play organized football until he got to high school. He'll probably take a few years to develop. 

Recruiting insider: Saban hasn't been in Tuscaloosa long enough to earn his houndstooth hat Jones20080206but the coach certainly earned a bear hug from his fan base after reestablishing Alabama as the premier in-state destination for in-state recruits. Alabama hasn't beaten Auburn on the field in awhile but Saban and his staff -- despite the loss of offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to Texas -- whipped Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville in the race for homegrown talent. The Crimson Tide signed more than twice as many in-state prospects (19) as Auburn (nine). Topping that list is receiver Julio Jones of Foley, Ala. Jones flirted with Florida but in the end said he felt more at home in Tuscaloosa. Jones' commitment was no surprise. The receiver has been visiting the University of Alabama unofficially for some time and is no stranger to the Crimson Tide's weight room.

BarronImpact freshman: There are quite a few but Gator Clause will focus on Mark Barron, perhaps the most gifted athlete of this preposterous signing class. Barron prepped at Mobile St. Paul's and led the private school to an unlikely state championship. The thing about St. Paul's season: Barron pretty much did everything -- running back, receiver, safety, kick returner. Tuscaloosa hasn't seen a more well-rounded athlete of Barron's caliber since David Palmer. (Not saying Barron will be as good as Palmer, just saying...) Barron could start somewhere in the secondary next season for the Crimson Tide. (Miami Dolfans all know how Saban likes his defensive backs.)

Tables turning in Alabama The Beautiful? Tuberville, dust off your resume. Nah, Sabanrolltide just kidding. Tommy is safe ... at least for one more season. Alabama might have had a great recruiting class but, hey, it's just recruiting. Last time I checked, that loss to Louisiana-Monroe is still on the 2007 schedule. As long as Auburn continues to win on the field, the Tigers still own the state of Alabama. All jokes and hyperbole aside, folks all over Alabama should be happy the Pachyderms are finally regrowing their tusks. Coming soon to a city-sized football stadium in Alabama: An Iron Bowl that might actually mean something. How long has it been?

TOUR BUS PODCAST: ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDEDsc00812_2
My Miami Herald collegue, Dan LeBatard, might disagree, but Nick Saban is not the Antichrist. No, Saban is just a guy who sold his soul to the devil for the easy life of college football. Back in the minor leagues, Saban is doing all the buying now (err...metaphorical buying, I mean). He accomplished more this recruiting cycle than most coaches do in three. How long can he keep it up? Press the play button on this podcast and find out what Joe Goodman, PICTURED, has to say.

Next up: The tour bus drives west from Tuscaloosa, Ala., to Starkville, Miss. (Check back on Monday, guys. Taking a trip to St. Augustine today. Surfs up.) Distance from Tuscaloosa to Stark Vegas: 82 miles. Total miles logged: 439 miles. Schools covered: Auburn and Alabama.

TOUR BUS LINKS (CLICK ON THE SCHOOL): Auburn, Alabama.

-jo-

February 09, 2008

Courtside blog: Florida 77, Georgia 67 FINAL

Link to my game story in today's Miami Herald: UF's Donovan unconvinced by win

For the record: Not a hickey on Nick Calathes' neck. Chandler Parsons owned up to scratching him. "No, I didn't give him a hickey," Parsons said...He really said that.

ChandlerGAINESVILLE -- Florida beat Georgia 77-67 on Saturday afternoon. Florida forward Chandler Parsons, PICTURED, led the Gators with 18 points, including three three-pointers. He was 6-of-9 from the field.

Florida sophomore Dan Wener had 10 points, six rebounds, seven steals and three assists. Marresse Speights never could establish himself against Georgia's post players. Speights finished with six points but did have 10 rebounds.

Walter Hodge had 14 points and Jai Lucas scored 13. Guard Nick Calathes, usually the Gators most consistent player, scored seven points on 1-of-7 from the field. He had six assists.

Florida is now 19-5 overall and 6-3 in the SEC. Georgia falls to 11-10 and 2-6 in league play.

LIVE BLOG BELOW
Calathes now fouls with 41.7 seconds left. Kid can't do anything right today.

Werner has seven steals. That's one steal shy of a Florida record. Werner at the line now and makes a pair. And now Georgia calls a timeout to ice Werner with 51.4 left and trailing by nine!!! I hope Georgia doesn't start fouling. I might rush the court if that happens. Headline: Miami Herald reporter tackles Georgia coach. Quote: "I was just trying to stop the clock ONE MORE TIME!!!" sreamed Goodman as he was carried away in handcuffs. Florida 75, Georgia 63; 51.4.

This is got to be Calathes' worst game of the season. He just launched an arrant alley-oop attempt into the seats and Donovan just rolled his eyes. Florida 73, Georgia 63; 1:35.

Billy is royally upset about Florida not playing adequate defense. Speights is getting an earful right now. And now Billy is screaming at Chandler Parsons. This game is downright disgusting. Florida 73, Georgia 62; 2:18.

OK, just got a close-up look of Calathes' neck on an inbounds play. On second inspection, it doesn't look like a hickey. More like a burn, a cut or a maybe some sort of lesion.

Florida in a four-corners offense now. This game is over. Florida 69, Georgia 56; 4:15.

Hickey theories running rampant on press row now. Calathes' bad game being blamed on a long night of sucking face. Reporters have dirty minds, FYI.

Hickey boy out of the game now. Lucas in. Florida 69, Georgia 55; 6:09.

HERE'S SOMETHING YOU WON'T READ IN THE PAPER TOMORROW. NICK CALATHES HAS THE WORLD'S BIGGEST HICKEY ON HIS NECK. BLAH!!!!!

Georgia making stupid mistakes now. Not only is Georgia a bad basketball team, they're a bad basketball that's grossly out of shape. Fat boy Georgia center Jeremy Price just fouled out making a silly foul at midcourt moments after guard Sun-whatever-his-name-is Gaines fouled Speights under the basket. Florida 69, Georgia 55; 6:47.

TV timeout and now the best part about covering basketball games in the O'Dome, the 10-minute-mark Paul Simon sing along. Like I said, Florida's got a great student section.

Speights rips down a rebound (his seven of the game) and Calathes nails a three-pointer in the corner on the following possession. Florida cruising now. UF 68, Georgia 53; 8:18. Press row conversation going on right now: How many years should Speights stay at Florida before he turns pro. I say he needs one more year after this. He's just learning how to bang.

Alright, got to give the Gators a little credit. They are playing pretty good defense. Georgia hasn't scored in over three minutes now.

And now Chandler Parsons can't dunk, nothing new there. Speights inside. Florida 63, Georgia 53, 9:22.

This a bad game all the way around. Bad Florida. Bad Georgia. Bad officials. At the least Florida's student section is consistently great all season. Speights just made his second field goal of the game to give Florida a 61-53 lead with 10:34 left.

Calathes out again after a less than two minutes of work. I think Billy Donovan is upset with Calathes' play. Meanwhile, Adam Allen scores a nice bucket and Jai Lucas goes to the line and sinks two free throws after another steal by Dan Werner. Florida 57, Georgia 53.

Florida guard Nick Calathes has been out of the game for about five minutes and Florida has managed to hang onto the lead in his absence. Calathes and Werner in for Hodge and Speights. Florida 53; Georgia 49; 13:22.

Georgia is so awful at basketball. When is the last time Georgia was any good? Tubby Smith? How long has that been now?  Of course, as I type these words the Bulldogs start the second half with three consecutive three-pointers to cut Florida's lead to 48-17; 16:14.

Florida finished the half strong with a 15-4 run. Chandler Parsons is playing great basketball. He finished the half with 13 points including 10 points in the last three minutes and 15 seconds. Florida 43, Georgia 26 HALFTIME.

HALFTIME OBSERVATIONS: Mo Speights has two points and four rebounds. He's needs to contribute a little more during the second half.

HALFTIME SHOW: Dogs catching frisbees. One of the dogs jumped and landed on its head. Ouch!

Georgia point guard Sundiata Gaines is playing well. He's got 11 points and is currently trading baskets with Florida's Chandler Parsons. Parsons is winning the battle. He made a runner in the lane and followed that with a three-pointer. Parsons has eight points and is perfect from the field (3-3 overall, 2-2 from three-pointer range). Florida 33, Georgia 30; 2:29. Parsons is never afraid to shoot it. That's what I like about this Florida team. They might be young but they're never afraid to take chances.

Walter Hodge just stripped a Georgia point guard and dunked on a fast break. The crowd is going crazy. Florida 28, Georgia 25; 4:23. Hodge leads Florida with eight points.

Adam Allen in the game and playing his best basketball in some time. He swished a three-pointer to give Florida the lead and just absorbed a charge. Florida 20, Georgia 18; 8:45. Allen has now made four three-pointers in his last nine games.

Getting sloppy in the O'Dome now. Trading more turnovers than points now. One thing I've learned this season, Jonathan Mitchell should never be allowed to dribble the ball. Florida 15, Georgia 14; 11:59...Parsons swished a three to give Florida the lead (highlight of the game so far next to Werner's hustle).

"Thunder" Dan Werner is working hard (as usual) in the game's opening minutes. Two steals, a rebound and a field goal for Werner. I spoke with Werner before the Tennessee trip and he told me he got his hair cut military style because, "I'm going to war." UF 8, UGA 4; 17:06

PREGAME BELOW
Florida (18-5) looks to rebound today after its loss to Tennessee on Wednesday. Georgia (11-9). Georgia has lost four straight since beating Alabama and Arkansas in mid-January.

Observations: Why do Chandler Parsons and Jonathan Mitchell have their pregame warm-ups tucked into their basketball shorts? I'll launch an investigation after today's game.

One of Georgia's scrubs just missed a lay-up during warm-ups. The reporter sitting next to me laughed out loud and pointed.

Florida starting line-up:
F Dan Werner 6-7, 235 pounds (8.7 ppg/6.8 rpg)
C Marresse Speights 6-10, 245 pounds (14.4 ppg/7.8 rpg)
G Walter Hodge 6-0, 170 pounds (10.1/2.8 apg)
G/F Nick Calathes 6-6, 194 pounds (15.7 ppg/6.2 apg)
G Jai Lucas 5-11, 155 pounds (9.3 ppg/2.3 apg)

Georgia starting line-up:
F Terrance Woodbury 6-7, 220 pounds (9.2 ppg/3.6 rbg)
F Jeremy Price 6-8, 270 pounds (8.7 ppg/4.4 rpg)
C Dave Bliss 6-10, 255 pounds (7.3 ppg/5.0 rpg)
G Sundiata Gaines 6-1, 210 pounds (13.2 ppg/6.2 apg)
G Zac Swansey 6-1, 175 pounds (4.1 ppg/1.8 apg)

-jo-

February 08, 2008

Gators hire South Florida assistant coach; Will he recruit Miami? Doubt it.

GAINESVILLE -- The University of Florida hired assistant football coach Dan McCarney on Friday afternoon. For more information about the hiring CLICK THIS LINK.

CoachmacMcCarney coached the defensive line at South Florida last season. Does hiring McCarney mean that current defensive line coach Greg Mattison is leaving for the Baltimore Ravens? A university official told me that is not the case shortly after McCarney's hiring was made public.

Florida recently lost two assistants. Safeties coach Doc Holliday went to West Virginia and running backs coach Stan Drayton skipped town for Tennessee (oh, the horror). Meyer will assign his new coaches positions once he fills the remaining spot.

Holliday's loss created a recruiting hole in South Florida. Meyer is filling that void with two coaches. Receiver coach Billy Gonzales will now recruit Palm Beach and Broward counties and Meyer said he will place one of his new hires in Miami-Dade.

Two assistant coaches in South Florida should be a good indication that Florida is pretty serious about recruiting South Florida and plans to remain a permanent and strong presence in the area. It's possible McCarney will be the coach asked to recruit Miami-Dade, although he didn't recruit the area for South Florida.

McCarney coached college football for nearly 30 years in the Midwest before being hired at South Florida in 2007. I don't exactly see him being able to relate to kids in South Florida, but I could be wrong. 

McCarney was the head coach at Iowa State for 11years (1995-2006) and led the Cyclones to five bowl games. He was named Big 12 coach of the year in 2004, the year Iowa State was co-champs of the Big 12 North. McCarney was a defensive coordinator at Wisconsin from 1990-1994 and was an assistant at Iowa from 1977-1989.

-jo-

RECRUITING TOUR BUS: First stop Auburn, where the Tigers are transitioning

Let's take a trip around the Southeastern Conference. Each day for the next 11 days I'll add an SEC school to this post. Check back and find out all the interesting information I've uncovered about the Gators' competition...

GAINESVILLE -- Now that we've had time to digest Florida's 22 commitments (and watch the latest episode of LOST), let's take a look at who the other guys signed. There's plenty of talent to go around in the Southeast. Who were the winners? Who were the losers?

Sec_3The tour bus begins in Gainesville and travels northwest 311 miles to Auburn, Ala., home of the hated Auburn Tigers, who are geographically closer to the University of Florida than any other SEC rival. Auburn has a rich tradition of cherry picking athletes from the Sunshine State. Broward County is a pipeline to The Loveliest Village on the Plains and this recruiting cycle continued that trend. The Tigers signed five players from Broward County.

AUBURN TIGERS
Helmet_aub_3Commitments: 28
Top three: DE Raven Gray (6-5, 263 pounds); OL Jermaine Johnson (6-6, 309 pounds); DE Cameron Henderson (6-6, 215 pounds).

Missed out on: RB Enrique Davis of Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy. Considered one of the best running back prospects in the nation, Davis was all set to sign with Auburn until the Tigers hired a new offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin, who specializes in the dink-and-dump spread offense. Davis de-committed with Auburn and signed with SEC West rival Ole Miss and the Rebels' new head coach, Houston Nutt. Considering the history between Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and Ole Miss, Davis' change of heart is most certainly being celebrated in Oxford, Miss.

Marcusjemison7_18150_4Sleeper: ATH Marcus Jemison (6-2, 190 pounds, 4.5 in the 40); Jemison is similar to Florida commitment Will Hill in that Jemison played quarterback in high school and led his team to an undefeated regular season but now plans to switch to defensive back in college. Jemison is from McCalla (Ala.) McAdory High near Birmingham, Ala. This is the same high school that produced one of the greatest football players in the history of the SEC, Bo Jackson. Jackson signed with Auburn and things worked out for him.

Floridians: 11 including WR Harry Adams (6-0, 175 pounds, 4.3 in the 40, Fort Lauderdale Dillard); C Dax Dellenbach (6-1, 220 pounds, Coconut Creek North Broward Prep); WR Philip Pierrelouis_4 Pierre-Louis, PICTURED, (5-10, 175 pounds, 4.4 in the 40, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas); S Christian Thompson (6-1, 195 pounds, 4.56 in the 40, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas); LB Dashaun Barnes (6-2, 230 pounds, Tallahassee Lincoln); ATH T'Sharvan Bell (6-0, 169 pounds, 4.4 in the 40, Kissimmee Osceola); RB Eric Smith (5-10, 239 pounds, Seffner Armwood); TE Vance Smith (6-4, 245 pounds, Pace); WR Derek Winter (6-0, 178 pounds, Tampa Plant); OL Jermaine Johnson (6-6, 309 pounds, Hargrave (Va.) Military/Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas); RB Onterio McCalebb (6-0, 170 pounds, Fort Meade)

Recruiting insider: Auburn reloaded along the defensive line with defensive ends Raven Gray and Cameron Henderson. Gray (Enterprise, Ala.) was one of the nation's most sought after Jermainejohnson_4 recruits in 2006. He signed with Auburn but didn't qualify. He recently graduated from Wesson (Miss.) Copiah-Lincoln Community College and will be an immediate contributor for the Tigers. Henderson hails from a high school (Irondale Shades Valley) rich in defensive tradition (former Alabama linebacker Saleem Rasheed, former Arkansas linebacker Pierre Brown and former Auburn linebacker Mayo Sowell). The addition of Jermaine Johnson, PICTURED, further solidifies one of the best young offensive lines in the country. Johnson played football and hoops for St. Thomas Aquinas in 2006 before attending prep school last season. He was rated the No.2 prep school player in the nation by Rivals.

Harryadams_6Chew on this: Auburn's recruiting class boasts 11 players from Florida while the Gators' recruiting class only features 10 players from the Sunshine State. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville coached at Miami a long time ago but he still knows how to recruit in South Florida. The Tigers picked up five commitments from Broward County. Fort Lauderdale Dillard has sent nearly 20 high school football players to Auburn over the years. That pipeline continued this recruiting cycle when the Tigers signed Dillard receiver Harry Adams, PICTURED. Adams, one of the fastest high school players in the country, picked Auburn over LSU. Adams won a state title in the 100-meter dash in 2006 with a time of 10.31 seconds. Now that's peel-your-face-off fast. The mark set a state record.

Nick_saban_4Take that Nick Saban: A couple people in South Florida were pretty upset when Nick Saban ditched the Miami Dolphins for the Crimson Tide. One of those people was Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas football coach George Smith. Smith fired off a letter to the University of Alabama informing the school to never again send a recruiter to St. Thomas. Smith, of course, has produced more college football players than any other current high school coach in the country. (That's not an exaggeration, folks. It's true.) With that in mind, is it any coincidence that St. Thomas has now sent four players to Auburn in the last two seasons? Auburn, of course, is Alabama's bitter in-state rival.

TOUR BUS PODCAST: AUBURN TIGERS

Jo_at_hollywood_christn_4The tour bus pulled into Auburn, Ala., and noticed that things have changed. New offensive coordinator; new defensive coordinator -- the Plainsmen seem to be in a transitional period. If Auburn is known as "Running Back U," then what in the heck are the Tigers thinking by changing their offense to the spread? Joe Goodman, PICTURED, chimes in with his opinion and talks about how the Tigers' changes affected their latest recruiting class.

Next stop: The tour bus heads west tomorrow for Tuscaloosa, Ala., and the campus of the University of Alabama. Gator Clause will check back in and file a recruiting report when we get there...

-jo-

February 07, 2008

AUDIO CENTRAL: Listen to a UF podcast and Urban Meyer talk about recruiting

More fun with recruiting...

Img00062GAINESVILLE -- UF commit William Green is going to be a defensive end, so what does he have to do with the spread offense? Find out on this UF recruiting podcast featuring Mike "On the Mic" McCall and Joe Goodman, this blog's author. That's Joe Goodman in the picture. He's holding a baby alligator. The photographer who took this picture insisted on Mr. Goodman removing his sunglasses. Mr. Goodman would not, fearing the alligator might bite his eye. Gators go for the eyes. Everyone knows this.

Miami Herald UF recruiting podcast

(CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON: WARNING EXPLICIT LYRICS: ANYONE OFFENDED BY THE WORDS "MIAMI" OR "RANDY SHANNON" SHOULD NOT LISTEN AND WALK AWAY FROM THEIR COMPUTERS)

Urban Meyer recruiting press conference audio
Florida coach Urban Meyer held a 25-minute recruiting press conference on Wednesday. Here are a few highlights from that press conference.

ON OMAR HUNTER
Omar Hunter (6-0, 322 pounds) is from Buford, Ga. He is apparently a freak of nature. (He can squat 400 pounds and dunk a basketball...at the same time.)

ON WILLIAM GREEN AND WILL HILL
Meyer expects these two defenders to be stars. Green (6-4, 215 pounds) is a defensive end. Hill (6-3, 205 pounds) is a safety.

ON RECRUITING SOUTH FLORIDA
Meyer recognizes the Miami Hurricanes' impressive recruiting class. He also outlines a new plan for recruiting South Florida after the departure of assistant Doc Holliday.

FUNNY STORY ABOUT THE OTHER MIAMI
(Meyer excited about Florida's Hall of Champions)

February 06, 2008

Another talented class for the Gators; Who might play next season?

Florida signed 22...

GAINESVILLE -- Florida lost two commitments today but it did little to impact the overall success of the Gators' class of 2008. Florida signed 22 players on Wednesday, including a remarkable 12 from out-of-state.

New Jersey safety Will Hill, Seffner Armwood Matt Patchan, Georgia defensive tackle Omar Hunter and Alabama defensive end William Green headlined this year's haul. This is the Gators' third recruiting class in a row considered among the nation's best. Recruiting websites placed Florida's class of 2008 among the Top 10-rated classes.

I'm no recruiting guru, but I imagine all classes in the Top 25 are overflowing with talent. The chore for college coaches is finding good athletes who won't fail out, get arrested (for a felony), become lazy, etc.

Factoring potential alone, this is another great class for the Gators. Of course, if anyone watched the Gators' defense last season then you know either those rankings are flawed or Florida's defensive coaches aren't getting the job done in practice. Defense (the line and secondary) is where Florida needs some help and Florida hopes it found some immediate answers with the latest crop of future Gators. Here's a breakdown of some commitments who might be able to offer immediate help next season...

HillWILL HILL, Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep
Projected position: free safety 
Vitals: 6-3, 205 pounds
Speed: 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash
Odds at playing time: 2-to-1; At the very least, Hill can play nickel as a freshman.
The recruiting insider: Goodbye Kyle Jackson and hello Will Hill. The Gators hope Hill will (LOL!) be the next Reggie Nelson. Hill is hoping the same thing. Florida broke out the Reggie Nelson highlight tape during the recruiting process and Hill liked what he saw. Just me, but I'm always skeptical of high school players from the same neck of the woods as Bon Jovi. Just kidding, of course. Hill played quarterback and defensive back in high school but realized early that his best shot at NFL millions is as a defender.
Random observation: A serious-minded kid in the vein of Major Wright.
Odds at starting: 5-to-1; Hill might be the DB du jour but don't forget about Major Wright, Dorian Munroe and Jamar "doghouse" Hornsby.

CarlmooreCARL MOORE, Sierra (Cali.) Community College
Projected position: receiver
Vitals: 6-4, 220 pounds
Speed: 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash
Odds at playing time: 2-to-1; Florida coach Urban Meyer can't wait to draw up plays for this junior college transfer.
The recruiting insider: This is the receiver with the gymnast girlfriend. If ever there was a package deal at Florida it was when the football team offered Moore a scholarship and -- Wow! What an amazing love story. -- the gymnastics team offered his girlfriend a scholarship. Moore has already enrolled at Florida and signed his National Letter of Intent. The girl is already flip'n here, too.
Random observation: His girlfriend is hot.
Odds at starting: 10-1; Sure, he's really good but that doesn't mean he's good enough to come in and start for what is probably the most talented offense in the country. Who's going to get bumped: Percy "Heisman" Harvin, Louis "He's invested" Murphy or Cornelius "I came back" Ingram?

Hunter_omar_200x255OMAR HUNTER, Buford (Ga.) High
Projected position: defensive tackle
Vitals: 6-0, 320 pounds
Speed: 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash
Odds at playing time: 6-to-1; As good as everyone says this kid is, he's seems pretty undersized to come in and contribute as a freshman.
Recruiting insider: They used to call Jevon Kearse "The Freak" ... wait until you see Kid Hunter. At least with Kearse, the physiology matched the athleticism. Sure, Kearse did some amazing things, but his body was just as "freakish" as his ability. With Hunter, Florida is a getting a true freak. His body resembles a frozen turkey yet he can apparently dunk a basketball and run fast. How does Florida find these people?
Random observation: Looks so unhappy in all of his pictures.   
Odds at starting: 12-to-1; Something went wrong if Hunter has to start a game next season. Florida returns defensive tackles Javier Estopinan, Torrey Davis, John Brown, Terron Sanders, Mike Pouncey (presuming he remains on defense) and some other guy whose name I forget and now I have to look it up ... Justin Trattou (Bon Jovi syndrome, all apologies).

BealBRENDAN BEAL, Bethlehem (Penn.) Liberty
Projected position: middle linebacker
Vitals: 6-4, 235 pounds
Speed: 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash
Odds at playing time: 6-to-1; Special teams superstar
Recruiting insider: Another New Jersey boy, Beal transferred to Bethlehem (Penn.) Liberty his senior season. By all accounts, Beal is a punisher on the football field and could rival Major Wright as the team's hardest hitter next season. Beal graduated high school with honors and is already enrolled at Florida. He's taking 18 credit hours this semester and plans on majoring in finance. His father played linebacker at Boston College.
Random observation: Was this guy in Rocky III?
Odds at starting: 12-to-1; Florida is already pretty deep at linebacker. Beal will wait his turn until Brandon Spikes turns pro after next season.

FinleyDEE FINLEY, Auburn (Ala.) High
Projected position: safety
Vitals: 6-3, 210 pounds
Speed: 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash
Odds at playing time: 2-to-1; Another special teams nightmare?
Recruiting insider: When Will Hill committed to Florida, everyone assumed Finley would de-commit and and side with Auburn. It didn't happen. Finley was one of Florida's first commitments and he never waivered. He had 14 interceptions his junior and senior seasons. Hill is the No.1 rated safety in the nation and Finley is No.2, according to some recruiting rankings.
Random observations: Forget the rankings, Finley might be the best player of this class by the end of fall practice.
Odds at starting: 5-to-1; Florida's coaching staff is excited about Finley's arrival. He'll get his shot but will likely have to earn his way on the field through special teams. It could happen sooner than later.

EppsTROY EPPS, Coffeyville (Kn.) Community College
Projected position: defensive tackle
Vitals: 6-1, 280 pounds
Speed: 5.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash
Odds at playing time: 4-to-1; Florida isn't bringing in Epps to sit the bench
Recruiting insider: Epps played at the same junior college that helped produce former Gators safety Reggie Nelson. Florida's coaching staff felt like it needed immediate help along the defensive line, so it went after a few junior college defensive tackles during the recruiting process. Epps qualified and now he's in Gainesville. He has already signed his Nationl Letter of Intent and is enrolled at Florida. Epps had 17 tackles behind the line for Coffeyville last season, including 9 1/2 sacks.
Random observations: Are you related to Omar Epps? He's, like, one of my favorite actors.
Odds at starting: 4-to-1; Florida needs a spark at defensive tackle. If Javier Estopinan isn't healthy -- he tore his ACL against Georgia), then Epps could play a major defensive role next season.

JenkinsJANORIS JENKINS, Pahokee
Projected position: cornerback
Vitals: 5-11, 180 pounds
Speed: 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash
Odds at playing time: 6-to-1; Might be a redshirt candidate but if Florida's cornerbacks don't improve Finley could get a look.
Recruiting insider: Jenkins is a powerful cornerback. He committed to Florida over LSU, Miami, Auburn and Clemson, among others. The Muck is a pipeline to Florida and Jenkins' commitment helps continue that tradition.
Random observations: The Sixers (click on the picture)? Janoris, you gotta be kidding.
Odds at starting: 10-to-1; A strong spring could boost Jenkins' chances further. He's already enrolled.

Samrobey3_9200SAM ROBEY, Louisville (Ky.) Trinity
Projected position: center
Vitals: 6-4, 255 pounds
Speed: He's a center.
Odds at playing time: 4-to-1; Why are the odds so high for Robey to play next season? Name another true center on the Gators' roster.
Recruiting insider: Robey is probably the guy you've never heard of among Florida's class of 2008. Don't let the lack of a Internet hype fool you, however, Robey is a talented football player and comes from an athletic family. His father, Rick Robey, was an All-American basketball player at Kentucky. Robey was torn between Louisville and Kentucky, so he took the easy road out when the Gators offered him a scholarship in December. Had Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino remained at Louisville one more year, then Robey would likely be signing with the Cardinals or Razorbacks today. Robey is best friends with Petrinos' sons.
Random observations: How did this kid get away from the Wildcats? Sounds a little like our next recruit on the list.
Odds at starting: 6-to-1; If Mike Pouncey remains at defensive tackle, then Robey's odds improve slightly. Oh, and I hope you've been practicing your long snap, kiddo.

PatchanMATT PATCHAN, Seffner Armwood
Projected position: offensive tackle
Vitals: 6-7, 265 pounds
Speed: Fast enough to play on the defensive line
Odds at playing time? 6-to-1; Patchan's presence should make the returning offensive line work a little harder to keep their jobs.
Recruiting insider: Where to begin? Florida outworked Miami for this talented offensive lineman. Patchan's father and uncle played for the Hurricanes but the latest Patchan is already enrolled at Florida and eating as much food as possible. Patchan, by the way, is somewhat of a health nut. (Kids these days.) He plays with a mean streak, so he should fit right in with the Pouncey twins.
Random observations: Does Sept. 6, 2008 mean anything to you? Will your pops be wearing orange and blue or orange and green?
Odds at starting: 9-to-1; I don't care about the recruiting stars. Florida is not lacking in offensive linemen. Could Patchan redshirt? It's possible.

Frankiehammond10_301001FRANKIE HAMMOND JR., Hallandale
Projected position: receiver
Vitals: 6-0, 155 pounds
Speed: 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash
Odds at playing time? 12-to-1; It ain't happen'n.
Recruiting insider: Hammond Jr. was unknown as a junior--he played mostly defense for a terrible team--but had a great senior season at receiver. A first-team All-Broward selection, Hammond Jr. had nearly 900 yards receiving and caught 10 touchdowns. Florida receiver coach Billy Gonzales and the Gators former defensive backs coach (ol' pirate-looking dude ... can't remember his name ... oh, yeah, Doc Holliday) first recruited Hammond Jr. Before Florida could even offer Hammond Jr., the kid called everyone in South Florida and told him that he committed. (Some people get worked by the system and some people work it.) Gotta give the kid credit, it was a pretty smart move. Florida later offered Hammond Jr. and there you have it. He probably won't play until 2009.
Random observations: Writes area code on his face in case he gets lost at the grocery store.
Odds at starting: In 2010?; This is the next Marvin Harrison. I KID YOU NOT!

WilliegreenWILLIAM GREEN, Hoover Spain Park (Ala.)
Projected position: linebacker or defensive end
Vitals: 6-4, 225 pounds
Speed: 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash
Odds at playing time? 8-to-1; special teams dynamo
Recruiting insider: Perhaps an even better athlete than Brandon Spikes. Green could play linebacker or defensive end. Either way, he is evidence that the Southeastern Conference is beginning to look for not only speed on the edges but exceptional range as well to defend against spread offenses. Green has the potential to be a special player if Florida commits him to a position and sticks with it. Moving Green around the defense would be a bad idea.
Random observations: He's from Birmingham, Ala., a.k.a. The Football Capital of the South. Nuff said.
Random observations II: Reminds me a lot of Carlos Dansby, another Birmingham, Ala., linebacker. (Woodlawn Colonels in the house!!!)
Odds at starting: Not this season. A redshirt would be wise.

Hines_2OMARIUS HINES, Corsicana (Texas)
Projected position: receiver
Vitals: 6-1, 180 pounds
Speed: 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash
Odds at playing time: 12-to-1; redshirt alert
Recruiting insider: It's tough to pull a player out of Texas. Hines was recruited early by Oklahoma but always had his heart set on becoming a Gator. Hines is a great route runner with soft hands. Give him a year or two and he'll be one of the Gators' best receivers. Had 23 touchdown receptions AS A JUNIOR.
Random observations: Quarterback Jonathan Brantley is going to love passing to this guy during practice.
Odds at starting: Not this season.

-jo- 


 

   

    

Florida losing recruits at dizzying pace today

GAINESVILLE -- And Florida thought it was going to be a quite day. That all changed quickly this morning when defensive back Ramon Buchanan of Melbourne Palm Bay and Ricky Barnum, a Lakeland Lake Gibson offensive lineman, spurned the Gators for other top-level teams.

Buchanan chose Miami and Barnum sided with Michigan, which just beat Florida in the Capital One Bowl. Florida considered Buchanan's commitment a major victory over Miami. While on his recruiting visit, Buchanan could be seen on ESPN's College Basketball GameDay offering cameras a Tim Tebow-aided Gators chomp.

While losing Buchanan to an instate rival hurts the Gators, the loss of Barnum might sting a little more. Barnum was considered one of the state's best centers and Florida is thin at that position. Sam Robey of Louisville, Ky., is the Gators' only other commitment at the center position.

-jo- 

February 05, 2008

On Bobby Knight...

A little off topic here...

GAINESVILLE -- Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight apparently retired on Monday. He has won more basketball games (902) than anyone else in Division I men's college basketball. A lot of people (journos) didn't like the guy.

I've never met the man and, to be honest, never thought twice about Knight until Monday night. Pretty sure I'm a fan now. People will criticize Knight for retiring during the middle of the season. Texas Tech is 12-8. People will criticize Knight for retiring after recently earning his 900th career win. Those people lack perspective. Knight wanted 900 career wins (can't fault him for that) but, more importantly, he wanted his son to take over for him. Texas Tech doesn't really have the option of hiring someone other than Pat Knight during the middle of the season.

Knight didn't want to make it about himself. He could have announced his retirement before the season. Some coaches do this. They go through their entire final seasons receiving gifts and applause from every arena on the schedule. Opponents cheer the coaches in appreciation. Reporters clap for the coaches in their final press conference. (Nothing wrong with this, of course, but could anyone image reporters clapping for Knight after his final press conference? Would this be an example of masochism? When it came to the media, Knight was a full-time jerk and part-time lunatic.)

Knight didn't want any attention. He has had enough of that over the years. He retired on the Monday after the Super Bowl and broke the news in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. No press conference. No ESPN. No thank you. That's good stuff. That's how you give the world the finger. Two thumbs up for Knight. Doing it any other way would have ruined his image.

-jo-


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