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46 posts from September 2008

September 30, 2008

REPORT CARD: After further review, everyone is to blame except Brandon Spikes

GAINESVILLE -- As most of you know, we here at Gator Clause like to wait a few days after a game to hand out our weekly report card. One reason, we like to watch the game's replay a few times. (Talk about dedication. It was tough to watch Ole Miss 31, UF 30 the first time around.) Another reason, fewer knee-jerk reactions.

A few examples of a knee-jerk reactions have been filling up my inbox. Some are demanding that Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen be fired or demoted. (Check out this website.) Some want UF quarterback Tim Tebow to be benched. Others think redshirt freshman running back Chris Rainey and redshirt freshman receiver Deonte Thompson should both transfer.

Step away from the edge of the cliff, Gators fans. This loss was not unprecedented. Florida has never gone undefeated in the history of the program. No. 12 Florida (3-1) can still win the SEC East and still play for the SEC championship.

Now, I understand why Florida fans are upset. The Gators lost on Saturday to an Ole Miss team that hadn't won an SEC game since November of 2006. What I don't understand, why so much lack of faith in the Gators' offense? Florida gained 443 yards of total offense and did it despite three turnovers and only converting 1-of-11 third-down attempts. That's pretty remarkable.

Of course, that stat was only one of the confusing numbers produced from Saturday's upset. The most bizarre: Ole Miss beat the No.4 team in the country despite accumulating just as many penalties (10) as first downs.

ANYWAY, before we get to the report card, there is an injury report for today.

INJURIES
Running back Emmanuel Moody (high-ankle sprain) is doubtful for Saturday's game against Arkansas and so are left guards Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and Jim Tartt (shoulder). Carl Johnson is the projected starter at left guard for Saturday's game followed on the depth chart by James Wilson and Ronnie Wilson.

REPORT CARD
QUARTERBACKS
C
Tim Tebow passed for a season high (319 yards) and led two impressive touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. The quarterback loses points for his fumble in the third quarter and a half dozen poor passes.

RUNNING BACKS C
Percy Harvin averaged 8.2 yards per carry (10-82) and rushed for a brilliant 15-yard score in the fourth quarter. His fumble in the third quarter tempered his excellence, though. Emmanuel Moody left the game earlier with an injury (high-ankle sprain). Chris Rainey had three carries for nine yards. Kestahn Moore had a pair of impressive blocks but didn't do much else.

WIDE RECEIVERS B-
Harvin had a career day with 13 catches for 186 yards and a score. Louis Murphy only had four receptions. Aaron Hernandez's fumble hurt the overall grade. Deonte Thompson and Carl Moore didn't factor into the offense.

OFFENSIVE LINE C
Guards Jim Tartt and Marcus Gilbert left the game with injuries. Ole Miss' talented defensive linemen pressured Tebow consistently and sacked him three times.

PLAY CALLING
C-
Florida only converted 1-of-11 third-down chances. I'm no football coach, but that seems like a direct reflection of poor play calling. The coaching booth did well calling plays during the Gators' two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, but on the final drive of the game the decisions were questionable. Tebow was clearly off on his deep passes and by the time the final minute of the game rolled around, the Gators' coaches should have recognized this. Instead, Tebow missed Louis Murphy and Percy Harvin deep and the poor play calling put Florida in a difficult situation, third down-and-10. Rushing Tebow on fourth-and-1 with 55 seconds left was the correct call, by the way. Of course, Arkansas never would have seen the jump pass coming...Err, good thing I'm no coach.

DEFENSIVE LINE
B
Ends Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap continue to impress. Both players had sacks. Lawrence Marsh had five tackles. Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead completed just 9-of-20 attempts.

LINEBACKERS
A
Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes might be the best player on the team. He had 13 tackles and stuffed Ole Miss twice on third-and-short opportunities. His pressure of Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead forced an interception.

SECONDARY
D
One bad play ruined it all.

SPECIAL TEAMS
F
Florida should have kicked a field goal in the first quarter instead of going for it on fourth-and-3 from the Ole Miss 30. Why not give kicker Jonathan Phillips a shot from 47 yards? He hasn't missed a field goal this season. The Gators also allowed Ole Miss to convert a 15-yard fake punt, which extended a drive. UF punter Chas Henry was off his game. Lineman Phil Trautwein missed a blocking assignment late in the fourth quarter, allowing Ole Miss' Kentrell Lockett to block Phillips' extra-point attempt.

-jo-

September 29, 2008

Gainesville church: 'Why I pray for Tebow'

Churchsign_2GAINESVILLE -- Just when you thought Florida quarterback Tim Tebow couldn't have anymore pressure dumped upon his shoulders, one Gainesville minister posted this sign less than a mile from the Gators' practice field on Monday morning.

Eric Brown, the 31-year-old minister at Gainesville's Campus Church of Christ, says he hopes Tebow sees the sign while the Heisman Trophy winner drives to and from campus. If you're wondering about the Bible verse, Matthew 6:13, you might already know it. It's the final few lines of the Lord's Prayer: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen."

Pause for a moment to let that thought role around in your brain. For some, Tebow is apparently much more than just a leader of the University of Florida football team.

Brown says he has been preparing a sermon for nearly a month about the Bible verse and, after watching ESPN College GameDay a few weeks ago, decided to add a few thoughts about Tebow to his message. Many media outlets have chronicled Tebow's use of fame as a platform for his faith.

While Brown says he did attend Saturday's game between No. 12 Florida (3-1) and Ole Miss (3-2), the minister says the sign, located on S.W. 2nd Avenue only a few blocks west of campus, has nothing do with Florida's 31-30 loss to the Ole Miss Rebels.

"I'm going to pray that [Tebow] is true to his faith because if he falls and gets caught up in some kind of scandal it will be bad for Christianity," Brown said.

Brown doesn't know Tebow but says the quarterback is an important role model. The minister says if Tebow gets into trouble, then the image of Christians could suffer.

"I know the story of David, so we know it's possible for all of us to fall," Brown said.

Brown, a graduate of Texas A&M and a native of Wichita Falls, Texas, is a graduate student studying mental health counseling at the University of Florida when he's not leading worship at Gainesville's Campus Church of Christ. Brown says you can listen to his sermon on the church's website, www.campuscofc.org.

-jo-

What's wrong with Tim Tebow?

GAINESVILLE -- Maybe you guys can help me out today. I'm working on a story this week comparing last year's UF quarterback and the guy under center this season. Obviously, it's the same person, junior Tim Tebow, but not much else is similar about the two players.

What's wrong with Tebow? Maybe nothing. Maybe you think he's better this season. Maybe you've noticed something I haven't.

Now taking suggestions...

Monday-morning links...
Today's story about Florida's emergency practice on Sunday night
My game story from Ole Miss 31, UF 30
Mike McCall's story on UF's turnovers

-jo-

September 28, 2008

Florida practices for 90 minutes under lights

GAINESVILLE -- In an effort to shake the doldrums of Ole Miss 31, UF 30, the No.12 Florida Gators football team practiced from around 8:30 to 10 on Sunday night. Practicing on Sunday during the regular season is a rarity for the Gators, who normally rest the day after a game before grueling practices on Monday and Tuesday.

Because of NCAA rules limiting the number of hours teams can practice during the week, Florida must alter its practice schedule one day this week to adjust for practicing on Sunday. Expect the change to come early in the week. (Perhaps on Monday.) Florida (3-1, 1-1 in SEC) plays at Arkansas (2-2, 0-1 in SEC) on Saturday.

A few notes from practice...

--Safety Will Hill (hamstring), offensive lineman Maurice Hurt (neck) and receiver Omarius Hines (undisclosed injury) did not practice with the team and instead jogged and worked with trainers.

--Florida's first-team offense and defense went against scout teams. Ball security was a big theme. (Florida fumbled five times, losing three, against Ole Miss.)

--Could offensive linemen Corey Hobbs and Ronnie Wilson get a shot at left guard this week? You better believe it.

--Back-up free safety Justin Williams had an interception.

-jo-

Gators call emergency practice for Sunday night

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer isn't wasting any time after the Gators' 31-30 loss to Ole Miss on Saturday. Gator Clause learned today that Florida has called an emergency practice for 8:30 tonight. Florida usually does not practice on Sunday during the regular season.

Is an emergency practice needed? It's a good idea. Meyer wants his team to shake the losing blues as soon as possible. Win out from here and Florida can play for a conference championship in December. The Gators play Arkansas next week and that helps. The Hogs are pretty bad. Florida has a good opportunity this week to focus on its own problems and make some corrections before LSU comes to town.

O-LINE ISSUES
Don't be surprised to see a new starter emerge at left guard this week if redshirt senior Jim Tartt's shoulders do not respond well to treatment on Sunday and Monday. Tartt left the Gators' game in the first quarter with an injured shoulder. He has had four shoulder surgeries in his career at UF.

Tartt's back-up at left guard, Marcus Gilbert, sprained his ankle during the fourth quarter on Saturday. Either Carl Johnson or James Wilson could start against Arkansas. Expect those players to battle Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for the promotion.

TEBOW'S SPEECH
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow apologized to Florida fans for the loss on Saturday and also made some promises. Here's the audio file of Tebow's passionate post-game speech.

SEC EAST STANDINGS
Five weeks into the 2008 college football season and Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina are trailing Vanderbilt in the SEC East standings. Yeah, I'd say it's a pretty deep conference. Here's a link the complete SEC standings. CLICK ME!

FLORIDA STILL THE BEST?
Call me crazy, but I still think Florida might have the best football team in the country. The Gators made enough mistakes to lose 10 football games on Saturday and still had a chance to win the game at the end. The sky is not falling, Gators fans. Ole Miss was is a good team with legitimate NFL-caliber talent. Florida does not need to fire its offensive coordinator or bench Tebow. The Gators' coaching staff just needs to restore some confidence this week and maybe next time swallow its pride during a game and make better decisions.

AP TOP 25
The loss to Ole Miss dropped Florida eights spots in the AP poll to No.12.
Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, Missouri, Texas -- there's your AP top 5. For the rest of the poll...CLICK ME! A few thoughts on the new rankings:
--No. 10 South Florida is ranked ahead of the Gators.
--USC, which lost to Oregon State on Thursday, is highest ranked one-loss team. Thoughts?
--Georgia is No.11, one spot ahead of Florida.
--In just five weeks, Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide has gone from unranked to the No.2 team in the country.

BLOCKED EXTRA POINT ILLEGAL?
Florida coach Urban Meyer complained after the game on Saturday that an Ole Miss' defender hurdled a Florida offensive lineman illegally during the decisive extra-point attempt at the end of Saturday's game. Pushing off the backs of lineman to block kicks is apparently against the rules, but no flag was thrown on Saturday. Here's a picture of the blocked kick from an interesting camera angle. The Ole Miss defender who jumped over Florida offensive lineman Phil Trautwein might have been aided, but this picture doesn't show any proof. It does show, however, that Trautwein isn't blocking a single person. He's just crouched over in his stance. Does anyone find this odd? And what the heck is UF lineman John Fairbanks (No.59) doing? Ole Miss lineman Kentrell Lockett (far left) blocked the kick.

-jo-
Olemiss_hurdle

September 27, 2008

UF mistakes lead to Ole Miss' upset

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators made a laundry list of mistakes on Saturday. How bad was Ole Miss 31, UF 30? Let's see...
--The blocked extra point.
--Three fumbles led to 10 Ole Miss points.
--Joe Haden's fourth-quarter error in judgement, leaving UM receiver Shay Hodge wide open for an 86-yard touchdown catch.
--Meyer twice passed on field goals that could have won the game, a 47-yarder in the first quarter and a 49-yarder in the second.
--Ole Miss' fourth-and-2 in the second half led to a 40-yard touchdown run for McCluster.
--Tebow was off on Saturday. He missed Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy on the last drive of the game and missed Riley Cooper and Harvin on the first drive of the game.
--Florida converted just 1-of-11 third downs, and was 0-for-5 in the second half.

Thoughts, anyone? Am I leaving anything out? Oh, yeah, Ole Miss fake punt...Does Florida have any hope of beating LSU in two week? Are the Gators' national title hopes gone?

-jo-

FINAL: Ole Miss 31, UF 30

GAINESVILLE -- A shocker at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Ole Miss defender Kentrell Lockett, a 6-5 sophomore, blocked a Florida extra point with 3:28 left in the game on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, preserving Ole Miss' lead.

JOE HADEN WHERE ARE YOU?
Ole Miss took a 31-24 lead with 5:26 left in the game when UF cornerback Joe Haden left Ole Miss receiver Shay Hodge uncovered. UM quarterback Jevan Snead found Hodge wide opn for an 86-yard score.

THIRD QUARTER BELOW
Capitalizing on Florida mistakes, Ole Miss has taken a 24-17 heading into the fourth quarter. The Rebels took the lead with 52 seconds left in the third when, facing a fourth-and-2, Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster rushed for a 40-yard touchdown.

OLE MISS BACK IN IT
Ole Miss tied the game early in the third quarter thanks to two UF fumbles. The second fumble, credited to UF quarterback Tim Tebow led to a Ole Miss touchdown by Cordera Eason to tie the score at 17-all.
Florida turned the ball over for the second time on Saturday when Percy Harvin lost possesion on a run at the beginning of the third quarter. Ole Miss converted the turnover into a 33-yard field goal with 11 minutes left in the third quarter to cut UF's lead to 17-10.

GATORS SPUTTERING
After taking a 17-10 lead into the half, Florida's offense struggled during the third quarter. When the Gators weren't fumbling, they were shanking punts or allowing Ole Miss defensive end Greg Hardy to sack Tebow.

SECOND QUARTER BELOW
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow rushed for his first touchdown of the season with 1:06 left in the first half here at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to give Florid a 17-7 lead.

Tebow has completed 10-of-15 passes in the first half for 172 yards. His first-quarter touchdown pass to UF receiver Percy Harvin (43 yards) gave Florida a 10-7 lead.

HARVIN BREAKS OUT
Tebow's second-quarter score was set up by an impressive gain from UF receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin out raced one Ole Miss defender on the 24-yard reception and split two more, carrying the ball to the goal line. Harvin has six receptions for 114 yards in the first half. He also lead UF in rushing (25 yards on four carries).

MOODY AND MAJOR BOTH HURT?
Both players limped off the field. Moody (right ankle) went to the locker room early and Major Wright was helped off the field by Dorian Munroe with a trainer by Wright's side.

MAJOR WRIGHT INTERCEPTION
UF's first touchdown drive was set up by an interception from Gators safety Major Wright of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. Wright picked off UM quarterback Jevan Snead's pass at the UM 48 and returned it five yards. Wright's second pick of the season.

12-SECOND SCORE
Florida needed just one offensive play following Wright's interception to take the lead, 10-7. Tebow floated a pass into the flat to UF receiver Percy Harvin and Harvin sprinted for a 43-yard score. It was a lucky play for Florida. Not the best pass from Tebow as Ole Miss safety Kendrick Lewis should have picked it off and returned it for a score. Instead, Lewis tipped it right into Harvin's hands.

CUNNINGHAM IN THE GAME
Mysteriously, Cunningham enters the game in the second quarter and makes an immediate impact. He and Spikes combined to sack Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead on a third-and-17 on Ole Miss' second drive of the second quarter.

SPIKES LEADING THE WAY
Florida's defense bailed out the Gators' offense in the second quarter when UF tight end Aaron Hernandez fumbled (stripped by Ole Miss' Cassius Vaughn). UM's offense went three-and-punt on the ensuing possessions.
--UF linebacker Brandon Spikes just played the best half of his career at UF. He had back-to-back sacks in the second quarter and is leading UF in tackles.

FIRST QUARTER BELOW
TEBOW OFF HIS GAME
Tebow has thrown deep twice and missed his receivers both times. First Riley Cooper on the Gators' first drive and then Percy Harvin on UF's second drive of the first quarter. 

FAKE THIS
Nice fake punt by Ole Miss kept its scoring drive alive. Ole Miss receiver Lionel Breaux rushed for 15 yards on the fake. Ole Miss later scored on a one-yard run by UM quarterback Jevan Snead. Excellent pass by Snead to Shay Hodge (36 yards) to set up the score. UF cornerback Joe Haden got burned. 

NO CUNNINGHAM
UF defensive end Jermaine Cunningham did not play in the first quarter. Cunningham hyper-extended his knee last Saturday against Tennessee.

NO MOODY?
Florida was third-and-1 at the Ole Miss 28 and handed off to running back Chris Rainey. Of course, Rainey got stuffed. Where is Emmanuel Moody? Moody entered the game on the Gators' second offensive drive and immediately jacked up Ole Miss linebacker Ashlee Palmer for a seven-yard gain. Looked a little like Knowshon.

THE SWAMP WANTS MOODY!
The kid hasn't even scored a touchdown and already The Swamp is chanting "MOOOOOOOODY!"

NO RESPECT
Who does UF think it is, LSU? Instead of attempting a 47-yard field goal on fourth-and-3 from the UM 30, UF went for it on fourth down and Tebow tossed an incompletion. Good pressure from UM lineman Lawon Scott.

JENKINS STARTS
UF freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins started at cornerback. Markihe Anderson at nickel. No sign of Wondy Pierre-Louis.

PREGAME NOTES
--UF freshmen in street clothes: cornerback Jeremy Brown, receiver Frankie Hammond Jr., defensive lineman Earl Okine, cornerback Adrian Bushell, lineman Byran Jones in street clothes. These guys will redshirt.
--UF captains: receiver Louis Murphy, O-linemen Jason Watkins and Jim Tartt and long snapper James Smith.
--Gators won toss and differed.

-jo-

GAMEDAY: Egos abound for UF vs. Ole Miss

Saturday morning links...

GAINESVILLE -- What's the one thing strong enough to keep the egos of Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Emmanuel Moody and Louis Murphy in check on a weekly basis? CLICK ME! to find out.

--Want to know where to find a live blog of today's game between No.4 Florida (3-0) and Ole Miss (2-2)? CLICK ME! We'll start the live blog about an hour before kickoff. That's in less that two hours, if you're counting.

--Want the ultimate preview of today's game at The Swamp? CLICK ME!

--Who's the Mighty Mouse of the Gators' stingy defense? CLICK ME!

--Want to know what UF coach Urban Meyer thinks about Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead? CLICK ME!

-jo-

September 26, 2008

No.1 USC loss signals statement weekend for UF

Twenty-three years since a No.1 lost to an unranked team. That is, until Oregon State 27, No.1 Southern Cal 21 on Thursday night ... Thoughts? I got a couple: How does Penn State vs. Florida sound? What about Missouri vs. Georgia?

GAINESVILLE -- Speaking of unthinkable upsets. Ole Miss nearly upset Florida in 2007. This happened for two reasons.

1. Tim Tebow
2. Seth Adams

Tebow, of course, is the Florida quarterback who rushed for two scores and 166 yards on 27 carries last year against the Rebels. He prevented the upset and is back for Round 2.

Anyone remember Seth Adams? Didn't think so. Seth Adams, not back for Round 2, was the Ole Miss quarterback in 2007. He wasn't anything special, but he was nearly good enough to beat Florida last season. Ole Miss racked up nearly 400 yards of offense against the Gators. Let's you know how bad UF's defense was last season.

Round 2 of this wonderful SEC East vs. SEC West Raycom special features a new Ole Miss quarterback. His name is Jevan Snead and he must be good. He was once committed to Florida.

Snead is apparently better than Adams. I'm not convinced -- never really a fan of players who de-commit from one school (Florida) and then later transfer from another (Texas). Ole Miss seems like the college football haven for quarterbacks who think they're better than they really are. (See Brent Schaeffer of Deerfield Beach). Come to think of it, it all makes perfect since. Ole Miss always thinks it's better than it actually is.

ANYWAY, everyone keeps telling me that Snead is a great quarterback. At first, I believed them. I'm not convinced anymore. Snead has thrown seven interceptions in his last three games. He's an inexperienced quarterback and now he's playing at The Swamp against a Florida team that is plus-nine in turnover ratio. This is the fourth game this season Florida has faced an inexperienced quarterback.

THE DETAILS
Ole Miss (2-2) at No.4 Florida (3-0)
When: 12:30 p.m.
TV: Raycom
Series history: Ole Miss leads 11-10-1

INJURY REPORT
OLE MISS
DL Greg Hardy (foot, out)
FLORIDA
DE Jermaine Cunningham (knee, questionable)
LB Ryan Stamper (ankle, questionable)
QB Cam Newton (ankle, questionable)
OL Maurice Hurt (neck, questionable)
DT Torrey Davis (disciplinary, out)
DT John Brown (hand, out)
TE Cornelius Ingram (knee, out)
SS Dorian Munroe (knee, out)

STATEMENT GAME
Any Gators watching TV late last night? The No.1 team in the nation lost. OK, but on a Thursday night? I thought Thursday nights were reserved for bingo. ANYWAY, the significance of Southern Cal's epic collapse Part II (Stanford in 2007 was Part I) should not be lost on any team in the AP Top 10. With the No.1 ranking up for grabs, this weekend is all about making a statement to national voters. Let's take a look at the match-ups this weekend for teams in the AP Top 5.

No.1 USC (Believe it or not, USC could still be in the national title picture at the end of the season. USC losing was good news for any one loss team. Auburn?)
No.2 Oklahoma vs. No.24 TCU: Game against ranked opponent comes at great time for Oklahoma to make a case for being No.1.
No.3 Georgia vs. No.8 Alabama: A big win in Athens could vault Georgia into the No.1 spot. AP voters are apparently in love with Bama.
No.4 Florida vs. Ole Miss: Voters not sold on Gators yet. Florida fans apparently no sold on Gators yet. I think I'm the only person in the country that thinks Florida is the best of the best.
No.5 LSU vs. Mississippi State: A letdown game? Not a chance.

It is conceivable that Florida could be the No.1 team in the country on Sunday. TCU is a quality football team and many believe Alabama is going to upset Georgia (for the record, I am not one of those people).

RANDOM THOUGHT
Does ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit have a man-crush on Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford?

RANDOM THOUGHT NO.2
I'm sure Jevan Snead is upset he has to miss tonight's presidential debate. Ole Miss is hosting a presidential debate tonight (Friday) between U.S. Senators and Presidential candidates John McCain (Ariz., R) and Barack Obama (Ill., D).

OLE MISS BETTER THAN TENNESSEE?
According to UF defensive line coach Dan McCarney, it's a no brainer. He says Ole Miss' offense is much better than Tennessee's. Florida beat Tennessee 30-6.

"I thought Tennessee had a heck of an offensive line -- I think Mississippi is better," McCarney said. "[Tennessee] had a good solid quarterback. I think this one is better. Running backs, they're using four of them. I like them all."

SPEAKING OF FOUR RUNNING BACKS...
Four is exactly the number of running backs that Florida has at its disposal. (Five if you include receiver Percy Harvin.) Emmanuel Moody was the featured back against Tennessee? Who gets the call against Ole Miss? How would you break down the carries? Here's what I would shoot for if I'm Florida OC Dan Mullen...

UF BACKFIELD BREAKDOWN (projected number of carries)
RB Emmanuel Moody: 12
WR Percy Harvin: 10
RB Chris Rainey: 8
QB Tim Tebow: 8
Others (Jeff Demps/Louis Murphy/Aaron Hernandez) 5
RB Kestahn Moore: 0

REAL TALK
Florida coach Urban Meyer made a point to complain and complain and complain about the NCAA's new clock rules this week. (Cheating the players, he says...please.) Some reporters took the bait and wrote about the new clock rules like they're killing college football. Here's a thought: Just shut up and play football. If college football is going to sell its soul to the television networks, then the TV networks are going to be able to dictate how the game is played. (ESPN is going to be dictating a whole heck of a lot more in the future, so get used to it.) If Meyer wants more plays, then his offense needs to be more efficient and better prepared to run more plays. Quicker substitutions, better play calling (Mullen should always be two plays ahead of his offense) and a no-huddle offense should allow for more chances for Florida to run up the score on people. (And isn't that what it's all about?)

BIG TEST FOR JOE HADEN
Ole Miss' best player is receiver Mike Wallace. He toasted Florida's secondary last season and just last week Wallace returned a 98-yard kickoff for a touchdown. Meyer says that Joe Haden is turning into an All-SEC cornerback. We shall see.

5 KEYS TO VICTORY FOR UF
5. Pressure the quarterback. Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead is apparently still adjusting to the speed of the SEC. He tossed four interceptions against Vanderbilt last week. If UF defensive end Carlos Dunlap has a big day, then that will go a long way towards Florida beating Ole Miss. (We're assuming UF defensive ends Jermaine Cunningham and/or Justin Trattou will line up opposite Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher.)

4. Contain Ole Miss receiver Mike Wallace. Wallace is averaging 136.3 all-purpose yards in his last three starts.

3. Keep an eye on the battle between UF guards and Ole Miss defensive tackles Peria Jerry and Ted Laurent. If these players get in the backfield consistently, it could be a long day for the Florida offense. Both Jerry and Laurent have 4.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Strong efforts from UF guards Jim Tartt and Mike Pouncey and center Maurkice Pouncey are critical.

2. Score touchdowns in the red zone. Florida settled for field goals last week against Tennessee. If Florida's offense continues to be limited by the new play clock rules, then the Gators need to score touchdowns. Tebow is money from inside the red zone. I repeat: Let Tebow run the ball inside the red zone.

1. Get one big play from either special teams or the defense.

THE CORNERBACK SITUATION
Is Wondy Pierre-Louis or Janoris Jenkins starting at cornerback? My guess is both players will see significant amounts of playing time. Expect a lot of 3-3-5 from Florida with Janoris and Wondy at cornerback and Joe Haden at the nickel. If Florida doesn't trust Wondy to perform, expect more playing time for Markihe Anderson if the Gators stick with the 3-3-5. Anderson will play the nickel and Haden will move back to the edge. (This is what I would do.)

BIG PREDICTION
UF is a 22-point favorite. Sounds about right to me. Ole Miss' close losses to Wake Forest and Vanderbilt were devastating for an emotionally vulnerable program. If Florida goes up early, then expect a blowout. UF 42, Ole Miss 17

-jo-

September 25, 2008

BENCHWARMERS: Long list of redshirt-eligible UF frosh

GAINESVILLE -- Good news for the future, Gators fans. A couple of this preseason's most impressive freshmen appear to be in line for a redshirt. Who else gets an extra year of eligibility? Three games into the season here's my list. Thoughts? Meyer says he doesn't like to redshirt players, but it seems unavoidable this season.

NO REDSHIRT
DE William Green: Participated in the first three games. Could see action along the defensive line on Saturday.
FS Will Hill: Ranked eighth in tackles (9).
RB Jeff Demps: 5 carries, 75 yards, TD
DT Matt Patchan: Two tackles in three games
CB Janoris Jenkins: 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery against Tennessee. Could start on Saturday.
K Caleb Sturgis: He does kickoffs.
DT Omar Hunter: Didn't play against Tennessee

(Players listed below haven't played yet.)
NEEDS TO REDSHIRT
DT Bryan Jones: Interior defensive lineman usually take one to two years to be successful in the SEC.
WR Omarius Hines: Needs to bulk up and take the offseason seriously.
WR Frankie Hammond Jr.: Showed promise during the preseason but hasn't sniffed the field.
LB Lerentee McCray: Plenty of depth at LB
DE Earl Okine: Separate Okine from Trattou, Lemmens and Dunlap.
LB/FB T.J. Pridemore Who is this?
OL Sam Robey: Get him healthy
OL David Young: Like Robey, should be 100 percent by next spring
CB Jeremy Brown: Injured his back this offseason. Could start at nickel next year.

REDSHIRT
LB Brendan Beal (medical)
DB Adrian Bushell

NEEDS TO PLAY
WR T.J. Lawrence: No need to redshirt three receivers.

-jo-

INJURY REPORT: UF defenders still gimpy

GAINESVILLE -- Florida defensive end Jermaine Cunningham practiced on Wednesday but was limited, according to UF coach Urban Meyer. Cunningham hyper-extended a knee early during the Gators' 30-6 win against Tennessee. He did finish the game, though. (He's from Atlanta. Those kids are tough.)

If Cunningham can't play on Saturday, UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said Duke Lemmens, Justin Trattou and even true freshman William Green could see action.

Florida redshirt junior linebacker Ryan Stamper did not practice on Wednesday. Stamper injured an ankle against Tennessee and wore a protective boot earlier this week. If Stamper can't play on Saturday expect more playing time for Brandon Hicks.

'WILD GATOR' OFFENSE
Here's a random thought that popped into my head this morning. Florida has prepared for Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt's 'Wild Rebel' formation this week, but is Ole Miss ready for Florida's 'Wid Gator' formation? This is formation that features Percy Harvin at quarterback and Tim Tebow lined up at wide receiver. It would be just like Florida to try and out-Rebel the Rebs.

BOOKMARK THIS BLOG!
The Miami Herald's new redesign looks pretty good but there's only one probem: There's no link to the UF page. What the heck, right? While the Herald's website folks work out the problem, here's a link to the UF page. Bookmark this page right now, college football fans! NEW UF PAGE LINK.

-jo-

September 24, 2008

Ahmad Black gives hope to the small fries

GAINESVILLE -- I don't have time to blog much right now (working on a story) but I will share some numbers and information I've been researching this morning. Ahmad Black was a third-string cornerback last season and now he is the Gators' starting strong safety. He's listed at 5-9, 190 pounds, but his actual numbers are more like 5-8, 185 pounds (and that's being generous).

Did you know, Black is not only the smallest starting strong safety in the SEC, he's also the smallest starting strong safety among teams in this week's AP Top 25. Here's the breakdown.

AP TOP 25 STARTING STRONG SAFETIES
No.1 USC, Kevin Ellison (6-1, 230)
No.2 Oklahoma, Nic Harris (6-3, 230)
No.3 Georgia, C.J. Byrd (6-2, 198)
No.4 Florida, Ahmad Black (5-9, 190)
No.5 LSU, Harry Coleman (6-2, 205)
No.6 Missouri, Justin Garrett (6-2, 200)
No.7 Texas, Blake Gideon (6-1, 197)
No.8 Alabama, Justin Woodall (6-2, 220)
No.9 Wisconsin, Jay Valai (5-9, 197)
No.10 Texas Tech, Daniel Charbonnet (5-11, 203)
No.11 BYU, David Tafuna (6-1, 211)
No.12 Penn State, Mark Rubin (6-3, 216)
No.13 South Florida, Danny Verpaele (5-11, 207)
No.14 Ohio State, Jermale Hines (6-2, 210)
No.15 Auburn, Zac Etheridge (6-0, 206)
No.16 Wake Forest, Kevin Patterson (5-10, 191)
No.17 Utah, Joe Dale (5-11, 197)
No.18 Kansas, Darrel Stuckey (6-1, 205)
No.19 Boise State, Ellis Powers (5-1, 200)
No.20 Clemson, Michael Hamlin (6-3, 205)
No.21 Vanderbilt, Ryan Hamilton (6-2, 210)
No.22 Illinois, Bo Flowers, 6-2, 218)
No.23 East Carolina, J.J. Milbrook, 5-9, 191)
No.24 TCU, Stephen Hodge (6-0, 212)
No.25 Fresno St., Moses Harris (5-11, 205)

OTHER SEC STARTING STRONG SAFETIES
Arkansas, Dallas Washington (6-0, 210)
Kentucky, Ashton Cobb (6-0, 208)
Ole Miss, Jamarca Sanford (6-0, 200)
State, Keith Fitzhugh (5-11, 205)
South Carolina, Emanuel Cook (5-10, 214)
Tennessee, Eric Berry (5-11, 195)

Hey, kids. Don't ever let anyone tell you you're too small to play football. Just look at Ahmad Black. Through three games, Florida has one of the best defenses in the country and Black is not only a starter, but he is tied for second in the Southeastern Conference in interceptions (two).

-jo-

September 23, 2008

Grothe, not Tebow, on my All-Florida ballot

GAINESVILLE -- The Miami Herald's college football writers will pick an All-Florida team after the bowl games. Here's my ballot through four weeks.

OFFENSE
QB: Matt Grothe, USF
RB: Graig Cooper, Miami
RB: Phillip Sylvester, Florida A&M
OT: Jason Watkins, Florida
OT: Jason Fox, Miami
OG: Matt Huners, USF
OG: Rodney Hudson, FSU
C: Maurkice Pouncey, Florida
TE: Jamari Grant, FAU
WR: Taurus Johnson, USF
WR: Percy Harvin, Florida

DEFENSE
DE: Carlos Dunlap, Florida
DE: George Selvie, USF
DT: Antonio Dixon, Miami
DT: Lawrence Marsh, Florida
SLB: Tyrone McKenzie, USF
MLB: Brandon Spikes, Florida
WLB: Colin McCarthy, Miami
CB: Joe Haden, Florida
CB: Tony Carter, FSU
SS: Myron Rolle, FSU
FS: Nate Allen, USF

Specialists
Punter: Chas Henry, Florida
Kicker: Maikon Bonani, USF
Kick return: Brandon James, Florida

Here's the team-by-team breakdown: Florida (9), USF (7), Miami (4), FSU (3), FAU (1), Florida A&M (1)

-jo-

REPORT CARD: Don't knock Mullen; Play calling grades an 'A'

GAINESVILLE -- I've decided to post my weekly Gators' report card on Tuesday. I know most reporters and websites do this right after the game, but I like to watch the replay on Monday night, eat a plate of nachos and then give my full opinion on the game. I feel like this way the review will be more complete. And we won't forget to leave out the receivers this time.

QUARTERBACKS ... B
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow had one of his puniest games statistically on Saturday in the Gators' 30-6 win against Tennessee. Cause for concern? Of course not. This is a different Tebow this year, folks. Get used to it. He's bulked up a bit this season, he's a step slower and he's being asked to play a different role. (At least so far.) Tebow completed just 8-of-15 passes for 96 yards and rushed for 26 carries on 12 attempts on Saturday but he did toss two touchdowns and, for the third game, didn't throw an interception or lose a fumble. He didn't get an 'A' because some of his rushes could have been passes and he didn't see a wide open Percy Harvin in the third quarter. It would have been a touchdown.

RUNNING BACKS ... A
Emmanuel Moody averaged 6.1 yards per carry and was a much better back than Tennessee's Arian Foster. I spoke wth Moody on Monday and he told me his playing weight is up five pounds this season (to 205) in order to take the pounding from SEC defenses. Moody got a taste of what SEC defenses are like on Saturday. He wouldn't exactly say that Tennessee's defense played dirty, but Moody did say there were plenty of extra-curricular activities going on at the bottom of the dog piles. Chris Rainey ran well at times but missed a few reads. Percy Harvin looked like his usual explosive self.

WIDE RECEIVERS ... B
Paging Louis Murphy. Louis Murphy where are you? Tight end Aaron Hernandez seems to be Tebow's favorite target these days. And what was up with that shovel pass to Hernandez on the first drive of the game? It worked, but I wouldn't call that play very often.

OFFENSIVE LINE ... B
Those option plays didn't go so smoothly. Other than that, the O-line played well. Tebow was pressured a few times but wasn't harassed. Jim Tartt played looked good in his return to the starting line-up.

PLAY CALLING ... A
Everyone needs to lay off Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen. What's the problem, folks? Ever watch a football game? When your team goes up 20-0 at the half against a team as bad as Tennessee, the last thing you want to do is help that bad team score points. Florida didn't throw the ball downfield much. It was a shrewd decision. Why? Because that kept the ball far away from the one Volunteer who could have changed the game quickly, Tennessee safety Eric Berry. Mullen was wise in letting Moody, Tebow, Harvin and Rainey rush the ball and get the game over with as quickly as possible. Sometimes less is the correct call.

DEFENSIVE LINE ... B
Sophomore defensive end Carlos Dunlap is gradually improving. He had five tackles, recovered a fumble and deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage. Junior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was limited by a knee injury. Did anyone see Terron Sanders chase down Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton. Gotta be embarrassing for that guy.

LINEBACKERS ... A+
Florida's best unit on Saturday. Brandon Spikes talked a big game and backed it up with 10 tackles (seven solo). A.J. Jones had seven tackles and a pass break-up. He might be the defenses most improved player. Ryan Stamper shined as well with five tackles, a tackle for a loss and a fumble recovery.

CORNERBACKS ... B
Janoris Jenkins was excellent. The true freshman had an interception and also forced a fumble. Those were game-changing plays. Joe Haden is playing like an all-SEC corner. He had eight tackles and a pass break-up. Wondy Pierre-Louis missed tackles and just looked out of place among Florida's other defenders.

SAFETIES ... A
Major Wright had eight tackles and a pass break-up. Ahmad Black continues to impress. He assisted on four tackles and also broke up a pass. Will Hill is Florida's special teams dynamo.

SPECIAL TEAMS ... A+
Brandon James scored a touchdown and returned the opening kickoff more than 50 yards. Chas Henry had one punt for 57 yards. Major Wright had an incredible play on punt coverage. Kicker Jonathan Phillips made 3-of-3 field goals.

-jo-

September 22, 2008

Hernandez, Cunningham nursing injuries

GAINESVILLE -- A quick post here. Gator Clause observed several injured players limping off the practice field today.

--Junior defensive end was in crutches with his left leg immobilized in a soft cast/brace.

--Sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez also appeared to be suffering from a leg injury. His right leg was bandaged extensively, preventing him from bending his knee.

--DL Ronnie Wilson had his right arm in a sling.

--LB Ryan Stamper had his left foot in a protective boot.

--Janoris Jenkins' nickname is jackrabbit, in case anyone was wondering. CB coach Vance Bedford came up with the nickname because Jenkins bounced around a lot when he first showed up on campus last spring. Of course, Jenkins used to catch rabbits with his bare hands while living in Pahokee.

True story: Jenkins can kill and clean (gut) rabbits. He used to get $3 a rabbit back home in The Muck (west Palm Beach County).

"That's a good hustle," said Jenkins, who had an interception against the Vols and also forced a fumble.

This is what Pahokee told Jenkins to do on Saturday night after his big game against Tennessee: "Never look back," Jenkins said.

-jo-

NOTEBOOK: I'll be the first to say it, Florida should be No.1 in the country

GAINESVILLE -- Florida is No.4 in the latest AP poll. This is an absolute joke. Florida should be No.1. Here's why.

Statistics don't lie. As Florida coach Urban Meyer would say, stats are "real."

Everyone reading this blog will agree that the SEC is the best league in the country, right? No argument there. OK, with that in mind, know that Florida is leading the SEC in scoring offense (37.3 points per game), scoring defense (6.3 points per game), total defense (213 yards per game), kickoff returns (27.6 yards per game), punt return average (24.6 yards per game), third-down conversions (53.8 percent) and Florida is tied for first with Vanderbilt in field goal accuracy (4-of-4).

After knowing that, I challange anyone out there to argue that another team -- USC, Oklahoma, LSU, Georgia, Alabama, whoever -- is better than Florida at this point in the season. Even if you tried, here's my ace in the pocket, the clinching fact for my argument, the biggest stat of all: Florida is the only team in the country that hasn't allowed a turnover. Florida is plus-nine in turnover margin.

(FYI: Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead has tossed six interceptions in his last two games.)

SURPRISING DEFENSE
The early season dominance of the Gators' offense and special team comes as no surprise to Meyer but the coach did admit that he is pleasantly surprised by the Gators' defensive play. If you're counting at home, Florida started SEVEN (1-2-3-4-5-6-7; CB Joe Haden, FS Major Wright, SS Ahmad Black, SSL A.J. Jones, DE Carlos Dunlap, DT Lawrence Marsh and DT Terron Sanders) SOPHOMORES on defense against Tennessee.

Meyer tempered his excitement by telling reporters that "I don't think we've been challenged yet" by an experienced quarterback. "That's what I'm anxious to see," Meyer said.

MEYER HATES NEW CLOCK RULE
Florida coach Urban Meyer has a message for the NCAA: Get rid of the new clock rule. His offensive players aren't getting enough touches.

Meyer made a point on Monday to explain why he hates the new clock rule. According to Meyer, Florida's offense only had 46 "competitive" plays. Florida had 54 total offensive players but Meyer contends that nine of those were throw-away plays while Florida was trying to run out the clock.

Florida scored on five of its six offensive possessions but was out gained by Tennessee's offense by 18 yards. Don't look to much into this fact, folks. Florida smoke Tennessee and Meyer is upset about the clock rule because last year the score would have been 60-6 instead of 30-6.

MEYER HAS ZINGER FOR MIAMI'S SHANNON
The stats sheet reads that Florida's offense only scored three of the four times it was in the red zone on Saturday. Meyer says it should be 4-of-4. On the Gators' final drive, Florida took a knee instead of kicking a field goal. Meyer received criticism against Miami for kicking a late-game field goal.

"People get upset around here with field goals, so we were 4-of-4," Meyer said.

JAMES NAMED SEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
UF return specialist Brandon James was named special teams player of the week on Monday by the conference's sports information staff. James accounted for 144 yards on kick returns, including a 78-yard punt return for a score. James also had a 52-yard kickoff return on the opening kickoff, which led to a quick Florida score.

Here's a link to the rest of the SEC players of the week. CLICK ME!

MAJOR'S MISSED TACKLE
Major Wright had a great game against Tennessee. He was second on the team with eight tackles and graded out at "champion" status (94 percent), according to UF coach Urban Meyer. Still, I had to ask him about that one missed tackle, the one which allowed UT running back Arian Foster an apparent big gain. (The play was called back because of a UT penalty and Wright's mistake went unnoticed.)

"I was trying to make the perfect tackle," Wright said. "[Foster] got me."

Don't sweat it, Major. Gator Clause still thinks you're the best safety in the SEC. Just had to ask.

JANORIS COULD START AGAINST OLE MISS
Major had good things to say about UF freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins and so did Florida coach Urban Meyer. Meyer said that Jenkins could start against Ole Miss and that it will be a game-to-game decision whether Jenkins starts at cornerback or Wondy Pierre-Louis.

Pierre-Louis had a terrible game on Saturday while Jenkins had an interception and a forced a fumble. Meyer said that Pierre-Louis will get every chance to keep his position because Wondy is an "invested player." Meyer said the same thing about former Florida safety Kyle Jackson last season. Everyone remembers what happened there. Wright was starting by LSU.

Will Jenkins be starting by LSU?

TEBOW RECRUITED AS A LINEBACKER?
Florida's coaching staff began recruiting Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead when Meyer and OC Dan Mullen were at Utah. When Meyer and Mullen moved to Gainesville, Snead was still at the top of Mullen's recruiting board as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Snead initially committed to Florida before changing his mind.

According to a book published last year about college football recruiting, Snead said Florida wanted him so badly that the Gators' coaching staff actuall told him that Florida was recruiting Tebow as a linebacker. On Monday, Tebow said Florida never tried to recruit him as a linebacker and Meyer refused to address the claim.

Recruiting is a dirty business ... but it's supposed to be. Get over it, people.

September 20, 2008

FINAL: UF 30, UT 6

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee certainly helped UF today, giving the ball away twice on the goal line. Still, UF's defense played exceptionally well for the third-straight game and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow managed the game.

--Thoughts? I'll give you mine before I start writing for tomorrow's paper:

1. Emmanuel Moody led UF in rushing (55 yards). He should get more carries.

2. CB Janoris Jenkins should start next week.

3. Miami Herald correspondent Mike McCall spoke with UF linebacker Brandon Spikes as he walked off the field and this is what Spikes said: "They're not tough enough. They don't work as hard as us."

--Thoughts, anyone?

-jo-

3rd Q: UF 27, UT 0

KNOXVILLE, TENN. -- UF receiver Percy Harvin with a 15-yard touchdown catch. Harvin with five carries for 26 yards and two receptions for 49 yards through three quarters.

--Brandon James for Heisman.

-jo-

2nd Q: UF 20, UT 0

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Meet Wondy Pierre-Lewis' permanent replacement. His name is Janoris Jenkins and he's a true freshman.

--Janoris ended the first half with an interception in the UF end zone. He had a key forced fumble in the first quarter.

--Meanwhile, starting cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis has been dreadful. He has missed several tackles and hasn't looked sharp.

--UF kicker Jonathan Phillips' 40-yd field goal gave UF its 20-0 lead. Phillips is 2-of-2 today. Credit Phillips' confidence to UF coach Urban Meyer, who elected to kick a field goal late in the game against Miami to give Phillips experience.

--UT should have a pair of scores but two turnovers inside the UF 5 have kept Tennessee off the scoreboard. Neyland Stadium booed the Vols as they ran into the locker room, and rightfully so, in my opinion.

--UF running backs not including Percy have combined for four carries. RBs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps haven't played yet.

-jo-

1st Q: UF 17, UT 0

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Is it over already?

-- Three major highlights from the first quarter...

1. UF freshman CB Janoris Jenkins forcing a fumble at the UT 23.

2. UF's defense forcing UT to three-and-out after second-and-1 from UT 42.

3. Brandon James' 78-yard punt return for a touchdown.

A few 1st Q notes...

--UF RB Emmanuel Moody rushed for a nine-yd gain on the second play of the game.

--Will Hill has two great special teams tackles.

--UF TE Aaron Hernandez ran a shovel pass from Tebow for a 13-yd gain on the Gators' first scoring drive.

--Nice form on Tebow's jump pass to Hernandez for the first score.

-jo-


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