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50 posts from October 2008

October 31, 2008

ULTIMATE PREVIEW: Healthy Tebow could make all the difference

Expanded version of the Ultimate Preview this week...

LINK: Florida Gators aiming to stop Georgia's Moreno
LINK: X's and O's: Tebow studies how they work, by NY Times college football writer Pete Thamel

GAINESVILLE -- UF quarterback Tim Tebow dropped a bombshell on Gators coach Urban Meyer earlier this week. His knee is back to 100 percent.

That's right, folks. Tebow has been playing a little dinged up this season ever since throwing and interception against Arkansas. Tebow hyper-extended his knee on the play but didn't tell anybody, apparently not even his own coach.

"He was just sore and he never tells you anything," Meyer said. "I would ask how he feels and he would say, 'Fine.' Then the other day he said, 'Boy, my knee is feeling really good. I said, 'Your knee? What are you talking about?'"

For what it's worth, several reporters noticed the difference in Tebow's running style against Arkansas. I asked Meyer after the Arkansas game if Tebow was injured and Meyer said that Tebow didn't let on about an injury. I even asked Tebow and he smiled and said he was fine.

"[Tebow] doesn't come to me with anything," Meyer said. "He just told me the other day in the training room. I walked by and said, 'How do you feel?' He said, 'Great. My knee is finally feeling better.' I said, 'Your knee?'

"He told me last year he was 100 percent before we played Georgia and I later found out he couldn't pick his arm up."

It's hard to believe that Meyer didn't know Tebow was injured against Georgia last season. After all, Tebow was receiving pain-reducing injections in his right shoulder by that point in the season and was limited in practice before the Georgia game. I bring all this up because Tebow's injury certainly played a major role in the outcome of Georgia 42, Florida 30. Meyer admitted earlier this week that Tebow's lack of mobility contributed to Georgia's six sacks.

Tebow is apparently healthy for Georgia this time around and it could make all the difference. Of course, Tebow's health isn't the only upgrade to UF's offense at this crucial point in the season when compared to 2007, but it is the most important difference.

THE 'GATOR-STOMP' EFFECT
The biggest question on the eve of UF-Georgia: How will last season's end-zone celebration from Georgia affect Saturday's game? It's an unquantifiable question but one I attempted to answer earlier this week with an in-depth look at two of college football's most important intangible emotions: motivation and momentum. ESPN picked up on this angle today with a story by college football writer Mark Schlabach.

Will the "Gator-Stomp" effect play a role? Miami coach Randy Shannon believes it will. He chimed in with his opinion earlier this week: "Something will happen in that game. I can guarantee that. You better go to that game. You would get a great story. Don't come to ours. I'm serious. Something is going to happen after what happened last year. You can book that."

STOPPING MORENO
You can also book UF's defense relying on its linebackers to limit UGA redshirt sophomore running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno rushed for 188 yards against UF in 2007. Limiting Moreno was the topic of my story in today's Miami Herald.

UF's defense does not feature a single senior but experience could be one advantage for the Gators' linebackers. Georgia's offensive line is composed entirely of underclassmen, including two true freshmen and one redshirt freshman.

WONDY'S REDEMPTION
Georgia's play-action passing game took advantage of the Gators' young secondary in 2007. Quarterback Matthew Stafford tossed a career-high three touchdowns against the Gators. Stafford returns and so does Georgia senior receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who had had his way with UF cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis in 2007. Pierre-Louis entered this season as the returning starter but was benched earlier in the season in favor of true freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

In an interesting twist of fate, Jenkins injured his shin against Kentucky last week and Pierre-Louis returned to the starting line-up. Jenkins was limited this week during practice and had a brief practice session on Friday in the hopes of gaining his form before Saturday, but if Jenkins is unable to return then Pierre-Louis will get another shot at stopping Georgia's receivers. Pierre-Louis did have an interception against Georgia last year and returned it for a touchdown. Anyone remember "The Flip?"

Massaquoi has 28 receptions, including four touchdowns this season but he is not the Bulldogs first option downfield. Georgia freshman receiver A.J. Green (6-4, 190 pounds) has emerged as one of the best young playmakers in the country. Expect a battle between Green and UF cornerback Joe Haden. Green leads the Bulldogs in receptions with 39 and is averaging 82.8 receiving yards per game with five total touchdowns.

HARVIN POISED, READY
After touching the ball just three times last week against Kentucky, UF's most dynamic offensive playmaker, junior receiver Percy Harvin, wants to the ball in a bad way on Saturday. Harvin rushed for 97 yards on 10 carries against UGA in 2007 and caught two passes for 41 yards. With UF running backs Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey relieving Harvin of his backfield duties, the junior will have more chances to make an impact as a receiver.

THE DETAILS
No.5 UF (6-1, 4-1 in SEC) vs. No.8 Georgia (7-1, 4-1)
Where: Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. Saturday's game marks the 76th time UF and Georgia have played in Jacksonville. The two teams have played 86 times total.
The series: According to UF, Georgia leads the series 46-37-2. According to UGA, Georgia leads the series 47-37-2. Georgia's records show a 52-0 Bulldogs win in a game played in Macon, Ga., in 1904. Florida did not field an official team until 1906.
Recent history: UF has won 15 of the last 18 meetings between the two schools and 17 of the previous 24 contests.

THE NUMBERS
--UF's offense leads the SEC in scoring with an average of 42 points per game.
--UGA's offense is ranked second in the SEC in scoring, averaging 34.2 points per game.
--UGA leads the SEC in total offense with an average of 431.2 yards per game.
--UF's offense is ranked third in the SEC behind UGA and LSU, averaging 410.3 yards per game.
--UF's defense leads the SEC in defensive scoring, allowing an average of 11.9 points per game.
--UGA's defense is ranked eighth, allowing 20.2 points per game.
--Florida's offense is ranked second in the SEC in rushing behind Alabama, averaging 196.0 yards per game. Florida is ranked sixth in the SEC in passing offense (214.3 yards)
--UGA is ranked first in the SEC in passing offense (258.8 yards) and ranked fourth in the SEC in rushing (172.5 yards per game).

TURNOVERS
--UF has not turned the ball over in five of its last nine games.
--UF's six turnovers are tied for the lowest total in the nation with UNLV and Central Michigan.
--Florida's plus-10 turnover margin this season is tied for third nationally.
--UF is one of only three schools to throw only two interceptions this season. Baylor and Penn State are the other teams.

RED ZONE SCORING
UF is second nationally and first in the SEC in red zone offense. The Gators have scored on 28-of-29 trips inside the red zone and have been perfect in six of seven games. UF has scored on its last 18 trips inside the red zone, which is the longest streak ever under UF coach Urban Meyer.

MORE NOTES!
--UF quarterback Tim Tebow needs one rushing touchdown to set the school career touchdown record. He has 36 and is currently tied with former UF great Emmitt Smith.
--UF running back Jeffery Demps is averaging 11.9 yards per carry, which leads the nation. He is averaging 47 yards on touchdown runs.
--Over the last three games, Demps and fellow running back Chris Rainey have carried the ball 52 times for 487 yards (9.4 yards per carry) and four rushing touchdowns.

TO CONSIDER...
--UF is 27-1 under Meyer when the Gators score first.
--UF is 11-0 under Meyer when the Gators block a punt.
--UF is 29-1 when they hold an opponent to less than 100 team rushing yards.

UF INJURIES
Probables
DL Torrey Davis (undisclosed), CB Janoris Jenkins (shin), OL Jim Tartt (shoulder) and Emmanuel Moody (ankle).
Questionables
NONE
Doubtfuls
DL Omar Hunter (ankle)
Out
OL Jim Barrie (knee), TE Cornelius Ingram (knee), S John Curtis (knee), S Dorian Munroe (knee), LB Brendan Beal (knee)

UGA INJURIES
Probables
TE Tripp Chandler (shoulder), LB Dannell Ellerbe (knee),
Questionables
WR Tavarres King (ankle)
Doubtfuls
NONE
Out
S Quintin Banks (knee), OL Vince Vance (knee), LB Akeem Hebron (knee), WR Tony Wilons (ankle), OL Chris Little (foot), LB Marcus Washington (shoulder), LB Chris White (Achilles), DT Trinton Sturdivant (knee), DT Jeff Owns (knee)

PREDICTIONS
Florida by three pumpkins. That's my prediction. Thoughts?

-jo-

October 30, 2008

Heritage guard Boynton Jr. commits to UF

GAINESVILLE -- Plantation American Heritage senior guard Kenny Boynton Jr. committed to Florida and Gators coach Billy Donovan on Thursday. Boynton Jr. announced his decision on ESPNU.

Boynton Jr. (6-2, 187 pounds) made official visits to UF, USC and Georgia Tech. He visited UF last weekend for the homecoming festivities. Boynton Jr. attended Gator Growl and the football game. He's rated as one of the top recruits in the country for the 2009 recruiting cycle, according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com. He is ranked No.13 in the nation in the ESPNU Top 100.

"I took numerous visits to all the schools that were recruiting me and on my Florida visit I was very comfortable," Boynton Jr. said. "Me and Billy Donovan, we have a great relationship and we just clicked."

Boynton Jr. is an excellent shooter, great perimeter defender and can drive to the basket with authority. Most of all, Boynton Jr. is a ferocious competitor and the importance of that addition to the current Gators' basketball roster cannot be overstated.

"Next year I feel I'm going to be a big piece of the team and we're going to try to get to the Final Four," said Boynton Jr., who joins fellow 2009 UF commitments Erik Murphy (6-10 forward of Southborough, Mass) and Deshawn Painter (6-9 forward of Chatham, Va.).

Boynton Jr. began his high school career at Pompano Beach Ely, winning a state championship with the Tigers in 2007 before transferring to American Heritage. Along the way, Boynton has played AAU basketball for Team Breakdown, a powerhouse hoops program in South Florida.

Current UF freshmen Ray Shipman (Miami Monsignor Pace) and Eloy Vargas (Plantation American Heritage) played with Boynton for Team Breakdown.

"We're real cool friends," Shipman said during UF's preseason basketball media day. "I talked to [Boynton Jr.] when he came up here just to visit. Me, Kenny and Eloy all played together so it'd be crazy if all of us get to reunite."

According to Boynton Jr., Donovan used a creative technique during the early stages of the recruiting process. The coach traveled to Fort Lauderdale equipped with a dart gun for a home visit with Boynton Jr.

"He laid a dart gun down and he said he wanted me to shoot him if he was talking recruiting," Boynton Jr. said. "Unfortunately by the end of the night I didn't shoot him with a dart gun, so I guess he did a good job."

-jo-

Kenny Boynton Jr. Highlight Video

UF vs. UGA, by the numbers

Displayed on the sports front this morning: MO-MENTOUS OCCASION: Momentum and motivation could decide Florida vs. Georgia
Gators defense healthy for Georgia game
, by wunderkind Mike-Mike McCall.
Breaking down the end-zone celebration, by St. Pete Times writer Antonya English
The UF men's basketball team is ranked No.19 in the preseason coaches' poll.
CLICK ME! UF was unranked in last season's preseason coaches' poll.
One of my favorite college football writers, Ray Glier, on UF vs. UGA. CLICK ME!


GAINESVILLE -- This post to balance today's article on momentum and motivation. Because statistics are important, or in the words of UF coach Urban Meyer, only losers say stats don't matter.

6 The number of turnovers allowed by UF this season, tied with UNLV and Central Michigan for the lowest total in the nation. UF's plus-10 turnover margin is tied for third nationally. UF turned the ball over (fumbles) twice last season against UF. Does Kestahn Moore get a carry on Saturday?

5 The number of times No.5 Florida (6-1, 4-1 in SEC) and No.8 Georgia (7-1, 4-1) have both been ranked in the AP Top 10 for this rivalry game. The other four years: 1976, 1983, 1984 and 1999. Georgia won the first two match-ups of top 10 teams. Florida won in '84 and '99. Saturday's game is the 31st time in series history Florida has faced a ranked Georgia squad. UF is 12-17-1 in those games but has won eight of the last 10 meetings against ranked UGA teams.

78 The number of points Florida has scored during fourth quarters this season. According to UF, no other UF team has scored more during the final period of games through seven games. Will UF run it up against UGA?

6 The number of points UF is favored by against UGA as of noon Thursday, according to one offshore sports book.

31 The number of points UGA allowed against Alabama earlier this season before getting on the scoreboard.

9 The number of underclassmen currently starting for the UF defense. Florida is currently the only defense in the SEC that does not start a senior on defense. UGA starts four underclassmen on defense and three seniors.

75 The number of yards UGA running back Knowshon Moreno needs to reach 1,000 yards rushing this season. Will he reach 1,000 against UF? Moreno rushed for 188 yards against UF in 2007.

TEBOW VS. STAFFORD
Who's better?

36 The number of career rushing touchdowns for UF quarterback Tim Tebow entering Saturday's game. One more and he's UF's all-time leader in career rushing touchdowns. (Tebow is currently tied with Emmitt Smith for the school record.) In other words, Sir Timmy only needs 13 more rushing touchdowns in his career to tie UGA all-time great Herschel Walker, considered one of the greatest college running backs of all time. Walker's career rushing touchdown total of 49 is a Southeastern Conference record. Will Tebow pass Walker if Tebow returns to UF for his senior season?

A side note here, directed to the UGA sports information staff: This season's UGA media guide incorrectly states that former Bulldogs running back Garrison Hearst holds the SEC record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 19. Tebow rushed for 23 in 2007.

0.2 The difference between UGA quarterback Matt Stafford's yards per completion, compared to UF quarterback Tim Tebow this season. Many critics believe UGA quarterback Matt Stafford is a better passer than Tebow. Stafford is a better downfield passer, according to some. Well, according to this season's stats, it's a pretty weak argument. Stafford is averaging 13.8 yards per completion while Tebow is averaging 13.6.

10 The number separating UGA quarterback Matt Stafford's career passing touchdowns (38) and career interceptions (28). Stafford tossed a career-high three touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 42-30 win against UF in 2007.

40 The number separating UF quarterback Tim Tebow's career passing touchdowns (49) and career interceptions (nine).

-jo-

October 29, 2008

Ronnie Wilson's status uncertain

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer indicated on Wednesday that UF lineman Ronnie Wilson has been suspended from the team. Asked if Wilson was still on the team, Meyer said, "I don't know."

"He's just got to take care of some business," Meyer said. "We just have some expectations and he has to meet them."

A former Pompano Beach Blanche Ely standout, Wilson was reinstated to the team this season after being suspended from the team and the University of Florida for one year after being arrested for discharging a firearm in public after a confrontation at a Gainesville nightclub.

The charge was originally a felony but was reduced and later dropped. Upon returning to Gainesville in January after successfully completing his community service -- He was an assistant line coach for the Ely football team in 2007. -- Wilson was arrested for misdeamnor possession of marijuana. That charge was also dropped despite Wilson being on probation for his original arrest.

Wilson did not respond to a cell phone text message on Wednesday evening.

MEYER ON CLOWNS, CHILDREN AND MATURITY
Clourophobia: An exaggerated fear of clowns.
Pedophobia: Fear of children or infants or childhood.

"You like to be around professionals," Meyer said. "I like to be around media people who are professional. I like to be around coaches who are professional. I like to be around players who are professional. It's the clowns and the children -- it doesn't interest me. Right now I don't have too many of those guys on my team."

Seriously, Meyer offered this response to a question about the maturity on his team this season compared to last season's squad.

TEBOW'S MOBILITY
UF quarterback Tim Tebow played injured during the Gators' 42-30 loss to UGA in 2007. I asked Meyer on Wednesday if Tebow's injury led to Georgia's six sacks.

"No," Meyer said. "Tim has an unique ability to get out of a bad play, so I don't know that. It's all speculative. I think probably it did. I don't know that. He was limited. He was not as elusive as he normally is."

INJURIES, AVAILABILITY
Meyer said that offensive lineman Jim Tartt (shoulder) and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (shin) will be available for Saturday's game. Meyer also said that defensive lineman Torrey Davis will also be available for action. Davis did not dress last week against Kentucky.

-jo-

UF silences Brandon Spikes' political voice

GAINESVILLE -- Beginning this blog today with something that might slightly annoy those among us who have a stake in the First Amendment.

UF linebacker Brandon Spikes has been outspoken about his political interests. In recent weeks, Spikes has worn T-shirts advertising one of the large-party Presidential candidates. On Tuesday evening following the Gators' practice, Spikes was asked why he supports that candidate. Spikes' political voice was silenced by the University of Florida.

He replied "I can't really comment on that" to the initial question and when asked if UF instructed him to do so, Spikes said yes.

No big deal, right? Spikes is just a college football player, right? He's just supposed to play football, make millions for UF and keep his mouth shut, right?

Well, if you believe college football is something more than just a business then it is certainly wrong. Why would UF instruct Spikes to refrain from giving his opinion? I'll let you guys answer that question. But in muzzling Spikes, UF has set an unfair double standard. UF quarterback Tim Tebow has been using his fame and his First Amendment rights for several years.

SPIKES: STOPPING THE RUN IS KEY
While Spikes has been instructed by UF coach Urban Meyer to not speak about Georgia or UGA running back Knowshon Moreno, Spikes did say on Tuesday that stopping the run is the key to the game, in UF's opinion.
"I think if we play great up front, we're going to win this ballgame," Spikes said.

MEYER: UF 'BETTER PREPARED'
On Wednesday, Meyer said that Florida is better prepared for Georgia this season than in 2007. UGA beat UF 42-30 last season.

"LSU up to date was our biggest [challenge] and our guys answered that," Meyer said. "We've got a better group this year. From try hard to play hard to guys on the field, we feel better prepared this year."

STAFFORD IMPRESSED WITH UF SECONDARY
UF's secondary is currently ranked first in the SEC in passing efficiency, holding opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 56 percent. UGA quarterback Matt Stafford has taken notice.

"They're playing well," Stafford said. "They're doing a good job of getting after the passer, which always helps. They're just playing well within their scheme and letting their guys make plays."

Stafford completed 11-of-18 throws against UF in 2007 for three touchdowns. He threw one interception and was sacked one time.

MORENO'S RESURGENCE
Against Alabama, UGA running back Knowshon Moreno rushed for just 34 yards on nine carries. In the three games since then (Tennessee, Vanderbilt and LSU) Moreno has exploded for an average of 145.3 yards on 23.7 carries. During Wednesday's teleconference with Stafford, I asked the quarterback about the difference between Moreno now compared to the beginning of the season.

"Wow. I think the biggest difference for him is our offensive line," Stafford said. "We settled on a group of guys that are really doing a good job of opening holes and just getting the job done for him. I don't know if his running style has changed or anything like that. I just think it's the experience around him."

-jo-

October 28, 2008

NOTEBOOK: Gators split over Presidential candidates

Lengthy notebook today...

GAINESVILLE -- Florida's football team stands divided during the most important week of the season. It's political.

Some UF football players don't care one iota who wins the Presidential election on Nov 4. Back-up quarterback John Brantley didn't even know who was running a few months ago. Many Gators, however, are civic-minded and quite passionate when the topic turns to the Presidency.

Sen. John McCain or Sen. Barack Obama? Democrat or Republican? Elephant or donkey? Blue or red?

SpikesshirtLinemen Phil Trautwein and Javier Estopinan favor the Republican candidate, Sen. McCain. Defenders William Green and Moses Jenkins support Sen. Obama, the Democratic Presidential hopeful.

UF's team leaders are strongly divided. Linebacker Brandon Spikes [PICTURED] has been publicizing his interest in politics by wearing shirts advertising Sen. Obama. On Saturday, quarterback Tim Tebow indicated he leads locker room debates in favor of Sen. McCain.

"We talk about it and sometimes debate about it and sometimes joke about it," Tebow said. "Some guys have pretty strong opinions."

When asked who wins the debates between Tebow and Spikes, the quarterback said, "Tie."

MIAMI'S SHANNON PREDICTS FIREWORKS
Seems like everyone is excited about the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party this season. Even Miami coach Randy Shannon chimed in with his take on the rivalry this week. Georgia's end-zone celebration in 2007 apparently made a major impression on Shannon, who is no stranger to on-field melees.

"Something will happen in that game," Shannon said. "You can guarantee that. You better go to that game. You would get a great story. Don't come to ours. I'm serious. Something is going to happen after what happened last year. You can book that."

Dually noted, Mr. Shannon.

BOYD ANDERSON SAFETY COMMITS TO UF
High school junior Demar Dorsey of Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson committed to play for Florida coach Urban Meyer over the weekend. Dorsey, the fourth 2010 commitment for the Gators, hails from the same school as UF cornerback Moses Jenkins, Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes, Tennessee lineman Vladimir Richard and Miami safety Joseph Wylie.

Dorsey (6-2, 190 pounds) has three interceptions in his last three high school football games.

Should Florida seek commitments of high school juniors? Seems like a risky recruiting strategy, in my opinion.

AWARDS, HONORS
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has been named a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award. Tebow won the award in 2007.

--UF freshman Jeffery Demps was named SEC special teams player of the week for his effort against Kentucky. Demps blocked a punt in the first quarter, which led to a UF touchdown.

"The fact that [Demps] takes so much pride in special teams tells you what a special player he is," running backs coach Kenny Carter said. "It doesn't surprise me at all what he's accomplished in such a short time."

Demps leads the Gators in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

UF HOOPS: INJURIES ABOUND
Florida has been practicing for a week and already the team is suffering from some substantial injuries. Sophomore forward Adam Allen recently sprained his knee, according to UF coach Billy Donovan. Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin (6-10 forward, ineligible this season) is sitting out with a high-ankle sprain. Eloy Vargas is behind due to his offseason ankle injury.

"We've had to battle some injuries, which I'd like to see practice a little more competitive and guys battle through fatigue a little better but a lot of that is our shortness of numbers," Donovan said.

-jo-

My All-Florida college football ballot revealed

GAINESVILLE -- As promised, here's a look at my All-Florida ballot as it stands after the eighth week of the college football season. The annual Miami Herald All-Florida College Football Team will be published after the regular season. The Herald's All-Florida Team is voted upon by a collection of college football writers and editors at The Miami Herald.

OFFENSE
QB Tim Tebow, Florida junior, PICTURED: USF quarterback Matt Grothe was on my initial ballot but Tebow moves Tebow_2into the top spot among in-state quarterbacks. Tebow has been consistent over the past four weeks while Grothe played erratically in losses to Pittsburgh and Louisville. Grothe threw one interception against Pitt and two against Louisville on Saturday. Meanwhile, Tebow has tossed 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions in seven games. (OK, maybe that's not much of a difference.) Tebow has one loss and led the Gators to a win over LSU, a team ranked in the AP top 5 at the time.
QBs to consider: Matt Grothe, USF junior (14 touchdown passes and 1,896 yards passing, three rushing touchdowns). Curtis Pulley, Florida A&M junior (Exploded in last two games with 424 yards passing and six touchdowns and 219 yards rushing). Christian Ponder, FSU redshirt sophomore (Impressive rushing performance in win against Miami...Completed 11-of-19 attempts and a touchdown on Saturday in win against Va. Tech).

RB Antone Smith, FSU senior: Smith has 11 rushing touchdowns in seven games. He had 540 yards rushing on 109 carries.
RBs to consider: Charles Pierre, FAU senior: Pierre leads in-state FBS running backs with 589 yards on 99 carries and four touchdowns). Rudell Small, Jacksonville sophomore (Leads all in-state running backs with 825 yards on 154 carries. Small has rushed for seven touchdowns.

WR Percy Harvin, UF junior, PICTURED: Despite sitting out the season opener, Harvin is third among in-state FBS Percyharvin_002_2receivers for the most receptions (26). He is tied for the lead among all in-state receivers in touchdown catches (six). He has 429 receiving yards. Harvin's effort in the Gators running game puts him over the top, though. On the ground, Harvin is averaging 6.8 yards per carry (212 yards on 31 carries) and has three rushing touchdowns.
WR Kevin Elliott, Florida A&M freshman: We can't ignore Elliott anymore. He has been solid all season and now leads all in-state receivers with 40 receptions for 535 yards and six touchdowns.
Cortez Gent, FAU junior: 31 receptions for 474 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winning score last week.

TE Jamari Grant, FAU junior: Grant (6-5, 210 pounds) leads all in-state tight ends with 26 receptions for 380 yards and a touchdown.
TEs to consider: Aaron Hernandez, Florida sophomore (Hernandez began the season as a catch-first tight end but has grown into a respected blocker over the last three games. He has 15 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Eric Kirchenberg, FIU senior (A dedicated team leader, Kirchenberg is an excellent blocker and has nine receptions for 94 yards and one touchdown.

OT Jason Fox, Miami junior: While the 'Canes offense struggled earlier this season, Fox was a mainstay and continues to be a player the team's players and coaches rely on for leadership.
OT Patrick Brown, UCF junior: Could be the Knights' most highly drafted player in school history in April.
OG Rodney Hudson, FSU sophomore: Continues to prove himself as the best lineman in the state. Had his way with the Miami defensive line.
Pouncey_3OG Mike Pouncey, UF sophomore, PICTURED: This pulling guard has been a key to Florida's option attack, which has launched the stardom of UF running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.
C Maurice Pouncey, UF sophomore, PICTURED: An important leader and offensive line captain of the Gators' offense.
OLs to consider: Andy Leavine, FIU junior tackle (Leavine is coming into his own). FSU freshman tackle Andrew Datko (This Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas alum is making a major impact). UF senior tackle Phil Trautwein, Miami junior tackle Chris Rutledge, Miami sophomore guard Orlando Franklin, FAU senior tackle John Rizzo, Jacksonville sophomore tackle Leonard Payton.

ATH Jeff Demps, UF freshman
: I really wanted to find a way to leave Demps off my ballot because he's a freshman. But, alas, he's just too stinking good. Demps only has 30 carries this season but he leads the Gators in rushing (357 yards). He's averaged 11.9 yards per carry and has scored four rushing touchdowns. Last Saturday he carried a screen pass for a 61-yard score. In addition to his offensive contributions, Demps has blocked two punts, which led to nine UF points.

DEFENSE
DL Everette Brown, FSU redshirt junior: Proving to be one of the best defenders in the state. 11 tackles behind the line, six sacks, forced fumble.
Ncf_i_selvie_195DL George Selvie, USF junior, PICTURED: USF's bye week did Selvie good. He was back to his old form against Louisville with seven tackles, including four tackles for losses and two sacks. Selvie has 32 tackles this season with 10 tackles for losses and five sacks.
DL Jermaine Cunningham, UF junior: Cunningham leads UF linemen with 30 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for losses and three sacks.
DL Lawrence Marsh, UF redshirt sophomore: Believe it or not, Marsh is having an All-Florida type of year. He has 19 tackles to go along with 5.5 tackles for losses and three sacks. Florida's defense is only allowing 102.7 yards per game (ranked third in the SEC) and Marsh is big reason for the success.

LB Brandon Spikes, UF junior: The Gators' defensive leader, Spikes has 52 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two interceptions.
LB Frantz Joseph, FAU redshirt senior: Joseph leads all in-state defenders with 96 tackles, including eight tackles for losses.
LB Tyrone McKenzie, USF redshirt senior: Leads USF with 62 tackles, including seven tackles for losses. Also has seven pass break-ups. He also has one interception and one sack.
LBs to consider: FSU senior Derek Nicholson (Leads FSU's resurgent defense with 41 tackles, including nine behind the line. He also has forced a fumble and recovered a fumble.) Miami senior Glenn Cook (50 tackles).

JoehadenCB Joe Haden, UF sophomore, PICTURED: Haden leads all in-state cornerbacks with 40 tackles. He also has a sack, an interception (returned 24 yards), a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
CB Tony Gaitor, FIU sophomore: A break-out season for Gaitor is turning into an All-Florida season. The former Miami Northwestern star has three interceptions (returned for 98 yards) to go along with 33 tackles. He also has seven pass break-ups and a fumble recovery (returned 20 yards).
CBs to consider: Miami junior Chavez Grant (19 tackles, six pass break-ups). FSU redshirt senior Tony Carter (Carter has two interceptions and four pass deflections to go along with 16 tackles.)

Ahmad S Travis Roland, Bethune-Cookman senior
: Roland is having an amazing season and it's not going overlooked. (At least not by Gator Clause.) Roland leads his team in tackles (56), tackles behind the line (10.5), sacks (6.5). He has one interception for a 47-yard return, two forced fumbles, two pass break-ups and he has also recovered two fumbles.
S Ahmad Black, UF sophomore, PICTURED: Once an emergency fill-in at strong safety, Black has risen to greatness quickly. He leads UF with three interceptions with 120 return yards to go along with 29 tackles. He has also forced a fumble and blocked a field goal.

ATH Scott Bryant, FIU junior: This Lakeland native leads FIU with 59 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for losses. He also has a sack, a pass break-up and two forced fumbles. 

SPECIALISTS
ATH Brandon James, UF junior: James leads Florida with 860 all-purpose yards and most of those yards came by way of amazing returns. He has 374 return yards on kickoffs (28.8 yards per) and 363 return yards on punts (20.2 yards per). James has scored five touchdowns, including two on punt returns. James has also recovered a fumble on punt coverage and converted a fake punt for a first down against Arkansas.

K Graham Gano, FSU senior: Gano has made 13-of-14 field goals and 14 PATs for 53 points.

P Chas Henry, UF sophomore: Henry is averaging 43.8 yards per punt while UF's punt coverage unit is only allowing an average five yards per punt return.

Here's the breakdown of my All-Florida ballot by school:
UF 12, FSU 4, FAU 3, FIU 2, USF 2, UCF 1, Miami 1, Bethune-Cookman 1, Florida A&M 1 

ALL-FLORIDA POWER RANKINGS
1. Florida (6-1, 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference): The Gators are now playing like one of the best teams in college football. Georgia looms.
2. Florida State (6-1, 3-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference): Don't look now but the 'Noles are sitting atop the ACC standings and their young quarterback is building confidence.
3. Miami (5-3, 2-2 in ACC): The Canes are surging behind their duo of underclassmen quarterbacks. A collection of talented freshmen have Miami on the fast track.
4. USF (6-2, 1-2 in the Big East Conference): The Bulls fall behind the 'Noles and 'Canes in the All-Florida power rankings after a loss to Louisville.
5. FIU (3-4, 2-1 in the Sun Belt Conference): The Golden Panthers travel to La.-Lafayette for a huge conference game this Saturday.
6. FAU (3-5, 1-2 in Sun Belt): Dramatic win for FAU on Saturday night against La.-Monroe.
7. UCF (2-4, 1-1 in Conference USA): Central Florida enjoyed a bye week. Hope the Knights are ready for undefeated Tulsa.
8. Florida A&M (6-2, 2-2 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) Have the Rattlers found a star in freshman receiver Kevin Elliott? Yes.
9. Bethune-Cookman (5-2, 2-2 in MEAC)
10. Jacksonville (5-3, 3-1 in Pioneer Conference)

Discussion topics:
--You, the loyal reader, can lobby for one player that's not on my ballot. Let me read your take and I'll consider it.
--Are 12 Florida Gators too many for my ballot. I realize I cover the Gators and might be slightly swayed towards nominating players I see every day, but as of right now I think the state's balance of power is about this proportional.
--Is there another defensive lineman out there better than Lawrence Marsh? I didn't want to put him on the team but I analyzed each team's best defensive linemen but still kept coming back to Marsh. Did I overlook somebody or is Marsh the guy?
--Is Miami only worthy of one All-Florida spot? They've got some good young players but every time I stacked them against the competition the 'Canes fell short.
--FAU with three picks? It seems a little off but those three players are excellent and could star for any team in the state, in my opinion. Perhaps Miami tight end Dedrick Epps?
--Welcome to the conversation, FIU. Last season, I didn't nominate a single Golden Panther. Bryant (a close friend of Ahmad Black's, by the way) and Gaitor are serious playmakers on FIU's defense.
--Should I give Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman this much love on my ballot?
--Should Ahmad Black be on my ballot? What about FSU's Myron Rolle or USF's Nate Allen or UF's Major Wright, for that matter? Wright has two interceptions this season and 35 tackles.
--Should Grothe be on my ballot instead of Tebow?

-jo-

October 27, 2008

Why Florida lost to Georgia and how to prevent it, according to Meyer

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer deflected questions today about Georgia's end-zone celebration on Monday during his weekly press conference. He did, however, offer a reason for last season's loss to the Georgia. The Bulldogs beat Florida 42-30.

"I think we lost that game because we didn't tackle very well," Meyer said. "We were very soft, very selfish outfit a year ago. And we didn't protect the quarterback and we dropped the ball twice. That's how we lost that game.

"That's why Tuesday and Wednesday were going to practice so hard. We're going to have really hard practices Tuesday and Wednesday and make sure those same things don't happen again."


JENKINS HURTING BUT PROBABLE
Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins did not practice on Sunday, a day after Florida coach Urban Meyer said Jenkins is probable for Saturday's game against Georgia despite a leg injury.

Jenkins limped off the practice field with an extensive wrap around his right leg. (It looked like it really hurt.) According to Meyer, Jenkins bruised his shin in the 63-5 win against Kentucky. Jenkins left the game in the first quarter and sat on the trainer's table for most of the first half. He stayed inside the Gators' football facility for the second half.

The good news here is that Jenkins' right knee wasn't wrapped and he wasn't using crutches. This means the trainers want him to use his leg to help with the recovery process.

While Florida has several veteran cornerbacks who could take Jenkins' place in the starting line-up against Georgia, the coaching staff would prefer to face Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with Jenkins on the edge. Cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis started last season against Georgia. He had and interception return for a touchdown (Anyone remember the flip?) and was this season's initial starter. Coaches benched him during the Tennessee game.

Here's a link to my story in today's paper: Publicly ignoring 2007 end-zone celebration doesn't mean Gators aren't thinking about it.

-jo-

October 26, 2008

Mark Richt, motivational genius, tells his secrets ... we fill in the blanks

GAINESVILLE -- Like Urban Meyer, Georgia coach Mark Richt isn't answering questions about last season's end-zone celebration. Richt had his weekly post-game teleconference on Sunday and he told Ncf_a_georgia_sq_300one reporter: "In terms of the celebration question, no matter how you phrase it, you can just refer to the SEC Media Days. I think that's really old news and I'm not going to comment on it."

While Richt wouldn't speak about the end-zone celebration he did offer Gator Clause an exceptional answer on the importance of motivation as it relates to winning football games. Obviously, the end-zone celebration was a brilliant motivational strategy.

"I think it's very important to have a great plan -- maybe not even a great plan but a good, sound plan and good fundamentals," Richt said. "And then when you add some energy to your execution then you've got a chance to play at a higher level. So I think emotion does matter. I think if you can find a way to bottle it and start the game with it and sustain it through the entire ball game then you've got it made but no one has figured that out yet.

"If you add some enthusiasm to a plan, then normally you get better results."

As in, Georgia 42, Florida 30.

-jo-

Urban Meyer's attempt at revenge is here

LINK: My game story on UF 63, UK 5. CLICK ME!
LINK: Block party results in three touchdowns CLICK ME!
LINK: 'No comment' the company line for Gators this week CLICK ME!

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Sunday that Georgia's now-famous end zone celebration last season against the Gators will not factor into the motivation of Saturday's game.

"It's old news and it has no bearing on this year's game," Meyer said. "Two teams battling for the SEC East. It has no bearing on it whatsoever."

Is Meyer losing his grip on reality? Should team physicians examine his brain? If Meyer believes that UGA's end zone celebration will have "no bearing" on Saturday's game and its preparation, then perhaps ... OK, I think everyone gets the point. This is all bologna.

Clearly, what Meyer says publicly and what he tells his team are two different things entirely. Florida has been thinking about UGA's end zone celebration for nearly an entire year. Before the season even started, the Gators had a large photo of "Gator Stomp" on their motivational bulletin board in the team weight room.

MEYER'S REVENGE
The question I have is this: Is it a good idea for Meyer to ignore last season's full-team end-zone celebration by the Bulldogs during the first quarter of their 42-30 win? In ignoring the obvious, is Meyer actually making a bigger deal out of the end-zone celebration than what it's worth? Is Meyer acting cowardly or smartly? (Yes, I'm fully aware Meyer is no coward.)

After all, Meyer did say this about "Gator Stomp" in his biography, Urban's Way, released this season: "That wasn't right. It was a bad deal. And it will forever be in the mind of Urban Meyer and in the mind of our football team. So we'll handle it. And it's going to be a big deal."

And that's what Meyer really thinks.

-jo-

October 25, 2008

UF 63, UK 5: Serious post-game analysis

GAINESVILLE -- In conclusion...

Ky

4th Q: Style points, anyone? UF 63-5

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer said after the game that UF freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins bruised his right shin and is probable for next week against Georgia.

LIVE BLOG BELOW
Will the Gators' blowout of Kentucky help the Gators much in the BCS standings? Off to the locker room for post game interviews.

UF 63, UK 5
UF's walk-ons allow a safety in the final minutes of the blowout. UF 63, UK 5.

UF 63, UK 3
UF back-up receiver David Nelson (aka Tiger Woods) just gave UF a 63-3 lead with a 38-yard touchdown reception from back-up quarterback Jon Brantley. That's Brantley's first touchdown pass of his career.

--Florida's 63 points is a record against an SEC opponent under Meyer.

BRANTLEY ENTERS GAME
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jonathan Brantley is in the game. No Cam Newton? Is Cam Newton getting the shaft?

--Announced attendance 90,589.

THIRD QUARTER BELOW
UF 56, UK 3
It's probably time UF coach Urban Meyer took Tebow out of the game. UF just scored with 2:59 left in the third quarter to give the Gators a 56-3 lead on a one-yard rush by senior Kestahn Moore. The drive featured two fourth-down conversions inside the five-yard line. Talk about pouring it on for the homecoming crowd.

After Moore's touchdown, Tebow jogged near the Kentucky sideline and swung his arms in the air to get some cheers out of the Gators' student section. Back-up quarterbacks Cam Newton or Jon Brantley should finish the game.

AHMAD BLACK'S PICK-SIX PARTY
Ahmad Black returned a UK interception for a 40-yard touchdown on the Wildcats' first offensive play of the second half. That's Black's third interception of the season and UF leads 49-3 with 14:51 left in the third quarter

HALFTIME STATS AND NOTES
-UF's three blocked kicks in the first half tied a school record for blocked kicks in a game.
-Demps had six carries for 45 yards rushing and two receptions for 60 yards and a score.
-UF's defense held UK to nine rushing yards in the first half and 70 passing yards.

SECOND QUARTER BELOW
UF quarterback Tim Tebow's three-yard touchdown run gave UF a 42-3 lead with 26 seconds left in the first half. Florida's offense finished the first half with a methodical drive of 80 yards, which featured hand offs and option pitches to four different running backs (Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Kestahn Moore and Brandon James).

--With the 36th rushing touchdown of his career, Tebow ties former UF running back Emmitt Smith with the most rushing touchdowns in Florida history.

MR. TWO-BITS WE SALUTE YOU!
TwobitsGeorge Edmondson, UF's 86-year-old cheerleader known as Mr. Two-Bits, is giving up his pregame "Two-Bits" routine after the Gators' final home game of the season against The Citadel, coincidentally Edmondson's alma mater. Mr. Edmondson attended The Citadel before World War II broke out. He joined the Navy and was trained as a night-ops fighter pilot.

He flew night missions in the South Pacific during WW II from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Saratoga. He has cheered at UF games for 60 years. The first Florida game he attended was in 1949, a home opener against The Citadel.

COBB AT QB FOR UK
Randall Cobb now in at quarterback for UK with 5:08 left to play in the half. Cobb led UK on a 76-yard drive, ending with a 27-yard field goal by UK kicker Lones Seiber. UF 35, UK 3

--Will Hill continues played strong safety the entire drive. Giving the freshman some experience is a good idea.

UF 35, UK 0
Jeff Demps has the ability to turn a simple drag route into a 61-yard touchdown. He did this with ease in the second quarter with 11:26 to play.

--Will Hill in the game at strong safety for Florida. Wondy Pierre-Louis at cornerback for an injured Janoris Jenkins (right knee). Safety Ahmad Black on the sideline with his helmet off but he doesn't appear injured.

UF 28, UK 0
Percy Harvin is back in the end zone. This time catching a 33-yard touchdown pass from Tebow. Beautiful throw by Timmy. The route is on.

--Most points ever scored by an Urban Meyer coached team in the first quarter.

--Most point given up in a game this season by UK. AND THE FIRST QUARTER ISN'T EVEN OVER.

A.J. JONES ANKLE WRAP
The strong-side linebacker was on the training table getting his ankle tapped.

JANORIS APPEARS DONE FOR THE DAY
Janoris Jenkins, freshman cornerback has an ice pack on the knee. Javier Estopinan walked up to Jenkins on the sideline and patted the freshman on the back of the helmet. Markihe Anderson is playing cornerback.

ANTWINE MAKES TACKLE
For those who know the story of UF defensive tackle Brandon Antwine, then you probably got a little teary eyed when he entered the game on UF's fourth defensive series and slammed UK running back Alfonso Smith for a one-yard gain. Congrats on your recovery, Brandon.

UF 21, UK 0
Percy Harvin scored on a 16-yard with 6:44 left in the first to give UF a 21-0 lead. The drive took four plays and spanned 61 yards. The drive's highlight was a 15-yard option run by Jeff Demps.

SHARP SECONDARY
UF's defense holds UK to its third consecutive three-and-out. UF secondary is sharp. Joe Haden nearly intercepted a pass intended for Randall Cobb and Major Wright deflected another UK pass attempt on third and long.

--Matt Patchan has played defensive tackle for two consecutive series.

JANORIS JENKINS ON TRAINING TABLE
Jenkins was spotted on the training table after UF's third defensive series. Right knee. He's up but limping.

DEMPS BLOCKS PUNT
Another UK three-and-out and another UF blocked punt. Simply amazing. Ben Hill Griffin is going bonkers after Jeff Demps squeezed through the UK punt formation and blocked the kick. UF doesn't even need its play offense today, apparently. Deonte Thompson recovers at the UK 1 and Brandon James scores one play later. UF 14, UK 0. 9:22 left in first quarter.

--Fourth blocked kick of the year and second today. That's Demps' second block of the season. He blocked a punt in the end zone against Miami for a safety.

GREEN BLOCKS PUNT
Florida freshman defensive end William Green (Hoover, Ala.) breaks through Kentucky's punt formation and blocks a kick in the red zone. Chris Rainey recovered the fumble at the UK 3. Tebow scores on a QB keeper on first offensive play. UF 7, UK 0. 11:01 in first quarter.

-That's the third blocked kick this season for the Gators as another UF freshman gets involved on special teams.

-Tebow's fourth rushing TD of the season.

--UF's first series of the game...eh. Kentucky safety Matt Lentz nearly picks off a terrible pass by UF QB Tim Tebow on first offensive play of the game. Tebow overthrows a receiver on third and long. Chris Rainey bobbles an option pitch.

--UF RB Jeff Demps started the game at tailback.

PREGAME BELOW
--UF running back Emmanuel Moody's ankle is not tapped. Either he has been cleared to play or he's not going in today.

It's rainy in Hogtown today. Does a wet field favor Kentucky or Florida? Will it even matter?

I'll be heading to the field shortly (just finished my morning bagel and coffee) but I wanted to let everyone know that I'll be blogging live today from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

I present a few links to get everyone ready for a great day of college football...

My UF-UK game preview in today's Miami Herald...CLICK ME!
UK perspective (kentucky.com)...CLICK ME!
UGA vs. LSU game preview (ajc.com)...CLICK ME!
UGA's key stretch has arrived (Mark Bradley, ajc.com)...CLICK ME!
LSU vs. UGA game preview (NOLA.com)...CLICK ME!
UA vs. UT game preview (al.com)...CLICK ME!
UT vs. UA game preview (govolsextra.com)...CLICK ME!
Texas vs. Oklahoma State preview (austinstatesman.com)...CLICK ME!
Ohio State vs. Penn State preview (cleveland.com)...CLICK ME!
Michigan vs. Michigan State preview (freep.com)...CLICK ME!

IN-STATE PREVIEWS
Miami vs. Wake Forest (miamiherald.com)...CLICK ME!
FSU vs. Va.Tech (miamiherald.com)...CLICK ME!
USF vs. Louisville (tampabay.com)...CLICK ME!

Sniff any upsets out there?

-jo-

October 24, 2008

ULTIMATE PREVIEW: UF must impress voters this Saturday; Plus an SEC debate...

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer says he respects Kentucky's defense. Meyer is apparently the only one.

The betting line on Florida's homecoming against Kentucky has risen from 19.5 to 26 this week. Two things have contributed to the large swing in points. 1. Florida's surging offense. 2. Kentucky's battered starting line-up. At the beginning of the week, 10 Kentucky Wildcats appeared unable to play on Saturday due to injuries.

While a few of Kentucky's hobbled starting defenders have been upgraded to probable, the team will still be competing without its two best offensive weapons. Senior wide receiver Dicky Lyons Jr. is out for the season and so is leading rusher Derrick Locke.

AVOIDING THE UPSET
Florida is the heavy favorite but it doesn't take a historian to recall the last time a heavily favored Florida team was upset at home. Ole Miss, which was a 23-point underdog, beat Florida 31-30 earlier this season. All week the Gators told reporters that they learned from that mistake and that the attention to detail that was lacking against Ole Miss has not been overlooked in the preparation for Kentucky.

"We've just got to stay focused and think about taking it one game at a time," safety Ahmad Black said. "[Coaches] make sure we worry about Kentucky and Kentucky only -- not last week, not next week. It starts out with the players, though. We've got to worry about Kentucky."

Florida has had two weeks to prepare for Kentucky.

THE STREAK
Florida has beaten Kentucky 21 consecutive times. The streak dates back to 1986 when UF lost to Kentucky 10-3 in Lexington.
"Beat a team that many times, that's incredible," Demps said.

JANORIS JENKINS' WORDS OF WISDOM
On his success:
"I just go out and ball."

On Kentucky freshman receiver Randall Cobb:
"I really don't know him but they say he's about 6-6. Like I said, go play."

Jenkins, UF's starting freshman cornerback, will certainly be tested on Saturday. Keep an eye on the match-up between Jenkins and Cobb.

IMPRESSING THE BCS
The initial BCS standings came out last Sunday and Florida has got some work to do. The Gators are ranked No.10. Since the BCS was created, only one team outside the initial top six teams has gone on to play in the BCS national championship game (LSU was ranked No.12 in 2003).

Style points are recommended this week against a hobbled Kentucky squad. Voters will be watching.

THE JEFF DEMPS SHOW
The young Jeff Demps enters Saturday's game riding the momentum of back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. Demps will likely get a shot at another 100-yard effort against Kentucky. Redshirt sophomore running back Emmanuel Moody (high-ankle sprain) is questionable for Saturday's game and so is Chris Rainey (shoulder).

Expect Florida's coaches to keep these players out of the line-up (Rest up for Georgia, guys.) if Demps and senior Kestahn Moore can handle the backfield responsibilities.

"I knew coming in that I would get a couple carries but I didn't think I would have this many carries and leading the team in rushing," Demps said.

THE LINKS
Putting the option back in the spread-option offense, by me. CLICK ME!

Janoris Jenkins slaughters rabbits, by me. CLICK ME!

Jeff Demps, fastest man to play football, by the New York Times. Comparing Demps to other speedy football players of the past. CLICK ME! Is Demps actually a better college running back than Auburn's Bo Jackson or Georgia's Herschel Walker in any way? Seems absurd when you think about it that way.

Seven SEC players named to Sporting News midseason All-America team. Find out which Gators made the list. CLICK ME!

MR. TWO BITS
The lovable old man is calling it quits after this season. He's 82, so it's probably time to pass the torch to another two-bit cheerleader. UF is honoring Mr. Two Bits before Saturday's homecoming game. Be in your seats by 12:10 to clap for Mr. Two Bits. Or just stay in the parking lot and shoot whiskey.

THE PARTICULARS
What: A college football game. UF's homecoming.
Who: UF (5-1, 3-1 in SEC) vs. Kentucky (5-2, 1-2)
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, E University Blvd, Gainesville, Fla., U.S.A., Earth
When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
TV: Raycom (Oh, joy!)

FOR DEBATE
Is the SEC the best conference this season? Most seasons I wouldn't even have to ask this question but this time around doesn't seem like the SEC's best effort. Many people thought at the beginning of the season that this would be the best year in the history of the league. People thought this for several reasons but mainly because the league has more high-profile coaches than ever before and the SEC is being taken over by ESPN and therefore the SEC is on TV all the time. But the SEC hasn't lived up to the hype, in my opinion. Through eight weeks, the Big 12 seems to be the toughest league.

Let's take a look at the SEC from top to bottom.

No.2 Alabama...The Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) has surprised many and is now considered the best team in the SEC. Considering the Tide is less than one season removed from losing to La.-Lafayette, is this actually a good sign for the SEC?

No.5 Florida...The Gators (5-1, 3-1) lost to Ole Miss at home and murdered LSU, which was supposed to be a good team.

No.9 Georgia...The Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1) haven't lived up to their hype, get arrested too much, aren't very good along the offensive line and have a coach with a bad haircat. Other than that, the Dawgs are great.

No.11 LSU...The Tigers (5-1, 3-1) have problems at quarterback...Speaking of LSU quarterbacks, did anyone see Ryan Perrilloux on ESPNU last night playing for Jacksonville State? I have it on good authority that no university east of the Mississippi smokes more weed than JSU.

Vanderbilt...When the Commodores (5-2, 3-2) are the fifth-best football team in your conference, that's not a good thing.

Kentucky...The Wildcats (5-2, 1-2) are already looking forward to basketball season.

South Carolina...The Gamecocks (5-3, 2-3) are on their third quarterback and Stephen Garcia is a knucklehead.

Auburn...The Tigers (4-3, 2-3) are absolutely terrible, yet they're the third-best team in the SEC West.

Ole Miss...The Rebels (3-4, 1-3) are an excellent bad team!

Arkansas...The Hogs (3-4, 1-3) beat Auburn.

Tennessee...I don't care what anyone says. When the Vols (3-4, 1-3) are one of the worst teams in the SEC, it's not a good year for the SEC.

Mississippi State...The Croomers (2-5, 1-3) are back at the bottom.

LINKS OF THE WEIRD
Waffle House freeloaders unit! CLICK ME!

-jo-

October 23, 2008

Tebow a no show in initial NFL Draft projection

GAINESVILLE -- Shortly after his sophomore season, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow told Gator Clause that he would play four seasons for the Gators. He changed his stance slightly this season and now says he will wait until his junior season is complete before he makes a decision on whether or not to turn pro.

On Thursday, Tebow might be leaning towards returning to school for his senior season. Scouts Inc. released its first-round NFL Draft projections today (CLICK ME!) and Tebow isn't on the list. Junior quarterbacks on the list: Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, No.1 pick; Georgia's Matt Stafford, the No.5 pick; USC's Mark Sanchez (redshirt junior), the No.12 pick.

While Tebow isn't listed in the early NFL Draft projections, other Florida juniors are among Scouts Inc.'s Top 32. Percy Harvin is No.22, the third-ranked wide receiver. Brandon Spikes is No. 26, the fourth-rated linebacker.

Other instate notables: South Florida junior defensive end George Selvie is No.24. Florida State defensive end Everette Brown is No.21. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas alum Geno Atkins is No. 16 and the fifth-rated defensive linemen. (Note: ESPN lists Atkins as playing for Texas but Atkins actually plays for Georgia.) Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, a Lake Butler, Fla., native, is No.32.

It should be noted that Scouts Inc. does not project any Miami Hurricanes in the first round. At least one Miami Hurricane has been drafted in the NFL first round each of the past 13 seasons. That streak is in jeapardy this season.

URBAN MEYER/PERCY HARVIN HATE SPEECH
This from The Miami Herald's own Dolphins columnist Armando Salguero. Mr. Salguero analyzed some Dolphins NFL Draft projections today and he apparently couldn't help himself by adding this zinger to his biting prose:

"Also: I know Florida faithful will shout from the rooftops that Percy Harvin deserves mention here as a top receiver prospect. But the guy has had some injury issues this year, is not a big guy per se at 5-11 and 195 pounds, and I just don't like Urban Meyer. So there."

Say it ain't so, Armando! Say it ain't so!

For what it's worth, Gator Clause believes Harvin would make a great addition to the Dolphins' line-up.

BILLY DONOVAN FROM SEC MEDIA DAYS
When Billy speaks, you should listen. Click the play button. Live from Birmingham, Ala.



-jo-

With Election Day nigh, Brandon Spikes gets political

GAINESVILLE -- Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has made a point to not speak publicly about the upcoming election. (Raise your hand if you assume Tebow is a left-winged liberal.)

Tebow's apolitical stance hasn't stopped other team leaders from trumpeting their favorite Presidential candidate. Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes has created a little buzz around campus by wearing a Barack Obama shirt to football practice. Spikes is a North Carolina native.

Florida coach Urban Meyer welcomes his players' involvement in the political process.

"I love when our guys talk about that stuff," Meyer said. "I actually hear them a little bit this year. I just think that's great and that's very mature. When I was 18 years old, that wasn't at the top of my list."

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
If you're making the trip to Gainesville on Friday for Gator Growl, then make sure to pack a raincoat or umbrella. According to weather.org, Friday's forecast calls for rain/thunder/wind. Things should be cleared up by the 12:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, but pack a poncho just in case.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Atlanta Journal-Constitution college football columnist Tony Barnhart wrote earlier this week that UF should be ranked No.4 in the BCS. Here's an excerpt from Mr. Barnhart's column:

"Bottom line: After watching Ole Miss take Alabama to the limit in Tuscaloosa, the Gators’ 31-30 loss to the Rebels should be viewed in a different light. They have a scary collection of fast players. If Florida finishes 12-1 and beats Alabama in Atlanta, the Gators should be considered the best one-loss team in the mix."

Barnhart has Florida ranked ahead of Oklahoma. Gotta disagree there based on what I've seen from both teams so far this season.

Should one-loss Florida be the nation's top-ranked one-loss team?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S GRAND FINALE
Just got an email that the annual Army-Navy game will be moved back an additional week next season. The game will now be played on the second Saturday of December and be the final regular-season college football game of the year. (One week after the SEC championship game.)

Question: Does anyone care? Who out there actually watches the Army-Navy game?

-jo-

October 22, 2008

Janoris Jenkins eyeing Brandon James' job

GAINESVILLE -- Not much news to report today other than linebacker Dustin Doe performing better in practice than trainers and coaches expected. Doe had surgery for sports hernia a few weeks ago but he is still questionable for Saturday's game against Kentucky.

One interesting thing that caught my ear was a statement made by freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The Pahokee native says he would like to return kicks and punts once Brandon James graduates. Jenkins was a big-play threat in high school and has performed well as a freshman starter at cornerback. (Check tomorrow's paper for a feature story on Jenkins.)

MAJOR WRIGHT'S $1 MILLION BET
Florida strong safety Ahmad Black and free safety Major Wright are close friends now that they're teammates but they still have somewhat of a rivalry when it comes to high school football. Black is from Lakeland and Wright is from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.

The two schools met in the Class 5A state championship three years in a row from 2004-2006 and Lakeland won every time. St. Thomas won the Class 5A state championship last season but didn't have to go through Lakeland. Black and Wright are already talking about St. Thomas and Lakeland meeting up in this season's state championship game. Both teams are currently undefeated.

"We've got a $1 million bet," Black said. "I don't know how we're going to get the $1 million but we have a $1 million bet."

REDSHIRT ALERT
Meyer said on Wednesday that freshman cornerback Jeremy Brown was competing evenly with freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins during fall camp. Brown aggravated his back and hasn't sniffed the field. Jenkins is now a starter. Expect Brown to redshirt this season and enter the 2009 season as one of the Gators' best young cornerbacks.

Defensive tackle Omar Hunter is another redshirt candidate. At one point during the offseason, Meyer believed Hunter could contribute immediately but injuries have set back the big Georgia native.

"We'd like to play him," Meyer said. "He's just been banged up since he got here and that ankle sprain was pretty significant."

GATOR GROWL
The Steve Miller Band is playing on Friday night in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as part of Gator Growl, UF's annual homecoming celebration. True story: Lynyrd Skynyrd played Gator Growl last season. Meyer was asked if he wanted to meet the band and UF's coach said, "Sure. Which one is Lynyrd Skynyrd?"

-jo-

October 21, 2008

Meyer: Gators healthier right now than ever before

This is when you know you live in a rural college town: An owl almost ate my cat tonight. No kidding. Swooped right down from the tree, talons and all. OK, on with the show...

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer agreed on Tuesday after practice that his team is healthier right now than it has been all season.

"Couldn't ask for much better than where we are right in the middle of the season," Meyer said. "I'm pleased with where we're at."

A few Gators are suffering from minor injuries but UF's health concerns are nothing compared to Kentucky, which travels to Gainesville this weekend with eight starters either out for the season or injured. That list includes the Wildcats' two most consistent offensive players, wide receiver Dicky Lyons, Jr. and running back Derrick Locke.

While the Gators are healthy at nearly every position, a few running backs remain limited this week. Emmanuel Moody (high-ankle sprain) is practicing again but he is continues to favor his injured ankle, according to Meyer. Moody's status remains questionable.

Running back Chris Rainey (shoulder) returned to practice this week but his shoulder still seems to be a concern. Rainey, who has had surgery on both of his shoulders, separated his right shoulder against LSU.

"It was out," Rainey said of his shoulder. "I had to wait until one of the trainers put it back in and I felt fine when they put it back in."

Kestahn Moore (ankle) is listed as the Gators' starting running back against Kentucky, according to UF's most recent depth chart. With Moody and Rainey still sore, UF running back Jeffery Demps is expected to receive additional carries against Kentucky.

HICKS, JOHNSON REMAIN STARTERS
UF back-ups Brandon Hicks (weak-side linebacker) and Carl Johnson (left guard) appear to be making the most of their chances in the starting line-up. Weak-side linebacker Dustin Doe (hernia) returned from his surgery this week and left guard Marcus Gilbert (ankle) is also listed as available but neither player is back in the starting line-up, according to UF's game notes.

Johnson showed drastic improvements against LSU and Hicks (15 tackles in six games) appears to be a reliable option. Doe, a second-year starter, has only appeared in four games this season.

Drevil_bigglesworth1MEYER GETS HAIRCAT...Names it Mr. Bigglesworth
The coach got a haircut this week. It's nice and neat for homecoming. Meyer is looking a little thinner these days, especially in the face. I asked him if he has lost weight and he said, "Not that I've noticed." Maybe it's just the haircut.

-jo-

Kentucky injuries make UF 24.5-point favorite

GAINESVILLE -- Despite Kentucky's impressive defensive numbers, Florida is a 24.5-point favorite against the Wildcats, according to some Las Vegas casinos.

Florida's defense is allowing a league-best average of 10.5 points per game but untimely injuries to several Wildcat starters have contributed to the large point spread. Even an optimistic outlook for Kentucky is bad. The 'Cats will be without its best receiver (Dicky Lyons, Jr.) and best running back (Derrick Locke) for the rest of season. Here's a list of ailing Kentucky starters, their status for Saturday's game and their contributions on the field this season:

-DB David Jones (elbow) questionable: Played in seven games, 17 tackles, five pass deflections and one interception
-FS Marcus McClinton (knee/sprained MCL) questionable: Played in seven games, 28 tackles, four interceptions, one forced fumble
-RB Derrick Locke (knee) out for year: Led Kentucky RBs in rushing (303 yards on 63 carries).
-DT Myron Pryor (high-ankle sprain) questionable: Played in seven games, 3.5 sacks, 20 tackles, 7.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage
-LB Micah Johnson (high-ankle sprain) questionable: Played in seven games, second on the team with 44 tackles.
-RT Justin Jeffries (knee/sprained MCL) doubtful: Started in five games
-WR Kyrus Lanxter (shoulder) doubtful: Played six games, seven receptions for 89 yards
-WR Dicky Lyons, Jr. (knee) out for year: Played in six games, tied for SEC lead in receptions at time of season-ending injury

The injury bug has certainly taken a major bite out of the Gators' starting line-up but Kentucky is really hurting right now. Anyone with a hint of a conscience must feel bad for Kentucky. The Cats have to face UF with as many as eight starters out or playing injured.

"We hope we can have a good week of practice," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "We know how good of a team Florida is. They put a whipping on LSU a few weeks ago and they are coming off a bye week to face us."

EMAILS I GET
Gator Clause occasionally publishes the emails that fill our inboxes. This quality email comes to us from Mark U. of origins unknown. Referencing this morning's blog post about ESPN college football analyst Jesse Palmer, Mark writes (Mark's email in blue font):

The BCS poll has USC ranked No.5 ... how shocking. Apparently, the computers and everyone has already forgotten that the Trojans were down by 3-4 touchdowns at halftime and lost to the Beavers from Oregon State.

I suspect what [Jesse Palmer] found shocking was that a team ranked No.5 in the AP poll (Florida) found itself at No.10 in the BCS. I don't believe any other teams found such a disparity. Actually, it's way too early to worry about rankings -- still so much football to be played.

-Mark

Great take, Mark. Thanks for the email and thanks for visiting the blog. Don't forget that some BCS polls don't take into account head-to-head match-ups. Also, the writer's poll no longer factors into the BCS standings. We writers decided a few years ago that we wanted nothing to do with the BCS and the AP poll was replaced in the BCS formula by the Harris Interactive poll.

-jo-

NOTEBOOK: Consistency key against 'Cats, says Meyer

GAINESVILLE -- In the spirit of this week's World Series, I offer a baseball metaphor to describe the match-up between Florida's offense and Kentucky's defense: The Gators' offense is filled with home run hitters while the Kentucky Wildcats feature a group of steady pitchers and several gold glovers in the outfield.

In other words, the Gators' offense is designed for the big play and Kentucky's defense has been pretty good at limiting big-play offenses. According to UF coach Urban Meyer, all but two of Florida's scoring drives this season have included plays of 15 yards or more. Big plays have helped the Gators maintain the SEC's highest scoring offense (38.5 points per game). Meanwhile, Kentucky leads the league in scoring defense (10.5 points per game).

Many defenses the Gators have faced this season have shown creativity in the hopes of limiting quarterback Tim Tebow and UF's playmakers. Meyer doesn't expect that from Kentucky. Meyer says Kentucky's defense is talented enough to play Florida straight up.

"A lot of guys throw the kitchen sink at you," Meyer said. "These guys don't. They're very fundamental."

With that in mind, Meyer says his offense is focusing on consistency this week. While the Gators' have broken many big plays, UF's offense also stalled plenty during the first half of the season, turning the ball over on three or fewer plays 15 times.

"Kentucky doesn't give you the shots," Meyer said. "They're going to play how they play coverage-wise and force you to methodically work the ball down the field, which is something we haven't been great at. So it's a heck of a challenge."

JESSE PALMER 'SHOCKED'
Former Florida quarterback turned ESPN talent Jesse Palmer said on ESPN College Football Live that he was "shocked" Florida was only ranked No.10 in the initial BCS standings. Apparently Palmer has already forgotten about the Gators' lost to Ole Miss. The computer formulas used to help determine the BCS standings certainly have not.

WEEKEND WARRIOR WILBUR HACKETT
Wilbur Hackett Jr., weekend referee, played football at Kentucky from 1967-1970. He was a linebacker. Last Saturday he rekindled the glory days and dropped the hammer on South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia.

TEXAS QB COLT MCCOY PIMPS DRUG STORE
Straight from the archives of the Abilene, Texas, television station KTAB (circa Dec. 2003) , it's the video of Colt McCoy you've probably never seen. Did McCoy really get a needle stuck in his arm for this commercial? Ouch! Hope that scene only had one take.

-jo-

October 20, 2008

HOOPS: Writers predict strong season for Gators

GAINESVILLE -- Reporters covering Southeastern Conference basketball picked Florida to finish second to SEC East rival Tennessee this season. Tennessee received 172 votes compared to Florida's 143.

Florida received five first place votes from a panel of 30 writers. The Vols received 23 first place votes. Two writers voted Kentucky No.1.

The Gators return four starters and seven of eight of their leading scorers from a team that won 24 games in 2007 but the Gators must replace a pretty important player, NBA lottery pick Marreese Speights.

Vols junior Tyler Smith was voted SEC preseason player of the year. Patrick Patterson of Kentucky, South Carolina's Devan Downey and UF guard Nick Calathes also received votes.

Link to the SEC press release. CLICK ME!

UF returns four starters and the Vols only return two. Predictions anyone? Full disclosure: I was not one of the 30 media members who voted in the preseason basketball poll. This poll is pointless and means absolutely nothing.

What matters then? Making the Tournament is all that matters in basketball. Last season, I predicted that the Gators would not make the NCAA Tournament. Will they make the Big Dance this season? I'll offer my prediction as the season nears.

What's your gut prediction, Dance or NIT?

-jo-


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