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68 posts from March 2009

March 31, 2009

Florida Gators assistant to VCU

UF assistant basketball coach Shaka Smart will follow in the footsteps of Anthony Grant as head coach of Virginia Commonwealth.

GAINESVILLE -- Well, nice knowing you, Shaka Smart. The young-and-upcoming Florida assistant basketball coach is leaving the Gators to be the head coach at Virginia Commonwealth, according to multiple reports.

Smart, 32, coached one season with the Gators after a two-year stint at Clemson. Smart follows in the footsteps of former UF assistant Anthony Grant, who left UF in 2006 to be the head coach at VCU. Grant, 42, was recently hired as the head coach at the University of Alabama.


Florida Gators spring practice Day 4: OL Carl Johnson in 'good standing' with team

From the newspaper: I-FORMATION NOT CLICKING FOR THE GATORS. My thoughts on the 'I' at the bottom of this post.

GAINESVILLE -- Arrested for violating a temporary restraining order this winter, Florida offensive lineman Carl Johnson is in "good standing" with the football team as the Gators begin their second week of spring practice, according to Florida coach Urban Meyer.

Johnson is competing for a starting position on the offensive line this spring and is currently the Gators' first-team left tackle. Johnson seemed like a shoe-in along the offensive line after the national championship game -- he started at guard most of the season in 2008 -- but his reputation took a hit when his former girlfriend claimed that Johnson was involved in a physically and emotionally abusive Carl-johnson relationship. Johnson's former girlfriend detailed her account of their relationship in a lengthy essay, which was submitted to the Alachua County courthouse along with the request for injunction. 

[PICTURED, Carl Johnson. His former girlfriend claimed in a written statement to authorities that Johnson's No.1 goal in life was to kill someone.] 

"His whole issue is that he's got to make sure that he is straight with the university," Meyer said. "I had a long discussion about what happened with him and his family and Carl Johnson hasn't been a major problem since he has been here, I have a lot of respect for him and his family and if he has done something wrong, then he knows there will be a heck of a price to pay. But he's in good standing."

Continue reading "Florida Gators spring practice Day 4: OL Carl Johnson in 'good standing' with team" »

March 30, 2009

Is Nick Calathes ready to turn pro?

Florida guard Nick Calathes declared his intention to enter the NBA Draft. Does the sophomore star need more seasoning?

GAINESVILLE — Florida sophomore point guard Nick Calathes announced on Monday his plans to enter the NBA Draft pool. Calathes will do so without an agent, meaning he can return to the University of Florida if he is not drafted.

Calathes informed Florida coach Billy Donovan of his plans on Sunday night. Calathes averaged 17.2 points per game and 6.4 assists per game. He scored 1,170 points in his two seasons with the Gators, which is a program record for an underclassman.

“This is a great opportunity to take some time, look at my future beyond college, collect information and see where I’m at,” Calathes said in a written statement distributed by the University of Florida.

Continue reading "Is Nick Calathes ready to turn pro?" »

March 28, 2009

Florida Gators spring practice Day 3: SS Dorian Munroe battling to regain starting spot

The latest on Florida's deep secondary plus all the details from Florida's third day of spring practice. 1,324 words!

GAINESVILLE -- The Gators scrimmaged today for the first time this spring. Before we break down the Munroe details of a spirited and exciting practice, let's break down the status of Miami's own Dorian Munroe, the strong safety who returned this spring from a torn anterior-cruciate ligament.

[PICTURED, Dorian Munroe upends Knowshon Moreno. Will Munroe unseat Ahmad Black?] 

Munroe, a proud Miamian and graduate of Miami Coral Reef, tore the ACL in his right knee last year a few months before his junior season. It was a devastating injury for Munroe, who was a projected starter before the injury. Munroe, now a fifth-year senior, was a significant reserve his freshman and sophomore seasons and had finally worked his way up the depth chart when the injury occurred. After a successful surgery and a grueling rehabilitation process, Munroe is back on the field this spring and finds himself in a fierce battle for playing time.

Continue reading "Florida Gators spring practice Day 3: SS Dorian Munroe battling to regain starting spot" »

Florida Gators receivers working out with Dolphins; 'Fins QB Chad Henne and head coach Tony Sparano in Gainesville

GAINESVILLE -- Quick note here on the Miami Dolphins before we get into the third day of Florida's spring practice. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and quarterback Chad Henne were inside the the Gators' football facility on Saturday morning, preparing to conduct a private workout with Florida receivers Louis Murphy, Percy Harvin and Cornelius Ingram.

Harvin is projected as a first-round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft while Murphy and Ingram could go in the later rounds. The Dolphins are in the market for a receiver (or two).

Henne, who played at Michigan, credits much of his success to former Michigan and current Florida quarterbacks' coach Scot Loeffler.


March 27, 2009

Replacing Harvin/Murphy: The Candidates

Harvin and Murphy By MIKE McCALL

The biggest battle to watch this spring will be at wide receiver, where Florida loses its top two receivers for the first time since Urban Meyer rolled into Gainesville. Moreover, none of the Gators' receivers managed even half as many yards or catches as Murphy (38 catches, 655 yards) or Harvin (40 catches, 644 yards) did last season.

Here's a look at the candidates for the job:

Name                              Ht.       Wt.      Cl.       '08 Stats

Deonte Thompson             6-0       195      RSO    18/269/3

Riley Cooper                     6-3       215      SR       18/261/3

David Nelson                    6-5       212      RSR     12/228/5

Carl Moore                       6-3       225      SR       14/184/1

Justin Williams                 6-0       205      RJR      None (played safety)

Paul Wilson                     6-0       191      RSO     None

T.J. Lawrence                   6-1       196      RFR      Redshirted

Omarius Hines                 6-0       204      RFR     Redshirted

Frankie Hammond, Jr.       6-0       175      RFR     Redshirted

Andre Debose                   6-0       176      FR       27/664/6 (HS)

Obviously, tight end Aaron Hernandez will continue his major role in the passing game (he was the third-leading receiver last year), but I'll just focus on the wideouts here.

Continue reading "Replacing Harvin/Murphy: The Candidates" »

Florida Gators spring practice DAY 2: Rain, Andre Debose sighting, and more

GAINESVILLE -- The Gators practiced in the pouring down rain today. Got to admit, I didn't watch much of it. I was busy staying dry and working the phones regarding the Billy Donovan rumors.

I did see a few things of note, though. Receiver Carl Moore looked pretty good for the second day in a row (Some of you might find this funny) and so did back-up quarterback John Brantley. Sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter is in the best shape of his life (or at least his life since he has been at UF). Keep reading for all the details...(It's free insight!)

Continue reading "Florida Gators spring practice DAY 2: Rain, Andre Debose sighting, and more" »

Donovan 'committed' to Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE -- Sorry, Kentucky. No Billy for you. Not now and probably never.

On Friday afternoon, Florida coach Billy Donovan put to rest rampant and unfounded rumors that he was interested in leaving Florida for the University of Kentucky. Kentucky fired basketball coach Billy Gillispie at 3 p.m. Around 4:45, Donovan released this statement:

“In response to the rumors circulating about my interest in other jobs, I wanted to address this as quickly as possible. I am committed to the University of Florida and look forward to continuing to build our program here."

With Donovan staying put at Florida, expect former UF assistant and current VCU head coach Anthony Grant to be announced as Alabama's coach very soon. Who's going to coach at Kentucky? Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford seems like the hottest name on the message boards and speculation columns but Memphis coach John Calipari seems like the right man for the job.


Kentucky set to fire Gillispie

GAINESVILLE -- OK, people in Kentucky seem pretty confident that the Wildcats' basketball coach is dunzo. (Apparently, the UKers read my blog post a few weeks back and acted accordingly.) The big question now, assuming Gillispie is gone ($6 million buyout), is whether or not Kentucky will go after Florida coach Billy Donovan. There's a window in Donovan's contract that allows him to walk away from Florida with little monetary recourse between March 1 and April 1.

So, there's this website called flightaware.com, right? And on this website you can track most any plane in the sky, right? This website is great for filling the imaginations of rum-dumb reporters and message board junkies. Take for example a flight that's in progress right now. There's a two-engine Cessna, tail number FIV342, flying from St. Augustine to Lexington, Ky., right now. CLICK ME! Is Billy Donovan on this flight? After all, he has a house in Crescent Beach, which is about 20 minutes away from the St. Augustine Airport. The plane is set to arrive in Lexington at 1:20 p.m. Will UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart be waiting at the airport with a sack full of cash?

See how easy that was?

Stay tuned. Donovan's not talking and the UF insiders I've spoken with are in the dark on this one.


March 25, 2009

20 observations (at least) from the Florida Gators' first day of spring practice

GAINESVILLE -- Here's the No.1 thing you need to take away from the first day of Florida's spring practice: Wednesday was the first practice since Urban Meyer showed up in 2005 to feature a team comprised exclusively of his own players.

It's a pretty good team, right?

David Nelson, who will be a fifth-year senior next season, was one of Meyer's first recruits. He has watched the program evolve for more than four years. He's been a first-hand witness to Meyer's vision. 

"This is the first time he has had all his recruiting classes here," Nelson said. "This is the team he wants. You can tell this is his team and these are the style of players and the type of people he wants on this team. You can just see that through his attitude with us and the players' attitudes with each other."

Continue reading "20 observations (at least) from the Florida Gators' first day of spring practice" »

Spring football, a time for sunbathing

Before we get into the bloggery, I wanted to alert everyone to an egregious and inexcusable error that probably should call for me to just resign from The Herald right now. In today's article about spring football CLICK ME!, I for some reason reported that the spring game is on April 12. It's not on April 12. It's on April 18. Now, quit emailing, people, and let me go slit my wrists in peace.

GAINESVILLE -- You know, the best thing I get out of spring football every season is a nice suntan. There's not really much to report (unless someone decides to transfer or someone gets hurt) and I'm not really a big X's and O's kind of guy. Coach Urban Meyer is going to say the same predictable things every year. "There's a battle over here. There's a battle over there. Thank God Kyle Jackson and Tony Joiner are long gone."

That said, I'm sure there are plenty of news-hungry UF football junkies out there who can wait to read how many passes the new tight end dropped or how much weight Matt Patchan has gained since last season. Well, that's exactly what we're going to do give you on in this blog. All the spring football minutiae you can stomach. Like this stuff...

Continue reading "Spring football, a time for sunbathing" »

Florida Gators finished; Nick Calathes undecided on his future with the team

The Gators lost to Penn State on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the NIT. What does the future hold for this struggling program?

GAINESVILLE -- OK, before we give this basketball season a long-deserving dirt nap, let me point out that for the last two seasons I have correctly predicted two NIT seasons for the Gators. 

Why am I bringing this up now? Well, because I think the worst is finally behind the Gators. Early prediction for next season: UF will advance to the Sweet 16 if Nick Calathes returns for his junior season.

Florida lost to Penn State 71-62 on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the NIT. (CLICK ME! for the game story.) Afterwards, Calathes once again gave no indication whether or not he might return for his junior year.

Continue reading "Florida Gators finished; Nick Calathes undecided on his future with the team" »

March 24, 2009

Florida Gators overachieved, says Donovan

GAINESVILLE -- Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan defended his scrappy -- yes, I just wrote scrappy -- basketball team on Monday afternoon. Donovan said "in some respects" the Gators have overachieved this season.

Erving Walker Now, it would be easy to scoff at that notion. Overachieve? Seriously? How does a team that missed the NCAA Tournament overachieve in any way?

[PICTURED, Erving Walker. No question he overachieved this season.]

Well, let's lay out the facts and then spin this thing both ways. Donovan has won two national championships, so maybe, just maybe, Donovan knows what he's talking about.

First, here's exactly what Donovan said on Monday about his team overachieving. Florida plays Penn State at 9 p.m. on Tuesday (ESPN) at the O'Connell Center. For a game story and complementing game capsule, click on the UF page on the Herald's website. Or just CLICK ME!

Continue reading "Florida Gators overachieved, says Donovan" »

March 23, 2009

Is Nick Calathes ready for the NBA?

Will Nick Calathes follow the path of his mentor and leave for the NBA after his sophomore season?

GAINESVILLE -- Alex Tyus thinks Nick Calathes is ready for the NBA.

Here's what I asked Tyus today: "Do you think Nick is ready for the NBA?"

Alex Tyus: "Yeah, definitely. I see him every day in practice and his court vision is there. He's a good shooter, ball handler and one of the most important things is that he's a great competitor and he always wants to get better."

Jason_williams-arton21254-240x240 Will Nick go? Will Nick stay? Is he ready? Does he need another year? Calathes says he's not thinking about that right now. A few pro scouts might be, though. A representative for the New York Knicks was present for the Gators' wins against Miami. 

[PICTURED, A young Jason Williams. Is Nick Calathes as good as this guy was?]

When the time comes, Calathes will likely seek the advice of former Gator and former Miami Heat point guard Jason Williams. Calathes and Williams have known each other for a few years now and have played pick-up together in Orlando. Calathes says he talks to Williams often. Williams has said in the past that Calathes is more advanced than he was at the same age.

Williams, of course, followed Billy Donovan from Marshall to Florida and starred as a Gator for less than one season. He was kicked off the team during his sophomore season for smoking too much pot (and failing three drug tests). After two seasons in college, Williams entered the NBA Draft and was selected seventh overall by the Sacramento Kings.

Here are some interesting stats: Jason Williams during Florida's 1997-1998 season averaged 17.1 points per game and 6.7 assists per game. Nick Calathes, in his second year of college ball, is averaging 17.4 points per game and 6.4 assist per game.

Now, as my esteemed colleague Israel Gutierrez likes to tell me, JWill and Calathes are two totally different players. That's true. Williams is quicker but Calathes is taller.


March 21, 2009

'KBJ' can't wait to be a Florida Gator

GAINESVILLE -- A quick note here before I put the blog to bed. Plantation American Heritage guard and future Florida Gator Kenny Boynton, Jr. attended Florida's 74-60 win against Miami on Friday night. I spoke to Kenny briefly during halftime and asked him why he wasn't down in Miami attending the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

KBJ "Because there is no place I'd rather be than right here watching this game," Boynton Jr. said.

[PICTURED: KBJ no longer sports the Ray Shipman hairstyle.]

Kenny can't wait to suit up for the Gators. (Billy Donovan can't wait for Kenny to suit up for the Gators). The South Florida prep star and McDonald's All-American sat directly behind the Gators' bench during the game. He drank soda. He ate hot dogs. He wore gigantic bling in his ears.

After the game, Boynton Jr. went into the Gators' locker room and sat quietly (three lockers down from Nick Calathes) with the team while reporters gathered their post-game quotes. Asked what he hopes to contribute next season as a freshman, Boynton Jr. said, "Defensive intensity."



The Gators hammered the Miami Hurricanes on Friday to move onto the NIT quarterfinals. Allan Chaney is suspended. Chandler Parsons came off the bench again.

GAINESVILLE -- Well, that was a beat down.

Florida defeated Miami 74-60 on Friday night at the O'Connell Center. If you want to read my game story in The Herald, then CLICK ME! The game story had a Miami slant because I had to report on UM coach Frank Haith's responses to my questions about his job status in Miami. So, with that out of the way, we'll use the blog to focus on all things Gators.

As I mentioned in the game story, Florida will play host to Penn State at 9 p.m. on Tuesday. It will be the final home game of the season and the final home game for senior Walter Hodge, who will finish his Billy career as UF's record holder for all-time wins. A win on Tuesday in the quarterfinals means the Gators are headed back to Madison Square Garden in New York for the semifinals of the NIT.

[PICTURED: Nice tie, Billy.]

There's a little bit of news to report before we analyze Friday's win. Florida freshman forward Allan Chaney has been suspended from the team, according to UF coach Billy Donovan, for violating team rules. Donovan wouldn't say what Chaney did to find himself in the doghouse. Chaney was not on the bench on Friday night. Will Chaney be back next season? Let the speculation begin. 


March 20, 2009

World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party moving indoors?

GAINESVILLE -- The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party might be moving indoors. The Atlanta Sports Council in interested in hosting the annual Florida-Georgia football game once every four years, according to Gary Stokan, the council's president.

Stokan has had preliminary discussions with Georgia athletics director Damon Evans and Georgia football coach Mark Richt about moving the game to the Georgia Dome once every four years. According to Stokan, Georgia owns the rights to two of the games every four years. The current four-year contract ends after the 2010 football game.

"We think asking for one of the four games isn't too much," Stokan said in a phone interview on Friday morning. "Having one of the two games [Georgia] owns moving to Atlanta -- we think it would increase the mystique and rivalry of the game."

Boats Jacksville Municipal Stadium has hosted the Florida-Georgia game every year since 1933 except for 1994 and 1995 when the stadium was being renovated for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The first Florida-Georgia game was held in Jacksonville in 1915.

[But where do you park the party boats in downtown Atlanta?]

Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, located on the shores of the St. John's river, is considered a neutral field for the rivalry game. Tickets are split evenly between schools every year. Jacksonville is 73 miles away from Gainesville compared to 342 miles away from Athens, Ga., where the University of Georgia is located. Atlanta's Georgia Dome is about 72 miles from Athens.

Bids have not been made for the next four-year contract but Stokan said he has spoken with Georgia's athletics director about preparing a proposal. Nothing is finalized, according to Stokan, and more negotiating will be needed before a bid is made. Stokan said schools would be compensated for any loss in ticket sales. Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, current host of the football game, seats 84,000. The Georgia Dome, which currently hosts the SEC football championship game, seats 71,228.

Thoughts, anyone? Personally, I say the heck with the neutral field. Just play the games in the teams' home stadiums.


March 19, 2009

Miami Hurricanes at Florida Gators in the NIT; Does anyone really care?

GAINESVILLE -- It's only the NIT, but everyone can get excited about Florida vs. Miami, right? We'll find out on Friday night. The Gators host the 'Canes at 7 p.m. at the O'Connell Center.

Interest for Wednesday night's NIT opener was lacking. The game was not televised and the O'Connell Center was half empty. We talked about it in the game story of UF 84, Jacksonville 62. The Gators played well against JU of the Atlantic Sun. No surprise there. JU was clearly overmatched at every position. Even Nick Calathes (19 points) and Chandler Parsons (17 points) got back on track thanks to the Dolphins. One interesting side note to this game: Freshman Erving Walker started in place of Parsons and Parsons responded with his best game in over a month.

OK, enough about the Gators' game against JU. Who cares, right? Let's talk Gators-'Canes. It'd be about 10,000 times more exciting if these two teams were meeting in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but, hey, you take what you can get. First, here's a link to colleague Manny Navarro's game story of Miami 78, Providence 66.

Continue reading "Miami Hurricanes at Florida Gators in the NIT; Does anyone really care?" »

March 18, 2009

President Obama avoids the major upset in his NCAA Tournament bracket

President Barack Obama, huge hoops fan, recently spared a few moments from the pressing matters of the day to do what all good Americans do this time of year: Waste time filling out a college basketball NCAA Tournament bracket.

Obama Here's a link to the President's bracket. CLICK ME! President Obama picked North Carolina to win it all. Not a bad pick, considering the Tar Heels are led by senior forward Tyler Hansbrough, a three-time All-American.

[PICTURED, A baller.] 

Of course, we all know that the President can play a little ball. As the saying goes, "He got game." He also might have a little inside information. After all, he is the President. And, of course, his brother-in-law is the head men's basketball coach at Oregon State. So, if you're having trouble filling out your bracket at home (or the office), it might be a good idea to take a little advice from our nation's First Fan.

Continue reading "President Obama avoids the major upset in his NCAA Tournament bracket" »

Several starters out for spring practice

Plus position changes, a complete spring practice schedule and, of course, a few thoughts of my own.

GAINESVILLE -- The University of Florida released its official spring football guide on Wednesday. Practice begins on March 25. Listed among the information was the players who will either miss spring ball with injuries or be limited.

LIMITED: DE Carlos Dunlap (abdomen strain), DT Terron Sanders (left calf), OL Jim Barrie (right knee), LB Brandon Beal (left knee), OL Carl Johnson (right knee), OL James Wilson (feet), Marquis Hannah (left knee), Zach O'Quinn (right shoulder), Glenn Watson (right knee) and William Steinman (left knee).

Mikepouncey OUT: DT Brandon Antwine (right knee), LB Brandon Hicks (right shoulder), LB Chris Pintado (right shoulder), OG Mike Pouncey (left shoulder), WR Omarius Hines (thighs), RB Brandon James (right foot), WR Joey Sorrentino (left knee), WR Cody Worton (left wrist, left knee).

[PICTURED, OG Mike Pouncey will miss spring practice.]

CHANGING POSITIONS: Vincent Brown from cornerback to running back; John Fairbanks from defensive line to long snapper; Marquis Hannah from defensive back to running back ; Ean McQuay from running back to defensive back; Matt Patchan from defensive line to offensive line; Scott Peek from defensive back to fullback/tight end; Michael Ross from linebacker to fullback/tight end; Christopher Scott from running back to defensive back; Joey Sorrentino from defensive back to wide receiver; Justin Williams from safety to wide receiver.

Continue reading "Several starters out for spring practice" »

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