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61 posts from September 2009

September 21, 2009

Clarification on the Florida Gators' flu precautions

GAINESVILLE -- Quick note here on the flu vaccine some of the Florida Gators recently received. The Associated Press reported that the Gators' received a round of flu shots. This is not true, according to one university spokesman.

According to associate athletic director Steve McClain, "about 30 to 40" players received flu vaccines in the form of nasal spray (FluMist) on Sunday. The vaccine was not mandatory, according to McClain.

In addition to the FluMist, UF's team doctors have handed out bottles of Purell hand sanitizer and discussed the importance of clean hygiene with the players. (If anyone has been inside a football locker room, then you know how hard it is to keep the place clean.)

Florida safety Major Wright told me on Sunday night that Florida's trainers and team doctors are even doling out squirts of hand sanitizer in between plays during practice. Wright, who said he sanitized his hands at least a dozen times during Sunday's practice, said many of the players are wearing gloves. 

-jo-

Reevaluating the Florida Gators: Five things we learned after Florida 23, Tennessee 13

GAINESVILLE -- OK, so we've had a few days to allow for the proper digestion of UF 23, Tennessee 13. (Here's a link to my follow-up story in today's Miami Herald, CLICK ME!)

What did we learn about the Florida Gators on Saturday and what will UF's coaches focus on this week during practice? Here are five things to consider as you sit at home this week and reevaluate the Gators. Is it time to panic? No. Can UF still go undefeated this season? Yes. Has the script for an undefeated season changed after the first three weeks of the season? Yes.

5. Florida played conservatively during the second half on Saturday for the simple fact that there was no way Tennessee's offense could come from behind. Why give the Vols' a chance by turning the ball over on offense? UF played it safe and won the game. It wasn't pretty, but credit UF's coaching for making the right call.

"We made the decision in that second half to pound the football out and get out of that thing with a win because of health issues at receiver and also the way that thing was going," Meyer said.

That being said, UF quarterback Tim Tebow was asked to do too much on Saturday. He rushed 24 times for 76 yards. One needs to look no further than South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe (torn ACL on Saturday against Charleston Southern, out for the year) for proof that a season's outlook can change with one ill-advised quarterback scramble.

Florida running back Emmanuel Moody rushed for 33 yards on three carries against Tennessee. He's a powerful running back who can take pressure off of Tebow and UF's coaches will likely increase Moody's involvement this week against Kentucky. On Monday, Meyer compared Moody's fumble against Troy to Tebow's fumble against Tennessee. Both were excellent defensive plays, according to Meyer.

4. Linebacker Brandon Spikes has 11 tackles through three games. If Spikes' ailing Achilles tendon continues to be a problem, then UF will likely rest Spikes throughout the week and save him for game day.   

"[Spikes is] going to have a great year for us," Meyer said. "I saw him outside and he's feeling a lot better. We just need to be smart with those things that linger. We just need to take care of him."

3. Kentucky has lost over 20 games in a row to Florida, but Meyer smartly refused to address the statistic on Monday after the distractions caused by the build up for the Tennessee game put a considerable amount of pressure on his team.

"We went through probably the greatest amount of nonsense in the history of college football and we're going to try and win a game here on the road," Meyer said.

2. Florida needs to find some playmakers at receiver. The Gators' offense was limited on Saturday due to injuries and illnesses at the receiver positions. Starting receiver Riley Cooper played injured against Tennessee, Carl Moore (back) was unavailable, freshman Andre Debose (hamstring) is out for the season and tight end Aaron Hernandez was limited by the flu.

"We basically went through that game with David Nelson, but David is playing a little too many plays," Meyer said. "He's involved in special teams and we're really trying to evaluate that."

On Sunday, Florida rested all of its starting receivers -- Deonte Thompson (hamstring), Hernandez (hyper-extended knee), Nelson (sore leg) and Cooper (pinched nerve) -- and focused on developing UF's young receivers: Omarius Hines, Frankie Hammond Jr. and T.J. Lawrence.

"[Sunday] was our development day," Meyer said. "And Omarius Hines, he's got -- they all got talent -- it's just time to go play. One of those guys is going to have to go fill a void this week. We're going with the idea that Deonte is going to play but we've got to get that next guy in the game. And (quarterback) Johnny Brantley is close, we'd like to get him in the game."

(Did I hear that correctly? Get Brantley into the game?)

1. Florida needs to focus on what it does well. UF can win games with its running backs and solid defense. It's beginning to look like a grind-it-out season for the Gators, but nothing is wrong with winning ugly.

"You don't have to be a genius to figure out the strength of our team right now," Meyer said. "It's that big offensive line running off the ball and that free quarterback that just takes the game over. Is it perfect, no it's not perfect, but until we get the full complement of receivers playing at the level we need to play at, we need to do what we've got to do to win."

-jo-

Urban Meyer's Week 3 Champions Club

GAINESVILLE -- On defense, Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that strong safety Ahmad Black and linebacker Ryan Stamper were co-defensive players of the game against Tennessee.

Stamper led the Gators with 12 tackles and moved from weak-side linebacker to middle linebacker for injured All-American Brandon Spikes. Black was second on the team with 11 tackles and had a fourth-quarter interception that effectively ended the game.

Meyer's other defensive champions included corneback Joe Haden (eight tackles, one interception) and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (two tackles).

Offensively, Meyer's Week 3 champions club included offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey.

Maurkice Pouncey was named the SEC's offensive lineman of the week after grading out at 93 percent against Tennessee. Offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert of Coral Springs also graded out a champion, according to Meyer.

Receivers David Nelson, Brandon James and Riley Cooper were named to Meyer's champions club and quarterback Tim Tebow and running back Jeff Demps were Meyer's offensive co-players of the game.

Despite an interception and a fumble, Tebow turned in a Herculean effort against the Vols. Demps rushed for 31 yards on four carries and had a seven-yard touchdown run despite playing with a fever.

-jo-

Florida Gators coach Billy Gonzales out with flu

GAINESVILLE -- University of Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that his receivers coach, Billy Gonzales, had a temperature of 104 degrees on Sunday night.

Florida is off on Monday. If Gonzales is still sick on Tuesday then it's likely UF coach Urban Meyer will coach will coach receivers during Tuesday's practice. Meyer coached receivers as an assistant at Colorado State and Notre Dame.

-jo-

September 19, 2009

The difference between Florida and Tennessee: Tim Tebow

GAINESVILLE -- Well, you're going to have to wait until the morning (Or whenever they post it on the web tonight.) to read my game story, but I'll give you guys a hint: Saturday's win was all about No.15.

Tebow's final stat line: 14 of 19 passing for 115 yards, one fumble and one interception. Most importantly, Tebow rushed for 76 yards ON 24 CARRIES! His one-yard rushing score gave UF a 10-3 lead in the first quarter. (Not exactly the kind of stat line you want for your quarterback.)

According to Florida coach Urban Meyer, some Florida's best players were sick this week with the flu. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, tight end Aaron Hernandez and running back Jeff Demps all played ill, according to Meyer, who said Demps had a fever of 101 degrees. Demps rushed for 31 yards on four carries, including a seven-yard touchdown to essentially ice the game at 23-6.

(Yeah, it seemed kind of like Meyer was making excuses during the post-game press conference.) 

UF linebacker Brandon Spikes played with an injured Achilles heel, according to Meyer. That explains Spikes' poor start to the begin the season. He missed several tackles on Saturday before he was taken out of the game. Senior linebacker Ryan Stamper moved from weak-side linebacker to interior linebacker and finished the game with 12 tackles.

Joe Haden and, of course, Ahmad Black had interceptions in the second half.

My prediction for this game (34-6) was looking pretty good until Tebow fumbled on the two-yard line in the fourth quarter. Oh, well. Much more on this game tomorrow. Off to watch the end of Auburn-West Virginia.

-jo- 

FINAL UF 23, UT 13: Fourth quarter thoughts

GAINESVILLE -- I'll be writing for the newspaper for the next few hours. Until then, leave your thoughts on today's game. Mine? UF had Tim Tebow and the other team had the anti-Tebow, aka Jonathan Crompton. That was the difference in the game.

-jo-

UF 23, UT 6: Third quarter thoughts

GAINESVILLE -- UF quarterback Tim Tebow continued to carry the Gators' offense through the third quarter, leading the Gators on a 69-yard, 13-play drive, which ended with a seven-yard touchdown run by sophomore Jeff Demps. Tebow carried the ball five times during the drive and completed 3 of 3 pass attempts.

--Through three quarters, Tebow has rushed for 48 yards on 17 carries.

--Joe Haden's first interception of the season came on Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton's first throw downfield on Saturday. The turnover led to UF's third field goal of the day, a 35-yard kick by Sturgis to give UF a 16-6 lead.

-jo-

UF 13, UT 6: First-half thoughts

GAINSVILLE -- We have a game, folks. Florida leads Tennessee 13-6 at halftime. Who'd a thunk it? Lane Kiffin, maybe?

Both Florida's and Tennessee's defenses are playing well through the game's first two quarters. This one has the feel of an old-fashioned SEC rivalry game.

--Florida Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes left the game in the second quarter with an injured left ankle. Spikes missed several tackles in the first half.

With Spikes sidelined, UF weak-side linebacker Ryan Stamper moved to middle linebacker, senior Dustin Doe was inserted at weak-side linebacker and A.J. Jones remained at strong-side linebacker.

--Spikes returned to the field on the defense's next series.

--The second-quarter interception by Tennessee safety Eric Berry was his first of the season. Berry had seven interceptions in 2008. The pick led to Tennessee's second field goal of the half.

--Florida took a 10-3 lead at the beginning of the second quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Tebow. The drive was jumpstarted by a 23-yard run by UF reserve running back Emmanuel Moody. Tebow took over from there, completing two passes for 22 yards and rushing four times for 16 yards.

--UF sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis gave UF a 13-6 lead with 51 seconds left in the half. The drive's largest play was a 21-yard gain by Demps on the series' first snap. Demps carried Tebow's speed-option pitch to the UT 42.

--Aaron Hernandez's only reception of the first half -- an 18-yard gain on third-and-14 -- put Sturgis within field goal range.

-jo-

UF 13, UT 6: First-half thoughts

GAINSVILLE -- We have a game, folks. Florida leads Tennessee 13-6 at halftime. Who'd a thunk it? Lane Kiffin, maybe?

Both Florida's and Tennessee's defenses are playing well through the game's first two quarters. This one has the feel of an old-fashioned SEC rivalry game.

--Florida Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes left the game in the second quarter with an injured left ankle. Spikes missed several tackles in the first half.

With Spikes sidelined, UF weak-side linebacker Ryan Stamper moved to middle linebacker, senior Dustin Doe was inserted at weak-side linebacker and A.J. Jones remained at strong-side linebacker.

--Spikes returned to the field on the defense's next series.

--The second-quarter interception by Tennessee safety Eric Berry was his first of the season. Berry had seven interceptions in 2008. The pick led to Tennessee's second field goal of the half.

--Florida took a 10-3 lead at the beginning of the second quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Tebow. The drive was jumpstarted by a 23-yard run by UF reserve running back Emmanuel Moody. Tebow took over from there, completeting two passes for 22 yards and rushing four times for 16 yards.

--UF sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis gave UF a 13-6 lead with 51 seconds left in the half. The drive's largest play was a 21-yard gain by Demps on the series' first snap. Demps carried Tebow's speed-option pitch to the UT 42.

--Aaron Hernandez's only reception of the first half -- an 18-yard gain on third-and-14 -- put Sturgis within field goal range.

-jo-

UF 3, UT 3: First quarter thoughts

GAINESVILLE -- It couldn't have been a better first quarter for the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Gators' offense is struggling to find a playmaker while UT running back Montario Hardesty led an impressive 66-yard, 15-play drive that ended in a 24-yard field goal. UT's drive lasted eight minutes and 33 seconds.

--UF guard James Wilson started for the second straight week.

--During Tennessee's first offensive drive, UF linebacker Brandon Spikes missed badly on two attempts to tackle UT running back Montario Hardesty inside the red zone.

--On Hardesty's 20-yard run on third-and-12 at the UT 25, UF safety Will Hill subbed into the game for the first time. Ahmad Black and Major Wright started at the safety positions.

--UF kicker Caleb Sturgis kicked a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter to give UF a 3-0 lead. It was Sturgis' first field goal of the season and his career. The sophomore kicker from St. Augustine started over sixth-year senior Jonathan Phillips.

--Emmanuel Moody's only carry of the first quarter went for 23 yards.

-jo- 

Florida Gators receiver Deonte Thompson did not warm up

GAINESVILLE -- Florida Gators receiver Deonte Thompson did not warm up on Saturday before UF's game against Tennessee. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Thompson injured his hamstring last week against Troy. Florida coach Urban Meyer said last Sunday that if Thompson was unavailable, then senior slot receiver David Nelson would move outside. According to Meyer, the first receiver off the bench will be redshirt freshman Omarius Hines, who ranks third among UF receiver with seven receptions for 98 yards.

-jo-

The ULTIMATE PREVIEW is here

No.1 Florida (2-0) vs. Tennessee (1-1)
KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m., Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville
TV: CBS
SERIES HISTORY: The all-time series is tied 19-all. UF has won four straight dating back to 2005, Urban Meyer's first season on the job. The Gators have never led in the all-time series. The Gators have won 17 of the past 23 contests, including nine of the last 11 in The Swamp.
SCOUTING REPORT: Florida can win its 13th straight game, which would break a school record. UF leads the nation in total offensive yards (1,287), yards per touch (10.5) and offensive touchdowns (16). The Gators have three running backs in the top 10 nationally in yards per carry. Jeff Demps ranks No.1 (14.7), Chris Rainey is No.5 (12.4) and Emmanuel Moody is No.9 (9.8). No other school in the nation has two running backs in the top 10. Tennessee is ranked No.20 nationally in rushing defense, allowing 59.50 yards per carry. UT is allowing 1.80 yards per carry.
PREDICTION: Florida 34, Tennessee 6. Finally, the Gators play a team worthy of their immense talent level. Well, maybe not this year. Tennessee's quarterback is a walking ball of nerves and the Vols' interior line limps into The Swamp thin and vulnerable. Vols coach Lane Kiffin will not be singing Rocky Top after this one is over.

FLORIDA NOTES
TENNESSEE NOTES

GAINESVILLE -- Well, it's time to sing or shut up.

Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin has done a lot of talking since he was introduced as the Vols' replacement to coach Phil Fulmer on Dec.1, 2008. The back story is well documented. If you want a refresher course of the extensive list of bulletin-board material Kiffin provided the Gators this offseason, then CLICK ME!

We've had a lot of fun on the blog this week poking fun at the Tennessee Volunteers -- CLICK ME! and CLICK ME! -- but, truth be told, all the nonsense and pregame hype will evaporate after the first five minutes of the game. After that, execution, stamina and poise will replace every sound bite and newspaper clipping.

Florida had trouble executing during first quarter of last week's 56-6 win against Troy. The Gators fumbled the ball four times -- two for turnovers -- during their first six offensive series of the game. Thanks to three Troy turnovers, Florida's offense erupted for four scores in the second quarter and the game was over before halftime (35-3). Saturday's game against Tennessee might prove a little more difficult.

Tennessee's defense, coached by defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, is allowing less than 60 rushing yards per game. Florida's rushing attack is averaging 330 yards. That statistics brings us to the ...

KEYS OF THE GAME
1. Florida running back Jeff Demps has emerged as the Gators first option out of the backfield. The sophomore has rushed for three touchdowns and is averaging 88 yards a game. Can Demps, Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody gash Tennessee's defense? Will Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry play near the line of scrimmage to help limit UF's running backs? That was the subject of today's story in The Miami Herald and you can read all about it right here, CLICK ME!

2. After quarterback Jon Crompton tossed three interceptions last week in the Vols' loss to UCLA, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin probably isn't going to rely on his senior quarterback to beat the Gators. Tennessee's rushing attack is the Vols' only hope of keeping this game close. Vols senior Montario Hardesty ranks 11th nationally in yards per game (124.50). Hardesty and back-up Bryce Brown will try to chew up yards and time of possession. Considering the Volunteers injuries along the offensive line -- CLICK ME! -- it will be difficult.

3. Brandon James, CLICK ME!

4. Tim Tebow. The senior is undefeated against the Volunteers and he launched his 2009 Heisman Trophy campaign last week, accounting for five touchdowns against Troy. Oh, yeah, and Tebow said on Monday that "he's got [Meyer's] back" this Saturday after UT coach Lane Kiffin called Meyer a cheater in February.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. Lawrence Marsh: Florida's defensive tackle missed the first two games of the season with an ankle injury. He is expected to return this Saturday, according Meyer, and Marsh's presence along the defensive line will be needed against a stout Tennessee rushing attack.

2. Janoris Jenkins: Florida's cornerback returned from his one-game suspension last week and recorded his first interception of the season. Jenkins' first start of his career came last year against Tennessee. He solidified his role as a starter with an interception in the UT end zone and a forced fumble.

3. Eric Berry: Tennessee's strong safety is one of the best defenders in the nation. If you don't agree, just ask Florida cornerback Joe Haden, CLICK ME! In his last game in The Swamp, Berry intercepted a pass from Tebow and returned it for a touchdown. Berry will likely play multiple positions on Saturday, so keep an eye on No.14.

4. Emmanuel Moody: Florida's redshirt junior running back started against Tennessee last season but left the game with a high-ankle sprain. Moody has been fighting to regain his form ever since. A fumble on his first carry last week didn't help his cause. Florida coach Urban Meyer said that he still has confidence in Moody but UF running back's coach Kenny Carter said this week that Moody's fumble was a case of gross negligence: Carrying the ball to low, which allowed Troy defensive end Brandon Lang to knock the ball lose on a tackle from behind.

5. Brandon Spikes: Florida's senior linebacker was relatively quiet during the Gators' first two games of the season. Spikes has a knack for playing well in big games.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder (former Gator): "Lane Kiffin bit off more than he could chew." [Meyer] isn't "going to pull the dogs off and I don't want him to get Tebow hurt, but I want to beat the [HAPPY WORD] out of them at least by 30 or 40. And let Lane shut the [HAPPY WORD] up the rest of the time he's in the SEC."

Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin: "I think what they do at the University of Florida is, whatever you run the 100 meters in they give you that jersey number. Percy Harvin had 1, Demps wears 2 and Rainey wears 3. So, the way I look at it, Percy Harvin runs a 10.1, then they're at 10.2 and 10.3 in the 100 meters -- that's pretty fast. They ought to be a track relay team."

Former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer: "You know, everybody has the chance to do things their way. We were very pleased with what we were able to accomplish during the majority of our time at Tennessee, and we did it without having to be brash and so on. But this is his style -- what he thought he had to do. ...

"We didn't have a very good season last year (5-7). I certainly take full responsibility for that. And now it's (Kiffin's) turn to do it as he thinks he needs to do it. But the problem in this league is you're going to play great football teams every week once you get into the Southeastern Conference schedule. So, if you're going to be brash, you'd better be able to back it up."

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow: "It will be ridiculous. It will be so exciting and fun. I think what I'm most looking forward to is that bus ride in right before the Gator Walk. When you see the fans walking the streets, all the way down there, through Museum (Drive) and everything, it's just so exciting to see that, it's just cool. That's what gets your adrenaline pumping and it's just crazy from there."

-jo-

September 17, 2009

Florida Gators Andre Debose undergoes surgery

GAINESVILLE -- Florida Gators freshman receiver Andre Debose underwent surgery on Thursday to repair a torn hamstring tendon in his left leg, according to the University of Florida sports information department.

The surgery was performed at Shands Florida Surgical Center in Gainesville. According to UF, Debose is expected to make a full recovery in four to six months. Debose, who graduated from Sanford Seminole, was touted as the next Percy Harvin by Florida coach Urban Meyer but the freshman injured his leg last May while running track for his high school.

Debose will likely receive a medical redshirt this year, which will allow him to retain four years of eligibility.

-jo-

Florida Gators return man Brandon James hopes Tennessee doesn't kick away from him

KEYS TO THE GAME...THE BRANDON JAMES EFFECT

GAINESVILLE -- We all know that return specialist Brandon James does his best work against the Tennessee Volunteers. But does Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin know that? Will Kiffin kick to James or kick it away?

It will be interesting to see what Kiffin decides to do. Former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer learned to kick it away but only after James burned the Vols three years in a row. Consider these stats: In three years, James is averaging a staggering 27.5 yards per punt return and 27 yards per kickoff return against the Vols. James has two punt returns for touchdowns against the Vols: an 83-yard score in 2007 that gave UF a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game and a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown in 2008 that was an absolute thing of beauty.


"They got a new coach and a new system, so hopefully they'll be willing to try it," James said. "I just hope they come out and give us a chance."

James, a pretty low-key guy during interviews, shrugs off any suggestion that he performs at his best against Tennessee, although he does admit that having one of his childhood friends on the Tennessee roster (receiver Quinton Hancock) adds a little more motivation "to beat him."

"It's the first real SEC test and a real big rivalry, so of course you're coming into the game pumped up and everything," James said. "The only real difference is it's our first SEC test and getting prepared to play them. We know it's our first step if we want to get to Atlanta, so we just want to take care of business."

Nothing is more exciting in football than a kick return for a touchdown and The Swamp will tip the Richter Scale if James returns a kick for a score in the first quarter on Saturday. (Both of James' punt returns for touchdowns against Tennessee have come in the first quarter.) Kiffin said on Wednesday that the Vols' kickers have practiced avoiding James but he also hinted toward challenging James.

"We kicked to Devin Hester when I was at Oakland, every time, and did a phenomenal job of covering him," Kiffin said. "At that point, no one was kicking to him and we just kind of made a deal that week that we were going to do it. Now we had the best punter in the history of football in Shane Lechler, so that had a lot to do with it."

Tennessee defensive back Dennis Rogan, an accomplished return specialist, says he respects James' ability but would like to see Tennessee "kick to him and see if we can make a play or two."

-jo-

September 16, 2009

Eric Berry's biggest fan: Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators might have one of their best defensive secondaries in team history, but according to cornerback Joe Haden, the best defender on the field Saturday when UF hosts Tennessee will be dressed in orange and white.

Haden called Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry "the best defensive player in the nation" on Wednesday. Both Haden and Berry were on the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given nationally to Tenn-Vandy_v13 the nation's best defensive back. Berry led the nation during the 2008 regular season with seven interceptions.

"I think he's the best defensive player in the nation," Haden said. "Matter fact, me and Major [Wright] talked to him last night about how good he was doing and that's just one of me and Major's close friends, so that's real cool how we keep in touch with him."

Wright, the Gators' free safety, first met Berry in 2007 when both players participated in the Army High School All-American Game. Haden met Berry in Miami this offseason while visiting South Florida with Wright, who is from Fort Lauderdale.

Berry, a junior, was a finalist for the 2008 Jim Thorpe Award and he's the favorite to win the award this season. Tennessee's sports information department is marketing Berry for the Heisman Trophy and Berry is featured on a Tennessee Volunteers billboard in Fort Lauderdale.

Asked if Berry was a better player than UF linebacker Brandon Spikes, Haden said. "I love Spikes to death but I love Eric's game. We watch film when we're about to play other SEC teams and I just love watching him."

-jo-

VOLS VLAD RICHARD: 'I got a lot of grief about not going to Florida.'

Gator Clause caught up with Tennessee offensive lineman Vlad Richard on Wednesday.

Richard is a graduate of Piper High in Broward County. He's considered one of the Vols' best guards although he is currently battling through an Achilles heel injury. Richard will start on Saturday despite the injury. He's one of three starting offensive linemen who might play injured on Saturday. 

Richard, a senior who graduated in May with a degree in legal studies, had some pretty interesting things to say about Saturday's game against the Florida Gators, but first we wanted to ask him about that Tennessee billboard in his hometown.

Vlad GATOR CLAUSE: "Was it your idea to put that billboard down in Broward?"

RICHARD: [LAUGHS] "I heard it looks great. Tell me about it."

GATOR CLAUSE: "It's say, 'It's time.' It's got Eric Berry on a big billboard. It's on Oakland Park Boulevard and I-95."

RICHARD: "Oh, it's right there. That's around my neck of the woods. It's right by B.A. It's time we gave Tennessee some love down there."

GATOR CLAUSE: "How important is it for Coach Kiffin's staff to get back down to South Florida?"

RICHARD: "Oh, it's very important. Some of the best athletes in the world, in the nation, are from down in Florida, so being that we're going into The Swamp, into the No.1-ranked team in the nation's house -- go out there and pull out a win -- it's going to be big for recruiting. It's going to be big for the coaching staff. We already know what kind of coaching staff we have. Smart guys. They stay up all times of the night. They just work very hard and prepare and when you know you have coaches like that that are giving up their family time and just their own free time to prepare. It's just great to know.

"Being able to go down there and get a win is going to be big for recruits to understand that we have a special staff here."

GATOR CLAUSE: "Vlad, what's the No.1 thing you're proudest of throughout your college career?"

RICHARD: "I guess just staying humble and being myself and coming here. I got a lot of grief about not going to Florida and we haven't won in three years or whatever, so it's just all my friends and my family, you know, 'You should have been a Gator,' or what not. I feel like I made the right decision for myself. I'm the one who had to live through it and go through it. Going to Florida I might of had a national championship and SEC championship and all that stuff but I was looking at a bigger picture. I felt by coming here I got a better experience in life and what I wanted to do, which was better myself for my future."

-jo-

Top 10 ways for the Florida Gators to embarrass the Tennessee Volunteers this weekend

Because for many Florida fans, winning just isn't enough:

10. Take quarterback Tim Tebow out after halftime and let John Brantley finish off the Vols. Let the Bull Gator wound the beast and then allow him to watch from the sidelines as his young apprentice practices the death roll. It's nature's way!

9. Call timeout midway through the third quarter so Tebow can take his post-game lap around Florida Field a little early.

8. Better yet. Don't even play Tebow. Just save him for Kentucky.

7. Insinuate before kickoff that Eric Berry couldn't start for Florida.

6. You know how Florida fans always sing We Are The Boys From Old Florida at the end of the third quarter. Replace that with Rocky Top.

5. Honor Phil Fulmer before kickoff.

4. Post-game chant: "All night long! All night long! All night long!"

3. Urban's post-game handshake includes this one-liner: "They should have promoted Pat Summitt."

2. Urban coaches the entire fourth quarter with his shirt off.

1. Would Charles Woodson be willing to play the part of Mr. Two Bits?

Gator Clause is all for staying classy. Our sportsmanship initiatives are legendary.

-jo-

September 15, 2009

Florida Gators linebacker Ryan Stamper gets the hook after mentioning Vols coach Lane Kiffin

GAINESVILLE -- It was all going so smoothly on Tuesday afternoon ... until Florida Gators linebacker Ryan Stamper brought up the K-word!

Ryan Stamper, surrounded by a few dozen reporters, talked about the need to shut down the Tennessee Volunteers' running game. He said Vols running back Montario Hardesty is going to be the best running back Florida has faced this season. He said stopping the Vols' running game would pretty much equal a Florida win. And then Stamper made a major mistake, an oral misstep. He mentioned Tennessee's coach by name!

REPORTER: "Do you think it's going to be borderline violent here on Saturday? People have been amped up about this game for months."

STAMPER: "Yeah, you can tell just by the campus. You know, students on campus talking to us about the game and family members just talking about all the hype of the game, so I think it's going to be a real good environment. Probably one of the best Florida has had in this stadium in a long time."

REPORTER: "What have they been saying?"

STAMPER: "You know, just asking us what are we doing to prepare and stuff about, you know what I'm saying, the whole Lane Kiffin thing. That's about it."

FLORIDA PR GUY: "OK. Thanks, Ryan."

Stamper got the hook faster than George W. Bush at the Apollo! And that was it. After Stamper mentioned Kiffin, no more players were made available on Tuesday.

-jo- 

Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin takes shot at UF's offense; Gators PR team responds in kind

Just in case Florida needed a little more motivation for this weekend, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin took a swipe at the Gators' spread-option offense today.

Responding to a question on the subject, Kiffin told reporters on Tuesday that Florida's spread offense might be a reason why some recruits (Nu'Keese Richardson) have de-committed with Florida recently and headed elsewhere (Tennessee).

Kiffin said that the only time Florida misses on recruits is when recruits would rather play in a pro-style offense rather than the spread offense.

"You see some kids that don't want to play in that system because a lot of times it hurts them going to the next level for their draft status," Kiffin said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Florida's sports information staff responded to Kiffin's shot by releasing this factoid: Since 2006, Florida has had more receivers (six) drafted by NFL teams than all but two other college teams. LSU and Ohio State have also had six receivers drafted since 2006.

In its email, Florida made sure to remind people that Tennessee has had only one receiver drafted since 2006.

-jo-

POWER RANKINGS: Listing the best performances among the Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE -- Every Tuesday this season we'll rank the top 15 players on the Florida Gators' roster. It's a sliding power poll based on performance and will change weekly.

STOCK IS RISING
OMARIUS HINES: This redshirt freshman receiver is third on the team in receptions with seven catches for 98 yards. Nice catch and carry for 25 yards in the third quarter against Troy. Florida coach Urban Meyer says Hines' play has moved him up the depth chart. He's currently the Gators' first receiver off the bench. Considering the Gators' perceived lack of depth at receiver to begin the season, Hines' emergence might be the biggest surprise through two games.

STOCK IS FALLING
JONATHAN PHILLIPS: This sixth-year senior kicker missed his first field-goal attempt of the season against Troy. Meyer said back-up Caleb Sturgis will push for playing time in practice this week. Sturgis is already the Gators kickoff specialist.

ALL-AMERICA WATCH
JEFF DEMPS: The sophomore running back is averaging 14.7 yards per carry and has already rushed for three scores. Yeah, he's legit.

STRAIGHT-JACKET AWARD
RILEY COOPER: This senior receiver completely lost his mind after springing running back Jeff Demps for a 24-yard touchdown with a brilliant block. Felt bad for the poor Troy freshman cornerback that Cooper dressed down on national television. Take no prisoners!

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TIM TEBOW: Tebow accounted for over 300 yards of offense and five touchdowns against Troy. He was also named the Southeastern Conference offensive player of the week.

BOB MARLEY REDEMPTION SONG AWARD
BRANDON JAMES: Talk about making up for your mistakes. James dropped a touchdown pass in the season opener but redeemed himself against Troy with a remarkable diving touchdown catch.

BIG HIT AWARD
TIM TEBOW: The Gators senior quarterback powered through Troy's safety during the second quarter to cap off a long run. Will Tebow do the same against Tennessee safety Eric Berry: "It depends on the situation of the game," Tebow said. "We'll see."

STOCK REPORT
1. QB Tim Tebow: Accounted for seven touchdowns through two games.

2. RB Jeff Demps: Is there a better running back in the SEC? Not through the first two weeks of the season.

3. WR Riley Cooper: Doing more for the Gators offense than any other player ... save his roommate, of course.

4. ATH Brandon James: A kickoff return for a score followed by a highlight reel touchdown catch. Not a bad way to begin the season.

5. RT Marcus Gilbert: Helped to spring some long runs for the Gators' running backs against a talented Troy defensive line. Looked good in one-on-one match ups against Troy defensive end Brandon Lang. Excellent protection on Tebow's second touchdown pass (Riley Cooper).

6. RB Chris Rainey: Not far behind Demps. Rainey has rushed for 116 yards on 13 carries (12.4 yards a pop) and two touchdowns.

7. DE Jermaine Cunningham: Cunningham had four tackles, a quarterback hurry, a tackle for a loss, a fumble recovery and one forced fumble against Troy. Welcome back, sir.

8. CB Janoris Jenkins: Troy's leading receiver didn't catch a pass last Saturday. Jenkins recorded his first interception of season. Uncanny field awareness on the pick.

9. DE Justin Trattou: Had an excellent game against Troy. Recovered a fumble, deflected a pass and had five tackles. 

10. CB Joe Haden: Leads UF starters with 10 tackles through two games.

11. RG Mike Pouncey/Maurkice Pouncey: Exceptional blocking by both players.

12. TE Aaron Hernandez: Second on the team with eight receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. Not bad for a tight end. (Also made several key blocks in the second quarter.)

13. James Wilson: Must be doing something right to keep Matt Patchan out of the starting line up.  

14. WR Deonte Thompson: Two touchdown receptions against Troy made up for two drops to begin the season.

15. LB Ryan Stamper: Made several key third-down stops against Troy.

-jo-


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