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8 posts from July 2010

July 30, 2010

Florida Gators freshmen make important life decisions

GAINESVILLE -- They picked their numbers!

Rank and file ...

NO.85 LYNDEN TRAIL, DE, MIAMI BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
THE SKINNY: He's skinny. At 6-7, 220 pounds, Trail will have to double up his South Beach diet and get serious in the weight room before he can be taken seriously on the field.

NO.25 GIDEON AJAGBE, LB, MIAMI RANSOM EVERGLADES
THE SKINNY: This player did it all for his small high school football team. Expect a quick learning curve here.

NO. 31 CODY RIGGS, CB, FORT LAUDERDALE ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
THE SKINNY: Kids from STA always come with a lot of hype. Can Riggs back it up?

NO.84 QUINTON DUNBAR, WR, MIAMI BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
THE SKINNY: So, Dunbar and Trail played high school ball together, chose the University of Florida together and now they're only separated by one number on the official roster. I'm going to assume they're pretty good friends. Dunbar will be looking to make a name for himself in fall camp and Urban Meyer is looking for play-makers.

NO.49 DARRIN KITCHENS, LB, HOMESTEAD
THE SKINNY: Urban Meyer is excited about this player. Kitchens is a candidate for this year's special teams dynamo if he works hard throughout camp. Kitchens (6-3, 215 pounds) is a big-motor guy with a lot of heart, so coaches will like his effort right off the bat. He clocked a 10.9 in the 100 meters and 22.1 in the 200 meters wil in high school.

NO.27 CHRIS DUNKLEY, WR, PAHOKEE
THE SKINNY: I'm interested to see Dunkley in action this preseason and see what he's about. It never impresses me when players transfer their senior years of high school.

NO.32 GERALD CHRISTIAN, TE, WEST PALM BEACH DWYER
THE SKINNY: Christian looks the part (6-3, 240 pounds). He enrolled early and competed well in spring practice. With questions galore at tight end, coaches are hoping Christian can learn the position quickly.

NO.22 MATT ELAM, S, WEST PALM BEACH DWYER
THE SKINNY: As much nonsense as he created during his recruitment, he better be good ... for his sake.

NO.88 MICHAEL MCFARLAND, TE, TAMPA BLAKE
THE SKINNY: An unknown quantity. He played quarterback in high school but has the size (6-6, 230 pounds) to compete at tight end at UF.

NO.81 ROBERT CLARK, WR, WEST PALM BEACH DWYER
THE SKINNY: At 5-8, 172 pounds, Clark is the smallest player on the team. I'm assuming he's fast.

NO.14 JAYLEN WATKINS, CB, CAPE CORAL
THE SKINNY: Enrolled early and had a great high school career. Should provide immediate depth to the secondary.

NO. 13 TREY BURTON, QB, VENICE
THE SKINNY: Enrolled early and made a strong first impression with his natural leadership abilities and tough, physical quarterbacking style.

NO.77 IAN SILBERMAN, OT, FLEMING ISLAND
THE SKINNY: This guy has been hanging around the field house since his sophomore year of high school. He probably had five ex-girlfriends on campus before he enrolled in Jan.

NO.33 MACK BROWN, RB, LITHONIA MLK
THE SKINNY: This running back (5-11, 190 pounds) chose Florida over Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma and Tennessee. That usually doesn't happen.

NO.75 CHAZ GREEN, OL, TAMPA CATHOLIC
THE SKINNY: Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio is excited about this player. Should fit right in with the other big uglies.

NO.30 JONATHAN DOWLING, S, BRADENTON SOUTHEAST
THE SKINNY: Just call this guy The Pick Master. Dowling had 14 interceptions his senior year of high school and blocked three punts. At 6-4, 185 pounds, he'll need to beef up before he can be taken seriously at the collegiate level.

NO.29 JOSHUA SHAW, CB, PALMDALE (CALI.)
THE SKINNY: From Antelope Valley to Gainesville, Fla. Wow, talk about a change in scenery. This desert roadrunner should fit right in, though. Shaw enrolled early and could push Moses Jenkins and Jeremy Brown for playing time.

NO.58 DOMINIQUE EASLEY, DT, STATEN ISLAND CURTIS
THE SKINNY: Interested to see how this player deals with August in Gainesville, Fla.

NO.73 SHARRIF FLOYD, DT, PHILADELPHIA WASHINGTON
THE SKINNY: When I ran into this kid on his official visit I remember telling myself, "That's probably the best looking recruit I've ever seen." With a good head on his shoulders, this player could go far.

NO.68 LEON ORR, DT, NEW PORT RICHEY GULF
THE SKINNY: If this guy can stay healthy, then he might be the best defensive tackle of this class. And that's saying something! Orr is an athletic freak with a mean streak. A broken leg his senior year of high school didn't scare off the Big Three. Orr chose Florida over Miami and FSU.

NO.39 JORDAN HADEN, S, FORT WASHINGTON FRIENDLY
THE SKINNY: Joe Haden's little brother enrolled early and, like his brother, is already ahead of the curve as a freshman.

NO.48: NEIRON BALL, NT, JACKSON (GA.)
THE SKINNY: AAA All-State in Georgia his senior year, Ball chose UF over Alabama, Clemson and Georgia. This guy is tough.

NO.10 TYLER MURPHY, QB, WETHERSFIELD (CONN.)
THE SKINNY: With three players from the Nutmeg State in four years, Connecticut is now officially a pipeline to Florida. And how did this happen?

NO.51 MICHAEL TAYLOR, LB, ATLANTA WESTLAKE
THE SKINNY: Played for a great high school coach in Greg Minnis. Minnis is the coach who led Deerfield Beach to the 6A state championship game (and famously defeated Miami Northwestern in the state semis) the year Hurricane Wilma tore through Broward. Like Kitchens, Taylor (6-1, 213 pounds) is another high-energy guy who could make an early impact on special teams.

NO.8 ADRIAN COXSON, WR, BALTIMORE (MD.) CITY COLLEGE
THE SKINNY: This player can run and catch. Coxson (6-2, 195 pounds) played Wildcat quarterback his senior year of high school and rushed for over 1,280 yards. He averaged 12.08 yards per carry as a senior and rushed for over 200 yards four times.

NO.7 RONALD POWELL, DE, MORENO VALLEY RANCHO VALLEY (CALI.)
THE SKINNY: Comes to Hogtown with a lot of hype. Hope he's not reading his own press clippings.

NO.83 SOLOMON PATTON, WR, MOBILE (ALA.) MURPHY
THE SKINNY: Patton was a big-play guy in high school who chose Florida over Alabama. He enrolled early, so Patton could potentially work his way onto the field this season.

-jo-

July 23, 2010

Florida Gators ranked No.4 nationally in composite preseason magazine top 25

HOOVER, Ala. -- Florida is ranked No. 4 nationally in a composite preseason Top 25 poll of six preseason college football magazines. The poll includes these publications: Sporting News, Lindy's, Athlon, Yahoo Kickoff, Steele's and Blue Ribbon.

COMPOSITE TOP 25 NATIONAL RANKINGS
1. Alabama (1.43)
2. Ohio State (2)
3. Boise State (4.43)
4. Florida (5.29
5. Oklahoma (6.86)
6. Texas (7.43)
7. Texas Christian (8.43)
8. Southern Cal (9.86)
9. Virginia Tech (10.14)
10. Iowa (11.14)
11. Oregon (12)
12. Nebraska (12.57)
13. Wisconsin (13.43)
14. Miami (14.43)
15. Pittsburgh (17.43)
16. North Carolina (17.71)
17. Florida State (18.43)
18. Arkansas (19)
19. Georgia Tech (19.57)
20. LSU (20)
21. Auburn (21)
T22. Georgia (21.14)
T22. Penn State (21.14)
24. West Virginia (22.71)
25. Oregon State (23.43)

-jo- 

Media poll predicts Alabama will defeat Florida Gators in SEC championship game

HOOVER, Ala. -- Media types who attended the 2010 Southeastern Conference Media Days predicted that Alabama would defeat Florida in the SEC championship game this summer. Just a reminder, Gator Clause predicted last week that Florida would lose to Alabama in October but then defeat the Crimson Tide in December.

Florida begins the season as the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC Eastern Division, according to media who cover the SEC. The Gators received 153 first-place votes compared to 15 first-place votes for Georgia. South Carolina, led by former UF coach Steve Spurrier, was picked to finish third in the SEC with eight first-place votes.

Predicted order of finish, according to 177 votes cast in SEC preseason media poll
EASTERN DIVISION
1. Florida (153) 1030 points
2. Georgia (15) 791
3. South Carolina (8) 790
4. Kentucky   462
5. Tennessee     450
6. Vanderbilt (1) 194

WESTERN DIVISION
1. Alabama (157) 1034 points
2. Arkansas (6) 726
3. Auburn (10)   691
4. LSU (1)     653
5. Miss. State   320
6. Ole Miss (3) 293

-jo- 

July 22, 2010

Gators Frankie Hammond Jr. without a scholarship after DUI arrest

HOOVER, Ala. -- Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Wednesday at Southeastern Conference Media Days that UF receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. of Hallandale lost his scholarship after being arrested for DUI this summer.

"He's off of scholarship at Florida," Meyer said. "If he tries to come back and play, which I understand he will, he'll have to pay his own way and earn a spot like any other member that would like to be a part of Florida football. There will be playing time taken away for him. He'll be on probation like other players that have made mistakes. If he does something again, it will be probable dismissal.

"As of right now, he's not on the football team. He's training away from the team, off of scholarship. We'll see how he shows up and if he goes. If he goes, we'll make the adjustment as we move on."

Hammond, a redshirt sophomore, was expected to compete for playing time this preseason. An accomplished high jumper, Hammond was also an important part of the Gators' track and field team before his arrest. Players at the University of Florida, including former All-American Brandon James, have lost their scholarships in the past for various mistakes and worked their way back onto the field.

-jo-

July 20, 2010

Is Florida Gators center Mike Pouncey going to sit out this season for being Maurkice Pouncey's twin brother?

GAINESVILLE -- Let's cut through the fat on this Maurkice Pouncey story. What's the worst thing that could happen to UF if the allegation that Pouncey accepted money from the representative of a sports agent while still an amateur is proven to be true?

First, here's a link to what the Herald learned on Monday. LINK!

So, what's the potential end game here? Well, Maurkice Pouncey is expected to turn over information today in an attempt to prove he took nothing. Why would he do this? It seems foolish to me. If I'm Pouncey, I just ignore it and move on. That's what Reggie Bush did and it worked out for him. But it's not that simple in this case. See, Maurkice has a twin brother, Mike, who is still a Gator. Mike Pouncey, an incredible player just like his brother, is expected to start at center this season for the Gators. For UF, proving that Maurkice Pouncey took nothing is basically proving that Mike Pouncey also took nothing.

Former players do not have to cooperate with NCAA and UF investigations but current players certainly do. This is a unique circumstance and it will be interesting to see how UF handles it. Being twin star football players, both Maurkice and Mike Pouncey are linked to this story. There's no way around that logic. They have always made choices together and based on each other. Heck, Maurkice Pouncey only agreed to sign with UF until after UF offered his twin brother a scholarship.

This is the reason behind Maurkice Pouncey and UF trying to prove Maurkice Pouncey's innocence so quickly. If Maurkice is cleared, then Mike is cleared then UF is cleared. If Maurkice is guilty, then Mike is guilty, then UF is guilty then UF will have to vacate its Sugar Bowl win against Cincinnati, then UF will likely have to hold Mike Pouncey out of games this season.

Is it a coincidence that all this news is breaking right before SEC Media Days? Not a chance. Someone is intent on either hurting the Gators, hurting the Pouncey family or both.

-jo-

July 19, 2010

Gators enter preseason with pressing needs at key offensive skill positions

GAINESVILLE -- Untapped potential overflows from Florida's preseason offensive depth chart. To fully take advantage of all that talent, some very important things must happen between now and Sept. 11.

That's the second Saturday of the season, when Florida hosts South Florida in what will be a game of high energy and high stakes. It seems unlikely, but Florida could lose this game in a worst-case scenario. After all, USF defeated Florida State at Doak Campbell last season. And I'm quite certain no one needs reminding of Florida 23, Arkansas 20 or, more to the point, Ole Miss 31, Florida 30.

To avoid such an upset, Florida must take full advantage of every single skill position in its spread offense. That didn't happen last season for two reasons. 1. Florida relied too much on Tim Tebow. 2. Tebow usually delivered. There will be no Tebow this season -- no fail-safe back-up plan. Florida's offense must adapt but a few pressing needs and potential deficiencies could hinder that growth. Here they are:

1. Who is going to play tight end and will he be any good? Tight end was a key position last season. Where would the Gators have been without Aaron Hernandez? He led the team in receptions. UF offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said during the spring that finding a quality tight end was one of his most important tasks. As Addazio explained it, tight end was a crucial piece of the puzzle in Florida's new offense. If Florida can't rely on its tight end, then the offense as a whole will suffer and need to be adjusted.

The options at tight end are redshirt freshmen Jordan Reed and Desmond Parks and true freshman Gerald Christian. All three players have talent but all are young. Reed, who seemed to emerge as the first-stringer after spring practice, only began playing tight end in the last year. In the mold of Cornelius Ingram, Reed was a quarterback when he first arrived at UF. Parks was injured much of last year. Christian seems to be on the right path but is a bit raw.

2. Can Florida's receivers stretch the field? They couldn't last season with any consistency. Riley Cooper and Deonte Thompson both suffered from the yips at times. Thompson must be the man this season and his confidence must improve. (This is the real reason why Urban Meyer flipped out on a reporter this spring.)

3. Who is going to play slot receiver? The Great Brandon James Experiment just didn't pan out at slot receiver last season. Now UF wants to experiment by putting another running back at the position? Chris Rainey is great -- don't get me wrong -- but surely there's a receiver on UF's roster who can, you know, actually play receiver. Will Andre Debose be ready? Meyer knew he had problems when the extent of Debose's hamstring injury was discovered last year. Meyer was right. He had problems.

4. Who's the power back? Tebow played this position for four years. He carried the ball more than anyone else for three years. He did it so well I think people took it for granted. Jeff Demps is no power back. Chris Rainey would completely fall apart if he had to pound the ball. The options are Emmanuel Moody and Mike Gillislee. Remember a long time ago when Meyer convinced Moody to transfer to UF because he could one day be the "featured back?" That time is now.

5. Can John Brantley handle the pressure? People are assuming Brantley is going to be a world-class quarterback from the first snap of the season. Maybe he will be, but keep in mind he hasn't started a football game in three years. Brantley, of course, is the least of UF's worries. He should be fine.

-jo-

July 18, 2010

Gators will win the SEC, lose to FSU and play in the Sugar; Plus five reasons UF can win the national title

GAINESVILLE -- Gator Clause has officially returned from its Self Imposed Surfing Sabbatical. We're not going to lie. It was tough to stay away from the blog, but we did.

Southeastern Conference Media Days begin on Wednesday from a crowded conference room in a hotel attached to a mall in suburban Birmingham, Ala. For many around the Southeast, SEC Media Days will be the unofficial start of the college football season. For the people of Alabama, it will be a chance to touch The Great Nick Saban or at least see the man and generally enjoy his presence. And those people are just the reporters who cover Alabama and Paul Finebaum. Fans of the Crimson Tide and its coach will pack a hotel lobby, attached to a mall in suburban Birmingham, Ala., and weep in Saban's presence.

Yes, I'm preparing myself for a freak show on Wednesday morning, when, fresh off a national championship, Saban and Co. kick off SEC Media Days with all the energy of a Star Trek convention at the Kennedy Space Center. Thank the stars the SEC had the good sense to schedule Alabama first. Leonard Nimoy and his Trekkies will be long gone by the time Florida coach Urban Meyer begins his media obligations.

What to expect from Meyer this season? What to expect from Florida? Win or lose it, will be a fascinating season. OK, let's begin the coverage of this season the right way. I'm going to go out on a limb right from the beginning and make a few bold predictions. Why not, right?

1. Florida will win the SEC.

2. Florida will lose to Florida State.

3. Florida will play in the Sugar Bowl.

4. Florida will finish the season 12-2.

5. Florida will finish the season ranked in the top 5.

OK, those are the predictions. Now for five reasons why UF can win the national championship this year.

1. Tim Tebow is gone. Call me crazy, but I think the hype surrounding Tebow took away from the team last season. Now, before you begin sending me death threats, understand that I'm not saying Tebow himself took away from the team. I'm simply saying that, by no fault his own, Tebow's media-driven circus took away from the team. With Tebow gone, the team will actually have a better chance of, you know, being a unified team, instead of being Tim Tebow and the Heartbreakers. I think Tebowmania took away from the team last season both from a strategic, X's-and-O's standpoint and from a team-chemistry standpoint. Those distractions have moved to Denver.

2. Urban Meyer is refocused. Meyer lost it last season and nearly worried himself to death. Totally understandable, I might add. The effects of Tebowmania were enough to make the most levelheaded person go crazy. Last season was so bizarre. Meyer was like the main character in a reality TV show called, "Breaking Urban Meyer." The stress 2009 put on Florida's coach was tough to watch and I felt bad for the guy, but Meyer is now better for it. A stronger and wiser Urban Meyer will emerge this season.

3. Personnel. Florida lost some talented players after last season but there is more than enough talent on the 2010 roster to win a national championship. Guys like Mike Pouncey, Will Hill, Brandon Hicks, A.J. Jones, John Brantley and Justin Trattou are ready to be positive team leaders. Guys like Ahmad Black and Marcus Gilbert are now seasoned veterans. Guys like Ronald Powell, Matt Elam and Andre Debose are ready to add instant energy. Guys like William Green, Carl Moore, Emmanuel Moody, Omarius Hines, Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins are ready to prove themselves. Guys like Jeff Demps, Omar Hunter and Carl Johnson are ready to dominate. It's a good mix.

4. Motivation. Motivation is the most important aspect of college football right after personnel. The Gators have the personnel and they are motivated. Alabama 32, Florida 13. 'Nuff said.

5. Humility. There isn't a single player on the Gators' football team who can be considered a superstar. But for a few, all the starters are relatively unproven. No one has achieved greatness. Everyone has failed. For the first time in three years, there are no returning first-team All-Americans. There is no Percy. There is no Spikes. There is no Tebow. There is no Brandon James. Even the players being hyped as "preseason whatevers" have proven little. Center Mike Pouncey is starting at a new position. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was ... um, how to put this ... not his best when it mattered most last season.

Take away difficult road test at Alabama (Oct.2) and Florida State (Nov.27) and Florida's schedule sets up nicely. A national title run is not out of the question. Florida can lose to Alabama on Oct. 2 and still win the national title with strong finish.

-jo-

July 01, 2010

Florida Gators boosters show off considerable smarts (and wealth) in Heisman statues

GAINESVILLE -- Alabama erects statues of its national championship coaches. Florida commissions statues of its Heisman winners. Which tradition do you think most helps with recruiting?

Florida's Heisman winners -- Stephen Orr Spurrier, Daniel Carl Wuerffel and Timothy Richard Tebow -- will be immortalized (once again) after the 2010 football season when the University of Florida erects three bronze statues of the former UF passers. Price tag: over $500,000. 

QUESTION: Why erect the statues now?

ANSWER: Tim Tebow, of course.

QUESTION: Who's the big time Bull Gator who donated the money? 

ANSWER: Bill Heavener, we're assuming.

Heavener is a close family friend of the Tebows and has donated millions to the program ever since Timmy became a Gator. But it doesn't matter who donated the money. That's not the point. The Point: This is an audacious move by UF and serves two purposes. One: it pays tribute to former Gator greats. Two (the real reason): it serves as an excellent recruiting tool. This statues idea has Urban Meyer's savvy recruiting fingerprints all over it.

URBAN MEYER: "See these three statues, RECRUIT A. If you win a Heisman, you get a statue."

RECRUIT A: "I'm an eight-star recruit. I deserve a statue right now."

URBAN MEYER: "With that attitude, you'll be great at Florida State."

ANYWAY, spending half a million on three bronze statues might seem a little excessive. That's because it is. But, hey, this is the SEC, where the only thing more important than winning football games is winning recruits who win football games. Some might consider the three Heisman statues gaudy. I am one of those people. It's pretty disturbing, but I do understand the logic and respect it for being so bold and over the top. Consider these statues a sound investment. (And a shrine to Timmy. Personally, I would have went with an eternal Timmy flame.)

-jo-


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