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31 posts from August 2010

August 31, 2010

Gators freshman Lynden Trail of Miami Booker T. likely headed for redshirt season and other stuff

GAINESVILLE -- First, some news ...

-Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney said on Tuesday that freshmen Leon Orr and Lynden Trail will likely redshirt this season. McCarney said they were not ready for SEC football.

-In case you didn't know it already, Florida is around a 35.5-point favorite against Miami (Ohio).

-Running back Emmanuel Moody predicted a big year for Chris Rainey, who switched from running back to slot receiver for his senior season. Rainey has been making people "look foolish" in practice, according to Moody.

-Jaye Howard was recruited as a linebacker. He grew into a defensive end then grew into a defensive tackle. He's around 300 pounds now but still fairly athletic. On Monday, Meyer said that Howard could be used some at defensive end this season. On Tuesday, McCarney confirmed that if Howard bounces outside it most likely would be in a 3-4 defense.

-On Tuesday, I reminded receiver Andre Debose that the last catch he made in a competitive football game was the spectacular game-winning touchdown grab he made against Miami Northwestern to win the 2008 Class 6A state championship game for Sanford Seminole. Debose said he thought about that play often during his grueling rehabilitation process for a torn hamstring tendon and sometimes when he needs reminding in practice that he's a good receiver. (When he drops passes, apparently.) 

-Florida lined up in the I-formation during red-zone situations in the spring and it appears that plan didn't change during fall camp. Emmanuel Moody said the Gators will use a lot of I-formation in the red zone to keep opponents "guessing."

-Offensive lineman Maurice Hurt told me on Tuesday that this week is the best week of his life. Hurt is starting at right tackle on Saturday. He has suffered through back and neck problems during his career but is pain free after having surgery to correct an overgrowth of calcium.

-Senior Lawrence Marsh has been made a captain. UF now has five senior captains on defense and one senior captain on offense.

OK, with the news out of the way I can tell you guys about my feature in tomorrow's paper about running back Emmanuel Moody. As a youngster growing up in Coppell, Texas, Moody was discriminated against for his appearance. As Moody explains it ...

"Growing up there were a lot of people saying, 'You're not going to make it. You're half Korean. Only black running backs make it.' The odds were against me but I felt like I had talent at running back and I was going to take it as far as God was going to allow me to take it. There was definitely a lot of opposition, me being half Korean and half black at the position. There were a lot of stereotypes that each position on the field has to be a certain type of race or color."

Moody went on to explain that he feels he wasn't allowed to play running back his first year of Pop Warner because "most people saw me as Asian unless I told them I was half black. I didn't really get a chance the first year and finally the second year they saw what I could do with the ball and then I feel like I got my opportunity."

-jo-

August 30, 2010

Gators depth chart released; View it right here

GAINESVILLE -- Here's the depth chart for the first game of the season. Some interesting developments...

1. Omarius Hines is listed as the starting tight end.

2. Andre Debose has been moved to the outside receiver position behind Deonte Thompson.

3. Freshman Robert Clark is the back-up at slot behind Chris Rainey.

4. Freshman Gerald Christian is the back-up at fullback.

DEPTH CHART

-jo-

August 28, 2010

Introducing the 2010 senior captains of the University of Florida football team

GAINESVILLE -- Players voted for senior captains after Saturday's underclassmen scrimmage. Here they are ...

Ahmad AHMAD BLACK 
Position: Strong Safety
Ht: 5-9
Wt: 189 pounds
Career starts: 26
Appearances: 35
Tackles: 136
Interceptions: 8
Did you know? Ahmad Black has made two defensive plays at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens to save national championships. The first came in high school when he stuffed a Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas running back at the goal line in double overtime of the 2006 Class 5A state championship. The win earned Black and his Lakeland Dreadnaughts the 2006 mythical high school national championship from USA Today. The second play came in the 2008 BCS national championship game against Oklahoma. Black intercepted Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford late in the fourth quarter to lead UF to its third BCS national championship.

ArnoldA.J. JONES
Position: Strong-side Linebacker
Ht: 6-1
Wt: 226 pounds
Career starts: 30
Appearances: 36
Tackles: 108
Tackles for loss: 9.5
Sacks: 4
Did you know? In an era many consider the greatest in the history of Florida football, A.J. Jones is going to finish his career as a four-year starter. What an amazing honor. Jones started nine games as a freshman, nine games as a sophomore and 11 games as a junior. Jones' career-defining game came last season when he intercepted Georgia quarterback Joe Cox twice in UF's 41-17 win. The clear leader of the linebacker corps this season, Jones leaned on the advice of former UF linebacker Ryan Stamper during fall camp. He's expected to begin the season at strong-side linebacker but Jones could switch to middle linebacker in a pinch.

Duke DUKE LEMMENS
Position: Defensive End
Ht: 6-3
Wt: 253 pounds
Career starts: 1
Appearances: 32
Tackles: 23
Tackles for loss: 3
Sacks: 2
Did you know? Duke Lemmens is one of the most popular Gators among his teammates. He works hard, he's a selfless teammate and his personality is rich with charisma and honesty. This combination makes him a perfect team leader. Just this week, Florida coach Urban Meyer said that Lemmens is one of players he most respects on the team. Lemmens is best friends with fellow starting defensive end and captain Justin Trattou. Over the summer, Lemmens invited Trattou to his home in southern California and, according to Lemmens, the two buddies checked out "all the freaks on Venice Beach." A former high school teammate of Carolina Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen, Lemmens has waited three long seasons to crack the starting line-up.

James michael MIKE POUNCEY
Position: Center
Ht: 6-4
Wt: 310
Career starts: 32
Appearances: 39
Honors: 2009 AP second-team All-American; AP first-team all-SEC
Did you know? The Gators are 30-2 over the last three years when Mike Pouncey starts. His career winning percentage for games in which he started is unprecedented, considering Pouncey never lost a game while playing in high school for the Lakeland Dreadnaughts. This season will be an emotional one for Mike. Not only is it his final season at UF but it's his first season to play football without his twin brother, Maurkice Pouncey. Mike is a candidate for the Rimington Trophy, an award given annually to the nation's best center. Considering he has never even started at the position in his college career, he must be pretty good.


Justin JUSTIN TRATTOU
Position: Defensive End
Ht: 6-3
Wt: 252 pounds
Career starts: 18
Appearances: 39
Career tackles: 64, including 40 solo tackles
Tackles for loss: 15
Sacks: 7
Did you know? Justin Trattou is one of the most respected members of the Gators' football team. He leads by example and is best known for his interception in the fourth quarter against South Carolina in 2009. Trattou is a proud native of northeast New Jersey and his blue-collar approach to football will be a character trait of the Gators' defensive line this season. Trattou played several games last season with a ruptured tendon in his arm. His doctors told him that if he could stand the pain, then he could play. He played.

-jo-

Gators redshirt senior offensive lineman Maurice Hurt to make first career start at tackle in season opener

GAINESVILLE -- Florida's offensive line is set for the season opener.

Due to the injuries of Xavier Nixon (knee) and Matt Patchan (wrist), fifth-year senior Marcus Gilbert will start at left tackle against Miami (Ohio). Gilbert will be charged with protecting quarterback John Brantley's blindside. He did the same for left-handed quarterback Tim Tebow in 2009.

Starting at right tackle will be redshirt senior Maurice Hurt, who played right guard in the spring. Hurt has started six games during his career at UF, including five starts in 2009 at guard. Hurt has never started at tackle.

Redshirt junior James Wilson will start at right guard on Saturday. Wilson started four games in 2009 at left guard. A former high school teammate of Tim Tebow, Wilson has had an up-and-down career at UF but has the talent to be an All-SEC offensive lineman.

Senior Mike Pouncey is starting at center for the season opener. Pouncey is expected to be the anchor of the offensive line this season. Saturday will be his first start at center in his career but he has 31 career starts entering this season. 

At left guard will be redshirt senior Carl Johnson, the second largest UF offensive lineman in school history. Johnson (6-5, 360 pounds) has appeared in 29 games and made 22 starts throughout his career.

Florida coach Urban Meyer has reminded reporters several times during the preseason that two-thirds of his team is made up of underclassmen. This is true, but UF's starting offensive line is quite experienced. Consider that three redshirt seniors, one senior and one redshirt junior are starting in the season opener. Collectively, that's 23 seasons of experience!

-jo-

August 27, 2010

Gators freshmen Matt Elam and Solomon Patton arrested for possession of alcohol

GAINESVILLE -- Two freshmen on the University of Florida football team were arrested over the summer for possession of alcohol under the age of 21, the Miami Herald has learned.

Freshman safety Matt Elam was arrested on July 2 and freshman receiver Solomon Patton was arrested on Aug. 1. Elam was charged with a first-degree misdemeanor after being arrested for allegedly possessing a can of carbonated malt liquor in the parking lot of a bank on NW 1st Street in Gainesville, according to the arresting officer. Elam was seen holding a 23.5 ounce can of Four Loko, according to the officer.

Elam pleaded no contest on July 21 and was ordered to pay a fine. The case is still open, according to Alachua County records, because Elam attempted to pay the fine with a personal check. The $121 personal check -- subject field "open container ticket" -- was returned to Elam's residence in Riviera Beach along with a letter from Alachua County requesting the fine be paid in cash or by money order. Elam has until Oct. 27 to pay the fine, according to records.

Elam received public recognition from UF coach Urban Meyer on Thursday for being a leader of the freshman class. A strong safety by trade, Elam has also practiced at nickel back during the preseason and could receive playing time at the position in the Gators' season opener on Sept. 4 against Miami (Ohio). Elam will not be suspended for the season opener, according to Florida assistant coach Chuck Heater, who coaches the team's safeties.

Patton was arrested at Plasma Lounge in downtown Gainesville and charged with a second-degree misdemeanor for allegedly possessing a drink containing vodka. According to the arresting officer, Patton attempted to "pass the cup off" upon sight of a law enforcement officer. Patton received deferred prosecution on Aug. 18.

Patton's status for the season opener has not been determined.

-jo-

August 26, 2010

Gators will begin the season with shifted offensive line; Plus plenty more great notes!

GAINESVILLE -- Florida will be without two of its top offensive tackles when the season begins next Saturday, according to Gators coach Urban Meyer.

Meyer said on Thursday that sophomore left tackles Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan will not be available for the season against Miami (Ohio) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Nixon injured his right knee during fall camp and required a knee scope procedure to correct the problem. Patchan had a pin placed in his right wrist.

It's unclear who will play left tackle against Miami (Ohio). Marcus Gilbert, the starter at right tackle and line's most experienced player, said he could shift to left tackle while Nixon and Patchan are out. Mike Pouncey mentioned on Tuesday that he could play left tackle but that seems unlikely.

"I don't think we're going to do that," Meyer said. "We had that discussion. I was opposed to that because it's the first game and I want the ball to hit the quarterback in the hands and not look like the Bad News Bears out there."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for back-up center Sam Robey.

Meyer didn't offer much about the starting offensive line for the season opener but he did say offensive coordinator Steve Addazio had his "shift" going in practice. I'm betting the offensive line looks this way next Saturday:

Marcus Gilbert, LT; James Wilson, LG; Mike Pouncey, C; Maurice Hurt; RG; Carl Johnson, RT

JORDAN REED HURT

Redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed injured his right knee during practice on Tuesday, according to Meyer. Meyer called the injury a "deep knee bruise" and said "that's a pain tolerance thing, so we won't know when we'll get him back."

Reed status' seems questionable at this point, but it could improve. The Gators are getting creative in order to fill the tight end role with Reed out. Freshman quarterback Trey Burton and redshirt sophomore receiver Omarius Hines have been playing the vacated position. Meyer referred to it as the 'P' position on Thursday. Whatever you want to call it, it doesn't sound like the traditional role for a tight end.

Meyer said he has been pleasantly surprised by the ability of Burton, the former high school quarterback from Venice. Burton is contributing more than initially expected, according to Meyer.

"He's so versatile and he's so football smart," Meyer said. "I'm really proud of that guy."

JEREMY BROWN AT NICKEL

It appears that both Jeremy Brown and Moses Jenkins could start next Saturday against Miami (Ohio). Last week, Meyer indicated that Brown and Jenkins might possibly share time at cornerback. On Thursday, Meyer said that Brown could start at nickel back next Saturday with Jenkins at cornerback. True freshman Matt Elam is also an option at nickel.

"They paid their dues, man," Meyer said. "Imagine their families coming up here and watching them at the University of Florida. It's going to be really cool for them next week."

NEW OFFENSE!

Be prepared for a new offense, Gators fans. Meyer offered a little teaser on Thursday.

"It's going to look different," Meyer said. "There will be some things that we have not done, including even when Chris Leak was here. So, there will be some interesting things to look at and we kind of got an idea of the playmakers on offense."

DEE FINLEY STINGER

UF strong-side linebacker Dee Finley had a stinger during fall camp but has recovered. He likely will not be in the linebacker rotation for the first game, though. Meyer said Finley had a strong camp and his weight is up to 220 pounds. Finley came to UF as a highly rated safety.

LINEBACKER QUESTIONS

Meyer wouldn't offer any hints on Thursday about the Gators' middle linebacker position. When asked to name the starting linebackers, Meyer answered slyly, "Our three starting linebackers are A.J. Jones, Brandon Hicks, Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins and Lorenzo Edwards. So, those are our starting three. Neiron Ball is in that. He's a guy that will play. He's not starting but he will play."

SATURDAY'S PLAN

With so many new assistants this season, the football team will conduct a "mechanics scrimmage" on Saturday to iron out all the game-day responsibilities for the staff.

"We're done with the scrimmaging until we go play the game," Meyer said. "Real important Saturday, though. It's mechanics. We've got a new D-coordinator and four new coaches on our staff. It's a real important day. More important than last year's."

Meyer said the new assistant coaches are gelling well.

"There are basically four coordinators in that room right now and I love that when you have four powerful guys in there that have great ideas but then you have one guy who's not an ego guy who's running the show," Meyer said. "It's a really comfortable room right now."

(We're assuming Meyer was referring to himself as the person without an ego. I think that's code for "objective and omnipotent onlooker".)

EVERYTHING IS 'ALL GOOD'

Meyer didn't say much on Thursday about the situations with Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley. The two freshmen defensive linemen missed practice on Tuesday.

"It's all good. They're all good," Meyer said. "The freshman class is doing great. I keep hearing this and I keep hearing that and everything is in good shape."

Meyer did say that neither Powell nor Easley asked to transfer. When asked why Powell and Easley missed practice on Tuesday, Meyer responded glibly, "They're all good."

-jo-

And now it's time for audio of Gators assistant coach Steve Addazio giving UF students his famous pregame speech. Classic stuff!

GAINESVILLE -- So, here's pretty much the best thing that I've ever put on this blog. Below is an audio clip of UF offensive coordinator Steve Addazio giving an example of his pregame speech to about 500 UF students during the football team's town-hall meeting on Wednesday. Florida's football players refer to Addazio's speeches as shots of "Vitamin A."

It pretty much makes me want to run through a brick wall. Enjoy!

(Put your mouse on "VitaminA" below and click.)

VitaminA


Addazio













-jo-

Meyer takes apparent shot at Canes fans' apathy and keeps UF students laughing at event

GAINESVILLE -- Thanks to our fearless student correspondent (the event was closed to media), here are some of the highlights of Urban Meyer's town-hall-style meeting with 500 UF students on Wednesday night inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium's Touchdown Terrace. (Bull Gator hangout.)

So, first things first. Meyer seems to have taken a shot at the 'Canes when he said this: "We want this to be one place that everybody wants to be. We don't want to be like some of the schools in the state where half the stadium is empty..."

Oh, snap!

The best part of the town-hall meeting was when Meyer explained the spread offense to the students (and clowned one hapless student in the process!)

MEYER: "There are some misunderstandings about the spread. The spread offense is a run-first, pound-you offense. Our spread. And what we try to do is take advantage of mismatches. You think of some of the great players we've had here over the past four or five years and I can name Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez are probably the perfect spread-offense players. That's because they're match-up nightmares for the defense.

Does that make sense to you. This is real football stuff, now. This isn't what you see on TV. [LAUGHS]

So, take a guy like Aaron Hernandez who very fast, a great receiver but is also big and can block. You're a defensive coach, who do you put on him?

[MEYER RAISING HIS VOICE]

Yeah, you, answer. Go! Yeah! [LAUGHS FROM STUDENTS]

Yeah, you in glasses. The confused guy right here. Go. [LAUGHS ALL AROUND]

[MEYER NOW NEARLY YELLING]

Who do you put on him? He's big, he's 250 pounds and he runs a 4.5. Go!

CONFUSED GUY: [INAUDIBLE]

MEYER: Your middle linebacker. That's when we flex [Hernandez] out and throw him the ball. Does that make sense to you? If you put a corner on him, a small guy, you put a back on him. It's the same thing. We had Percy Harvin. We have Omarius Hines now. We have Chris Rainey. We have Jeff Demps. When you flex him out, who do you put on him?

"That's what Coach Addazio, the offensive staff and the guy upstairs are saving. Where are our match-up issues at? If the match-up is not good, take the match-up that's good. That's why we spread the field. Does that make sense to everybody?

"There are so many misunderstanding about the spread offense. Here's a little secret for you. What's the difference between the spread offense that we run and the New England Patriots and about a dozen teams in the NFL as far as throw game? Nothing. It's the same exact passing game that NFL teams use.

"You here that nonsense about, 'Are the spread receivers ready to go?' [Louis] Murphy, Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, Cornelius Ingram, Aaron Hernandez, Bubba Caldwell, so the answer is very simple. Are they ready? Sure they're ready. Because the Florida haters like to say we don't have the best receivers in the country, but we do.

So, once again, the spread offense is a pound-you-first offense. When they bring an extra guy in the box to try and stop the run game, what do we do? Confused guy again, what do we do? Don't duck down! [LAUGHS]

CONFUSED GUY: Throw the ball.

MEYER: Throw the ball! Right! To who?

CONFUSED GUY: [INAUDIBLE]

MEYER: The best match-up! Does that make sense. Should we go over that again. Do you play that video game? I bet you get your ass kicked in that video game. [HOWLING LAUGHTER]

-jo-

August 25, 2010

Q & A with Gators' cornerback commitment Valdez Showers of Michigan

GAINESVILLE -- Florida picked up its 15th commitment of the 2011 recruiting cycle on Wednesday when cornerback Valdez Showers of Madison Heights, Mich., committed to Gators coach Urban Meyer. Showers plays cornerback and running back for Madison Heights Madison High but plans to play defense for the Gators. He's currently 6-0, 181 pounds, has a 3.3 GPA and scored a 20 on the ACT.

Showers chatted with Gator Clause after Madison's football practice on Wednesday night... 

GC: Tell me about your high school team.

SHOWERS: Last year we went 11-1 and lost in the regionals. This year we're trying to win a state championship and right now we're just trying to get on the same page.

GC: So, what's your best game as a high schooler? What's the one game so far in your career you're always going to remember.

SHOWERS: four touchdowns, 288 yards and three pass break ups against [Madison Heights] Lamphere.

GC: You're play running back and cornerback for Madison. Why are you choosing to play defense in college?

SHOWERS: I've always played defense and offense my whole life but, as it went on, colleges started seeing me as a cornerback. Once I started doing it in camps I got a feel for it.

GC: So, why Florida? I guess that's the biggest question, being a guy from Michigan.

SHOWERS: They've got great academics, great football, great coaching staff, I have a lot of respect for Urban Meyer and I have a chance to compete for a championship every year.

GC: When did Florida pull the trigger, so to speak, and offer you a scholarship?

SHOWERS: I went to a camp down there in June and a couple days later they called and offered me. They were calling me a month or two before just checking in on me and making sure I was coming down there.

GC: I understand you wore some flashy yellow cleats at the camp or something. 

SHOWERS: Yeah, some bright yellow cleats. [LAUGHS] It's kind of like my style. It's what I do.

GC: You're pretty tall for a cornerback. Is that something Florida liked? In addition to your stellar GPA and fashion sense, of course.

SHOWERS: Yeah, they like taller cornerbacks now-a-days. You've just got to have your footwork and everything.

GC: So, what did Urban say when you committed?

SHOWERS: He said, 'Congratulations, man,' and he said the coaches are going to be all fired up and glad to have me and he said to try and get down there as soon as possible.

GC: What makes Urban such a good recruiter?

SHOWERS: He does a really good job. I don't know if it's just the tone of his voice but he gets people motivated and all fired up. Other than that, my feeling with him was like, he's always telling you something that's real. He's a truthful guy. Just really straight forward.

GC: Which assistants recruited you the most?

SHOWERS: Coach [Zach Azzanni] probably the most.

GC: And how did he know about you?

SHOWERS: He already knew my high school coach and he already knew me because he coached my brother (Valtorrey Showers) at Central Michigan.

GC: So, what do you know about Gainesville?

SHOWERS: I've just heard that it's a wild place. That the fans are really into it. Great town. They love football.

GC: And what are your thoughts about playing in the SEC?

SHOWERS: I'm excited because I love competition. It isn't going to do nothing but get me better and show what I can do.

GC: Have you thought about what you want to study at UF?

SHOWERS: I'm looking to go into mechanical engineering.

GC: Why?

SHOWERS: I've always been curious about how things work and I love math and science.

GC: So, you're talking AP Calc this year?

SHOWERS: Yes.

GC: So, why are you trying to go out of state?

SHOWERS: I've just never wanted to stay in Michigan since I was little. I just want to see something new.

GC: You've got a favorite book?

SHOWERS: Letters to a Young Brother by Hill Harper

GC: How come?

SHOWERS: I just read it and it showed a lot of people in situations and kind of showed my situation. So I like the book. It just relates to my life and other people around me.

GC: What's your favorite movie?

SHOWERS: The Wood

GC: Are you taking any other visits or anything like that?

SHOWERS: Not as of right now. Just trying to worry about football right now.

GC: So, what are some of the other teams recruiting you?

SHOWERS: Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Auburn, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Iowa.

Editor's note: The complete title of Showers' favorite book is Letters to a Young Brother: Manifest your Destiny

-jo-

The latest on Florida freshman Dominique Easley, according to Staten Island Curtis coach

GAINESVILLE -- There are message board rumors swirling today that highly rated freshmen recruits Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell skipped practice on Tuesday.

Well, I asked quarterback John Brantley about it today and here's what he said, other than he didn't know anything about it ...

"I've heard those rumors from people but that's the coaches deal. They take care of that behind closed doors. I don't get let known to all that stuff."

So, we respect Brantley for his savvy plausible deniability...

No big deal right? Well, Florida's sports information staff reacted a little differently and abruptly ended Wednesday's media session after I asked Brantley about the rumor. Weird, right? It got me thinking. Maybe there is something to this...hmmm.

So, I called Dominique Easley's high school football coach, Pete Gambardella of Staten Island (N.Y) Curtis High. In luck! Gambardella said he spoke with Easley this morning -- he apparently speaks to him "all the time" -- and Easley didn't mention anything about missing practice.

ME: "Did he seem upset?"

COACH: "No."

ME: "Disgruntled?"

COACH: "No."

ME: "Anything out of the ordinary?"

COACH: "Nothing like that. Everything seemed fine."

ME: "Well, maybe the rumor isn't true."

COACH: "Hopefully."

Gator Clause will be working on this throughout the day, so we'll keep you posted...

UPDATES ...

1. Powell is at practice today.

1a. UF independent student paper reporting that Powell and Easley threatened to transfer on Tuesday after they skipped practice. Don't know how much stock I put in that, but worth mentioning.

1aa. Gainesville Sun reporting that Powell is happy being in Gainesville, according to Rancho Verde HS coach Pete Duffy.

2. Easley is at practice today.

-jo-

August 24, 2010

What's the difference between Tim Tebow and John Brantley? Not much, says Gators coach

GAINESVILLE -- So, John Brantley's mustache didn't last long. For that, I am truly disappointed.

Quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler said he was going to make sure Brantley shaved his mustache. Brantley said not a chance. The coach won the battle of wills, apparently. Or maybe Brantley was just sick of being jeered by his friends. Whatever the reason, it's gone.

Why am I writing about a man's mustache? I don't know. To more important matters...

Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that Brantley is showing the same type of leadership skills that helped make former All-American Tim Tebow successful. At one point, Meyer said he was worried about Brantley's ability to lead. But not anymore. Over the past few months -- and especially in the last two weeks -- Brantley has taken ownership of Florida's offense.

On Monday, I asked Meyer why he wasn't worried about Brantley. Here's what he said ...

"Someone asked me today, 'What's the difference between John Brantley and Tim Tebow?' Believe it or not there's not that much different. The outward appearance there's a big difference. Inward, the competitiveness and his leadership is fantastic right now. Much better than I thought. I was really worried about that but when you have a guy like [Tebow] in front of you -- he didn't [need to] show much of that.

"Like today, we had a two-minute drill and he did fantastic. He ran the whole show and acted like the veteran quarterback he is. So, I'm really encouraged by John. Everyone knows he can throw the ball, but his other part is fantastic, as far as management of the team and leadership."

-jo-

August 22, 2010

Grading the Florida Gators position groups after fall camp

GAINESVILLE -- Fall camp is over. Players are recuperating. Let's grade the team entering its practice-run game week...

Grades based on experience and depth.

OFFENSIVE LINE … B+

Florida’s only known commodity on offense, the line returns four starters, including a few potential All-Americans. Mike Pouncey, a three-year starter, moved from guard to center for his senior season. Tackle Marcus Gilbert is a returning starter as well. Guards Carl Johnson and James Wilson will have no problems running the option. Sophomore tackle Xavier Nixon started the Gators’ last five games in 2009. There is also plenty of depth beyond the likely starters, including tackles Matt Patchan and Kyle Koehne, guards Maurice Hurt and Jon Halapio and center Sam Robey.

QUARTERBACKS … C+

Starting quarterback John Brantley has waited patiently for his chance to lead the Gators. The redshirt junior has a great arm and he’s been effective in mop-up time over his two-year career, completing 71 percent of his throws for 645 yards and 10 touchdowns (one interception). He hasn’t started a game since high school, however, and road games in the SEC are tough on any seasoned veteran. UF’s depth at quarterback is thin. The back-ups — Trey Burton of Venice and Tyler Murphy of Connecticut — are both true freshmen.

RUNNING BACKS … C

The Gators can’t rely on their former quarterback/first-down machine anymore. Bruising former All-American quarterback Tim Tebow led UF in rushing for three seasons. Will UF have a featured running back this season? Who’s the short-yardage option? Who gets the ball on the goal line? Redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody has never lived up to his potential due to injuries. Junior Jeff Demps is fast but small. Can he carry the load? Sophomore Mike Gillislee could even contribute now that Chris Rainey has moved to receiver.

RECEIVERS … C

Florida always seems to have at least one returning star at receiver. Not this season. Everyone is unproven. Start with redshirt junior Deonte Thompson. He’s caught a lot of balls in practice from quarterback John Brantley over the years but little else. Next is redshirt-senior Carl Moore. The former JUCO transfer has done nothing at UF. Redshirt freshman Andre Debose is an unknown quantity as well. The same goes for bulked up redshirt sophomore Omarius Hines. There’s potential here but nothing is proven.

TIGHT ENDS … D

It doesn’t seem like UF did much in the way of preparing for life after Aaron Hernandez, last year’s tight end and the team’s leader in receptions. The Gators’ projected starter at this position is a redshirt freshman, Jordan Reed of Connecticut, who was initially recruited to UF as a quarterback. Reed’s back up is true freshman Gerald Christian of West Palm Beach Dwyer. Little used defensive lineman Earl Okine has been asked to help out in a pinch. Fullback T.J. Pridemore could be used in certain situations.

DEFENSIVE LINE … C

Finding a consistent pass rush among UF’s current defensive ends could be a challenge this season. Senior end Justin Trattou has been a third-down specialist until now. Senior end Duke Lemmens has recorded two sacks throughout his career with one start. Junior William Green is an unproven talent. Junior Lerentee McCray is a former linebacker. Freshman Ronald Powell was highly recruited but, well he’s a freshman and this is the SEC. Depth at defensive tackle — Omar Hunter, Jaye Howard, Terron Sanders, Lawrence Marsh and Brandon Antwine — could help.

LINEBACKERS … B-

Replacing former two-time All-American Brandon Spikes with either redshirt-freshman Jelani Jenkins or sophomore Jon Bostic could come with growing pains. Senior strong-side linebacker A.J. Jones, a three-year starter, provides experience. Speedy Brandon Hicks is back at weak-side after a strong finish to 2009. Depth is a concern. Sophomore Dee Finley is a converted safety. Senior Lorenzo Edwards has never started a game.

CORNERBACKS … B-

Must replace three contributors to either graduation or the NFL Draft, including All-American Joe Haden. Junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins is now a veteran starter but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Who starts opposite Jenkins? Moses Jenkins is the senior who has patiently waited his turn. The Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson grad is long-time special teams contributor. Redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown returns from an injured back that sidelined him for two years.

SAFETIES … B

The back line is easily the Gators’ defensive strength. Strong safety Ahmad Black is a three-year starter with a reputation for consistent tackling and excellent awareness. Free safety Will Hill is long and athletic with plenty of speed but positioning has been an issue in the past. Freshman strong safety Matt Elam practiced at nickel back during the preseason. Depth is concern beyond Black and Hill. Sophomore free safety Josh Evans is inexperienced.

SPECIAL TEAMS … B+

As usual, Florida will feature some of the best special teams players in the country. Punter Chas Henry likely has a future in the NFL. Kicker Caleb Sturgis has plenty of leg but could work on his accuracy from last season. Return specialists are many with receiver Chris Rainey likely getting the first crack at replacing Brandon James on punts and kick offs.


OVERALL … B-

-jo-

August 21, 2010

Sturgis named to Lou Groza watchlist; #Gators ranked in AP poll

GAINESVILLE -- Congratulations to Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis, who was named to the Lou Groza Award watchlist on Saturday. Sturgis, a semifinalist for the award last year, was 22 of 30 on field goals and connected from 56 yards against Georgia. The 56-yard blast was the longest in the SEC in 2009.

In slightly related news, Stugis' older brother, Nathan Sturgis, is now starting for the Seattle Sounders. So, all is well for the Sturgis boys.

-Florida was ranked No.4 in the Associated Press poll on Saturday behind Alabama, Ohio State and Boise State.

-jo-

August 20, 2010

Gators linebacker Gideon Ajagbe sidelined 6-10 weeks with shoulder surgery

GAINESVILLE -- Florida freshman linebacker Gideon Ajagbe of Miami underwent surgery on Sunday to repair a partially torn rotator cuff, according to Mosi Blake, the strength and conditioning coach at Miami Ransom Everglades High.

"He's feeling fine now that he's out of the hospital and back with his friends in the dorms," Blake said.

Ajagbe, a graduate of Miami Ransom Everglades, will require a six- to 10-week recovery period and will likely redshirt his freshman season at UF, according to Blake. Blake suspects that Ajagbe injured his shoulder working out over the summer and then aggravated it during fall camp.

-jo-

August 19, 2010

Let's list the evidence of a grueling, nasty, horrific, torturous fall camp for the Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE -- Another day, another freshman quits Florida's program. This time its receiver Adrian Coxson of Baltimore, Md. Earlier this week it was Jordan Haden of Fort Washington, Md.

What is it with Maryland football players? Sheesh! According to a school official, Coxson decided he wanted to play closer to home. It happens, I guess. Florida coach Urban Meyer must be killing these guys during fall camp this year. All in the name of "accountability and development!"

Practice has been closed from jump street, so I can only guess the hell Meyer's has put his team through. Consider the evidence:

1. Chris Rainey, who has played at an elite level of football his entire life, suffered from an "accelerated heart rate" during camp and had to undergo a "procedure." He missed about a week.

2. Veteran linebacker Brandon Hicks passed out from heat exhaustion during camp and spent the night in the hospital. Another senior linebacker, Lorenzo Edwards, called the event "scary."

3. Freshman Jordan Haden, a legacy at UF, quit the team because "it wasn't the right fit."

4. Freshman Adrian Coxson, a quarterback and team leader for his high school team, packed up his bags because he became "homesick."

5. Jeff Demps suffered a concussion.

No more prima donnas, I guess.

-jo-

RECRUITING: CB/Waisome chooses Gators over Noles; RB/LB/ATH/Wilder does opposite

GAINESVILLE -- Florida picked up its 14th commitment of the 2011 recruiting cycle on Wednesday when cornerback Nick Waisome of Groveland South Lake orally committed to the Gators and UF coach Urban Meyer said.

Waisome Around the time Waisome [PICTURED] pledged his allegiance to Florida, receiver James Wilder Jr. of Tampa Plant orally committed to Florida State. I've never seen either one of these players in action, so someone is going to have to tell me which school received the better commitment on Wednesday. I'm assuming these two players will be lining up against each other in a few years. Then again, you know how recruiting goes. Come February, Waisome could be signing with FSU and Wilder Jr. could be switching to Florida.

Waisome committed to Florida on ESPNU on Wednesday. He attends the same high school as current Gators Jeff Demps and Jonotthan Harrison.

For those keeping score: Florida currently has 14 commitments for the class of 2011, FSU has 15 commitments and Miami has six. Tough to call a winner but I'd say Miami is losing.

-jo-

Urban Meyer is "concerned" about #Gators defensive line and you should be, too

GAINESVILLE -- In case you missed it, here's a link to today's story on UF's underrated defensive ends. CLICK ME!

Florida's coach is unsure about the defensive ends. Are you worried about UF's pass rush? You should be. I'm sure no one needs reminding of the SEC championship game and how much UF's D-line (or lack thereof) factored into the outcome. In related news, Alabama running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson both returned this season.

--Moses Jenkins spoke with reporters for the first time on Wednesday. Here's a link to that. CLICK ME! It appears Moses is finally going to get a chance to show off his skills.

--There's an interesting development out west in college football. BYU is leaving the Mountain West Conference to be a football independent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. CLICK ME! Something tells me Orrin Hatch is involved here.

CHECKING UP ON THE OPPONENTS!

--Tennessee football is a dumpster fire and things could get worse. CLICK ME!

--The South Florida Bulls have been doing a lot of male bonding, according to the Tampa Tribune. CLICK ME!

--Florida opened as a 35-point favorite against Miami-Ohio and the line is going up.

-jo-

August 16, 2010

Highly regarded freshman recruit transferring away from UF, according to recruit's father

GAINESVILLE -- Freshman strong safety Jordan Haden is transferring from Florida, according to his father, Joe Haden Sr.

In a text message on Monday morning, Haden told the Miami Herald that "Haden will be transferring." Florida has not granted the transfer yet, according to Haden Sr., but he said he and his son "are working on that today."

Haden was a highly regarded piece of UF's 2011 recruiting class and rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com. He's also the brother of former UF All-American Joe Haden.

"When asked why his son is transferring, Haden Sr. said, "No hard feelings. Florida is a great program and we love them. It just wasn't the best fit for Jordan."

-jo-

Tebow video highlights from first NFL preseason game


Because you knew we would, here's a video of Tebow's highlights from his first preseason game. (Complete with a trippy, Space Odyssey soundtrack.) Make sure you watch until the end. That's when Tebow jacks up Bengals safety Kyries Hebert on the last play of the game. Hebert lost his mouthpiece during the goal-line collision and was slow to get up.

Thoughts from Tebow's first start ...

1. Everyone cares about Tebow. They might love him. They might hate him. But everyone cares. If you followed the real-time comments on Twitter about Tebow during the game, then you know this as a fact. I mean, Tebow played one quarter ... as a third-string quarterback ... in a meaningless preseason game ... and became a top-five "trending topic." Good grief.

2. Tebow looked pretty fast on that touchdown scramble.

3. Love how the Cincinnati fans booed Tebow when he took the field. Tebow owns Ohio from his college days.

4. Tebow turned a sack into a five-yard gain. Classic Tebow.

5. Bengals defender Frostee Rucker blindsided Tebow but he bounced right back up.

-jo-

August 14, 2010

Miami swagger alive and well in Florida Gators' first football scrimmage

GAINESVILLE -- Florida scrimmaged on Saturday. Here is my knowledge ...

1. Quinton Dunbar likes to run his mouth. Didn't learn this today. I knew this already.

2. On Saturday, I learned he could back it up. Dunbar of Miami Booker T. Washington made an athletic touchdown reception that had everyone talking after UF's first scrimmage of fall camp. When the cornerbacks concede that you're doing pretty good in fall camp -- as Janoris Jenkins did of Dunbar on Saturday -- you're probably doing pretty good.

3. Janoris Jenkins of Dunbar: "Lil' Quin from Booker T. a nice good receiver."

4. Jenkins' reference of Dunbar's roots didn't go unnoticed by this guy. It seems Miami swagger is alive and well in Gainesville. Now we'll just have to wait and see if all this early positive attention fills up Dunbar's head and he loses his edge or he ignores the meaningless hype and continues to work hard.

5. John Brantley was rocking a FILTHY 1970s mustache today.

6. Brantley said he was thinking about keeping it just because everyone said he wouldn't.

7. One reporter -- that would be me -- told Brantley his mustache was "pretty dirty."

8. "Thanks," Brantley said. "That's the look I'm going for."

9. So, Brantley got a little cooler in my book on Saturday.

10. Brantley indicated that Deonte Thompson and Carl Moore are currently his go-to receivers.

11. Of course, Brantley doesn't want to rock the boat too much during fall camp. So he followed up that admission with this: "All the other receivers are awesome and they're all go-to players."

12. Rainey (irregular heart beat) is expected to return to full contact next week. He has been limited to only participating in pre-practice drills for about a week now.

13. The extra reps have helped redshirt freshman Andre Debose, who receivers coach Zach Azzanni called "young" and "green" and said "has a lot to learn."

14. The good news -- really the only news that matters -- is that Debose's hamstring is holding up. I think everything else will take care of itself. Azzanni was gushing about Debose during UF's Media Day.

15. Azzanni said freshman Chris Dunkley is struggling with bumps and bruises and didn't do much during the scrimmage.

16. Something tells me Azzanni has studied at the Urban Meyer School of Coaching Psychology in the past couple of days.

17. Carl Moore and Frankie Hammond Jr. caught touchdowns from Brantley on Saturday during the scrimmage.

18. Brantley on Hammond Jr.: "His approach has been the same as always -- just go out there everyday and get better and fight for a position. He put everything in the past and he forgot about [his arrest] and he's trying to just move forward."

19. Azzanni on Hammond Jr.: "He's doing great. He's such a utility player for us. He'll go out there and play every position and play as hard as he can. If there's a receiver not in there for any reason he jumps in there. He's a great kid. He's having a heck of a camp, I can tell you that."

20. According to Deonte Thompson, Stephen Alli "is a freak!"

21. Alli met with reporters on Saturday. You pronounce his name like the side street, not the famous boxer. As in, Stephen Alli ran down the alley.

22. Interesting story on Alli. He's from Canada and played his first season of football during his final year of high school.

24. After three years of Canadian high school, Alli attended a boarding school in the New England to play basketball. Just for fun, he went out for the football team.

25. A UF assistant saw some film on him and invited him to UF's summer camp.

26. Alli, who says he's either 6-5 or 6-6, ran a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash at that camp.

27. Urban Meyer offered him on the spot. Alli accepted.

28. Deonte Thompson on Alli: "He's athletic. He's just so athletic. He's making strides. He's going to be a great player here in the near future. He's getting his game down. Coach [Azzanni] is one of the best things that could have happened to him. [Azzanni] going to get him back to fundamentals and learning the game because he came from Canada and, you know, football is not big up there like that. So, he's going to teach him the game and he's going to get good."

29. Deonte Thompson wore a black T-shirt on Saturday that read in big, silver cursive letters: "I got 99 problems but my kicks ain't one."

30. So, my wife would like Deonte. The Organist loves shoes, too.

31. Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon is hurt, according to fellow tackle Marcus Gilbert. He wouldn't name the injury but indicated it was minor.

32. Gilbert played left tackle on Saturday and Kyle Koehne played right tackle.

33. You pronounce Koehne this way: "I went to Sonic, drank a cherry-limeade and ate a chili-cheese Koehne."

34. I found this slightly interesting on Saturday. Janoris Jenkins said Will Hill apparently didn't try his hardest last year but he's a leader this year.

35. Hill had a lot on his mind last season. He became a father and that's always stressful.

36. From a cornerback's perspective, what makes John Brantley a tough quarterback to play against? "He can read the field," said Janoris Jenkins.

37. Jenkins said Brantley is also difficult to defend against because he can look off cornerbacks and then go back to that area.

38. Of course, here's the money quote from Jenkins in describing what John Brantley does best. Jenkins didn't say Brantley throws a nice ball or is accurate. No, Jenkins said Brantley "throws the ball into the hands of the receivers."

39. Hard to defend against that.

40. Brandon Hicks (dehydration) didn't scrimmage on Saturday, according to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

41. When pressed, Austin said to "ask Coach Meyer" when Hicks will be back in action.

42. But Meyer doesn't talk to reporters much anymore. So ...

43. ... it's good to be the king.

44.  Teryl Austin said Moses Jenkins had a great scrimmage on Saturday.

45. Everyone, prepare for the MOSES JENKINS ERA to begin!

-JO-

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