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24 posts from September 2010

September 29, 2010

Forget the defensive line for a second, Gators secondary has something to prove as well

GAINESVILLE -- For good reason, Florida's defensive line is receiving most of the attention this week as the Gators prepare for No.1 Alabama. Alabama's backfield combination of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson might be the best in the Southeastern Conference and on Tuesday UF defensive end Duke Lemmens referred to Richardson and Ingram as the best rushing duo in the history of college football.

While the editorial board of this blog respectfully disagrees with that assessment -- Richardson and Ingram might not even be the best backfield combo in the history of college football in their state, considering Auburn featured Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams and Brandon Jacobs at one point during their college careers -- we will concede that Ingram and Richardson are pretty good. Clearly, one of Florida's keys to beating Alabama on Saturday will be limiting Ingram and Richardson.

That brings us to the point of this blog topic: Limiting Ingram and Richardson will only be half the battle on Saturday for the seventh-ranked Gators. OK, maybe four-sixths of the battle, but who's counting? The point is, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy played arguably the best game of his career in last season's Southeastern Conference championship game against a UF secondary many considered one of the best in the nation. McElroy finished with 239 yards and a touchdown on 12 of 18 passing attempts.

While former cornerback Joe Haden limited Alabama receiver Julio Jones to two receptions for 28 yards, Alabama receiver Marquis Maze played well against Janoris Jenkins. Maze had five receptions for 96 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown catch against Jenkins in one-on-one coverage.

Florida's cornerbacks and safeties will be tested again Saturday. Jenkins will likely shadow Jones, which leaves Jeremy Brown with the task of containing Maze.

"[Maze] is a dangerous guy, real fast in and out of breaks," Brown said. "Definitely a headache for defensive coordinators. He's special."

Alabama receiver Darius Hanks is also a threat, and could pose a potential mismatch against a young cornerback like UF's Cody Riggs. A junior from Norcross, Ga., Hanks is second on the team through four games with 11 receptions and touchdown for 197. What's more, Alabama's tight end, Preston Dial (6-3, 237 pounds) is a gifted athlete. He has eight receptions and two touchdowns for 94 yards this season. Don't forget that former Alabama tight end Colin Peek had three important receptions for 39 yards against Florida in 2009, including a touchdown to give Alabama a 26-13 lead with 9:53 left in the third quarter.

If UF loads the defensive box to stop Alabama's running game, UF's secondary will have to play mistake free (sound tackling will be key) against an experienced quarterback with plenty of options in one-on-one coverage situations. A breakdown in coverage like the one between UF safety Will Hill and Jenkins against Kentucky that led to an easy touchdown could be the difference in a game that will likely be close entering the fourth quarter.

What exactly happened on that blown coverage against Kentucky?

"It was nothing," Hill said. "Everyone has their outtakes on what happened but it was just one person seeing one thing and another person seeing another. It was just a miscommunication."

What has Hill and Jenkins done to work on the miscommunication?

"Just work on the coverage," Hill said.

Hill said that working on his "back-pedals, breaks and my vision, staying key on the quarterback," will be important this week.

-jo-

September 26, 2010

Florida Gators DT Jaye Howard on Alabama's Mark Ingram: 'He's no different than any other running back.'

GAINESVILLE -- Alabama's Mark Ingram might have become the first sophomore running back to win the Heisman Trophy, but UF defensive tackle Jaye Howard said on Saturday that Ingram is "no different than any other running back."

"We got [Jeff] Demps on our team and Mike Gillislee, so we go against good backs," said Howard, who had three tackles in UF's 48-14 victory against Kentucky on Saturday. "We're just going to try to bring it to [Ingram]."

Howard and the Gators' defense will get their chance next Saturday when UF travels to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for a cross-division rivalry game of top 10 teams. No.1 Alabama came from behind to defeat Arkansas on Saturday. Ingram rushed for 113 yards on 28 carries with three touchdowns in Alabama's 32-13 victory against Florida in the 2009 Southeastern Conference championship game. It was an embarrassing performance for the Gators' defense, which allowed a total 251 rushing yards to the Crimson Tide.

"The D-line as a unit, we all let down the Gator Nation as a unit," Howard said. "We're going to go out there and give it our best next Saturday."

Howard is a key component of UF's 5-2 defense, which will likely be used against Alabama's potent rushing attack. The Gators five-linemen package features three defensive tackles but Howard actually lines up as an oversized defensive end. Howard said on Saturday that UF's defense used last season's loss to Alabama as motivation throughout the spring and summer.

"It was a nasty taste last year with the loss and this offseason was dedicated to beating Alabama," Howard said. "We're just going to go out there and let it all hang out.

"To me it's like the biggest game of the year. Whoever wins out of this game is set on a smooth sailing path."

-jo-

BREAKING: Florida Gators leading rusher Jeff Demps, the NCAA's reigning 100-meter champion, has X-ray taken of his left foot

GAINESVILLE -- University of Florida running back Jeff Demps had an X-ray taken of his left foot on Saturday night after the Gators' 48-14 victory against Kentucky, The Miami Herald has learned.

Demps injured his foot in the third quarter on Saturday and did not return. He walked with a pronounced limp after the game. He finished the game with 57 yards on eight carries. Demps is the Gators' leading rusher with 367 yards on 53 carries. A sprinter on UF's track team, Demps is the reigning national champion in the 100- and 60-meter dashes. Demps first injured his left foot last week when a UF offensive lineman stepped on it.

-jo-

September 25, 2010

Edges breakdown: Florida Gators vs. Kentucky Wildcats edition, plus prediction

GAINESVILLE -- Edges breakdown ...

SERIES ...
Florida has won 23 straight against Kentucky dating back to 1987. It's the nation's second longest winning streak in an annual series. The two teams began playing annually in 1967. The last time Kentucky defeated Florida in Gainesville was in 1979. UK won 31-3. Florida has been ranked 21 seasons in a row when facing Kentucky. Ranked UF teams are 27-3 against Kentucky. 
EDGE ... FLORIDA

MOMENTUM ...
The slow-starting Gators haven't scored in a first quarter in three straight games. The last time that happened was 1988 -- Emmitt Smith's sophomore season -- when the Gators went scoreless in first straight first quarters. UF turned things around in the third quarter against Tennessee, scoring 17 points on 163 yards of total offense.

New head coach Joker Phillips has the Wildcats playing with confidence to begin the season. Kentucky trounced rival Louisville and new coach Charlie Strong (UF's former defensive coordinator) in the Cats' season opener. Last week, Kentucky 544 yards of total offense against Akron.
EDGE ... KENTUCKY

WHEN FLORIDA RUNS THE BALL ...
Florida running back Jeff Demps is averaging 103.3 rushing yards per game. Kentucky's defense is ranked 63rd nationally against the run, allowing an average of 148 rushing yards per game. UF sophomore Mike Gillislee is beginning to emerge as the Gators' most consistent short-yardage option. Gillislee enters Saturday's game against Kentucky with three rushing scores in his last two games.
EDGE ... FLORIDA

WHEN FLORIDA PASSES THE BALL ...
UF quarterback John Brantley is averaging 150.7 passing yards per game but he has five touchdown throws this season without allowing an interception. Brantley's top target has been receiver Deonte Thompson, who 54 receiving yards per game. Demps is second on the team with eight receptions. Brantley was excellent on third-down throws against Tennessee and showed signs of his ability. Critical to improving the Gators' passing game is the further development of UF's offensive line, which will be in full health for just the second game this season on Saturday. UF allowed only one sack last week against Tennessee and Brantley had plenty of time to find open receivers.

Kentucky's passing defense is ranked fourth nationally, allowing just 109.67 passing yards per game. What's more, opposing quarterbacks have been awful against Kentucky, posting an average passing efficiency rating of 85.66.
EDGE ... KENTUCKY

WHEN KENTUCKY RUNS THE BALL ...
UK senior running back Derrick Locke is the SEC's leading rusher, averaging 124 yards per game. He has rushed for over 100 yards in every game this season. UF's rushing defense is ranked 24th nationally, allowing just 92.33 rushing yards per game. Last week, UF held Tennessee running back Tauren Poole to 23 yards on 10 carries. UF could have trouble on Saturday against Kentucky hybrid player Randall Cobb. Cobb has rushed for 108 yards on nine attempts this season for an average of 12 yards per carry.

Aiding UF's running game will be the Gators' new 5-2 defense. UF defensive ends Duke Lemmens and Ronald Powell act as hybrid defenders, playing both on the line and in occasionally in pass coverage against tight ends. With DTs Omar Hunter, Jaye Howard and Terron Sanders on the field at the same time, rushing yards are currently hard to find against the Gators.
EDGE ... FLORIDA

WHEN KENTUCKY PASSES THE BALL ...
UK senior quarterback Mike Hartline ranks fourth in the SEC and eighth nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 170.2. Translation: Hartline has been smart with the ball. He's averaging 226.7 passing yards per game (third in the SEC) and has thrown five touchdowns passes without allowing an interception. Six Kentucky receivers enter the game with more than seven receptions, including Cobb who leads UK with 12 receptions and two touchdown catches.

Hartline faces his toughest test of the year on Saturday. Florida leads the nation in passes intercepted with 10. An interesting battle to watch will be UF's defensive line against UK's offensive line in passing situations. UF is ranked 22nd in the nation in sacks with nine in three games. Meanwhile, Kentucky is ranked second in the nation in sacks allowed. UK has only allowed one sack this season.
EDGE ... FLORIDA

SPECIAL TEAMS ...
Florida kickoff return specialist Jeff Demps is ranked sixth in the nation in average kickoff-return yardage (36.83 ypg). The Gators punted three times last week against Tennessee, giving the Vols an average starting position of its own 11-yard line. Kentucky's Randall Cobb returns punts and kickoffs for the Cats. He has returned one punt for a touchdown this season.
EDGE ... FLORIDA

OVERALL AND PREDICTION ...
A lot of people are calling for an upset. That's understandable considering the way Florida has started games. Also, consider that Kentucky ranks second in the SEC in third-down conversions (56.4 percent) and first in the SEC in opponent's third-down conversions (26.8 percent). Still, my gut tells me that Florida is too deep along its offensive and defensive lines to lose to Kentucky at home. Florida leads the SEC in turnover margin (plus-seven) but Kentucky is second (plus-four). Kentucky covers the spread (plus-14).
FINAL ... UF 35, UK 23

-jo-

September 24, 2010

When will Gators quarterback John Brantley begin completing deep passes?

GAINESVILLE -- There are three potential explanations for UF's ultra-conservative offense through the first three games of the season. Let's examine each one.

1. The Florida Gators' coaching staff doesn't have total confidence in their quarterback.

First-year starter John Brantley has completed 62 percent of his passes this season for an average of 150.7 passing yards per game. Sandwiched between Georgia freshman Aaron Murray and Ole Miss gun-for-hire Jeremiah Masoli, Brantley ranks seventh in passing efficiency among Southeastern Conference quarterbacks with a rating of 131.0.

Brantley hasn't had many opportunities to complete deep passes (passes of 30 or more yards) but he has missed every time (0-4). Here are the four deep throws Brantley has attempted this season:

1. 1-10 against Miami (Ohio) on the first offensive possession of the season. Intended for Deonte Thompson. Dropped by Thompson, the Gators' fastest receiver who as somehow blanketed by a Miami (Ohio) cornerback.

2. 3-18 against Miami (Ohio). Deep pass intended for Carl Moore off the mark.

3. 2-9 against USF. Deep pass incomplete for Andre Debose.

4. 1-10 against USF. Deep pass incomplete for Thompson.

Of note: Brantley did not attempt a pass of 30 or more yards against Tennessee.

Brantley has only completed five legitimate throws of 20 or more yards this season. Personally, I don't think Brantley is the problem. After all, the coaches relied on Brantley's arm five times in third-and-long situations against Tennessee and every time Brantley delivered.

Brantley was hyped as a great thrower for three years and now he's not being asked to throw. Something doesn't add up. If UF isn't going to throw downfield, then maybe freshman quarterback Trey Burton should be given more chances behind center to run UF's old spread-option offense. As a true sophomore, Tim Tebow averaged 278.3 passing yards in his first three games and only threw for less than 200 yards in two games in 2007. Brantley hasn't thrown for more than 172 yards this season.

2. The coaches haven't exactly trusted their receivers.

In years past, the Gators have had deep threats like Bubba Caldwell, Louis Murphy and Riley Cooper. I asked UF cornerback Jeremy Brown this week who UF's best deep threats were and he named Deonte Thompson, Quinton Dunbar and Andre Debose. Dunbar hasn't sniffed the field on offense. Debose has only been used downfield for one play in three games.

Thompson, who Brown calls the fastest player on the team, has been used mainly as a possession receiver so far this season. He only has three receptions of 20 or more yards. Carl Moore appears to have excellent hands but he isn't much of a deep threat. Omarius Hines has one reception for more than 20 yards. Jordan Reed, the redshirt freshman tight end, has one reception for 22 yards.

If I had to guess, I'd say that Frankie Hammond Jr. will get his chance against Kentucky to emerge as the Gators' downfield threat. This brings me to the third potential explanation why UF's passing game is stuck in a low gear.

3. The assistant coaches calling the shots are gun shy/Florida's coaches have failed to establish an offensive identity

In my opinion, this is the reason. New assistant coach Zach Azzanni is the Gators' passing-game coordinator. At the beginning of the season, UF coach Urban Meyer made a comment indicating that Azzanni might be a little nervous in his new position. Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio are always going to play cautiously, considering UF has a defense that has proven it can keep UF in any game no matter how poorly the offense is playing.

So far, UF hasn't needed a downfield passing game to win. That might change against Kentucky and Alabama. It also might help Brantley if the Gators' focused on a base offense and stuck with it until the offense gains more confidence. Brantley was under center and in the shotgun the same number of times (15) in the first half against Tennessee. With so many different looks for the offense to master, it seems like basic offensive disciplines like snapping the ball and run blocking have suffered.

-jo-

September 22, 2010

Gators should watch this video before making trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala.

GAINESVILLE -- In preparation for the Gators' trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., in less than two weeks, I present an example of the average Alabama fan. Yeah, they care THAT much. Total brainwashing from birth is normal, encouraged and celebrated.

-jo-

Poll: When will Gators receiver Chris Rainey return?

GAINESVILLE -- Mike Pouncey said on Wednesday that his friend Chris Rainey "just can't wait to get back" with the team. Rainey was busted for felony stalking last week.

Pouncey said he doesn't know when Rainey will begin practicing and a spokesman for UF made it clear on Wednesday that Pouncey was not speaking for the university when he said Rainey "will be back. We just didn't know when."

When will Rainey most likely rejoin the team? Maybe sooner than you think. Before you cast your vote in our official poll, don't forget to unlock your brain's vast bank of Gators football history when factoring a decision. Remember, former UF safety Tony Joiner was busted for a felony back in 2007 the week of UF's ultra-important game at Louisiana State. Joiner, a starter, seemingly had his case rushed through the courts and played in the game. Of course, in that case, some could say Joiner was acting chivalrously when he broke his girlfriend's car out of a tow-truck impound in the middle of the night. Tebow was Joiner's roommate that year. I asked Tebow if he knew anything about it when it happened. "No idea," he said. "I was asleep."

-jo-

Mike Pouncey expects Chris Rainey to return

GAINESVILLE -- Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey said on Wednesday that he expects Chris Rainey to return to the team.

"He's doing good," Pouncey said. "He made a mistake. I talked to him yesterday. He's doing good. He just can't wait to get back."

Rainey was arrested for felony stalking last week and has not participated in team activities since the incident. Pouncey and Rainey are close friends. Rainey lived with Pouncey when the two played high school football for the Lakeland Dreadnaughts. While Pouncey seemed confident of Rainey's return, the offensive lineman also said he doesn't know when Rainey will be allowed to rejoin the team.

A spokesman for the University of Florida later advised reporters that Pouncey did not speak on behalf of Florida coach Urban Meyer.

-jo-

September 20, 2010

Florida Gators' five-linemen defense could be the trick to beating Alabama Crimson Tide

GAINESVILLE -- Florida plays Alabama in 12 days. The final countdown begins right now.

I realize that the Gators play Kentucky on Saturday. I'm going to ignore that game for the most part this week and focus on what really matters for the Gators. And what really matters for the Gators hasn't really changed since Dec. 5, 2009. That's when running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson took control of the Southeastern Conference and thumped Florida 32-13 in the SEC championship game. Like I was saying, Florida plays Alabama in 12 days.

I realize it's the players' jobs to play "one game at a time." I asked UF running back Jeff Demps on Saturday after Florida 31, Tennessee 17 if the Gators could defeat Alabama right now. "No comment," he said. Well, I'm not a player, so I don't really care about nonsense like that. All bets are off when the opponent between now and Alabama is Kentucky. Florida is 23-0 against Kentucky since 1986!

Did anyone notice a change in the Gators' defense last Saturday? UF used a five-linemen formation on defense throughout the game. The new look stuffed Tennessee's talented running backs. That same formation likely will be used in attempt to contain Kentucky running back Derrick Locke on Saturday. Or, put another way, Saturday's game against Kentucky will be the new formation's second dress rehearsal before No.9 Florida plays No.1 Alabama at 8 p.m. on Oct.2

Featured in the new defensive package on Saturday were defensive ends Duke Lemmens and Justin Trattou and defensive tackles Jaye Howard, Terron Sanders and Omar Hunter. The five-man front plays to UF's defensive strength, which is depth at defensive tackle. Obviously, that's where Alabama will be running the ball.

Check tomorrow's paper for a more in-depth story on this subject with stats and perspectives from UF coaches and players. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves: Can UF's new defensive line contain Alabama's backfield combination of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson?

-jo-

September 18, 2010

Gators pull away late in the fourth quarter in Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Final
UF 31, UT 17
Great two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Trey Burton from the Wildcat formation. The drive was highlighted by an excellent throw on third down from Brantley to Carl Moore and a 16-yard rush by Demps.

UF 24, UT 17
Blown coverage by safety Will Hill led to UT touchdown, a 35-yard reception by Justin Hunter.

UF 24, UT 10
RB Mike Gillislee scored his second touchdown of the game on a five-yard run with 12 seconds left in the third quarter. The five-play drive was set up by an interception by UF cornerback Jeremy Brown.

JEREMY BROWN'S INTERCEPTION
Tennessee was driving when Brown jumped the route of Vols receiver Denarius Moore and intercepted UT quarterback Matt Sims at the UT 40. It was Brown's second interception of the season and the d

UF 17, UT 10
Brantley found Frankie Hammond Jr. in the back of the end zone for a seven-yard TD pass with 4:31 left in the third quarter. It was Hammond's second touchdown of his career.

HINES' FAKE PUNT
Urban Meyer called for a fake punt facing fourth and 6 from the UF 39. The ball was snapped directly to Omarius Hines, who rushed for 36 yards. He broke two tackles on the play. Meyer is 8 for 8 on fake punts at UF. It was UF's first fake punt since Oct. 2008 against Arkansas.

HALFTIME BELOW
Florida had 94 yards of total offense in the first half and Tennessee had 69. Not exactly an exciting first half. UF running back Jeff Demps had 17 yards on 11 carries. Brantley threw for 75 yards, completing 6 of 10 passes. UT quarterback Matt Sims was 6 of 11 with one interception for 53 yards.

FOURTH OFFENSIVE POSSESSION
The drive stalled at the UF 42 when Demps was dropped for a three-yard loss on second down and Brantley had a pass batted down at the line by UT defensive end Malik Jackson on third down. Omarius Hines was wide open over the middle on the play. The drive's highlight was a 22-yard gain by redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed.

BOSTIC'S INTERCEPTION
UF linebacker Jon Bostic drifted into coverage on third and goal from UF 3 to intercept Vols QB Matt Sims. The play bailed out Janoris Jenkins, who fumbled a punt at the UF 40.

GATORS 7, VOLS 3, THIRD OFFENSIVE POSSESSION
Welcome to the game Robert Clark. Chris Rainey's replacement, a freshman receiver, made the play of the game so far for the Gators when he caught a pass over the middle and held onto the ball for a first and goal. Clark lost his mouthpiece was hit so hard but didn't lose the ball. Mike Gillislee rushed for a two-yard score two plays later. UF 7, UT 3.

VOLS 3, GATORS 0
Instead of using its all-everything punter Chas Henry to pin the Vols deep, Florida goes for it on fourth down at the UT 42 and fails to convert. Tennessee drives short distance to UF 32 and kicks 49-yard field goal (Daniel Lincoln) to take 3-0 lead.

SECOND OFFENSIVE POSSESSION
Florida running backs Emmanuel Moody and Mike Gillislee can't gain one yard on third and fourth-down plays from UT42 on UF's second offensive possession of the game.

FIRST OFFENSIVE POSSESSION
The Gators' first offensive possession of the game was dreadful. UF fumbled twice, including a poor snap by center Mike Pouncey that led to minus-15 yards on third. A penalty for illegal formation and the errant snap took UF out of field-goal range.

PREGAME BELOW
"Losers needed ... Got any volunteers?" read the best pro-Gators shirt I saw today while walking through the crowded campus of the University of Tennessee.

Located on the Tennessee River, the pregame atmosphere around Neyland Stadium is one of best the Southeastern Conference. The Vols Navy -- a large flotilla of party boats docked near the stadium -- is one of the best traditions in the south. The stadium itself is enormous and feels like being inside the Roman Coliseum.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel has a great stat in its pre-game advance story: Former UF quarterback Tim Tebow was 13-13 in coverting first downs against the Vols on runs of at least four yards on third and fourth downs. The Gators' offensive consistency has helped UF coach Urban Meyer win five straight against the Vols, including two in a row at Tennessee. One of today's major story lines: Can first-year Florida quarterback continue that consistency?

PREGAME NOTES

-Will Hill is warming up with the first-team defense.

-Lawrence Marsh is on the sidelines in shorts with his arm wrapped. Marsh supposedly cut his arm in practice on Thursday, requiring about 20 stitches.

-Starting offensive line: LT-Xavier Nixon, LG-Carl Johnson, C-Mike Pouncey, RG-Mo Hut, LT-Marcus Gilbert.

-Starting linebackers: WLB-Jelani Jenkins; MLB-Jon Bostic; SLB-A.J. Jones

-WR Robert Clark announced as starter in place of Chris Rainey.

-jo-UT 10, UF 10
Tennessee tied the game at 10 with a touchdown from Matt Sims to Denarius Moore. Moore's wheel route went for 49 yards. Gators cornerback Jeremy Brown was the defender on the play.

UF 7, UT 3
Kicker Caleb Sturgis started the second half with a 44-yard field goal after a 10-play drive. The drive was highlighted by an 18-yard run by Demps, a 12-yard run by Brantley, a great seven-yard run by Demps to convert on third and 3 from the UT 36. The bad: On third and 10 from the UT 29, Brantley had a pass dropped by freshman Trey Burton. Frankie Hammond Jr.

HALFTIME SUMMARY
Florida had 94 yards of total offense in the first half and Tennessee had 69. Not exactly an exciting first half. UF running back Jeff Demps had 17 yards on 11 carries. Brantley threw for 75 yards, completing 6 of 10 passes. UT quarterback Matt Sims was 6 of 11 with one interception for 53 yards.

-Three Gators saw first action of season on opening kickoff: Dee Finley, Frankie Hammond Jr. and Will Hill

-Demps had a 43-yard kick-off return in the first half, giving him three returns on the season for 40 or more yards.

-RB Mike Gillislee scored the second TD of the season

-Jon Bostic's interception was UF's ninth interception of the season.

FOURTH OFFENSIVE POSSESSION
The drive stalled at the UF 42 when Demps was dropped for a three-yard loss on second down and Brantley had a pass batted down at the line by UT defensive end Malik Jackson on third down. Omarius Hines was wide open over the middle on the play. The drive's highlight was a 22-yard gain by redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed.

BOSTIC'S INTERCEPTION
UF linebacker Jon Bostic drifted into coverage on third and goal from UF 3 to intercept Vols QB Matt Sims. The play bailed out Janoris Jenkins, who fumbled a punt at the UF 40.

GATORS 7, VOLS 3, THIRD OFFENSIVE POSSESSION
Welcome to the game Robert Clark. Chris Rainey's replacement, a freshman receiver, made the play of the game so far for the Gators when he caught a pass over the middle and held onto the ball for a first and goal. Clark lost his mouthpiece was hit so hard but didn't lose the ball. Mike Gillislee rushed for a two-yard score two plays later. UF 7, UT 3.

VOLS 3, GATORS 0
Instead of using its all-everything punter Chas Henry to pin the Vols deep, Florida goes for it on fourth down at the UT 42 and fails to convert. Tennessee drives short distance to UF 32 and kicks 49-yard field goal (Daniel Lincoln) to take 3-0 lead.

SECOND OFFENSIVE POSSESSION
Florida running backs Emmanuel Moody and Mike Gillislee can't gain one yard on third and fourth-down plays from UT42 on UF's second offensive possession of the game.

FIRST OFFENSIVE POSSESSION
The Gators' first offensive possession of the game was dreadful. UF fumbled twice, including a poor snap by center Mike Pouncey that led to minus-15 yards on third. A penalty for illegal formation and the errant snap took UF out of field-goal range.

PREGAME BELOW
"Losers needed ... Got any volunteers?" read the best pro-Gators shirt I saw today while walking through the crowded campus of the University of Tennessee.

Located on the Tennessee River, the pregame atmosphere around Neyland Stadium is one of best the Southeastern Conference. The Vols Navy -- a large flotilla of party boats docked near the stadium -- is one of the best traditions in the south. The stadium itself is enormous and feels like being inside the Roman Coliseum.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel has a great stat in its pre-game advance story: Former UF quarterback Tim Tebow was 13-13 in coverting first downs against the Vols on runs of at least four yards on third and fourth downs. The Gators' offensive consistency has helped UF coach Urban Meyer win five straight against the Vols, including two in a row at Tennessee. One of today's major story lines: Can first-year Florida quarterback continue that consistency?

PREGAME NOTES

-Will Hill is warming up with the first-team defense.

-Lawrence Marsh is on the sidelines in shorts with his arm wrapped. Marsh supposedly cut his arm in practice on Thursday, requiring about 20 stitches.

-Starting offensive line: LT-Xavier Nixon, LG-Carl Johnson, C-Mike Pouncey, RG-Mo Hut, LT-Marcus Gilbert.

-Starting linebackers: WLB-Jelani Jenkins; MLB-Jon Bostic; SLB-A.J. Jones

-WR Robert Clark announced as starter in place of Chris Rainey.

-jo-

September 16, 2010

Is Steve Newlin from 'True Blood' a clone of Tennessee Vols coach Derek Dooley?

GAINESVILLE -- Really, do I even need to ask? Wow, what a pair of Deep South heartthrobs.

Is Steve Newlin from True Blood a clone of Tennessee coach Derek Dooley? Just look at the pictures! You guys think I'm making a joke? OK, I am making a joke, but consider this before you totally laugh off this blog post. True Blood is a popular HBO series set in Louisiana. When the character of Steve Newlin was conceived for the show, Derek Dooley was still a coach at Louisiana Tech. Blam!

Stevefront













PICTURED: Steve Newlin, Southern Baptist preacher and vampire killer. 


DerekDooleycropped PICTURED: Not Lane Kiffin.

-jo-

September 15, 2010

Chris Rainey has put Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer in a difficult position

GAINESVILLE -- How does this happen ... again? Felony stalking? How does a starter get arrested for something this embarrassing for the second straight big game in a row? (Sorry, Cincinnati fans, but I'm not counting that consolation Sugar Bowl as a big game.)

Carlos Dunlap was arrested for DUI in the early morning hours on the Tuesday before the Gators' 2009 SEC championship game against Alabama. Chris Rainey was arrested in the early morning hours on a Tuesday before the Gators' 2010 SEC opener against Tennessee. This astonishes me. (And, if you're not astonished by this, then something is really wrong with you.) Rainey has put Florida coach Urban Meyer in a difficult situation. There is a growing perception nationally that he doesn't have control of his players.

Rainey was issued a mandatory curfew by an Alachua County judge on Tuesday. Not a bad idea. Meyer said that "accountability and development" were the themes for the Gators' fall camp. I just assumed that mantra was going to carry over into the season. Am I being too critical here? Perhaps. After all, Rainey's individual actions away from football certainly should not be a reflection of his teammates. But that's my point. They will be. Right or wrong, this is an example of the national perception facing Florida football right now and, by extension, the entire University of Florida. Since Dunlap's arrest, four more Gators have been charged with misdemeanors and one with a felony. And I'm not even going to bring Brandon Spikes into this discussion.

Rainey's arrest during Tennessee week is a terrible situation for Meyer. Meyer did not speak publicly about Rainey's arrest on Tuesday -- although Rainey's attorney, Huntley Johnson, certainly did enough talking for everyone -- but I know Meyer is absolutely crushed about this. Rainey might be Meyer's favorite player on the team.

Will that save Rainey or will Meyer be forced to dismiss him permanently because of public perception? One of Meyer's "core values" for his team is respect for women. The other core values are no guns, no stealing, no drugs and honesty. In the past, players have been kicked off the team for arrests involving women (Gary Brown, Jacques Rickerson, Ronnie Wilson and Avery Atkins).

If the person who called the police on Rainey on Tuesday morning was a UF student, I feel certain that Rainey would be kicked off the team permanently. The person was not a student and told a judge on Tuesday morning that she did not want Rainey to be arrested. Of course, none of this really matters. The damage has already been done.

-jo-

September 14, 2010

Chris Rainey kicked off Florida Gators team following felony stalking charge

RaineyTV

PICTURED: University of Florida football player Chris Rainey appeared in Alachua County court on Tuesday via closed circuit TV from the Alachua County jail. Rainey was arrested for felony stalking early Tuesday morning and later released on his own recognizance by an Alachua County judge.

GAINESVILLE -- Slot receiver Chris Rainey has been kicked off the University of Florida football team, according to offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. Rainey was arrested early Tuesday morning and charged with a third-degree felony for aggravated stalking after he sent a woman a text message that read, "Time to Die B---- u and ur???".

Rainey "Chris Rainey is not a part of our team right now," Addazio said on Tuesday. "And that's all I really have to say on that."

Gainesville police booked the redshirt junior slot receiver at 3:27 a.m. on Tuesday. Rainey appeared in court later Tuesday morning and was released on his own recognizance by an Alachua County judge. 

Rainey suffered a concussion in last Saturday's 38-14 victory against the University of South Florida. He sat out half of the game but Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that he expected Rainey to be available for this Saturday's game against the Tennessee Volunteers. Rainey's back-up is true freshman slot receiver Robert Clark of West Palm Beach Dwyer.

-jo-

September 13, 2010

Listing initiatives by Gators coach Urban Meyer to maintain his health during football season

GAINESVILLE -- One of the most important stories facing the Florida Gators this season is the health of UF coach Urban Meyer.

Meyer's quality of life improved dramatically over the offseason because he was forced to address a few things about his health. But the offseason is nothing compared to the football season. In the past, that's the time of year when Meyer normally drops weight because he's not eating. By the end of the 2009 season, Meyer had lost a considerable amount of weight, which likely contributed to his health scare.

MeyerPICTURED: Urban Meyer is looking good this season and he wants to keep it that way.

In today's Miami Herald, I wrote a story about Meyer's health during the football season. Why write about this right now? Well, like I said, this is the time of year when Meyer must maintain his health and two weeks into the season is the perfect time to reflect on Meyer's health initiatives. After all, anyone can get healthy in the offseason. Maintaining Meyer's health during this football season is crucial to the long-term success of the Florida Gators. Here's a link to that story. LINK!

Meyer has made simple but effective changes to his daily and weekly routine during the football season to improve his quality of life:

1. Taking his medication. Meyer likely wouldn't be coaching right now if his esophageal spasms were not diagnosed in January.

2. Actually eating. It sounds simple, but Meyer is taking the time to take a break and actually eat lunch every day during the football season.

3. Rest. Meyer has scheduled more time in his day to rest. No more breaking down film into the early hours of the morning.

4. Exercise. Meyer exercises from noon to 1 p.m. every day.

5. Streamlined media schedule. Meyer used to meet with reporters every day during the season (except Friday, of course, but he would still do radio on Friday). This season, Meyer stays away from the media on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Meyer's news conferences for Mondays and Saturdays' post-game are required. Meyer answers a handful of questions for a few minutes on the SEC coaches' teleconference on Wednesdays (again, required). He meets with the UF beat writers for about five minutes on Thursdays (not required). It should be noted that he still does his Sunday TV show with Mick Hubert, but that's pretty low key and, once again, required by contract.

-jo-

September 12, 2010

For the first time in a long time, public perception not favoring the Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE -- One day after an up-and-down performance aided by turnovers, the Gators fell two spots in The Associated Press Top 25 and one place in the Coaches' Poll on Sunday.

Florida (2-0) is now ranked No.10 by the writers and No.7 by the coaches. The Gators begin competition in the Southeastern Conference on Saturday with a road game against the University of Tennessee at General Neyland Stadium. The Volunteers lost to the Oregon Ducks of the University of Nike 48-13 on Saturday.

In the writers' poll, Florida was jumped by No.7 Oklahoma and No.9 Iowa. In the coaches' poll -- the poll that factors into the BCS formula -- No.6 Oregon moved ahead of both Florida and Nebraska. 

This is the second straight week Florida has fallen in the polls despite winning. Florida began the season ranked No.4 by the writers and No.3 by the coaches.

Florida is currently suffering from something I like to call post-Tebow skepticism. After two weeks of being propped up by its defense against inferior competition, there is a growing sentiment around the country that UF is overrated.

Are the Gators overrated or is No.10 in the writers' poll and No.7 in the coaches' poll about right? I've got a feeling UF will be a second-half-of-the-season team this year. One thing is clear today: Upon further review, that season-ending rivalry game against Florida State seems a lot more winnable.

-jo-

Handing out a game ball for the Florida Gators' TOP NINJA ASSASSIN plus my weekly video

So, we'll be doing this every Sunday during the season ...

GAINESVILLE -- OK, here's a link to my game story of Florida 38, South Florida 14. Here's a link to game notes by Mike-Mike McCall. LINK! Now, time for some game balls ...

-The overall game ball for leadership, accountability and general excellence both on and off the field and on his Twitter account goes UF strong safety AHMAD BLACK. Black led the Gators in tackles (eight) for the second week in a row and had two interceptions in the first half. Black now has three interceptions on the season and 11 interceptions for his career.

-The game ball for cheerleading on the sidelines and looking like he was born to do it goes to UF coach URBAN MEYER, who at one point before a kickoff in the third quarter on Saturday added some life to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with an uncharacteristic show of emotion. Meyer lifted his arms into the air several times to excite his players and get the crowd going. We like this version of Meyer and think it's a good idea that he sticks around when SEC play begins. Gator Clause also enjoyed a ribbing from Meyer during the post-game news conference when we asked about his new role as sideline cheerleader...

"I just like the crowd into it," Meyer said. "It was hot and everybody was -- I just started getting fired up. Appreciate you watching me, though. That's kind of weird, to be honest with you."

-The game ball for best defensive play goes to defensive end JUSTIN TRATTOU who showed excellent field awareness when he picked off USF quarterback B.J. Daniels and returned the interception 35 for a touchdown. It was Trattou's first touchdown as a Gator. For the record, Trattou is averaging 44 yards on interception returns over the past two seasons. Not bad for a 6-3, 252-pound dude from northeast New Jersey.

-The game ball for best CHRIS RAINEY fill-in goes to UF cornerback JANORIS JENKINS, who took Rainey's place in the second half as UF's punt-return specialist and returned a punt 30 yards to give UF a short field and set up an easy touchdown drive. A close second in this category was freshman slot receiver ROBERT CLARK, who had one reception for 15 yards in the second half after Rainey left the game with what Meyer described as a "ding." I'm assuming that means slight concussion.

-The game ball for best-dressed coach during post-game interview sessions goes to UF defensive coordinator TERYL AUSTIN, who addressed the media in a suit and tie. Austin's defense has had eight interceptions in two games. Not bad.

Ninja-gayden -The game ball for TOP NINJA for his cunning and ruthless approach to defense goes to JANORIS JENKINS, who had an interception and a sack and coined this phrase after the game:

"We just come out to play fast," Jenkins said. "We think every time the ball is in the air, it's ours. We going at it like ninjas. We call ourselves the assassins."

After Saturday's game, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who also coaches cornerbacks, said Jenkins might be the best cornerback in the country. That's great, I was thinking, but can he stop this guy? LINK!

-The game ball for best tackle by a freshman goes to cornerback JAYLEN WATKINS, who jarred a ball loose from a USF receiver in the second half.

LASTLY, here's the video version of my weekly post-game report. Thanks to all my well-wishers and critics for advice on how to improve the video last week. I took the suggestions to heart and then ignored them all ...

September 11, 2010

Gators 38, USF 14: Defense triggers second half surge for No.8 Gators

GAINESVILLE -- Thoughts on the game, anyone?

It took longer than expected but the No.8 Gators finally began looking like a team loaded with talent on Saturday in their 38-14 victory against the University of South Florida. The Gators are now 10-0 against instate teams since 2005 (Urban Meyer Era), and, for the record, UF is the last team in Florida from a major conference to still boast a perfect record this season. 

A few observations from Saturday's game ...

-Pretty funny how the crowd applauded the first snap from Mike Pouncey to John Brantley.

-Demps is fast. He had 255 total yards of offense including a career high 139 yards rushing on just 11 carries. His 62-yard touchdown run was his second score of more than 60 yards in back-to-back games.

-Ahmad Black and Janoris Jenkins should both be on the Jim Thorpe watchlist after the first two weeks of the season. Black had two picks on Saturday to give him three on the year. Jenkins had his second interception of the season on Saturday.

-USF quarterback B.J. Daniels completed just 5 of 20 passing attempts for 84 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

-Justin Trattou showed excellent awareness on his interception return for a touchdown. Love how he sprinted all the way into the end zone, too.

-Duke Lemmens, who had a fumble recovery on Saturday, gave me a great quote that didn't make the paper: "We've got a lot of speed out there and most importantly we go hard. That was one of the best athletes (Daniels) I think in the country who was playing quarterback for him and he'll wear you out but we kept coming after him the whole time and I think eventually it led to him making some bad throws."

-Wonder what Will Hill did to be suspended for the Gators' first two games?

-Deonte Thompson had a career day with six receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown.

-Chris Rainey left the game with a concussion and Janoris Jenkins took over returning punts. Jenkins had a 30-yard punt return on his only attempt. Maybe Urban Meyer should consider leaving Jenkins out there to return punts.

-Jordan Reed really surprised me with his touchown reception to end the game. Well, Reed didn't really surprise me but it surprised me that UF called his number. Great call by Steve Addazio.

-Freshmen cornerbacks Cody Riggs, Josh Shaw and Jaylen Watkins all played when Jeremy Brown left the game with what Urban Meyer called a "full-body cramp." Riggs dove to break up a pass and Watkins made an excellent tackle to cause and incompletion.

-Kind of surprising Andre Debose couldn't get open. He played on Saturday but didn't catch a pass.

-Robert Clark is a fierce competitor on the football field. This guy might be UF's next Ahmad Black ... only on the other side of the ball, of course.

THIRD QUARTER LIVE BLOG BELOW
Led by a relentless defense, the Florida Gators scored 21 points in the third quarter and led USF 31-14 with 12:20 left in the game.

-Gators DE Justin Trattou had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown to give UF a 28-7 lead.

-Gators RBs Jeff Demps and Mike Gillislee scored back-to-back rushing TDs to give UF a 21-7.

HALFTIME BELOW
Gators senior strong safety Ahmad Black (WHO THE MIAMI HERALD SMARTLY FEATURED THIS WEEK) saved face for the Gators with two interceptions against the South Florida Bulls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday.

Black's first interception with 60 seconds left in the second quarter set up UF's only scoring drive of the first half. Black made the play at the USF 31 and returned to two yards. Gators quarterback John Brantley completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to fifth-year senior Carl Moore to tie the game at 7-all with 44 seconds left in the half. 

Black made his second interception on a desperation heave by USF quarterback B.J. Daniels to end the first half. Black now has 11 interceptions for his career and three this season.

2:14 LEFT IN HALF

Amazingly, Florida is still scoreless with 2:14 left in the second quarter. The Gators' only semi-successful offensive possession of the first half has ended with a failed field goal attempt from Caleb Sturgis with 2:14 left in the first half.

-Gators second offensive series stalled when receiver Deonte Thompson dropped a wide-open pass. Gators offense seemed to find a little offense before the drop.

USF 7, GATORS 0
Just off the Quran burning beat to witness something I thought I would never see while covering the Florida Gators.

On its first offensive possession of the game, USF drove 96 yards on 17 plays (time of possession 9:58) for a touchdown drive. USF 7, Gators 0 with 3:53 left in the first quarter. And I'm like, "Dang," sitting in this hot press box. A rivalry is born.

-Gators safety Will Hill is not playing for the second straight week.

-Gators first offensive possession with a three-and-punt featuring a fumbled snap by QB John Brantley. Wow.

-jo-

September 08, 2010

Team Tebow marketing arm, XV Enterprises, a long time in the making

GAINESVILLE -- You might have heard that Team Tebow launched XV Enterprises today. It's a marketing firm run by Tim Tebow's older brother, Robby, and a family friend, Angel Gonzalez. I love the home-school mentality of these up-start entrepreneurs.

Here's a recent quote from Robby Tebow explaining the inspiration for XV Enterprises...

"We interviewed the top 15 marketing agencies in the world and went through their dog and pony show," Robby Tebow said. "They were big and smooth and wore three-piece suits and some of them are very good at what they do. But one thing we realized is that they were talking about the things for Timmy that we were already thinking about. And when it came to negotiating we could do the job as good as they could and we weren't necessarily worrying about that 20 percent cut."

Not so fast, Robby Tebow, and your homespun, blue-collar marketing ploy. Something tells me you're not being entirely truthful ...

XV_enterprises_logo_200 Here's a link to XV Enterprises' website. LINK! XV Enterprises' slick corporate logo might seem familiar to a few Gators' fans. Remember Tebow's teary-eyed outburst after UF's loss to Ole Miss in 2008? Well, check out the logo on the shirt Tebow was wearing. Look familiar? Watch the video on www.timtebow.com and you'll see Robby Tebow and several other people wearing shirts with the same logo.

A few years ago, I asked Tebow during a press conference where he got his "XV" shirts. Tebow told me that a friend made them for him. The company that made those shirts is based in Jacksonville.

I don't find it interesting that Team Tebow was thinking about corporate branding while Tebow was in college. I do, however, find it interesting that Team Tebow didn't demand a 20 percent cut from UF.

Promiseinspires





PHOTO: Tim Tebow delivers his "promise speech" with future corporate logo of XV Enterprises on his chest. Very slick, Team Tebow. Well played. 

-jo-

Heightened police presence around Ben Hill Griffin Stadium coincides with scheduled Quran burning and 9/11 anniversary

GAINESVILLE -- About 40 police vehicles, both marked and unmarked, were positioned in the north parking lot of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on the campus of the University of Florida on Wednesday.

The University of Florida's football team plays host to the University of South Florida at 12:21 p.m. on Saturday. Saturday is the anniversary of 9/11 and also the same day the pastor of a small church in Alachua County has said he will burn Qurans as a demonstration of First Amendment rights. The story became international news this week. Steve McClain, a spokesman for UF's athletic department, said the University of Florida's campus police department is working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to prepare for Saturday's football game.

McClain said on Wednesday around 3 p.m. that "the most recent intelligence that we hear from, the UPD says there's no specific threats against the University of Florida or the Athletic Association, but UPD has heightened its awareness and security." The large number of police vehicles outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Wednesday likely indicated a meeting of law enforcement officers in preparation for Saturday's game, according to McClain.

The UAA is asking fans on Saturday "to pay more attention to the surroundings and report suspicious activities to police or to us," according to McClain. He also said the UAA is asking for people attending the game to arrive earlier than usual, likely due to more stringent security checks upon entering the stadium.

-jo-

September 07, 2010

Who'd a thunk it? Maybe the Gators need Cam Newton after all

GAINESVILLE -- First, the news...

1. Talked to Marcus Gilbert today. He told me he was staying put at left tackle for now and that Maurice Hurt might remain at right tackle at least until Tennessee.

2. That means Xavier Nixon remains questionable for South Florida. Nixon, the projected starter at left tackle during the preseason, is still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.

3. Carl Johnson is back and Gilbert says Johnson makes all the difference in the offensive line.

4. Mike Pouncey says his snapping problem is corrected. Says he's grabbing the ball at its nose "and just throwing it back there."

OK, now some food for thought ...

Everyone remembers Cam Newton, right? Former UF quarterback. Back-up to Tebow in 2007. Allegedly stole a laptop computer or at least bought a stolen laptop computer and tossed it out of his dorm window when UPD investigated his dorm for the theft. Everyone remembers him, right?

Well, no one seemed to mind when Newton packed his bags and left Gainesville a couple years ago. No one really thought the Gators needed him AND Brantley. In fact, at the time, many thought Newton leaving was good for Florida football because it could make room for a more talented quarterback. That attitude was obviously a mistake in judgment. The Gators could use Newton right now and that fact is not up for debate. If anything, he could be playing tight end right now, but he also might have been a pretty good quarterback at Florida because ...

Newton was named the SEC's first offensive player of the week after Auburn's 52-26 victory against Arkansas State. Now, I bet I could have made a lot of money on this blog if I bet people Newton and not Brantley would be the best quarterback in the SEC after Week One of the 2010 season. Here' s what Newton did to earn the honor, as written on the SEC's website ...

"In his Auburn debut, Newton rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns while completing 9 of 14 passes for 186 yards and three scores in Auburn's 52-26 win against Arkansas State.

"Newton accounted for 357 total offensive yards and five touchdowns, both highs in the SEC in Week One.

"His 171 yards rushing were a school single-game rushing record by a quarterback, breaking the previous mark of 160 held by Phil Gargis in 1974.

"The rushing total was the most in a debut by an Auburn player since Rudi Johnson's 174 rushing yards against Wyoming in 2000."

So, in other words, Cam Newton went Tim Tebow.

Everyone remembers what the knock on Newton was, right? All the talent in the world but didn't have any poise. Could never relax and play under pressure and blah, blah, blah. Obviously its way too early to begin a debate questioning whether the wrong quarterback stuck around in Gainesville. I'm sure Brantley will be fine and UF's spread-option offense will figure out how to thrive with a pure pocket passer under center, but it certainly would have helped to have Newton around just in case.

-jo-


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