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55 posts from August 2013

August 23, 2013

Friday Fodder: A schedule inquiry

The Gator Nation collectively shrieked in horror when Florida’s 2014 schedule was released Wednesday.

Kramer-gif
(weknowgifs.com)

While Georgia and South Carolina again avoided The Legion of Saban Alabama, Florida drew the short straw for the third time in five years.

But that’s next season.

The 2013 slate hasn't even started yet. So instead of pondering any SEC office conspiracy theories or the eternal hollow droning of fairness, a more pertinent question is which 2013 schedule -- between rivals UGA and UF -- is more preferable in the final year of the BCS system?

Both schedules are extremely difficult but different. In a vacuum, Florida’s schedule is a tad harder, but then again, is it?

Florida and Georgia play four of the top 12 teams in the country. The Bulldogs host LSU and USC, while UF must travel to Death Valley and Williams-Brice Stadium.  Both teams play a pair of ACC foes.

The two schedules are listed below. The pertinent question is timing vs. location. Georgia opens against a top 10 team and plays three of its four hardest games in the first month -- but two are at home.

Meanwhile, Florida has a relatively mild opening eight weeks -- the Miami game the lone exception -- before its schedule gets brutal over the final two months of the season -- the FSU game stands as the only marquee contest in The Swamp. 

DATE

FLORIDA

GEORGIA

Aug. 31

Toledo

@ No. 8 Clemson

Sept. 7

@ Miami

No. 6 South Carolina

Sept. 14

BYE

BYE

Sept. 21

Tennessee

North Texas

Sept. 28

@ Kentucky

No. 12 LSU

Oct. 5

Arkansas

Tennessee

Oct. 12

@ No. 12 LSU

Missouri

Oct. 19

@ Missouri

@ Vanderbilt

Oct. 26

BYE

BYE

Nov. 2

No. 5 Georgia (Jax)

No. 10 Florida (Jax)

Nov. 9

Vanderbilt

Appalachian State

Nov. 16

@ No. 6 South Carolina

@ Auburn

Nov. 23

Georgia Southern

Kentucky

Nov. 30

No. 11 Florida State

@ Georgia Tech

So whatcha' say?

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 22, 2013

So about that offense...

No. 10 Florida landed exactly one offensive player on the Coaches' 2013 preseason All-SEC squad, released by the league Thursday. 

Kudos to left guard Jon Halapio -- out all of training camp with a torn pectoral -- for standing alone. 

Halapio, a senior, was named a second-team offensive lineman.

The Gators did place four others across the three defensive teams, including defensive tackle Dominique Easley and cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy to the first-team. Cornerback Marcus Roberson (second-team) and LB/DE Ronald Powell (third-team) earned honors too. 

Gators punter Kyle Christy was named a first-team specialist. 

Sophomore pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. was nowhere to be found. I'm not sure why not either. 

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August 21, 2013

Boom goes the dynamite

Last Thursday, the Internet (mainly Twitter) went B-A-N-A-N-A-S over this…

Bostic

Jon Bostic’s smashing highlight was ESPN SportsCenter’s top play, but on Wednesday the NFL fined the former Florida star and current Chicago Bears linebacker $21,000 for the hit on San Diego Chargers wideout Mike Willie.

SEE: Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7

Screen shot 2013-08-21 at 10.57.11 PM

Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin -- Bostic’s position coach last season -- said the crushing shot went viral in Florida’s locker room too.

“The clip of that hit? It was pretty popular. Coaches, players alike -- everyone looked at it,” Durkin said. “Obviously we’re all really proud of him. You can’t find a better guy than Jon Bostic to represent our program. All the guys feel strongly about that, so everyone was talking about it.”

Bostic was a three-year starter at UF and a second round pick (50th overall) in April's NFL Draft. As a senior, Bostic was named a second-team All-SEC preformer. 

Durkin wasn’t so sure a fine was justified but didn’t go so far as calling out the league. Instead, he teased his former player via text.  

“I think that was such a bang-bang play. Obviously I don’t think he was intending to do anything with it,” Durkin said. “I just texted him a little bit ago. He got fined 21-grand or something like that -- and I said, ‘The good news is, you have the money now so you can go pay that. The bad news is you just got fined for that.’”

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs vehemently disagreed with fine, tweeting out…

Screen shot 2013-08-21 at 10.46.34 PM

So what say you: Was the hit league or illegal?

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Sweet Road Alabama: 2014 SEC slate set

GAINESIVLLE -- Florida drew the short straw when the 2014 Southeastern Conference schedule was released Wednesday.

The Gators must travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to play the Crimson Tide, back-to-back BCS National Champions, on Sept. 20.

Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin was unaware of Florida’s brutal slate next season, saying, “I’m ready for the Toledo Rockets coming into town here in a couple of days. We take them one at a time.”

Florida hosts LSU, its permanent cross-division rival, on Oct. 11, while travelling to Tennessee (Oct. 4) and Vanderbilt (Nov. 8). The Gators have two bye-weeks next season, one before the UT contest and another before their annual game in Jacksonville with Georgia (Nov. 1).

UF opens league play hosting Kentucky on Sept. 13.

The Gators’ non-conference opponents are Idaho, Eastern Michigan, Eastern Kentucky and Florida State.

The full schedule:

Aug. 30: Idaho

Sept. 6: Eastern Michigan

Sep. 13: Kentucky

Sept. 20: at Alabama

Sept. 27: BYE

Oct. 4: at Tennessee

Oct. 11: LSU

Oct. 18: Missouri

Oct. 25: BYE

Nov. 1: Georgia (in Jacksonville)

Nov. 8: at Vanderbilt

Nov. 22: Eastern Kentucky

Nov. 29: at Florida State

Playing at Alabama is rough, but I think Florida’s slate this season might be more difficult overall with road games at Miami, LSU, South Carolina and Missouri.

What say you?

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Fantasy Fulfilled

GAINESVILLE -- Mark Herndon is no longer a walk-on running back.

Florida’s third-string tailback behind starter Matt Jones and backup Mack Brown was awarded a scholarship Tuesday.

Coach Will Muschamp announced the honor in front of the whole team, immediately making the sophomore cry.

“I just broke down. It brought tears to my eyes,” he said. “The first thing I did was call my mom. She was ecstatic.”

Herndon (5-9, 193) has impressed during training camp, leapfrogging heralded freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane on the depth chart.

“When I first got here, Coach Muschamp told me that it’s at least two years until you get a scholarship, so I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “When he told me today, I felt like I was in a dream. My mouth just dropped.”

BSIyN0jCQAAulCK.jpg-large
(Coach Brian White hugs tailback Mark Herndon | Courtesy of @GatorZoneScott

Herndon, from Ocala, said he grew up a huge Gators fan, but his family couldn’t afford to come to games. Herndon turned down scholarship offers from small schools out west, instead chasing his dream of wearing orange and blue.

“I always preach to younger kids to follow your dreams,” he said. “If I took a scholarship and went to a smaller school or something, I would be giving up on what I really wanted to do.”

But it wasn’t easy.

As a walk-on last season, the sophomore didn’t eat full meals sometimes because of the financial burden on his family.

His $20,000 scholarship now alleviates that problem.

No more Pop Tarts or Ramen.

“This is going to sound funny, but [the biggest perk] is food,” he said. “Now with the training table and all kinds of stuff. I might gain a few more pounds.”

Herndon said he wasn’t the only emotional wreack when Muschamp announced the honor. Running backs coach Brian White shed tears too.

“That just made my heart mel because you know the guys deserves it,” linebacker Neiron Ball said. “It just makes you feel good.”

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August 20, 2013

HOOPS: SEC schedule announced

The 2014 Southeastern Conference basketball schedule was released Tuesday, completing Florida's schedule for the 2013-14 season. 

Billyd
(Billy Donovan, media.miamiherald.com)

Florida opens conference play against South Carolina on Jan. 8 and will finish the regular season hosting Kentucky on senior day March 8 (noon, CBS). 

The Gators play 14 nationally televised conference games, and all 126 SEC games will be shown nationally, regionally or on ESPN3. 

UF will play a home-and-home series with USC, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn and Kentucky. The Gators also host Georgia, Texas A&M, Missouri and LSU, while traveling to Arkansas, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss

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Practice Report: HEATIN' UP

Florida held its third and final open practice of training camp Monday, a 16-session affair in the blistering sun at high noon. The end zones and entrance to the field were painted with "12:21," the start time to the opener (Aug. 31) against Toledo.

Photo-7

The slow-paced practice wasn't particulary earth shattering, as Loucheiz Purifoy (CB), Dominquie Easley (DT) and Dante Fowler Jr. (DE) shined again. Shocker.

Wideouts Quinton Dunbar, a junior, and Demarcus Robinson, a freshman, looked good, and they continue to separate themselves from the rest of Florida's shoddy group.   

Instead of an overall observations piece, we'll do this more like a mailbag. Have a question about Monday's practice (or any of the open practices)?

Pull. 

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August 19, 2013

Notebook: Depth chart coming together (maybe)

GAINESVILLE -- The depth chart is starting to take shape.

Coach Will Muschamp reveled that some of Florida’s key positional battles are ‘over,’ while also announcing a crowded, but strange, field at running back.

Muschamp officially endorsed redshirt freshman Marcus Maye and junior Cody Riggs as the definitive starters at safety -- while juniors Michael Taylor and Neiron Ball, two career role players -- earned starting spots at middle and weak-side linebacker, respectively.

Three freshmen -- Alex Anzalone (MIKE), Jarrad Davis (WILL) and Daniel McMillian (SAM) -- were named backup linebackers.

The depth chart at running back remained muddled.

Mack Brown is still the primary backup to Matt Jones, who remains doubtful for Week 1 while recovering from his serious viral infection.

But after Brown, things get interesting. Muschamp said walk-on running back Mark Herndon and recently converted safety Valdez Showers were next in line, not freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane.

“They’re both talented runners, but it not all about carrying the ball,” Muschamp said. “We like to make sure the quarterback is protected.”

Muschamp cited ball security as a major concern with both freshmen. 

***EDITOR'S NOTE***

Muschamp is either playing possum with the freshmen running backs’ expectations (mainly Taylor), or Florida could be in serious trouble if Jones is sidelined for a significant period of time because there’s seemingly little reason a recently-converted safety and a walk-on should be ahead of a Taylor, who was on campus during the spring. He’s legitimately had ball security, pass protection and pass-catching issues during camp, but I think this is a motivational ploy more than a shocking revelation. The dude’s the all-time leading rusher in Florida high school history. I think he’s underperformed in camp, and he’s not anywhere close to being ready to be an every-down back, but according to the recent depth chart, he’ll struggle to get snaps. And I don’t believe that for a second.

MUSCHAMP NAMES FIVE BEST

Florida’s search for reliable playmakers is ongoing, but coach Will Muschamp has identified the team’s best five receivers: Quinton Dunbar, Trey Burton, Solomon Patton and two freshmen, Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood.

“Those five right there have been productive and consistent in what they do and how they perform,” Muschamp said.

Sophomore Latroy Pittman has disappointed during camp, while the other three freshmen -- Alvin Bailey, Marqui Hawkins and Chris Thompson -- are “swimming mentality.”

Hawkins has battled an ankle injury during camp and seems destined for a redshirt. Bailey may redshirt too, while Thompson, who isn’t ready to play receiver, will contribute on special teams. 

SURPRISING STANDOUT

Freshman defensive end Joey Ivie continues to impress in camp, unexpectedly vying for immediate playing time.

The early enrollee was forced to play tackle during the spring, something Muschamp said made Ivie adjust to the physicality of SEC football. “His improvement from spring to right now is night and day,” Muschamp said.
“We moved him inside purposely in the spring. He needed to learn how to play blocks, strike in a situation he’s got to play fast and physical. … Very pleased where is he is now.” 

INJURY UPDATES

Cornerback Jaylen Watkins (foot) returned to practice Sunday, while sophomore wideout Raphael Andrades (turf toe) is out for at least 10 days.

Left guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral), fullback Hunter Joyer (hamstring), cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (shoulder) and tackle Damien Jacobs (patella) are all expected to return to practice next week.

Also, Muschamp said Jones is scheduled to have blood work done Monday, and the sophomore is close to his original weight after losing 10 pounds from the illness.

QUOTABLE

“He does make me laugh a lot. Sometimes by his athleticism and running around.”

--- Muschamp on starting middle linebacker Michael Taylor

THIS & THAT

Muschamp was not particularly pleased with Friday’s scrimmage, noting the offense out preformed the defense but the practice’s tempo wasn’t what he wanted. “I was not totally pleased with the sense of urgency we played as a group, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “We have some steps to take forward, as far as that’s concerned.” … Cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, teased as a two-way threat, finally took some offensive snaps in third open practice. … Muschamp offered no updates on Antonio Morrison’s two-game suspension. 

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ICYMI: Gators have impressive pair of freshmen DBs

A feature (linked on the Florida sister page) I wrote on freshmen defensive backs Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal (pictured below).  

Neal
(Courtesy of Timothy Casey | UF Communications)

Check it out. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 17, 2013

Gators debut at No. 10

GAINESVILLE -- For now, Florida is the consensus No. 10 team in country.

The preseason Associated Press poll was released Saturday, and like the USA Today Coaches poll released Aug. 1, the Gators checked in at No. 10.  

This is Florida’s highest AP preseason ranking since 2010, when it opened the year at No. 3.

Alabama received 58 of 60 first-place votes, with Ohio State (one vote), Oregon, Stanford and Georgia (one vote) completing the top five.

Florida’s 2013 schedule includes four teams ranked in the preseason poll -- No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 South Carolina, No. 11 Florida State and No. 12 LSU.  

The poll:

1. Alabama

2. Ohio State

3. Oregon

4. Stanford

5. Georgia

6. South Carolina

7. Texas A&M

8. Clemson

9. Louisville

10. Florida

11. Florida State

12. LSU

13. Oklahoma St. 

14. Notre Dame

15. Texas

16. Oklahoma

17. Michigan

18. Nebraska

19. Boise St. 

20. TCU

21. UCLA

22. Northwestern

23. Wisconsin

24. Southern Cal

25. Oregon St. 

NOTES

* Miami tallied the fourth-most (85) "receiving votes" behind Michigan St. (95), Baylor (92) and Virgina Tech (86).

* The SEC has six of the top 12 teams in the preseason poll, the most in college football history.  

* Five voters ranked UF as high as No. 7, while one voter placed the Gators as low as No. 23. 

* National media votes: Andy Stapes (SI) - No. 9, Charles Davis (FOX) - No. 13, Chris Fowler (ESPN) - No. 14. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Swag-steppin' dirt: Observations from the south end zone

It was a wet and gloomy Saturday morning in Gainesville.

Apropos for Florida’s second open practice.

Unlike Thursday’s spirited practice, Saturday’s session was quite sluggish.  

A day removed from Friday’s “D-Day” scrimmage, UF’s players (specifically on offense) looked -- and performed -- listlessly in The Swamp.   

The Gators worked out in full pads, but the light practice was mostly non-contact positional drills, redzone work, special teams and zero live tackling.

The scattered fans in attendance seemed mostly bored unless they were watching Dominique Easley swag-step for two solid hours.

The defense played with more energy (thanks to Easley) and dominated the day, with the offense sprinkling in a few bright spots every now and then.

Photo-6 

Here are my observations of Saturday’s practice… 

* Loucheiz Purifoy, teased as a two-way threat, again took zero offensive snaps. The junior cornerback had a nice day in coverage, physically dominating freshmen wideouts Ahmad Fulwood and Alvin Bailey. Purifoy also received work returning punts and kicks.

* It was difficult to evaluate UF’s tailbacks (Mack Brown, Kelvin Taylor, Adam Lane) with no live tackling but all three had issues in pass protection and catching the ball. Taylor did make some sweet cuts and was the No. 1 back in Florida’s final 11-on-11 2-minute drill.

* The Gators hurry-up offense? Yikes. Quarterback Jeff Driskel -- inconsistent Saturday with his decision-making and accuracy -- was running for his life during Florida’s ugly 2-minute drill. The receivers struggled to create separation, while the offensive line and tailbacks couldn’t block UF’s pass rush. Driskel did have a long scramble to set up Austin Hardin’s 42-yard “game-tying” kick. Earlier in practice, Driskel connected with Quinton Dunbar for a 20-yard TD on a bullet between two defenders -- easily his highlight of the day.

* Speaking of yikes: Florida’s backup quarterbacks. Skyler Mornhinweg and Max Staver might have a new tag-team nickname: Wild Thing No. 1 & Wild Thing No. 2. The underclassmen have some serious accuracy issues. Staver has a live arm and made a gorgeous seam throw to Raphael Andrades, but he’s very inconsistent. Very.

* Freshman WR Demarcus Robinson again looked the part as Florida’s deadliest offensive weapon. Solomon Patton and Dunbar did some nice things but overall were quiet.

* Whether it was Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Mornhinweg or Staver under center, Florida really, really labored to score touchdowns in the redzone -- without facing a pass rush. That’s not good.

* Several offensive linemen did well in 1-on-1’s including Tyler Moore (RG), Kyle Koehne (LG, C), Chaz Green (RT), D.J. Humphries (LT) and Trenton Brown (RT). Brown responded well after rough practice on Thursday. The top battle of the day was between Max Garcia (LG) and Leon Orr (DT). Orr, who looked fantastic Saturday, destroyed Garcia on the first rep. Line coach Tim Davis went ballistic and made MG go again and the junior transfer stoned Orr at the line.

* Graduate assistant Chris Leak taught the quarterbacks how to run the opinion -- Don’t worry. I don’t understand that either.

* Suspended linebacker Antonio Morrison worked mainly with the second-team, and the sophomore’s punishment appears ongoing. The linebacker was seen running sprints following the two-hour practice.

* Redshirt freshman Marcus Maye -- whether officially endorsed or not -- is Florida’s starting safety alongside Cody Riggs. On a similar note, Clay Burton is UF’s No. 1 tight end, while Austin Hardin (again, not officially endorsed) is most likely the starting placekicker.

* Other noticeable standouts: GOOD – Easley, Dante Fowler Jr. (what a surprise), Jon Bullard, freshman center Cameron Dillard, Daniel McMillian (LB), Marcus Roberson (nice recovery from Thursday). NOT THEIR DAY – Latroy Pittman (seems to be a theme here), DT Jay-nard Bostwick (he’s huge, but it’s just taking him some time to learn the nuisances of the position), Mack Brown (pass protection, pass protection)

INJURY UPDATES

* OL Octavius Jackson participated in practice but was sporting an orange non-contact jersey. LB Darrin Kitchens was also non-contact, but RB Valdez Showers had been cleared.

* Jon Halapio (torn pectoral) wore full pads for the first time in camp, but the injured guard barely participated in practice.

* Vernon Hargreaves III (shoulder sprain), out, had a heavy-duty sling/brace on his left shoulder

* DL Jordan Sherit (knee) returned to practice.

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August 16, 2013

Notebook: Judgement Day (sort of)

GAINESVILLE -- Who knew Normandy beaches washed up into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium?

According to coach Will Muschamp, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, is D-Day for his football team.

The Gators held their second scrimmage of training camp today in The Swamp, and Florida’s coach said it’s time to figure out who going to contribute in the fall and who is going to hold the water.

“This is moving day for a lot of guys,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to start narrowing reps.”

Muschamp said he’s already warned the underclassmen of the ensuing changes, while the veterans are well aware of the process.

“We can’t continue to give some guys reps at positions where we’re wasting our time,” he said. “We’ve got to move forward with the guys we need to go into the season with and really concentrate and develop the young players on the team.”

Safety, tight end, wide receiver and kicker remain ongoing battles, and Muschamp wasn’t ready to name any specific positions Florida's staff is ready to thin out.

“That’s my question for our coaches: Alright, who do you count on? Not necessarily on August 31, but in game three, four, five,” he explained. “Who’s going to be the best player for the University of Florida in those games? Let’s take our growing pains if we have to, but let’s get those guys ready.”  

INJURY REPORT

Promising freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was noticeably missing from Thursday’s open practice. According to Muschamp, Hargreaves sprained his shoulder during Wednesday’s practice and won’t be cleared for about a week.

Muschamp said tailback Matt Jones (viral infection) is improving, but “we still don’t have a clear timetable for his return.”

The rest…

Offensive guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral) and defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (patella) should be cleared by game week (Aug. 25).

First-team fullback Hunter Joyer (hamstring) remains out, while offensive lineman Octavius Jackson (shoulder), linebacker Alex McCalister (shoulder), offensive lineman Quinteze Williams (illness) and cornerback Jaylen Watkins (foot) are all “day-to-day.”

100 SNAPS?

Loucheiz Purifoy is primed to do his best 1998 Champ Bailey impersonation.

Bailey, a former two-way star, averaged close to 100 snaps per game as a junior, playing offense, defense and special teams for Georgia. 

Florida’s electric defensive back may not reach such a lofty number of plays, but it’s possible.

Purifoy’s fall workload will include snaps as a starting cornerback, receiver, gunner and kick returner.

“He can run and go all day,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “Last year he played every defensive snap, and you see us punting the ball or kicking off and he’s the first one down the field. … I think obviously he can do it. We feel he can do it.”

Purifoy said he has no fears of getting tired and hopes to play as many snaps as the coaching staff will allow.

The staff remains coy on Purifoy’s exact number of plays but acknowledged the junior’s fatigue -- especially in the Florida heat -- will be closely monitored.

“It’s just one of those things you have to manage and control throughout the game,” Durkin said. “We’re gong keep a close track of that.”

ENERGY BOOST

Durkin said suspended linebacker Antonio Morison provided a spark to the team when the sophomore returned to practice late last week.

“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not, but we had a great practice the day he came back,” Durkin said.

The veracity of Morrison’s two-game suspension remains a reticent storyline around camp, but Durkin did say Morrison’s teammates were happy to have their starting middle linebacker return.

“[Morrison] has been a pro about it since he came back,” Durkin said. “Everyone was excited to see him. He’s their guy.”

FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE

Bostic
(Courtesy of OnlyGators.com)

“Oh I saw it. That was a heck of a hit. I didn’t teach that. It’s natural. Some coaches try to take credit for that stuff, I don’t.” -- Muschamp on Jon Bostic’s hit

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

They Said It: Florida's behemoth JUCO-tackle

Trenton Brown is buried a bit on Florida's depth chart, but he’s impossible to miss.

247sportsTB
(Courtesy of Florida/247Sports)

At 6-foot-8, 363 pounds, the junior college transfer from Georgia Military College is the tallest player to suit up for the Gators since walk-on offensive lineman Kyle Newell (6’8”, 300) in 2008, only Brown outweighs Newell by a good 60+ pounds.

The JUCO-transfer struggled mightily in his first open practice on Thursday, but for much of training camp we've heard nothing but positive reviews of Brown's play. 

Earlier this week, Brown’s teammates had plenty to say about Florida’s mammoth offensive tackle. 

Check it out...

C Jon Harrison

-- “Golly, I feel like a child next to him. Really I do. He’s a big boy, big joker.”

-- “First time I saw him, I’m like that’s a big man, he can be monster as long as he puts his mind to it.”

DE Dante Fowler Jr.

-- “It is scary. I never want Trenton to fall on me. If he does, I’m pretty sure my body will be imprinted in the grass. I don’t want that to happen.”

-- “He has a nasty streak, but you don’t want that nasty streak to come out I’ll tell you that.”

-- “Trenton Brown is the biggest person I ever saw in my life. …When you see that big body around you, you don’t know what to do. Next thing you know you run into him, and that’s not a good thing to do.”

LT D.J. Humphries

-- He's like a comedian. We love him. Coach says he doesn't talk a lot, but he always talks around us. It's not much you can coach about 6'9". He's just massive.”

-- “I dont know if you guys ever watch the show "Phineas and Ferb?" The brother Phineas never says anything, but when he does it's usually like detailed and hilarious. When Trent says something it's always like, 'OHHH.' He's always just chill and you usually just get a 'yes' or 'no' out of him for the most part, but when he says something you're like, 'Wow.' He just said that.”

-- "My plates are usually bigger because we're on a different path right now." – (said laughing)

RG Tyler Moore

-- It took us all back. We all felt like we were in third grade again, looking up at a high schooler.”

-- “I’m not used to looking up at guys. I’m used to looking at guys or looking down. I haven’t looked up at somebody in a while.”

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UF's open practice: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

GAINESVILLE -- The Gators held their first of four open practices on a beautiful Thursday evening in front of over 1000 fans at Dizney Lacrosse Stadium.

Florida conducted its traditional 16-session, 2+ hours practice complete with 1-on-1 drills, multiple 11-on-11 sessions and lots of special teams work.

My observations of the night’s events…

GOOD

* Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel was indisputably the top storyline of Thursday’s practice. The junior was sharp with his decision-making (especially during 7-on-7 skeletons) and threw the deep ball better than I’ve ever seen from him. Overall, Driskel looked crisp and confident.

* Demarcus Robinson is going to be a stud, ya’ll. Shoot, he’s already Florida’s top WR (yes that’s like being the skinniest kid in Heavyweights, but still). The freshman sent the crowd into a frenzy with the evening’s highlight play: a ridiculous one-handed snag, beating Marcus Roberson for a touchdown. Robinson was a star in 1-on-1 drills, much to the chagrin of Florida’s top-notch secondary.   

* Dante Fowler Jr. was the best player on the field Thursday. No one -- not even left tackle D.J. Humphries (who otherwise had a strong practice) -- could block Fowler in 1-on-1’s. The menacing pass rusher abused tackles Trenton Brown and Chaz Green, recording multiple sacks during 11-on-11’s.

* Ronald Powell appeared fresh and played with lots of energy. The SAM backer displayed no signs of limited mobility and scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery on the first “scrimmage” play.

* Keanu Neal, a freshman safety, has received plenty of buzz lately and for good reason. Neal had a strong practice and blasted freshman tailback Adam Lane on a crossing route.

* Others who looked good Thursday: WR Quinton Dunbar, DE Joey Ivie, S Marcus Maye, LT D.J. Humphries.

BAD

* As good as the Driskel-Robinson connection was, overall, Florida’s offense remained traditionally stagnant during 11-on-11 sessions. The first-team line couldn’t block Fowler or Powell, while the running backs made minimal impressions in a “thud” atmosphere. 

* Marcus Roberson is a potential All-American, but he might want to delete Thursday’s practice from his memory. Roberson was slow, sluggish and seemed disinterested. Not surprisingly, the junior was torched on several deep balls by Robinson, Solomon Patton (Driskel’s best throw of the day) and Dunbar. 

* Bryan Cox Jr. was a spring star, but his name has yet to be mentioned this fall. Now we know why. Coach Will Muschamp and position coach Brad Lawing constantly scolded the defensive end for poor technique. Cox was manhandled by Florida’s first team tackles in 1-on-1’s.

* UF’s tight end battle remains unchanged. Clay Burton (who did fine Thursday) appears to have a stronghold on the first-team job, as backup underclassmen Colin Thompson and Kent Taylor received minimal reps. So much for the supposed improvements. 

* Oh, Adam Lane. I had such high hopes. Florida’s freshman tailback -- he of the MJD comparisons (5’7”, 220) -- had a rough go of it Thursday night. Lane dropped two passes in skeleton drills, missed a couple assignments during 11-on-11’s and was straight tattooed by a teammate over the middle. We’ll check back with him on Saturday.

Others who struggled: WR Raphael Andrades, WR Ahmad Fulwood, OL Trevon Young, CB Jeremy Brown.

UGLY 

* Mack Brown’s fumble (on a poor exchange from Driskel) led to a quick defensive touchdown and resulted in Brown’s brief “benching” from the drill.

* Mr. Trenton Brown. Florida’s mammoth tackle (6’8”, 365) wilted under the bright lights on Thursday. The junior transfer had a brutal showing in every setting. Brown was lost in protection, slow off the ball and utterly confused all night. His only reprieve was sideline lessons from starter D.J. Humphries. Name a pass rusher (really, go) and they probably beat Brown off the edge. 

* Florida better pray Driskel never gets hurt because its backup quarterback group is scarier than a M. Night Shyamalan film. Tyler Murphy was very average, and Skyler Morhinweg (RFR) and Max Staver (FR) were awful in minimal reps. Major accuracy concerns here.

THIS AND THAT

Octavius Jackson (OL), Alex McCalister and Jaylen Watkins (DB) all worked out with trainers during practice. Later, Jon Halapio (torn pectoral) joined the group after taking part in non-contact drills… Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was sidelined with a minor injury. … Injured nose tackle Damien Jacobs, tailback Matt Jones and fullback Hunter Joyer did not appear to be in attendance. … Valdez Showers (H-back) and Darrin Kitchens (LB) wore orange non-contact jerseys. … Freshman Trevon Young was seen working as an offensive tackle -- not tight end. … Purifoy took zero offensive snaps.

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August 15, 2013

9 ½ Questions: An open practice primer

As promised, the players and/or positional groups (in no particular order) I’ll be closely observing during Florida’s four open practices over the next week…

1. Tailback Adam Lane (FR) – The supposed MJD-twin – Lane is 5’7”, 222 pounds -- has drawn rave reviews from teammates and coaches. Let’s see what’ll the buzz is about.

2. Safety Keanu Neal (FR) – He must be doing something right to have his name in the hat for a starting safety job.

3. Florida’s defensive tackles – Aside from senior Dominique Easley, there’s a lot of unproven players here and not much readily available depth. And remember, Florida’s run defense (No. 4 nationally) was crucial to its success last season. In a similar story, Sharrif Floyd and Omar Hunter no longer play for the Gators.

4. Wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood (FR) – The rangy wideout (6’5”, 190) has hops, but can he beat press coverage?

M3TZ1937

(Courtesy GatorZone.com)

5. Defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. (RFR) – A spring star who has disappeared come training camp (also see: Brian Poole, cornerback).

6. The transfer trio – Left guard Max Garcia (RJR), right guard Tyler Moore (RSO) and mammoth tackle Trenton Brown (JR).

7. Tight end Colin Thompson (RFR) – If he can display improved route running, the starting job is there for the taking. 

8. Strong-side linebacker Ronald Powell (RJR) – How healthy is he really?

9. Quarterback Jeff Driskel (JR) – Don’t worry. I didn’t forget about him.

½. The kicking dilemma - 'Cause it’s that bad, ya’ll.  

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Notebook: Purifoy, Robinson & WAIT? AN OPEN PRACTICE!!!

The Gators will kickoff the first of four straight open practices tonight at 7:30 in the Florida lacrosse stadium. Of course, Friday's scrimmage is closed. Big shocker.

Still, the next six days will be a supreme opportunity to gauge just how good the Gators will be in 2013. 

Later this afternoon, I’ll update the blog with players/positions I’ll monitor closely over the next week. 

Following the late practice, I’ll have a full update with observations, thoughts, etc.

In the meantime, here’s a notebook of goodies to hold you over.

GAINESVILLE -- Loucheiz Purifoy is primed to do his best 1998-Champ Bailey impersonation.

The former two-way star averaged close to 100 snaps per game as a junior, playing offense, defense and special teams for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Florida’s electric defensive back may not reach such a lofty number of plays, but it’s possible.

Purifoy’s fall workload will include snaps as a starting cornerback, receiver, gunner and kick returner.

“He can run and go all day,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “Last year he played every defensive snap, and you see us punting the ball or kicking off and he’s the first one down the field. … I think obviously he can do it. We feel he can do it.”

Purifoy said he has no fears of getting tired and hopes to play as many snaps as the coaching staff will allow.

The staff remains coy on Purifoy’s exact number of plays but acknowledged the junior’s fatigue -- especially in the Florida heat -- will be closely monitored.

“It’s just one of those things you have to manage and control throughout the game,” Durkin said. “We’re gong keep a close track of that.”

ACE RECRUITER

Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is rapidly making national headlines.

Robinson, a Miami native, is UF’s primary recruiter for South Florida and was central in landing the verbal commitments from the talented local trio -- 2014 prospects Chris Lammons (Plantation), Ermon Lane (Homestead) and Quincy Wilson (University School).

“T-Rob’s the best. He’s the best I’ve been around,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “He’s an unbelievable recruiter. The guy works relentlessly at it.” 

Robinson is in his third year at Florida and was on coach Will Muschamp’s defensive staff at Auburn (2007) as a graduate assistant.

The 31-year-old coach is also responsible for landing 2014 five-star running back Dalvin Cook (Miami Central), as well as leading what many believe to be the nation’s top cornerback unit.

“I’ve been around a lot of good coaches, luckily, in my career and I don’t know one better than him at what he does,” Durkin said. “He will be a head coach one day. There’s no reason he won’t be.”

ENERGY BOOST

Durkin said suspended linebacker Antonio Morison provided a spark to the team when the sophomore returned to practice late last week.

“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not, but we had a great practice the day he came back,” Durkin said.

The veracity of Morrison’s two-game suspension remains a reticent storyline around camp, but Durkin did say Morrison’s teammates were happy to have their starting middle linebacker return.

“[Morrison] has been a pro about it since he came back,” Durkin said. “Everyone was excited to see him. He’s their guy.”

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August 14, 2013

HOOPS: UF's non-conference schedule set

Florida's treacherous 2013-14 non-conference basketball schedule is officially complete.

As first reported by the Orlando Sentinel, UF will face Fresno State in the Orange Bowl Classic at the B&T Center on Dec. 21. 

The Gators' 13 non-conference opponents includes five teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season (Wisconsin, Kansas, Memphis, Southern and Middle Tennessee State) and Connecticut, the 2011 NCAA Champions. 

DATE

TIME

OPPONENT

TV

Nov. 8

TBA

vs. North Florida

TBA

Nov. 12

9:00 p.m.

vs. Wisconsin

ESPN2

Nov. 16

TBA

vs. Ark Little-Rock

TBA

Nov. 18

TBA

vs. Southern

TBA

Nov. 21

TBA

vs. Middle Tennessee State

TBA

Nov. 25

TBA

at. Jacksonville

TBA

Nov. 29

TBA

vs. Florida State

TBA

Dec. 2

TBA

at. UConn

TBA

Dec. 10

7:00 p.m.

vs. Kansas (B12/SEC)

ESPN

Dec. 17

9:00 p.m.

vs. Memphis (@ MSG)

ESPN

Dec. 21

TBA

vs. Fresno State (Sunrise)

TBA

Dec. 29

TBA

vs. Savannah State

TBA

Jan. 4

TBA

vs. Richmond

TB

GAMEDAY (@ RUPP)

ESPN announced its (hoops) College GameDay locations for the upcoming season and the pregame show will air live from Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY on Feb. 15 for the Florida-Kentucky game (9:00 p.m., ESPN). 

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Gators TE's: Who will emerge?

A teaser to a piece I wrote on Florida's tight end battle. Click the link for the full feature...

GAINESVILLE -- The competition to replace Jordan Reed, Florida’s leading receiver in 2012 with 45 catches and three touchdowns, is progressing.

Slowly.

Although Gators coach Will Muschamp expressed his concerns with the inexperienced group at tight end during the spring, his tune has slightly changed early in fall camp.

“We’ve improved where we were,” he said. “That’s what you want to do is take a step forward. We’ve taken some positive steps.”

Reed, a third round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in April's NFL Draft, left a massive void as quarterback Jeff Driskel’s favorite target the past two seasons, and the candidates to replace Reed include two former ballyhooed, yet flawed recruits and a pair of converted defensive linemen. 

“Jordan was such a freak of nature and a great athlete,” redshirt freshman Colin Thompson said. “When it comes to pure athleticism, I don’t know if we have that in the room now, but when it comes to collective effort we can produce.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 13, 2013

The 411: The latest in UF recruiting

To recap... 

DaVonte Lambert -- a 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive end -- committed to Tennessee via Twitter on Tuesday morning. 

Screen shot 2013-08-13 at 12.58.04 PM

The JUCO-prospect (Georgia Military College) chose UT over finalists Florida and Auburn, with UF believing it had a serious shot at landing the three-star prospect. 

While the Gators couldn’t complete a 24-hour grand slam (see: Monday’s South Florida trifecta), UF is obviously thrilled with recent events after a relatively slow summer.

After last night, Florida jumped from No. 23 to No. 10 in Rivals’ 2014 team recruiting rankings.  

UF’s current 2014 class (all rankings according to Rivals.com)

PLAYER

POS.

HT.

WT.

SCHOOL

STARS

Duke Dawson

DB

5’11”

195

Dixie County

****

J.C. Jackson

DB

5’10”

175

Immokalee

****

Chris Lammons

DB

5’9”

168

Plantation

****

Quincy Wilson

DB

6’2”

195

University Sch.

****

Justus Reed

DE

6’5”

235

Central Catholic

***

Khairi Clark

DT

6’2”

325

Chamindade

****

Dontae Angus

OL

6’6”

330

M L King (PA)

***

Tavern Bryan

OL

6’5”

250

Natrona (WY)

***

Nolan Kelleher

OL

6’6”

285

Wando (SC)

***

Benjamin Knox

OL

6’6”

259

Deland

***

Travaris Dorsey

OL

6’3”

314

Raines

***

Tavern Bryan

OL

6’5”

250

Natrona (WY)

***

Joseph Paul

OL

6’4”

340

St. Augustine (LA)

***

Will Grier

QB

6’2”

177

Davidson Day (NC)

****

Dalvin Cook

RB

5’11”

192

Miami Central

****

C’yontai Lewis

TE

6’5”

212

Northridge (AL)

**

Ermon Lane

WR

6’2”

172

Homestead

****

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Q&A: Former Gator LB Mike Peterson

Mike Peterson, a 14-year NFL veteran and University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame member, has returned to school to complete his degree in sociology and coach the Gators as an undergraduate student assistant.

Peterson, a local product from Santa Fe High School, played linebacker for Florida from 1995-1998, earning First-Team All-American honors as a senior and winning a national championship in 1996. The 37-year-old ex-Colts, Jaguars and Falcons linebacker is taking his final two classes this fall.

Peterson still maintains a permanent residence in Tampa with his wife Chantel and two sons Mike Jr., 6, and Gavin, 3.  

On Tuesday, Peterson met with the media and discussed his entrance into the coaching world, his role with the Gators and early impressions of the team. 

Photo-4

Peterson wants to work his way up the coaching ranks (see: NFL) but also reminisced about his playing career and announced he hasn’t formally retired yet, saying, “No need to rush.”

“That’s the linebacker still talking," he said. "My knees and elbows might be saying something else.”

Peterson admitted it would be a tough choice if an NFL team called tomorrow and wants to be sure the door is closed all the way.

Peterson spoke very fondly of coach Will Muschamp, former Colts coach Tony Dungy and Falcons coach/former Jaguars assistant, Mike Smith. 

On returning to UF…

“It's really, really different going back to school. But I'm excited about it. You have two dreams as a kid. Not in any particular order, but play professional sports and get a degree. I'm thrilled just to be able to accomplish the latter. Awfully excited. I think my parents and my grandparents, they may be even more excited than me. It's a dream to be able to get my degree before they leave this precious place. …

"I've got to give a lot of thanks to Coach Muschamp, Mr. Foley, the academic department. All for accepting me and letting me comeback. If I could've put it on paper or dreamed about it this definitely would've been the place I want to get my coaching career started. I played here. I grew up here. I was able to come back and play close here in my professional career, so I think the kids are accepting of me and listen to me of what I have to say a little more because I've sat in those same seats they sitting in right now.”

On keen advice to kids with big dreams...

"Hard work pays off. It's a slogan I use in my football camp. It's a cliché. A lot of times people hear and go 'yeah, whatever.' But I try to instill it into the kids, my kids. You put that hard work in it's going to pay off. A lot of times we're selfish and want it to payoff tomorrow and it don't. But when you put that work in eventually it's going to pay off. That's a little slogan and cliché I live and die by.”

On Coach Muschamp…

“He's right up there with [best coaches Peterson's been around.] That was one of the things that attracted me to coming back here and helping out with the team, after meeting coach. You never know what you're going to get from a head coach. You hear this, you hear that. But then you get a chance to sit down and talk with him, speak the same language as we say, football language. And then I didn't have any doubt, I said, 'Yeah, I can definitely work with a guy like that."

On his coaching style…

"I'm more Muschamp. I'm a linebacker, so you're going to get mean. Now, I probably sit back in the meetings. I sit back and I coach guys up. But once it's time to get out on the field, I'm a fiery guy. That tough love. I believe in that. I'm going to coach you up, I'm going to coach you up. Because once I put my name on it and my stamp on it, I tell the guys, you're not representing yourself now, you're representing me. So I'm going to try to pull out the best in you."

On starting his coaching career while still playing…

“Oh yeah, oh yeah and I think I had a great opportunity to be there with Coach Smith. It was a humbling experience to be able to sit on the sidelines after being a star for so many years and being that guy. ... Coach Smith he gave me a great opportunity. A lot of times in meetings he would let me run the meeting so I would actually have to get up there and explain the defense, explain the coverage. So I'm comfortable in that role."

On coaching Florida’s young linebackers…

“Coming out of high school you figure you’re the fastest guy. You may be the biggest guy.  I try to tell them that on this level you might not be the fastest guy, and if you want to play on the next level everybody is gonna be fast. So then it falls back on your technique. What are you doing? How do you prepare yourself? Are you watching game tape? Studying the guy on the opposite side of the ball, just those little things that they take for granted. High school players probably never watched any game tape, never studied anybody. I think that’s what I will do here say, ‘Let’s watch some tape. Let’s watch what the running back on this play here.’ … I tell them to ‘Get in your playbook. Get in your playbook, learn what to do.’ And just every chance you get, take advantage of it. I try to tell the guys it's different in high school ball. High school ball you can pick the plays you want to go hard. In college ball, you just go hard, go hard, go hard because you never know when that play is going to come.”

On returning to his hometown… 

"[My family] love it. I love it. But I've always been around. I don't ring a bell when I come into town. I kind of slide in and slide out. I've been here, man. They see me. They probably see me too much 'cause I just pop up. I pop up and pop out. I purchased my mom a house a while ago, so I stay there when I come to town."

On Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning…

"A lot of times when they ask me, 'Oh, you played with Peyton? What type of person was Peyton? What type of coach was coach Dungy?’ I usually give them the spiel. [Dungy] was a great coach. Even keeled. I've played with some great coaches, and he's right up there with the best of them. Even-keeled guy, a lot like coach Smith. What you see on Monday is the same guy you're going to get on Sunday, a guy you can go talk to about anything. We can sit in here and talk about the color of those chairs over there if you want. That's what you want in a coach. We can go and talk Xs and Os. I think I was lucky to be able to play for coach Dungy and play with Peyton. … I'm 4-0 against Peyton Manning in college. I remind him of that every time I see him. He's a good guy, man. Peyton's a good guy. You see one guy in front of the camera. But when the camera's off, he's like me and you."

On any regrets of walking away without a Super Bowl ring…

“No regrets. You play the game to win a ring. I can’t take back my 14 years. I had a great career. I met some great people and made some great plays. I was chasing it. That’s all I can do. You chase it as hard as I can chase it. You do that as hard as you can and you feel that peace. You can look at yourself in the mirror and feel good about it. … So close last year. Whewwww. Ten yards. I talked to Coach Smith and we don’t say we missed it by this much. We say we missed it by 10 yards.”

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