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65 posts from September 2013

September 22, 2013

Fat Man TD? Almost

GAINESVILLE -- Gators nose tackle Darius ‘Bear’ Cummings fantasized of a day when CBS announcer  -- and resident chortle expert -- Verne Lundquist would call his name in a primetime game.

On Saturday, Cummings’ dream came true, and afterwards he couldn't stop smiling.

In the second quarter of UF's 31-17 win over Tennessee, the redshirt junior picked of a Nathan Peterman whiff pass and rumbled 30 yards until either A) tripping himself and running out of gas or B) teammate Dominique Easley accidentally tackling him.

During the postgame celebration, coach Will Muschamp said, “I just told them in the locker room after the game I don’t know who looks worse: me jogging on campus or Darius returning that pick. I was a lot happier to watch him than watch me run.”


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Gators Grades: Substitute shines

GAINESVILLE -- Before I re-watch the tape (probably tomorrow or Monday) of No. 19 Florida’s ugly win (31-17) over an undermanned Tennessee team, here are some rapid reaction grades.

ICYMI: My notebook discussing the Gators’ defensive performance, Brian Poole’s ejection and more.


Tyler Murphy impressed, filling in admirably for the injured Jeff Driskel. The Gators again dominated the stat sheet -- but this time they didn’t self-destruct in the red zone. UF went 4-of-5 inside Tennessee’s 20-yard line -- with three touchdowns. Florida amassed 256 rushing yards on 56 attempts, but again averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry (3.7). It was a crazy game. The Gators fumbled the ball six times but managed to recover the ball four times. It wasn’t an extraordinary performance, but one worthy of a victory -- especially after losing a starting quarterback.


Tennessee’s halftime line: 5 passing yards, 4 turnovers, 3 first downs. Sheesh. The Vols started a redshirt freshman quarterback -- Nathan Peterman -- in his first-career start in The Swamp, and it predictably did not go well. The Gators forced turnovers on Tennessee’s first three possessions and until injuries finally caught up with the secondary, shut down any semblance of a Vols attack. Dante Fowler Jr. was a monster against two really good tackles. Overall, UF had six takeaways and held UT to 5-of-13 on third down.


The coverage units were again solid, but UF still hasn’t had a complete special teams performance this season. Austin Hardin was 1-of-2 on field goals, missing a 41-yarder with a chance to ice the game late in the fourth quarter. Kyle Christy whiffed on catching a punt and gift-wrapped the Volunteers with excellent field position (subsequently squandered). Solomon Patton had another nice kickoff return (38-yarder).

Thoughts? Comments?

Have at it.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 21, 2013

Driskel sidelined for season

GAINESVILLE -- The Tyler Murphy era is officially underway.

Gators starting quarterback Jeff Driskel will miss the rest of the 2013 season after breaking his right fibula early in the first quarter in Florida’s 31-17 win over Tennessee on Saturday.

(Courtesy SB Nation)

Driskel was injured while throwing a pick-six -- UT’s only touchdown in the first half -- after UT defensive end Marlon Walls fell on the junior’s leg.

Coach Will Muschamp immediately knew Driskel was hurt badly.

“When he looked at the sideline and waved I knew it was not good,” Muschamp said.

Driskel will have surgery Sunday.

“I’m disappointed for Jeff because he’s worked extremely hard for this season,” Muschamp said. “One man’s misfortunes are another man’s opportunity and Tyler Murphy certainly took advantage of his opportunity.”

Murphy impressed, completing 8-of-14 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 84 yards and a score -- all career firsts.

“He did a fantastic job coming into these circumstances and performing well,” Muschamp said. “I thought he managed the game extremely well and made plays.”

Murphy will start next weekend against Kentucky.

But for Florida’s incumbent starter, Saturday was a brutal blow. Driskel, much maligned after a tough outing in the loss to Miami on Sept. 7, was slowed by a slight knee strain in practice, yet started his 15th career game Saturday.

“It’s going to hurt us,” Muschamp said. “He won a lot of ballgames for us.” 

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Saturday Selections: Florida-Tennessee thread

Live (or soon to be) from The Swamp...

The Gators and Volunteers kickoff in roughly four hours at 3:30 p.m., CBS - SEC Game of the Week. 

UT hasn't beat UF since 2004. Since then, the Gators have won a pair of BCS National Championships, while the Vols are on their fourth head coach. 


ICYMI: My advance on today's game. Against UT, Gators out to fix problems in the red zone.  



Freshman wideout Demarcus Robinson has been suspended for today's game for violating team rules, the school announced a short time ago. 

Robinson, a heralded prospect, has yet to catch a pass in two games. The 6-foot-2, 201 pound WR has been targeted three times. 

*****UPDATE NO. 2*****

Tennessee announced redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman will start at quarterback. Helluva place to have your first career start. 


I hope y'all are paying attention 'cause I'm making fools money with these picks.

Scoreboard: 13-6 ATS, 1-1 selecting Florida games

This week's six-pack:

LSU (-17) vs. Auburn 

Texas A&M (-27.5) vs. SMU

Georgia Tech (-6.5) vs. North Carolina

Mizzou (-3) at Indiana  

Georgia (-32) vs. North Texas

And finally, Florida (-17) over Tennessee. 

It's a fat number and one UF likely can't cover -- SO TAKE THE UNDER (47.5) -- but why am I picking the Gators?

Tennessee has limited depth -- on both sides of the ball. A quarterback battle the week before playing one of the nation's top defenses? Not good either. When Rajion Neal is your top offensive threat, you're in trouble. 

Enjoy the game, everybody. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 20, 2013

An appropriate choice

Errict Rhett's celebrity "Mr. Two Bits" performance was a sight to see. 

Florida's all-time leading rusher sparked a listless noon crowd with an emotionally stirring performance in UF's 2013 opener against Toledo. 

It's a tough act to follow, but fortunately for Danny Wuerffel -- this weekend's honorary "Mr. Two Bits." -- the former Heisman Trophy winner has always been at his best against Tennessee. 

Wuerffel, 4-0 against the Volunteers, will lead the cheers before Saturday's game. Wuerffel famously scored seven touchdowns against UT in 1995, earning a Sports Illustrated cover photo. 

(Courtesy of Sports Illustrated Vault 9.25.95)

Wuerffel was recently voted into the College Football Hall of Fame (official enshrinement of the 2013 class is in Atlanta next summer) and will be honored at halftime. 

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September 19, 2013

"We're usually winning, so it's pretty much an insult to them"

Florida's outspoken linebacker Michael Taylor was once committed to Tennessee until he “found a better school.”

While some of Taylor’s teammates -- Dominique Easley, Trey Burton and Hunter Joyer -- admitted to liking and/or singing the Volunteers’ fight song, “Rocky Top,” Taylor, a redshirt junior, had a much different take on the matter.


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ICYMI: Jones fit to put team on his back

Fully recovered from a serious viral infection that slowed his game, Florida sophomore tailback Matt Jones said he's ready for the breakout year he expected before the season began. 


Check out the piece. 

Also, a note on menacing defensive tackle Dominique Easley's strive for perfection. 

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Fun With Stats (& more UF-UT tidbits)

Of note…

* Florida torched Tennessee for 555 yards of offense in 2012 -- its highest total in the Will Muschamp era. The Gators rushed for a season-high 336 yards against the Vols last season.

Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 11.57.48 PM
* The Volunteers have lost 17 straight versus ranked foes. Their last win was a 31-13 upset over No. 21 South Carolina in 2009.

* UF is last in the SEC in scoring offense (20.0 p/g) but first in total defense (208.5 y/g). Meanwhile, UT is No. 11 in total defense (430.3 y/g) and No. 7 in scoring offense (37.0 p/g).

* Florida -- winners of eight in row over Tennessee -- is 1-1 for the first time since 2004. Cue RON ZOOK RAGE

Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 11.56.35 PM

* The Gators last defeat to the Vols was in 2004 -- a 30-28 UT win in Knoxville.

* The Vols lead the league in red zone defense (66.7 %), turnover margin (+2) and fewest penalty yardage (19.0 y/g).

Screen shot 2013-09-18 at 12.02.38 AM

* Quarterback Jeff Driskel averaged 11.0 yards/attempt in the win over Tennessee in 2012 -- easily a career-best. The junior has topped 7.5 y/a only one other time in his career.

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September 18, 2013

Slow is the new hotness

For Florida, at least... 

Screen shot 2013-09-18 at 3.56.17 PM

(Stats courtesy John Pennington | Mr. SEC)

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"It's still going to be weak, so it could tear at any time"

Ostensibly, No. 19 Florida's offensive line should get a big boost Saturday with the return of right guard -- and all-conference selection -- Jon Halapio. 

But after talking to Florida's senior leader, I'm not so sure. 

ICYMI: Yesterday I wrote a notebook on the health of quarterback Jeff Driskel and Halapio -- with coaches saying both players will start UF's conference opener against Tennessee. 

Halpio will still play, but how well is a mystery after today's comments. 


Halapio -- returning to action after tearing his pectoral muscle weightlifting right before training camp -- said he could've played (if needed) last week had UF not been off, but by his own admission, the senior's prognosis moving forward isn't exactly promising. 

On his protective brace...

"It's like an upper body brace, I'd say it's like a sleeve kind of thing. I put it on and then I have two straps that pull my shoulder across my body so my posture is like this (see video). So it prevents me from going all the way out here [shoulder moving out], and stuff like that, and from tearing it in the game."

On recovery...

"Basically I've just been doing a lot of treatment. I had an injection, a PRP injection one time, just to speed up the recovery and everything. But mainly the thing that's been helping me is resting and a lot of the treatment stuff that the athletic training staff has been doing well with."

On going forward and the possibility of re-injuring the pectoral...

"They said that just because of the time period it happened, that I don't have that much time for me to develop the strength that I have, that it can tear off again. Whether if it was going to be 50 percent intact, or 100 percent intact, it's still going to be weak, so it could still tear at any time. So they're telling me that that's the down side of it. But the brace helps really well. Practicing last week and this week was a confidence-booster for me, so I don't have no concern of tearing my pec."

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Keeping up with the Joneses

Screen shot 2013-09-18 at 12.01.33 AM
Fair point. 

September 17, 2013

Pease speaks

For the first time in two weeks, the assembled media met with Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

Florida’s second-year coordinator rehashed the Miami loss, talked up-tempo offenses, broke down Tennessee’s defense and more.

The major takeaways from Tuesday’s press conference…

* The Gators have full confidence in quarterback Jeff Driskel -- EXCEPT in the red zone.

“Looking back on it, first this, we've stressed to the point, [As if speaking of Driskel 'If we get in this situation, here is what they're going to play. OK. You’re very limited to this, and that's all you really have and you have to be committed to. That's what you're going to throw or throw the ball away, and then put us in a situation to kick things. ... I’ve got to do a better job of maybe limiting or controlling what we give him. The sort of options. He’s mature enough. He’ll handle things.”

* Just because the Oregon Ducks shredded the Volunteers -- 59 points and nearly 700 yards of offense -- with an up-tempo attack, don’t except the Gators to pick up the pace this weekend.

“You have to understand how they’ve built this thing for the last five to six years. Their kids and how dialed in they are. It’s tough for us to say that’s us all of a sudden. Nah. Is using some tempo that we practice, yeah, there’s always that possibility. But to do it how they’re doing it, I don’t think efficiency wise we’re built that way right now. … I mean you look at Oregon, they're scoring all these drives in under two minutes. The same time, if you're not scoring, you're putting your defense in a tough situation that they're on the field for a lot of time in a game. But they're very efficient in what they do. Our efficiency is going to be more in grind it a little bit more and try to create some big plays throwing the football. And, that's where I think we've got to be more, I think, consistent in getting points is because we're probably more designed to go six to 12 plays in a drive, rather than three to four and hold onto the ball for more than two minutes in a drive.”

* The failed fourth down quarterback sneak against Miami was both poorly called and executed.

“That’s something that was – that was on me. I shouldn’t have done it. … I called it and I knew what they were probably going to go to that. I think that put our guys in too tough a spot. I knew they were all going to sink down in there and dive at their feet and just create a mosh pit of humanity. So, and I knew that. And right after I called it, I knew it. I guess I let my ego get involved a bit that I trust our guys up front. I’m not saying I don’t ever trust them, because I always do, but I knew it put those guys in a tough spot that you can’t do that. I think there was better options of plays that we had looking back on it, so I probably should have gone with something else.”

* Freshman wideout Demarcus Robinson is poised to breakout soon.

“He’s been in situations where he’s targeted and sometimes coverage takes it away. Sometimes he’s been there and we haven’t got the ball to him. It’s just a matter of getting into the flow. I know it’s been tough to see, but he’s come on in practice. He works hard. He’s a very likable kid that I think, it’s going to pop here soon.

* Tennessee’s defense is not very good.

“I’m not here to sell you, it’s your decision on what you decide that they are. I’m just saying I’ve got respect for what they do.”

* Pease is satisfied with Florida’s offensive yardage (414.0 y/g), but not point production.

“One thing we stress to kids ,and I said, ‘I want you to be greedy in the fact that we always got to think that we score touchdowns.’ The game’s got to separate that way. But we’ve moved the ball, and it’s come down to really this last game where, in the red-zone decisions, we didn’t – you know, we turned the ball over, we had two bad decisions, and really, two bad calls on me.”

(all emphasis mine)

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A bug of a different color

Center Jonotthan Harrison has started 28 consecutive for the Gators and has been a model of consistency on Florida's offensive line. 

The senior was forced to briefly miss a couple of series in the loss to Miami and now we no why. 

In a moment of leveity, Harrison explained......


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Meet The Volunteers

Tennessee (2-1) – Last week: 59-14 loss to No. 2 Oregon

2012 Record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC)

Returning Starters: 13: Offense: 5, Defense: 8

Key departures: QB Tyler Bray (Kansas City Chiefs undrafted free agent, 3,612 yards and 34 TDs), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Minnesota Vikings first round draft pick, 1858 all-purpose yardage and 10 TDs), WR Justin Hunter (73 receptions for 1083 yards & 9 TDs, Tennessee Titans second round selection), TE Mychal Rivera (Sixth round pick of Oakland Raiders), LB Herman Lathers (third on team in tackles with 66), WR Zach Rodgers (491 yards and 7 TDs)

Player to watch offense: RB Rajion Neal

After a bevy of early departures last offseason, UT’s versatile senior back remains one of its few talented skill players on a team mostly devoid of playmakers. Neal is hardly a flashy player, but he scored nine touchdowns in 2012 -- five as a rusher and four as a receiver. The Vols have major uncertainties at both quarterback and wide out, but team’s undoubted strength is its offensive line, and new Vols coach Butch Jones is likely to rely heavily on Neal’s wheels even though he prefers an up-tempo, pass-heavy attack. Neal leads the Vols with 257 yards on 43 carries (6.0 y/c) and four touchdowns this season. 

Player to watch defense: LB A.J. Johnson

The SEC’s leading tackler (136) in 2012 was the lone bright spot on an abominable Volunteers defense last year. Johnson, a coveted 2014 NFL prospect, led UT in tackles, quarterback hurries (8) and takedowns for a loss (8.5). Johnson is charged with conducting a unit again adjusting to a new scheme (UT is changed back to a 4-3 defense). To date, Jones has not utilized Johnson’s talents as a two-way player. In 2012, the linebacker scored six rushing touchdowns on 12 attempts as UT’s goal line back in its Wild-Vol set. 

2013 Outlook: Measurably bleak

The Volunteers actually led the Ducks 7-0 before surrendering 59 straight points. They return eight starters from a defense that ranked at or right next to the bottom of every statistical category in the league (scoring, rushing, passing, total, sacks, etc.) UT allowed 54 touchdowns in 2012, good for 94th nationally. The secondary and receiving corps are a total mess, and the quarterback competition between junior Justin Worley and redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman wasn’t settled during spring camp and remains in flux. Worley started the first three games but Jones reopened its quarterback competition this week.

Jones inherited a roster thin on elite talent, particularly with the exodus of Bray, Hunter and Patterson. UT’s new coach has already given the Vols faithful hope with a potentially dynamite incoming recruiting class (No. 2 in Rivals’ team rankings), but with a monster schedule on the horizon -- The No. 19 Gators, a cupcake, then three consecutive games against top 12 teams -- the program may spiral further downward before it can rise again. The Volunteers do boast a stacked offensive line. A unit, according to ESPN Stats Inc., that has 123 career starts. Antonio Richardson and Ja’Wuan James might be the top tackle tandem in the nation, but it’s quite doubtful an offensive line can carry an entire unit with few other discernable known quantities. 

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September 16, 2013

Easley jams to "Rocky Top"

Dominique Easley is a colorful character.

Florida coaches Will Muschamp and D.J. Durkin refer to him as “unique.”

Monday’s media session was just another reason why.

Easley called Tennessee -- UF’s opponent on Saturday -- his third most hated rival behind Florida State and Georgia, but the session became humorous when Easley stated his hate love for UT’s fight song, “Rocky Top.”

He asked the assembled media: “Do you listen to it? How do you feel about it? There you go.”

But then Easley quickly reversed course and admitted he actually sings the song during games -- simply for his own amusement.

“Something gets so annoying, you gotta make the best out of it,” he said. “[The Volunteers players] hear me. I don’t know if they consider it a taunt, but I just do it for my own enjoyment.”

As for the lyrics?

“Only thing I know is ‘Rocky top. Oh, Rocky Top,’” he said.


Florida’s senior defensive tackle is an enlivening presence -- to his teammates, coaches and media members.

While some (stupidly) scoff at his antics -- he keeps a Chuckie doll in his locker, once rocked a tractor chain while running out of the tunnel before a game and dances as much as Miley Cyrus -- the standout defensive tackle lets his personality shine: on and off the field.

I, for one, appreciate it.

There’s a reason Easley is the heart, soul and leader of the team.

“There’s not a guy that players harder than him in the entire country,” Durkin said earlier this season. “Is he unique? Absolutely. We love that. We tell our guys, ‘Be who you are.’ We’re not trying to change anyone.”

Please don’t. 

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Notebook: Safety Swap

GAINESVILLE -- No. 19 Florida (1-1) released its updated depth chart for Saturday’s game against Tennessee (1-1), and a noticeable switch at safety highlighted the few changes.

Redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye has been benched in favor of senior cornerback Jaylen Watkins.

Maye had a tough outing in the loss to Miami, blowing a coverage on Phillip Dorsett’s 52-yard touchdown reception and whiffing on a pair of tackles.

“You just can’t give up big plays,” coach Will Muschamp said. “We can’t afford that to happen. You’ve gotta tackle better. Marcus knows that.”

With Watkins sliding to safety, electric freshman defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III is now the backup at all three cornerback spots and should see increased playing time.

Other depth chart notables include Antonio Morrison as the starting middle linebacker, while right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral) returns from injury as the starter at right guard.

Also, Loucheiz Purifoy is now the backup kick returner.


Quarterback Jeff Driskel (knee), cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee), left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) and Halapio (torn pectoral) are all “good to go” for the Volunteers this weekend. Staring right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) remains questionable, but Muschamp expects the sophomore to play.

Moore won’t practice Monday, as Muschamp said, “We feel like everybody should be good. Tyler’s the only one that’s a little bit questionable right now but I hope to get him back for some reps Tuesday and possibly Wednesday.”


Florida will play its first night game of the season when it kicks off against Kentucky at 7 p.m. on Sept. 28 (ESPN2 or ESPNU). The Gators -- winners of 26 straight games in the series -- haven’t lost to the Wildcats since 1986.


“You have to ask him that. No idea. I don’t think he’d do it, personally. Does anybody want to ask him? He doesn’t allow some media people in his things. Go ask him. I don’t think he’ll do it is my answer. … I’d be all for it though. Absolutely. I’d liked to see it actually. Some of y’all would as well.”

-- Muschamp -- smiling and laughing the whole time -- on the chances South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier returns to Florida this season as an honorary Mr. Two Bits.


After Jordan Reed led the Gators in receptions in 2012, Florida’s tight ends have been non-existent in the offense this season with just a single reception. Muschamp was critical of their progress, saying, “We’re going to throw it to the guys who can make plays. … We’re going to circle guys who are going to make plays and yards after the catch. That’s not been the strong point of that position at this point.”

... Florida has won eight straight games against Tennessee -- a UF series best. The Gators trounced the Vols 37-20 last season with a big second-half comeback.

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Daily Dos: Muschamp, Jones talk health, offensive line shuffling

Apologies for today's grainy videos. Poor seating choice.

I'll have more shortly on Will Muschamp's weekly press conference (injuries, depth chart update) and player interviews, but for now, here are two short snippets from Monday's media session...

Will Muschamp on offensive line shuffling: 


Matt Jones (RB) on returning to action against Miami:


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September 15, 2013

Two steps forward, one step back

Why, hello again. 

After an unusually early off week -- Florida's earliest idle date since 2008 -- the Gators resume action preparing for Tennessee this weekend (3:30 p.m., CBS). 

Despite not turning the ball over once Saturday, UF dropped one spot (No. 19) in the latest Associated Press top 25 rankings. 

And yet -- after all the craziness in college football over the past week -- the Gators actually climbed two spots (No. 18) in the USA Today coaches poll

The blog will be back in full swing this week, so be sure to check it out often. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 12, 2013

Notebook: Gators on the mend

It's been a rather slow week in Gainesville. Florida's bye week coupled with a media lockout has meant a dearth of content on the blog. We'll be back to a normal schedule starting Monday.  

Meanwhile, ICYMI: A couple of notes on Quinton Dunbar and Loucheiz Purifoy

And here's yesterday's injury update...

GAINESVILLE -- The No. 18 Gators didn’t just lose to No. 15 Miami last weekend. They limped home.

The Gators are the in the middle of their earliest bye week since 2008, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Coach Will Muschamp, on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, updated the status of several injured players, including a number of starters.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel (sprained knee), right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle), left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee), cornerback Marcus Roberson (sprained knee), defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (hip contusion) and safety Marcus Maye (shoulder) were all hurt in the loss to the Hurricanes, but Muschamp expects everyone “to be fine” and play against Tennessee next weekend (Sept. 21).

Muschamp also said right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral) has been officially cleared for contact, but freshman cornerback Nick Washington is done for the season after injuring his shoulder in practice Monday.


After rewatching the tape, Muschamp said senior wideout Trey Burton ran the wrong route on Driskel’s second red zone interception. Burton admitted as much Saturday after the loss.

“When your anticipating a route breaking a certain way and it doesn't that way, it's hard on the quarterback,” Muschamp said.  

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September 11, 2013

No more Knox

Three-star offensive tackle Benjamin Knox (Deland) decommitted from the Gators on Tuesday.

According to reports from multiple recruiting analysts, Knox's decommitment was not a surprise. Reportedly, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound tackle had not heard from Florida coaches in over a month. 

Knox is UF's sixth decommitment from its 2014 class, but UF still has three verbal commitments from offensive lineman. 

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