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2 posts from March 11, 2014

March 11, 2014

Gators dominate SEC honors

BieB7o3CAAA6tDb(Courtesy @GatorZoneMBK)

GAINESVILLE -- No. 1 Florida was perfect during the 2014 Southeastern Conference regular season (18-0) and it resulted in nearly a sweep of the league's end-of-season awards.

Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was named the SEC Player of the Year, while coach Billy Donovan collected his second straight SEC Coach of the Year honor, the league announced Tuesday.

“I was happy. My parents were really happy," said Wilbekin, who is averaging 12.9 points, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game for the top-ranked Gators. 

"I’m just more happy for our team to see all the other people who got rewards on our team. I think it’s a reflection of how good this team is and how good we played during the regular season to see this many of us get awards. …  I definitely couldn’t have done it without my teammates, Coach D believing in me and Jeremy Foley giving me a second chance."

But the awards didn't stop there.

Senior center Patric Young was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and became the league's first three-time recipient of the Scholar-Athlete of the Year award.

"I’m grateful to my teammates for playing such terrible defense so I could pick up the slack," Young quipped.

"It’s just nice to be recognized for doing the right things by all the coaches on the committee and the people that voted me to win this award.”

Added Donovan: "I think [Young] represents, in my opinion, what college athletics is all about. His education is very, very important to him; going to class is very important to him; he's very active on campus; he's very active in the community. He's got a great personality. I think he, maybe more so than anybody that's ever been in this program, has taken full advantage of everything on this campus and what it has to offer."

Meanwhile, sophomore transfer Dorian Finney-Smith was named the SEC Sixth Man of the Year in his first season with the Gators.

Finney-Smith is averaging a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game to go along with 9.4 points per contest. 

Not to be forgotten, UF's leading scorer (1.46 ppg) senior swingman Casey Prather was named an All-SEC first-team performer. Wilbekin (first-team) and Young (second-team) were also All-SEC selections.

"We come together as a team and do what we need to do each and every night," Prather said. "As far as little things, hustle plays, rebounding, it’s a collective effort between us and not just like individuals.”

The Gators' five (of six) year-end awards is a school record for Florida, with Wilbekin joining Chandler Parsons (2011) as UF's only other SEC Player of the Year recepient.

"I mentioned this to our guys, and I really, really think this, any individual honor to me is just a reflection on your team," Donovan said Monday.  "And whatever awards are given out or whatever honors are given out to any of our guys, I think they would be the first one to say, 'Without my teammates this would not have been possible.'"

Donovan, a two-time national champion (2006, 2007), collected his third coach of the year award in four seasons, but Florida's stoic leader pointed the honor back towards his team.

"I don't think those awards would happen if I had a bunch of bad players on my team," he said.

********** SEC AWARDS **********

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Scottie Wilbekin (Florida)

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Patric Young (Florida)

SIXTH-MAN OF THE YEAR: Dorian Finney-Smith (Florida)

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Julius Randle (Kentucky)

COACH OF THE YEAR: Billy Donovan (Florida)

SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Patric Young (Florida)

ALL-SEC FIRST TEAM: Prather, Wilbekin (Florida); Trevor Releford (Alabama); Randle (Kentucky); Johnny O’Bryant III (LSU); Jabari Brown (Missouri); Jordan McRae, Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee).

ALL-SEC SECOND TEAM: Young (Florida); Bobby Portis (Arkansas); Chris Denson (Auburn); Charles Mann (Georgia); James Young (Kentucky); Jordan Mickey (LSU); Marshal Henderson, Jarvis Summers (Ole Miss); Jordan Clarkson (Missouri); Rod Odom (Vanderbilt).

ALL-SEC DEFENSIVE TEAM: Young, Wilbekin (Florida); Mickey (LSU); Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky); Josh Richardson (Tennessee).

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Muschamp previews spring practice

M3TZ0195(Courtesy gatorzone.com)

GAINESVILLE -- Gators coach Will Muschamp met with the media Tuesday to preview Florida's spring practice, starting March 19 (open to the public).

Muschamp dished on a number of topics including a laundry list of injury updates, some notable positional changes and his preference for a traditional Orange & Blue Debut.

GAME (BACK) ON?

Last spring, Florida was forced to hold a glorified open practice during its annual Orange & Blue Debut due to so many offensive line injuries.

It turned out to be a damning omen for the upcoming season.

Muschamp hopes this spring is different (in more ways than one), and preliminary plans are to hold a traditional scrimmage on April 12.

"I want to have a spring game every year," he said.

"Last year I just didn't feel like it was fair with six offensive linemen healthy to put those guys through that. … I have all plans to have a spring game every year. I think it's important for those guys to get out in front of that crowd, the coaches off the field, and make them make calls and communicate and produce. There's no question. I want to have a spring game every year.”

INJURY REPORT

Florida was railroaded by injuries during its 2013 campaign and the team isn't totally healthy heading into spring camp.

Muschamp did deliver some positive news on tailback Matt Jones, who continues to recover well from a torn meniscus.

Jones -- who had multiple knee surgeries to repair the ligament in his left knee -- will miss all of spring practice, but Muschamp said the junior running back will be fully cleared on May 1. 

"He will not go through spring. He will not go through non-contact," Muschamp explained. "Matt will rehab there in the pit during practice, but extremely pleased with his progress and where he is."

May 1 is a D-Day of sorts for multiple UF players, as linebackers Matt Rolin (ACL) and Alex Anzalone (shoulder surgery) and senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (fractured wrist) will be cleared after missing camp.

Special teams ace/linebacker Jeremi Powell is expected to be cleared a month later (June 1), after sustaining a torn ACL during the 2013 season.

Senior wideout Andre Debose, who missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL suffered in August, will be cleared March 28 but will not have any contact this spring.

The 23-year-old former five-star prospect is expected to receive his sixth-year medical hardship wavier from the NCAA sometime in the near future.

True freshman tailback Brandon Powell, an early enrollee, is expected to be cleared for non-contact work "in the latter part" of spring practice after having offseason surgery to repair a pre-existing foot fracture from high school.

"We decided in February to go ahead and have surgery and put a pin in that," Muschamp said.

"To that point in January, had done an outstanding job in our conditioning drills. Great change of direction and speed. We're really excited about. He's one of the guys we're really excited about. It's unfortunate that something like that happened from high school."

Meanwhile, the news was not so good for redshirt sophomore tight end Colin Thompson (foot) and freshman offensive guard Nolan Kelleher (back).

Thompson, plagued by foot injuries during his three years in Gainesville, will miss spring practice and his future playing career appears uncertain.

"The last opinion we got is that he needed to shut it down completely," Muschamp said. "We'll have another opinion when spring is over, but he will not partake in spring practice."

Kelleher, an early enrollee, is dealing with a lingering back injury from high school and has not been cleared for camp.

LINE CHANGE

Muschamp didn't release UF's spring depth chart -- citing the team's need to finish its offseason conditioning program first -- but he did tease multiple impact changes including Max Garcia's (trial) shift to center.

Garcia, a senior offensive lineman, started 12 games at left guard in 2013 and was one of Florida's more reliable linemen on an underachieving unit. 

Tyler Moore, UF's presumptive center heading into camp, will move permanently to guard after struggling mightily as the Gators' right tackle last season.

Cameron Dillard (redshirt freshman) and Trip Thurman will also split time at center, while Trenton Brown will work at both tackle and guard.

D.J. Humphries remains Florida's left tackle, but the junior notably eclipsed the 290-pound mark -- consistently -- for the first time in his career.

Defensively, sophomore end Joey Ivie will see work at both end and defensive tackle, similarly to Jon Bullard in 2013.

The Gators' secondary, full of talent and inexperience, will see lots of moving parts this spring as roles are locked down.

QUOTABLE

“This isn’t Canadian ball, I mean, what’s legal?” 

-- Muschamp, totally out of context, on college football’s failed 10-second rule. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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