GAINESVILLE -- Florida routed Jacksonville 89-65 on Tuesday, outscoring the Dolphins by 16 points in the second half.
Four UF starters scored in double figures, headlined by freshman KeVaughn Allen’s career-high 15 points -- including a ferocious double-clutch dunk.
The Gators (8-3) handled business by trouncing the lowly Dolphins, who were playing on a back-to-back, and UF will close out its non-conference schedule with a home date against Florida State on Dec. 29.
UF’s blowout win Tuesday was also punctuated by a nice story. Zach Hodskins, a sophomore walk-on with just one hand, scored his first-career points on a nifty spin move late in the game.
Hodskins, who averaged close to 12 points a game in high school, was 0 of 5 in his career before making his first collegiate bucket.
GAINESVILLE -- Will Grier’s rollercoaster career at Florida is over.
The suspended redshirt freshman quarterback is transferring from the program, sources told to the Miami Herald.
Florida later confirmed the report Saturday afternoon, with first-year coach Jim McElwain saying in a statement, “Will came to me about exploring his options to transfer. We will support him and help him in anyway we can. This has been very difficult on him and obviously he is looking for a fresh start.
“We will always be there for him, as will all Gators.”
Just six days ago, McElwain said Grier would return to all team activities on Jan. 5 after Florida’s plays Michigan in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Instead, the quarterback will never suit up for the Gators again.
Grier led UF to a surprising 6-0 start -- including 5-0 as a starter with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He spurred the incredible fourth-quarter comeback against Tennessee and tossed four touchdowns in the upset win over then-No. 3 Ole Miss.
The 6-2, 200-pound gunslinger had the SEC’s highest completion percentage (65.8) and became the first Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009 to throw for at least 200 yards in three straight games.
But on Oct. 12, Grier was suspended a full calendar-year for violating the NCAA’s performance-enhancing drug policy, and Florida’s offense has mostly been stuck in the mud ever since.
Sophomore quarterback Treon Harris piloted the Gators to the SEC Championship Game, but the former Miami Booker T. Washington standout struggled mightily in McELwain’s pro-style system (49 percent completion percentage with 7 TDs and 5 INTs).
The Gators were blown out in their final two games against Florida State and Alabama, scoring just a single touchdown.
Initially, Florida hoped Grier would be eligible to return at the start of next season, but in late November, he lost his appeal to have his 12-month suspension reduced.
Now, Grier faces a murky future. He could immediately transfer to a junior college school and play right away, but should he go to another Division 1 program, Grier must sit out the full 2016 season and the first six games of 2017. Regardless of whatever initial decision Grier makes, the NCAA's six-game suspension is waiting for him if he ever plays D-1 football again.
Grier is the sixth Florida quarterback to leave the program in the last three years, joining Max Staver, Jacoby Brissett, Skyler Mornhinweg, Tyler Murphy and Jeff Driskel.
With Grier no longer in the fold, Florida will have just three scholarship quarterbacks in the spring, including two true freshmen (Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask).
The coaching staff is also quite high on walk-on quarterback Luke Del Rio, son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio. Del Rio, who initially signed with Alabama out of high school and has a close connection with UF offensive coordinator Doug Nussemier, earned rave reviews this summer but had to sit out the 2015 season after transferring from Oregon State.
The 6-foot-2, 315-pound tackle recorded 5.5 tackles for loss in 2015, but Brantley was oftentimes overshadowed by the success of Jon Bullard, Alex McCalister and others.
Still, he was a key and disruptive cog in the middle, improving his practice habits and production under first-year coach Jim McElwain.
Earlier this season, McElwain said the entire coaching staff considered Brantley a Top-10 talent on the team.
The redshirt sophomore said his close relationship with Bullard played a factor in his decision, especially watching Bullard, a senior who led UF with 17.5 tackles for loss, return to school last season and steadily improve his own draft stock.
“He chose to come back and that really suprised me,” Brantley explained.
“He definitely helped himself. I think he moved into the first round with a stellar season. But I mean for me, I still haven’t I feel like I really haven’t played how I can play yet.
“I mean, I played good, but I know I can do better.”
All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is the only UF player to publicly state his intention to “likely” declare early, but wideout Demarcus Robinson, tailback Kelvin Taylor, McCalister and others could all follow suit.
GAINESVILLE -- On the heels of an unexpected 10-3 season and a berth in the SEC Championship Game, the Florida Gators are raising ticket prices for the 2016 season -- coincidentally perhaps -- but also in advance of the worst home schedule in years.
The University Athletic Association Board of Directors approved a price hike of 33 percent for student season tickets and 10 percent for booster season tickets, as first reported by The Gainesville Sun.
Although tickets prices were modestly raised, booster fees remain unchanged for the third straight year.
“Our students are very important to us. They create a special environment at all our venues and we try to maintain reasonable prices for them. That’s the reason why this is the first increase in four years.”
According to the UAA, booster season tickets will now be $330 -- instead of $300 per season ticket package. Student prices will go from $105 to $140 for the seven-game slate -- or $5 per game. Foley noted that the increase still leaves Florida “the the median range relative to other SEC programs.”
In Jim McElwain’s first season, the Gators sold out The Swamp four times -- something former coach Will Muschamp didn’t do in four seasons. UF went 6-1 at home, losing the finale 27-2 to Florida State.
But the price hike comes at a tough time, as Florida's 2016 home schedule is a drag. The Gators non-conference slate -- UMass, North Texas and Presbyterian -- is awful and LSU is the only conference opponent that finished the 2015 season with a winning record.
Of note though, Muschamp will return to The Swamp on Nov. 12 with South Carolina.
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Three-star defensive end JaQuan Bailey (Jacksonville Raines) decommitted from UF on Wednesday, and Miami Central three-star defensive end Eric Mitchell backed off his UF pledge on Thursday. Florida’s 2016 class now stands at 24 commits and is ranked No. 8 according to 247Sports. … Wideout Antonio Callaway, a star at Miami Booker T. Washington, and defensive end CeCe Jefferson were both named to ESPN’s True Freshman All-American team. Callaway quickly emerged as a dynamic playmaker, leading the Gators with 603 receiving yards and four touchdowns and adding two punt return scores, too. Jefferson, a former five-star recruit, was also a standout, recording 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
The Gators honor their first-team All-Americans (by select institutions) with an engraving in front of the Heavener Complex. Last season, Hargreaves was recognized as a first-team All-American by the Sporting News, earning his first brick.
GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s 2016 recruiting class changed a bit Sunday.
Dwyer wideout Isaiah Johnson decommitted from UF after spending the weekend in Gainesville on his official visit. The three-star prospect was once a Miami commit, too, and is an early enrollee. According to recruitniks, the decision was a mutual one, as Florida hopes to land several blue-chip prospects as the position.
Antonio Callaway, a Booker T. Washington product, did not earn postseason honors despite a sensational season.
The Miami native led Florida with 603 receiving yards on 30 catches and four touchdowns. He also scored two punt return touchdowns, ranking fifth nationally with 15.5 yards per return. Callaway’s 20.1 yards per reception was also the best in the conference.
However, while Callaway didn't receive any recognition, a pair of former five-star prospects were named to the All-Freshman team. UF’s offensive lineman Martez Ivey and defensive end CeCe Jefferson both earned honors.
Ivey started seven games, playing both tackle spots and left guard. Jefferson quickly emerged as a rotational rusher, recording 28 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss.
Still, Callaway -- the Gators’ most explosive playmaker since Percy Harvin -- was notably missing from the list.
He was edged out for the receiver spots by Alabama’s Calvin Ridley (75 receptions for 893 yards and five touchdowns) and Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk (70 catches for 925 yards and six scores).
Kirk had an exceptional freshman season, as he became the first player in league history to earn three spots (receiver, all-purpose and return specialist) on the All-Freshman team. He led the nation with 24.4 yards per punt return, scoring a pair of touchdowns.
GAINESVILLE -- After leading Florida to a dramatic turnaround and the school’s first Eastern Division title since 2009, first-year coach Jim McElwain was named the SEC’s Coach of the Year on Wednesday.
Although the No. 19 Gators lost their final two games of the regular-season, they stand at 10-3 after winning just 11 games total in the previous two seasons.
McElwain became the fourth coach in school history to win the award, joining Ray Graves (1960) and Steve Spurrier (1990) as the only UF coaches to receive the honor in their first season in Gainesville. Former UF coach Will Muschamp also won the award in 2012.
Four Florida players were named to ESPN’s All-SEC team Wednesday: cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Jalen Tabor, as well as defensive tackle Jon Bullard and punter Johnny Townsend. All four players earned all-conference honors Tuesday, too.
GAINESVILLE -- While staffs across the country are busy recruiting before Monday’s month-long dead period begins, the coaching carousel is in full swing, too.
Jim McElwain just hopes the Gators aren’t involved in any of it.
Asked if he anticipated any changes, McElwain said, “Well I sure hope not.”
Florida’s first-year coach, recently named the SEC’s Coach of the Year, added, “We’ve got a great staff, and I know a lot of guys would be in high demand because they are great coaches. We’ve been able to put together an outstanding staff here. I hope all of them are back.”
According to USA Today’s database, UF’s assistants ranked 20th nationally -- 10th in the conference -- in salary pool last season.
Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and linebackers coach/assistant head coach Randy Shannon were candidates for Central Florida’s opening before Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost got the gig.
Recently, offensive line coach Mike Summers, the only UF assistant without a contract for next season, and defensive line coach Chris Rumph were rumored targets for Will Muschamp’s staff at South Carolina. However, Muschamp reportedly retained interim USC coach Shawn Elliott, who will serve as the OL coach.
GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s defense finished the regular-season ranked second overall in the Southeastern Conference, so the leagues coaches honored five Gators -- including four standout defensive players -- to the Coaches’ 2015 All-SEC teams Tuesday.
All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III earned his third-consecutive first-team selection, and the junior was joined by senior defensive tackle Jon Bullard and sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor. Senior linebacker Antonio Morrison and punter Johnny Townsend were named second-team selections.
Florida’s trio of first-team defense honorees are the school’s most since 2009.
Hargreaves and Tabor formed a dynamic duo in the secondary this season, as the both players intercepted four passes and headlined the nation's 11th ranked pass defense. Tabor led the SEC in passes defended with 18.
Meanwhile, Bullard returned for his senior season and emerged as one of the most dominant interior linemen in the country. He ranked second in the conference in tackles for loss (17.5) and led UF in sacks (6.5). Morrison, a second-team All-SEC performer a year ago, returned from a devastating knee injury to lead the team in tackles for the second straight season (97 stops).
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Morrison also accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl on Tuesday, joining teammate and tight end Jake McGee. … The Citrus Bowl announced that its New Year’s Day matchup between Michigan and Florida is already sold out. … UF safety Marcus Maye was not named to an All-SEC team Tuesday, but the redshirt junior did earn first-team All-American honors from USA Today. Maye has 73 tackles, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries on the season. … Five-star quarterback prospect Jacob Eason will reportedly decide between Georgia and Florida sometime in the next month.
So 4-1 again. Time to close out Championship Saturday with a bang. 38-21-1 ATS on the season.
Clemson (-4) vs North Carolina
Stanford (-4) vs USC
Iowa vs Michigan State (-3.5)
Kansas State (+8) vs West Virginia
And finally, Florida (+18) vs Alabama. Could this game turn into a blowout quickly? Sure. But even though Alabama will and should win, favorites are just 11-11-1 ATS in title game history (stat hat-tip: SB Nation’s Team Speed Kills). UF covers. Barely.
GAINESVILLE -- Florida enters the SEC Championship Game banged up, as starting left tackle David Sharpe reinjured his foot in Wednesday’s practice.
The 6-foot-6, 350-pound sophomore has battled the same injury for the last month, and first-year coach Jim McElwain said Sharpe’s status is uncertain for Saturday’s showdown with No. 2 Alabama (4 p.m., CBS).
The Gators need Sharpe and starting center Cam Dillard, who missed the Florida State loss with a leg injury, close to full-strength, as the Crimson Tide lead the conference with 41 sacks.
Meanwhile, slot receiver Brandon Powell (foot) was also hurt Wednesday but is probable for this weekend. Star defensive tackle Jon Bullard (knee) and Antonio Morrison (undisclosed) are ailing, too, but both seniors are expected to play.
Finally, sophomore cornerback Quincy Wilson (University School) went down with leg injury and is questionable.
“He’s been hampered by something in his leg,” McElwain said. “He did not look good at all today.”
Florida’s junior receiver, who as suspended for the fourth time in his career last weekend, returned to practice Wednesday, as the Gators’ seniors voted to allow Robinson to rejoin the team.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound wideout missed the loss to Florida State due to an undisclosed violation of team rules, and first-year coach Jim McElwain remained coy as to whether the enigmatic wideout would actually play in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game against Alabama (4 p.m., CBS).
“He practiced today,” McElwain said.
“We’ll see what happens.”
Florida’s coach left Robinson’s fate in the hands of his seniors, saying, “He talked to the team. It was a choice for him not to be with his family in the last ballgame. Sometimes the greatest lessons in life are when things are taken away from you and you’re no longer enabled.”
Robinson leads UF with 47 receptions, but he’s been benched twice this season despite McElwain recently praising the junior’s maturation.
“As I’ve said before, he has come a long way. But he still has a long way to go to understand it’s not OK to make choices that hurt your team.”
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UF dropped to No. 18 in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday, falling six spots after last Saturday’s 27-2 loss to FSU. Barring an upset in Atlanta, the Gators are no longer pegged for the Sugar Bowl, as No. 13 Ole Miss (9-3) leapfrogged UF in the rankings. … Sixth-year tight end Jake McGee accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl. McGee has recorded 38 catches for 338 yards and four touchdowns in 2015. … McElwain said suspended quarterback Will Grier is in Gainesville taking classes, dismissing rumors the redshirt freshman was kicked off the team recently.
GAINESVILLE -- Demarcus Robinson’s fate rests in the hands of Florida’s seniors.
The junior wideout was suspended for Saturday’s blowout loss to Florida State, and first-year coach Jim McElwain said the team's seniors will decide whether to reinstate Robinson for the SEC Championship Game this weekend.
“They’ll determine the direction we go,” McElwain said.
“He made a choice. Our family needs to make this decision and those guys are the leaders of our family.”
Robinson has a team-high 47 receptions for 505 yards and two touchdowns this season, but he’s been suspended four times in the last three years.
Now Saturday could’ve been the final straw.
“Are any of you surprised?” McElwain said after the loss to FSU.
“What’s disappointing is for somebody to do that to their teammates. And yet, I’m not made at him at all. He just made a choice.”
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Junior defensive end Alex McCalister, UF’s team-leader in sacks, will miss a third straight game with a foot injury. McElwain was vague about the rest of UF’s injury situation, though, saying he expected defensive tackle Jon Bullard (knee), linebacker Antonio Morrison (undisclosed) and others to play. “We’ve got some guys injured,” McElwain said. “But you know what, they’re finding a way to go out there and play. … At this time of the year, everybody’s beat up. We’ll still practice the same. We’ll still do what we do.”
... UF’s blowout loss to FSU not only dashed its College Football Playoff hopes but also likely knocked the Gators out of a New Year’s Six Bowl. Barring a monumental upset in Atlanta, most projections have Florida pegged for the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl in Orlando against Michigan.
Franks (Wakulla High) decommited from LSU last week and has long been rumored to flip to Florida. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound prospect is the No. 5 quarterback recruit in the country. With Florida’s issues and uncertainty at the position next season, securing Franks, an early enrollee, was a must for Jim McElwain & Co.
Meanwhile, the Gators also added a playmaker and someone to protect their future quarterback.
Junior college athelte Dre Massey, a four-star prospect from Holmes C.C. in Mississippi, committed to Florida following his official visit over the weekend.
Finally, Florida’s class did take a hit with the decommitment of Pasco cornerback Jayvaughn Myers. The three-star athlete is considered a bit of a project, but he is also the half-brother of five-star receiver Nate Craig-Myers -- a key UF target.
This is a huge decision in my life for the next 3-4 years. I just want to make sure I'm making the right choice🙏 pic.twitter.com/Yo1EUmD6Iy
GAINESVILLE -- Florida hasn't beaten archrival Florida State in The Swamp since Tim Tebow was a senior, so the Gators are wear white helmets, blue jerseys and white pants for the first time since ... FSU 2009.
First-year coach Jim McElwain calls tonight’s Sunshine Showdown “personal.”
The longtime rivals are nearly mirror images of each this year, two flawed offenses buoyed by electric playmakers (FSU’s Dalvin Cook, UF’s Antonio Callaway) and a pair of stout defenses.
Tonight could be a real rock fight, with Cook (and possibly kicker Robert Aguayo) proving to be the ultimate trump card(s). Or maybe McElwain's magic in The Swamp will continue.
WHERE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
LINE: UF +2.5
1. Can Treon Harris protect the football?
2. Will UF’s Jon Bullard really miss this game?
3. Can the Gators go undefeated at home for the first time since 2012?
GAINESVILLE -- Senior star Jon Bullard is one of three Florida defensive linemen who remain doubtful for Saturday’s showdown with Florida State.
Gators coach Jim McElwain released an early evening injury report Wednesday, listing Bullard (knee), defensive end Alex McCalister (foot) and defensive tackle Taven Bryan (ankle) as doubtful. Two more rotational linemen are questionable (Jordan Sherit, hamstring; Joey Ivie, leg).
The Gators also listed starting guard Martez Ivey (shoulder) and center Cam Dillard (leg) as questionable. Slot receiver Brandon Powell (foot) and starting left tackle David Sharpe (foot) were upgraded to probable, though.
“We’ll have 11 players take the field on Saturday versus Florida State,” McElwain said.
The complete injury report:
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FootballScoop.com reported that Central Florida “plans to interview” UF co-defensive coordinators Geoff Collins, a former Knights assistant, and Randy Shannon, Miami’s head coach from 2007-10, for its head coaching vacancy. Collins was recently named a 2015 Broyles Award finalist, honoring the nation’s top assistant. … Florida president Kent Fuchs will serve as the honorary Mr. Two Bits on Saturday.
GAINESVILLE -- A 18-6 run in the second half fueled Florida to a 86-62 rout over Vermont on Wednesday afternoon in the O’Connell Center.
Four players scored in double figures, led by senior Dorian Finney-Smith’s 20 points, six rebounds and six assists -- a feat no Florida player has accomplished since Chandler Parsons in 2010.
Big-man John Egbunu had 13 points, while forward Devin Robinson, who made his first-career start of 2015, added 16 points and eight rebounds.
The Gators needed a strong second-half flurry to bury the Catamounts, as Florida struggled to create separation thanks to some ice-cold shooting in the first half (34 percent).
Here’s three quick thoughts on the win.
1. Kasey Hill was dreadful in Sunday’s loss to Purdue (1 of 8 from the field), but the junior point guard was electric Wednesday afternoon. Hill finished with 14 points -- 11 after halftime including a super-sweet behind-the-back, reverse layup. He also chipped in 4 assists, zero turnovers and a pair of steals. UF’s half-court offense has been stuck in the mud this season -- mostly due to poor guard play and iffy shooting. But the Gators' offensive got going Wednesday when Hill and Doe-Doe really attacked. They need Hill to discover some consistency because …
2. Florida’s half-court offense remains a mess. Unless Egbunu or Finney-Smith makes a play inside, the Gators can’t score with any sort of efficiency or consistency. They hit two 3s in the first half. They drilled six after halftime. Too often, UF gets boggled down in a zone, throws too many poor entry passes and can’t create off the dribble. Florida shares the ball well (13 assists), but sometimes the Gators actually play too unselfish and pass up open shots. They’re clearly uncomfortable when the pace slows, so they need to find more ways to run. Even off opponents' made baskets. They need to play fast. Fortunately, Florida’s press and half-court defense …
3. Is really good, especially against a team that hemorrhages turnovers. The Catamounts average 17 giveaways a game, and they equaled their season-average Wednesday (17). When Florida couldn’t hit shots early, Vermont stuck around, but as soon as UF upped its pressure (and offensive rebounding) the Catamounts couldn’t keep up with the Gators’ athletes. UF recorded 10 steals and out-rebounded Vermont 43-34.
GAINESVILLE -- For Jake McGee, the third time’s a charm.
Florida’s tight end is one of 11 scholarship players who will participate in Senior Day festivities Saturday before UF tangles with Florida State.
But McGee has done this dance before.
“Fun fact. This will be three,” he said, grinning.
“I actually did one at Virginia too, so I'm pretty experienced with the whole Senior Day thing.”
Last year, McGee came to Florida as a graduate transfer from Virginia, but he broke his leg in the first game of the season and his college career appeared over. In a last minute decision by the NCAA, though, McGee was granted a sixth-year of eligibility and the tight end has emerged as one of UF’s key leaders and most productive players.
“I didn’t expect to have two Senior Days here,” he said.
“I didn’t expect to get hurt and stuff like that. You just sorta, as the things come you gotta make the most of it, smile and have a good time with everything.”
McGee is Florida’s second-leading receiver (34 catches for 304 yards) and caught the game-winning touchdown in last weekend’s scare against Florida Atlantic. The senior has been clutch all season, with 56 percent of his receptions going for a first down or touchdown.
"It just works out that the plays that are called, when it's thrown to me, I've got to know where the sticks are, need to know where I need to get to and have a pretty good feel out there for what's going on,” McGee said.