October 28, 2015

Gators add four-star DE, recruiting mojo continues

GAINESVILLE -- On Monday, Florida coach Jim McElwain joked he no longer needs to show his ID when he visits prospective recruits at high schools. 

With the No. 11 Gators leading the SEC East and positioned for a possible playoff run, the recruiting trail has been a lot friendlier to McElwain recently.

"Before you'd roll into a school and they really say, 'You've got to show your ID,' because they didn't know who the heck you were," McElwain said.

"And they thought I was kidding when I said I was the head coach at Florida. Now there's a couple more people that know, which is a good thing for us.

"The reception was outstanding. We’re making some inroads and still need to obviously in a lot of areas, but recruiting is your lifeline. We’ve got to get better at it.” 

Florida picked up another elite prospect Wednesday, adding consensus four-star defensive end Antonneous Clayton. 

Clayton verbally committed to UF on Twitter.

The Gators reportedly beat out Auburn and Florida State for the 6-3, 218-pound speed rusher. They now have 21 prospects pledged to their 2016 class and rank 12th nationally in 247Sports’ rankings. 

Clayton’s commitment could be the first of several big dominos to fall in the next couple months. According to 247Sports Crystal Ball projections, Florida leads for top prospects Nate Craig-Myers (five-star wideout), Dexter Lawrence (five-star defensive tackle) and Binjimen Victor (four-star wideout) and could potentially flip wideout Sam Bruce (Miami commit) and defensive end Janarius Robinson (Florida State commit). 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 27, 2015

Abby Wambach announces her retirement


GAINESVILLE -- Former Florida star and international soccer legend Abby Wambach is hanging up her boots. 

The U.S. Women’s National Team captain and all-time leading scorer -- male or female -- in international soccer announced her retirement Tuesday after the national team celebrated its 2015 World Cup victory with President Obama at the White House. 

“After much deliberation and talking with my friends, family, teammates and our coaching staff, I’ve decided to finally bring my soccer career to an end. While we still have more work to do for women’s soccer, after bringing the World Cup back to the United States this summer, I’m feeling extremely optimistic about the future of the sport. It’s been an amazing, wonderful ride and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life brings.”

Wambach will officially call it quits after the women’s team concludes its victory tour for winning the World Cup this December. Wambach’s final game will be Dec. 16 against China in New Orleans. 

Wambach, 35, was renowned for her goals via headers, physical play, leadership and the advancement of soccer in America. 

She was a three-time All-American at UF, spearheading the Gators’ 1998 national championship team as a freshman. She still holds the SEC record for goals with 96 and led UF to four straight SEC titles. 

After leaving Gainesville, Wambach quickly developed into an international superstar, playing in four World Cups, two Olympics and scoring a record 184 international goals.

She won a pair of Olympic gold medals (2004, 2012) and capped her decorated career with an elusive win in a World Cup final this summer. 

Wambach is actually scheduled to speak at Florida’s Phillips Center next week (Nov. 3) during a Homecoming event hosted by ACCENT. The event is free and open to the public and Wambach’s speech begins at 8 p.m. 

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October 25, 2015

Gators move up two spots in both national polls

GAINESVILLE -- With a couple undefeated teams losing Saturday, Florida climbed in the rankings despite not playing this weekend.

The Gators checked in at No. 11 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll -- up two spots after losing at LSU last weekend. 

Florida also moved up two spots in the coaches’ poll to No. 12. 

The Gators could virtually lock up the SEC East with a win over archival Georgia in Jacksonville on Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS). 

Their remaining schedule includes just one team ranked in both polls (No. 15/17 Florida State), and the Seminoles tumbled in the rankings following their dramatic loss at Georgia Tech.  

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October 21, 2015

HOOPS: Gators picked to finish sixth in the SEC

GAINESVILLE -- Under the stewardship of new head coach Mike White, the Florida Gators were picked to finish sixth in the SEC by the league’s media Wednesday. 

The Gators return three starters from a team that finished 16-17 last season and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. 

White replaces legendary coach Billy Donovan, but inherits a team with lots of depth and raw talent. Still, early expectations remain low, as Florida didn’t receive a single vote in the men’s preseason coaches’ poll last week. 

Senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who led the team in scoring (13.1 points per game) and rebounds (6.2) last season, earned second-team honors in the media’s preseason All-SEC selections. 

Kentucky was picked to win the league, while LSU’s freshman sensation Ben Simmons was named the preseason player of the year.  

Preseason Media Poll

1. Kentucky

2. Vanderbilt

3. Texas A&M

4. LSU

5. Georgia

6. Florida

7. South Carolina

8. Mississippi State

9. Ole Miss

10. Auburn

11. Arkansas

12. Tennessee

13. Alabama

14. Missouri 

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October 18, 2015

#DBU? Both secondaries schooled Saturday night

BATON ROUGE, La. -- During the offseason, the secondaries of Florida and LSU traded Twitter barbs laying claim to the real Defensive Back University -- or #DBU. 

Both schools need to have their accreditations checked after Saturday night in Death Valley. 

In No. 6 LSU's thrilling 35-28 win, both secondaries were schooled by miscommunications, blown assignments and poor tackling. Neither team had a clue how to stop a wheel route, either. 

Tigers quarterback Brandon Harris threw for 200 yards for just the second time in his career, completing 13-of-19 passes for two touchdowns.

He connected on a pair of bombs to Malachi Dupree (52-yard flea flicker, 50-yard touchdown) on misplays by safety Marcus Maye and All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and found Travin Duval for a nine-yard touchdown on a terrific fade pattern. 

LSU entered the game as the nation's worst passing team, but Harris answered the critics with a standout performance. His elusiveness and ability to keep plays alive really hurt UF. 

"It's nothing but motivation to me," he said. 

"I play with a chip on my shoulder. I say this real humbly: This team knows how talented we are passing the ball. Everybody knows what I can do throwing the football."

They certainly do now. 

Meanwhile, Treon Harris answered his own critics, as No. 8 Florida’s backup quarterback threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns in place of the suspended Will Grier. It was hardly a flawless performance (he finished the game missing 10 of his final 12 throws), but the sophomore kept UF's upset hopes alive with big plays throughout the game. 

He found tight end Jake McGee wide open for two scores on breakdowns by LSU defensive backs, and connected with playmakers Antonio Callaway (48-yarder), DeAndre Goolsby (30-yarder) and Demarcus Robinson (38-yarder) for explosive gains. 

"I thought he did a good job," McGee said.

"It's a tough test. First transition game. ... I thought it was something he handled well." 

Both secondaries tout some of the nation’s best players (Hargreaves III and Jalen Tabor; LSU’s Jalen Mills and Jamal Adams) but Saturday was not a night they'll want to remember. 

"It was frustrating," Maye said.

"We got the quarterback out of the pocket and they got us one the scramble plays."


Miles is now 46-4 in night games in Death Valley. … Gators five-star freshman Martez Ivey made his first-career start at left guard. … UF kicker Jorge Powell, a Belen Jesuit Prep alum, was injured on a kickoff return in the first quarter and did not return. … LSU faced a deficit after the first quarter for the first time all season. … Gators freshman tailback Jordan Scarlett (St. Thomas Aquinas) recorded his first carry in five weeks, gaining 11 yards on a pivotal fourth-and-1. … Florida is now 12-of-14 on fourth downs this season. … The Tigers face a backup quarterback for fourth-straight week (previously: Syracuse, EMU and South Carolina).

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October 17, 2015

GameDay Primer: Florida Gators at LSU Tigers

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Football will be played today. 

I think. 

After a chaotic week full of off-the-field storylines (Will Grier, Steve Spurrier, Deiondre Porter), the eighth-ranked Gators will traverse into the jungle and try to win under the lights in Death Valley. 

Since Les Miles became LSU’s coach in 2005, the sixth-ranked Tigers have lost just four night games at home.  

Florida is undefeated and the Jim McElwain era is off to a roaring start, but the season has also been a soap opera. 

A quick rundown thus far: 

Suspensions in the opener. The Kelvin Taylor throat slash incident. Suspensions against Tennessee. Roughly 21 players battling the flu before Ole Miss. Grier and Porter suspensions this week. 

Again, a soap opera. 

McElwain has proven a master motivator though, instilling Florida with an “us against the world” mentality all year. The Gators have thrived on the chaos, but how much is too much?

We’ll find out tonight.  

“Improvise, adjust, adapt, overcome,” McElwain said.  

“And these guys have been pretty resilient so far and now we get an opportunity to see how much we've learned. … Let’s talk about chaos and distractions, playing in Tiger Stadium in a night game, there’s a lot of it going on. So, I think the important thing is eliminate the clutter, take care of yourself, do your job and let’s go focus and have a good time doing it.”

LSU will face a backup quarterback for the fourth-straight week (Syracuse, EMU, South Carolina), and while Treon Harris isn’t an ordinary backup, it is another quarterback issue for UF against LSU.  

WHERE: Tiger Stadium

WHEN: 7 p.m.




1. Despite shaky special teams, can UF win the field position battle?

2. How will Florida respond without Grier?

3. Who is the real #DBU - LSU or UF? 


UF braces for LSU’s Leonard Fournette

The Gators turn to Treon Harris

McElwain likes team’s focus despite distractions

Will Grier is not practicing with the team

McElwain has confidence in struggling kicking game

Deiondre Porter arrested 

Gators reflect on Steve Spurrier’s resignation 

Coaches, colleagues and players pay tribute to the HBC

Report: College football icon Steve Spurrier to retire

UF gets good news on injury front  

Will Grier suspended for violating the NCAA’s drug policy

Win over Missouri puts UF back in the national spotlight


I’m taking a lot of road ‘dogs today. Just 3-2 last week and 19-10-1 ATS on the season. 

Michigan State (+7.5) at Michigan 

Alabama (-3.5) at Texas A&M

Louisville (+8) at Florida State

Penn State (+19) at Ohio State 

And finally, Florida (+7) at LSU. This game could go sideways quickly, or the Gators could hang around and possibly spring the upset. The line has moved a ton this week. Going as high as +10 in some places. The Tigers’ll win, but the Gators will show up. This group is too prideful. 

Enjoy the bayou brawl, y’all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 15, 2015

Notebook: McElwain has confidence in kicking game

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s special teams haven’t been all that special this season. 

The Gators rank in the middle of the pack in punt and kickoff return and their kicking game has been even more suspect. 

Placekickers Austin Hardin and Jorge Powell, a walk-on from Belen Jesuit Prep, are a combined 5-of-9 on field goals, but coach Jim McElwain said he still has confidence in UF’s kickers, specially Powell. 

“Well you know in our program we don’t differentiate between walk-ons and scholarships. They’re Gators,” McElwain said.  

“I’ve got full confidence in everything [Powell] does. He hit’em really good this week in practice. Couple live opportunities that we do, goods on goods, he was nails. Yea. I’ll send him out there and say, ‘Go kick it.’”

Florida can’t afford to leave many points on the board Saturday night in Death Valley (7 p.m., ESPN), as No. 6 LSU’s Trent Domingue is a perfect 7-of-7 kicking field goals on the season. 

Powell missed a 36-yard field goal in the win over Missouri last weekend, but the redshirt freshman is 2-for-3 on the year.

He’s taken over the first-string dues, as Hardin, a redshirt junior on scholarship, remains sidelined with an injury. Hardin also seems to be in McElwain’s doghouse and has not played since the win over Kentucky. 

When asked about Hardin’s status, McElwain said, “I don’t know. He’s got to work through that and see where it is.”


Five-star freshman Martez Ivey continues to see reps at left guard in practice. 

The 6-foot-5, 302-pound offensive tackle has played both positions in games, but Florida is reshuffling its offensive line to add depth and put its best five players on the field.

Starting right guard Antonio Riles has struggled some in recent weeks, prompting the move. 

Ivey first debuted at guard against Ole Miss, and saw reps inside against Missouri, too. 

 “We’ve talked about trying to get an eight or nine-man rotation,” McElwain said.

“Working ‘Tez in there a little bit to give [starting guard Antonio Riles] a break. Tyler Jordan will get in there as well, at center and guard as much as we can. Getting ‘Tez over there with [David] Sharpe on the left side gives us maybe a little pop over there. It also allows us to give [Riles] some rest instead of having to take 80 snaps.”


Senior defensive tackle Jon Bullard was added to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list Thursday, honoring college football’s top defensive player of the year. Bullard leads the Gators with 9.5 tackles for loss and ranks fourth in the SEC in sacks with 4.5. … LSU has just one turnover all season (tied with FSU for fewest in the nation), while Florida leads conference in takeaways (13). … Florida last won in Death Valley in 2009. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 14, 2015

Porter suspended indefinitely following arrest

460x(Deiondre Porter | Courtesy Alachua County Jail)

GAINESVILLE -- Florida can add another distraction to the list before its pivotal matchup against No. 6 LSU this weekend. 

Gators cornerback and special teams ace Deiondre Porter was suspended indefinitely following Wednesday’s arrest for allegedly firing a gun at his pregnant girlfriend of two years. 

Porter, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman, is currently being held in Alachua County Jail on $160,000 bond and faces four felony charges, including aggravated battery and two charges for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, and one second-degree misdemeanor, according to court records.

“He’s no longer with the football team,” UF coach Jim McElwain said.

“He is suspended indefinitely for a choice, his choice not to be with us.”

According to the Gainesville Police Department incident report, on Sept. 29 at around 2:15 a.m., Porter angrily confronted his girlfriend, who he knew was 10 weeks pregnant at the time, over a potential relationship with a teammate. Porter accused his girlfriend of cheating, followed her into a bedroom and pointed a gun at her head, “demanding she tell the truth.”

The vicim maintained her innocence and made numerous failed attempts to contact the alleged teammate to prove she had not been romantically involved with anyone else.

Per the report, Porter and his girlfriend eventually went to sleep in separate rooms, but the next morning, Porter continued yelling at the victim, growing further agitated. He then fired a handgun in the victim’s direction, with the bullet “striking the wall where she was leaning,” according to the GPD report. 

Police later found a bullet hole in the wall and recovered a .45 caliber shell casing near where the victim alleged Porter shot the gun. 

On Sept. 30, officers contacted Porter, who was a passenger in a vehicle with a driver found to be in possession of a .45 caliber handgun. 

Porter was Florida’s starting gunner on special teams the first four weeks of the season and was awarded the honor of wearing the big sombrero before the Tennessee game -- a symbol for a player’s importance during a particular week. 

However, since the alleged incident, Porter did not play a single snap against Ole Miss or Missouri.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 13, 2015

Colleagues, coaches and players pay tribute to HBC

GAINESVILLE -- Steve Spurrier resigned abruptly from South Carolina on Monday, sending shockwaves around college football.

Spurrier, 70, is the all-time winningest coach at Florida and South Carolina. The Head Ball Coach was an icon with his swagger, sharp tongue and sophisticated offensive mind, and on Tuesday, tons of former colleagues, coaches and players paid tribute to Spurrier on Twitter.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 12, 2015

Report: College football icon Steve Spurrier to retire

GAINESVILLE -- The visor has been tossed for the last time. 

Former Florida Gators player, coach and legend Steve Spurrier is retiring -- effective immediately -- according to multiple outlets. 

Sports Illustrated first reported the news

The Ol’ Ball Coach, 70, is a college football saint, winning the Heisman Trophy at UF in 1966 and revolutionizing offense in the SEC years later with the Fun 'N Gun attack.

In 1996, Spurrier delivered Florida’s first national title in school history with a 52-20 win over Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. 

In all, Spurrier was 122-27 in a dozen seasons at UF, winning six SEC Championships. He remains the school’s all-time winningest coach, losing just five games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and nicknaming the house of horrors “The Swamp.” 

After leaving UF following the 2001 season, the HBC had a brief and unsuccessful stop in the NFL, lasting just three seasons with the Washington Redskins.

In 2005, he became the head coach at South Carolina and eventually revived a dormant program, leading the Gamecocks to 10 straight bowl games. The Gamecocks won 11 games in three-straight seasons from 2011-2013 and Spurrier is the school’s all-time winningest coach. 

Last season, USC upset Florida 23-20 and the next day Will Muschamp was fired. 

“I’m getting a little old when you start feeling sorry for the other coach, “ Spurrier said afterwards. 

“I hope they keep him.”

Had Spurrier chosen to finish out the 2015 season, his final SEC game would’ve come against his alma mater on Nov. 14 in Columbia, SC. 

Spurrier remains an endeared figure, and his larger-than-life personality started at UF. His most famous gems include, "You can't spell Citrus without U-T" and "You know what FSU stands for don't you? Free Shoes University."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 10, 2015

GameDay Primer: Florida at Missouri


Clearly, this ain’t Missouri. 

I won’t be at Florida’s game tonight (fall wedding on the beach!) but that doesn’t mean I’ll skip the questions, links and the picks (feeling a bounce-back week). 

Without further ado.  

WHERE: Memorial Stadium

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

WATCH: SEC Network

LINE: Florida -5.5


1. Can UF avoid a letdown?

2. How will QB Will Grier handle his second road start?

3. Will Florida’s defense dominant an impotent attack? 


The Gators are eying payback

UF is healthy heading into road contest

Jim McElwain won’t heap praise on QB Will Grier

Miami, Florida could renew rivalry in 2019

DT Caleb Brantley is shining without the stats

Gators defense wreaking havoc under Geoff Collins

Emmitt Smith makes rare return to The Swamp 

Morrison earns SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors

UF out to avoid one-hit wonder status

Florida to face LSU in primetime

UF’s young offensive line displaying growth 

Gators rise to No. 11 in AP Top 25


Another bad week (2-3) but that changes today. Still 16-8-1 ATS on the season.  

Oklahoma (-16.5) vs. Texas

South Carolina at LSU (-18)

California at Utah (-7) -- really like the over here, too

Northwestern (+9) at Michigan  

Finally, Florida (-5.5) at Missouri. The Tigers have throttled the Gators 78-30 over the last two seasons. That should be motivation enough to avoid a hangover after two straight thrilling wins. Florida will need to create its own juice (The Swamp’s energy has been a key factor the last two weeks), but Mizzou is so challenged offensively, backing a freshman quarterback against this UF defense is just silly. Expect a sloppy, low-scoring affair. 

Have fun watching football all days, peeps. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

October 08, 2015

DT Caleb Brantley shining without the stats

GAINESVILLE -- No. 11 Florida’s pass rush has been fierce early in the season. 

Geoff Collins’ defense ranks second nationally in tackles for loss (46) and first in the SEC in sacks (18), but one player who’s rarely shown up in the box score has actually been a key catalyst up front. 

Gators defensive tackle Caleb Brantley has just one sack, 2.5 tackles for loss and (officially) zero quarterback hurries on the year, yet coach Jim McElwain called the 6-2, 315-pound redshirt sophomore one of Florida’s best overall players due to Brantley’s ability to draw double-teams and create rush lanes for teammates.

“He was one of the guys when we first got here that I probably noticed from an athletic standpoint that really jumped out,” McElwain said. 

“To see his athletic ability, explosiveness and quick twitch and all the things that are really beneficial to play that position. As we did our ratings of our top 70 players … he was a guy that was in the top-10 of every coach. So I think that speaks for how much we think he’s a really good player, and he’s doing a great job.”

Brantley played in all 12 games in last season. He would flash in moments but consistency -- from effort to motivation to production -- was an issue. 

But the light has turned on in 2015. 

Defensive line coach Chris Rumph has been able to tap into Brantley’s raw talent, and Florida’s assistant coach credits Brantely’s elevated play to accepting coaching and improving his practice habits. 

“He came up to me and he said, ‘Coach, for the first time I'm starting to understand football. It's starting to make sense to me, starting to slow down for me.' That's a credit to him putting in the extra work and working, listening to the things that we're telling him as a player,” Rumph explained. 

“I think it's really helping him, and I think he's seeing some of the success when he does it the right way, and then also he's seeing what happens when he doesn't do it the right way.”

Meanwhile, McElwain praised Brantley’s unselfishness, as the defensive tackle has frequently sacrificed stats to free up teammates. 

“I think they know the importance of doing their job to help us be successful,” McElwain said. 

“And really what happens, too, usually when you’re doing your job and doing it at the technique that you’re taught sometimes you do spring in there for some sacks or whatever it is. But the amount of hurries, pressures, putting a quarterback where he’s not able to get his feet set, a lot of those are Caleb.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 07, 2015

Report: Florida, Miami closing on deal to renew series

GAINESVILLE -- Rivalry renewed? 

The Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes are close to agreeing to a deal to open the 2019 season at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, according to the Orlando Sentinel.  

"Although the deal has not yet been signed and a last-minute snag in negotiations is always a possibility, it certainly appears the Gators and Hurricanes will renew their once-annual rivalry for the first time since 2013.

Florida-Miami would also be another premier neutral site game for the Citrus Bowl, which will host Florida State-Ole Miss next season and Alabama-Louisville in 2018. Florida Citrus Sports is also apparently in negotiations to bring a marquee college football match-up to the Citrus Bowl in 2017.

“While we won’t comment on this report, we’re always exploring future scheduling options,” UF spokesperson Steve McClain told the Orlando Sentinel."

However, Hurricanes athletics director Blake James told the Miami Herald, “I wouldn’t say we’re close because I don’t even have a contract.

“Is there interest in playing Florida? There is. Is it something that I think is right for us from a fans’ standpoint, from a financial standpoint and right for our program? Those are all things I’m interested in evaluating. And do I think there’s a possibility we play them there? Yeah. But until we have a contract I wouldn’t say we’re close.”

Blake added, “I have an interest in seeing if we can have our football program play Florida. I think it’s good for college football and good for our fans. We’re interested in that. And if it works out that we can play them in Orlando in ’19, I think that’s great.’’

Florida and Miami played annually until 1987, when the rivalry was discontinued.

The two schools have met another six times since then, including a 21-16 win by the Hurricanes in 2013. 

Gators athletics director Jeremy Foley has insisted over the years Florida is only interested in renewing the series if the games are hosted at a neutral site, with James telling the Miami Herald in May 2014 that Foley was “receptive” to the idea.

“I would have to think about Orlando,” James said. 

“That’s not real neutral, but it’s an easy distance to our campus.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

Emmitt Smith makes rare return to The Swamp

GAINESVILLE -- Emmitt Smith is a Florida legend and the most successful NFL tailback of all-time, but the former Gators star made a rare return to The Swamp over the weekend. 

Smith addressed coach Jim McElwain’s team the night before Florida’s shocking 38-10 beatdown over then-No. 3 Ole Miss. 

Smith then watched the game from the sidelines and drew a raucous cheer when he was acknowledged over the PA system. 

“I love the [former] Gators coming back,” McElwain said. 

“I was like a kid in a candy store. I actually got to shake Emmitt Smith’s hand. That was pretty neat. … I was a little giddy. I had a chance to meet one of the best ever at his position. Never would have thought that would happen.”

McElwain said having former players back around the program helps Florida restore its old order. 

“Our guys got to understand they’re carrying on a legacy that’s bigger than them,” he said. 

“You think about -- not only Emmitt, but a lot of those players. Every time people see them, they say the University of Florida. That’s top-of-mind awareness. From a business standpoint, think of what he’s generated for the University of Florida. I’m not sure you can put a number on it.”

Smith wasn’t the only former Gator on the sidelines, as former defensive tackle Dominique Easley served as the honorary ‘Mr. Two Bits’ and former first-round safety Matt Elam was also in attendance. 

Junior safety Marcus Maye called the experience “awesome,” saying, “That was really cool. … Having an NFL great and Gator great come back and share some knowledge and some of his experience with us was awesome because you don’t get that everywhere.”

Smith’s relationship to his alma mater hasn’t exactly been chummy in recent years, though.

After starring at UF from 1987-89, Smith hardly ever returned to Gainesville and didn’t even mention the Gators in his Hall of Fame speech. 

In 2013, he criticized former quarterback Jeff Driskel on Twitter and later apologized to Driskel and former coach Will Muschamp. 

So the fact Smith is back around the program again is a big deal.

“Coach always says you’re playing for something bigger than yourself,” defensive end Alex McCalister said. 

“I was getting dressed and I just had happened to turn right and Emmitt Smith is sitting down right there. My heart dropped for a second. I was like, ‘Dawg, Emmitt Smith is really right here in our locker room just chillin.’ That’s big, that’s big for everybody though. Former Gators coming back and helping us out, talking to us here and there. I love that.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 06, 2015

Notebook: Morrison honored, recruiting updates

GAINESVILLE -- Antonio Morrison is just nine months removed from major knee surgery, but the senior linebacker has started every game for No. 11 Florida.

Morrison hasn’t quite looked himself, though, until last Saturday. 

The middle linebacker recorded a ridiculous 16 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a half sack in UF’s upset win over Ole Miss.

He was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week and also earned Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors for his standout performance. 

“There’s the story of this football team,” McElwain said. 

“What he has overcome. The work he has put in. … I can’t say enough about this guy.”

Morrison now leads the team in stops with 40, adding 1.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. 


Former Miami commit McArthur Burnett (Pahokee) verbally pledged to Florida over the weekend.

The wideout/cornerback is the third prospect to flip from Miami to Florida in the 2016 cycle, joining corner Chauncey Gardner (Cocoa) and wideout Isaiah Johnson (Dwyer). 

Meanwhile, the Gators lost a commitment, as athlete Tyrek Tisdale (Orlando Oak Ridge) announced on Twitter he was backing off his pledge. 

The Gators’ 2016 class is ranked No. 14 nationally with 20 verbal commits, per 247 Sports.  


Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk remains indefinitely suspended and will not play against UF. Freshman quarterback Drew Lock will make his second straight start. … Despite playing every snap the last three weeks, Will Grier still isn’t listed as UF’s unquestioned starter at quarterback -- at least not on the depth chart. There were no changes to the Week 6 two-deep, as the ‘OR’ remains between Grier and sophomore Treon Harris.  

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October 04, 2015

Soaring: UF climbs to No. 11 after routing Ole Miss

GAINESVILLE -- The climb has started earlier than anticipated. 

Fresh off a shocking 38-10 manhandling of then-No. 3 Ole Miss, Florida jumped 14 spots in the Associated Press Top 25 -- the third-highest jump in AP Poll history dating back to 1936. 

UF (5-0, 3-0 SEC) also checked in at No. 12 in the coaches’ poll. 

The Gators dramatic rise comes one week after reentering the rankings for the first time since Oct. 2013 -- a 25-week absence following a blowout loss at Missouri.

The SEC East leading Gators travel to Columbia, Mo. this weekend to take on the Tigers (7:30 p.m., SEC Network).

Sunday marks UF’s highest ranking since opening the 2013 season No. 10. The Gators also jumped several rivals including No. 12 FSU and No. 19 Georgia. 

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Gator Grades: A Sick Result

GAINESVILLE -- Five years ago, Florida had a first-year coach, was undefeated and set to face-off against the No. 3 team in the country. 

Alabama demolished Will Muschamp’s 12th-ranked Gators 38-10, but there would be no déjà vu Saturday night in The Swamp. 

The Gators, led by the devilishly shrewd Jim McElwain, flipped the script and annihilated No. 3 Ole Miss by the exact same score (38-10) in a shocking upset. 




Will Grier was the star (24-of-29 for 271 yards and four touchdowns), but Florida’s offensive line and offensive coordinator deserve major kudos, too. Doug Nussmeier called a brilliant game, keeping Ole Miss’ aggressive and attacking defense off balance with motions, play action, boot-legs and a lot of easy reads for Grier. 

Florida couldn’t really run the ball (111 yards on 34 yards), but they didn’t really have to because the OL held up well enough in pass protection. Demarcus Robinson was great (8 for 94) and Brandon Powell showed off the jets on a 77-yard score. 

Grier was simply one of many sick players, but he played nasty, too. He threw four touchdowns in the first half and managed an offense that never turned the ball over and went 8-of-16 on third down. 

The Gators didn’t gain many yards after halftime, but they capitalized on a couple of turnovers and ran the clock with some key first downs.  


Mercy. Florida’s violent, swarming, mauling defense was unrelenting Saturday night. The Gators held the Rebels’ to a season-low 328 yards and just 10 points. 

Quarterback Chad Kelly took a beating (4 sacks, numerous other hits) and UF’s secondary held Ole Miss’ talented receiving corps in check. 

The Gators forced 4 turnovers, had 11 tackles for loss and sealed the blowout with a critical goal line stand in the third quarter. 

Jon Bullard was terrific again (shocker), but fellow senior Antonio Morrison finally looked like his old self (13 tackles, 3.5 TFL). Vernon Hargreaves collected another interception and five-star freshman CeCe Jefferson nearly recovered a popup fumble (a nifty one-handed snag) for a touchdown. 

All in all, it was dominant performance from a defense that prides itself as #BDN. 


Florida’s third unit also delivered its best performance of the season. The missed PAT led to some interesting decisions, but otherwise UF was great. 

Johnny Townsend averaged 47 yards on five punts and his 57-yard boot after Florida’s opening three-and-out immediately flipped field position and was an underrated play early in the game. 

Jorge Powell drilled both field goal attempts and might’ve usurped Austin Hardin’s job. 

The coverage units, especially punt coverage, were excellent. 


A month ago, I said Florida’s opening win felt different. But nothing looked that different as UF struggled to beat East Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. Welp ...  the Gators’ days an SEC doormat appear over. McElwain is the first UF coach to start 5-0 since Steve Spurrier in 1990. The atmosphere was electric. 

The Gators didn’t just win. They destroyed a consensus national title contender. I don’t know if Florida is truly back, but suddenly it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait so long to actually find out. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 03, 2015

GameDay Primer: Florida vs. Ole Miss


GAINESVILLE -- There’s no shortage of storylines for today’s primetime tilt between No. 25 Florida and No. 3 Ole Miss, but Friday’s Will Grier-is-sick-news has overshadowed all the other pregame chatter. 

Here’s what we know: Grier, UF's redshirt freshman quarterback eying his fourth-straight start, has an illness that kept him out of practice Thursday. He was at Friday’s team walk-through and there’s hope he plays. 

Grier’s father, Chad, told The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley his son wouldn’t miss the game.

We’ll see. 

Yesterday, ESPN’s Brad Nessler was on The Paul Finebaum Show and opened the whole can of worms, saying, “It’s going to be a major theme to see if Will Grier is even ready to go. He had the flu. … So [coach] Jim McElwain told us he’s not going to name a starting quarterback until they do their Gator clap before they go on the bus and come to the stadium. So we don’t know right now. We think that Treon Harris might be the guy that starts. They’ll probably play both.”

According to Nessler, Florida had as many as 21 players sick this week.

As for those healthy enough to play, here’s several storylines to watch. 

* Are the Gators truly a Top 25 team?

* Can UF’s offensive line hold up against Robert Nkemdiche & Co?

* Who will win the ballyhooed Vernon Hargreaves-Laquon Treadwell matchup? 

* Will Florida’s defensive line create enough pressure to disrupt Chad Kelly?

The Gators feel primed to shock the country. At least that's what they're saying.

“You can feel it in the air,"  wideout Valdez Showers said.

"We've been sick of not being ranked and not playing Top 25 opponents and stuff like that, so we're not taking this lightly. When you start winning games and get on a four-game win streak that gives us momentum going into the fifth game and gives us a lot of confidence. You feel like you can definitely take these guys, too.”

WHERE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

WHEN: 7 p.m.


LINE: Ole Miss -7 


1. Who can win the turnover battle?

2. Can the Rebels run the ball to stymie Florida’s pass rush?

3. Will UF play loose, confident and throw the kitchen sink at Ole Miss? 

LINKS - UF vs. Ole Miss

Will Grier sick, status uncertain

UF embracing the underdog role

Ole Miss game a true measuring stick for UF

Treon Harris a "change-of-pace" option

Florida shuffles OL due to injuries

Report: "Some reality" in UF's interest in Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze

The Gators address their tackling woes

Florida hosting Ole Miss conjures famous Tim Tebow speech

McElwain expects even more from his quarterback

Grier shows leadership in comeback win

Flu bug hampers Florida's early preparation  

Depth Chart Dispatch: Week 5


I’m ready to bounce-back after my first crappy week of the season (2-2-1). Still a bodacious 14-5-1 ATS on the year. 

Arkansas (+8) at Tennessee 

Baylor (-17) vs. Texas Tech

Oregon at Colorado (+8)

Alabama at Georgia (PK)

Lastly, Ole Miss (-7) at Florida. A flu-ridden roster probably curtails Florida’s real chance to spring the upset, but I’m not sure the Gators have enough anyways. If you’re an optimist, Florida does have some favorable matchups (DL, secondary). Still, UF has overachieved a bit and this game is a measuring stick to see exactly where it stands in the conference. Should be a live atmosphere in The Swamp. 

Enjoy the cool evening, y’all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 02, 2015

QB Will Grier battling illness, status uncertain

GAINESVILLE -- Florida quarterback Will Grier is battling an illness in advance of Saturday’s primetime tilt with No. 3 Ole Miss, according to ESPN’s Brad Nessler. 

Sources confirmed Grier is sick and missed practice Thursday. The redshirt freshman quarterback was at Friday’s team walk-through, though, and Florida is hopeful Grier can play against the Rebels. 

Grier’s father, Chad, told The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley his son wouldn’t miss the game. 

Should Grier be unavailable, sophomore quarterback Treon Harris would get the start and make his first appearance since closing out UF’s 31-24 win over East Carolina on Sept. 12. 

Earlier Friday, Nessler was on The Paul Finebaum Show and let slip some details from his production meeting with UF’s coaches and players.

“It’s going to be a major theme to see if Will Grier is even ready to go. He had the flu,” Nessler said. 

“So [coach] Jim McElwain told us he’s not going to name a starting quarterback until they do their Gator clap before they go on the bus and come to the stadium. So we don’t know right now. We think that Treon Harris might be the guy that starts. They’ll probably play both.”

Last weekend, Grier was one of the hero’s in Florida's comeback over Tennessee, engineering a 13-point fourth-quarter rally and cementing his status at the team's starting quarterback. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

OT Martez Ivey working at guard some this week

GAINESVILLE -- With a pair of starting offensive linemen limited in practice this week, Florida has worked five-star freshman left tackle Martez Ivey at guard in advance of Saturday’s game against No. 3 Ole Miss.

Starting guards Trip Thurman (shoulder) and Antonio Riles (ankle) are expected to play against the Rebels’ fearsome defensive line, as UF coach Jim McElwain said Ivey’s move “is strictly because of depth.”

“We’re just trying to make sure we’ve got enough [bodies] that should something happen we’re able to plug in the next best available.”

Despite serious limitations (depth, experience), the Gators’ young offensive line has performed adequately this season. At times, Florida has played as many as three true freshmen (Ivey, tackle Fred Johnson and guard Tyler Jordan) together.

Still, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche -- the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Drat -- and the rest of Ole Miss’ talented front pose the toughest challenge UF has seen to date.

“As I tell them, I don't care how many starts you have, I don't care how young you are. We're playing in the SEC and we're playing conference games, so you've got to play like a veteran,” McElwain said.

“That's the expectation. I think we'll continue to grow at that spot. I think we'll get better and better with every rep that we take. But there is no time for the future. It's about the now and, you know, they've held up OK. The guys they're playing this week, they're probably licking their chops and think they're going to set an NCAA record on sacks or something.”


Florida’s All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III reaggravated a lower back injury against Tennessee, but McElwain said the junior isn’t even on the injury report before his marquee showdown with Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell. 

“I haven’t noticed anything on him,” McElwain said of Hargreaves.

“I haven’t even seen his name on the injury list all week.” 

Meanwhile, starting middle linebacker Antonio Morrison (knee) sat out portions of practice this week for precautionary reasons and McElwain is confident the senior will play Saturday. 

Redshirt freshman tight end C’yontai Lewis remains questionable with a hand injury. McElwain said if Lewis can get a soft cast on his left hand he should be able to give it a go. 

Linebackers Alex Anzalone (shoulder) and Jeremi Powell (ankle) remain sidelined, while wideout C.J. Norton (leg) and backup guard Travaris Dorsey (undisclosed) are questionable. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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