December 05, 2008

Dainty Florida will roll the rough and rugged Tide

GAINESVILLE -- Big game this weekend up in the ATL. Stubhub expects No.2 Florida (11-1) vs. No.1 Alabama (12-0) to rank in its top 10 list for ridiculously inflated ticket prices. And that's not top 10 for a college football game. That's top 10 regardless of sport. Only Super Bowl and World Series tickets have gone for more. Club seats in the Georgia Dome are pushing $1,300.

Gator Clause isn't leaving Gainesville until Friday night, so I'll have plenty of time to bloggy blog until then. Something a bit odd I just realized. While interning for The Birmingham News, I covered Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson when his Hoover Bucs won a high school state championship. As a preps writer for The Herald, I covered Tebow's state championship in 2005. Pretty cool, huh?

Both Wilson's and Tebow's state championship wins were blowouts by the fourth quarter. The only difference in the two state championship games -- and this has something to do with my officially licensed prediction of the game -- Tebow played nose guard in the fourth quarter for Ponte Vedra Beach Nease. So, that whole idea about UA's rough and rugged style of play being too much for UF's dainty little spread-option offense ... it's nonsense. UF 38, UA 18

Saturday's game will be much more than a contest between Tebow and Wilson, of course. There will be plenty of talented players on the Georgia Dome's artificial turf and we're here to highlight a few important match-ups because, well, like y'all, I'm pretty excited about watching this game...

11) UA cornerback Javier Arenas vs. UF receiver Percy Harvin: Assuming Harvin plays more than a decoy role (I doubt it), this could be one of the best one-on-one match-ups on Saturday. Harvin will play receiver if he does anything. Arenas is looking forward to the challenge. When asked about Harvin this week, Arenas said he expects Harvin will play.

10) UA receiver Julio Jones vs. UF cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Joe Haden: Jones and Jenkins know a little about each other going in. They squared off in a high school all-star game over the summer. Jenkins has three interceptions and leads the team with 10 pass break-ups. Haden is one of the nation's brightest up-and-comers. He's second on the team with 69 tackles and eight pass break-ups. He also has two interceptions. Jones leads UA with 46 receptions for 723 yards and four touchdowns. He's the Crimson Tide's only downfield threat. UA tight end Nick Walker is second on the team in receptions (26 for 262 yards, two TDs).

9) UF quarterback Tim Tebow vs. UA linebacker Rolando McClain: In this corner, the Mac Attack (team-high 82 tackles, 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, three sacks), standing six feet and four inches and weighing in at 249 pounds. Wearing a crimson hat and menacing scowl, Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain. And in this corner, The Chosen One (tougher to take down than the Berlin Wall, 12 rushing touchdowns, third-down conversation machine, 43 career rushing touchdowns), standing six feet and three inches and weighing in at 240 pounds, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and heavyweight CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, Tim Tebow.

8) UF offensive coordinator Dan Mullen vs. UA defensive genius Nick Saban: Florida's offense leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring. The Gators are averaging 46.3 points per game. (That's a big number.) Alabama's defense leads the league in points allowed. The Crimson Tide is allowing 11.5 points per game. (That's a small number.) Florida's offense leads the SEC in total yards (449.4 yards per game). Alabama's defense leads the league in total yards allowed (248.5 yards per game). Something's gotta give, right?

7) UA tackle Andre Smith vs. UF end Carlos Dunlap: NFL scouts (and me) will be watching this match-up. Many consider Smith the best offensive lineman in the nation. Dunlap leads the Gators with nine sacks and is peaking at the perfect time. Sounds a lot like a young Derrick Harvey.

6) UF center Maurkice Pouncey vs. UA nose guard Terrence Cody: Cody is the guy that allows UA linebacker Rolando McClain to fill the gaps and make the tackles. UF leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (237.1 yards per game) and Cody will do his best to limit UF on first down. Cody (6-5, 365 pounds) will be highly motivated for this game. He's from Fort Myers. Pouncey is one of the best young offensive linemen in the country (along with his brother, of course). Maurkice and guard Mike Pouncey will also be highly motivated for this game. The Pounceys' stepfather, Robert Webster, who was severely injured (lost a leg) at work in Lakeland last week, is expected to make the trip to Atlanta for the game.

5) UA tight end Nick Walker vs. UF strong safety Ahmad Black: Here's a match-up that will draw my attention. Nick Saban loves to get his tight ends involved and UA will be looking to isolate Walker (6-5, 248-pound senior) in one-on-one coverage against Black, UF's undersized (5-9, 185 pounds) strong safety. Walker is Alabama's second-leading receiver (26 receptions for 262 yards). Black (What a story this kid has turned out to be, right.) leads UF in interceptions with six. Another thing: Getting Black out of the run-box will be one of the top priorities for UA quarterback John Parker Wilson. In the words of Black, "Pick party!"

4) UF linebacker Brandon Spikes vs. UA running backs Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch: UF linebacker Brandon Spikes leads the Gators in tackles (80) and is a finalist for the Nagurski Award. UA's trio of power running backs are all downhill runners. Coffee is averaging 6.2 yards per carry (102.9 yards per game). Ingram and Upchurh are just as tough to take down. Expect some big collisions, folks.

3) UA's sure hands vs. UF's defensive thievery: UF has forced 21 turnovers during its current eight-game winning streak and converted 16 of those turnovers into touchdowns. Alabama has lost nine fumbles this season and quarterback John Parker Wilson has only thrown five interceptions. Alabama cannot afford to turn the ball over.

2) UF nose tackle Lawrence Marsh vs. UA center Antoine Caldwell: The importance of this match-up cannot be overstated. Marsh, recovering from a sprained medial-collateral ligament, has been UF's most reliable interior defensive lineman. Caldwell is a finalist for the Remington Award, given to the nation's best center, and helps pave the way for Alabama's between-the-tackles running game. UA is second in the SEC in rushing yards per game (201.5 yards). Florida is third in the league in rush defense (102.8 yards per game).

1) UF quarterback Tim Tebow vs. UA nose guard Terrence Cody: UF leads the SEC in third-down conversions (48.9 percent). UA leads the league in third-down conversion defense (25 percent). Another interesting statistical comparison: UA leads the SEC in fourth-down conversion (8 of 9, 88.9 percent). UF's defense leads the league in denying teams on fourth down (8 of 21, 38.1 percent).

1A) UA strong-side linebacker Cory Reamer vs. UF scatbacks Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey: What!? All this hard work in the middle of the night and this is your No.1 match-up of the biggest game in SEC history? I can hear you now, "Goodman, you're an idiot." Well, hear me out first before you leave a snarky comment. UA is allowing an SEC-best 73.6 rushing yards per game, but the Crimson Tide hasn't faced a running game quite like Florida's. That's where Reamer comes in. This guy is fast. Reamer (6-4, 218 pounds, another Hoover High guy) was actually a defensive back in high school. UF leads the SEC in rushing (237.1 yards per game) on account of the team's speedy backfield. With Percy Harvin likely injured, the bulk of UF's rushing responsibilities will fall to Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey, who, gulp, limped off the practice field on Thursday after reaggrevating his groin pull. Demps and Rainey like to get outside. Reamer will be waiting.

-jo-

September 22, 2008

NOTEBOOK: I'll be the first to say it, Florida should be No.1 in the country

GAINESVILLE -- Florida is No.4 in the latest AP poll. This is an absolute joke. Florida should be No.1. Here's why.

Statistics don't lie. As Florida coach Urban Meyer would say, stats are "real."

Everyone reading this blog will agree that the SEC is the best league in the country, right? No argument there. OK, with that in mind, know that Florida is leading the SEC in scoring offense (37.3 points per game), scoring defense (6.3 points per game), total defense (213 yards per game), kickoff returns (27.6 yards per game), punt return average (24.6 yards per game), third-down conversions (53.8 percent) and Florida is tied for first with Vanderbilt in field goal accuracy (4-of-4).

After knowing that, I challange anyone out there to argue that another team -- USC, Oklahoma, LSU, Georgia, Alabama, whoever -- is better than Florida at this point in the season. Even if you tried, here's my ace in the pocket, the clinching fact for my argument, the biggest stat of all: Florida is the only team in the country that hasn't allowed a turnover. Florida is plus-nine in turnover margin.

(FYI: Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead has tossed six interceptions in his last two games.)

SURPRISING DEFENSE
The early season dominance of the Gators' offense and special team comes as no surprise to Meyer but the coach did admit that he is pleasantly surprised by the Gators' defensive play. If you're counting at home, Florida started SEVEN (1-2-3-4-5-6-7; CB Joe Haden, FS Major Wright, SS Ahmad Black, SSL A.J. Jones, DE Carlos Dunlap, DT Lawrence Marsh and DT Terron Sanders) SOPHOMORES on defense against Tennessee.

Meyer tempered his excitement by telling reporters that "I don't think we've been challenged yet" by an experienced quarterback. "That's what I'm anxious to see," Meyer said.

MEYER HATES NEW CLOCK RULE
Florida coach Urban Meyer has a message for the NCAA: Get rid of the new clock rule. His offensive players aren't getting enough touches.

Meyer made a point on Monday to explain why he hates the new clock rule. According to Meyer, Florida's offense only had 46 "competitive" plays. Florida had 54 total offensive players but Meyer contends that nine of those were throw-away plays while Florida was trying to run out the clock.

Florida scored on five of its six offensive possessions but was out gained by Tennessee's offense by 18 yards. Don't look to much into this fact, folks. Florida smoke Tennessee and Meyer is upset about the clock rule because last year the score would have been 60-6 instead of 30-6.

MEYER HAS ZINGER FOR MIAMI'S SHANNON
The stats sheet reads that Florida's offense only scored three of the four times it was in the red zone on Saturday. Meyer says it should be 4-of-4. On the Gators' final drive, Florida took a knee instead of kicking a field goal. Meyer received criticism against Miami for kicking a late-game field goal.

"People get upset around here with field goals, so we were 4-of-4," Meyer said.

JAMES NAMED SEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
UF return specialist Brandon James was named special teams player of the week on Monday by the conference's sports information staff. James accounted for 144 yards on kick returns, including a 78-yard punt return for a score. James also had a 52-yard kickoff return on the opening kickoff, which led to a quick Florida score.

Here's a link to the rest of the SEC players of the week. CLICK ME!

MAJOR'S MISSED TACKLE
Major Wright had a great game against Tennessee. He was second on the team with eight tackles and graded out at "champion" status (94 percent), according to UF coach Urban Meyer. Still, I had to ask him about that one missed tackle, the one which allowed UT running back Arian Foster an apparent big gain. (The play was called back because of a UT penalty and Wright's mistake went unnoticed.)

"I was trying to make the perfect tackle," Wright said. "[Foster] got me."

Don't sweat it, Major. Gator Clause still thinks you're the best safety in the SEC. Just had to ask.

JANORIS COULD START AGAINST OLE MISS
Major had good things to say about UF freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins and so did Florida coach Urban Meyer. Meyer said that Jenkins could start against Ole Miss and that it will be a game-to-game decision whether Jenkins starts at cornerback or Wondy Pierre-Louis.

Pierre-Louis had a terrible game on Saturday while Jenkins had an interception and a forced a fumble. Meyer said that Pierre-Louis will get every chance to keep his position because Wondy is an "invested player." Meyer said the same thing about former Florida safety Kyle Jackson last season. Everyone remembers what happened there. Wright was starting by LSU.

Will Jenkins be starting by LSU?

TEBOW RECRUITED AS A LINEBACKER?
Florida's coaching staff began recruiting Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead when Meyer and OC Dan Mullen were at Utah. When Meyer and Mullen moved to Gainesville, Snead was still at the top of Mullen's recruiting board as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Snead initially committed to Florida before changing his mind.

According to a book published last year about college football recruiting, Snead said Florida wanted him so badly that the Gators' coaching staff actuall told him that Florida was recruiting Tebow as a linebacker. On Monday, Tebow said Florida never tried to recruit him as a linebacker and Meyer refused to address the claim.

Recruiting is a dirty business ... but it's supposed to be. Get over it, people.

September 19, 2008

PREGAME PODCAST: Will Hill starting at strong safety?

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Find out what Gator Clause learned today about late changes to the Gators' secondary before Saturday's game with Tennessee. Also, what exactly does it mean to be a Tennessee Volunteer? Maybe it has something to do with why Knoxville was so upset about UF middle linebacker Brandon Spikes' comments earlier this week. Lastly, Gator Clause takes a look at UF quarterback Tim Tebow's stats this season. Run time is five minutes and 30 seconds.

-jo-

Produced by Joseph Goodman, The Miami Herald

September 03, 2008

Don't expect UF safety Wright to take it easy on his friend, UM receiver Hankerson

Today's UF-related links in The Miami Herald ...
LINK: The Wright decision: University of Florida's Major Wright finds a safe haven in Gainesville
LINK: After long wait, UM football's Marve ready to make first start

GAINESVILLE -- UF safety Major Wright and his journey to the University of Florida is the cover story in today's sports section of The Miami Herald. Wright's decision to attend Florida was influenced by his mom, Andrea Eluett. Eluett didn't want her son going to Miami after the death of Hurricanes lineman Bryan Pata.

The article is pretty lengthy but there's some great stuff that didn't make the paper. Good thing I got this blog. (It gets me in trouble sometimes, but I love it!)

WrightWright [PICTURED] and Hankerson are great friends. They played high school together at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, they hung out together on the weekends and after school and in the summer months crashed at each other's house from time to time. But of all the time Wright and Hankerson spent together, never once did Wright tackle Hankerson. That's the story, according to Hankerson and Wright. [UM beat writer Manny Navarro interviewed Hankerson this week about his friendship with Wright.]

"[Wright] has never hit me before, honest," Hankerson said. "There was one time in practice where he had a chance to, but he let up on me because we were friends."

That will change on Saturday when Wright, a safety, lines up against Hankerson, a receiver. For about three and hours on Saturday night, Wright and Hankerson will put their friendship on hold. And just to make sure Wright doesn't think about taking it easy on Hankerson when the possession receiver comes ventures across the middle of the field, Wright's mother made a point, recently, to address the topic.

"I told Major to have no mercy on Leonard," said Eluett, Wright's mother. "I know Leonard. Leonard has never gotten hit by Major, even in high school. "Well, see what happens. I told Major, 'I know you don't like to hit your friends, but you've got to hit your friends this time or you won't be playing.

"I guess they understand each other. We'll see."

That's a priceless quote, folks. Before we go any further, I've just got to say that Major's mom, Mrs. Eluett, is a great person. Like Major, his mom is funny and charismatic and witty. She doesn't won't Major to hurt Leonard. She just wants to make sure that Major plays to the best of his ability and doesn't get distracted.

Majorwright4_13150HankersonWhile Hankerson doesn't know personally what it feels like to get hit by Wright, the UM receiver has seen enough to know it probably hurts. [Check out these photos Rivals.com took of Wright and Hankerson when they were in high school. They even had similar hairstyles back then! Major is on the left.]

"When he goes at full speed, he's an amazing hitter," Hankerson said. "There are so many hits that stand out to me. I remember my senior year we were playing our spring game. Major was in Cover 2. [A receiver] came over the middle and Major just laid him out. It was the loudest bang I've ever heard on a football field. He did it again in a playoff game when they played Ely. He smacked this guy head on and just jarred the ball loose. He's a hitter."

MajHank_2Major forced three fumbles in 2007. He had an interception return for a touchdown in the No.5 Gators' season opener against Hawaii, a 56-10 win. [Now check out these photos of the two friends. The college boys clean up well, I'd say. Major, again, on the left.]

Hankerson isn't the only person to shutter when thinking about Wright slamming his body into an opponent. St. Thomas head coach George Smith once told me that Wright was one of the most vicious hitters he has ever coached.

On Tuesday, Florida redshirt freshman receiver Deonte Thompson put it best when he said that Wright "will kill himself trying to kill you."

Be afraid, Leonard. Be very afraid.

-jo-

September 01, 2008

THROWBACK PHOTO: Not long ago, UM's Leonard Hankerson and UF's Major Wright were teammates; They're still friends

GAINESVILLE -- I've been saving this picture for a few years. Back when I was covering preps in Broward County, one of my favorite days of the year was driving around the county on National Signing Day and covering (celebrating) the big day with all of Broward's college-bound football players.

JosephrecruitsEvery year, my trek around Broward would end at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. The Raiders wait until the end of the school day to have their signing ceremony, which allows all the reporters to attend.

Check out this classic photo from the Raiders' 2006 signing-day ceremony: Pictured are UM receiver Leonard Hankerson, UF safety Major Wright and Mississippi State quarterback Wesley Carroll -- all 2007 graduates of St. Thomas. (Yes, the dork in the middle of the photo is me.)

-jo-

August 22, 2008

RAINY DAY (and Rainey Day) BLOG: Who do your favorite Gators hate more, Miami or FSU?

GAINESVILLE -- The rain continues to fall here in Hogtowne. Since UF football players and coaches here in Gainesville don't speak to reporters when the roads are wet, I'll have to fill the blog space today with a little intra-state smack talk. Works for me! Gotta write SOMETHING, right?

The Gator Clause staff (Goody and Mike-Mike McCall) polled several Gators recently with 10 random questions. One of the questions was, "Who would you cheer for between FSU and Miami?" Here are the answers...

--Back-up quarterback John Brantley: "I really don't like either team but I definitely don't like FSU. So, I'd have to say Miami."
--Offensive tackle Phil Trautwein: "Miami."
--Defensive end Duke Lemmens: "I just want Florida to beat both."
--Defensive end William Green: "Probably Miami."
--Safety Major Wright: "Miami."
--Defensive tackle Javier Estopinan: "They're both terrible to me. I couldn't even choose one."
--Cornerback Moses Jenkins: "Miami for sure."
--Running back Chris Rainey: "They're both sorry. FSU."
--Receiver Frankie Hammond Jr.: "Miami."
--Cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis: "I don't even care."

So, if you counting. Pretty much everyone polled hates FSU more than Miami except for Chris Rainey. Oh, and Wondy doesn't care. He just doesn't want Georgia to ever win another game.


TORREY DAVIS CHARGED
Florida sophomore defensive tackle Torrey Davis, who is currently suspended from the Florida football team due to academic concerns, pleaded not guilty to knowingly driving with a suspended license on Wednesday in Alachua County traffic court. Davis was cited twice in April for knowingly driving with a suspended license.

Those two citations came after Davis was stopped twice in 2007 for unknowingly driving with a suspended license. Davis’ pre-trail date is scheduled for Sept. 22. His lawyer, Huntley Johnson, also represents current Florida defensive tackle Ronnie Wilson and former Florida safety Jamar Hornsby. Both Wilson and Hornsby were initially arrested for felonies but their charges were later reduced to misdemeanors.

--RECRUITING: Miami Columbus defensive tackle Antwan Lowery (6-4, 335 pounds) has narrowed his college suitors to three schools -- Florida, Rutgers and Clemson. Sounds like good news for the Gators.

--THE LATEST FROM HAWAII: The Warriors are set to leave for Atlanta on Tuesday. Hawaii is only traveling with 65 players. The travel roster will not include quarterback Tyler Graunke, who was recently reinstated to the team.
 


--IN THE NEWS: Former Gator Jerimy Finch is eligible to play safety for IU this season. How is this possible? The NCAA cites extenuating circumstances. Finch is a father of a toddler, who lives in Indiana. The child never made the move to Gainesville when Finch lived in Florida. 

--CHECK OUT THIS 3-D map on Google Earth of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Brought to you by the fine folks at mapgameday.com. Pretty cool. (You'll need to install the Google Earth plug-in for this to work.)

--One columnist, the great Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun, says this is the most important season of Urban Meyer's career. Do you agree? Meyer already has won a national title with Florida and he's going to make about $3.5 million this season regardless, so there is room here for an argument.

--ON THE RADIO: Gator Clause will be chatting Florida football live around 8:45 a.m. on Saturday with Knoxville radio personality Josh Ward of Knoxville's WNML-AM, The Sports Animal. Listen live via the radio station's live Internet stream.

-jo-

August 08, 2008

PIERRE-LOUIS: 'Georgia, that's the game of the year'; Wright: Looking forward to Miami

GAINESVILLE -- This is all you need to know from Florida's media day. Everything else was white noise.

"Georgia, man," cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis said. "That's the game of the year. I'm not going to lie. Even though we're going to take it one by one, Georgia is the game of the year."

Of course, there is that little 'ol team down in Coral Gables. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas grad Major Wright is pretty excited about that one.

"It's a very important game," Wright said. "You know, every time I go home I never hear the end of it. It's going to be an intense game, high energy. I look forward to this game."

Wright grew up idolizing former 'Cane great Sean Taylor. Instead of following in Taylor's footsteps as one of the next great Miami safeties, Wright committed to the Gators. He's friends with Hurricanes Anthony Reddick and Leonard Hankerson, among other 'Canes.

As anyone who has read this blog for the last year can tell you, Wright and Pierre-Louis are two of my favorite Gators. Wright is busy teaching Will Hill how to play safety these days. Pierre-Louis is busy fending off fellow cornerback Markihe Anderson, who wants Pierre-Louis' starting job.

OTHER NOTES
--Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong says linebacker A.J. Jones is a mainstay on the defense this season at weak side.

--Defensive line coach Dan McCarney says Ronnie Wilson is strong but way behind.

--Safeties coach Chuck Heater on if Ahmad Black is too short to play safety: "We'll see."

--Offensive lineman James Wilson was very truthful with reporters on Friday. I says he was really upset that Florida wouldn't grant his request to transfer. He's happy that he stayed at UF, however. Left guard Jim Tartt's shoulders might not hold up this season.

--Anyone seen Percy Harvin lately?

--Pictures coming tomorrow morning.

-jo-

August 06, 2008

Three days down; Three speedsters down

GAINESVILLE -- Florida's three fastest players are injured.

After three days of practice, the most memorable mental image of fall football camp at the University of Florida occured this afternoon when Percy Harvin (jersey No.1), Jeffrey Demps (No.2) and Chris Rainey (No.3) limped side-by-side-by-side to the back of Florida's practice field. (Otherwise known as "The Pit." It's where the injured players go and mill about during practice.

DempsHarvin didn't practice for the second straight day (offseason heel surgery). Rainey pulled a groin muscle on Tuesday and didn't practice today. Jeffrey Demps [PICTURED IN BLACK] fell to the ground after the final play of practice with what appeared to be a left knee injury.

Florida coach Urban Meyer said he did not know the severity of the injury but Demps limped off the practice field with the help of an assistant trainer. At one point during Demps' walk back to the Gators' locker room inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (about 350 yards), a person stopped Demps, put his arms around the football player and appeared to whisper words of encouragement into his ear. (It looked like they were praying but I couldn't tell for sure.) I'm hoping since Demps was allowed to walk all the way back to the locker room under his own power then that means he's OK.

Demps' injury occured on the last play of practice. As the rest of the team huddled, Demps remained on the ground. Trianers immediately converged. Demps, the high school track phenom from Orlando, nearly qualified for the Olympics this summer in the 100 meters. He ran a 10.01 at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials and is considered to be the fastest teenager in the nation.

According to some, Demps could have pursued a career in professional track after his showing at the trials but instead chose to report to Florida for college football.

MARCUS GILBERT STARTING AT LEFT GUARD

Gilbert--Redshirt sophomore Marcus Gilbert (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas/PICTURED) told me after practice that he is playing first-string left guard as well as second-string tackle while senior Jim Tartt rests an ailing shoulder. Marcus' elbow is completely healthy after a long rehab. He played all last season with a brace. He is brace free right now and looking great physically. He told me about six times that he was excited about this season.

--Sophomore safety Major Wright (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) told me after practice that the new safeties have "a long way to go" but that he sees potential. Major did say that freshman Will Hill has "the body and the skills" to contribute. Major Wright waited on Ahmad Black to finish interviews today. They walked back together and are apparently really close friends. Fans of high school mega programs Lakeland and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas will get a kick out of that little nugget.

-jo-

August 05, 2008

Blogging live from practice...

GAINESVILLE -- Just walked through the practice gates and what do I see? Major Wright teaching Will Hill how to play safety.

--OL James Wilson appears to be practicing gingerly. Is this guy still hurt?

--Freshmen hit the field first today. The returning players came out about an hour later. Guess who the first returner was to hit the field...at a dead sprint, no less. Miami's own Javy Estopinan.

-Special teams is up first. Field goal block practice time. Chris Rainey is the only offensive player on the field-goal block unit. What's the over/under on the number of field goals Rainey blocks this year?

--Rainey is now a gunner on punt defense. Chris Rainey special teams dynamo.

--Terron Sanders and Troy Epps at first-team tackle positions today.

--On to individual position drill work. From time to time I'll tell you guys what the beat writers who cover Florida are talking about. Today we were wondering aloud when Lorenzo Edwards is going to start at strong-side linebacker. He looks really good. Today, A.J. Jones appears to still be the first-string starting linebacker on the tight end side. Jones had a great offseason, according to UF's strength and conditioning staff.

--Percy Harvin and Riley Cooper were goofing off earlier and playing catch. Both players have great arms.

--Speaking of great arms, punter Chas Henry fills in as a quarterback quite well during defensive drill work. Will we ever see him throw a fake punt?

--Justin Trattou, Carlos Dunlap and Matt Patchan practicing with the defensive tackles. Or at least practicing that technique with the DTs. Slightly interesting.
--Percy not practicing at all now. Just standing alone in his No.1 jersey. Kind of poetic. He hasn't moved in 10 minutes. Safe to say he's under strick rehab orders.

--Receiver Paul Wilson is practicing in a cast.

--Lo Edwards just made a great play during 7-on-7 drills, ranging far to his right to deflect a pass.

--Harvin is walking with a pronounced limp.

--Full-team drills now. Amazing catch by Deonte Thompson over Ahmad Black and Major. (Will Hill would have knocked it away...Just saying.)

--Practice is over.

-jo-

August 03, 2008

CAMP COUNTDOWN: Seven strengths in seven days...No.1: Experience, of course

Less than 24 hours until fall camp. Hope everyone enjoyed our CAMP COUNTDOWN. Posted below are individual links to the series...

7: TIGHT ENDS
6: SPECIAL TEAMS
5: BRANDON SPIKES
4: OFFENSIVE LINE
3: WIDE RECEIVERS
2: QUARTERBACKS
1: And the No.1 team strength entering fall camp is ... experience.

GAINESVILLE -- Last season was more about learning than it was about winning for the Florida Gators. The team that won a national championship in 2006 and the team that returned for 2007 were entirely different. From Tim Tebow to Urban Meyer, everyone had something to learn. Experience came in different forms.

061201_meyer_hmed_5phmediumFor Meyer, 2007 was the first time he had ever been a third-year head coach with a team. There were signs of inexperience. A number of Gators were arrested in the offseason following the national championship. The experience led to some in-house changes this offseason, including the hiring of full-time player mentor Terry Jackson. Distractions were limited this offseason. (Jamar Hornsby was dismissed from the team but that was addition by subtraction. Just my opinion.)

For Tebow, 2007 was about learning how to lead. He cried after losing to Georgia. The quarterback displayed a much different emotion after the Michigan defeat. He was just plain angry and admitted that his team lacked focus leading up to the bowl game.

Brandon Spikes wasn't in top form last August when the 2007 fall camp began. The experience helped him prepare his body correctly this offseason. Now, UF strength coach Mickey Marotti says Spikes is one of the Gators' most physically fit players.

Ncf_g_haden2_195One of the Gators' starting cornerbacks was a true freshman last season and the other was still learning how to play football. As a result, Florida's secondary was the worst in the Southeastern Conference. Joe Haden [PICTURED] and Wondy Pierre-Louis begin this season as preseason all-SEC defenders.

Those are just a few examples of how the Gators begin fall camp on Monday with the experience needed to vie for a conference and national championship. All told, the Gators return 17 starters. Depth and team speed are two of the Gators' greatest team strengths this season but experience might be the most important.

"With guys leaving early now -- and our championship year we had four guys on defense leave as juniors; last year we lost Derrick Harvey as a junior -- I think the shift of leadership has to go from the young players," Meyer said. "That's a big point of discussion with our group, and already has been, that just because you're a senior, that's not entitlement. We had some issues a year ago that weren't very good for our outfit. (Tony Joiner/Kyle Jackson?) If you're a sophomore, you walk the walk, talk the talk, do everything the right way, then you're a leader."

OK, with the countdown done and fall camp set to begin. Let's have some fun and predict the two-deep depth chart for offense and defense.

OFFENSE
LT: Phil Trautwein; Matt Patchan
LG: Jim Tartt; Carl Johnson
C: Maurkice Pouncey; Mike Pouncey
RG: Mike Pouncey; James Wilson
RT: Jason Watkins; Marcus Gilbert
TE: Cornelius Ingram; Aaron Hernandez
WR: Percy Harvin; Deonte Thompson
WR: Louis Murphy; Justin Williams
WR: Carl Moore; David Nelson
RB: Kestahn Moore; Emmanuel Moody
QB: Tim Tebow; Cameron Newton

DEFENSE
DE: Jermaine Cunningham; Carlos Dunlap
DT: Javier Estopinan; Torrey Davis
DT: Terron Sanders; John Brown
DE: Justin Trattou; Duke Lemmens
SLB: A.J. Jones; Ryan Stamper
MLB: Brandon Spikes; Lorenzo Edwards
WLB: Dustin Doe; Brandon Hicks
SS: Ahmad Black; Will Hill
FS: Major Wright; Will Hill
CB: Joe Haden; Markihe Anderson
CB: Wondy Pierre-Louis; Jacques Rickerson

SPECIALISTS
K: Caleb Sturgis; Jonathan Phillips
P: Chas Henry; Caleb Sturgis
PR: Brandon James; Chris Rainey
KR: Brandon James; Chris Rainey

FRIENDLY REMINDER: Free doughnuts!!!

-jo-

July 19, 2008

"The Dark Knight" after Friday Night Lights...

Sometimes on Gator Clause you get more than you asked for...

GAINESVILLE -- In case you didn't know this already, Gator Clause oftentimes doesn't limit itself to writing about football. This is one of those times.

After stopping by The Swamp last night for Urban's recruiting emporium (Friday Night Lights), I went to the movies over on Archer road, watched The Dark Knight and drank Cherry Coke. Scroll down if all you want to do is read about Friday Night Lights. Keep reading if you're interested in my thoughts on the movie. I'm not going to write much about it (because I'm no Rene Rodriguez) but here are a few thoughts you might not have read anywhere else. 

The_dark_knight_outro_poster5. There's a reason why we love Batman. He's human and we can relate. He loves, he hates, he errs and he suffers. People understand the painful feeling of simply being overwhelmed with the problems of the day and that's just one reason why The Dark Knight is such a powerful film. This superhero is flawed just like you and me. Good writing -- in any form -- is hidden in the details. Most people can't relate to a billionaire vigilante but most people can relate to the fear of getting bitten by a dog, losing a loved one and not being liked.

4. The Dark Knight is a story about selflessness and choices. Batman must choose between what's best for Gotham (saving Gotham's District Attorney) or what's best for Batman (saving the girl he loves). Gotham's citizens and convicts must choose between saving themselves or putting the fate of their lives into the hands of total strangers. Rachel Dawes must choose between her promise to Batman or marrying Harvey Dent. And then there's the Joker, who makes no choices. He just does. The polarization of these two ideas (hero and villain/good and bad/human consciousness and animalistic savagery) manifests itself in the form of another character, Dent, who falls and becomes Two Face, a villain who lost everything (His girl, his good looks, his will and then his mind and conscience). The random flip of a coin becomes his moral guide.

3. Did anyone other than me whisper, "That's my bike, punk." just before Zeus delivers his only line of the movie?

2. The Joker was the star of this movie. He was more than a villain. He was pure chaos. There was no motivation behind his evil other than the motivation to be evil. He destroyed order without reason. No one even knows what drove the Joker to madness. It didn't matter. That's why he made up those elaborate stories about his facial scars. Most people are driven to evil because of a dark Dark_knight_18past or daddy issues. Not the Joker. Nothing created this, he explained to the audience. I just am. Again, this movie was well written.

1. The movie left us with two metaphors. Joker was literally left hanging. Was this a nod to Heath Ledger's untimely death? The second metaphor was the white knight/dark knight image of Batman and Dent lying side by side. The Dark Knight gets up and keeps running. You've got to be a little bad to do a lot of good.

DID YOU KNOW? The actress who played Rachel Dawes in Dark Knight (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is the niece of Anders Gyllenhaal, editor of The Miami Herald.

Feel free, folks, to leave your own thoughts on the movie. Now for my take on Friday Night Lights...

OK, let's first get one thing straight. I'm not here to write about all the recruits that were at Friday Night Lights. That's for the weirdoes over at Rivals.com and Scout.com. It's one thing that Urban and his staff want to get a jump on the classes of 2010 and 2011 but it's quite another thing if you think I'm going to write about how some juniors and sophomores in high school performed at a summer camp. No one spit up on their bibs or shoulder pads. There, enough said.

My official report:
There were about 150 high school kids. According to a couple parents, they were invited to this camp by UF's coaching staff in the form of a mailed letter. The price of admission was $35. The speakers inside The Swamp pumped trendy bubble gum hip-hop into everyone's ear canals within a 10-mile radius. (I really hate this new hip-hop. What happened to good rap?) I chatted it up with a couple parents from South Florida who shelled out major bread at the gas pump just to be there.

From Broward, I'll highlight the kids from Deerfield Beach who made the trip. Senior quarterback Denard Robinson looked pretty good. He's got a good arm and can scramble. I spoke with Merilyn Strawbridge, the mother of Deerfield Beach junior running back Cassius McDowell for about 20 minutes. The Bucks are pretty excited about the combination of Robinson and McDowell in the backfield this season. I'm pretty sure Florida's coaching staff will be at some games. Robinson and McDowell are both speedsters. They anchored Deerfield Beach's state championship 4x100 relay.

From Miami-Dade, I spoke with the father of Miami Northwestern junior slot receiver/running back Corvin Lamb. Lamb (5-10, 190 pounds) apparently ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times of the camp. Here's an interesting story about Lamb. He played at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas his freshman season and guess who gave him a ride to school every day? None other than the Gators' starting free safety Major Wright. (Now that's inside information you won't read anywhere else.) Pretty sure that means Lamb will take a close look at the Gators next season.

RaineySpeaking of Major Wright and St. Thomas Aquinas, I'll finish up this blog with a nice picture I took last night of former Lakeland standout Chris Rainey, who beat Wright's St. Thomas Raiders three straight times in the 5A state championship game. I'm pretty sure Major will never be borrowing this shirt from Rainey. (Rainey has put on some muscle, by the way. He's looking pretty good.)

Oh, one more thing. I spoke with Urban's wife Shelley Meyer on Friday night and asked her about this spinning class I've been hearing about. Meyer teaches a spin class at Gainesville Health & Fitness and guess what? That's right, I'm going to take the class and see if I can hang. Check back on Tuesday or Wednesday for details. Check back tomorrow for my first podcast of the football season. I'll have a top 10 list from the FSWA college football media days, talk about the football team's worst dresser (Will Hill) and also preview what's on the agenda for next week.

-jo-

June 28, 2008

If Tim Tebow was a chicken...

GAINESVILLE -- ... he would be impeccable. [baCAULK!] OK, OK. That one's kind of old. But not these:

If Jason Watkins was a freeway, he would be impassable.

If Matt Patchan was a Hurricane, he would blow hard.

If Percy Harvin had a dog, it would be an ankle biter. (And he would teach it to heel.)

If Urban Meyer was German, he would be a Frankfurtor.

I regret the day I ever have to write that Major Wright made the wrong decision in leaving the right cornerback vulnerable.

What does Phil Trautwein drink when he eats fish?

That Frankie Hammond Jr., he's a real cut up.

OK, that's quite enough.

-jo-

May 09, 2008

Hornsby's career likely done at Florida

LINK TO THE STORY: UF football player charged in credit card fraud

GAINESVILLE -- Nice knowing you, Jamar Hornsby. Well, not really.

Hornsby was accused on Friday of using the BP gas card of Ashley Slonina, a UF student who died in a motorcycle accident in October 2007 along with Florida walk-on quarterback Michael Guilford. If true, that's pretty much one of the most disgusting things I've ever written. My fingertips feel dirty just typing it.

Imagine the Slonina family. Imagine receiving that credit card statement every month for the last six months. Tragic.

What's most bizarre about all this is that Slonina was the girlfriend of Florida cornerback Joe Haden. How did Hornsby get Slonina's credit card? According to Slonina's father, Hornsby took the card from Ashley Slonina's apartment while helping the family remove her personal belongings one day after the accident.

Hornsby emerged from spring football as a back-up safety to Major Wright. Florida coach Urban Meyer praised Hornsby this spring for showing signs of his potential. So much for that. There's no way Meyer can save Hornsby now.

Florida has lost two safeties in as many weeks. Back-up Jerimy Finch was recently granted permission to transfer.

-jo-


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