April 18, 2017

Florida baseball striding after pressing the reset button

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Florida pitcher Frank Rubio tossed four scoreless innings to lift the 12th-ranked Gators to a 2-1 win over North Florida on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, at McKethan Stadium (Photos by Jordan McPherson)

 

GAINESVILLE

Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan doesn’t want to focus on the past.

He knows where his team has faltered this year:  those early-season midweek losses, that three-game sweep at Auburn, those two home losses to Tennessee.

But reliving those mistakes, O’Sullivan said, aren’t going to get his team anywhere.

“Sometimes,” O’Sullivan said, “you just have to press the reset button and just start over.”

That mindset has paid off for Florida as of late.

After a 2-1 win against North Florida on Tuesday night, the 12th-ranked Gators (25-12) have won five of their last six games and are on a roll heading into a key weekend series with South Carolina.

The examples of the team’s resetting mentality are present all over the team.

Exhibit A: Frank Rubio.

The senior pitcher and former St. Thomas Aquinas standout failed to record an out in his past two outings -- two-batter stints against LSU (hit-by-pitch and two-run home run) and Florida State (single, walk) -- and he drew the loss in the outing before that against Auburn.

But on Tuesday, he trotted out of the bullpen and tossed a career-high-tying four scoreless innings and helped turn a key double play en route to his first win of the season. Rubio, a sidearm-throwing righty, gave up just two hits and struck out three, also tying a career high.

Rubio said he has shortened his stride and focused on staying ready during the past three weeks.

“I think it definitely gives Sully a little bit of confidence in that he has somebody who can throw strikes,” Rubio said. “I’ve done it in the past, so I think it was more about reassuring him that he has another arm to help him.”

O’Sullivan added: “In this game, it’s very easy to jump off a guy’s bandwagon when he’s struggling. … Frank’s had a tough year and then all of a sudden, he goes four scoreless.”

DSC_6562Exhibit B: Dalton Guthrie (photo, left).

The shortstop struggled after suffering a shoulder injury in the series opener against Auburn. In the first 14 games he played after the injury (he sat out two games against Missouri), Guthrie went just .119 at the plate (7 for 59) with 13 strikeouts.

But in the last two games, the junior has gone 4 for 7 with two home runs, 3 RBI, three runs scored and four walks. He’s also returned to his normal form in the field, making a key grab in Florida’s series finale against Tennessee two weeks ago and helping turn a double play in the sixth inning against UNF

Exhibit C: The offense as a whole.

Over the last five games, Florida is averaging more than 11 hits and eight runs per game with seemingly a different player showing up each night.

One night, it’s Ryan Larson, the senior with a team-high .349 batting average.

The next, it’s Austin Langworthy, the freshman who is on a five-game hitting streak with a .400 batting average since returning from a wrist injury.

On Tuesday, it was Guthrie (2 for 3, RBI) and JJ Schwarz (RBI double) against a North Florida pitching staff that only allowed six total hits.

“It’s a lot better, that’s for sure,” shortstop Dalton Guthrie said. “We have to keep going, keep working.”

That starts Thursday with the series against South Carolina, which is tied with Florida for second in the SEC East at 8-7 in conference play, two games behind No. 10 Kentucky.

April 16, 2017

Gator baseball report: Superlatives, stats and standings halfway through SEC play

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The Florida Gators cheer in the huddle. (Photos by Jordan McPherson)

 

The SEC baseball schedule is at the halfway point, and the Florida Gators are still in the running for a regular-season crown. There were struggles early, but the No. 12 Gators sit at 8-7 through five conference weekends. That’s just two games behind SEC East leader Kentucky and three games back from overall conference leader Arkansas with 15 more games to go. Here’s a closer look at how Florida has fared throughout conference play. 

Continue reading "Gator baseball report: Superlatives, stats and standings halfway through SEC play" »

April 15, 2017

Gators gymnastics finishes third at NCAA Championships

The meet was essentially over before Florida walked out of its bye and took to the uneven bars for its final event of the night.

It was over before junior Alex McMurtry closed out the Gators’ season with a perfect 10 on the bars, her fourth taste of perfection this season.

It was over before the third-ranked Gators put up a 197.700 score at the NCAA Super Six Championship, which tied for their fourth highest score of the season. 

Top-seeded Oklahoma ran away with the NCAA women’s gymnastics with a Super Six-record 198.3875 on Saturday night inside the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Missouri, to claim its second straight national title. Florida finished third behind Oklahoma and second-place LSU, with UCLA, Utah and Alabama rounding out the six-team field.

Continue reading "Gators gymnastics finishes third at NCAA Championships" »

April 14, 2017

Florida gymnastics advances to Super Six after second-place semifinal finish

Once again, the Florida Gators will be competing for an NCAA gymnastics title.

Third-ranked UF finished second in its semifinal competition on Friday in St. Louis with a 197.8125 team score thanks largely in part to junior Alex McMurtry’s NCAA all-around victory and consistency on all four events.

McMurtry finished with a meet-high 39.8125 all-around score, the third-highest individual all-around score in Florida history. She scored at least a 9.9375 on every event, highlighted by a 9.975 on vault. McMurtry also earned a share of the uneven bars title with a 9.95 score.

She joins Bridget Sloan (2016; 2014) and Kytra Hunter (2015; 2012) as Florida’s only NCAA all-around champion. It’s the fifth time over the last six years that UF won at least a share of the individual all-around title.

Overall, Florida did not have to count a score lower than 9.825. The lone blemish was Kennedy Baker fell on her uneven bars dismount, but the score was dropped.

No. 2 seed LSU won the semifinal with an NCAA Championship-record 198.275 and had 15 scores at or above 9.9. Sixth-ranked Alabama took third in the six-team semifinal field with a 197.600.

They will be joined by No. 1 Oklahoma (197.725), No. 5 UCLA (197.500) and No. 4 Utah (197.050) in Saturday’s Super Six finale, during which the team national champion will be crowned. Competition begins at 8 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.

The Gators will start the meet on the balance beam.


FLORIDA SCORES

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Forward Devin Robinson thanks Gator Nation, declares for NBA Draft

Devin Robinson announced on his Twitter account Friday afternoon that he will declare for the 2017 NBA Draft instead of returning for his senior season with the Florida Gators.

Robinson, a 6-8 forward from Virginia, scored 935 points in 105 career appearances over his three-year career, never missing a game. He had five career double-doubles and scored a career-high 24 points twice during his final season.

"We'll miss Devin here, but he'll always be a part of the Gator family," head coach Mike White said in a release. "We're excited for Devin as he continues to pursue his dream and grateful for his role in helping reestablish the culture and success of the Florida basketball program."

DraftExpress.com has Robinson ranked as the 37th best player in this year’s draft and the 10th-best small forward. The website projects Robinson to be selected with the 36th pick by the Boston Celtics, which would make Robinson the first UF player to be drafted since Erik Murphy was selected 49th overall in 2013.

Florida is still waiting to hear from center John Egbunu about his decision to either return to the team or test the professional basketball waters.

 

Robinson’s full message is below:

“To the Gator Nation,

After careful consideration with my family and deep prayer with God, I’ve made the decision to forgo my senior year and enter the 2017 NBA draft.

This decision was not easy for me; in fact, it was one of the hardest decisions I have ever faced. I will be leaving a place that has become my second home.

I would first like to thank my family for their unconditional support throughout my career and this overwhelming decision. I would also like to personally thank each of my coaches, team support staff, and academic support staff. You each have influenced my life and made me the man I am today. To my teammates, you each have a place in my heart and I will always consider you guys as my brothers.

Without you all, my journey would not have been the same. I have been blessed to form many great relationships that will truly last a lifetime. I will truly miss all of you.

To the Rowdy Reptiles and the Gator Nation, I will miss the enthusiasm and support you all provided my team and I during my career here at the University of Florida. I will miss playing in the O’Dome and playing in front of college basketball’s best fans. I thank you for your support over the last three seasons.

I set many personal goals for myself for this season. At the top of the list was for our team to make the NCAA tournament. We were able to make the tournament this season and advance to the Elite Eight. Although we did not reach our end goal, I am still grateful for the opportunity to keep the culture alive for the University of Florida.

However, the time has come for me to pursue new opportunities as a professional in the NBA. I know I am ready for this next step and I am personally excited for all the new challenges that will be presented with this decision.

I will always cheer on and be a huge supporter of the University of Florida. I will forever be a Gator.

 

Sincerely,

Devin Robinson”

Meet Amelia Hundley, Florida's consistent freshman striving for a team title

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Florida freshman Amelia Hundley celebrates with teammates after finishing her uneven parallel bars routine during a meet this season. (Photos by Jordan McPherson)

 

Sharon Hundley still remembers bringing her 3-year-old daughter Amelia to work at her dance studio. Little Amelia watched intensely while mom taught class. She copied the older girls directly in front of her.

“She was still in diapers trying to do back handsprings and landing on her head,” Sharon Hundley recalled. “I thought ‘Oh God. She’s going to kill herself if we don’t get her into some kind of classes.’ That’s how it all started.”

Amelia hasn’t stopped. Within a year, dance evolved into gymnastics and an opportunity. She reached national heights over the ensuing 16 years, capped with an appearance at the Olympic Trials in July.

Now, she wants to make one last mark on the gymnastics world, this time at the collegiate level with the Florida Gators, before she hangs up the leotard for good.

Now, she wants to feel the glory of success one more time, this time at this weekend’s NCAA championships and this time as part of a team.

Now, she wants to not just join the ranks of All-Americans Kytra Hunter and Bridget Sloan as the next big name in Florida gymnastics. She wants to set the new standard.

“I hoped to come in and fill those shoes,” the 19-year-old freshman said. “I have the opportunity to be that good.”

Continue reading "Meet Amelia Hundley, Florida's consistent freshman striving for a team title" »

April 12, 2017

No. 3 Gators softball defeats No. 1 FSU in walk-off fashion

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-Photos by Jordan McPherson

GAINESVILLE

Florida's Kayli Kvistad drove a two-out, seventh-inning pitch straight to right field. Teammate Justine McLean, standing on second in a scoreless game with top-ranked Florida State, knew it just needed to fall.

As soon as it hit the grass, the speedy McLean rounded third and darted toward home plate without a second thought. She ran past home plate and clapped twice. Her teammates ran out of the dugout. 

Kvistad's walk-off single scored McLean and clinched the Gators' 1-0 win over the Seminoles on Wednesday night in front of a Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium crowd of 2,574.

"Justine's one of our fastest players," Kvistad said. "... She can score on almost anything to the outfield."

After six innings dominated by both pitching staffs, the Gators (38-2) found life late.

McLean started it off with a one-handed bunt single down the third-base line, beating the throw by a half step and flipping the lineup. Amanda Lorenz moved her into scoring position with a groundout. After Nicole Dewitt drew a two-out walk, Kvistad battled FSU's Meghan King and ripped a 2-1 pitch to right field to clinch it.

"Honestly, if you ask me where I want to be at the end of the game, I want to be at the top of the lineup," UF coach Tim Walton said. "I thought it was huge."

Sophomore Kelly Barnhill earned the win after tossing a pair of scoreless innings to close out the game. She improved to 16-0 on the season, struck out three batters and dropped her ERA to 0.27. Her lone blemish was a two-out walk in the sixth.

Senior lefty Delanie Gourley opened the game with five scoreless innings, scattering just four hits while striking out seven.  

Gourley gave up three hits in the top of the first, but her defense and an FSU miscue kept the Seminoles  (38-2-1) scoreless.

DSC_5628First it was a double play. As Gourley threw a third strike to FSU's Alex Powers, Morgan Klaevemann left first base early and was ruled out.

Next, it was a throw home. With Jessica Warren on second after hitting a double and Ellie Cooper flaring a single to left field, Florida's Amanda Lorenz scooped up a ball and fired it home. Catcher Janell Wheaton grabbed the throw and tagged Warren for the inning-ending out. 

Gourley walked up to Lorenz. She was speechless.

"I couldn't even cheer afterward," Gourley said. "I was standing there as she threw it and was like 'Get her out. Get her out. Get her out.'"

Gourley allowed just one baserunner in her next four inning and only allowed one runner to make it into scoring position. 

Florida, on the other hand, squandered a pair of opportunities late.

In the fifth, the Gators had runners on second and third with two outs after a wild pitch. Kvistad flew out to left field to strand them both.

In the sixth, pinch-runner Jacqui Switzer made it from first to third after an Aleshia Ocasio groundout and a wild pitch. Chelsea Herndon hit a lineout to left field to keep the game scoreless heading to the seventh before Kvistad hit her game winner.

"Kayli saved the game once again," McLean said. "When I was rounding third, they were like 'up, up, up.' I was like, 'Yeah. We won.'"

Gators QB Kyle Trask underwent knee surgery following spring game

Redshirt freshman Kyle Trask became the second Gators to undergo surgery this spring. 

As first reported by Gator Country's Nick De La Torre and later confirmed by a UF press release, Trask had surgery Wednesday to repair a torn meniscus. He is expected to be out about four weeks but should be cleared for the start of fall camp.

According to the Gator Country report, Trask suffered the injury about two weeks before the spring game. Trask competed with fellow redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks this spring for the starting quarterback job, with Franks now heading into the summer as the front runner. 

Luke Del Rio, who started six games for the Gators last season, sat out this spring after having a pair of shoulder surgeries.

More injuries

The aforementioned UF press release also said three football players are currently not on track to be ready for fall practice: Defensive lineman Jordan Sherit, receiver Rick Wells and tight end Harry Gronto.

"[T]hey will be reevaluated closer to camp and their status could change prior to the team's first practice," the release reads.

Sherit's potential absence is the biggest news of the three. The fifth-year senior has played in 32 games with 11 starts at defensive end and has recorded 66 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks.

Basketball: Hester transfers

The UF men's basketball announced Wednesday both that freshman shooting guard Eric Hester is transferring from the program, as first reported by Inside the Gators' Landon Watnick.

Hester played off the bench in 20 games during Florida's Elite Eight run but averaged just 5.6 minutes and 2.2 points per game. His highlight performance came against LSU, when he went 5-for-5 from three-point range and helped the Gators make a school record 19 shots from beyond the arc. 

Basketball: New commitment

Barely three hours after the Hester transfer news broke, UF announced that guard Michael Okauru signed a letter of intent to join the team. Okauru is ranked as a four-star prospect out of Raleigh, North Carolina.

“We’re happy to officially welcome Michael to the Gator family,” coach Mike White said in a release. “We expect him to be a great fit here, along with the rest of our incoming class, and look forward to having them on campus.”

Okauru's commitment, along with Florida's four other early signees, gives the Gators the ninth-ranked recruiting class for 2017.

April 09, 2017

Gators baseball avoids Tennessee sweep with 5-4 win

GAINESVILLE

With the Gators clinging onto a one-run lead in the eighth inning, Michael Byrne toed the rubber and eyed down Tennessee’s Justin Ammons.

After drawing the loss in both of the extra-inning games that opened the series, it was a tense situation for the sophomore pitcher: Bases loaded, two outs, full count.

But when the Gators needed him most on Sunday, Byrne pulled through. He forced Ammons to rip a pitch straight back to the pitcher’s mound, which Byrne fielded cleanly and tossed to first base for the inning-ended out before closing the door in the ninth.

No. 7 Florida salvaged the little it could in its three-game series with Tennessee by taking the finale 5-4 on Sunday afternoon.

Continue reading "Gators baseball avoids Tennessee sweep with 5-4 win" »

April 08, 2017

With short lineup and poor baserunning, Gators baseball drops series to Tennessee

Ryan Larson grabbed the ball off the wall in left-center field and hurled it back to the infield. When shortstop Dalton Guthrie bobbled the cutoff and underthrew the toss home, Tennessee’s Justin Ammons crossed home plate with relative ease and celebrated the eventual game-winning run in the top of the 10th inning.

Tennessee, a team that had just one conference win heading into the weekend, will now leave Gainesville with the series over the No. 7 Gators after winning its second straight extra-inning contest, this one a 3-2 decision on Saturday night. The Volunteers won the series opener 7-6 on Friday.

“We’ve won our share of one-run games, and now we’ve lost a couple in a row,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “All we can do is come back tomorrow and play a little better.”

Continue reading "With short lineup and poor baserunning, Gators baseball drops series to Tennessee" »

April 07, 2017

Former Gators LB Daniel McMillian arrested on sexual assault charge

McMillian
Daniel McMillian

Former Florida Gators linebacker Daniel McMillian was arrested late Thursday night and remains in the Alachua County Jail on Friday morning on charges of sexual assault (a first-degree felony) and false imprisonment (a third-degree felony).

According to a Gainesville Police Department arrest report, McMillian invited the alleged victim to his apartment around 3:40 p.m. on Thursday. Once she entered the residence, McMillian, 23, reportedly locked the door, blocked it and then exposed himself to her.

The victim asked to leave but, according to the report, McMillan approached her and grabbed her. The report states she kicked McMillian, unlocked the door and ran to safety.

The victim sustained a small scratch on her arm while attempting to escape and "was visibly shaking and hysterically crying" afterward when talking with officers, according to the report.

McMillian remains in the Alachua County Jail as of press time in lieu of a $40,000 bond.

McMillian, a Jacksonville native, played in 41 games at Florida, mostly as a reserve linebacker and on special teams. He recorded 65 career tackles in his four years. 

April 05, 2017

Florida football position preview: Outspoken Gardner ready to let his play do the talking

When he walked into Florida’s indoor practice facility last week, the normally outspoken Chauncey Gardner was quiet.

Gardner, heading into his sophomore year, is a versatile defensive back.

He can play outside corner, nickel and safety.

And he’s usually a talker filled with energy.

“Must have been having an off day,” UF coach Jim McElwain said a few days later.

Defensive backs coach Corey Bell added: “He’s a confident player, no doubt.”

McElwain and the Gators are hoping Gardner doesn’t have many off days on the field as he moves from a freshman reserve and special teams ace to helping replace three starters in Florida’s defensive backfield.

Gardner showed his potential late last season, starting the last three games at safety due to injuries to Marcus Maye and Nick Washington.

He recorded an interception early against Florida State in his first career start and then recorded two more (including one returned for a touchdown) in the Outback Bowl against Iowa to close out the season.

“They see we go [with] somebody back there who can do it,” Gardner said. “So they’re trusting me and I’m trusting them. That’s why I’m putting my process and working and getting everything better so I can help my teammates and get better.”

He and the rest of the defensive backs will need to get better quickly. The Gators lost three secondary starters from last year in Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Maye. Duke Dawson, Florida’s primary nickel corner last season, is moving outside to take over one of those spots. Gardner is holding down the second spot this spring due to lack of depth, but he could potentially move back inside or back to safety once the five freshman defensive backs arrive in Gainesville this summer.

“As long as he’s on the field,” Bell said, “we’re a better football team.”

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS ROOM

Key returners: Duke Dawson, Chauncey Gardner, Marcell Harris, Nick Washington, Joseph Putu

Key losses: Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Duke Dawson

Key additions: Shawn Davis, Brian Edwards, Brad Stewart, CJ Henderson, Marco Wilson

Key stats from 2016: 92.86 QB rating allowed (lowest nationally); 2:1 interception-to-touchdown ratio (No. 1 nationally); 148.5 yards allowed per game (No. 1 in SEC; No. 2 nationally)

Evaluation: The Gators are reloading in the secondary once again. Gone are three of their top playmakers and in come a handful of freshmen who will need to make an immediate impact if “DBU” wants to continue to hold that title. Look for Marcell Harris and Duke Dawson to take on increased leadership roles this season and for a freshman (maybe two) to get starts early.

April 04, 2017

Highlights from Mike White's season-ending press conference

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-Photo by Jordan McPherson

Second-year UF coach Mike White on Tuesday met with media for the last time this season. White, fresh off a mini beach vacation with his family and a bout with the flu, gave some insights on the trajectory of the program and his expectations for players moving forward. Here are the highlights.

Egbunu likely to test NBA waters

Add John Egbunu to the list of players contemplating going pro early.

White said Egbunu, a 6-11, 255-pound center who is set to graduate at the end of the month, will likely test the NBA waters.

Egbunu, who transferred to UF from the University of South Florida in 2014, had a solid season. The big man averaged 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game before suffering a season-ending torn ACL against Auburn on Feb. 14.

Continue reading "Highlights from Mike White's season-ending press conference" »

April 03, 2017

Florida football position preview: Gators looking for outside pass rusher on defensive line

Antonneous Clayton is eating 6,000 calories a day to bulk up.

CeCe Jefferson has dropped about 25 pounds since he arrived on campus.

The two are taking opposite routes with their weight, but their goal is the same. With Florida losing eight defensive starters, including two on the defensive line, Clayton and Jefferson are working diligently to shore up the Gators’ outside pass rush.

“Pass rushing is fun,” Jefferson said. “Setting the edge is fun and I just enjoy it.”

Florida needs it. Being able to rush four more often instead of bringing in consistent blitz packages will allow Florida’s younger linebackers to roam in the backfield and help a defensive backs group that lost three starters with pass protection.

“I hope we get a guy that [is] capable of rushing the passer,” defensive line coach Chris Rumph said. “… All that will come along. We'll get it."

Jefferson and Clayton, blue chip prospects from the last two recruiting classes, both have the potential to be that guy. Jefferson has played in 26 career games (10 starts) and has a knack for getting into the backfield. He has 15 career tackles for loss and has the ability to compete with most offensive linemen.

Clayton has had a rougher start to his collegiate career. The former five-star recruit found himself in Rumph’s doghouse early. He didn’t fully grasp the playbook, he was underweight, and he wasn’t used to the faster pace of the game.

All in all, Clayton played in five games in 2016, with his lone highlight being a fumble recovery in the win over Vanderbilt.

This spring, he’s up to 250 pounds and is focused on playing an overall more physical game. Clayton credits the older defensive linemen for helping him mentally adjust.

“They’re like, ‘Hey man, you’ve got to be a dog. You can’t come in here and just scare. You’ve got to be confident in yourself and also in your abilities as a run-stopper and also as a pass-rusher,’” Clayton said. “If it wasn’t for those guys, I’d probably still be at my high school level.”

Clayton and Jefferson are not going to be doing it alone, though.

Rumph makes it a priority to frequently rotate players throughout games. This way, when the fourth quarter comes along, his starters are still fresh and his younger linemen are gaining experience.

“By throwing them in the fire early,” Jefferson said, “I think it opens their eyes to show them he’s there for them.”

DEFENSIVE LINE ROOM

Key returners: CeCe Jefferson, Khairi Clark, Taven Bryan, Jabari Zuniga

Key losses: Caleb Brantley, Joey Ivie, Bryan Cox Jr.

Key additions: Kyree Campbell

Look out for: Taven Bryan

2016 Stats: 31 sacks (fourth in SEC); 80 tackles for loss (sixth in SEC); 3.84 yards per rush allowed (fourth in SEC)

Evaluation: Florida’s defensive line once again has promise this season. CeCe Jefferson is a high-motor guy and it looks like he’ll be playing on the edge this season, which is his natural spot. Jabari Zuniga led the Gators a year ago with five sacks and was second with 8.5 tackles for loss. The biggest question mark will be the interior of the line. Taven Bryan, heading into his redshirt junior year, has performed at a consistently high level throughout the spring and has earned praise from both head coach Jim McElwain and Rumph. How that translates into live game production will be key.

April 02, 2017

Florida football position preview: Linebacker Vosean Joseph primed for more big hits

Florida fans still remember the play.

LSU quarterback Danny Etling rolled to his right and started scrambling toward the end zone.

Vosean Joseph had other plans.

Joseph, a freshman who had minimal playing time up until that game, pulverized Etling and forced him out of bounds. Two plays later, the Tigers missed a field goal. One play after that, UF’s Austin Appleby hit receiver Tyrie Cleveland for a 98-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the eventual 16-10 win.

But as Joseph heads into his second year with the program, he’s confident that play is just the tip of the iceberg.

“They ain’t seen nothing yet,” the Miami Norland High alumnus said. “Trust me.”

He’s in a prime position to make a major impact this season.

Joseph played in all 13 games as a freshman. Most of his early contributions were on special teams until veterans Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis suffered injuries midway through the year.

From there, he moved up the depth chart and made his first career start in the Outback Bowl. He ended the season with 13 total tackles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.

“When you ask me what I look for in a linebacker — tough, hard-nosed, physical — he is that. Every day,” linebackers coach Tim Skipper said. “He will hit you. … He loves that part of the game.”

Now, Joseph needs to prioritize the game plan and memorize the schemes. With the Gators fielding a young linebacker corps next season -- Florida’s most veteran scholarship linebacker is rising redshirt sophomore Kylan Johnson -- any mental lapse will be magnified.

The hits will come, he said, but when they come matters just as much.

“I have to take a step back,” he said. “Us linebackers, young linebackers, we have to just try to make plays, focus on making plays, we weren’t focusing on the system or coaching. We were just trying to make plays to get our name.

“As long as we play within the defense, we’re gonna make plays regardless.”

 

LINEBACKER ROOM

Key returners: David Reese, Vosean Joseph, Kylan Johnson, Jeremiah Moon, Cristian Garcia

Key departures: Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis

Additions for 2017: James Houston (early enrollee), Ventrell Miller, Nick Smith, Lacedrick Brunson

Evaluation: Youth, health and, at least for the spring, lack of depth are the biggest issue for Florida’s linebackers. David Reese, Florida’s projected starting middle linebacker, is out for spring camp with a wrist injury. Early enrollee James Houston is limited while recovering from a high school ACL injury. Second-year linebacker Jeremiah Moon is also coming back from a foot injury that kept him on the sideline for his freshman season. That leaves Florida with just three options this spring who have valuable experience in senior walk-on Cristian Garcia, rising sophomore Vosean Joseph and redshirt sophomore Kylan Johnson. Head coach Jim McElwain even moved tight end Camrin Knight to linebacker for the spring to have another body there. Once Reese is healthy and Moon gets up to speed -- and when Florida three other freshman linebackers get to campus in the summer -- the depth chart will start sorting itself out. Until then, though, linebackers coach Tim Skipper is working with what he has at his disposal.

The numbers behind Florida baseball's successful past two weeks

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-Photos by Jordan McPherson

The Florida baseball team seems to have found its groove. Since being swept by Auburn two weekends ago, the ninth-ranked Gators have won seven of their past eight games -- including all five games played away from their home field at McKethan Stadium. Now fresh off its first conference sweep of the season at Missouri, let’s take a look at the numbers being Florida’s recent success.

Continue reading "The numbers behind Florida baseball's successful past two weeks" »

Florida football position preview: Ivey ready to lead the offensive line

Our Florida football position previews continue with a look at the offensive line.

 

It was only a matter of time before Martez Ivey moved back outside.

For his first two years with the Florida Gators, the former top offensive line prospect was pushed inside and played guard while David Sharpe played left tackle.

But with Sharpe leaving school early for the NFL Draft, Ivey is transitioning back to his natural left tackle spot for the 2017 season and is ready to take on the leadership role that comes with it.

“I’ve been here for two years and have experience,” Ivey said. “Everybody looks at me to be a leader. When we’ve got a problem, they come to me for like being their voice and speaking up.”

Ivey has been successful so far in his college career. The 6-5, 305-pound lineman played in 25 games (20 starts) during his first two seasons with the Gators and was named second-team All-SEC as a sophomore. He was a steady fixture on the line late in the season, when as many as three starters were out at any given time due to injury.

“It is a big step for him,” Sharpe said. “It is not easy at all but I think he can handle it. He is a great player.”

And now, McElwain and first-year offensive line coach Brady Davis are challenging Ivey and the rest of the offensive line to get better.

More specifically, the coaches want more energy, more aggression and more quickness from the guys up front. McElwain’s message to the offensive line in its simplest terms: Do everything right.

“It starts in the trenches,” Ivey said. “They go as we go … so we got to push the tempo, we got to lead, we got to encourage everyone around us.”

The leadership will be needed with a first year quarterback to protect and three running backs with different skill sets to block for. The offensive line will need to step up quick, and Ivey said he’s ready to take the charge.

“It’s time for us to step up,” he said.

OFFENSIVE LINE ROOM

Key departures: Tackle David Sharpe (NFL Draft), center Cam Dillard (graduate transfer)

Projected starting lineup: Martez Ivey (LT), Tyler Jordan or Brett Heggie (LG), T.J. McCoy (C), Fred Johnson (RG), Jawaan Taylor (RT)

Key Stat: 28 sacks allowed (tied for fourth-most in SEC and 17 less than the 2015 season)

April 01, 2017

No. 3 Florida gymnastics punches ticket to nationals after strong regional finish

GAINESVILLE

It was a shaky start, but Florida once again found a way to pull through.

Forget about sophomore Alicia Boren’s missed handstand on the bars to open the meet and freshman Rachel Gowey’s fall on the apparatus two routines later.

Forget about the .325 deficit the third-ranked Gators had against Georgia halfway through the meet.

And forget about the nerves and the tenseness this normally upbeat team felt as they entered their locker room with two events left.

Florida stormed through the final two rotations and overcame that early deficit to win the Gainesville Regional of the NCAA Gymnastics Championships on Saturday punched its ticket to nationals in St. Louis with a score of 197.125. The Bulldogs also advanced to nationals with a 196.775 score to take second in the O’Connell Center.

“Glad that’s over,” a relieved UF coach Jenny Rowland said immediately after the meet before letting out a brief yell of excitement.

It was a trying meet early on for the home team.

After those two mishaps on the bars, Florida finished with three stuck routines from junior Kennedy Baker (9.875), freshman Amelia Hundley (9.900) and junior Alex McMurtry (9.95).

“I’m normally pretty chill, but I was a little nervous that time,” Baker said of following up Gowey’s fall.

An 49.225 team score on the beam one rotation later -- highlighted by a 9.9 from McMurtry in the anchor spot -- gave Florida momentum heading into its bye.

“I could tell back there the weight had been lifted off our shoulders,” Rowland said.

Florida responded and closed out the meet with the top-two scoring rotations: A 49.45 on the floor and a 49.475 on the vault.

“We picked up some momentum there and we just had a blast,” said McMurtry, who was named the Southeast Region Gymnast of the Year and had the highest individual all-around score with a 39.675. “It was our last time this season in front of our fans. I think we did really well and built off every single score.”

Rowland added: “Regionals is always a challenging meet,” Rowland said. “It’s something that we don’t talk about. It’s do or die. You qualify or you don’t qualify.”

And now, Florida has qualified for nationals. Again. UF is heading to nationals for the 35th time in the 36-year history of the event and has a chance to win its fourth national title in five years.

“This team showed a lot of heart, a lot of determination and a lot of fight,” Rowland said. “It’s not over until that last routine.”

What you need to know ahead of the NCAA Gymnastics Regional

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-Photo by Jordan McPherson

The No. 3 Florida gymnastics team serves as the host one of six NCAA Regional meets this weekend, the final competition before the NCAA Championships in St. Louis. The meet, which features six teams, will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the O’Connell Center. A live stream will also be available on the SECNetwork+. But before teams take to the competition floor, here’s a quick look at what you need to know about the competition and the road ahead as college gymnastics begins postsesason action.

Continue reading "What you need to know ahead of the NCAA Gymnastics Regional" »

Florida football position previews: Speedy Massey's speedy recovery a plus for UF's receivers

Due to a slight change of events, I will be holding off on writing about the running backs until later in the series. Part 2 will now focus on the wide receivers.

Dre Massey was with his mom when he found out his first football season with the Gators was over before it could ever really start.

The speedy receiver and junior college transfer tore his ACL on the opening kickoff of Florida’s season, sidelining him for the rest of the season.

He was heartbroken at first. But then, after looking at his mom, he smiled.

“[It’s] like another storm,” Massey said. “We have to fight one more thing. And I’ll be back.”

Massey has fought through a lot to get to where he is in life.

He moved around a lot as a child. His dad died in a car accident before high school. His grades suffered for a period afterward.

He didn’t receive Division I offers because of his academics, forcing him to attend Holmes Community College in Goodman, Mississippi -- a small town of less than 1,500 people that didn’t even have a McDonald’s.

“That's why a lot of things don't really get me down,” Massey said.

And that’s why the versatile receiver has made it his mission to get back on the field.

Massey is limited to non-contact drills this spring while he finishes up the final bouts of his rehab, but one look at practice shows that he is close to being 100 percent ready to go.

During individual drills, Massey is able to make cuts with ease. His route running isn’t the crispest, but it’s improving.

And he’s still blistering fast.

“It’s tough to tell he went through an ACL except a couple times when you see the big brace,” receivers coach Kerry Dixon said.

That’s a good sign for Florida, which plans to use Massey in a myriad of ways this season.

His primary spot on the field looks to be slot receiver due to his 5-9, 180-pound frame. His speed, however, should provide a valiant mismatch against nickel corners and linebackers over the middle.

UF coach Jim McElwain said he also plans to use Massey in select packages out of the backfield as both a quarterback and a running back.

Whatever the situation, though, Massey endorses it as long as he has a chance to get touches.

“Whenever I touch the ball,” Massey said, “I can score anytime.”

But even if the ball isn’t going in Massey’s direction, his ability to spread the field will open opportunities for the rest of the receiving corps, a group that includes junior Antonio Callaway, senior Brandon Powell and sophomores Tyrie Cleveland, Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond.

“He’s one of those guys that I’m extremely excited to get back,” Dixon said. “I know he’s going to be special.”

 

THE RECEIVERS ROOM

Key players on roster: Junior Antonio Callaway, redshirt junior Dre Massey, sophomore Tyrie Cleveland, sophomore Josh Hammond, sophomore Freddie Swain, senior Brandon Powell

Players lost: Ahmad Fulwood, Chris Thompson, C.J. Worton

Coming this summer: Freshmen Daquon Green and James Robinson

Key Stats from 2016: 11.6 yards per catch (13th in SEC); Seven catches longer than 40 yards (tied for 11th in SEC)

Evaluation: The Gators are dealing with a lack of numbers this spring with Freddie Swain being held out for all of spring camp with a shoulder injury and Dre Massey only participating in non-contact drills. This leaves Florida with just six scholarship receivers until the summer, when Daquon Green and James Robinson join the team and the others get medically cleared. However, the group as a whole has promise. The return of Massey and the late development last season from Tyrie Cleveland give Florida more options to spread the ball around, which should take some pressure off Antonio Callaway.


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