December 30, 2015

Gators DT Jon Bullard glad he returned for his senior season

ORLANDO -- A year ago, Jon Bullard put his NFL dreams on pause, but Florida’s dominant defensive tackle hasn’t sweated his choice all season. 

“It’s the best decision I made in my life,” the senior said Wednesday.

“I thought about coming out with the coaching chance. You hear things about how that’s going to be and you have to learn new things. But I buckled down. Me and my family made a decision to come back, and I think it was a great decision. I’m playing the best ball I’ve played since I’ve been here.”

After a solid junior season, Bullard was viewed as a potential mid-round pick, but the former five-star recruit opted to return for one final year in Gainesville and his decision is likely to pay significant dividends for the future.  

Bullard earned All-American honors in 2015 and emerged as a possible first-round pick after leading UF with 17.5 tackles for loss -- third-best in the SEC. He also recorded 6.5 sacks, tying pass-rushing specialist Alex McCalister for the team lead. 

First-year coach Jim McElwain has praised Bullard’s selflessness and maturity all season, and on Wednesday, Florida’s defensive coordinator Geoff Collins called the senior “the poster child” for how Bullard handled both his NFL future and Florida’s coaching transition. 

“Him being a premier player last year, I’m sure he wrestled with the decision to come back or to leave,” Collins said. 

“But the things he did in the offseason, the things he did throughout the year to make himself one of the best players in college football, you don’t see guys do that a lot.”

SHOW YOUR BRAND

As Florida prepares for Friday’s Citrus Bowl showdown against No. 17 Michigan, a handful of future Gators are readying to showcase their skills on the same field the very next day. 

Four UF oral commits will participate in Saturday’s Under Armour All-American Game (Noon, ESPN2): WR Josh Hammond, DE Antonneous Clayton, CB Chauncey Gardner and OL Brett Heggie.

A number of other blue-chip targets on Florida’s board will also play in the all-star game, including linebacker Mack Wilson, wideouts Nate Craig-Myers, Eli Stove (Auburn commit) and Sam Bruce (a Miami commit) and defensive tackle Shavar Manuel. 

With so many top prospects in the same area code, Florida’s first-year coach Jim McElwain said Friday’s game is “an opportunity to show your brand.”

“Look, that’s part of advertising, right? This is no different. We get a chance to take a three-hour block and put the University of Florida on for a three-hour commercial.” 

Florida’s 2016 class currently has 25 commits and ranks No. 8 nationally according to 247Sports. 

THIS & THAT

Both Michigan and Florida spent time with kids from a local Boys & Girls Club on Wednesday.  … McElwain said Florida’s practices this week have been “pretty darn good.” … Michigan’s freshman star Jabrill Peppers remains questionable for Friday, as the three-way playmaker is reportedly battling an undisclosed hand injury. Peppers, a former five-star recruit, is the Wolverines’ starting safety, and the redshirt freshman also returns kicks, punts and plays a little running back. On the season, he has 45 tackles, 10 pass breakups and two touchdowns on 72 yards rushing. UF is wary of Peppers’ talent, but sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor said, “We’ve got 11 Jabrill Peppers on defense. Michigan, they only got one of him. We got 11.” 

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Notebook: Scarlett suspended, Neal & Maye mum on NFL

ORLANDO -- Freshman tailback Jordan Scarlett did not travel with the team to Orlando after he was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession on Dec. 19. 

Gators head coach Jim McElwain confirmed Scarlett’s one-game suspension Tuesday, saying the former St. Thomas Aquinas star would “not play” in the Citrus Bowl against Michigan but “he’ll be back with his team.”

Scarlett rushed for 181 yards and one touchdown on 34 carries in 2015. 

He had a breakout performance in UF’s win over Georgia (career-high 96 yards), but the freshman rushed for just 16 yards on 12 carries in Florida's final five games. 

“He’s a great kid and he handled [the suspension] the way you should handle it,” McElwain said.

“He stood up, honest, and I’m proud of him for that. He’ll be back with us as we going going for winter classes, which start on [Jan.] 5th.”

NO DECISION

While four Florida players plan to leave school early for the 2016 NFL Draft, the team’s talented safety duo has remained mum on the topic.  

Junior defensive backs Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye have given teammates little indication on their future, with fellow defensive backs Duke Dawson and Jalen Tabor both saying they’re not sure what Neal and Maye will do.

“It would be awesome [if they both return to school],” Tabor said. 

“Get those two guys back with me and Quincy [Wilson] and there’s no drop-off.”

All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III has already announced he’s going pro, but Neal and Maye face tougher decisions since they’re not sure-fire early round picks. 

Neal, a 6-1, 220-pound thumper, ranks third on the team in tackles with 85, while Maye has submitted a career-year with 73 stops, four forced fumbles and two interceptions. 

QUOTABLE

“Look, I will never beg someone to do anything. You got to have it in your heart. To be successful at anything in life, it’s got to be a passion, OK. And sometimes in life we all maybe look for … hmmm, what to say maybe, uh, sure things, you know, guarantees. There are no guarantees. And I just want him to be happy. I want him to be excited about wherever he chooses to be, and we’re here to help, as I am anybody on this football team.”

-- McElwain on if he tried to convince quarterback Will Grier not to transfer. 

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December 29, 2015

Q&A: Kelvin Taylor talks decision to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft

ORLANDO -- Kelvin Taylor is comfortable with his decision.

Florida’s junior tailback declared for the 2016 NFL Draft last week and will play his final game in a Gators uniform Friday against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl (1 p.m., ABC). 

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound back is just 15 yards shy of rushing for 1,000 yards this season. Taylor, projected as a mid-round pick by CBSSports.com, has 13 rushing touchdowns, too, tying his father Fred Taylor for most by a Gators tailback since 1997.  

Coincidentally, Taylor will finish his career in the same stadium his dad also starred in his final collegiate game. 

In 1998, Fred Taylor rushed for a Citrus Bowl-record 234 yards on 43 carries in Florida’s 21-6 win over Penn State. 

On Monday, Taylor explained his decision to turn pro, spoke on his desire to go out the same way his father did and more. 

Why go to the NFL now?

“It was pretty much just the best fit for me and for my career going in the future. I feel like it’s the best time right now. I just feel like this is the perfect timing and timing is everything. I feel like it’s going to help me out, and I feel like it was a great decision.”

Was it a difficult choice to make?

“Not really an easy one. But at the same time, I feel like it was a smart one. It was just the right decision. At the same time, going to bed at night, I’m just tossing and turning thinking about it sometimes. Like I said, I’m going to miss Gator Nation, but I feel like it’s a good decision. My teammates and my coaches are fine with it and they supported me really good through this decision. I’m just thankful for those guys and I’m looking forward to just finishing with a bang on Friday.”

What sort of role did your dad have on your decision?

“I leaned on my father a whole lot. My father, we talked about it a whole lot. Me, my mother, just my whole family. It was a family decision, but we’re comfortable with it. I feel like that’s going to be the best decision for me and my family for my future. I’m excited. I’m just ready to finish strong and there’s nothing like Gator Nation. I love Gator Nation. It’s going to be great out there Friday.”

How about playing your final game where your dad did, too?

“It’s very cool, man. Just to be very thankful for great coaches and great teammates, it’s going to be a great experience. I’m going to be sad, but at the same time, I’m going to enjoy myself. I’m looking forward to going out there and finishing with a bang. I’m ready to go.”

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December 23, 2015

Hodskins scores first-career bucket in UF's rout over Jacksonville

GAINESVILLE -- Florida routed Jacksonville 89-65 on Tuesday, outscoring the Dolphins by 16 points in the second half. 

Four UF starters scored in double figures, headlined by freshman KeVaughn Allen’s career-high 15 points -- including a ferocious double-clutch dunk. 

The Gators (8-3) handled business by trouncing the lowly Dolphins, who were playing on a back-to-back, and UF will close out its non-conference schedule with a home date against Florida State on Dec. 29. 

UF’s blowout win Tuesday was also punctuated by a nice story. Zach Hodskins, a sophomore walk-on with just one hand, scored his first-career points on a nifty spin move late in the game. 

Hodskins, who averaged close to 12 points a game in high school, was 0 of 5 in his career before making his first collegiate bucket. 

ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt tabbed Hodskins’ play as his “Best Thing I Saw Today,” while SportsCenter made the bucket the No. 1 play on its daily Top 10 highlight reel. 

 

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December 19, 2015

BREAKING: Will Grier requests transfer from Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE -- Will Grier’s rollercoaster career at Florida is over. 

The suspended redshirt freshman quarterback is transferring from the program, sources told to the Miami Herald. 

Florida later confirmed the report Saturday afternoon, with first-year coach Jim McElwain saying in a statement, “Will came to me about exploring his options to transfer. We will support him and help him in anyway we can. This has been very difficult on him and obviously he is looking for a fresh start. 

“We will always be there for him, as will all Gators.”   

Just six days ago, McElwain said Grier would return to all team activities on Jan. 5 after Florida’s plays Michigan in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day. 

Instead, the quarterback will never suit up for the Gators again.

Grier led UF to a surprising 6-0 start -- including 5-0 as a starter with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He spurred the incredible fourth-quarter comeback against Tennessee and tossed four touchdowns in the upset win over then-No. 3 Ole Miss. 

The 6-2, 200-pound gunslinger had the SEC’s highest completion percentage (65.8) and became the first Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009 to throw for at least 200 yards in three straight games. 

But on Oct. 12, Grier was suspended a full calendar-year for violating the NCAA’s performance-enhancing drug policy, and Florida’s offense has mostly been stuck in the mud ever since. 

Sophomore quarterback Treon Harris piloted the Gators to the SEC Championship Game, but the former Miami Booker T. Washington standout struggled mightily in McELwain’s pro-style system (49 percent completion percentage with 7 TDs and 5 INTs).

The Gators were blown out in their final two games against Florida State and Alabama, scoring just a single touchdown. 

Initially, Florida hoped Grier would be eligible to return at the start of next season, but in late November, he lost his appeal to have his 12-month suspension reduced. 

Now, Grier faces a murky future. He could immediately transfer to a junior college school and play right away, but should he go to another Division 1 program, Grier must sit out the full 2016 season and the first six games of 2017. Regardless of whatever initial decision Grier makes, the NCAA's six-game suspension is waiting for him if he ever plays D-1 football again. 

Grier is the sixth Florida quarterback to leave the program in the last three years, joining Max Staver, Jacoby Brissett, Skyler Mornhinweg, Tyler Murphy and Jeff Driskel. 

With Grier no longer in the fold, Florida will have just three scholarship quarterbacks in the spring, including two true freshmen (Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask). 

The coaching staff is also quite high on walk-on quarterback Luke Del Rio, son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio. Del Rio, who initially signed with Alabama out of high school and has a close connection with UF offensive coordinator Doug Nussemier, earned rave reviews this summer but had to sit out the 2015 season after transferring from Oregon State. 

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Another UF underclassman announces plans to return to school

GAINESVILLE -- Caleb Brantley isn’t going anywhere.

Florida’s redshirt sophomore defensive tackle announced Friday that he will return next year for his redshirt junior season.

“I never really thought about leaving,” Brantley said. “I just felt like I could better myself if I came back next year.”

He is the second underclassmen to announce he will return to school, joining standout linebacker Jarrad Davis.

The 6-foot-2, 315-pound tackle recorded 5.5 tackles for loss in 2015, but Brantley was oftentimes overshadowed by the success of Jon Bullard, Alex McCalister and others.

Still, he was a key and disruptive cog in the middle, improving his practice habits and production under first-year coach Jim McElwain.

Earlier this season, McElwain said the entire coaching staff considered Brantley a Top-10 talent on the team.

The redshirt sophomore said his close relationship with Bullard played a factor in his decision, especially watching Bullard, a senior who led UF with 17.5 tackles for loss, return to school last season and steadily improve his own draft stock.

“He chose to come back and that really suprised me,” Brantley explained.

“He definitely helped himself. I think he moved into the first round with a stellar season. But I mean for me, I still haven’t I feel like I really haven’t played how I can play yet.

“I mean, I played good, but I know I can do better.”

All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is the only UF player to publicly state his intention to “likely” declare early, but wideout Demarcus Robinson, tailback Kelvin Taylor, McCalister and others could all follow suit.

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December 17, 2015

UAA Approved: Florida raising ticket prices for 2016 season

GAINESVILLE -- On the heels of an unexpected 10-3 season and a berth in the SEC Championship Game, the Florida Gators are raising ticket prices for the 2016 season -- coincidentally perhaps -- but also in advance of the worst home schedule in years. 

The University Athletic Association Board of Directors approved a price hike of 33 percent for student season tickets and 10 percent for booster season tickets, as first reported by The Gainesville Sun. 

Although tickets prices were modestly raised, booster fees remain unchanged for the third straight year. 

“These additional dollars will allow us to continue to maintain a high-level athletic program in our 21 sports,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement on FloridaGators.com

“Our students are very important to us. They create a special environment at all our venues and we try to maintain reasonable prices for them. That’s the reason why this is the first increase in four years.”

According to the UAA, booster season tickets will now be $330 -- instead of $300 per season ticket package. Student prices will go from $105 to $140 for the seven-game slate -- or $5 per game. Foley noted that the increase still leaves Florida “the the median range relative to other SEC programs.”

In Jim McElwain’s first season, the Gators sold out The Swamp four times -- something former coach Will Muschamp didn’t do in four seasons. UF went 6-1 at home, losing the finale 27-2 to Florida State. 

But the price hike comes at a tough time, as Florida's 2016 home schedule is a drag. The Gators non-conference slate -- UMass, North Texas and Presbyterian -- is awful and LSU is the only conference opponent that finished the 2015 season with a winning record. 

Of note though, Muschamp will return to The Swamp on Nov. 12 with South Carolina. 

THIS & THAT

Three-star defensive end JaQuan Bailey (Jacksonville Raines) decommitted from UF on Wednesday, and Miami Central three-star defensive end Eric Mitchell backed off his UF pledge on Thursday. Florida’s 2016 class now stands at 24 commits and is ranked No. 8 according to 247Sports. … Wideout Antonio Callaway, a star at Miami Booker T. Washington, and defensive end CeCe Jefferson were both named to ESPN’s True Freshman All-American team. Callaway quickly emerged as a dynamic playmaker, leading the Gators with 603 receiving yards and four touchdowns and adding two punt return scores, too. Jefferson, a former five-star recruit, was also a standout, recording 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.  

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December 13, 2015

Vernon Hargreaves, Jon Bullard named 2015 AP All-Americans

GAINESVILLE -- Time in engrave another brick. 

Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press on Sunday, giving the junior his second commemorative brick outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. 

The Gators honor their first-team All-Americans (by select institutions) with an engraving in front of the Heavener Complex. Last season, Hargreaves was recognized as a first-team All-American by the Sporting News, earning his first brick.

Now he'll have two. 

As a junior, Hargreaves tied for the team-lead in interceptions with four, adding 31 tackles (1 TFL), four pass breakups and a forced fumble. 

Hargreaves, who said he's “probably” headed to the NFL after Florida’s bowl game against Michigan, was a second-team AP All-American as a sophomore and a third-team member as a freshman. 

Meanwhile, senior defensive tackle Jon Bullard was also recognized, earning third-team honors. 

Bullard had a team-high 17.5 tackles for loss -- ranking second in the conference. He also tied for the team-lead in sacks (6.5) and had 63 tackles and six hurries. 

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Florida Gators recruiting news: One addition, one subtraction

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s 2016 recruiting class changed a bit Sunday. 

Dwyer wideout Isaiah Johnson decommitted from UF after spending the weekend in Gainesville on his official visit. The three-star prospect was once a Miami commit, too, and is an early enrollee. According to recruitniks, the decision was a mutual one, as Florida hopes to land several blue-chip prospects as the position.

But minutes before Johnson announced his intentions, the Gators landed a verbal pledge, as four-star defensive end Jordan Smith (Lithonia, Ga.) committed following his official visit. 

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound pass rusher was recently a member of South Carolina’s 2016 class. But Smith reopened his commitment following the hiring of former UF coach Will Muschamp. 

Florida’s class now stands at 25 commits and is ranked No. 7 nationally by 247Sports. The month-long dead period starts Monday.

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December 10, 2015

Two Gators earn All-Freshman honors but Callaway edged out

GAINESVILLE -- The best rookie wide receiver in Florida Gators history didn’t make the SEC’s All-Freshman team Thursday.

Antonio Callaway, a Booker T. Washington product, did not earn postseason honors despite a sensational season.

The Miami native led Florida with 603 receiving yards on 30 catches and four touchdowns. He also scored two punt return touchdowns, ranking fifth nationally with 15.5 yards per return. Callaway’s 20.1 yards per reception was also the best in the conference.

However, while Callaway didn't receive any recognition, a pair of former five-star prospects were named to the All-Freshman team. UF’s offensive lineman Martez Ivey and defensive end CeCe Jefferson both earned honors. 

Ivey started seven games, playing both tackle spots and left guard. Jefferson quickly emerged as a rotational rusher, recording 28 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss. 

Still, Callaway -- the Gators’ most explosive playmaker since Percy Harvin -- was notably missing from the list. 

He was edged out for the receiver spots by Alabama’s Calvin Ridley (75 receptions for 893 yards and five touchdowns) and Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk (70 catches for 925 yards and six scores). 

Kirk had an exceptional freshman season, as he became the first player in league history to earn three spots (receiver, all-purpose and return specialist) on the All-Freshman team. He led the nation with 24.4 yards per punt return, scoring a pair of touchdowns. 

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December 09, 2015

Coaches Choice: SEC names Jim McElwain 2015 COY

GAINESVILLE -- After leading Florida to a dramatic turnaround and the school’s first Eastern Division title since 2009, first-year coach Jim McElwain was named the SEC’s Coach of the Year on Wednesday. 

Although the No. 19 Gators lost their final two games of the regular-season, they stand at 10-3 after winning just 11 games total in the previous two seasons. 

McElwain became the fourth coach in school history to win the award, joining Ray Graves (1960) and Steve Spurrier (1990) as the only UF coaches to receive the honor in their first season in Gainesville. Former UF coach Will Muschamp also won the award in 2012. 

MORE AWARDS

Four Florida players were named to ESPN’s All-SEC team Wednesday: cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Jalen Tabor, as well as defensive tackle Jon Bullard and punter Johnny Townsend. All four players earned all-conference honors Tuesday, too. 

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Jim McElwain hopes Florida's staff stays together

GAINESVILLE -- While staffs across the country are busy recruiting before Monday’s month-long dead period begins, the coaching carousel is in full swing, too. 

Jim McElwain just hopes the Gators aren’t involved in any of it. 

Asked if he anticipated any changes, McElwain said, “Well I sure hope not.”

Florida’s first-year coach, recently named the SEC’s Coach of the Year, added, “We’ve got a great staff, and I know a lot of guys would be in high demand because they are great coaches. We’ve been able to put together an outstanding staff here. I hope all of them are back.”

According to USA Today’s database, UF’s assistants ranked 20th nationally -- 10th in the conference -- in salary pool last season. 

Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and linebackers coach/assistant head coach Randy Shannon were candidates for Central Florida’s opening before Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost got the gig. 

Recently, offensive line coach Mike Summers, the only UF assistant without a contract for next season, and defensive line coach Chris Rumph were rumored targets for Will Muschamp’s staff at South Carolina. However, Muschamp reportedly retained interim USC coach Shawn Elliott, who will serve as the OL coach. 

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December 08, 2015

Five Florida Gators named to the 2015 All-SEC Coaches Team

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s defense finished the regular-season ranked second overall in the Southeastern Conference, so the leagues coaches honored five Gators -- including four standout defensive players -- to the Coaches’ 2015 All-SEC teams Tuesday

All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III earned his third-consecutive first-team selection, and the junior was joined by senior defensive tackle Jon Bullard and sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor. Senior linebacker Antonio Morrison and punter Johnny Townsend were named second-team selections. 

Florida’s trio of first-team defense honorees are the school’s most since 2009. 

Hargreaves and Tabor formed a dynamic duo in the secondary this season, as the both players intercepted four passes and headlined the nation's 11th ranked pass defense. Tabor led the SEC in passes defended with 18. 

Meanwhile, Bullard returned for his senior season and emerged as one of the most dominant interior linemen in the country. He ranked second in the conference in tackles for loss (17.5) and led UF in sacks (6.5). Morrison, a second-team All-SEC performer a year ago, returned from a devastating knee injury to lead the team in tackles for the second straight season (97 stops). 

THIS & THAT

Morrison also accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl on Tuesday, joining teammate and tight end Jake McGee. … The Citrus Bowl announced that its New Year’s Day matchup between Michigan and Florida is already sold out. … UF safety Marcus Maye was not named to an All-SEC team Tuesday, but the redshirt junior did earn first-team All-American honors from USA Today. Maye has 73 tackles, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries on the season. … Five-star quarterback prospect Jacob Eason will reportedly decide between Georgia and Florida sometime in the next month. 

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December 06, 2015

Gators finish No. 19 in CFB Playoff, No. 19 in AP Poll

GAINESVILLE -- The Alabama Crimson Tide rolled over the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship Game, likely sending UF to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando to take on Michigan. 

We’ll find out soon enough. 

But Florida finished the regular-season ranked No. 19 in the College Football Playoff rankings, No. 19 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 18 in the Coaches Poll. 

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December 05, 2015

GameDay Primer: Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

UnnamedATLANTA -- The Florida Gators are back in Hot ‘Lanta.

Who’da thunk?

UF is an 18-point underdog, hoping to spring the largest upset in 23-year history of the SEC Championship Game. 

No one … NO ONE … is picking Florida over Alabama, but what was that speech in the Little Giants about?

WHERE: Georgia Dome

WHEN: 4 p.m.

WATCH: CBS

LINE: UF +18 

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Can Florida force turnovers (SEC-best 24 takeaways) AND control third down (Alabama ranks XXXX nationally on third down)

2. Will UF’s offensive line survive against Alabama’s “creatures?”

3. How much read-option, designed quarterback run does UF implement for Treon Harris?

QUICK NOTES

* Florida’s stumbling offense has eclipsed 300 yards just once in the last month

* WR Demarcus Robinson will play today. The junior, UF’s leading receiver with 47 catches, was suspended for the blowout loss to Florida State but was reinstated by the team’s seniors late this week.

* DE Alex McCalister (foot) remains OUT, while slot wideout Brandon Powell (foot, walking boot) and starting left tackle David Sharpe (foot) are questionable.  

* UF is making its 11th appearance in the SEC Championship Game and is 4-3 all-time against Alabama

* The Tide throttled the Gators 42-21 in Tuscaloosa last season. 

LINKS - UF vs ALABAMA

UF’s rapid rise meets ultimate test

Struggling offense likely to unleash Harris

Gators bracing for Derrick Henry

Listless Florida Gators limp into SEC title game

Sharpe, Wilson questionable

Family Decision: Robinson is back

Seniors to decide WR Demarcus Robinson’s fate

The Gators add three commits, including heralded QB Felipe Franks

SKINNY SIX-PACK

So 4-1 again. Time to close out Championship Saturday with a bang. 38-21-1 ATS on the season. 

Clemson (-4) vs North Carolina

Stanford (-4) vs USC 

Iowa vs Michigan State (-3.5)

Kansas State (+8) vs West Virginia

And finally, Florida (+18) vs Alabama. Could this game turn into a blowout quickly? Sure. But even though Alabama will and should win, favorites are just 11-11-1 ATS in title game history (stat hat-tip: SB Nation’s Team Speed Kills). UF covers. Barely. 

Enjoy ATL, y’all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

December 03, 2015

Sharpe, Wilson injured in practice, questionable for Saturday

GAINESVILLE -- Florida enters the SEC Championship Game banged up, as starting left tackle David Sharpe reinjured his foot in Wednesday’s practice. 

The 6-foot-6, 350-pound sophomore has battled the same injury for the last month, and first-year coach Jim McElwain said Sharpe’s status is uncertain for Saturday’s showdown with No. 2 Alabama (4 p.m., CBS). 

The Gators need Sharpe and starting center Cam Dillard, who missed the Florida State loss with a leg injury, close to full-strength, as the Crimson Tide lead the conference with 41 sacks. 

Meanwhile, slot receiver Brandon Powell (foot) was also hurt Wednesday but is probable for this weekend. Star defensive tackle Jon Bullard (knee) and Antonio Morrison (undisclosed) are ailing, too, but both seniors are expected to play.

Finally, sophomore cornerback Quincy Wilson (University School) went down with leg injury and is questionable. 

“He’s been hampered by something in his leg,” McElwain said. “He did not look good at all today.”

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December 02, 2015

Family decision: Robinson practices, status for Saturday unclear

GAINESVILLE -- Demarcus Robinson is back. 

Sort of. 

Florida’s junior receiver, who as suspended for the fourth time in his career last weekend, returned to practice Wednesday, as the Gators’ seniors voted to allow Robinson to rejoin the team. 

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound wideout missed the loss to Florida State due to an undisclosed violation of team rules, and first-year coach Jim McElwain remained coy as to whether the enigmatic wideout would actually play in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game against Alabama (4 p.m., CBS). 

“He practiced today,” McElwain said.

“We’ll see what happens.”

Florida’s coach left Robinson’s fate in the hands of his seniors, saying, “He talked to the team. It was a choice for him not to be with his family in the last ballgame. Sometimes the greatest lessons in life are when things are taken away from you and you’re no longer enabled.”

Robinson leads UF with 47 receptions, but he’s been benched twice this season despite McElwain recently praising the junior’s maturation. 

“As I’ve said before, he has come a long way. But he still has a long way to go to understand it’s not OK to make choices that hurt your team.”

THIS & THAT

UF dropped to No. 18 in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday, falling six spots after last Saturday’s 27-2 loss to FSU. Barring an upset in Atlanta, the Gators are no longer pegged for the Sugar Bowl, as No. 13 Ole Miss (9-3) leapfrogged UF in the rankings. … Sixth-year tight end Jake McGee accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl. McGee has recorded 38 catches for 338 yards and four touchdowns in 2015. … McElwain said suspended quarterback Will Grier is in Gainesville taking classes, dismissing rumors the redshirt freshman was kicked off the team recently. 

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December 01, 2015

McElwain: Seniors to decide WR Demarcus Robinson's fate

GAINESVILLE -- Demarcus Robinson’s fate rests in the hands of Florida’s seniors. 

The junior wideout was suspended for Saturday’s blowout loss to Florida State, and first-year coach Jim McElwain said the team's seniors will decide whether to reinstate Robinson for the SEC Championship Game this weekend. 

“They’ll determine the direction we go,” McElwain said.

“He made a choice. Our family needs to make this decision and those guys are the leaders of our family.”

Robinson has a team-high 47 receptions for 505 yards and two touchdowns this season, but he’s been suspended four times in the last three years. 

Now Saturday could’ve been the final straw.

“Are any of you surprised?” McElwain said after the loss to FSU. 

“What’s disappointing is for somebody to do that to their teammates. And yet, I’m not made at him at all. He just made a choice.” 

THIS & THAT

Junior defensive end Alex McCalister, UF’s team-leader in sacks, will miss a third straight game with a foot injury. McElwain was vague about the rest of UF’s injury situation, though, saying he expected defensive tackle Jon Bullard (knee), linebacker Antonio Morrison (undisclosed) and others to play. “We’ve got some guys injured,” McElwain said.  “But you know what, they’re finding a way to go out there and play. … At this time of the year, everybody’s beat up. We’ll still practice the same. We’ll still do what we do.”

... UF’s blowout loss to FSU not only dashed its College Football Playoff hopes but also likely knocked the Gators out of a New Year’s Six Bowl. Barring a monumental upset in Atlanta, most projections have Florida pegged for the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl in Orlando against Michigan. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

November 30, 2015

Gators add three commits including heralded QB Felipe Franks

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s offense was shutout in its humbling 27-2 loss to Florida State, so the Gators went out and secured some future help. 

UF continued its recent momentum on the recruiting trail over the weekend, adding three verbal commits headlined by four-star quarterback Felipe Franks. 

Franks (Wakulla High) decommited from LSU last week and has long been rumored to flip to Florida. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound prospect is the No. 5 quarterback recruit in the country. With Florida’s issues and uncertainty at the position next season, securing Franks, an early enrollee, was a must for Jim McElwain & Co. 

Meanwhile, the Gators also added a playmaker and someone to protect their future quarterback.  

Junior college athelte Dre Massey, a four-star prospect from Holmes C.C. in Mississippi, committed to Florida following his official visit over the weekend. 

Later, the Gators added mammoth three-star offensive guard Jawaan Taylor (Cocoa), who flipped from Miami on Sunday night. Taylor, a 6-5, 330-pounder, is teammates with UF commit Chauncey Gardner. 

Finally, Florida’s class did take a hit with the decommitment of Pasco cornerback Jayvaughn Myers. The three-star athlete is considered a bit of a project, but he is also the half-brother of five-star receiver Nate Craig-Myers -- a key UF target. 

Craig-Myers (Tampa Catholic) is rumored to be a Florida lean, but his half-brother’s decommitment could potentially throw a wrench in his recruitment. We’ll see. 

The Gators’ 2016 class now has 25 commits and is ranked No. 10 nationally by 247Sports. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

November 28, 2015

GameDay Primer: Florida Gators vs. Florida State Seminoles

GAINESVILLE -- Florida hasn't beaten archrival Florida State in The Swamp since Tim Tebow was a senior, so the Gators are wear white helmets, blue jerseys and white pants for the first time since ... FSU 2009. 

First-year coach Jim McElwain calls tonight’s Sunshine Showdown “personal.”

The longtime rivals are nearly mirror images of each this year, two flawed offenses buoyed by electric playmakers (FSU’s Dalvin Cook, UF’s Antonio Callaway) and a pair of stout defenses. 

Tonight could be a real rock fight, with Cook (and possibly kicker Robert Aguayo) proving to be the ultimate trump card(s). Or maybe McElwain's magic in The Swamp will continue. 

We’ll see. 

WHERE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

WATCH: ESPN

LINE: UF +2.5 

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Can Treon Harris protect the football?

2. Will UF’s Jon Bullard really miss this game?

3. Can the Gators go undefeated at home for the first time since 2012?

LINKS - UF vs FSU

Plenty at stake as UF welcomes FSU 

Containing FSU’s dangerous Dalvin Cook atop Gators’ priority list

Injuries an issue for Florida Gators

McCalister and Bullard listed as doubtful 

McElwain sticking with Hardin

Still smiling: Jake McGee is ready for Senior Day … again

UF slips to four spots in the CFB Playoff rankings

Florida recruiting: A commit, a (possible) flip 

McElwain comments on Will Grier’s failed appeal

Gators fishing for solution to poor play

SKINNY SIX-PACK

So much for 5-0. After back-to-back 4-1 weeks, I submitted a real stinker last weekend (1-4). Gotta do better, so no turkey hangover here. 34-20-1 ATS on the season. 

Mississippi (-1) at Mississippi State 

Oklahoma State (+7) vs Oklahoma 

Texas A&M at LSU (-4.5)

Notre Dame (+4) at Stanford

And finally, Florida (+2.5) vs FSU. The Seminoles could still win, but a considering the two teams are so evenly matched why not grab the points at night in The Swamp. 

Enjoy the regular-season finale, y’all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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