September 17, 2015

QB Will Grier named starter for second straight week

GAINESVILLE -- Florida quarterback Will Grier will start Saturday’s SEC opener at Kentucky, the school announced Thursday.

The redshirt freshman quarterback will make his second straight start, but UF coach Jim McElwain plans to continue rotating Grier and sophomore Treon Harris until either quarterback seizes the job.

After playing the first four series in last weekend's win over East Carolina, Grier watched the fourth quarter from the sidelines following a pair of shaky second-half series. He’s turned the ball over twice in two games, while Harris has yet to commit a turnover on the year.

Still, Grier, who’s 26-of-35 for 317 yards and four touchdowns on the season, has the higher ceiling of the two, and will be given the initial opportunity to win the job outright against the Wildcats (2-0).

On Wednesday, McElwain said if one of the quarterbacks establishes the “hot hand” on Saturday (7:30 p.m., SEC Network) then the rotation would discontinue.

“That’s what we’d like to get to,” he said.

“You don’t take the guy out because he’s filling it up. … At the same time, it’s not going to be one of those deals where a guy makes a bad throw and then you’re [pulling him]. I don’t believe in that either. Again, we kind of have those reps, but obviously if a guy’s hitting it and distributing it and has a good stroke, then we’ll go with it.”

Harris is 19-of-27 for 269 yards and two touchdowns on the year, leading five drives for scores. He started at Vanderbilt and No. 3 Florida State last season, too, but McElwain downplayed the sophomore’s road experience and is more concerned with how the team plays around either quarterback.

"The big thing is the other 10 guys that are on the field need to make sure we're paying attention to details and stepping up and working forward," he said.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 16, 2015

Anzalone "very doubtful to out," while Ivey nears return

GAINESVILLE -- During training camp, junior linebacker Alex Anzalone emerged as one of Florida’s top playmakers on defense. 

The junior led the team in tackles in UF’s opening-win over New Mexico State, but Anzalone reinjured his right shoulder against East Carolina and could be sidelined for sometime. 

Gators coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday that the starting linebacker “is very doubtful to out” for Kentucky (7:30 p.m., SEC Network).

“That’s a recurrence of a pre-exiting injury that he had a couple years ago,” McElwain said.

Anzalone, a former five-star prospect, had shoulder surgery during the spring of 2013. He’s UF’s best coverage linebacker and is versatile enough to play both the MIKE and SAM. 

“He was outdoing almost everybody on the team in the linebacker spot,” junior linebacker Jarrad Davis said. 

“He’s a freak. He knows the game and he can out out there and perform. It’s hard for us to replace a guy like that, but we just have to make sure we play to the best of our abilities every time we step on the field and we won’t have an issue.”

Davis, a thumper at the weak-side linebacker spot, actually leads the team in tackles with 14, including 2.5 for loss against ECU. 

McElwain acknowledged Florida is “thin at the position,” and needs some backups to be ready to play. 

“[Jeremi] Powell and DMac [Daniel McMillian], those guys have got to get in there,” he said. 

Meanwhile, McElwain delivered some positive news on five-star freshman tackle Martez Ivey, who hopes to make his collegiate debut this weekend after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 28. 

“Martez played very well yesterday and this morning, the response on that particular injury showed very good,” McElwain said. 

Florida hopes to know more about Ivey’s status for Saturday following today’s practice. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 15, 2015

Fred Taylor: "My son wants more reps"

GAINESVILLE -- Kelvin Taylor has moved on from Saturday’s sideline incident with Florida coach Jim McElwain, but the Gators’ junior tailback remains upset about his number of touches early in the season. 

Fred Taylor, Kelvin’s father and former UF and NFL star, told The Dan Le Batard Show on Monday that his son’s throat-slash celebration was simply an unfortunate reaction and a release of frustrations over playing time. 

“He wants more reps," Fred Taylor said. 

"He's a junior, he wants to make it happen. He wants an opportunity to not get caught up in the whole rotating three running backs. Two, well, you deal with it. Three? The rhythm and that piece of it, it's sort of frustrating. He had the opportunity to sort of punch on in and he got caught up in the celebration his old man used to do.”

Kelvin Taylor entered the season as UF’s featured-back, and after two games, he leads the team with 27 touches. He's rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, while adding three receptions for 47 yards.

The junior has split snaps with a pair of freshmen -- Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett -- and was demoted to third-string Monday as punishment for the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against East Carolina. 

Taylor’s benching won’t last long, though, as McElwain said the junior will see the lion share of carries against Kentucky this weekend. 

“K.T. will carry the bigger burden of everything,” just as he has in the first couple [of games],” McElwain said. 

“We have to keep him fresh because I do love the way he plays with passion and goes 100 percent every time. We can’t beat him up. I don’t think that’s what we want to do there.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 14, 2015

Depth Chart dispatch: Taylor slides to third string

GAINESVILLE -- Junior tailback Kelvin Taylor was dropped to third-string following Saturday’s infamous throat-slash incident, as Florida released its Week 3 depth chart Monday in advance of this weekend’s SEC opener at Kentucky (7:30 p.m., SEC Network). 

Taylor is listed behind freshmen Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett, but head coach Jim McElwain indicated that Florida’s junior running back would still see the bulk of carries against the Wildcats.

Sounds familiar. A week ago, wideout Demarcus Robinson was demoted to third string for allegedly missing a team meal, but the junior star led UF in targets, receptions and yards against East Carolina. 

Apparently, Florida's depth chart is worth...


Meanwhile, the new two-deep revealed little else. The quarterbacks remained co-starters, while Robinson actually slid up to second-string and Valdez Showers is now listed as a boundary receiver. Despite playing the majority of snaps at right tackle against ECU, freshman Fred Johnson remains second-string behind transfer Mason Halter.

Elsewhere, not much changed. Sophomore safety Duke Dawson is no longer listed on the two-deep at safety, while fellow safety Marcell Harris relinquished his starter job to Keanu Neal, who is finally recovered from a lingering hamstring injury

The Gators did list one major change on special teams: All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, who is currently questionable for Saturday, is no longer the team’s No. 1 punt returner. 

Freshman wideout Antonio Callaway takes over the first-team duties. The former Booker T. Washington star struggled mightily in the role Saturday. 

*************** Florida's Week 3 Depth Chart ***************

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.16.28 PM

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.16.42 PM

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Neal set to return, but VH3 remains questionable

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s secondary will receive a much-needed boost Saturday against Kentucky, as starting safety Keanu Neal (hamstring) is set to return to the lineup after missing UF’s first two games.

“He’s ready to roll,” coach Jim McElwain said.

The rest of Florida’s injury situation remains murky, though. 

All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is questionable with a leg injury that sidelined the junior against East Carolina.

The Pirates took full advantage of Neal and Hargreaves’ absences, torching UF’s vaunted secondary for 346 yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile, junior linebacker Alex Anzalone, who led the team in tackles in the opener, reinjured his right shoulder against ECU and could be sidelined for a while. Anzalone underwent surgery on the same shoulder in March 2013.

Finally, offensive tackle Martez Ivey will return to practice this week for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 28. The five-star freshman was UF’s starting left tackle late in training camp and McElwain is optimistic Ivey’s return is imminent.

“We’re going to try and get him out there in drills this week and see where that knee is,” McElwain said. 


Florida’s Sept. 26 showdown with Tennessee will air in the primetime SEC spot, the league announced Monday.

The Gators have won a series-record 10 straight games against the Volunteers and will aim to extend their winning streak at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.

A year ago, UF rallied for a 10-9 win in Knoxville, as Jeff Driskel was benched in favor of then-freshman quarterback Treon Harris.

The former Booker T. Washington alum piloted the Gators to 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton   

September 13, 2015

Game Over: Gator-on-Gator crime ... for the win

GAINESVILLE -- Two years ago, Florida went viral for two players blocking each other in a loss to then-FCS foe Georgia Southern. 

The Gators flipped the script Saturday night in The Swamp -- they tackled each other -- to (preserve???) a victory. 

Flatack.0                       (Credit SBNation)

In the closing seconds of UF’s 31-24 win over East Carolina, Pirates quarterback Blake Kemp inadvertently fumbled the ball deep in Gators territory. 

Defensive end Alex McCalister picked up the football for a sure scoop-and-score, only junior linebacker Jarrad Davis, who delivered a standout performance in the win, chased down McCalister and wrestled down the defensive end *(because technically it was the right play but was probably totally unnecessary.)

Let Davis explain the bizarre but entertaining moment.  

“It’s a situation we’ve been practicing ever since camp. It’s something that you just never know what can happen. You guys didn’t think I could make the tackle. That’s what I did. It’s situational. We got the lead and the game is over. He can score easily, but we’ve just been harping on going down in those situations. Just seal the game and let the offense come out do the victory formation and we can go strike the band up and everybody can go home with the ‘W.’" 

Asked if he was worried about potentially causing another turnover, Davis responded: 

“Well. That was scary. I tried to bear hug him. It’s been going around for a long time. He said if he gets the ball, nobody is going to ever tackle him. He didn’t expect me coming to get him.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Gator Grades: Eh-sca-pey

GAINESVILLE -- So last last week’s performance was a mirage? 

Jim McElwain’s postgame fire and brimstone speech certainly insinuated as much, but maybe not, perhaps Saturday’s escape was just a bump in the rebuilding process. 

Still, Florida certainly received a heavy dose of reality against East Carolina, as its 31-24 win was mostly a sloppy reminder that the demons from the Will Muschamp era still exist.


Will Grier was OK in his first-career start. He tossed a couple of touchdowns and showed off his jets with a nice 19-yard burst. But he was also careless with the football, nearly tossing three interceptions on one series in the second half. Harris wasn’t any better (just five attempts for 58 yards, couple empty red zone trips), so Grier missed a golden opportunity to seize the starting job.

UF’s offensive line struggled to gain consistent push in the run game, and a several blown assignments in pass protection ruined drives. 

Freshman tailback Jordan Cronkite ran hard (9 carries for 50 yards), while Kelvin Taylor (16 carries for 64 yards) scored (what proved to be) the game-winning touchdown. 

Ultimately, too many mistakes, missed opportunities and inconsistent play from a team clearly still searching for a quarterback -- and leader.   


The Gators held ECU to -13 yards rushing. They forced three turnovers, including Jalen Tabor’s 39-yard pick-six. 

But the the whole #BDN tagline should stop. 

UF clearly missed safety Keanu Neal and All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, but its vaunted secondary (still littered with blue-chippers) allowed 333 yards and three touchdowns to an inexperienced quarterback. Isaiah Jones (14 receptions for 135 yards) was terrific, especially finding openings in UF's matchup-zone. 

Losing linebacker Alex Anzalone early in the game hurt, but Jarrad Davis was a monster (team-leading 10 tackles, 3.0 for loss). Joey Ivie had some nice moments as well.   


Let’s see: two missed field goals (both gimmes), a costly-shanked punt, poor decision-making in the return game and a couple penalties. Just a bang-up performance!

Johnny Townsend did have a couple solid boots (58-yard long) and Brandon Powell had a nice kickoff return (39 yards). Otherwise UF’s special teams (an area McElwain has lamented in recent weeks) needs lots of work. 


Last week was a start. This …. was the return of Big Dumb [insert coach] Football? 

Probably not, but the ills of season’s past won’t be remedied overnight. 

UF never should’ve been a three-touchdown favorite. The Gators have a long ways to go. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 12, 2015

GameDay Primer: Florida vs. East Carolina

GAINESVILLE -- Are you ready for some football rain?

Florida hopes to prove last weekend’s rout over New Mexico State wasn’t a mirage, but Mother Nature may have other ideas today. 

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 11.01.49 AM


Good luck tailgating!

Hopefully the weather gods play nice and tonight’s proceedings aren't dominated by delays and dumb football. 

We’ll see. 

Anyways, here’s everything you need to know before UF's home tilt against the East Carolina Pirates, including links, picks and a jam by the most famous ECU fan not named Mike McCall (our former shepherd of this very blog).  

WHERE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

WHEN: 7:00 p.m.


LINE: UF -21

THREE QUESTIONS (and remember last week I said Vernon Hargreaves wouldn’t play offense, so you can probably just skip this section)

1. Can Will Grier seize control of the starting quarterback job? 

2. How will UF’s defense look close to full strength?

3. Will Florida’s offensive line create more movement in the running game?


UF not looking past East Carolina

Q&A with defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. 

Script flipped: Grier to start against ECU

Jim McElwain calls quarterbacks’ practice performance Wednesday “unacceptable”

Gators’ stockpile of South Florida skill-players already making big impact

Jeff Driskel a “scapegoat” at UF?

Gators to manage Hargreaves’ workload

Depth Chart Dispatch: Week 2

McElwain sends message by demoting WR Demarcus Robinson

No longer invisible, UF’s tight ends shine in opener

Florida’s quarterback competition continues 


Reminder, each week I pick five games, including Florida’s showdown against whoever. I call it the skinny six-pack because. Just because. Last week I went 4-1 ATS, so heed my advice. Or not. 

Oklahoma at Tennessee (O/U 62) - take the over 

Michigan (-14) vs. Oregon State 

Georgia Tech (-28.5) vs. Tulane 

Michigan State (-3.5) vs. Oregon 

And finally UF vs. ECU (+21.5). This line has moved seven points in less than a week. The Pirates aren’t very good, but they’re definitely a tougher test than NMSU. Just a gut pick. It remains to be seen if UF can cover as a three-touchdown favorite, especially in potentially nasty conditions.  

Now, a little pregame entertainment. Some crunk juice 'ish. 


Have a nice wet and wild Saturday, y’all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 11, 2015

Q&A: Florida Gators defensive end Bryan Cox Jr.

GAINESVILLE -- Five questions with former St. Thomas Aquinas star Bryan Cox Jr.  Florida’s redshirt junior defensive end recorded three tackles in the team’s 61-13 opening-win over New Mexico State last weekend.

Earlier in the week, he spoke on UF's opener, a five-star freshman's debut and more. 

On the defense’s second-half adjustments against NMSU:

"Honestly, we just settled down and played. Coming out, first game, we had little bit of pregame jitters and stuff was moving, not too fast, but just a little bit faster. We just came out and settled down and played ball."

On DE CeCe Jefferson’s collegiate debut:

"I was very pleased. He's obviously a freak. Very strong. Knocked the kid off his feet, so it was a nice play."

On pass rusher Alex McCalister’s return to the lineup this weekend:

“It [helps} a lot. A lot. He's not just a body. He's obviously somebody that can get to the quarterback, and he'll either draw some attention or if he doesn't draw the attention, he'll get there. It's one or the other." 

On Jim McElwain as a coach:

“He’s a motivator. He definitely motivates and he wants — not makes, but he has a certain aura about him that the players want to play for him. It’s not even like something he forces it upon us. It’s just that we have total confidence in him and he shines. He’s a very vibrant person with his confidence and stuff like that and you could just feel it. So he just gives off good energy.”

On the atmosphere in The Swamp:

"The past three years, the home opener has never been like that, especially versus a team like New Mexico State where it’s not like a big-time SEC game. Having 90,000 was a really strong showing and I felt like it was a really good to start something new.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 10, 2015

Script flipped: Grier to start over Harris against ECU

GAINESVILLE -- Jim McEwalin officially flipped the script.

Florida quarterback Will Grier will start Saturday’s showdown against East Carolina, the school announced Thursday, adding that sophomore Treon Harris will play extensively, too.

Grier, a redshirt freshman, came off the bench in UF’s 61-13-opening rout over New Mexico State. He played six straight series, competing 16-of-18 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Grier also flashed his mobility, adding 43 yards and a score on the ground.

Grier will make his first collegiate start against his father’s alma mater, as Chad Grier was a backup quarterback for the Pirates from 1989-1990.

Although Grier played well in his debut last weekend, he’s hasn’t won the competition over Harris. At least not yet.

Harris, who started the opener, performed well, too, throwing for 215 yards and two touchdowns.

The quarterbacks will again split series against the Pirates, with McElwain potentially tabbing a full-time starter next week.

The decision to give Grier the nod comes a day after McElwain ripped the quarterbacks for a poor midweek practice.

Florida’s coach called Wednesday’s effort “unacceptable.”

“We had two late throws in the red area today,” McElwain said.

“It can’t happen. We had one late over the middle that’s going to get intercepted. That’s unacceptable. Those are the things that kill you. It’s the unacceptable behavior, when you know better.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Skip Holtz: Driskel became a "scapegoat" at Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Former Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel leads the nation in passing efficiency (321.4) after the first weekend of college football. 

The Louisiana Tech transfer scored five touchdowns in his Bulldogs debut, and his head coach Skip Holtz, formally at USF, felt compelled to defend Driskel’s time at UF. 

“I think down at Florida, it got very toxic for him,” Holtz said on his radio show Wednesday

“He because the scapegoat.

“He became the guy that was tied to losing at Florida as a fan base that does not take very well to losing. It really became a negative situation, which is unfortunate because he’s such a great Christian young man with such great values who is a leader. If you ever have a chance to sit down and talk with him, he’s almost too good to be true. He’s exactly the way you’d want to raise your son. I’m really proud of him and really happy for him that he was able to go out and play that way. Our fan base was able to embrace him the way that they did.”

Driskel remains a toxic topic for Florida fans. He represents the tantalizing tease of the Will Muschamp era. 

The 6-4, 230-pound quarterback always possessed the physical tools to excel at the position, but Driskel was crippled by turnovers, inefficiencies and poor coaching at UF. He led the Gators to a 11-2 season in 2012, only for his career to unravel following a broken leg in 2013 and a woeful start in 2014. 

Still, Driskel always handed the adversity with class, meeting with the media after getting benched at Tennessee and, later, officially losing his starting job to freshman Treon Harris.

He was tough as nails, too, but simply lacked the requisite talent to thrive in the SEC. He needed and deserved a fresh start. Good for him making the best of a tough situation. 

Driskel’s Bulldogs play at Western Kentucky tonight (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1).

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 09, 2015

Hargreaves plays three-ways. Is workload a concern?

GAINESVILLE -- Vernon Hargreaves III openly begged for offensive opportunities during SEC Media Days in July, and the two-time All-American cornerback got his wish in UF’s opener against New Mexico State last Saturday. 

The junior caught a six-yard screen pass, only to fumble the ball out of bounds. 

“We have packages we build for him week-to-week,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. 

“Maybe you don’t use it in a game, but then you keep polishing it until it’s game ready. … Hopefully, they’re successful. Now, his ball security? That’s something he needs to work on. The ball came loose on the sideline. Unacceptable. That’s something he needs to work on.”

Hargreaves played three-ways against the Aggies. He started at cornerback. His short reception was his lone offensive snap, and he also served as UF’s punt returner and gunner on punt and kickoff coverage. 

The junior finished with four tackles, a brilliant 43-yard interception, a six-yard catch and a 11-yard punt return. 

“He’s a freak,” defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. said. 

“I would use him on offense if I was a coordinator, so it was fun.”

But it was also a heavy workload -- and the season is just one week old. 

Hargreaves was burned twice for potential big plays, but the Aggies failed to convert on either opportunity. Gators secondary coach Kirk Callahan called Hargreaves’ effort at times “lackadaisical,” and acknowledged that the staff has discussed Hargreaves’ role moving forward.

“We’ve talked about it,” Callahan said. 

“At the end of the day, he’s a cornerback. But like Coach Mac always says, you’re a special teams player before you’re an offensive or defensive player. His role on special teams is obviously as important, if not more so, than it is on defense. In terms of whether we increase his reps, we’ll continue to change that by the week. You’ve got to appreciate his ability and the things that he can do. Like Coach Mac says, ‘Let’s put the players in position to make plays.’ He’s one of those guys, whether we have to put him in position to make plays on offense, special teams or defense, we’re going to sit there and do that. But we’re going to be smart about what we do.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 08, 2015

UF finalizes contract, greenlights O'Dome renovations


GAINESVILLE -- Following a yearlong delay, Florida officially finalized its plans to renovate the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. 

The Gators agreed to a $64.5 million project price tag with Birmingham, Alabama-based conduction firm Bradfield & Gorrie, the University Athletic Association announced Tuesday.  

Two weeks ago, UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said the contract would be finalized "soon."

Construction on the O’Dome will begin in October, but the facility will remain fully-operational until spring of 2016. 

UF’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will play a state barnstorming tour next fall before the facility is ready for conference play in January 2017.   

According to the release, “the scope of the renovation includes a seating bowl update, the addition of premium seating areas, installation of a state-of-the-art center-hung scoreboard, upgrades to team spaces and an enhanced concourse to improve fan experience.”

The renovation is scheduled for completion in time for UF’s fall commencement in December 2016. 

UF initially planned to overhaul the O’Dome last year, but postponed the project in February after the school became disenchanted with another construction firm’s projected budget and timeline. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 07, 2015

Depth Chart dispatch: Robinson dropped to 3rd-string

GAINESVILLE -- Florida released its Week 2 depth chart Monday in advance of Saturday’s showdown with East Carolina, and the biggest surprise was star wideout Demarcus Robinson’s demotion to third-team. 

While Jim McElwain is dismissive of depth charts, UF’s coach appears to be sending a message to the junior wideout. 

"At the end of the day, it's about doing what's right and really what you put on film," McElwain said.

"We have to understand that each and every one of us are responsible for our actions. Whatever those actions are, be proud of what you put on film, and give up yourself for the benefit of others. That's what it's all about."

Robinson recorded six receptions -- twice as many as any other receiver -- for 34 yards against NMSU. 

"He'll still play," McElwain said. 

Still, it's a strange decision considering junior receiver Ahmad Fulwood is listed as the starter now. The guess here is Fulwood's hold on the starting role is tenuous -- at best. Fulwood run-blocked well Saturday, but he dropped a touchdown on the lone pass sent his way. 

A couple other offensive depth chart notes: the quarterbacks still have an ‘OR’ between them, and former Booker T. Washington star wideout Antonio Callaway, a freshman, is officially listed as a first-teamer now after starting the opener. 

Defensively, safety Marcus Maye regains his starting job following his suspension, while defensive end Alex McCalsiter is slotted as a second-teamer at the RUSH spot. Jordan Sherit is now listed as a defensive tackle and Marcell Harris impressed enough in the opener to earn an ‘OR’ at free safety. 

*************** Florida’s Week 2 depth chart ***************

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.11.34 PM

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.11.53 PM

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

No longer invisible: UF's tight ends shine in opener

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s offense clicked Saturday night against a hapless New Mexico State team, and while the quarterbacks stole the headlines, another position group appeared resurrected, too.

The Gators may actually have tight ends again. 

In the last couple seasons, UF’s tight ends have disappeared better than Houdini. The invisible group totaled just 30 catches for 279 yards and three scores since 2012, as unit relied on a pair of converted defensive linemen.

Not anymore.

The Gators’ tight ends -- senior Jake McGee, sophomore DeAndre Goolsby and redshirt freshman C’yontai Lewis -- were a focal point in their explosive 61-13 win over the Aggies.

The versatile trio combined for seven receptions, 100 yards and two scores.

“We believe in using tight ends,” UF coach Jim McElwain said.

“We believe in multiple formations and shifts. The more they can handle, the more effective we’re going to be offensively. … I felt that was a strong spot in camp, and they didn’t disappoint.”

They certainly did not.

After the group was largely ignored and later maligned (see: Tevin Westbrook’s potential game-winning drop against LSU) during the Will Muschamp era, McElwain, along with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, featured the unit repeatedly Saturday night.

Florida’s utilized multiple tight end sets on nearly 38 percent of its offensive snaps in the opener.

“It was awesome,” said McGee, who returned to action for the first time since breaking his leg in Florida’s opener last season.

“The whole unit played great. For me getting back out there, I loved it. C’yontai scored twice, made some big plays. It was awesome, everybody making big catches and really getting everybody in [the game].”

Florida’s trio flashed as playmakers, solid route-runners and sound blockers. Lewis had little trouble getting open, collecting touchdowns on his first two collegiate receptions.

The 6-foot-4, 228-pound redshirt freshman had an excellent camp, and could be a star in UF’s new tight end-friendly offense.

“He’s been one of those guys in practice,” McElwain said.

“When you execute it in practice, you’ll probably get [some chances] on Saturday. He does a great job paying attention to details. … He proved it today.”

Meanwhile, Goolsby, who didn’t record a catch last season as a freshman, displayed some wiggle and after-the-catch ability, while McGee served as a reliable run-blocker and safety valve (two first-down receptions).

With UF’s inexperienced offensive line, the Gators will rely on the tight ends in pass protection, too, but unlike season’s past, that isn’t their sole role anymore. 

“We expect to be productive,” McGee said.

“We expect to make plays. It’s something that by the end of the year, the questions, the way they’re phrased, will have a different tone to them. We’re excited to keep going.”

Saturday night was simple the beginning. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 06, 2015

Gator Grades: Dazzling Debut

GAINESVILLE -- Alright. Alright. Alright. 

The Gator Nation needed a reason to smile again, and new coach Jim McElwain delivered in fireworks, as Florida routed New Mexico State 61-13 on Saturday night.

UF dished out $1 million worth of punishment, exercising some of its demons from the Will Muschamp era. 

Yes, the Aggies stink, and UF destroyed lowly EMU to start last season, but this was different. It felt different, at least. 

We'll see if it actually was different soon enough.


The 61 points were the most in a UF coach’s debut, so that’s like, pretty good. The Gators totaled 606 yards -- good for 7.7 per play. The quarterbacks looked sharp (Treon Harris and Will Grier combined for 382 yards passing and five total touchdowns), but just as important, a number of fresh faces (your Jordans, Antonio Callaway, C’yontai Lewis, DeAndre Goolsby) offered a tantalizing peak into UF’s future offense. The OL remains a work in progress, but I’ll (probably) write that every week.


It’s totally nitpicking a unit that forced seven 3-and-outs and had a ridiculous interception by All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, but UF’s defense didn’t totally dominate a hapless foe. Tackling was suspect at times (aside from Alex Anzalone, who was brilliant) and the safety play (without starters Keanu Neal, Marcus Maye or backup Duke Dawson) was outright poor on a number of occasions. Still, NMSU averaged just 3.3 yards per play and was 1-of-12 on third down.


Austin Hardin drilled both field goal attempts (34-yarder, 36-yarder) and boomed six touchbacks, so the coverage units mostly had the night off. An extra-point was blocked, though. Florida’s returns weren’t much, but Alvin Bailey made a heady play jumping on a punt after the ball hit him. 


The Gators whipped a sorry team, and we’ll know in a couple weeks if Saturday’s performance was a mirage. But it was a promising start. The frustrating moments of season’s past were gone. The bone-headed penalties were non-existent. UF didn’t turn the ball over with abandon. Both quarterbacks legitimately had bright moments. Again, it’s a start.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 05, 2015

GameDay Primer: Florida vs. New Mexico State

COFVimAW8AA9hvm(cc: @Chip_Howard)

GAINESVILLE -- The wait is over. 

Football is back, baby!

But is Florida?

Uh, well, we won’t for sometime. 

The Jim McElwain era officially debuts and the unranked Gators should cruise to a easy blowout victory in The Swamp tonight, at least. 

Here’s everything you need to know before UF's opener against the New Mexico State Aggies, including links, picks and some music. 

WHERE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

WATCH: SEC Network

LINE: UF -35.5 


1. Who seizes control of the starting quarterback job? 

2. Can Florida’s inexperienced lines dominate the trenches?

3. Will Vernon Hargreaves III actually play some offense? (I seriously doubt it.) 


(Season previews)

Florida Gators burning to improve

Game-by-Game predictions

Grading the Gators

(UF vs. NMSU)

UF seeks to appease offensive starved fanbase

Two starters downgraded to doubtful for opener

Treon Harris to start at quarterback 

Geoff Collins is zany, confident in building nation's best defense

Jim McElwain explains 'Perfect Thursday'

Blowout looming? Probably. Meet New Mexico State

Morrison: "Florida's going to be back on top soon."

Gators might use four tailbacks in opener

Antonio Morrison slated to start eight months after serious knee injury

UF's defensive line could be a menace for opposing quarterbacks

UF releases Week 1 depth chart with few surprises


Each week I’ll pick five games. I call it the skinny six-pack because I don’t know. Drinking. Or something. Anyways, here’s this weekend’s selections including Florida’s showdown with NMSU.  

Alabama (-11) vs. Wisconsin

Notre Dame (-9) vs. Texas 

Tennessee (-21) vs. Bowling Green

Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech (+14)

And finally, UF (-35.5) vs. New Mexico State. It’s a lot of points, especially for an offense juggling quarterbacks, but the Aggies are terrible and UF’s tailbacks should run wild. Thinking 48-3. What say you?

And now, for your pregame entertainment…


I’m sorry.  

Enjoy the season, peeps.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 04, 2015

Neal, Ivey downgraded to doubtful for opener

GAINESVILLE -- Florida safety Keanu Neal (leg) and left tackle Martez Ivey (knee scope) have been downgraded to doubtful for Saturday’s season-opener against New Mexico State (7:30 p.m., SEC Network).

The two prospective starters haven’t practiced all week.

“They’re recovering at a very good pace, but I right now I’d say doubtful,” UF coach Jim McElwain said.

Neal, a junior, was injured in Florida’s scrimmage on Aug. 21, while Ivey, the five-star freshman offensive lineman, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last Friday.

Florida will be without another two starters, too, (end Alex McCalister and safety Marcus Maye are both suspended), but McElwain is pleased with his team’s overall outlook entering the first game of the season.

“Coming out of camp I feel pretty good about the health of our guys,” he said. “Hats off to our [strength and conditioning staff] and really our players for what they did this offseason.”


Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will both coach from the sidelines this season, according to McElwain. … Former Florida All-American center, assistant coach and athletics director Bill Carr will serve as UF’s first honorary “Mr. Two Bits” on Saturday. … Florida has yet to sellout the opener, as plenty of club level tickets remain available. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 03, 2015

UF coach Jim McElwain explains 'Perfect Thursday'

GAINESVILLE -- Jim McElwain is a stickler for details. 

Most successful coaches are. 

After years learning from John L. Smith and Nick Saban, Florida's first-year coach has developed a specific game-week practice plan, so when McElwain tossed around the phrase 'Perfect Thursday' several times during availability Wednesday, everyone wondered what exactly he was talking about. 

McElwain gladly answered the question.

“What it is we hit all situations at a very fast pace. Ball’s not on the ground, guys are hustling, they’ve memorized the first eight [scripted plays for Saturday’s opener]. 

They know the first calls in every situation. A lot of it goes on to the understanding in the player’s mind what to expect. We try to paint a picture for them so when they get into Saturday they’re a step ahead and not in the unknown. 

Coming out goal-line red area, two-point play, third down, all the different situations. We do the same thing in the kicking game at a very quick pace going through the game plan, step-by-step. It’s one of those things that we’ve done for a long time. When the guys kind of figure out what ‘Perfect Thursday’ is, it helps them play faster on Saturday."

Makes sense. 

The Gators host the New Mexico State Aggies on Saturday night (7:30, SEC Network) to kickoff the 2015 season.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 02, 2015

BREAKING: QB Treon Harris to start Saturday's opener

GAINESVILLE -- Florida has finally named a starting quarterback.

Sort of.

Sophomore Treon Harris, a former star at Booker T. Washington, will start in Saturday's season-opener against New Mexico State (7:30 p.m, SEC Network).

“It was really close,” UF coach Jim McElwain said.

And the battle isn't over.

Harris (somewhat) surprisingly edged out redshirt freshman Will Grier, who exited spring practice with a slight lead in the competition.

“Somebody has got to take the first snap,” McElwain insisted. 

"I wouldn't read too much into it."

Too late. 

Harris took all the first-team reps during the open fastball periods Tuesday and Wednesday, causing some to wonder if he'd already be tabbed the starter. The sophomore was 4-2 in six starts in 2014, totaling 12 touchdowns while completing just 49 percent of his passes. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder is a slippery athlete, but last season's accuracy concerns have persisted in camp.

However, Harris' experience, elusiveness and playmaking skills could provide a steadier presence behind Florida's inexperienced offensive line. 

McElwain also praised Harris’ ability to “affect the people around [him] in a positive way.”

Still, Harris hasn't seized control of the starting job. Grier shined early in training camp before losing his grip on the job. With Wednesday's announcement, Harris simple earned the right to play the first "three or four" series Saturday against the Aggies.  

“Treon’s going to start the football game. Will’s going to play in that game a lot, too," McElwain said.

"It’s a painting in progress. We’ve got to figure out what the backdrop is going to be.”

McElwain didn't reveal his plan to rotate the quarterbacks, but he did say both signal callers have a scripted set of plays for Saturday.

“If a guy is 11 for 11 you’re not going to take the shooter out,” he said.

"Both of them are deserving. Both of them had a really good spring and fall and we're excited about seeing those guys play. … They'll both have their set of first eight and move it kind of that way as we work forward."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Team Stats

» View more stats



Powered by TypePad