February 25, 2015

O'Connell Center renovations delayed a year

GAINESVILLE -- The O’Connell Center’s massive renovations will be put on hold. 

Florida and the University Athletic Association announced Wednesday construction on the O’Dome will be delayed one year. 

The UAA cited the $60 million project’s “aggressive schedule, escalating costs associated with the rehabilitation project and a change in the construction management team” as reasons for the postponement. 

The renovation was scheduled to begin in early March, immediately after the conclusion of the men’s basketball season. 

“We remain 100 percent committed to this project,” UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a release.  

“The $60 million that we have already earmarked for the project is indicative of this commitment.”

Although UF has “earmarked” the funds, the UAA has yet to raise (via private donors) the estimated $60 million. 

A new construction manager has been hired and a budget and timeline are expected “in the next couple months.” The current design plays are roughly 60 percent complete, with a new entrance, renovated concession stands, club seating and chair backs already included. 

“The renovation proposal is a major renewal of one of our campus’s most iconic buildings. It’s incumbent on us to take the time and do it right,” UF president Kent Fuchs said.

Florida’s basketball team was not scheduled to play its non-conference games during the 2015-16 season in the O'Dome, planning a barnstorming tour across the state. 

Now, UF will play all its home games in the O’Dome and any other changes to events “generally held in the O’Connell Center will be made once information is confirmed.” 

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February 24, 2015

Fowler, Humphries shine, improve stock at combine

GAINESVILLE -- Nine Florida football players participated in 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, and star defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. continues to soar up teams’ draft boards after an impressive weekend. 

The 6-foot-3, 261-pound junior is already a consensus top-15 pick. But after running a 4.61 40-yard dash (in style no less with a gold watch and leopard cleats), showcasing his versatility (and quickness) in agility drills and rocking interviews, Fowler has risen as high as No. 2 overall in some mock drafts. 

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 11.49.01 AMMeanwhile, tailback Matt Jones, left tackle D.J. Humphries, offensive lineman Trenton Brown, center Max Garcia, offensive lineman Chaz Green, linebacker Nerion Ball, punter Kyle Christy and defensive tackle Leon Orr were also in attendance in Indianapolis this weekend. 

Aside from Fowler, Humphries flashed the most impressive performance of Florida’s contingent, weighing in at 307 pounds (nearly 20 pounds heavier than his collegiate playing weight) and performing well in various drills.

Humphries, who struggled with injuries and inconsistencies during three years in Gainesville, hit 26 reps on the bench press and is suddenly considered a sleeper first round draft pick. 

Jones, at 6-2, 231 pounds, ran OK for a tailback his size (4.61 40-yard dash), but overall he had a nice showing and remains a likely Day 3 selection.    

The other remaining Gators (Green, Garcia, Orr, Brown, Ball) participated at various degrees due to injuries and didn’t do much to improve (or worsen for that matter) their draft stocks. 

The Gators will host their annual Pro Day on April 7, with several players (Darious Cummings, Mack Brown, Andre Debose) not invited to the combine expected to attend, too. Florida’s Orange & Blue Debut is scheduled for April 11.  

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February 21, 2015

Florida not penalized for NCAA violation

GAINESVILLE -- Former University of Florida football assistant Joker Phillips committed a Level II NCAA violation last summer for having “impermissible contact with a prospect,” but UF wasn’t penalized after properly handling the situation.

In a ruling released Friday, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions determined “the corrective actions and penalties self-imposed by the school were appropriate and assigned no additional penalties or measures.”

Phillips, who served as the Gators’ wide receivers coach in 2013, resigned from UF on June 11, citing “personal reasons.”

But the former Kentucky head coach had already been suspended by the school from all off-campus recruiting for 30 days beginning on April 10, 2014.

Florida also ended the recruitment of the prospect involved in the illegal “bump.”

Phillips was not named in the report, but details describe a restaurant meeting with a recruit during a mandated dead period. According to the NCAA, Phillips’ “bump” --  notably arranged by a recruiting service reporter -- resulted in a recruiting advantage for the Gators and “exceeded the boundaries of permissible recruiting.”

Still, UF wasn’t levied penalties due to its swift action and the determination Phillips acted alone and without direction. 

“The University of Florida Athletic Association takes pride in the culture of compliance it has built over the years. Integrity is one of the core values of our organization -- we act in a fair, ethical and honest manner and we strive to do things the right way every day,” UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said.

“That is why we took quick and decisive action after we learned of a recruiting contact rule violation involving one of our assistant football coaches in January 2014. We stopped recruiting the involved student-athlete, we removed the assistant coach from all recruiting activities, and later secured his resignation. We thank the NCAA Committee on Infractions for their thoughtful deliberation. We look forward to putting this issue behind us and we will continue to operate with the highest level of integrity and compliance.”

Phillips is currently the wide receivers coach for the Cleveland Browns. 

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February 18, 2015

Sans DFS, Gators halt skid & win on late dunk

GAINESVILLE -- Florida snapped its four-game losing skid without its top all-around player, knocking off Vanderbilt 50-47 on Wednesday in an ugly, seesaw affair sans forward Dorian Finney-Smith. 

UF’s redshirt junior -- the team’s second leading scorer (12.9) and top rebounder (5.8) -- was suspended “indefinitely” for violating team rules, but freshman forward Devin Robinson stepped up in Finney-Smith’s absence and registered the game-winning dunk on a nifty baseline feed from point guard Kasey Hil with 2.1 seconds.

Robinson scored a team-high 12 points, 10 after halftime, responding after another first-half benching following a myriad of defensive lapses. 

“Kasey penetrated and got the big man in the air,” Robinson said.

“I was just in the right spot at the right time. ... [The benching] was hard. Donovan was tough on me. He said a couple words that probably hurt my feelings, but I didn’t put my head down. I just went out there and took it as a challenge.”

"A challenge" is exactly what Wednesday's game amounted to, as baskets were a premium. 

Florida, losers of two consecutive games by a single point, overcame a ghastly shooting effort without Finney-Smith or leading scorer Michael Frazier (high ankle-sprain). 

The Gators hit just 36 percent from the field and 50 percent (10-of-20) from the free throw line, scoring a measly 19 points in the first half. 

The Commodores, led by freshman sharpshooter Riley LaChance, crawled into halftime on a 13-0 run, as Florida failed to score in the final 8:37 of the period (0-of-10 FG). 

Still, UF was able to hang around because Vandy wasn’t any better (33 percent).

The SEC's top 3-point shooting team went just 6-of-20 from behind the arc. 

The Gators eventually righted the ship (sort of), as Robinson and Alex Murphy hit key shots and allowed UF’s defense to setup a suffocating press. The Commodores’ youth struggled with the pressure, committing 6 second-half turnovers and forcing poor shots early in the clock.  

“Offensively it is an absolute struggle,” Donovan said.  

“A struggle. … It was a tough shooting night by both teams. I thought both teams struggled to score.” 

The Gators went on a 13-0 run midway through the second half, only to see the Commodores trigger a 12-4 sprint late and take a 47-46 lead with 50 seconds left. 

But Florida (13-13, 6-7 SEC) finally found a way to win a last-possession game with a key play by a pair of underclassmen. 

Meanwhile, Finney-Smith was suspended for the second time in his UF career, missing three games at the start of the 2013-14 season. 

“He’s not playing against LSU [on Saturday],” Donovan said. “Then I’ll revisit it on Monday. … Dorian’s decisions represent a lack of commitment.” 

NOTES

Murphy and freshman guard Chris Chiozza were a combined 3-for-31 from downtown in SEC play entering the contest, but the two reserves combined to shoot 4-of-8 from 3-point range on Wednesday. Murphy’s 11 points matched a career-high … Sophomore center/forward Chris Walker registered a career-high five blocks. … Vandy is now 0-6 in games decided by a single possession this season, while UF moved to 3-6 in such contests. … Frazier “might” miss the remainder of the year with his high-ankle sprain, per Donovan. … Donovan won his 499th career game. … LaChance led all players with 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting. 

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Pipeline continues: Two SoFla recruits commit to UF

GAINESVILLE -- The Gators’ new football staff continues to make inroads in South Florida, landing a pair of unknown 2016 defensive prospects Wednesday. 

Miami Norland linebacker Vosean Joseph -- a three-star recruit according to 247Sports -- verbally committed to Florida via Twitter.

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Later, Joseph’s former teammate and current Miami Central defensive end/outside linebacker Eric Mitchell, an unrated prospect, also pledged his oral commitment to the Gators.

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Both prospects played at Norland High last season and were personally recruited by Randy Shannon, a former Vikings alum.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 2.19.35 PMAfter landing just a single linebacker commit during the 2015 cycle (Norland standout Rayshad Jackson), the Gators must stock up on the position in 2016 with five upperclassmen ready to graduate in the next two seasons. 

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February 12, 2015

Heartbreaker: Moody buries deep trey to stun Gators

GAINESVILLE -- The heartbreaking losses continue to pile up for the Florida Gators. 

Stefan Moody drilled an off-balance 25-footer with just 2.7 seconds to send Ole Miss to a 62-61 road win over Florida on Tuesday night.

The Rebels trailed by two points with 18.7 seconds before the junior guard buried the deep, contested game-winner to send the Gators (12-12, 5-6 SEC) to their third straight loss -- and fifth stunning defeat by one possession in 2014-15.

Ole Miss is now 2-0 versus Florida this season -- by a combined two points.

“We played good defense,” UF freshman forward Devin Robinson said, frustratingly admitting the team feels snake-bitten.

“He just bombed it and it went in.”

Moody led all scorers with 18 points (4-of-7 from 3-point range), but Robinson nearly spurred the upset with a breakout performance starting in place of injured sharpshooter Michael Frazier II (high-ankle sprain).

Florida’s freshman forward scored a team-high 14 points, stuffing the stat sheet with seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal in a losing effort.

“I thought it was his most complete game,” said Florida coach Billy Donovan, who is now 12-12 for the first time since his inaugural season in Gainesville. 

“He did some really good things.”

Still, it wasn’t quite enough.

Florida led 61-57 with 2:30 remaining after forward Dorian Finney-Smith hit a corner trey. But the Gators wasted a pair of possessions down the stretch, drawing a shot-clock violation and nearly air-balling another attempt.

“The problem was the two previous ones we got standing waiting for someone else to make a play,” Donovan said. 

“Everyone was waiting for someone else to make a play. We have to learn to do it collectively together. … We don’t have a Moody to [step up] and make a play.”

Ole Miss (17-7, 8-3 SEC) trailed 38-33 at halftime, but the Rebels opened the second half on an 11-5 sprint. Florida was able to stabilize itself, retake the lead and slowly grind the game away thanks to some timely offense by Robinson and Finney-Smith (14 points, 7 boards).

But up 54-49 with 7:30 remaining, Donovan sat the pair for some brief rest, and it ultimately cost the Gators. The Rebels quickly went on a 6-0 run to setup a back-and-forth final few minutes and the thrilling finish.

UF plays at Texas A&M on Saturday.

NOTES:

Moody, a FAU transfer, hit the winner in front of family and friends. … Rebels reserve LaDarius White scored 11 first-half points, finishing with 16. … The Gators used their 10th different starting lineup this year. …  Without Frazier, the team’s leading scorer at 13.2 ppg, Florida struggled from the field, shooting just 37.7 percent.

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February 10, 2015

Florida finalizes staff, hires Dixon as WR coach

GAINESVILLE -- Jim McElwain’s inaugural coaching staff is finally complete. 

Florida named Kerry Dixon II its wide receivers coach Tuesday, poaching the former Florida International running backs assistant. 

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.40.09 AMDixon coached tailbacks at FIU in 2014 and FAU in 2012-13, but he has never coached wide receivers in his eight years as a collegiate assistant. He's regarded as a valuable recruiter, with strong ties to South Florida and Texas.   

“Kerry is a young, energetic, up-and-coming coach, McElwain said in a statement. 

“He has strong recruiting ties throughout the state and as a former offensive coordinator he will bring value to the offensive game plan.”

Dixon, from Booker T. Washington High in Texas, played quarterback at Baylor in 2002 before transferring to Hampton and starring as a wideout. 

The Gators desperately need stability and leadership at the position, as Dixon is now Florida’s seventh wide receivers coach in as many seasons.

Like McElwain, Dixon has history in the Big Sky Conference, spending two seasons at Montana State coaching running backs.  

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Foley: Muschamp is "free to make a living"

GAINESVILLE -- Florida finished National Signing Day with a flurry, but after a number of ballyhooed in-state targets signed with Auburn, a former friend-turned-foe became the focal point of frustration in the Gator Nation.

Former UF coach Will Muschamp, now the Tigers’ defensive coordinator, helped AU land five-star defensive end Byron Coward, as well as four-star linebacker Jeffery Holland and four-star wideouts Ryan Davis and Javarius Davis. He also flipped UF offensive tackle commit Mike Horton. 

Gator fans were infuriated. Muschamp was recruiting against his former employer, while still getting paid by Florida. 

UF athletic director Jeremy Foley, who’s been criticized for not structuring a contract to protect the university against such possibilities, said he understands fans’ “angst” but that “it’s part of the deal.”

"First of all, it's a one-year conversation,” Foley said. 

“I get the angst that that causes. But at the end of the day, we terminated Will. It's not like he moved on on his own. We terminated his contract. We said we needed to go in a different direction. He's free to work. He's free to go get a job. He's free to go get a job. He's free to do his job.”

Muschamp was fired after four topsy turvy seasons in Gainesville, and Florida is on the hook for nearly $6.3 million. Auburn made Muschamp the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the country, but Florida did not receive any relief in the buyout due to zero mitigation in Muschamp’s contract.  

“Will didn’t work at all and we’re still paying him the same amount of money,” Foley said. 

“That’s the world we live in. This is the big leagues. These coaches have a tough job, these coaches are in demand. When you’re negotiating contracts with them. I’m not really worried about that. I also expected Will coach here a long, long time. I certainly expect Mac to be here a long, long time.”

Instead of focusing on fans’ frustrations, Foley acknowledged coach Jim McElwain’s successful inaugural class. 

“I imagine Auburn was recruiting some of those guys before he got up there. And Will's a good recruiter,” Foley said. 

“But so is Jim McElwain. Look what he did on signing day, look at what he did a couple of day prior to signing day. We’re all fine. I get, like I said, it’s good conversation, it’s angst, but, you know, we terminated Will’s contract. He’s free to go make a living like anybody else.”

Florida finished No. 21 nationally in team rankings after sitting in the 70’s a week before NSD.

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February 09, 2015

The wait is over: Jefferson *officially* a Gator

GAINESVILLE -- Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson publicly committed to Florida five days ago, but the talented defensive end officially became a UF signee after faxing his Letter of Intent on Monday. 

It was a wild ride, but the signing punctuated a nice recruiting haul despite UF's coaching transition. 

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Of course, nothing is official without a #ChompChomp

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After teasing the GatorNation for days, Jefferson indicated his LOI would be sent in Monday with a tweet earlier today. 

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February 06, 2015

Rumph officially named defensive line coach

GAINESVILLE -- Florida hired Texas defensive line coach Chris Rumph to the same position, the school announced Friday. 

Rumph, a ballyhooed recruiter with extensive Southern ties, replaces Terrell Williams, who didn’t last a month on Florida’s staff after taking a job with Miami Dolphins on Thursday

The move reunites Gators coach Jim McElwain with a former co-worker on a championship team, as Rumph and McElwain were on Alabama’s staff in 2011. 

“Chris and I obviously have some experience working together from our days at Alabama,” McElwain said in a statement. 

“He joins a group of like thinkers on our staff and is someone who will positively affect our players’ lives -- both on and off the field.”

Rumph spent the past season on Charlie Strong’s staff at Texas, but the former South Carolina linebacker has mostly made a name for himself as an assistant in the South, working at Clemson (2006-10) and Alabama (2011-13) for the bulk of his collegiate coaching career. 

The hire should also bring some closure to the CeCe Jefferson saga

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 3.57.26 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 4.03.36 PMFlorida still needs to hire a wide receivers assistant, but McElwain said Wednesday, “We’ll have one here real shortly.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

 

February 05, 2015

UPDATED: The CeCe Jefferson saga

As I said below ... CeCe is enjoying the ride. 

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GAINESVILLE -- Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson remains a Florida commit, but some post-National Signing Day drama has denied the Baker County standout from becoming an actual UF signee. 

Jefferson, a U.S. Army All-American, publicly “signed” with Florida in a live announcement Wednesday on ESPNU, but the school never received his Letter of Intent. 

Jefferson’s father, Leo, appears to be the the reason why. 

According to The Gainesville Sun, Leo won’t sign the LOI (requiring a signature from a parent or legal guardian), saying, “I’m a die-hard Gator fan, but personally, i want CeCe to go somewhere else. I wanted to get him away from home. I didn’t want him in Gainesville, to tell you the truth.”

Meanwhile, other reports suggest CeCe is the one holding up the process or that Leo (and CeCe) are upset at the sudden departure of defensive line coach Terrell Williams

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 6.39.56 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 6.36.56 PMHowever, ESPN recruiting analyst Derek Tyson tweeted this morning that Jefferson “knew " Williams' departure "was coming.”

  Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 6.35.24 PMMeaning this …

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… was one swell troll job. (Regardless of however CeCe’s current situation is resolved, he was definitely a recruit who enjoyed the process.)

Ultimately, the situation is just a mess. Rumors are flying and one story just contradicts the next.  

I think Jefferson, who along with five-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey was the crown jewel of Florida’s transitional class, still ends up at UF. But we'll see. 

Stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

 

Williams leaves for Dolphins, Gators to hire Rumph?

GAINESVILLE -- Florida defensive line Terrell Williams didn’t last a month on the job. 

The former NFL assistant is returning to the professional ranks less than 24 hours after National Signing Day (a college football yearly tradition!!!), taking a job with the Miami Dolphins, per multiple reports

Florida officially hired Williams from the Oakland Raiders on Jan. 5th, and the defensive assistant spoke on his excitement returning to the college game and working closer to family. 

“I just felt that Florida was a great opportunity for me and my family right now," Williams said, several weeks ago. 

"My wife is from Fernandina Beach. She went to Florida A&M. Both of her parents are Gators. They have engineering degrees from here. I just felt like it was a great opportunity. I talked to Coach [Jim McElwain] on the phone and with Coach [Geoff] Collins, and felt like it was the right thing to do. You just don't leave the NFL to go coach at any college. I felt like this was a special opportunity for me at this time."

Perhaps he got a better offer?  

Now, Florida is reportedly interested in Texas defensive line coach Chris Rumph. 

Rumph, a former Alabama assistant with McElwain in 2011, was reportedly an original target for the open position in December. 

The Gainesville Sun tweeted Thursday that Rumph has been offered the job but yet to accept. 

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February 02, 2015

Scarlett, Williamson commit to Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Florida finally reeled in some offensive firepower.

Four-star tailback Jordan Scarlett -- a star at St. Thomas Aquinas -- committed to UF over Miami and Florida State on Monday night.

The Army All-American instantly becomes the crown jewel of Florida’s class, as Scarlett is (currently) ranked as its highest prospect after scoring 79 touchdowns and leading the Raiders to a state title in 2014. 

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound back actually verbally pledged to Miami in July of last year, but he decommitted from the Hurricanes over the weekend following an official visit to FSU. 

With a number of other commitments (highlighted by three-star athlete Chris Williamson) in the last two days, UF’s class now has 16 members and is ranked 42nd nationally, per 247Sports. 

2015 VERBAL COMMITMENTS 

*** Daniel Imatorbhebhe – TE – North Gwinnett (Ga.) – 6-4, 227

*** Kalif Jackson – WR - Duncan U. Fletcher – 6-5, 200

**** Derrick Dillion – WR – Pine (La.) – 5-11, 173

*** Tyler Jordan – OL – Bishop Kenny – 6-4, 280

*** Brandon Sandifer – OL – Northside (Ga.) – 6-4, 335

*** Camrin Knight – TE – Lincoln – 6-4, 225

*** Andrew Ivie – DT – Pasco – 6-1, 265

*** Jabari Zuniga – DE – Sparyberry (Ga.) – 6-3, 255

*** Rayshad Jackson – LB – Norland – 6-2, 215

**** Jordan Scarlett – RB – St. Thomas Aquinas – 5-10, 222

*** Mike Horton – OT – Lakeside (Ga.) – 6-4, 310

*** Richerd Desir-Jones – DT – St. Thomas Aquinas – 6-4, 285

*** Kylan Johnson – S – Skyline (Texas) – 6-3, 202

*** Fredrick Johnson – OT – Royal Palm Beach – 6-6, 301

*** Luke Ancrum – DE – Sebring – 6-5, 230

*** Chris Williamson – CB – Gainesville (Ga.) – 6-1, 190 

January 31, 2015

Frazier sinks clutch FTs, lifts UF past Arkansas

GAINESVILLE -- Michael Frazier II sank two clutch free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining, as Florida escaped with a 57-56 win over Arkansas on Saturday afternoon in the O’Connell Center. 

Gators (12-9, 5-3 SEC) freshman guard Chris Chiozza missed a layup late, but Frazier corralled the offensive rebound and was questionably fouled by Arkansas (16-5, 5-3 SEC) guard Aldandise Harris. 

Despite a second straight game without a 3-pointer, Florida's junior sharpshooter displayed poise overcoming another tough night (2-of-9 from the field, 0-for-5 from downtown) and a halftime benching.

Frazier drilled both freebies, and gave the Gators their second straight conference thrilling win this week. 

“What has happened to these guys is that when it has not gone well for them they lose their competitive spirit and they don’t fight,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. 

“They don’t scratch. They don’t claw. They get down, and there was a couple moments late where we were teetering a little bit and we were back to that mindset. But I thought they really battled as hard as they could.”

The Gators moved to 5-3 in the SEC. Their NCAA hopes remain faint, but a win over the Razorbacks did give UF its first top-25 RPI win on the year. The Gators are now 1-7 against the RPI top 50. 

Florida plays at Vanderbilt on Tuesday.  

BY THE NUMBERS

10.7 - seconds remaining when Anton Beard grabbed an offensive rebound and scored a baseline layup to put Razorbacks up one late. 

34.6 — UF’s field goal percentage, its second worst in a win this season. Despite another late-game scoring lull, the Gators survived the Razorbacks’ 12-3 run late with some timely free throw shooting (17-of-25) by Frazier and Jacob Kurtz. 

23 - Missed shots by Florida’s backcourt (Frazier, Kasey Hill and Eli Carter). The trio combined for just five made field goals and 13 points. 

14 - NBA scouts, most (or all) of whom witnessed Razorbacks forward Bobby Portis dominate all afternoon. The 6-11 sophomore led all scorers with 21 points, adding 10 rebounds and two blocks.  

4 - Dunks by Dorian Finney-Smith, who had two thunderous tomahawk slams that really energized both the crowd and team. Finned-Smith finished the afternoon with 16 points — UF’s lone scorer in double figures. The junior forward led the Gators in points, rebounds (9), assists (4) and turnovers (3).  

15.8 percent - The combined 3-point shooting percentage (6-for-38) for SEC’s best two teams (statistically) downtown. 

8-0 - Florida’s sprint to end the first half, taking some much-needed momentum and a two-point lead into the locker room. 

QUOTABLES

“Credit to Florida, they hung in there and found a way to win. But I was disappointed with the officiating going down the stretch. A guy that I’ve seen before, John Hampton, made one of the more critical calls in the game. The last play, I was not satisfied with [the call].”

-- Arkansas coach Mike Anderson 

“We just kept fighting. Things didn’t go our way every time. …  Honestly, I knew [the free throws] were going in. Michael had a tough night shooting, but I told him earlier in the game he was going to make a game-winning play. He stayed in the game.”

-- UF forward Dorian Finney-Smith    

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McElwain draws cheers with spirited comments

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GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Jim McElwain took a brief break from a crucial recruiting weekend to address the Gator Nation on Saturday afternoon. 

UF's new football coach spirited the crowd at halftime of Florida's 57-56 thriller over Arkansas, ending his speech with “we’re going to get the Gators back where they belong, and that’s at the national championship.”

247Sports caught the moment on film.

 

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January 27, 2015

Orange & Blue Debut scheduled for April 11

GAINESVILLE -- Florida announced its spring game date Tuesday, scheduling the annual Orange & Blue Debut for April 11. 

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New coach Jim McElwain probably hopes the spring scrimmage is a tad more traditional than the previous two years. In 2013, UF didn't even play a glorified game due to an extensive injury list, and last season the scrimmage laughably ended in a tie. 

As the tweet stated, additional details will be announced in the near future. 

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Where Things Stand: Week+ before NSD

GAINESVILLE -- Jim McElwain said, “I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. … We’ve got a lot of ground to make up. When we took the job, we knew that there would be some [challenges.] It’s going to take a while.”

The “it” is rebuilding Florida, and based on the school’s 2015 recruiting class the foundation for the future might not come from its current crop of pledges.  

With National Signing Day rapidly approaching, the Gators have just 10 verbal commitments. They will sign their smallest class in years, and Monday, 247Sports reported that UF has its fewest commitments in a decade with just a week before NSD.

The Gators’ class is ranked last in the SEC by every recruiting service.

It gets worse. 

Florida has just 58 scholarship players for next season, and a 2015 class low in quantity (and quality at the moment) isn’t going to help the team’s numbers issue.  

But all is not dire, yet.

Florida should get a NSD bump -- UF is among the “leaders” for a trio of consensus 5-star prospects and a number of other recruits -- even though the Gators won't sign a real ballyhooed group. 

Over the weekend, they hosted top-ranked defensive end Byron Cowart and No. 1 offensive tackle Martez Ivey, as well as a number of other key targets. 

They picked up a verbal pledge from three-star linebacker Rayshad Jackson (a Miami Norland High standout) and flipped three-star defensive end Jabari Zuniga, hoping to make a final surge over the next week. 

But it’s late in the process, and UF is reportedly losing ground on Cowart (who favors Auburn) and five-star DL CeCe Jefferson (who favors Ole Miss). It would be a major blow to swing and miss on such talented in-state prospects, but thus is the hand McElwain has been dealt. 

With staff turnover and the school’s recent win/loss struggles, it’s no mystery why McElwain is fighting an uphill battle. 

Transition classes are traditionally weaker anyways, and UF’s struggles have been magnified due to McElwain’s lack of developed relationships, few Southern ties and little name recognition. 

The Gators are trying to salvage their class over the next nine days, but 2016 has already become a more important priority.

McElwain knows he must sign and deliver a monster class next season. Otherwise, the transition (or transformation) won’t truly take shape. 

Florida can sign upwards of 30 prospects next season (depending on normal attrition and the NFL Draft). 

UF has just eight seniors, but it could lose a number of players to the league (namely Vernon Hargreaves III, Demarcus Robinson, Alex McCalister and Keanu Neal) for the second straight year. 

The emphasis on 2016 starts now. McElwain can’t afford to have two subpar classes in a row -- especially one without a quarterback, elite skill position players and quality offensive linemen -- so if Florida is struggling with top prospects in the next recruiting cycle then the Gator Nation will really start worrying.

UF already has three verbal commitments for 2016, including Jacksonville Raines wideout Rick Wells, who committed Monday night. 

2015 VERBAL COMMITMENTS 

TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe - North Gwinnett (Ga.) ***

WR Kalif Jackson - Duncan U. Fletcher ***

WR Derrick Dillion - Pine (La.) ****

OL Tyler Jordan - Bishop Kenny ***

OL Brandon Sandifer - Norhside (Ga.) ***

TE Camrin Knight - Lincoln ***

DT Andrew Ivie - Pasco ***

DE Jabari Zuniga - Sparyberry (Ga.) ***

Rayshad Jackson - Norland ***

(Imatorbhebhe and Jackson are early enrollees)

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

January 21, 2015

UF announces plans to build indoor practice facility

GAINESVILLE -- Florida football’s reboot is just getting started. 

As the Gators usher in a new era, the University Athletic Association announced plans Wednesday to start construction on an indoor practice facility, giving coach Jim McElwain some new digs in his inaugural season. 

The facility -- a $15 million project slated for completion by “early September” -- will house a 120-yard, synthetic turf field, additional space for drills, three camera platforms, training-room facilities and storage. 

The project will be built on the site of the Sanders Football Practice Fields, and will feature a newly redesigned entrance to McKethan Stadium -- the baseball field located adjacent to the facility. 

“This is something we have talked about internally for some time,” UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. 

“We have always been able to utilize the O’Connell Center as an indoor option for the football team, but with the renovation starting this spring, it will no longer be available.”

Florida estimated that “30 practices were lost or altered” due to inclement weather last season. The facility also allows the school to keep up with Joneses in recruiting, as every other program in the conference has an indoor practice facility or plans to build one. 

According to the release, Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors out of Birmingham, Ala., will oversee the project and the facility will be funded “through private gifts and capital financing.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

January 20, 2015

NCAA dagger? Florida mauled at home by LSU

GAINESVILLE -- It’s only January, but Florida’s NCAA Tournament hopes are already on life support. 

The Gators (10-8, 3-2 SEC) were mauled at home by the LSU Tigers, suffering consecutive conference losses for the first time since 2011-12. 

LSU (14-4, 3-2 SEC) trounced UF 79-61 on Tuesday in the O'Connell Center, spearheaded by Jarrell Martin’s game-high 22 points.

The 6-foot-10 forward was unstoppable inside, while fellow forward Jordan Mickey chipped in 14 points and 14 rebounds for his 10th double-double on the year.  

“They beat us in every facet of the game,” UF reserve swingman Alex Murphy said. 

“If we don’t come together as a team we’ll continue to get embarrassed.” 

Murphy was Florida's lone bright spot (a career-high 10 points), as little else went right Tuesday night.  

UF missed another prime opportunity for a statement win, as its usual maladies continued to plague an enigmatic group. 

Florida had no answer for Martin or Mickey, and its issues didn’t stop there, as the Gators were also gashed in transition (14 fast break points) and from downtown (8-of-13 from 3-point range). 

Tigers guard Keith Hornsby was 3-for-6 from deep, while point guard Tim Quarterman added 15 points and eight assists off the bench.  

UF played with minimal energy early, and consistently lacked execution and defensive discipline throughout. The Gators again demonstrated a lack of chemistry and continuity.  

“I’ve tried a lot of different things with [the team] but they’re going to have to go through [the growing pains] for us to get better,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. 

“Not enough competitiveness, not enough fight. Definitely not enough at all.” 

Florida’s offensive execution wasn’t any better, hitting just 3-of-16 from behind the arc and missing tons of shots around the rim. The Gators shot just 38 percent from the floor and had 13 turnovers. 

Donovan juggled his starting lineup again, going with Kasey Hill, Jon Horford, Jacob Kurtz, Michael Frazier II and Devin Robinson for just second time all year. Afterwards, Donovan acknowledged his rotation remains in flux, as he is desperate to find any sort of consistency from a 10-man rotation.

“It’s like a revolving door,” he said. 

“There’s no one else I can really put in there right now.” 

The Gators trailed 37-32 at halftime, but the Tigers slowly extended their lead and went on a 14-2 run midway through the second half. Florida responded with a quick 7-0 spurt to cut LSU’s lead to 10 with 5:54 remaining, but Martin tipped in a put-back and Quarterman drained a deep 3-pointer to stop the run. 

“Collectively, we’re not getting it done right now,” UF swingman Michael Frazier II said. 

“It’s really as simple as that.”

NOTES

Dorian Finney-Smith missed two days of practice with a hyper-extended knee and did not start. The redshirt junior had 10 points, eight rebounds and five turnovers off the bench. … The 18-point loss was Florida’s worst home defeat since 2010 against Ohio State. … LSU won in Gainesville for the first time since 2008. … The Gators return to action Saturday at Ole Miss (6 p.m., SEC Network). 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

NCAA grants McGee a sixth year?

GAINESVILLE — Roughly two weeks before National Signing Day, Florida’s offense received an early boost for next season. 

On Tuesday, Jake McGee, a senior tight end who broke his leg in UF’s season-opener against Eastern Michigan last year, tweeted he’s returning to school -- granted a medical hardship by the NCAA. 

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.37.10 PM

The school has yet to confirm the tight end’s waiver status, but McGee applied for a sixth year of eligibility in December.

McGee’s Florida career appeared over before it ever began in 2014, as the former Virginia standout was injured on a routine blocking play early in UF’s opener. 

He immediately upgrades UF’s tight end position -- one that figures to play a prominent role in the new staff’s offensive scheme. 

The 6-foot-6, 245-pound graduate student was pass-catching threat with the Cavaliers, leading the team in receptions (43) and yards (395) in 2013. He recorded 71 catches for 769 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons at UV. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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