October 19, 2014

Gator Grades: Kaboom

GAINESVILLE -- It’s not even the beginning of the end anymore for Will Muschamp.

That was Georgia Southern. 

Saturday night was worse

The Gators were humiliated -- in primetime -- on homecoming for the second straight season, embarrassingly falling to Missouri 42-13. It was a nightmare, dumpster-fire performance.

The Tigers were fresh of a shutout shellacking at home to No. 10 Georgia. Maty Mauk was terrible again. They didn’t eclipse 120 yards on offense … yet they still won by four touchdowns. 

#ItsgrimUF was the theme a year ago. Now, it’s eulogizing time.  

OFFENSE - F

There’s little left to say about a dreadful attack that continues to invent new ways to lose. 

The two-quarterback system was a bust, as both Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris struggled protecting the football. 

The Gators coughed up the ball six times and had just 66 yards by halftime. A rapture couldn’t have saved this offense.

Every drive was Gun. Meet Foot. 

Driskel, hampered by an ankle injury, was woeful once again. Muschamp all-but feed his third-year starter to the wolves in the third quarter before mercifully pulling the junior. Harris, with a limited playbook, wasn’t much better until it was too late. The freshman was indecisive and had as many errant throws early as Driskel. 

Florida’s revamped offensive line crumbled against Mizzou’s fearsome front-four, surrendering six sacks. 

DEFENSE - B+

Missouri had just 20 yards after halftime … and still outscored UF 22-13 in the second half. The Gators’ defense did its damnedest to put out all the self-inflicted fires, but the ugliness by the offense (and special teams) was too much to overcome. 

The Tigers had success running the ball in the first half, and once they jumped out to an insurmountable lead (for Florida’s offense) they simply stopped trying to score. 

Florida yielded just 2.4 yards per play, but a lack of sacks (just one) and forced turnovers (Marcus Maye’s interception was the lone takeaway) allowed Mizzou to just slowly grind the game away.    

SPECIAL TEAMS - F

A week after a dominating special teams effort, Florida had a putrid performance Saturday evening.

Marcus Murphy ran roughshod on returns (96-yard kickoff touchdown, 82-yard punt touchdown), and the Tigers also comically blocked an extra point late in the fourth quarter. 

Andre Debose did nothing (four punt returns for six yards), while Gators punter Kyle Christy averaged just 38 yards on five punts. 

OVERALL - F

In this section last week: "The ship may not be sunk, yet, but I’m not sure how much more water it can hold." It’s officially overflowing. 

For a team that’s lost 10 of 13, Saturday night’s ugliness was still unimaginable. In a mind-blowing stat (courtesy of ESPN), Muschamp's Gators are the only team in the last decade to lose a game -- TWICE -- when allowing fewer than a 120 yards.

All other teams are 94-0. Chew on that. 

Athletic director Jeremy Foley once famously stated, “What should be done eventually, must be done immediately.” We’ll know soon enough if that statement still holds true.  

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October 17, 2014

McCalister talks breakout year, former hoop dreams

GAINESVILLE -- Alex McCalister dreamed of playing basketball for Roy Williams. Instead, the 6-foot-6, 255-pound North Carolina native has developed into a menacing pass rusher for the Florida Gators.

“He didn’t even know who I was,” McCalister said of UNC's legendary hoops coach.

McCalister was a star basketball player in high school, but football was his true destiny. 

Florida’s redshirt sophomore was guided towards football by his high school coaches. With raw and freakish athleticism, many major colleges viewed McCalister as a long-term project with limitless upside.

He's been worth the wait.

McCalister has gone from project to player, and is suddenly a budding star opposite preseason All-American Dante Fowler Jr.

He leads the Gators in sacks (4.0) and tackles for loss (5.0). Earlier this week, he spoke on his previous basketball aspirations, development and early-season production.

On translating the preseason hype into production… 

“Coming out [this fall] my goal was to be a part of this team, bring something to this team. So, fulfilling those pass-rush goals, and keep working and keep working, just trying to help the team, that’s it. But I am glad I am producing for this team.”

On the “project” label out of high school

“Just that word, the ‘project.’ I mean, everybody wants to come in and play. Even my second year, my sophomore year, I still wanted to play but I was still that project. I still had to develop, I still had to learn. The biggest hurdle was really just accepting that, knowing that you are a project guy and you’ve got to just keep fighting, keep fighting, keep hurdling that stuff. And now it’s pretty much paying off. I’ve just got to keep working. Still got a long way to go.”

On his hoops skills…

"I don’t think nobody here can beat me. I say I’m top 3 on the team. I’m definitely [the best].”

On learning how to maintain weight… 

“[Gaining weight] wasn’t that fun. Not in the beginning. It was overwhelming. I came in at like 215. It was like you’ve got to eat, eat, eat if you want to play. OK, I’m eating but I’m not gaining weight. But I finally learned that too. I learned how to manage it. Eat certain amount of meals throughout the course of the day. I finally got that.”

********** BONUS QUOTE **********

“[He was] a stick. Like the dude from ‘A Bugs Life.’ The little stick figure. … He’s playing good. He’s long, extremely long, like 7-foot long. He can rush the passer. He can play the run. He’s playing good coming off the edge and getting to the quarterback. It’s just another good thing having him and Dante on both edges of the ball.”

--- Senior linebacker Mike Taylor, on McCalister’s sophomore season and inital impressions when the defensive end first arrived on campus

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October 15, 2014

Chris Walker still not "a savior," suspended 3 games

 

GAINESVILLE -- Florida forward Chris Walker will miss the team’s first three games (including an exhibition contest) for violating team rules, coach Billy Donovan announced Wednesday. 

At the team’s media day, the 6-foot-10, 225-pound sophomore declined comment on his suspension, only saying, “It’ll be tough, but I’ll get through it.”

Walker, a former five-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American, played just 18 games in 2013-14 after failing to qualify academically until December and later serving a NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits. 

“He has such a long way to go as far as being reliable, accountable and disciplined,” Donovan said.

Walker averaged just 1.9 points, 1.3 rebounds on 4.8 minutes last season, and many expected the talented big-man -- currently projected as a 2015 NBA first-round pick -- to play a key role this year. 

Maybe, but maybe not, according to Donovan. 

“His biggest challenge this year is going to be his ability to manage expectations,” he said. “Chris Walker played four minutes a game and everybody thinks he’s this savior. I can’t really tell you he is ready to handle that or even capable of handling that.”

Donovan continued: “I’ve never seen a guy have more hype coming into the middle of a season. … I don’t know what kind of impact he’s going to make. He’s got a long way to go.”

Meanwhile, freshman point guard Brandone Francis is academically ineligible for the entire 2014-15 campaign, per Donovan. 

“He needs to prove himself academically,” Donovan said. 

Francis is enrolled at UF, but the 6-6 guard from the Dominican Republic, who moved to Jacksonville and finished high school at Arlington Country Day School, won’t practice with the team the first semester. 

“There’s things he has to do academically while he’s here to get himself eligible to play,” Donovan explained. “If he progress like we hope he will, he’ll be allowed to come back to practice for the second semester.”

INJURY UPDATE

Swingman DeVon Walker will miss the entire season with a torn ACL sustained during summer workouts, but Donovan said the junior guard may return to practice in January or February. 

Eli Carter (leg) and Dillion Graham (hips, ankle) are cleared for contact but both players remain limited as the Gators open practice. Carter and Graham both missed the entire 2013-14 season, receiving medical redshirts.  

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October 14, 2014

SEC announces 2015 schedule, UF to host Ole Miss

GAINESVILLE -- The Southeastern Conference announced the 2015 football schedule Tuesday night, with Florida’s slate officially set. 

While the Gators’ opponents were previously announced, the release confirmed the dates with Mississippi, New Mexico State (UF's opener), East Carolina and Florida Atlantic. 

UF will host Ole Miss, a playoff contender this year, on Oct. 3, kickstarting a brutal stretch during the heart of the season. 

Following the showdown with the Rebels, the Gators will play four of five games away from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium -- with trips to Missouri, LSU, Jacksonville (Georgia) and South Carolina. 

The 2015 FLORIDA GATORS SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 - New Mexico State

Sept. 12 - ECU

Sept. 19 - at Kentucky 

Sept. 26 - Tennessee

Oct. 3 - Ole Miss

Oct. 10 - at Missouri 

Oct. 17 - at LSU

OPEN

Oct. 31 - Georgia (Jacksonville)

Nov. 7 - Vanderbilt 

Nov. 14 - at South Carolina 

Nov. 21 - FAU

Nov. 28 - Florida State  

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SEC commissioner Mike Slive to retire July 2015

GAINESVILLE -- Due to a recurrence of prostate cancer, Mike Slive will retire as SEC Commissioner on July, 31, 2015, the conference announced Tuesday.

Slive -- the league’s commissioner since 2002 -- leaves a historic legacy as the architect of the nation's most dominant conference. 

During 74-year-old’s 13-year tenure -- the SEC’s “golden age” -- the conference won seven straight BCS national times, 60 additional national championships, expanded into Texas and Missouri, launched an unprecedented TV network and increased revenues by record numbers.

“Mike possesses all of the qualities of a great leader – visionary, consensus builder, integrity, intuition and commitment, but more than anything he is a great friend to so many of us in this league,’’ said UF athletic director Jeremy Foley to Gatorzone.com.

“He’s led this conference to historical milestones during his tenure and the impact he’s had on collegiate athletics management and structure will be felt for many years. I look forward to working with him during his final year and in his future role as a consultant to the league.”

According to the release, Slive’s medical prognosis is “good,” and he will serve as a consultant for four years following his retirement. 

"I have been blessed in more ways than I can count and I will have as much passion for this job on my last day as I did on my first," Slive said.

"I consider my health situation a temporary detour in a remarkable road that has allowed me to meet amazing people, experience incredible events and celebrate historic victories. I will relish my final year in this position and look forward to being the biggest fan of the SEC for many years to come."

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October 13, 2014

QBs Driskel, Harris both to play against Missouri

GAINESVILLE -- Florida will play two quarterbacks in a pivotal must-win against Missouri on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN2), coach Will Muschamp announced Monday.

Embattled starter Jeff Driskel will continue to work with the first-team offense, but dynamic true freshman Treon Harris will see extended snaps, too.

“We’ll work through the week and we’ll see how things go,” Muschamp said. “Right now, Jeff will probably start, but they’re both going to play.”

Driskel turned the ball over three more times in UF’s 30-27 gut-punching loss to LSU. The junior leads the conference in interceptions (8) and has eight total turnovers the last three weeks. 

Harris, a former star at Miami Booker T. Washington, was scheduled to see snaps against the Tigers before he was investigated for an alleged sexual assault last Monday. The freshman was suspended for a week, before the university reinstated him late Friday afternoon after the accuser withdrew her complaint.

Harris -- who watched the LSU loss from the press box -- missed a week of practice and film-study, a concern for Muschamp.

“He’s a freshman. It means more than a third or fourth year player, certainly,” Muschamp said. “We’ll see today.”

Meanwhile, Driskel lamented Florida’s missed opportunities against LSU -- some his own fault, others not -- and said the offense “is close” to eliminating the costly mistakes. 

Driskel has never played in a two-quarterback system before, but said he’s open to whatever is best for the team to succeed. 

“Believe it or not, I’m not worried about me, I’m worried about the team,” he said. “I want the team to play well. If it’s going to help the team, I’m all for it. We’re confident in Treon. I think the guys are confident in me as well. It’s not going to be something that’s going to divide the team or anything like that.”

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October 12, 2014

Gator Grades: Booted

GAINESVILLE -- (Breathe, y’all)

Florida dropped a gut-punching and dramatic affair to an average LSU team, finding a way to lose over and over again on a wild evening in The Swamp.

Tigers kicker Colby Delahoussaye nailed a 50-yard field goal with three seconds remaining, moments after the Gators looked poised to win the game outright.

Florida had little business escaping Tennessee with a victory two weeks ago, and the football gods weren’t as kind Saturday night.

OFFENSE - D

About that up-tempo, spread offense: Florida totaled 306 yards on just 57 plays.

Much-maligned quarterback Jeff Driskel can’t win for losing. Florida’s third-year starter was awful and awesome all in the same game, but if anything can go wrong for Driskel, it will.

He turned the ball over three more times, including the decisive tipped-pick with under 30 seconds left in the game.

Florida’s offensive line was up and down, as the Gators failed to establish an explosive running game against the nation’s No. 90 ranked unit. Andre Debose’s 35-yard jet sweep was UF’s longest run of the game.

Demarcus Robinson hurled in a perfect 11-yard touchdown, and later, Driskel’s 73-yard bomb, yet Florida Florida’d, failing to score a touchdown on first-and-goal at the 3-yard-line.

The playcalling was poor and the offense was ghastly in the third quarter: 16 yards on 10 plays.

Brandon Powell was a bright spot, but Kelvin Taylor remains M.I.A. (pass protection woes). 

DEFENSE - C-

The total yardage was fine (305 yards, just 4.2 y/p), but UF’s defense was inconsistent against a very subpar offense.

Florida’s front four mauled LSU on passing downs (four sacks), yet the Gators’ front-seven was gashed by dynamic freshman tailback Leonard Fournette (140 yards, two scores).

The busted coverage on 3rd-and-25 was inexplicable and was a microcosm of the night for the unit: When a big play was needed, it wasn’t made.

Without Vernon Hargreaves III for much of the game, the revamped secondary played well (aside from the key bust). Jalen Tabor continues to impress, as does Alex McCalister (2 sacks) and Bryan Cox Jr. (5 tackles, 1 TFL).

In a seesaw game where the Gators turned the ball over three times, zero takeaways were a killer.

SPECIAL TEAMS - A

Debose was electrifying, and would’ve been the Gators’ hero had they won the game.

He sparked three Florida touchdowns, including two dynamic punt returns — one for a 62-yard touchdown.

Kyle Christy was solid again (47.5 yard average on four punts) and the coverage (punts and kickoff) units were really good. 

OVERALL - D

Florida played hard, but it simply found a way to lose. Whether it was Driskel gift-wrapping turnovers or the defense folding at key moments, the Gators gave the game away.

Will Muschamp’s hot-seat is scorching. The ship may not be sunk yet, but I’m not sure how much more water it can hold. 

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Late Driskel pick sends Gators to gut-wrenching loss

LSU Florida Football (12)Jeff Driskel | John Raoux/AP

GAINESVILLE -- Murphy’s Law strikes again.

Beleaguered quarterback Jeff Driskel appeared poised to rally Florida (3-2, 2-2 SEC) to a nail-biting win over LSU, only to see a potential game-winning touchdown dropped, and then later, a ball tipped for an interception to setup the Tigers’ winning score.

Colby Delahoussaye nailed a 50-yard field goal with just three seconds left in the fourth quarter, sending LSU (5-2, 1-2 SEC) to a controversial but dramatic 30-27 win over UF and increasing the temperature on Florida coach Will Muschamp’s already scorching hot seat.

“It’s a really tough loss,” Driskel said. “Hat’s off to LSU.”

With 26 seconds remaining, Driskel forced a throw over the middle to Latroy Pittman, who tipped the ball to LSU defensive back Ricky Jefferson. 

Pittman was scarily injured on the play and was carted off the field. Although the wideout was completely immobilized by medical personnel, he gave the crowd a thumbs up with his right arm as he left the field.

“We think Pittman will be fine,” Muschamp said.

Still, it was surreal scene that marred an ugly but entertaining game.

And ultimately a gut-wrenching loss for the Gators.

LSU ran the ball on first down, but a scrum at the end of the play forced the officials to put seven seconds back on the clock -- even though LSU had no timeouts remaining.

With new life, Delahoussaye drilled the long kick.

Muschamp said he’s never seen officals put time back on the clock in that situation and would have a discussion with Steve Shaw, the conference’s head of officals, Sunday.

The Gators held the game’s momentum late in the quarter, pinning LSU deep in its own territory and forcing a 3rd-and-25.

But Florida (defensive backs Brian Poole and Keanu Neal) badly blew a coverage, and Anthony Jennings found Travin Duval for 41 yards up the sideline.

“Just poor communication,” Muschamp said. “10 guys got it [the defensive call] and one didn’t. … You cut a guy lose on a play like that and you don’t deserve to win.”

Jennings (10-for-21, 110 yards) wasn’t any better than Driskel (14-of-25, 183 yards), as LSU leaned on explosive freshman tailback Leonard Fournette.

The 6-1, 230-pound back ran wild, displaying his special blend of size, speed and video-game moves. He powered for a career-high 140 yards and two scores.

Fournette ran over, past and through UF’s defense, injuring All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III on a thunderous run in the second quarter. Florida’s top defensive player did not return.

The Gators’ offense was largely stagnant without workhorse tailback Matt Jones, who barely played with a bum ankle.

Florida tried to run the offense with Driskel as the power runner -- without a ton of success. Florida’s 6-foot-4, 230-pound quarterback bruised his way for 71 yards on 21 carries. 

He rumbled for a first down early in the game and delivered a fiery, emotional reaction historically reserved for Tim Tebow. Otherwise, it was another forgettable night for the third-year starter.

Driskel turned the ball over three times, negating many of his finer moments -- a beautiful 11-yard touchdown to Demarcus Robinson -- during Florida’s comeback.

LSU went up 27-24 on a splendid 11-yard, one-handed touchdown reception by Duval.

The Tigers then dared Driskel to beat them deep. And he did.

Finally. 

But Florida wasted the perfect 73-yard pass to Robinson, stalling on the 3-yard-line and settling for the tying field goal.

Tight end Tevin Westbrook dropped an easy go-ahead score with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter.

Although the offense struggled (306 total yards), Andre Debuse flashed his best Percy Harvin impression, sparking three Florida touchdowns.

The sixth-year senior jumpstarted a frenzied crowd, igniting The Swamp with a 62-yard punt return touchdown early in the first quarter. It was Debose’s fifth touchdown return of his career, setting a school record. Later, he added a 53-yard return to setup a score late in the fourth quarter. He also rushed for 35 yards on a jet sweep.

Despite the team’s usual shakiness, Florida didn’t play like a group distracted by the turmoil from the Treon Harris fallout.

On Friday, Harris’ accuser withdrew her sexual assault complaint, and the university and the UAA quickly reinstated Florida’s freshman quarterback.

Harris wasn’t on the sideline Saturday night, with The Associated Press reporting Florida didn’t want the freshman to be the game’s storyline and the constant focus of TV cameras.

“It was a very taxing week for him. I’m very proud of the way he’s handled the situation,” Muschamp said.  “Everybody is a victim in this situation. No one wins in this situation.” 

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October 10, 2014

Harris' accuser withdraws sexual assault complaint

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GAINESVILLE -- Treon Harris’ accuser withdrew her sexual assault complaint Friday and, the university and the UAA quickly reinstated Florida’s freshman quarterback.

Although Harris will not play Saturday against LSU (7:30 p.m., SEC Network), he is completely eligible moving forward.

“We have been notified that the University and legal process is complete,” coach Will Muschamp said.

“Treon has been reinstated to the team, but he will not play Saturday. This has been a learning experience for everyone involved. Treon has been honest with me throughout the process and is looking forward to rejoining his teammates.”

Earlier Friday afternoon, UF assistant vice president of media relations and public affairs Janine Sikes announced, “The student who accused Treon Harris of sexual battery has withdrawn her criminal complaint. This means she is not pursuing criminal charges against him at this time but maintains the right to do so in the future. The police report will be released when it is available.”

Sikes added, “The university always will take swift and decisive action when we have concerns about the safety of our students.”

Harris was suspended by Florida on Monday after the 19-year-old was accused of sexually assaulting a female student at an on-campus dorm around 3 a.m. Sunday.

On Thursday, Harris’ attorney, Huntley Johnson, adamantly defended him in a statement, saying, “Mr. Harris is not guilt of a crime and did not mistreat this young lady in any way that night.”

He continued: “Misstatements in the media have painted a picture that is inconsistent with the evidence.”

In the graphic statement, Johnson said the accuser had sexual relations with another man an hour before the alleged incident with Harris, and that she had text messaged Florida’s freshman quarterback immediately after he’d rallied the Gators to a 10-9 win over Tennessee in Knoxville.

Harris was ultimately never charged. Under Florida law, Harris’ accuser could be charged if authorities believe she filed a false report.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Johnson told the Orlando Sentinel.

“The university did the right thing.”

The Tornadoes’ head coach Tim ‘Ice’ Harris Jr., Treon’s older brother, tweeted, “Thank god! Love my family. #Harris #F5.”

Later, Harris posted on his Instagram account for the first time since the allegations were made public, saying, “I wanna thank everybody who supported me through this whole situation with the prayers and the love. #TheComeBack #GodIsGreat.”

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October 09, 2014

Esq. Huntley Johnson: Suspended QB Treon Harris "not guilty," paints accuser as the "sexual aggressor"

GAINESVILLE -- Suspended University of Florida quarterback Treon Harris is under investigation for an alleged sexual assualt against a female student early Sunday evening in an on-campus dorm, but his lawyer, Huntley Johnson, adamently defended the former Miami Booker T. Washington standout in a statement Thursday

The complete release...

"We are releasing this statement in an attempt to help clarify the circumstances surrounding the investigation of Treon Harris.

The status of Mr. Harris as a student at the University of Florida is that he was given an interim suspension pending a resolution by the administration of the University. After an appeal of the decision to suspend Mr. Harris, the University decided to allow Mr. Harris to continue his online courses. Because he is not allowed on campus, Mr. Harris is currently not attending those classes which occur in a classroom.

In terms of the criminal case, as most of you are aware, the University released a redacted police report yesterday evening. Currently, Mr. Harris has not been arrested and the criminal investigation is ongoing.

First, we want to dispel the idea that the alleged victim and our client didn’t know each other. Our client and the alleged victim knew each other to the extent that they had each other’s cell phone numbers and had previously spent time together of their own accord for the purpose of socializing together.

We want to dispel the idea and rumors floating around that our client forced his way into the alleged victim’s apartment. Those rumors are patently false. Mr. Harris has never been inside the young lady’s room. We understand that all of the evidence was gathered from our client’s room, which is where the interaction between the two parties took place.

We know that an individual has given testimony to law enforcement that he had sexual relations with the alleged victim less than an hour before the alleged sexual conduct with our client took place. In fact, testimony indicates that the young lady in question was the sexual aggressor in that interaction.

Our investigation has produced no evidence whatsoever that the young lady in question was impaired.

We have provided law enforcement with multiple witnesses that will indicate what the interaction was between the alleged victim and our client before they returned to our client’s room: they were smiling and they were holding hands. They returned to the Springs Residential Complex in a car driven by another female student who was a friend of the alleged victim.

We have provided multiple text messages to the authorities investigating this incident. These texts were exchanged among the alleged victim, Mr. Harris, and the other gentleman mentioned above.

When these text messages are released, they will show that the young woman making these allegations initiated the conduct with Mr. Harris while he was still in the locker room in Knoxville. Shortly after the team plane landed, texting continued between Mr. Harris and the alleged victim.

We believe the evidence will show the alleged victim was in fact in the sexual aggressor with not one, but two young men early last Sunday morning.

Misstatements in the media to date have painted a picture that is inconsistent with the evidence. That said, we have fully cooperated with this investigation. Mr. Harris agreed to a search of his dorm room. Mr. Harris agreed to a search of his phone. Mr. Harris gave a voluntary statement to law enforcement. We have turned over at least six (6) eyewitnesses to the events in questions to law enforcement. We have turned over the text messages to law enforcement. We have suggested to law enforcement multiple locations from which they should secure video surveillance. We have provided law enforcement with information gathered from the Internet that this young woman posted on Sunday, after the alleged misconduct, where she is smiling and happy. There is no indication of any physical or mental trauma.

We have previously indicated that we do not believe that Mr. Harris will be arrested or prosecuted. That is because of our experience and the facts of this case. He is not guilty of a crime and he did not mistreat this young lady in any way that night."

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October 08, 2014

UFPD releases heavily redacted Treon Harris report

GAINESVILLE -- Late Wednesday afternoon, the University of Florida Police Department released an 18-page report on the alleged sexual assault incident at the Springs Residential Complex involving 19-year-old Florida quarterback Treon Harris,  but the heavily redacted document (17 ½ pages blacked-out) offered minimal information on what exactly occurred in the wee hours Sunday morning. 

Harris, who was suspended indefinitely Monday, has not been charged as the investigation continues. 

Janine Sikes, assistant vice president of media relations and public affairs, cited privacy laws as the reasons behind the redacted document. Sikes also outlined the steps for the UF student code of conduct review -- mandated by the Department of Education Title IX federal statute. 

According to Sikes, even if Harris isn’t charged with sexual assault, he could still face student code of conduct sanctions.

Florida coach Will Muschamp, who canceled his regularly scheduled news conference Monday, (reluctantly) addressed reporters Wednesday for the first time since the allegation became public. 

“It’s a very serious charge and there’s been no change in Treon’s status,” he said. “I think our statement Monday was self-explanatory.” 

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Cleat-Gate? Hardly

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GAINESVILLE -- Will Muschamp remained somber discussing Treon Harris’ alleged sexual assault investigation, but Florida’s coach managed to laugh rehashing UF’s other off-the-field incident Monday evening.

Muschamp called the fistfight between sophomore quarterback Skyler Morhinweg and freshman defensive end Gerald Willis III “a tremendous misunderstanding.”

“I tell you what, we’ve made a big one out of this,” he said.

Around 7 p.m. Monday, UFPD was dispatched to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to breakup a scuffle over a pair of missing cleats.

The two players exchanged punches but no charges were filed.

“Nobody stole anything,” Muschamp said. “If anybody stole anything, they wouldn’t be on this football team anymore. I can assure you of that. We had a disagreement, and I wish it would have been handled a little bit differently.”

Before Monday’s practice, Willis -- a New Orleans native -- couldn’t find his cleats on UF’s “air-drying system,” grabbing a pair inscribed with No. 17. The “excitable freshman” thought the shoes belonged to friend and fellow defensive end Jordan Sherit. Instead, the cleats actually belonged to Mornhinweg, who now wears No. 8 after changing from No. 17 last season.

“We’ve got an air thing that takes the wetness out of the cleats,” Muschamp explained.

“Skyler last year was No. 17 and Jordan Sherit’s No. 17 this year. Gerald was coming from class and trying to get ready for practice. Couldn’t find his cleats on the air thing, and he grabbed No. 17 because he’s buddies with Jordan Sherit and he thought that’d be OK. Went out to practice, and there was a disagreement on the cleats and whose cleats they were. Nobody stole anything. If anybody stole anything, they wouldn’t be on this football team anymore. I can assure you of that. We had a disagreement and I wish it would have been handled a little bit differently. Me and brother Mike used to fight all the time. It happened in our family. Maybe our family is really different from everybody else’s. Me and my brother Pat, I never won. Took swings. Never won. That’s the way it goes. Families [fight], it’s what happens.”

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Muschamp addresses Harris' suspension

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GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp said the sexual assault allegation against freshman quarterback Treon Harris is “a serious charge,” adding he agrees with the school’s stance to suspend the former Miami Booker T. Washington standout. 

“I think our statement Monday was self-explanatory,” Muschamp said Wednesday. “This was a serious charge and there’s been no change in Treon’s status.”

Muschamp addressed the media for the first time since Harris was suspended indefinitely Monday morning, saying, "It is what it is. You handle situations in this role and you move forward. You manage your football team and that's what we've done.”

Muschamp issued multiple “no comments” on the pending investigation, refusing to answer any inquires on Harris’ future, distractions or how he addressed the situation to his team.

“I feel very comfortable in how we’ve handled this situation,” he said.  

Harris is under investigation for an alleged sexual assault of a female student early Sunday morning. Hours earlier, the freshman quarterback sparked UF’s 10-9 comeback win over Tennessee with two fourth-quarter scoring drives.

The University Police Department is leading the investigation and said the police report won’t be released Wednesday. According to The Gainesville Sun, authorities want to interview Harris again. 

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October 05, 2014

Gator Grades: Houdini'd

Florida Tennessee Football (4)Adam Lau/AP

KNOXVILLE, TENN. -- Yuck.

Florida threw up all over themselves in Neyland Stadium, only to see Tennessee choke the game away and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

The Gators had little business winning Saturday, but for the 10th straight time they beat the Volunteers, as freshman quarterback Treon Harris sparked the 10-9 escape.

Harris was the “hero,” but fellow freshman Jalen Tabor was the true shining star with his momentum-shifting strip sack.

Ugly doesn’t do justice describing the game, and yet Florida rallied on the road, sits at 3-1 (2-1 SEC) and faces a less-than-daunting schedule moving forward.

College football is wacky.

OFFENSE - D+

Florida totaled just 232 yards, as quarterback Jeff Driskel was dreadful and his teammates did him little favors.

The Gators were scoreless through three quarters and looked to threaten the nation’s longest non-shutout streak.

UF’s third-year starter tossed three picks and constantly locked onto his initial target, but Florida’s wideouts dropped at least five passes and the offensive line had its worst game of the season.

Florida’s offense is a radioactive mess. Matt Jones ran hard (114 yards on 23 carries), but every play is a constant crawl and grind for the Gators. 

Jones’ 32 yard run (setting up the game-winning field goal) was UF’s most explosive play -- by 16 yards. 

Harris provided a spark, but field position and the team’s emotional boost largely dictated his success. 

DEFENSE - A

The Gators’ defense was dominant Saturday (3.42 yards per play), bottling up a Vols’ unit with plenty of playmakers. It was a spectacular response after getting shredded against Kentucky and Alabama.

The secondary changes worked, especially inserting Tabor into the starting lineup. Florida’s pass rush finally got going (six sacks).

UF’s red zone defense was ridiculous, suffocating the Vols for minus-six yards and an interception on four trips. UT managed just three field goals, and its lack of execution close to the end zone doomed its upset bid.

In all, Florida forced two turnovers and held the Vols to just five third down conversions (5-of-17).

SPECIAL TEAMS - B

Kyle Christy punted fine early, but he had two really poor kicks that doomed his overall average (35.3 yards on eight punts).

Austin Hardin’s 49-yard game-winning field goal was as impressive as it was shocking.

Andre Debose’s 45-yard punt return touchdown was correctly negated (block in the back), and otherwise the sixth-year senior had a quiet afternoon.

OVERALL - B-

The Gators stunned a loud and checkered Neyland Stadium, exiting Tennessee with plenty of problems but some promise too.

Florida -- right now -- is not a good football team, but a road win -- over a rival for the 10th straight time -- is positive building block for the rest of the season.

Not let's see what happens. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 04, 2014

GameDay Thread: Florida at Tennessee

Unnamed

KNOXVILLE, TN. -- It's fork in the road time, folks. 

Either Will Muschamp & Co. win, (briefly) calming a seething fan base and reentering the SEC Eastern Division race. ... Or, it's the beginning of the end. 

The Gators have topped the Volunteers nine straight times, but UT is actually a 2.5-point favorite today. 

In the understatement of the week: Muschamp needs this win. Like, really, really badly. 

Three keys: early momentum (the stadium is rocking and Neyland is checkered out), penalties and third down. 

If the Gators can control the line of scrimmage and run the ball, they win. If they can't do that, then it's going to be a long afternoon in sunny Tennessee.

********** UT/UF STORYLINES **********

Gators, Muschamp need must-win to quell fan base

Florida unfazed by underdog status

Gators confident despite defensive woes

Jeff Driskel ready to face UT amid avalanche of criticism 

Changes possible in the secondary

Driskel remains No. 1 option at quarterback, offense "stay the course"

Injuries sideline key defenders

Muschamp not happy with defensive line play

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

 

 

October 01, 2014

Gators not lacking for confidence

 

GAINESVILLE -- Florida was steel-clubbed at No. 2 Alabama less than two weeks ago, but one surely wouldn't know it the way UF's players are talking in advance of this Saturday's division matchup at Tennessee (noon, SEC Network). 

Florida yielded 42 points and a school-record 645 yards to the Crimson Tide, losing for the eighth time in its last 10 games dating back to last season. 

That's all in the rear-view mirror. 

On Tuesday, senior safety Jabari Gorman called UF's defense "great" several times during a short interview with reporters. 

When prodded for clarity on exactly Florida's "greatness" on a unit ranked No. 113 in the country, Gorman said, "When we go over film you can see the potential. You can see the little things, and all it is about is the little things. If we can take care of the little things we can be a great defense.” 

Later, junior tailback Matt Jones emphatically stated Florida "should have beaten [the Tide]"

"I mean, we had 'em," Jones said.  "We should have executed better. And like I said, on third down we didn't convert as we should. They were a very beatable team, and they just pulled away from us.”

Then, on Wednesday, sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis fired a shot a UT tailback Jalen Hurd. 

The Vols' five-star freshman totaled 216 rushing yards against No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 13 Georgia, but Davis said Florida's defense is ready to truly introduce Hurd to the Southeastern Conference.

"I don't think he can hang with us. He's a good athlete but we've got a whole defense coming for him," Davis said. 

"Georgia was a big test for him, that's a physical team, but I feel like we have more to offer for him. We're going to come down and we're going to talk to him a little bit with the pads. We're not going to talk with our mouth, we're just going to hit him and get back lined up. ...  We have to let him know what it is and we have to welcome him to the SEC."

Trash-talk -- even the most innocent natured -- is always fun. On the surface, the Gators are a confident team. Whether they're simply breathing hot air doesn't really matter, they know Saturday is a must-win anyways.

"Every game is a must-win," sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III said. 

Added coach Will Muschamp: "They're all must-wins. Whe has it ever changed? I mean really."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 30, 2014

The Decider

GAINESVILLE -- Will Muschamp has long maintained he has never called an offensive play as Florida’s head coach.

However, influencing (or making) other offensive decisions remain the head coach’s call, according to coordinator Kurt Roper.

Roper said he and Muschamp have “always been on the same page” early in their first year together. But Florida's offensive coordinator also acknowledged Muschamp ultimately holds the decision-making power on personnel changes and in-game strategy.

As criticism swirls around quarterback Jeff Driskel’s job security, Roper said the staff has “100 percent confidence in Jeff” and that freshman Treon Harris simply isn’t ready to compete for the No. 1 spot.

But, it’s not even his call.

“Will is the one that will have that conversation,” said Roper on benching Driskel. “It's plain and simple his decision. But again, we have 100 percent confidence in Jeff right now and he's the guy we feel like we're going to win football games with."

Specifically asked about the play-calling late in the first half at Alabama (UF trailed 21-14 with 1:44 remaining and simply ran out the clock), Roper again stated he and Muschamp “work great together."

“And I was in 100 percent agreement with [Muschamp’s call to run-out the clock]. In a 100,000 seat stadium and it wasn’t like we were being productive on offense at that point that you got a chance to go in one score down to tie the game. And so, you know, I’m one of those guys that’s maybe a little bit more old school that way offensively, cut my teeth a little bit in the era where, ‘Hey, that’s just smart football.’ You know what I mean? Now if you’re being productive and you’ve got 30 points at halftime and those things, maybe you’re more aggressive. But based on what was happening offensively, that was just a smart decision that I agree with 100 percent and always will."

Will Muschamp. The decider. 

THIS & THAT

Florida (2-1, 0-1 SEC) opened as a one-point favorite over Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) before the line quickly shifted in UT’s favor. UF is now a one-point underdog. ... Florida 2-2 following an idle date under Muschamp, including a 31-17 victory over Tennessee last season. … CBS announced it will utilize its six-day option for its double-header (noon and 3:30 p.m.) slate on Oct. 11. The network will chose two games on a blockbuster weekend that includes No. 15 LSU at Florida.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 29, 2014

The Whole Nine Scars: Florida's (nearly) decade of dominance over division-rival Tennessee

GAINESVILLE -- Florida has won nine straight against Tennessee, last losing in controversial fashion in 2004 -- formally known as the Dallas Baker unsportsmanlike conduct game -- at Neyland Stadium.

Ron Zook piloted the Gators then, while the Volunteers are now on their fourth different head coach.

It’s been that long.

In recent years, Florida has taken advantage of the Vols’ demise, winning seven straight by at least double-digits.

But under second-year coach Butch Jones, UT is considered a promising program on the rebound and is actually a one-point favorite at home on Saturday (noon, SEC Network).

Can the Vols get a statement win -- even against a floundering Gators team -- this weekend?

We’ll see.

First, here’s a look at Florida’s series dominance over the last decade. 

2013: 31-17 – Jeff Driskel broke his leg on a pick-six, but backup quarterback Tyler Murphy rallied UF with two scores in a game featuring plenty of gaffes and follies.

2012: 37-20 – The Gators rushed for 336 yards and scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to shock the Vols -- ranked for the first time in the series since ’07.

2011: 33-23 – Shifty all-purpose tailback Chris Rainy tallied 233 total yards, including an 83-yard touchdown reception. Rainey also blocked a punt, as the Gators held on late after jumping out to a 30-6 lead.

2010: 31-17 – Florida dominated the line of scrimmage, holding Tennessee to just 29 yards rushing on 23 attempts (1.3 yards per carry), while tallying three touchdowns and 150 yards on the ground.

2009: 23-13 – Lane Kiffin did his best to muck up an ugly contest, but the Gators slowly wore down the Vols, running for 208 yards and two scores in a lackluster game. 

2008: 30-6 – The eventual national champions jumped out to a 27-0 lead and held Arian Foster & Co. to its lowest point total during the nine-game losing streak.

2007: 59-20 – Heisman Trophy quarterback Tim Tebow scored four touchdowns, as Florida rattled off the final 31 points in a game separated by just a single score midway through the third quarter.

2006: 21-20 – Tebow -- then a freshman -- plunged for two yards on a 4th-and-1 to secure a win after Florida rallied from a 10-point deficit. Tebow ran for four first downs on seven attempts.

2005: 16-7 – The Gators took advantage of three special teams miscues, holding the Vols scoreless after halftime in Urban Meyer’s SEC debut. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 27, 2014

Boom goes the dynamite? Not so fast

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GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Will Muschamp isn’t going anywhere.

Yet.

Despite a venomous and vociferous mob calling for Muschamp’s firing, the embattled head coach will survive the rest of the year and be evaluated at season’s end, according to UF athletic director Jeremy Foley.

Foley told Mike Bianchi at The Orlando Sentinel that Muschamp -- in his fourth season with the Gators -- will have the rest of the regular season to prove his mettle and turnaround a dwindling program.

"You never judge or evaluate a program based on one game or one season," Foley told the Sentinel.

"That's just not how we do things here. We're going to evaluate where we're headed – where the players are, how is recruiting going, what type of staff we have — are we a better (program)? That's going to be plain for all of us to see, but it's also going to be played out over the course of 11 games and we'll see where we are when we get to the end of the season."

Foley fired Ron Zook -- just 23-14 at Florida – mid-season in 2004, but Muschamp won’t endure a similar fate.

The Gators are fresh off a record-setting, three touchdown loss to No. 3 Alabama, leaving Muschamp with a career 24-17 mark as the head coach at UF.

While Muschamp’s entire body of work will be evaluated at end of the year, he won’t see a fifth autumn in Gainesville unless the Gators start winning some conference games.

Florida is just 1-6 in its last seven SEC contests, with marquee showdowns with Tennessee (Oct. 4), No. 17 LSU (Oct. 11), Missouri (Oct. 18), No. 12 Georgia (Nov. 1) and No. 13 South Carolina (Nov. 15) all remaining on its slate.

“The meat of our schedule is coming up,” Muschamp said. “We need to stay the course right now. Everything is still out there in front of us.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 21, 2014

Gator Grades: Welp...

Florida Alabama FootballJeff Driskel - Bryan Anderson/AP

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- So needing triple-overtime to beat Kentucky in The Swamp was a bad omen after all. 

No. 3 Alabama steam-rolled Florida, self-destructing just enough to keep the game from being a total laugher on the scoreboard. 

The Gators were outgained by 445 yards. That is not a typo. Florida was straight worked on Saturday afternoon. 

UF yielded the most yards in school-history (645), the most points in the Will Muschamp Era (42), the second-most passing yards in school history (449) and a 200-yard wideout. 

Are grades really necessary? 

OFFENSE - F

Florida couldn’t run. Florida couldn’t pass, but oddly Florida actually blocked ok. 

In all though, the offense looked a lot like last year’s toothless attack. The Gators gained just 200 yards, as quarterback Jeff Driskel was dreadful. Possibly an understatement. 

Florida’s veteran quarterback was 9-of-28 for 93 yards with three turnovers (2 picks) and two scores (1 rushing). Florida was terrible on third down (just 2-of-13) and ran just six plays in the third quarter. 

There was no Treon Harris or Brandon Powell sightings. Not exactly sure why not. 

DEFENSE - F

Many Florida historians thought UF’s shellacking in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl (Nebraska gained 629 yards in a 62-24 win) was an unbreakable record. 

Guess not. 

Lane Kiffin out-coached Muschamp’s prized possession, dialing up explosive play after explosive play. Senior quarterback Blake Sims was excellent, slicing up Florida’s woeful secondary (also: Amari Cooper really helps). Alabama’s rushing attack went off after halftime as UF’s defense got gassed. 

The Gators missed at least two dozen tackles, practically negating four forced turnovers.  

SPECIAL TEAMS - B+

Punter Kyle Christy was Florida’s best player on the field Saturday, averaging 52.7 yards on seven punts. 

He pinned the Tide inside the 20-yard line three times. He was excellent. 

Florida’s coverage units were solid, but Andre Debose was unable to do anything on returns. 

OVERALL - F

Alabama miscues (four turnovers, 11 penalties and poor special teams play) allowed Florida to hang around long after the Gators shouldve been buried ... and it still didn’t matter. UF was fortunate to not lose by six touchdowns. With plenty of issues to sort out, Florida's first idle date falls at the perfect time. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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