January 04, 2017

UF linebacker Alex Anzalone thanks Gator Nation, declares for NFL Draft

Redshirt junior linebacker Alex Anzalone announced in a personal letter on UF's athletic website, FloridaGators.com, that he is forgoing his final year of eligibility and declaring for the 2017 NFL Draft.

"Looking back on my journey, I never would have imagined how much this school would impact me," Anzalone wrote. "The relationships I have built with my teammates, friends, coaches and support staff will not only last a lifetime, but truly show how special this university is.

"We've had our ups and downs these past four years, but the commitment and love that so many people have for this program is what makes the University of Florida great.

"I am beyond thankful for being a Gator."

Anzalone is coming off his best season at Florida, finishing third on the team with 53 tackles and recording three sacks and six quarterback hurries along the way. He missed the final five games after injuring his arm against Arkansas.

But before his breakout year this season, Anzalone's career was filled with injuries and limited opportunities early on. After playing mostly on special teams during his first two seasons, the 6-3, 241-pound linebacker from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, started and played in just the Gators' first two games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury that led to a medical redshirt. 

WalterFootball.com ranks Anzalone as the 10th-best inside linebacker prospect in the draft and projects him to be selected between the third and fifth rounds.

With Anzalone's departure, along with the departure of seniors Jarrad Davis and Daniel McMillian, the Gators will see a youth movement at the linebacker position next season. Highlighting the group is true freshmen David Reese and Vosean Joseph as well as redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson. The trio played a pivotal role on the defense late in the season following Davis' and Anzalone's injuries. True freshmen Jeremiah Moon and Rayshad Jackson and walk-on Christian Garcia could also see extensive playing time next season.

Anzalone is the third UF player this year to announce he's leaving school early in favor of the NFL Draft, joining left tackle David Sharpe and cornerback Quincy Wilson. The deadline for a non-senior to declare for the NFL Draft is Jan. 16.

January 03, 2017

Center Cam Dillard transferring from Florida

Offensive lineman Cam Dillard announced via his Twitter account Tuesday night that he plans to transfer from the University of Florida for his final season of collegiate eligibility.

Dillard, who just finished his redshirt junior season, will be immediately eligible to compete as a graduate transfer.

"This school has provided me with a great education and even better friends that I will cherish for the rest of my life," Dillard wrote. "It has been a great ride here with great people surrounding me. I am excited to see what God has in store for my family and I." 

Dillard, a 6-4, 313-pound lineman, played in 25 games during the last three years for the Gators, 19 of which were starts. He started the first eight games this year at center for UF before missing the final five games with a left knee injury.

The Canton, Michigan, native is the second offensive lineman to leave the team following the season. Starting left tackle David Sharpe announced earlier Tuesday that he was going to forgo his senior season in favor of the NFL Draft.

Dillard is also the second UF player to transfer away from the team this season. The other is running back Jordan Cronkrite, a former standout at Westminster Christian.

 

UF cornerback Quincy Wilson going pro

For three seasons, UF cornerback Quincy Wilson has played in the shadow of his teammates.

First it was Vernon Hargreaves, a year ahead of him and now playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being selected in the first round of last year's draft.

Then it was Jalen Tabor, his classmate who he forged a friendship with since they enrolled together.

Still, Wilson showcased his ability to be a lockdown corner during his three years as a Gator. Now, he's ready to prove he can do it in the NFL.

Wilson, a former Fort Lauderdale University School standout, told Sports Illustrated that he will forego his senior season in favor of the 2017 NFL Draft where he has the potential to be a first-round selection.

“I think Florida did the best job they could to prepare me for this moment,” Wilson said in an interview with Sports Illustrated. “I came to play with the best defensive backs and become a great defensive back. They’ve done everything they could to help build me into the football player I am today.”

Wilson wrapped up his three-year career with the Gators with 84 tackles, six interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and 17 defended passes in 39 career games.

He showed off his consistency and athleticism in his junior -- and now, final -- year, grabbing three interceptions and finishing second on the team with nine total defended passes.

Highlighting his performance this year are an acrobatic, one-handed interception on the sideline against Kentucky and his pick-six against Missouri.

“He’s always been good," Tabor said about Wilson before Florida's 30-3 win in the Outback Bowl. "We always been fighting. I feel like he always been good and we always know what we can do."

Scouts and draft analysts have taken notice of the 6-1, 213-pound corner who has the size and speed necessary to play at the pro level.

WalterFootball.com ranks Wilson as the second-best cornerback behind Alabama's Marlon Humphrey and cites Wilson's combination of speed, size and athleticism. ESPN analyst Todd McShay has Wilson as the 25th best player on his draft board

Wilson is the second UF player to announce he is foregoing his senior year for the NFL Draft. Left tackle David Sharpe made the same decision earlier Tuesday.

Gators offensive lineman David Sharpe declares for NFL Draft; corner Duke Dawson returning for senior season

Two of Florida football's draft-eligible juniors have made their decisions.

Starting left tackle David Sharpe announced Tuesday afternoon that he will forego his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft.

Cornerback Duke Dawson, who has played mostly in nickel packages this season, announced that he will return to UF for his senior season.

Sharpe started all 13 games this at left tackle for the Gators this year and has played in 33 games overall throughout his three-year career (27 starts). The 6-6, 357-pound lineman is ranked as the seventh-best offensive tackle by WalterFootball.com, which projects Sharpe as a third-to-fourth round pick. 

Even with Sharpe's departure, Florida still has six offensive linemen with starting playing experience. Sophomore Martez Ivey, who was a tackle in high school and has played guard for most of his UF career, can slide over and assume the left tackle spot. Freshman All-SEC tackle Jawaan Taylor will likely hold onto the starting right tackle spot. Redshirt junior center Cam Dillard, sophomore guard/tackle Fred Johnson, sophomore guard/center Tyler Jordan and redshirt freshman center T.J. McCoy are all expected to be with the team next season. 

"I just want to thank the University of Florida for everything they've done for me and 3 years of life changing experiences," Sharpe wrote on his Twitter account. "... I Appreciate all the support throughout the years and I'll always love Gator Nation."

As for Dawson, the former four-star recruit from Cross City, Florida, played in 12 games this year with seven starts at slot corner, the position formerly held down by cornerback Brian Poole, who is now playing for the Atlanta Falcons and had a solid rookie season despite going undrafted. Dawson finished the year with 24 total tackles (3.5 for loss), an interception returned for a touchdown and a team-best seven pass breakups.

"Boy boy boy after sitting with my parents and coaches this was one of the toughest decisions in my life at this point," Dawson wrote, "after having a great season and many more to come I will be returning for my senior season!!!"

Dawson's return provides Florida with another player in a secondary that is expected to lose a bevy of talent. Redshirt senior safety Marcus Maye's collegiate career is over, and junior corners Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson are expected to turn pro. Safeties Marcell Harris and Nick Washington -- both fourth-year juniors -- have the option to turn pro as well.

Underclassmen have until Jan. 16 to declare for the NFL Draft.

December 22, 2016

UF facility summary provides insight to standalone football complex

Football Complex

- Rendering courtesy of UF Athletic Association

The University of Florida released new information surrounding its proposed standalone football complex.

A 56-page facility summary finalized on Monday paints a general picture of the soon-to-be three-story structure. Its estimated budget is $60 million and is expected to be completed by June 2019.

According to the facility summary, the distance between the football team’s current facilities and the practice fields is “not ideal.”

The football team’s current offices are housed in the Heavener Complex attached to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and the weight room is in the stadium’s south end zone. Following the completion of the complex, the 25,000-square-foot weight room in the football stadium will be renovated and become a weight room for all UF athletes.

“The proposed new facility would be co-located with the practice fields solving the current issues with travel time and safety concerns with athletes crossing the road fully dressed for practice etc.,” the project plan reads. “Expansion of the existing space was looked at but was not really optimal for the adjacencies needed internally to the facility itself, not to mention the needed colocation to the practice fields.”

As previously reported, the 130,000-square-foot standalone football complex will be located on the north end of James G. Pressly Stadium, which is home to UF’s soccer and track and field programs and is immediately west of the football team’s practice fields. It will overtake the grass area where the track team’s throwing events took place.

Amenities inside the facility will include an entry lobby, a locker room with a players lounge, a hydrotherapy room with a “spa-like feel,” a recruiting room and meeting rooms, among others.

Adjacent to the football complex will be an athletes-only dining hall, large enough for all about 450 athletes, according to the project.

The standalone football complex is part of the UF Athletic Association’s $100 million facility master plan, which also includes renovations to the baseball and softball complexes.

The plan was approved in September by the UAA under former athletics director Jeremy Foley.

At the time of the announcement, Foley said the goal was to ensure funding went to facilities and items that would benefit the athletic program.

“We’ll build something that the football team can really use and be really good,” Foley said. “That’s kind of what we do.”

It’s the second big facility upgrade for the football team in the last as many years. In 2015, UF unveiled its $17 million indoor football practice facility.

“We’re getting a lot of really good things going on as far as commitment to the facilities,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “The things we need to do … that’s for the sustainability of the University of Florida football program and its brand. We’ve been behind, but we’re catching up. I know that’s something that is making a lot of people nervous around the country, and that’s a good thing.”

December 21, 2016

Gators hoops dominates in home opener against Arkansas-Little Rock

With his players huddled around him minutes before the tipoff that would usher in the newly renovated Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Florida men's basketball coach Mike White gave his team a quick message.

"Let's have fun. Let's battle. Let's get a little better," the coach said.

By the look at their performance against Arkansas-Little Rock, it seems the Gators took the speech to heart.

Behind five players with double-digit scoring, a first career double-double from senior point guard Kasey Hill and newfound success from three-point range, the Gators defeated the Trojans 94-71 on Wednesday in front of an announced crowd of 10,655.

It was a long road leading up to Wednesday's home debut.

The Gators (9-3) spent 11 games on the road to start the season. They traveled nearly 2,600 miles, spanning the state of Florida and making a trip to New York City in the middle.

"It's been crazy, but it definitely brought us together," Hill said in a post-game interview on the SEC Network. "... It helped us a lot. Playing on the road is tough, and we finally got a chance to play here in front of our fans."

On Wednesday, there was no traveling. For the first time since March 1, the Florida Gators men's basketball team played at home. For the first time this season, they had the Rowdy Reptile student section in their corner.

And in return, they put out their best offensive performance of the season right before beginning Southeastern Conference play.

Florida shot 59.6 percent from the field (34 for 57) and made a season-high 16 three-pointers, two shy of the school record set back in 1996.

Junior forward Devin Robinson paced Florida with a career-high 21 points and tacked on seven rebounds. Sophomore shooting guard KeVaughn Allen added 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting (3-of-5 from three-point range) while also recording five rebounds and three assists. Graduate transfer guard Canyon Barry (15 points), sophomore center Kevarrius Hayes (12 points, eight rebounds),and Hill (11 points, 11 assists) also ended the game with double-digit points. 

Florida went into halftime with a 56-27 lead, making 14 of its final 18 shots before the break. The team made 22 of its 32 shots from the field, a 68.8-percent shooting efficiency that stands as the Gators' best first-half performance of the year. Allen, Robinson and Hill combined to score 40 points on 15-of-19 shooting, including an 8-of-11 mark from three-point range. 

UF extended its lead to as much as 35 midway into the second half before Arkansas-Little Rock (9-4) began to close the gap. The Trojans outscored Florida 29-17 in the final 13 minutes of the game. Lis Shoshi led Arkansas-Little Rock with 19 points and was one of three UALR players with at least 10 points.

"When you make shots, you can't change your identity," White said in a post-game interview on the SEC Network. "You can't get out of a stance and feel better about yourself. It wasn't our best defensive performance and somehow, you have to find your best offensive performance and your best defensive performance and find that for 30 [minutes] and then find it for 35 and at some point we've got to do it for 40."

Florida will have the rest of the week off before opening SEC play on the road against Arkansas on Dec. 29. After that, the Gators will play three of its next four games at home.

December 16, 2016

If he leaves for the NFL Draft, Jalen Tabor wants to do it 'the right way'

UF's All-American cornerback Jalen Tabor hasn't decided if he's going to leave school a year early and declare for the NFL Draft or return for his senior season.

However, the junior on Friday did say he has a plan in place.

"Whichever way it goes," Tabor said, "I'm going to do it the right way."

What is the right way?

To Tabor, its realizing that his success to this point isn't just an individual accomplishment. It took other people to make his journey possible.

"Some guys just they’re so ready to leave school ... and forget everything everybody has done for you and helped you with at the school. I don’t want to do that," Tabor said. "If I decide to come out then I would give my thanks to everybody, my tutors, my teachers, my advisers, my coaches, the whole Gator Nation because sometimes people forget when you were here people were helping you. You weren’t just doing it yourself.” 

Tabor, tabbed a second-team All-American by four outlets (Football Writers Association of America, American Football Coaches Association, CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated), is projected to be a first-round draft pick by most outlets should he make the decision to go pro. Todd McShay has the 6-0, 199-pound junior going to the Philadelphia Eagles with the 18th pick.

In three seasons with the Gators, Tabor has racked up nine interceptions and 27 pass breakups, the latter of which ranks ninth in UF's all-time record book.

He said he will visit with family over Christmas break and discuss the options with them before making a final decision.

Tabor said there is a possibility that he'll return to UF next year.

"If it's better for me," Tabor said. 

December 14, 2016

UF announces football season ticket price hike

Season tickets for Florida football games just got a bit pricier.

The UF University Athletic Association on Wednesday approved a proposal to increase season-ticket prices to $380 for the 2017 season, a $50 increase. Season-ticket holders will also have to make a donation between $150 and $2,550, the same rate as before. Student season-ticket prices will remain at $140 for the seven-game home slate, which averages out to $20 per game.

According to a press release sent out by the school, Florida's season-ticket prices rank as the seventh-highest in the Southeastern Conference. The breakdown for the conference is as follows:

Texas A&M - $490 + Donation ($25 - $2,500)

Auburn - $475 + Donation ($140 - $3,000)

Alabama - $435 + Donation ($50 - $2,200)

LSU - $425 + Donation ($210 - $1,025)

Tennessee - $420/$441 + Donation ($100 - $2,479)

Ole Miss - $400 + Donation ($50 - $1,800)

Florida - $380 + Donation ($150 - $2,550)

Missouri - $379 + Donation ($50 - $500)

South Carolina - $365 + Donation ($50 - $395)

Mississippi State - $340 + Donation ($75 - $2,500)

Georgia - $255 + Donation ($250 - $2,250)

Arkansas - $250/$300/$360 + Donation ($50 - $10,000)

Vanderbilt - $250 + Donation ($50 - $1,300)

Kentucky - $210/$280/$320 + Donation ($70 - $2,500)

On paper, Florida's 2017 home schedule looks to be one of the best in recent history. Included in the seven home games are matchups against Tennessee (Sept. 16), LSU (Oct. 7), Texas A&M (Oct. 14) and Florida State (Nov. 25). 

In two years under UF coach Jim McElwain, the Gators are 11-1 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the lone loss being a 27-2 defeat at the hands of Florida State on Nov. 28, 2015.

December 13, 2016

Jim McElwain tidbits from Tuesday's press conference

The highlight of Tuesday's press conference with Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain centered around his confirmation that defensive coordinator Geoff Collins is going to become the next head coach at Temple University. 

But more topics were discussed as the No. 20 Gators prepare to begin practices ahead of their Jan. 2 matchup with No. 21 Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Here are some highlights:

More Injuries

 

Florida will be limping into its bowl practices, which start this Thursday, and might be limping into the bowl game itself in three weeks.

McElwain announced that seven players will be out at least for the start of practices: Linebackers Jarrad Davis (ankle) and David Reese (wrist), safety Nick Washington (ankle), cornerback Duke Dawson, defensive linemen Bryan Cox and Antonneous Clayton, and offensive lineman Martez Ivey. That list doesn't include redshirt junior linebacker Alex Anzalone and redshirt senior safety Marcus Maye, both of whom had surgery during the season.

"We'll step some guys in there and start working some of those pieces there as we get going for the bowl game," McElwain said, adding he'll know more about their status for the bowl game on Monday.

The biggest and most noticeable deficiency is at linebacker, where three of UF's four most experienced players (Davis, Anzalone, Reese) could be out. If that's the case, McElwain will rely on senior Daniel McMillian along with redshirt freshmen Kylan Johnson and Rayshard Jackson to handle most of the linebacker responsibilities in the bowl game. 

More clarity into his decision to start Appleby

McElwain said Thursday in a sitdown with reporters in Tampa that he plans to start Austin Appleby in the Outback Bowl in lieu of burning a freshman quarterback's redshirt. The head coach provided a bit more insight regarding his decision on Tuesday.

"Austin’s done a good job since he’s started playing," McElwain said. "Obviously there are some throws that he’d like back but at the same time this late in the year he deserves it. You know what, I’m excited for him to go play in this game, another opportunity for him to go help this team win.”

McElwain also reaffirmed that Luke Del Rio will be the backup on Jan. 2 so long as he is healthy and added that there will be an open competition for the quarterback position once spring practices begin.

"Hopefully we can get him healthy and he can come back and get ready to go,” McElwain said.

More in-state recruiting battles

The state of Florida became much tougher to recruit with a trio of head coaching hires in the state of Florida. Butch Davis was hired at FIU a month ago and Charlie Strong and Lane Kiffin agreed to respectively be the head coaches at South Florida and Florida Atlantic this week.

Add in Mark Richt (Miami), Jimbo Fisher (Florida State), Scott Frost (UCF) and McElwain (UF), and it will be hard to see top recruits leaving the state of Florida.

"That's pretty cool," McElwain said. "it is. Guys that deserve jobs. I know Butch was trying to get back in. I'm excited for him down there, and obviously his understanding of recruiting especially South Florida, I think that's really good. Lane's got a lot of experience down here and I talked to Charlie already. I can't tell you, this is one of the best guys in the business and I'm really excited for Charlie and what he can bring for them." 

Report: Gators DC Geoff Collins to become head coach at Temple

It looks like Florida is losing its defensive coordinator.

As first reported by ESPN's Brett McMurphy on Tuesday morning, UF defensive coordinator Geoff Collins is going to become the next head coach at Temple University.

Collins has coached the Gators to top-10 defenses each of the last two years. Heading into the Jan. 2 Outback Bowl, UF ranks sixth nationally in total defense, giving up an average of 298.3 yards. Last year, the Gators boasted the eighth-best defense (310.2 yards).

However, that streak of success that would have been difficult to replicate next season. As many as eight of UF's defensive starters this year could leave for the NFL Draft this year: seniors Jarrad Davis, Marcus Maye, Joey Ivie and Bryan Cox Jr; redshirt juniors Alex Anzalone and Caleb Brantley; and juniors Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson.

Collins will replace Mark Rhule at Temple. Rhule left last week to become the head coach at Baylor. Collins is the second former UF coordinator to be named the head coach at Temple since 2010. Former UF offensive coordinator Steve Addazio served as the Owls' head coach from 2011-2012 following a six-year stint with the Gators.

UF coach Jim McElwain told reporters in Tampa last week that Collins is 'a heck of a coach' and should be considered for head coaching jobs.

“They're going to get a guy that motivates players, a guy that really understands the game on both sides of the ball not just the defensive side," McElwain said of Collins. "He’s done a great job of studying the offensive side and the things that it takes there. [He’s] a relentless, competitive recruiter and a guy that’s now been around at some places to see how he can establish his own kind of way of doing things."

The second-year UF head coach added that he would never stand in the way of one of his coaches when it came to them potentially receiving an opportunity to lead their own team.

"Somebody gave me an opportunity to have it and I’ll do anything to I can to help them," McElwain said. "I think he’ll be a great fit at a lot of schools.”

Prior to his two-year tenure at UF, Collins spent four years at Mississippi State, the final two of which he was the team's standalone defensive coordinator. The 45-year-old also has stops at FIU, UCF and Alabama in his more than 20 years of coaching.

December 11, 2016

UF women's basketball team's leading scorer quits following one-half suspension

The No. 23 University of Florida women's basketball team lost one of its top players heading into its road game Sunday against North Carolina A&T.

Sophomore guard Eleanna Christinaki -- a native of Athens, Greece and one of Florida's most versatile players on its roster -- quit the team following a half-game suspension, a UF University Athletic Association spokesperson confirmed to the Miami Herald. 

"It's a violation of team culture," UAA spokeswoman Kathy Cafazzo said in a text message. "She did not like the 'punishment' (sitting out the first half of today's game [against North Carolina A&T]) and quit."

The decision is one that has the potential to stymie an already short UF bench. Heading into Sunday's game, Christinaki paced the Gators with a team-best 17.6 points per game, had made a team-best 12 three-pointers and was second on the team with 27 assists. Christinaki scored at least 20 points in four of nine games this season.

As a freshman, Christinaki played in all 31 games (28 starts) and averaged 10.4 points per game on a 42.9-percent shooting efficiency en route to SEC All-Freshman Team honors. She has also been a member of the Greece Senior National Team since 2012.

Florida is down to just nine active players on its roster, three of whom are freshmen.

December 08, 2016

Jordan Cronkrite transferring from UF

Sophomore running back Jordan Cronkrite will not be playing for the University of Florida next season.

The Miami native and former standout at Westminster Christian receive a release from his scholarship and will transfer from UF, the school announced on its website Thursday morning.

"We wish Jordan nothing but the best and will do everything we can to support and assist him and help him get what he wants,'' second-year UF head coach Jim McElwain said in a release.

Before the season, Cronkrite looked to have a valued role a four-person Florida’s backfield.

But an injury in the last week of training camp and the emergence of sophomore Jordan Scarlett and true freshman Lamical Perine limited his touches. Cronkrite finished the season with just 145 yards on 31 carries with a touchdown and 20 catches for another 120 yards and a score.

However, in the last five games, the former four-star recruit has been virtually a non-factor in Florida’s plans.

He’s carried the ball just five times for 33 yards and has eight catches for 38 yards

He didn’t travel with the team to Jacksonville for UF’s game against Georgia.

“He’s right now kind of trying to figure out whether he wants to play or not,” McElwain said after the game, a 24-10 win. “Our door’s always open for him until he finds his way in what he wants to do we’re here to support him.”

Cronkrite’s transfer destination is unknown at this point. Should he transfer to another Football Bowl Subdivision school, Cronkrite will have to sit out next season as part of the NCAA transfer rules. He will have two years of eligibility remaining after that point.

December 06, 2016

No. 21 Gators hoops falls to No. 5 Duke, 84-74, in Madison Square Garden

UF forward Justin Leon took the pass from Kasey Hill and swished a three-pointer just in front of his bench before Mike White called a timeout.

With 2:28 left to play and the No. 21 Gators trailing fifth-ranked Duke by just seven points, White gave his team one last bit of advice as Florida tried to spark a late comeback in Madison Square Garden.

It didn’t happen.

On the next possession, Blue Devils freshman Jayson Tatum stole the ball from a driving KeVaughn Allen and passed it to Luke Kennard, who drive the length of the court for an easy layup. Duke went on to outscore Florida 6-4 down the stretch to take a 84-74 win on Tuesday.

“They’re very good,” White said in a halftime interview with ESPN. “We’re not as good.”

The stats showed as much.

Duke (9-1) shot 53.3 percent from the field and had three players score at least 20 points in the win, with Kennard leading the way with 29 on an efficient 11-of-16 shooting clip. Amile Jefferson had a double-double for the Blue Devils, dropping 24 points and grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds.

Allen led Florida (7-2) with 21 points and went 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. As a whole, Florida made 43.3 percent of its baskets.

The teams spent the first 15 minutes trading baskets and the lead. Then, with 4:35 left in the first half, Jefferson laid down a dunk off a pass from Kennard to give the Blue Devils a 29-28 advantage.

Duke then went on a 14-4 run to close out the half with a 41-31 lead. Duke’s lead was never less than six from that point on.

With the loss, White now drops to 1-7 against ranked teams during his time at UF -- including an 0-2 record this season.

Florida travels to Tallahassee on Sunday to play Florida State. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.

Jalen Tabor is first-team All-SEC; 5 Gators land on second team

The Florida Gators had six players land on the coaches All-Southeastern Conference teams, released by the conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Headlining the group is junior cornerback Jalen Tabor, the lone UF representative on the All-SEC first team.

Tabor finished the year with 32 tackles, a team-high four interceptions (one returned for touchdown) and a team-high-tying nine defended passes. This is Tabor's second first-team All-SEC recognition.

The Gators also had five players with second-team recognition. They are defensive lineman Caleb Brantley, linebacker Jarrad Davis, punter Johnny Townsend, offensive lineman Martez Ivey and cornerback Quincy Wilson.

Brantley was a force on the interior of the defensive line. The redshirt junior posted a team-high-tying 8.5 tackles for loss in addition to 28 total tackles. His highlight play on the year was a forced fumble on the goal line during UF's 16-10 win against LSU that clinched the Gators' SEC East title. 

Davis missed three games with an ankle injury but still finished the year second on the team with 60 total tackles.

Townsend finished the year leading the nation in average yards per punt (48.05) and had a long of 62 yards. Of his 60 punts this year, 28 went at least 50 yards, 25 pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line and just six resulted in touchbacks. Alabama's J.K. Scott (47.72 per punt on 46 attempts, long of 66, 23 of at least 50 yards and 23 inside the 20) took first-team conference honors at the position.

Ivey started 12 games on the offensive line for Florida at left guard. However, he played the bulk of UF's 20-7 win against South Carolina at left tackle following an injury to starter David Sharpe.

Wilson, who started opposite Tabor at cornerback, had three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and tied Tabor with a team-best nine defended passes.

The SEC individual award winners will be announced Wednesday and the All-Freshman Team will be revealed Thursday.

For the full list of coaches All-SEC honorees, click here

December 02, 2016

Tebow: 'A lot has to go right' for Gators to win SEC Championship

Even Tim Tebow has reservations about a potential Florida upset this weekend.

The No. 15 Gators enter Saturday's Southeastern Conference Championship Game as 24-point underdogs to No. 1 Alabama, according to Bovada.

Tebow, the last UF quarterback to defeat Alabama in a conference championship game, thinks it will be tough for Florida to overcome the odds.

"I think a lot has to go right, to be honest with you," Tebow told a group of reporters on Friday. "I think they have to get a few turnovers. I don't think they can turn the ball over. I think they'll have to get a defense or a special teams touchdown and find a way to get, you know, 13 to 17 points offensively. I think that would be really hard, so I think it's going to be tough, but, shoot, that's why they play the game."

He's not the only one who feels that way.

To former LSU defensive lineman Marcus Spears, the key to defeating Alabama is explosive plays,something the Gators have struggled with the season. Florida is tied for the fifth-worst in the country with 17 plays from scrimmage longer than 30 yards. Alabama's defense has given up just 19 such plays, tied for the 19th-best mark in the nation.

"Bama’s a better football team than Florida. News flash. But in this game, a few plays can change the game. Usually when you look at things at the end whether a team was perceivably way better or you had an opponent that was head and shoulders above based on a whole season in a totality. But when you get to the point of turnovers, and when you get plays on special teams – things like that. Those are the hidden things in a football game that can change the face of the entire game."

Former UF wide receiver Chris Doering, who competed in four straight SEC title games from 1992-1995, agrees with Spears.

"I certainly don't believe you're going to be able to sustain a drive against this Alabama defense, so if you're going to score, it's going to come from explosive plays," Doering said. "If you look back at the games [Florida] lost ... there were plays to be made. You have to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves."

 

December 01, 2016

No. 24 Gators hoops routs North Florida

The Florida Gators entered Thursday's game against North Florida ranked in the AP top 25 for the first time in nearly two years and the first time under coach Mike White.

The No. 24 Gators left Jacksonville with a 91-60 win over the Ospreys that came as a result of one of the team's best offensive performances in White's tenure.

Florida (7-1) posted a season-best 58.5-percent shooting efficiency from the field and made a season-high nine three-pointers. Eleven UF players put up points in the win, with seven scoring at least seven points.

Junior point guard Chris Chiozza paced Florida with a season-high 16 points off the bench and dished out a career-high-tying nine assists. Justin Leon (13), Canyon Barry (12) and Devin Robinson (10) also had double-digit points.

The Gators jumped out to a 45-25 lead at halftime before the Ospreys attempted a minor comeback.

A three-point play from North Florida's Romelo Banks with 16:09 left in the game cut Florida's lead to 12 points. However, the Gators responded with a 24-6 run to take a 72-42 lead before going on cruise control with about eight-and-a-half minutes in regulation. 

Senior guard Dallas Moore led the Ospreys with a game-high 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting, including a 6-of-12 clip from beyond the arc. Outside of Moore, UNF shot a collective 25 percent from the field (8-for-32) and went 0-for-10 from three-point range. Florida forced North Florida into committing 20 turnovers, which resulted in 38 UF points. 

Florida doesn't play again until Tuesday when it faces No. 5 Duke in New York as part of the Jimmy V Classic. Tipoff from Madison Square Garden is set for 9 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.

The Gators have three more games away from Gainesville before their Dec. 21 home opener against Little Rock, which will be the debut of the $64.5 million renovation of the O'Connell Center.

November 30, 2016

Injury Update: Jarrad Davis is back, but the list keeps growing

With the rash of injuries the Gators have experienced over the past month, they received a bit of good news on Wednesday.

UF coach Jim McElwain said senior linebacker Jarrad Davis practiced this week and could play a limited role when No. 15 Florida faces top-ranked Alabama in Saturday's Southeastern Conference Championship Game.

Davis, who McElwain has repeatedly referred to as the "heart and soul" of the team, has missed Florida's last three games with an ankle injury. Even with that, he is still second on the team in total tackles (56) heading into the conference title game in Atlanta.   

But outside of Davis, the injury report continues to look bleak.

In addition to the injury report McElwain provided Monday -- a list that was a dozen players long -- two starting offensive players were added to the list Wednesday.

First is tight end C'yontai Lewis, a 6-4 redshirt sophomore who has 16 catches, 174 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games (he was suspended for the season opener). He's "iffy" with a low-ankle injury, McElwain said.

The second is sophomore offensive lineman Fred Johnson, who started Florida's last two games at right guard as the Gators' o-line has dealt with a bevy of injuries as of late. He was injured after crashing his scooter. He's questionable.

"No matter what you're future lies and whatever that is, if you can give the team one play, whatever that play might be, that's what it's all about," McElwain said. "We've got some guys that are trying everything they can to get out there. Having JD out at practice today was really good."

UF coach Jim McElwain dispels Oregon rumors

Over the past two days, Florida coach Jim McElwain had been linked to the vacant head coaching position at the University of Oregon. 

McElwain quickly put those rumors to rest on Wednesday.

Speaking at his usual post-practice press conference, the second-year UF head coach said he has not been in contact with Oregon about their head coaching position.

"You know it's always interesting this time of year and how whatever comes out," McElwain said. "No, I haven't heard from Oregon and, you know, the things that get thrown out there at times, I don't know how it gets linked sometimes. And I guess slow news day."

When asked if that means he has no interest in the opening, he responded "Yeah."

"Look, I’ve got a heck of a job," McElwain said. "In case anybody checked this is the University of Florida. We’re playing in what they call the SEC Championship game. It really hasn’t crossed my mind.”

On Tuesday, USA Today's Dan Wolken reported that there were "whispers" that McElwain could be a person of interest for the job, which became available after Oregon fired head coach Mark Helfrich after a 4-8 season.

"Despite winning SEC East titles in his first two years," Wolken wrote, "McElwain has been a bit under-appreciated by the Florida fan base and just got a new athletics director in Gainesville."

McElwain said the rumors caused the staff to hit it in high gear to tell recruits the rumors were false. McElwain also said he, along with a group of his assistants, will be out recruiting Wednesday night prior to traveling to Atlanta for Saturday's SEC Championship game against top-ranked Alabama.

"We got that taken care of," McElwain said. "A lot of time on the phone last night obviously. ... You know, it's part of what you deal with."

A look back at the past Florida-Alabama SEC Championship games

Saturday's game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 15 Florida in Atlanta's Georgia Dome will mark the 25th Southeastern Conference Championship Game. The Gators and Crimson Tide will be meeting up for the league-high ninth matchup in the title game, with the series even at 4-4 when the conference title is on the line.

"Historically they've been the best team in the West, and historically we've been the best team in the East," UF cornerback Jalen Tabor said on a teleconference call Monday. "When you think of SEC Championship, you think of Alabama versus Florida, and I feel like that's the way, and that's the way it's supposed to be, and that's the way it is again this year."

And with this year's game fast approaching, let's take a look back at the past eight UF-Bama SEC Championship matchups.

 

1992: Alabama 28, Florida 21

UF needed to win its final five SEC games in 1992 to land  in the inaugural conference championship game in Birmingham, Alabama. After falling into a 21-7 deficit early in the third quarter, the Gators tied the game with a pair of touchdowns — a 4-yard touchdown pass from Shane Matthews to Willie Jackson in the third quarter and a 21-yard run by Errict Rhett with about eight minutes left in regulation. Despite Florida’s late push, Alabama sealed the game on an Antonio Langham pick-six with 3:16 to play. The Crimson Tide would go on to win the national title with a 34-13 win against Miami in the Sugar Bowl.

 

1993: Florida 28, Alabama 13

Call it deja vu. The Gators and Crimson Tide found themselves against each yet again in the SEC Championship. This time, though, Florida turned the tables with their punter providing the edge. Holding onto a 14-13 lead in the third quarter and facing a fourth and 8, punter Shayne Edge took the snap and ran 20 yards to move the chains. On the next play, quarterback Terry Dean hit Jack Jackson for a 43-yard touchdown to give UF a 21-13 lead. The Gators held on to win.

 

1994: Florida 24, Alabama 23

The first SEC Championship game to be played in the Georgia Dome turned out to be one of the most contested in the championship game’s history. It also showcased Steve Spurrier’s prowess. With the Gators down by six in the fourth quarter and quarterback Danny Wuerffel limping to the sideline, backup signal caller Eric Kresser fired a dart to Aubry Hill for 25 yards. Wuerffel then returned to the game. Two plays later, a double pass moved the Gators to the 2-yard line, setting up a Wuerffel-to-Chris-Doering shot for the game-winner.

 

1996: Florida 45, Alabama 30

Fresh off a three-point loss to Florida State, Florida played Alabama with a vengeance. Danny Wuerffel threw for an SEC-record 401 yards and six touchdown passes to lead the Gators to their fourth consecutive SEC title. The win gave the Gators a second date with FSU, this time with a national title on the line. Florida won the rematch with the Seminoles 52-20 to claim the program’s first national title.

 

1999: Alabama 34, Florida 7

The Gators, who lost to the Crimson Tide two months earlier in a 40-39 overtime thriller, looked to rebound and defeat Alabama on the second time around. Instead, Alabama rolled. Florida drew first blood on a trick play when tailback Earnest Graham threw a 3-yard touchdown to tight end Erron Kinney. Alabama controlled the game from there. The Crimson Tide defense forced four interceptions and the offense racked up 462 yards to hand UF its most lopsided loss to Alabama in an SEC Championship game.

 

2008: Florida 31, Alabama 20

Down 20-17 as the third quarter drew to a close, the Gators scored back-to-back touchdowns on a 1-yard Jeff Demps rushing touchdown and a 5-yard pass from Tim Tebow to Riley Cooper to take a 31-20 lead with 2:50 remaining in the game. Cornerback Joe Haden sealed Florida’s victory with an interception along the right sideline with about 90 seconds to play. The Gators went on to the BCS Championship game, where they defeated Oklahoma 24-14 for the third national title in program history.

 

2009: Alabama 32, Florida 13

Eventual Heisman Trophy winner and first-team All-American Mark Ingram rushed for 113 yards and scored three of Alabama’s four touchdowns. Quarterback Greg McElroy also threw for 239 yards and a touchdown on just 12 completions en route to MVP honors. The Gators put up a fight early, trailing just 19-13 at halftime, but Alabama’s defense shut Tebow and Co. down in the final 30 minutes.

 

2015: Alabama 29, Florida 15

Alabama dominated in every facet of the game. On offense, Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry rushed for 189 yards and a touchdown, becoming the SEC's all-time single-season rushing yards leader in the process. Quarterback Jake Coker threw a pair of touchdown passes. On defense, the Crimson Tide sacked UF's Treon Harris six times and held the Gators to an 0-for-11 third-down conversion clip. On special teams, Alabama blocked both a UF field goal and a punt, the latter of which resulted in a safety. Florida's two touchdowns came on an Antonio Callaway punt return in the second quarter and a last-second desperation heave from Harris that found C.J. Worton in the end zone for a 46-yard grab.

November 29, 2016

A look at Florida's bowl possibilities

Despite losing 31-13 to Florida State on Saturday, the Florida Gators held firm at No. 15 in the latest edition of the College Football Playoff rankings, released on Tuesday.

UF is the third-highest ranked team in the Southeastern Conference heading into Saturday's SEC Championship Game against undefeated Alabama, trailing No. 14 Auburn and the top-ranked Crimson Tide.

So what does this mean for UF's bowl outlook? Let's take a look.

With the three-loss Gators all but eliminated from contention for the four-team College Football Playoff, Florida's top bowl prospect is the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, a New Year's Six bowl slated to kick off at 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 2. Normally, the Sugar Bowl is a matchup between the SEC champion and Big 12 champion. However, if the conference champion should make the CFP, the conference's second-highest ranked team in the final CFP poll will represent its conference in the Sugar Bowl.

This means the Gators can get into the Sugar Bowl in one of two routes.

The first would be simply beating Alabama, a team that enters the SEC title game on a 24-game win streak and is a 24-point favorite in Saturday's matchup. 

Should the Gators lose to Alabama, that brings us to the second option: The Gators would need to play well enough against the Crimson Tide that the committee jumps Florida over Auburn in the final rankings. This would make the Gators the second-highest ranked SEC school and would fill in for Alabama in the Sugar Bowl while the Crimson Tide chase a second straight national title and fifth in eight years.

If neither of those scenarios play out, UF will be eligible for one of the other nine bowl games with tie-ins to the SEC.

The Citrus Bowl in Orlando -- which the Gators played in last year and lost 41-7 to Michigan -- gets first crack of the group. While there is no rule barring the bowl from selecting UF for a second straight appearance, it might opt for another school (likely LSU or Tennessee) for the Dec. 31 matchup.

From there, the conference, with consultation from both the bowls and the member institutions, assigns teams to a pool of six bowl games. Those games, in no particular order, are:

1.) The Outback Bowl in Tampa (SEC vs. Big Ten) on Jan. 2

2.) The TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville (SEC vs. Big Ten/ACC) on Dec. 31

3.) The Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee (SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten) on Dec. 30

4.) The Texas Bowl in Houston (SEC vs. Big 12) on Dec. 28

5.) The Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina (SEC vs. ACC) on Dec. 29

6.) The Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee (SEC vs. Big 12) on Dec. 30

While UF is almost guaranteed to be selected in the SEC pool of six bowl games, the final two bowls with SEC tie-ins are the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 29 and the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26 in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

For a full breakdown of how the SEC bowl scenarios can play out, here's an easy-to-follow chart from the SEC's Chuck Dunlap.


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