July 03, 2015

Jon Bullard to be featured at 2015 SEC Media Days

GAINESVILLE -- The 2015 SEC Media Days will include a new feature titled: “Beyond the Field: Stories of the SEC” and Florida senior defensive end Jonathan Bullard will serve as UF's representative to tell his “compelling story outside his athletic endeavors," the league announced Thursday. 

The versatile defensive lineman will detail his relationship with his late grandmother, Joyce Robbs, who raised Bullard and battled cancer during his high school career. She passed away in 2012.  

Florida – Jonathan Bullard (Senior, Defensive Line) was raised in part by a grandmother who battled cancer during his high school career.  Despite his intention to play at a school near her home, she encouraged him to follow his dream and play at Florida.  She saw him play his freshman year but soon became ill and passed away the week after he played the best game of his young career vs. Missouri.  She remains an inspiration to him. 

UF is slated for Day 1 of the four-day event, starting July 13. Bullard is one of three athletes who will represent the Gators in Hoover. The league will announce Florida's full contingent on July 6.  

“The athletic achievements of the SEC continue to be well-documented, but many of our student-athletes lead interesting lives or have intriguing stories that happen away from the field of play,” new SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. 

“This is an opportunity to tell stories of academic achievement, personal ambition, community service, determination in the face of adversity and character of mind.  These student-athletes are the chapters of a larger book that is the story of the Southeastern Conference.”

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June 30, 2015

#SECNTakeover: Florida's July 2 lineup announced

 

GAINESVILLE -- With the help of former Florida football player and current WWE Tag Team World Champion wrestler Titus O’Neil, the Gators will “takeover” the SEC Network on July 2 for 24 hours of consecutive coverage. 

ESPN announced UF’s “takeover" Tuesday, with the lineup featuring “The Greatest Game Ever Played in The Swamp,” Tim Tebow and Abby Wambach documentaries and replays from nine different sports. In a bit of a surprise, just two football games will be re-aired -- neither from the 21st Century. 

The only title game on the schedule is Florida’s win over Florida State in 1997 Sugar Bowl. According to ESPN's release, “takeover schedules were created from the available television inventory and NCAA Championships were not available for re-air.”  

The 24-hour coverage lineup: 

Midnight: Florida Gators’ Takeover Special 

1 a.m. - 2015 SEC Baseball Tournament Championship: UF vs. Vanderbilt

3 a.m. - 2014 UF vs. Texas (Volleyball) 

5 a.m. - 2009 Tennessee vs. UF (Women’s basketball)

7 a.m. - 2015 SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championship

9 a.m - 2014 Florida State vs. UF (Soccer)

11 a.m. - SEC Storied: Abby Head On

12 p.m. - 2015 Kentucky vs. UF (Men’s basketball)

3 p.m. - 2015 Florida State vs. Florida (Softball)

4:30 p.m. - Florida Gators’ Takeover Special (Encore)

5:30 p.m. - “The Greatest Game Ever Played” - 11/22/1997 - FSU vs. UF

7:30 p.m. - 1997 Sugar Bowl - 1/2/1997 - Florida vs. FSU

9:30 p.m. - 2006 Ohio State vs. Florida (Men’s basketball)

11 p.m. - Tim Tebow: Everything in Between 

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June 29, 2015

UF ranked 12th in SEC; VH3 voted top cornerback

GAINESVILLE -- AL.com released its annual SEC Preseason Football Report on Sunday -- polling the league’s 14 sports information directors on the conference title game, All-SEC teams and power rankings. 

Auburn and Georgia were voted to meet for a rematch on Dec. 5, yet Alabama ranked as the best team in the SEC. 

Parity for the win!

Florida came in as the 12th best team in the SEC, only ahead of perennial bottom-dwellers Kentucky and Vanderbilt. 

Meanwhile, the 14 SIDs also voted on first and second All-SEC  squads, with UF cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and injured linebacker Antonio Morrison making the first team.

The Gators’ All-American defensive back was also named the “best cornerback” in the league. Morrison earned runner-up honors as the league’s most underrated player. 

Versatile defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard made the second team. 

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June 27, 2015

UF adds legacy linebacker Anthony Harrell

GAINESVILLE -- Florida continues to fill out its roster with graduate transfers. 

The Gators added former Georgia Tech linebacker Anthony Harrell on Friday, who announced on Twitter he will play his final season at UF. 

Harrell is eligible immediately after graduating from Tech in the spring. He is also the second UF legacy to transfer to Florida in the last week, joining offensive lineman T.J. McCoy. 

Harrell’s father, James, played linebacker for the Gators from 1975-78. 

The Yellow Jackets middle linebacker adds some much-needed depth for the Gators, bolstering a thin unit still dealing with injuries to Antonio Morrison, Jarrad Davis and Jeremi Powell. Harrell recorded just 16.5 tackles with Tech last season though, and will likely serve as a backup at Florida. 

Also, Harrell’s transfer isn’t without some confusion. 

Georgia Tech’s official football Twitter account tweeted Friday:

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 11.59.58 AM

Shortly thereafter, Harrell disputed the suspension, responding:

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 11.59.40 AM

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Underdogs: Vegas bearish on Gators in 2015

GAINESVILLE -- A famous Las Vegas oddsmaker is predicting an inauspicious autumn for the Florida Gators. 

The Golden Nugget sportsbook released early betting lines on a number of games during the 2015 season, listing seven contests involving UF. 

The Gators are currently an underdog in all seven games. 

Sept. 26 vs. Tennessee (+2.5) 

Oct. 3 vs. Ole Miss (+6)

Oct. 10 @ Missouri (+10)

Oct. 17 @ LSU (+14)

Oct. 31 vs. Georgia (+12)

Nov. 14 @ South Carolina (+2.5)

Nov. 28 vs. Florida State (+4) 

Florida’s over/under win total is seven and UF’s odds of winning the SEC is between 18-1 to 20-1 depending on the sportsbook. 

At first glance, there’s plenty of value with the Golden Nugget lines for those actually bullish on UF this season. The Gators have won 10 straight over the Volunteers, yet they’re getting nearly a field goal in The Swamp. 

The Missouri line also seems high, and potentially an overreaction to the 42-13 homecoming drubbing the Tigers delivered in Gainesville last season. 

Lastly, UGA is the definitive favorite in the East, but the Dawgs haven’t beaten the Gators by double-digits since 2007. 

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June 26, 2015

UF shut out of NBA Draft for second straight year

GAINESVILLE -- Ten SEC players were selected in Thursday’s 2015 NBA Draft, but Florida’s Michael Frazier and Chris Walker were not among them. 

For the second straight season, UF was shut out of the draft. 

******************** UPDATE ********************

According to multiple reports, Frazier will play for the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA Summer League. 

Frazier, a 6-5 sharpshooter, was projected as a second round pick in most mock drafts and was somewhat surprisingly not drafted. The junior averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 rebounds last season, hitting 38 percent from 3-point range during an injury-plagued year.

As a sophomore, Frazier was a key cog on UF’s Final Four team, shooting a conference-best 45 percent from behind-the-arc.

Although he lacked ideal size as a traditional NBA wing, Frazier was considered a specialist with a legitimate NBA skill. Now, he’ll hope to latch onto a NBA summer league team and earn an invite to training camp. 

Meanwhile, Walker wasn’t projected to be drafted following a shoddy sophomore season.

The 6-10 forward averaged just 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in 2014-15, often buried at the end of UF’s bench due to defensive lapses, a low basketball IQ and a lack of offensive skills. 

Although he possess elite athleticism, the former McDonald’s All-American failed to fulfill sky-high expectations as a five-star prospect. 

In all, six SEC players were selected in the first round. UF hasn’t produced a first round pick since Bradley Beal to Washington in 2012.  

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June 23, 2015

UF to meet Oklahoma State in Orange Bowl Classic

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s 2015-16 non-conference hoops schedule continues to take shape -- and add tough opponents. 

UF will meet Oklahoma State in the 2015 Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise on Dec. 19, the school announced Tuesday. 

Game time and broadcast information will be set at a later date. 

The Gators are 14-2 all-time in the event (including five straight wins), but the Cowboys -- a No. 9 seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament -- represent Florida’s toughest test in the Orange Bowl Classic in many years. 

With Oklahoma State and the recent addition of Florida Gulf Coast, the Gators now have nine non-conference games currently on the slate for next season.  

Nov. 13 - at Navy (Veteran’s Classic)

Nov. 16 - vs. North Carolina A&T

Nov. 21 - vs. St. Joe’s (HoF Tip-Off Classic)

Nov. 22 - vs. Purdue or Old Dominion (HoF Tip-Off Classic)

Nov. 25 - vs. Vermont 

Nov. 27 - vs. Florida Gulf Coast 

Dec. 8 - at Miami 

Dec. 19 - vs. Oklahoma State (Orange Bowl Classic)

Jan. 30 - vs. West Virginia (SEC/BIG 12 Challenge) 

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June 22, 2015

OL T.J. McCoy reportedly transfers to Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s inexperienced offensive line remains a critical concern heading into the 2015 season, but the unit’s depth is suddenly a little less nightmarish. 

According to The Orlando Sentinel, the Gators are adding a second OL transfer in as many weeks, as UF legacy T.J. McCoy is leaving N.C. State for Florida due to a lamentable illness in his family. 

McCoy, a 6-2, 305-pound three-star center from South Lake, enrolled early with the Wolfpack this spring, but his father, Tony, a former All-SEC defensive tackle for the Gators in 1991, continues to battle Leukemia and a recent trip home this summer has turned into an extended stay in the state. 

Although Tony’s cancer is reportedly in remission, T.J. pursued a release from his scholarship to remain closer to his family, per the Sentinel

McCoy was granted a hardship wavier and is immediately eligible, but UF has yet to confirm the report. 

The Gators now have 15 scholarship offensive linemen, but 10 are either redshirt or true freshmen. 

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June 09, 2015

Florida adds OL transfer, eligible immediately

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s depleted offensive line received a boost Tuesday, as former Fordham tackle Mason Halter announced on Instagram he was transferring to play for the Gators.

On the 23rd of June I'll be heading down to the University of Florida to start my masters degree and fulfill my last year of eligibility playing as a Gator! Can't thank the Fordham coaching staff and all my teammates over the year for molding me into the player I am today! Can't wait to get down to Florida and start grinding with the team #GoGators 🐊🐊🐊

A photo posted by Mason Halter (@masonisohio) on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:05pm PDT

The 6-foot-8, 297-pound tackle -- and a two-time FCS All-American -- will enroll at UF for the Summer B semester and is eligible to play immediately. 

Halter, along with five-star freshman Martez Ivey, should compete for a starting job right away, too. 

The Gators ended spring practice with just six healthy scholarship offensive linemen. They hope redshirt senior Trip Thurman -- the unit’s only upperclassmen and the only player in the group who’s ever started a game -- will rejoin the mix after missing camp with a shoulder injury. 

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June 08, 2015

MLB Draft: Martin goes to Oakland in the first round

GAINESVILLE -- Florida shortstop Richie Martin was selected 20th overall by the Oakland A’s in Monday’s first round of the Major League Baseball draft. 

The junior out of Brandon has started all 65 games for the Gators, batting .292 and leading the team in runs (59) and stolen bases (20). Martin, a slick-fielding shortstop, also has career-highs in walks (33), homers (5) and RBI (33) this season. 

Since 2012, Martin is the fourth first-round pick under UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan, joining catcher Mike Zunino, pitcher Brian Johnson and pitcher Jonathan Crawford. 

Martin struggled mightily as a sophomore in 2014, committing 21 errors with just a .265 batting average. But the Brooks Wallace Award semifinalist rebounded in the Cape Cod League last summer, leading the league in hits (59) and runs (36) while hitting .364 -- all with wooden bats. 

ESPN draft insider Eric Longenhagen summarized Martin’s selection by writing

“Martin is one of many college shortstops who project to stay there, but unlike those who have been selected ahead of him, Martin projects to do so because of explosiveness and athleticism rather than polish. He has the best range of any shortstop in the class, but his hands and actions need polishing. Martin is strong, muscular and has some power, but his swing is long and stiff for his size, and he likely will hit only for fringe-average contact at best. Swinging and missing won't be an issue if he can play a good shortstop and yank a handful of homers out down the left field line. He needs more polish than some of the other college shortstops, but his upside is just as high."

Martin is expected to sign with the A’s once Florida’s season concludes at the upcoming College World Series. The Gators take on in-state rival Miami on Saturday at 8 p.m. (ESPN). 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

June 02, 2015

Steele names VH3, Morrison preseason All-Americans

GAINESVILLE -- College football sage Phil Steele released his preseason All-American teams Monday, and unsurprisingly, Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was named to Steele’s first-team for the second straight summer. 

Hargreaves, a rising junior, led the SEC with 13 pass breakups last season and is a two-time Associated Press All-American.

Meanwhile, injured linebacker Antonio Morrison was named a third-team All-American. The senior standout led Florida with 104 tackles in 2014, but Morrison may miss a sizable chunk of the upcoming season recovering from a knee injury he sustained in UF’s bowl victory on Jan. 3. 

Steele also released his All-SEC projections, with Hargreaves and Morrison named as first-teamers. 

Gators wideout Demarcus Robinson, who led UF with 53 receptions for 810 yards and seven touchdowns last year, was named to Steele’s second-team and was UF’s lone offensive player to earn honors. 

Versatile senior defensive lineman Jon Bullard (8.5 tackles for loss) was also named to the All-SEC second team, while senior defensive back Brian Poole (team-leading four interceptions) was awarded fourth-team honors. 

Finally, Gators kicker Austin Hardin (7-of-10 FGs) was named a third-team member. 

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May 27, 2015

Thurman progressing, Morrison's return unknown

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Jim McElwain provided a quick roster update Tuesday at the SEC spring meetings in Destin.

According to Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel, McElwain said senior center Trip Thurman, out all spring with a chronic shoulder injury, is lifting weights again and eying a return for fall camp. Thurman started 10 games last season and is UF’s lone upperclassman along the offensive line. 

“He’s kind of a one-hit away guy,” McElwain said.

“Taking what we can off has allowed him to get [his shoulder] strengthened and we’ll do the same thing this summer.”

Meanwhile, McElwain said defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. (hip surgery) and linebacker Jarrad Davis (knee) should be ready for training camp. Antonio Morrison’s knee injury remains clouded in mystery though, and his return is unknown. 

The senior linebacker -- and team’s leading tackler in 2014 -- continues to rehab after sustaining a serious injury in the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3.

“He’s continuing to work on that,” McElwain said.

“As you know, I would never put a guy out there who is not ready.”

Finally, McElwain provided no update on cornerback J.C. Jackson, but he did confirm recent graduate transfer Josh Grady, formally of Vanderbilt, will play quarterback at UF. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 25, 2015

UF earns No. 4 seed, sets sights on Omaha

GAINESVILLE -- After ripping off four straight wins to capture the 2015 SEC Tournament Championship, Florida's baseball team was rewarded with the No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament on Monday. 

UF, vying for its first trip to Omaha since 2012, won’t have to leave home to reach the College World Series either, earning a national seed for the sixth time in seven years. 

The Gators (44-16) -- who were the No. 1 overall seed last season but were bounced in the opening weekend -- will host fourth-seed Florida A&M (23-23) Friday at 7 p.m. The Gainesville Regional also includes Florida Atlantic (40-17) and South Florida (33-24-1). UF topped FAU 10-8 at Roger Dean Stadium earlier this year, and went 2-0 against USF. The Gators were scheduled to play FAMU on Feb. 17, but the contest was rained out. 

Should the Gators advance this weekend, they could have date with Florida State. UF -- 1-2 vs. FSU this year -- would host the winner of the Tallahassee Regional.  

2015 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Bracket copy 2Florida survived a pair of lengthy rain delays to win its seventh SEC Tournament title in school history with a 7-3 victory over Vanderbilt on Sunday. The Gators rallied for four straight wins, including a 2-1 upset over top-seeded LSU, after losing their opening game in the tournament against Arkansas. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 18, 2015

Allen opts to play for White, Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Michael White is proving his recruiting prowess already. 

UF’s top-rated signee KeVaughn Allen will honor his commitment rather than seeking a release from his LOI, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman first reported. 

The 6-foot-3 combo guard -- the nation’s 54th ranked prospect per ESPN -- was a standout at North Little Rock in Arkansas and was rumored to sign elsewhere following Billy Donovan’s departure to the NBA. 

Not so, apparently.  

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.38.20 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.38.34 PMAllen’s stepfather went on a local Arkansas radio station roughly two weeks ago, saying Allen’s release was imminent. But Allen met with White in the interim and ultimately chose to stay at UF and play for a new coach. 

With Allen in the fold, White officially retained three of Donovan’s four signees, only losing four-star power forward Noah Dickerson. 

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May 14, 2015

Dickerson released from LOI, Allen weighing options

GAINESVILLE -- New Florida coach Michael White is already facing his first test less than a week on the job. 

Former coach Billy Donovan signed a talented and deep recruiting class, but two of the Gators’ four signees are reportedly seeking other options following Donovan’s departure. 

Forward Noah Dickerson -- UF’s highest-rated commit -- has been released from his LOI, according to ESPN.com and other media outlets. 

  Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 6.17.46 PM

Dickerson, a 6-8 forward from Montverde Academy, is ranked No. 51 overall in the country. Meanwhile, explosive shooting guard KaVaughn Allen (North Little Rock, Ark.) is also reportedly seeking his release. 

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 6.18.37 PM

White met with Allen last weekend, and said the nation’s 54th ranked player continues to weigh his options. Still, White won’t obstruct any signee wanting to play elsewhere. 

“I don't think we've had any final answers yet,” White said Monday.   

“I’m not into begging. … But they wanted to play for Coach Donovan.  I understand them having second thoughts.  I understand that.  I appreciate it.  I accept it.  And if those guys want to be here, I'd love to have them.  If not, we'd love to help them find the right place for them.”

White did receive some good new late Wednesday evening though, as athletic forward Keith Stone tweeted he would be honoring his LOI with Florida. 

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 6.17.15 PM
Big man Kevarrius Hayes (No. 68 in ESPN Top 100) also remains committed to UF, giving White 10 scholarship players for next season. He could add to the roster before the year, and he’s confident he can restock the program with other quality players.  

“I think this place to a certain extent sells itself,” he said. 

“At the University of Florida we can recruit nationally.  I think you can get involved with kids in all 50 states, and I think that in the past that this basketball program has proven that.  But I also understand how important it is to recruit our state, especially a state that's as fertile as it is.

"I've always enjoyed recruiting this state.  Not only because I liked traveling to Florida, but because there are really good players here.  And we're not going to get them all, but we're going to recruit them all.” 

GATORS TO HOST MOUNTAINEERS 

Florida will square off against West Virginia in Gainesville on Jan. 30 as part of the SEC-BIG 12 Challenge, the conferences announced Thursday. 

The Gators played a home-and-home series with Kansas the last two seasons, but the Mountaineers pose a similar non-conference challenge next season.  

Bob Huggins’ team went 25-10 last year, getting trounced by Kentucky in the Sweet 16. 

In years past, the SEC-BIG 12 matchups were held during the heart of football season in November and early December, so the games were moved to later in the schedule in order to boost visibility and interest. 

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May 13, 2015

Jackson's future in doubt, no longer enrolled at UF

GAINESVILLE -- J.C. Jackson’s career at Florida is likely over before it ever truly started. 

The troubled redshirt freshman cornerback -- currently facing multiple felony charges for an alleged armed robbery last month -- is not enrolled in school for the Summer A semester, coach Jim McElwain confirmed Wednesday on the SEC Teleconference. 

“He’s got a lot of things he’s dealing with right now,” McElwain said.

“He’s trying to take care of certain things and we’ll support him and help him do what he can, but right now he’s not enrolled in school and dealing with some things that are a lot bigger than the Florida Gators.”

Jackson, 19, has pleaded not guilty to three charges stemming from an incident at a Gainesville apartment complex on April 18.  

The former Under Armour All-American redshirted last season after undergoing shoulder surgery, but the electric athlete was competing for a starting job in UF’s crowded secondary this spring.

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May 07, 2015

Reports: La. Tech's White emerges as top candidate

GAINESVILLE -- Louisiana Tech coach Michael White “has emerged as the leading candidate” to replace former Florida coach Billy Donovan, Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday. 

ESPN and other outlets quickly confirmed Pat Forde’s scoop, too. 

White, the son of Duke athletics director Kevin White, is regarded as one of college basketball’s hottest young coaches, leading the Bulldogs to three-straight Conference USA regular-season titles. The 38-year-old coach is 101-40 in four seasons at La Tech, but he’s yet to make an NCAA Tournament.

White is considered a strong recruiter, with a track record of success in the state of Florida. 

According to Yahoo! Sports’ report, White and UF athletics director Jeremy Foley could meet “as soon as today.”

White was born in Dunedin and played at Ole Miss from 1995-99. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Jacksonville State before returning to his alma mater as a part of Andy Kennedy’s staff from 2004-11. White was reportedly targeted for openings at Tennessee and Missouri last offseason. 

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April 30, 2015

Hot Board: Where does Florida turn next?

GAINESVILLE -- Replacing Billy Donovan is an unenviable task, but Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley is charged with finding a coach suitable to fill Donovan’s footsteps. 

Good luck. 

Foley will oversee a second major hire in the last six months, as the Gators will have a new football and basketball coach in the same year for the first time since 1990-91. They’ll be the only Power 5 school in the country with such a duo. 

As is stands, Florida has the lone college basketball opening in the nation. 

Donovan built UF into a national powerhouse, but the program is at a bit of a crossroads with just a decent roster and facilities that need upgrading. Is Florida actually an elite job, or was Donovan what made the Gators an annual contender?

We’ll see.

Here’s a list of candidates Foley may pursue. 

1. Archie Miller, Dayton head coach -- The hottest name potentially linked to Florida. The 36-year-old (and younger brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller) is a considered a rising star after taking the Flyers to the Elite Eight in 2013-14. 

2. John Pelphrey, Florida assistant head coach -- The former South Alabama and Arkansas head coach has been Donovan’s top assistant since 2011. Ideally, Donovan would prefer Pelphrey succeed him. 

3. Chris Mack, Xavier head coach -- An Ohio native, Mack has an impressive résumé (three Sweet 16 births in six seasons) but few ties to the South. 

4. Michael White, Louisiana Tech head coach -- Another rising star and the son of Duke athletic director Kevin White. He played at Ole Miss and is considered a strong recruiter with success in the state of Florida. 

5. Richard Pitino, Minnesota head coach -- A former UF assistant from 2009-11, but Rick Pitino’s son has never made the NCAA Tournament in five seasons as a head coach. 

6. Jay Wright, Villanova head coach -- Easily the most accomplished coach on the list and a longshot candidate. Foley loves him, but Wright is a Northeast native and has coached at Nova for 14 years.  

7. Steve Prohm, Murray State head coach -- Prohm, who went to Alabama, has dominated the Ohio Valley Conference, leading the Racers to a 104-29 record in four seasons. Another longshot candidate.   

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April 29, 2015

Reports: Donovan-to-OKC gaining steam

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s two-time national champion coach Billy Donovan is reportedly “leaning strongly” toward accepting the opening with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, per multiple reports. 

ESPN’s Marc Stein wrote early Wednesday morning UF’s coach and OKC had formally opened talks, and Yahoo! Sports later reported the Thunder is “preparing an offer” and Donovan is “enthusiastic” about the potential move. 

Barring an impasse over contract negotiations, Donovan’s exit appears imminent following weeks of smoke and speculation.

"He's as good as gone," Stein quoted one source.

Stein also stated Donovan's family is "willing to move" and a decision is expected within 48 hours. 

Donovan, who built Florida basketball into a powerhouse over 19 seasons, recently signed an amended, one-year contract extension through the 2020 season, pushing his annual salary just north of $4 million. His buyout ($500,000) remained unchanged though, and he no longer is tied to a noncompete clause. 

The future Hall of Fame coach would inherit an OKC team with tons of talent (stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka) but also inherent risks with Durant and Westbrook’s looming free agency’s.

Still, Donovan’s strong ties to the organization -- including a close relationship with Thunder GM Sam Presti -- are critical influences to the potential move. Yahoo! reported Presti flew to Gainesville on Tuesday. 

Last year, UF assistant Mark Daigneault was hired as the Thunder’s D-League coach, and at the same time, Florida video coordinator Oliver Winterbone left to become a scout/data analyst for OKC. 

Florida hired Donovan in 1996. He was only 31. The former Wall Street wiz had just two years of head coaching experience, but Donovan was charged with building a competitive program -- one that had just five NCAA Tournament appearances in school history. 

Within three seasons, Donovan took Florida to the Sweet Sixteen and the foundation for the future was established. 

Donovan, who turns 50 on May 30, was a relentless recruiter and offensive mastermind, turning the Gators into a powerhouse. He led UF to four Final Fours, six SEC Championships, 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and 16 straight 20-win seasons. He’s the second youngest coach in D-1 history to win 500 games. 

Impervious to distractions, Donovan has yet to comment on OKC’s interest and was recruiting for Florida as recently as Sunday.

The Donovan-to-NBA rumors heated up less than a month ago, with Stein initially reporting Donovan would “give renewed consideration” to the NBA, and later writing, “Donovan is looking to make the jump to the NBA more than ever before.”

Donovan has never been shy about the NBA’s allure, openly admitting last March he was still “intrigued.”

In 2007, Donovan infamously accepted the Orlando Magic job before a change of heart brought him back to UF less than a week later.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

April 21, 2015

Roderick Johnson releases heartfelt statement

GAINESVILLE -- Roderick Johnson is doing his best to stay positive. 

A week after learning he’d suffered a career-ending injury in practice, the redshirt sophomore spoke publicly Monday about his retirement. 

In a candid statement released by UF, Johnson -- a right tackle who played in all 12 games last season -- discussed overcoming his heartbreaking condition, his pride for the Gator Nation and his goals for the future. 

“Spinal stenosis -- April 3, 2015 -- the day that changed my life,” he said. 

“It’s hard to walk away from this game, and it’s dearly easy to fall in love with when you have the right mindset and the dedication. I enjoyed my time as a Gator from the first day I got that call from Coach [Will] Muschamp. I instantly fell in love with a school I didn’t like since I was a kid (lol).

"I had a tough time trying to enroll due to my grades. I pulled through with the love and support from the UF staff. Taking the redshirt my first year was rough, so going into my freshman redshirt year I took it more serious. Listening to Coach [Mike] Summers coach and trusting his technique made me a great offensive lineman and I always had heart, of course.”

Johnson did, and his mettle was truly tested following a team scrimmage on April 3. The former American Heritage High standout was hit in practice and his life changed almost immediately. Johnson was initially diagnosed with a "stinger," but after he experienced numbness in his fingers and hands doctors soon discovered his career-ending condition. 

In an instant, a potential NFL prospect had his dream ripped away. Still, as Johnson struggles to cope with reality he continues to maintain an optimistic outlook on the future.  

“It’s a tough time as I try to move forward, but I still have some positives on the situation,” he said.

“I get to stand and talk to you instead of being in a wheelchair. I would like to say thanks to the coaching staff from Coach [McElwain] all the way down to the graduate assistants. Being in a highly powered offense, I wanted to prove I was a great athlete even when my knee bothered me sometimes.

“In looking forward to what the future brings, I look to be a great assistant coach and make sure these 2015 offensive linemen know what it takes to be a Gator, and for that, I love Gator Nation. You turned me from a boy to a man. I want to see my teammates be great because it can be taken away from you in just one play.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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