November 18, 2015

Florida QB Will Grier begins appeal process with the NCAA

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s suspended quarterback Will Grier has started his appeal process with the NCAA, according to multiple reports.

Grier, a redshirt freshman, hopes to reduce his calendar-year suspension for violating the NCAA’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

In a statement first released to the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando attorney Clay Townsend of Morgan & Morgan said Grier presented his case Monday during a conference call with NCAA. 

“We have worked diligently on the investigation and appeal and we, along with all of the Gator Nation, look forward to Will’s return to eligibility as soon as possible,” Townsend told the Sentinel.

Grier was 5-0 as Florida’s starting quarterback, engineering the dramatic comeback against Tennessee and the shocking upset over then-No. 3 Ole Miss.

But on Oct. 12, the quarterback was suspended by the NCAA, and faces a one-year ban that would prohibit him from playing until the seventh game of the 2016 season.

According to reports, Grier is appealing to reduce the suspension so that he is eligible for the start of next season. 

Grier has not practiced with the Gators in over a month. 

THIS & THAT

Senior tight end Jake McGee was named a semifinalist for the 2015 John Mackey Award, honoring the nation’s top tight end. McGee has 31 receptions for 268 yards and three touchdowns. … Florida will host in-state rival Florida State under the lights next weekend, as the regular season finale is slated for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on ESPN.

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Kirk Herbstreit says Jim McElwain is the Coach of the Year

GAINESVILLE -- ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit tweeted Tuesday that Florida’s first-year man Jim McElwain is his current pick for National Coach of the Year. 

McElwain has guided UF to a 9-1 start and a spot in the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2009. With a win Saturday against Florida Atlantic, McElwain would become the only coach in school history to win at least 10 games in his inaugural season. 

McElwain will likely compete with Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Houston’s Tom Herman, New Mexico’s Bob Davie and Clemson’s Dabo Sweeney for the prestigious award. 

After last weekend’s 24-14 win at South Carolina, the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi told McElwain that he had former Gators and Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier’s vote for COY, too. 

Florida’s first-year coach then humbly deflected praise and gave kudos to his players.  

“That's flattering because I think what it is, and here's what, it's very humbling No. 1 that someone would put you in that category because guys, there's a bunch of better coaches than me out there,” McElwain said.  

“What it does do is it speaks to the organization. It speaks to the players, the coaches, all the people that have kind of figured out that the difficult lies not in the new ideas but in escaping the old ones. We've got a whole organization that's moving in a new direction. 

"We aren't sitting still. We're continuing to build, create and not just sit there and say ‘We're Florida and you're not.' That's what I love about it. We've energized a whole organization to move forward, and it starts with those players."

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November 16, 2015

HOOPS: Florida wins by half a hundred over North Carolina A&T

GAINESVILLE -- The Mike White Era is off to a smashing success.

Florida steamrolled North Carolina A&T 104-54, as six players scored in double figures led by senior forward DeVon Walker's career-high 15 points. 

The Gators (2-0) rained treys (shooting a blistering 16 of 29 from downtown) and threw down vicious dunks (six in total), as White's pace and space style completely overmatched an inferior foe in his home opener at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. 

"It's exciting," Walker said. 

"The fans should like it. We like it. Hopefully it's something we can maintain."

Everyone was involved Monday, as senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith recorded a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds), while big-man John Egbunu was a beast inside, chipping in 13 points on 6 of 7 shooting. 

The Gators shot 53.6 percent from the floor, had 20 assists and 20 offensive rebounds.

Devin Robinson played well (15 points, seven rebounds), while Chris Chiozza (11 points, five assists) and Brandone Francis-Ramierz (10 points, all in the first half) stuffed the stat sheet, too. Not to be forgotten, point guard Kasey Hill had a ho-hum seven-point, eight-assist evening -- including a highlight-reel no-look pass to setup an Egbunu slam.

"Throughout the 40 minutes, we played very unselfishly," White said.

"That's not always easy to do. But we didn't have any agendas creep in." 

The rout was on from the opening tip. The Gators sprinted to a 18-2 lead, hitting 7 of their first 10 shots.  

It only got worse from there. 

Florida's handsy defense forced 16 turnovers, but its half-court pressure was even more effective than its punishing press. 

UF led 52-27 at halftime, as Robinson drained a trey at the buzzer.

Florida then outscored NC A&T exactly 52-27 in the second half, leading by as many as 53 points. 

The Gators hung a 100+ for the first time in four years and won by 50 points since routing NC A&T 105-55 in 2010.  

THIS & THAT

The Gators won their 25th straight home opener. ... Freshman Keith Stone, a 6-foot-8 forward, will redshirt, UF announced Monday. ...The Gators officially inked a pair of talented teammates to 2015 National Letters of Intent, welcoming four-star guard Eric Hester and three-star forward Dontay Bassett from Oldsmar Christian. ... SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was in attendance at Monday's game. ... UF will play Saint Joseph's (2-0) in the Hall of Fame Tipoff in Connecticut on Saturday. 

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November 14, 2015

Notebook: Bullard starts but McCalister goes down

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- It turned out, the hullabaloo over Jon Bullard’s injury was much ado about nothing. 

The Florida Gators’ star defensive tackle was deemed “highly questionable” earlier in the week, but the senior started his 22 straight game in UF’s 24-14 win over South Carolina.  

The senior, who was battling an arm injury and was even ruled "out" by ESPN pregame, recorded a team-high five tackles, including a TFL. 

UF’s defensive line did sustain a scare, though, as standout pass rusher Alex McCalister injured his right foot and did not return. The redshirt junior was later seen with a boot with crutches on the sideline, and coach Jim McElwain said after the game, “McCalister will probably be out.”

However, McCalister's X-rays were "fine," per McElwain on his postgame radio show. 

Meanwhile, freshman tailback Jordan Crokrite also sustained a foot injury, dampening a career day (two touchdowns, 73 total yards).  

BOOMIN’ KICKS

UF punter Johnny Townsend has had an excellent season, quietly keying the Gators’ dominance controlling field position. 

The Ray Guy Award semifinalist delivered again Saturday, averaging 46.5 yards per punt -- with a long of 57 yards. 

On the season, Townsend has 16 punts over 50 yards and 19 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. 

THIS & THAT

The Gators converted a season-high 11 third downs. … Florida won in Columbia for the first time since 2009. … McElwain became the first UF coach in school history to win seven conference games in his inaugural season. … UF went over 400 yards for just the third time all season. … Tailback Kelvin Taylor scored his 12 rushing touchdown, seventh-most in a single season at UF. 

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November 13, 2015

Jim McElwain pokes fun at AD Jeremy Foley

GAINESVILLE -- Jim McElwain is riding high. 

The No. 11 Florida Gators’ first-year coach is the only SEC East coach ever to lead his team to the conference championship game in his first season at the helm. 

The Gators (8-1, 7-1) clinched the division with a 9-7 win over Vanderbilt and play at South Carolina this weekend (noon, ESPN). 

Earlier this week, McElwain was sporting a sharp, oxford shirt. Asked if athletic director Jeremy Foley gave it to him as a gift, McElwain seized an opportunity to take a friendly shot at Foley's frugalness. 

Just dial the video up to 13:45. 

Who thinks McElwain is getting a raise and probably more facility upgrades this offseason? (Everyones hands get raised). 

THIS & THAT

Three-star defensive end Jachai Polite (Daytona Beach-Mainland) verbally pledged to Florida on Thursday. The Gators’ 2016 class now has 22 commitments. … Despite drilling the game-winning field goal Saturday, Austin Hardin hasn’t cemented his spot as Florida’s first-team kicker. McElwain wouldn’t commit to Hardin, saying newly walk-on Neil McInnes remains the team’s “short kicker.”  

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November 10, 2015

Gators drop to No. 11 in latest CFB Playoff rankings

GAINESVILLE -- Florida clinched the SEC East over the weekend, but the Gators’ Great Escape against Vanderbilt didn’t impress the selection committee. 

Shocking. 

UF slipped one spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, dropping to No. 11 during Tuesday’s release. 

One-loss Utah leapfrogged UF, as did Stanford and Oklahoma State, who became the evening's hot-topic after whipping TCU over the weekend but climbing just six spots. 

The Gators remain positioned to sneak into the Final Four. They must win out (with “quality” victories over FSU and SEC West Champ -- likely either Alabama or LSU). Even then, UF may need some help, as the committee clearly isn’t impressed with its recent résumé without suspended quarterback Will Grier. 

Still, after Saturday’s scare the Gators can't afford to look ahead and must focus on South Carolina (noon, SEC Network). 

“Hopefully this past week was a wakeup call,” senior tight end Jake McGee said. 

“We really need to bring it. We’ve got to be honed in on our assignments, our effort and really do what we can control and really not give that opportunity for our opponent to steal one.”

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November 08, 2015

Notebook: WR Robinson responds, RB Scarlett starts

GAINESVILLE -- Demarcus Robinson has never been a model of consistency, but the Florida Gators’ mercurial wideout delivered in the clutch Saturday. 

A week after going catchless against Georgia, Robinson’s Jekyll and Hyde routine flipped and he propelled Florida to an SEC East title with a big day. 

The junior was actually benched to start the game, but responded by recording a season-high nine receptions for 106 yards -- including two key catches in the final drive of UF’s 9-7 win over Vanderbilt. 

“It was a big game today for Demarcus,” quarterback Treon Harris said. 

“We had to find ways to get him the ball. Last week versus Georgia, they had guys over the top watching him for the deep ball. We had to have him come underneath, quick balls for him to make plays with his feet.”

Robinson is electric in space, but ball security remains a constant issue and it almost cost Florida dearly. 

First, Robinson nearly tossed an interception on a trick-play. Then, early in the fourth quarter, he fumbled fighting for extra yardage inside the red zone. 

“Demarcus loves to play football, he loves to play this game,” Harris said. 

“The only problem with Demarcus is ball security. He cannot hold the ball with his left hand. He just has to work on that every day. But like I said, Demarcus loves this game and he can  make plays for us.”

While freshman sensation Antonio Callaway has emerged as UF’s top playmaker, Robinson still leads the team in targets, receptions and yards. Saturday’s performance was Robinson’s fifth-career 100-yard game, but his first of the season. 

“He made some plays and he obviously felt horrible [about the fumble],” McElwain said. 

“You guys have seen this guy play for how long now and this guy’s ball security is something that we talk every single day about. There’s no excuse for the fumble. 

“He gives us a chance because he’s a good player. But he also has to understand that as you go through life there it’s about doing some things right to maybe help the people around you. It isn’t all about you. He’s a good player. He cares. Hopefully he’s learned.” 

THIS & THAT

Former St. Thomas Aquinas standout tailback Jordan Scarlett recorded his first-career start. The freshman rumbled for 20 yards on the game’s opening play, finishing with 23 yards on four carries. … Injured left tackle David Sharpe (foot) played a few snaps in the second half despite being listed as doubtful. … The Gators missed their fourth PAT of the season, their most since 2010. … Defensive end Jordan Sherit was ejected for targeting on fourth-quarter sack during Vandy’s final drive. Sherit will miss the first half against South Carolina. 

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November 07, 2015

GameDay Primer: Florida Gators vs. Vanderbilt Commodores

UnnamedGAINESVILLE -- Welcome home, folks. 

The Florida Gators are back in The Swamp this afternoon for the first time in a month, and the stakes are pretty simple today. A win and the Gators go to Atlanta for the first time since 2009. 

A loss and they still probably go to the SEC Championship Game but the celebration is delayed a week. 

The biggest mystery today is really whether Florida will sport new white helmets. 

We’ll soon find out. 

WHERE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

WHEN: Noon

WATCH: ESPN

LINE: UF -21

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Will UF continue its dominance in the turnover margin?

2. Can Treon Harris replicate last season’s breakout performance against Vandy?

3. Will UF’s new dental-student kicker actually drill some field goals today?

LINKS - UF vs. VANDY

UF focus solely on Vanderbilt

UFvsVandy hype video: “This is our opportunity”

Gators prepare for first noon start

Antonio Callaway on pace for best freshman season in UF history

Jordan Cronkrite must sit out the first half

Gators QB Treon Harris becoming the master of improvisation 

UF offensive line ailing

Gators debut at No. 10 in CFB Playoff rankings

UF’s renewed unity paying dividends 

UF players buying Jim McElwain message 

SKINNY SIX-PACK

Just a ho-hum 3-2 week. Now 25-14-1 ATS on the season. I like lots of ‘dogs today. 

Florida State (+13) at Clemson 

Penn State (+3) at Northwestern 

Auburn (+8) at Texas A&M

LSU at Alabama (-6) 

And finally, Florida (-21) vs. Vanderbilt. 

It’s high spread for a Gators offense that remains inconsistent. But the Commodores’ attack is among the worst in the nation. Considering the result here two years ago + the ATL stakes + UF’s propensity to win the turnover battle = take the Gators. 

Despite summer-esque heat, it’s a gorgeous day in Gainesville. 

Enjoy the game, y’all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

November 06, 2015

Florida vs. Vandy hype video: "This is our opportunity"

GAINESVILLE -- Florida released its hype video for Saturday’s showdown with Vanderbilt and first-year coach Jim McElwain's message was simple: “This is our opportunity.”

"What you have bonded with. What you have invested. Is for this," he said.

"For this. That's what it is."

A win on Homecoming would clinch the SEC East and continue UF’s trek toward Atlanta.

QUOTABLES

"We're going to look to cage the rabbit as best we can."

-- Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason on keeping UF quarterback Treon Harris in the pocket 

“We’ll find out at the end of the year. You’ve got to close the deal. Do we have the parts? Yeah. I think we do, but we’ll see.” 

-- Florida DL coach Chris Rumph on if the Gators have a championship defense  

“To us, beating Florida was the Super Bowl. … That was like winning a national championship for us. But for me, having that experience, I feel like winning the SEC Championship will be way on another level. Wing the East at least. That’s something we’re striving for this weekend.”

-- Gators QB/WR Josh Grady on winning at UF as a member of Vanderbilt in 2013 

THIS & THAT

New walk-on kicker Neil MacInnes, a dental student, should see some action Saturday, according to McElwain. “We’ll see how the dentist does. I hope he drills it.” … With starting left tackle David Sharpe double with a foot injury, freshman tackle Fred Johnson (Royal Palm Beach High) could make his first-career start. … UF has won 23 of the last 24 meetings. 

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October 31, 2015

Kelvin Taylor runs wild in Jacksonville again

JACKSONVILLE -- Earlier this week, Kelvin Taylor shouldered the responsibility for Florida’s anemic running game. He vowed it would turn around. 

It did. 

Florida's junior tailback ran wild against Georgia for the second-straight season, ripping off 121 yards and two touchdowns in No. 11 Gators' 27-3 rout. 

Florida’s inexperienced offensive line created enough holes for Taylor, who entered the night ranked last in the SEC among starters in yards per carry. 

“Those guys did a great job for me,” he said. 

“I feel like I’m a really good running back and it was about time for me to start making plays. I just talked to my offensive line pretty much this whole week and told them, ‘Look, man, you’ve got to have a great game. Just give me that little crease and I’ll do the rest.”

Last year, Taylor rushed for a career-high 197 yards in EverBank Field -- the same stadium his dad, Fred, starred in for 11 seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

He did it again Saturday, and he wasn’t surprised. 

“It’s my house,” he said. 

“This is the Taylor’s house.”

The junior gashed the Bulldogs for several long runs, including a 16-yard, ankle-breaking touchdown in the second half. He now has 10 touchdowns on the season -- and four in Jacksonville the last two years. 

"Based on what's happened, we ought to make this our home stadium for him," UF coach Jim McElwain said. "He's done a heck of a job here."

THIS & THAT

UF freshman tailback Jordan Cronkrite (Westminster Christian) was ejected for targeting in the third quarter and will miss the first half against Vandy. … Both teams wore traditional home uniforms for the second straight season. … Freshman tailback Jordan Scarlett (St. Thomas Aquinas) had a career-high 96 yards on nine carries. … Wideout Demarcus Robinson failed to record a reception for the first time since going catch-less against UGA last season. … Tight C’yontai Lewis returned after missing five games with a hand injury and caught a 25-yard reception. 

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GameDay Primer: Florida Gators vs. Georgia Bulldogs

JACKSONVILLE -- Trick or treat, boys and girls. 

Today we’ll find out if Florida is truly destined for a trip up 1-75, or if the Gators run out of magic and cede divisional control to the archrival Georgia Bulldogs. There's plenty of storylines to follow: Can Treon Harris pass Florida to victory? Which defensive line can dominate? Oh and turnovers. Those usually pretty important, too, right? 

It should be a good one.

We’ll see. 

Unnamed

WHERE: EverBank Field

WHEN: 3:30 p.m.

WATCH: CBS

LINE: UF -3 

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Will UGA’s quarterback switch cause UF any early issues?

2. Can Florida establish a ground game?

3. Who will win the special teams battle?

LINKS - UF vs. UGA

Stakes are high for Florida-Georgia

UF needs ground game again

Will Grier still not practicing, continues to build appeal

Antonio Callaway injured in Wednesday’s practice 

Florida’s 2016 schedule released

Gators add four-star DE, recruiting momentum continues 

UF’s search for a kicker still not finalized 

Nick Saban coaching tree reaches UF-UGA rivalry

Florida Gators heal during bye week 

UF climbs in polls again

SKINNY SIX-PACK

No picks last week so the batteries are full charged now. 22-12-1 ATS on the season. Feelin' a 5-0 week. Let's go. 

Tennessee (-6.5) at Kentucky 

Notre Dame (-9.5) at Temple

Washington State (+13) at Texas A&M

Miami at Duke (-10) 

And finally, Florida (-3) vs. Georgia. Favorites are oftentimes exposed in this rivalry game, and weird stuff always seems to happen -- Halloween, or something. The two teams are pretty evenly matched, too, but Florida creates more negative plays on defense and actually has less uncertainty at quarterback —which is crazy considering its situation just two weeks ago. 

It’s a beautiful day, so enjoy the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, y’all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 30, 2015

Florida Gators 2016 schedule released

GAINESVILLE -- First-year coach Jim McElwain has transformed The Swamp back into a house of horrors again, but Florida fans could be scared off by a weak non-conference schedule in 2016.

The Gators’ complete 2016 schedule was released Thursday night by the SEC, and highlights include a trip to Tennessee the third week of the season, an early October home date with LSU and a meeting at Arkansas for the first time since 2008. The Gators will also host Kentucky the second week of the season, and play three teams (Arkansas, Missouri and Georgia) coming off an idle date.  

But Florida’s non-conference schedule is light -- to say the least. 

UF will host Umass, North Texas and Presbyterian -- teams a combined 3-18 this season. North Texas recently fired head coach Dan McCarney, who worked on Urban Meyer's staff.  

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October 28, 2015

Gators add four-star DE, recruiting mojo continues

GAINESVILLE -- On Monday, Florida coach Jim McElwain joked he no longer needs to show his ID when he visits prospective recruits at high schools. 

With the No. 11 Gators leading the SEC East and positioned for a possible playoff run, the recruiting trail has been a lot friendlier to McElwain recently.

"Before you'd roll into a school and they really say, 'You've got to show your ID,' because they didn't know who the heck you were," McElwain said.

"And they thought I was kidding when I said I was the head coach at Florida. Now there's a couple more people that know, which is a good thing for us.

"The reception was outstanding. We’re making some inroads and still need to obviously in a lot of areas, but recruiting is your lifeline. We’ve got to get better at it.” 

Florida picked up another elite prospect Wednesday, adding consensus four-star defensive end Antonneous Clayton. 

Clayton verbally committed to UF on Twitter.

The Gators reportedly beat out Auburn and Florida State for the 6-3, 218-pound speed rusher. They now have 21 prospects pledged to their 2016 class and rank 12th nationally in 247Sports’ rankings. 

Clayton’s commitment could be the first of several big dominos to fall in the next couple months. According to 247Sports Crystal Ball projections, Florida leads for top prospects Nate Craig-Myers (five-star wideout), Dexter Lawrence (five-star defensive tackle) and Binjimen Victor (four-star wideout) and could potentially flip wideout Sam Bruce (Miami commit) and defensive end Janarius Robinson (Florida State commit). 

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October 27, 2015

Abby Wambach announces her retirement

 

GAINESVILLE -- Former Florida star and international soccer legend Abby Wambach is hanging up her boots. 

The U.S. Women’s National Team captain and all-time leading scorer -- male or female -- in international soccer announced her retirement Tuesday after the national team celebrated its 2015 World Cup victory with President Obama at the White House. 

“After much deliberation and talking with my friends, family, teammates and our coaching staff, I’ve decided to finally bring my soccer career to an end. While we still have more work to do for women’s soccer, after bringing the World Cup back to the United States this summer, I’m feeling extremely optimistic about the future of the sport. It’s been an amazing, wonderful ride and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life brings.”

Wambach will officially call it quits after the women’s team concludes its victory tour for winning the World Cup this December. Wambach’s final game will be Dec. 16 against China in New Orleans. 

Wambach, 35, was renowned for her goals via headers, physical play, leadership and the advancement of soccer in America. 

She was a three-time All-American at UF, spearheading the Gators’ 1998 national championship team as a freshman. She still holds the SEC record for goals with 96 and led UF to four straight SEC titles. 

After leaving Gainesville, Wambach quickly developed into an international superstar, playing in four World Cups, two Olympics and scoring a record 184 international goals.

She won a pair of Olympic gold medals (2004, 2012) and capped her decorated career with an elusive win in a World Cup final this summer. 

Wambach is actually scheduled to speak at Florida’s Phillips Center next week (Nov. 3) during a Homecoming event hosted by ACCENT. The event is free and open to the public and Wambach’s speech begins at 8 p.m. 

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October 25, 2015

Gators move up two spots in both national polls

GAINESVILLE -- With a couple undefeated teams losing Saturday, Florida climbed in the rankings despite not playing this weekend.

The Gators checked in at No. 11 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll -- up two spots after losing at LSU last weekend. 

Florida also moved up two spots in the coaches’ poll to No. 12. 

The Gators could virtually lock up the SEC East with a win over archival Georgia in Jacksonville on Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS). 

Their remaining schedule includes just one team ranked in both polls (No. 15/17 Florida State), and the Seminoles tumbled in the rankings following their dramatic loss at Georgia Tech.  

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October 21, 2015

HOOPS: Gators picked to finish sixth in the SEC

GAINESVILLE -- Under the stewardship of new head coach Mike White, the Florida Gators were picked to finish sixth in the SEC by the league’s media Wednesday. 

The Gators return three starters from a team that finished 16-17 last season and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. 

White replaces legendary coach Billy Donovan, but inherits a team with lots of depth and raw talent. Still, early expectations remain low, as Florida didn’t receive a single vote in the men’s preseason coaches’ poll last week. 

Senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who led the team in scoring (13.1 points per game) and rebounds (6.2) last season, earned second-team honors in the media’s preseason All-SEC selections. 

Kentucky was picked to win the league, while LSU’s freshman sensation Ben Simmons was named the preseason player of the year.  

Preseason Media Poll

1. Kentucky

2. Vanderbilt

3. Texas A&M

4. LSU

5. Georgia

6. Florida

7. South Carolina

8. Mississippi State

9. Ole Miss

10. Auburn

11. Arkansas

12. Tennessee

13. Alabama

14. Missouri 

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October 18, 2015

#DBU? Both secondaries schooled Saturday night

BATON ROUGE, La. -- During the offseason, the secondaries of Florida and LSU traded Twitter barbs laying claim to the real Defensive Back University -- or #DBU. 

Both schools need to have their accreditations checked after Saturday night in Death Valley. 

In No. 6 LSU's thrilling 35-28 win, both secondaries were schooled by miscommunications, blown assignments and poor tackling. Neither team had a clue how to stop a wheel route, either. 

Tigers quarterback Brandon Harris threw for 200 yards for just the second time in his career, completing 13-of-19 passes for two touchdowns.

He connected on a pair of bombs to Malachi Dupree (52-yard flea flicker, 50-yard touchdown) on misplays by safety Marcus Maye and All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and found Travin Duval for a nine-yard touchdown on a terrific fade pattern. 

LSU entered the game as the nation's worst passing team, but Harris answered the critics with a standout performance. His elusiveness and ability to keep plays alive really hurt UF. 

"It's nothing but motivation to me," he said. 

"I play with a chip on my shoulder. I say this real humbly: This team knows how talented we are passing the ball. Everybody knows what I can do throwing the football."

They certainly do now. 

Meanwhile, Treon Harris answered his own critics, as No. 8 Florida’s backup quarterback threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns in place of the suspended Will Grier. It was hardly a flawless performance (he finished the game missing 10 of his final 12 throws), but the sophomore kept UF's upset hopes alive with big plays throughout the game. 

He found tight end Jake McGee wide open for two scores on breakdowns by LSU defensive backs, and connected with playmakers Antonio Callaway (48-yarder), DeAndre Goolsby (30-yarder) and Demarcus Robinson (38-yarder) for explosive gains. 

"I thought he did a good job," McGee said.

"It's a tough test. First transition game. ... I thought it was something he handled well." 

Both secondaries tout some of the nation’s best players (Hargreaves III and Jalen Tabor; LSU’s Jalen Mills and Jamal Adams) but Saturday was not a night they'll want to remember. 

"It was frustrating," Maye said.

"We got the quarterback out of the pocket and they got us one the scramble plays."

NOTES

Miles is now 46-4 in night games in Death Valley. … Gators five-star freshman Martez Ivey made his first-career start at left guard. … UF kicker Jorge Powell, a Belen Jesuit Prep alum, was injured on a kickoff return in the first quarter and did not return. … LSU faced a deficit after the first quarter for the first time all season. … Gators freshman tailback Jordan Scarlett (St. Thomas Aquinas) recorded his first carry in five weeks, gaining 11 yards on a pivotal fourth-and-1. … Florida is now 12-of-14 on fourth downs this season. … The Tigers face a backup quarterback for fourth-straight week (previously: Syracuse, EMU and South Carolina).

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October 17, 2015

GameDay Primer: Florida Gators at LSU Tigers

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Football will be played today. 

I think. 

After a chaotic week full of off-the-field storylines (Will Grier, Steve Spurrier, Deiondre Porter), the eighth-ranked Gators will traverse into the jungle and try to win under the lights in Death Valley. 

Since Les Miles became LSU’s coach in 2005, the sixth-ranked Tigers have lost just four night games at home.  

Florida is undefeated and the Jim McElwain era is off to a roaring start, but the season has also been a soap opera. 

A quick rundown thus far: 

Suspensions in the opener. The Kelvin Taylor throat slash incident. Suspensions against Tennessee. Roughly 21 players battling the flu before Ole Miss. Grier and Porter suspensions this week. 

Again, a soap opera. 

McElwain has proven a master motivator though, instilling Florida with an “us against the world” mentality all year. The Gators have thrived on the chaos, but how much is too much?

We’ll find out tonight.  

“Improvise, adjust, adapt, overcome,” McElwain said.  

“And these guys have been pretty resilient so far and now we get an opportunity to see how much we've learned. … Let’s talk about chaos and distractions, playing in Tiger Stadium in a night game, there’s a lot of it going on. So, I think the important thing is eliminate the clutter, take care of yourself, do your job and let’s go focus and have a good time doing it.”

LSU will face a backup quarterback for the fourth-straight week (Syracuse, EMU, South Carolina), and while Treon Harris isn’t an ordinary backup, it is another quarterback issue for UF against LSU.  

WHERE: Tiger Stadium

WHEN: 7 p.m.

WATCH: ESPN

LINE: LSU -7 

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Despite shaky special teams, can UF win the field position battle?

2. How will Florida respond without Grier?

3. Who is the real #DBU - LSU or UF? 

LINKS - UF at LSU

UF braces for LSU’s Leonard Fournette

The Gators turn to Treon Harris

McElwain likes team’s focus despite distractions

Will Grier is not practicing with the team

McElwain has confidence in struggling kicking game

Deiondre Porter arrested 

Gators reflect on Steve Spurrier’s resignation 

Coaches, colleagues and players pay tribute to the HBC

Report: College football icon Steve Spurrier to retire

UF gets good news on injury front  

Will Grier suspended for violating the NCAA’s drug policy

Win over Missouri puts UF back in the national spotlight

SKINNY SIX-PACK

I’m taking a lot of road ‘dogs today. Just 3-2 last week and 19-10-1 ATS on the season. 

Michigan State (+7.5) at Michigan 

Alabama (-3.5) at Texas A&M

Louisville (+8) at Florida State

Penn State (+19) at Ohio State 

And finally, Florida (+7) at LSU. This game could go sideways quickly, or the Gators could hang around and possibly spring the upset. The line has moved a ton this week. Going as high as +10 in some places. The Tigers’ll win, but the Gators will show up. This group is too prideful. 

Enjoy the bayou brawl, y’all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 15, 2015

Notebook: McElwain has confidence in kicking game

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s special teams haven’t been all that special this season. 

The Gators rank in the middle of the pack in punt and kickoff return and their kicking game has been even more suspect. 

Placekickers Austin Hardin and Jorge Powell, a walk-on from Belen Jesuit Prep, are a combined 5-of-9 on field goals, but coach Jim McElwain said he still has confidence in UF’s kickers, specially Powell. 

“Well you know in our program we don’t differentiate between walk-ons and scholarships. They’re Gators,” McElwain said.  

“I’ve got full confidence in everything [Powell] does. He hit’em really good this week in practice. Couple live opportunities that we do, goods on goods, he was nails. Yea. I’ll send him out there and say, ‘Go kick it.’”

Florida can’t afford to leave many points on the board Saturday night in Death Valley (7 p.m., ESPN), as No. 6 LSU’s Trent Domingue is a perfect 7-of-7 kicking field goals on the season. 

Powell missed a 36-yard field goal in the win over Missouri last weekend, but the redshirt freshman is 2-for-3 on the year.

He’s taken over the first-string dues, as Hardin, a redshirt junior on scholarship, remains sidelined with an injury. Hardin also seems to be in McElwain’s doghouse and has not played since the win over Kentucky. 

When asked about Hardin’s status, McElwain said, “I don’t know. He’s got to work through that and see where it is.”

IVEY STILL REPPING AT GUARD

Five-star freshman Martez Ivey continues to see reps at left guard in practice. 

The 6-foot-5, 302-pound offensive tackle has played both positions in games, but Florida is reshuffling its offensive line to add depth and put its best five players on the field.

Starting right guard Antonio Riles has struggled some in recent weeks, prompting the move. 

Ivey first debuted at guard against Ole Miss, and saw reps inside against Missouri, too. 

 “We’ve talked about trying to get an eight or nine-man rotation,” McElwain said.

“Working ‘Tez in there a little bit to give [starting guard Antonio Riles] a break. Tyler Jordan will get in there as well, at center and guard as much as we can. Getting ‘Tez over there with [David] Sharpe on the left side gives us maybe a little pop over there. It also allows us to give [Riles] some rest instead of having to take 80 snaps.”

THIS & THAT

Senior defensive tackle Jon Bullard was added to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list Thursday, honoring college football’s top defensive player of the year. Bullard leads the Gators with 9.5 tackles for loss and ranks fourth in the SEC in sacks with 4.5. … LSU has just one turnover all season (tied with FSU for fewest in the nation), while Florida leads conference in takeaways (13). … Florida last won in Death Valley in 2009. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 14, 2015

Porter suspended indefinitely following arrest

460x(Deiondre Porter | Courtesy Alachua County Jail)

GAINESVILLE -- Florida can add another distraction to the list before its pivotal matchup against No. 6 LSU this weekend. 

Gators cornerback and special teams ace Deiondre Porter was suspended indefinitely following Wednesday’s arrest for allegedly firing a gun at his pregnant girlfriend of two years. 

Porter, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman, is currently being held in Alachua County Jail on $160,000 bond and faces four felony charges, including aggravated battery and two charges for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, and one second-degree misdemeanor, according to court records.

“He’s no longer with the football team,” UF coach Jim McElwain said.

“He is suspended indefinitely for a choice, his choice not to be with us.”

According to the Gainesville Police Department incident report, on Sept. 29 at around 2:15 a.m., Porter angrily confronted his girlfriend, who he knew was 10 weeks pregnant at the time, over a potential relationship with a teammate. Porter accused his girlfriend of cheating, followed her into a bedroom and pointed a gun at her head, “demanding she tell the truth.”

The vicim maintained her innocence and made numerous failed attempts to contact the alleged teammate to prove she had not been romantically involved with anyone else.

Per the report, Porter and his girlfriend eventually went to sleep in separate rooms, but the next morning, Porter continued yelling at the victim, growing further agitated. He then fired a handgun in the victim’s direction, with the bullet “striking the wall where she was leaning,” according to the GPD report. 

Police later found a bullet hole in the wall and recovered a .45 caliber shell casing near where the victim alleged Porter shot the gun. 

On Sept. 30, officers contacted Porter, who was a passenger in a vehicle with a driver found to be in possession of a .45 caliber handgun. 

Porter was Florida’s starting gunner on special teams the first four weeks of the season and was awarded the honor of wearing the big sombrero before the Tennessee game -- a symbol for a player’s importance during a particular week. 

However, since the alleged incident, Porter did not play a single snap against Ole Miss or Missouri.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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