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

October 13, 2015

Colleagues, coaches and players pay tribute to HBC

GAINESVILLE -- Steve Spurrier resigned abruptly from South Carolina on Monday, sending shockwaves around college football.

Spurrier, 70, is the all-time winningest coach at Florida and South Carolina. The Head Ball Coach was an icon with his swagger, sharp tongue and sophisticated offensive mind, and on Tuesday, tons of former colleagues, coaches and players paid tribute to Spurrier on Twitter.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 12, 2015

Report: College football icon Steve Spurrier to retire

GAINESVILLE -- The visor has been tossed for the last time. 

Former Florida Gators player, coach and legend Steve Spurrier is retiring -- effective immediately -- according to multiple outlets. 

Sports Illustrated first reported the news

The Ol’ Ball Coach, 70, is a college football saint, winning the Heisman Trophy at UF in 1966 and revolutionizing offense in the SEC years later with the Fun 'N Gun attack.

In 1996, Spurrier delivered Florida’s first national title in school history with a 52-20 win over Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. 

In all, Spurrier was 122-27 in a dozen seasons at UF, winning six SEC Championships. He remains the school’s all-time winningest coach, losing just five games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and nicknaming the house of horrors “The Swamp.” 

After leaving UF following the 2001 season, the HBC had a brief and unsuccessful stop in the NFL, lasting just three seasons with the Washington Redskins.

In 2005, he became the head coach at South Carolina and eventually revived a dormant program, leading the Gamecocks to 10 straight bowl games. The Gamecocks won 11 games in three-straight seasons from 2011-2013 and Spurrier is the school’s all-time winningest coach. 

Last season, USC upset Florida 23-20 and the next day Will Muschamp was fired. 

“I’m getting a little old when you start feeling sorry for the other coach, “ Spurrier said afterwards. 

“I hope they keep him.”

Had Spurrier chosen to finish out the 2015 season, his final SEC game would’ve come against his alma mater on Nov. 14 in Columbia, SC. 

Spurrier remains an endeared figure, and his larger-than-life personality started at UF. His most famous gems include, "You can't spell Citrus without U-T" and "You know what FSU stands for don't you? Free Shoes University."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 10, 2015

GameDay Primer: Florida at Missouri

Unnamed

Clearly, this ain’t Missouri. 

I won’t be at Florida’s game tonight (fall wedding on the beach!) but that doesn’t mean I’ll skip the questions, links and the picks (feeling a bounce-back week). 

Without further ado.  

WHERE: Memorial Stadium

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

WATCH: SEC Network

LINE: Florida -5.5

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Can UF avoid a letdown?

2. How will QB Will Grier handle his second road start?

3. Will Florida’s defense dominant an impotent attack? 

LINKS - UF at MIZZOU

The Gators are eying payback

UF is healthy heading into road contest

Jim McElwain won’t heap praise on QB Will Grier

Miami, Florida could renew rivalry in 2019

DT Caleb Brantley is shining without the stats

Gators defense wreaking havoc under Geoff Collins

Emmitt Smith makes rare return to The Swamp 

Morrison earns SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors

UF out to avoid one-hit wonder status

Florida to face LSU in primetime

UF’s young offensive line displaying growth 

Gators rise to No. 11 in AP Top 25

THE SKINNY SIX-PACK:

Another bad week (2-3) but that changes today. Still 16-8-1 ATS on the season.  

Oklahoma (-16.5) vs. Texas

South Carolina at LSU (-18)

California at Utah (-7) -- really like the over here, too

Northwestern (+9) at Michigan  

Finally, Florida (-5.5) at Missouri. The Tigers have throttled the Gators 78-30 over the last two seasons. That should be motivation enough to avoid a hangover after two straight thrilling wins. Florida will need to create its own juice (The Swamp’s energy has been a key factor the last two weeks), but Mizzou is so challenged offensively, backing a freshman quarterback against this UF defense is just silly. Expect a sloppy, low-scoring affair. 

Have fun watching football all days, peeps. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

October 08, 2015

DT Caleb Brantley shining without the stats

GAINESVILLE -- No. 11 Florida’s pass rush has been fierce early in the season. 

Geoff Collins’ defense ranks second nationally in tackles for loss (46) and first in the SEC in sacks (18), but one player who’s rarely shown up in the box score has actually been a key catalyst up front. 

Gators defensive tackle Caleb Brantley has just one sack, 2.5 tackles for loss and (officially) zero quarterback hurries on the year, yet coach Jim McElwain called the 6-2, 315-pound redshirt sophomore one of Florida’s best overall players due to Brantley’s ability to draw double-teams and create rush lanes for teammates.

“He was one of the guys when we first got here that I probably noticed from an athletic standpoint that really jumped out,” McElwain said. 

“To see his athletic ability, explosiveness and quick twitch and all the things that are really beneficial to play that position. As we did our ratings of our top 70 players … he was a guy that was in the top-10 of every coach. So I think that speaks for how much we think he’s a really good player, and he’s doing a great job.”

Brantley played in all 12 games in last season. He would flash in moments but consistency -- from effort to motivation to production -- was an issue. 

But the light has turned on in 2015. 

Defensive line coach Chris Rumph has been able to tap into Brantley’s raw talent, and Florida’s assistant coach credits Brantely’s elevated play to accepting coaching and improving his practice habits. 

“He came up to me and he said, ‘Coach, for the first time I'm starting to understand football. It's starting to make sense to me, starting to slow down for me.' That's a credit to him putting in the extra work and working, listening to the things that we're telling him as a player,” Rumph explained. 

“I think it's really helping him, and I think he's seeing some of the success when he does it the right way, and then also he's seeing what happens when he doesn't do it the right way.”

Meanwhile, McElwain praised Brantley’s unselfishness, as the defensive tackle has frequently sacrificed stats to free up teammates. 

“I think they know the importance of doing their job to help us be successful,” McElwain said. 

“And really what happens, too, usually when you’re doing your job and doing it at the technique that you’re taught sometimes you do spring in there for some sacks or whatever it is. But the amount of hurries, pressures, putting a quarterback where he’s not able to get his feet set, a lot of those are Caleb.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 07, 2015

Report: Florida, Miami closing on deal to renew series

GAINESVILLE -- Rivalry renewed? 

The Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes are close to agreeing to a deal to open the 2019 season at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, according to the Orlando Sentinel.  

"Although the deal has not yet been signed and a last-minute snag in negotiations is always a possibility, it certainly appears the Gators and Hurricanes will renew their once-annual rivalry for the first time since 2013.

Florida-Miami would also be another premier neutral site game for the Citrus Bowl, which will host Florida State-Ole Miss next season and Alabama-Louisville in 2018. Florida Citrus Sports is also apparently in negotiations to bring a marquee college football match-up to the Citrus Bowl in 2017.

“While we won’t comment on this report, we’re always exploring future scheduling options,” UF spokesperson Steve McClain told the Orlando Sentinel."

However, Hurricanes athletics director Blake James told the Miami Herald, “I wouldn’t say we’re close because I don’t even have a contract.

“Is there interest in playing Florida? There is. Is it something that I think is right for us from a fans’ standpoint, from a financial standpoint and right for our program? Those are all things I’m interested in evaluating. And do I think there’s a possibility we play them there? Yeah. But until we have a contract I wouldn’t say we’re close.”

Blake added, “I have an interest in seeing if we can have our football program play Florida. I think it’s good for college football and good for our fans. We’re interested in that. And if it works out that we can play them in Orlando in ’19, I think that’s great.’’

Florida and Miami played annually until 1987, when the rivalry was discontinued.

The two schools have met another six times since then, including a 21-16 win by the Hurricanes in 2013. 

Gators athletics director Jeremy Foley has insisted over the years Florida is only interested in renewing the series if the games are hosted at a neutral site, with James telling the Miami Herald in May 2014 that Foley was “receptive” to the idea.

“I would have to think about Orlando,” James said. 

“That’s not real neutral, but it’s an easy distance to our campus.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

Emmitt Smith makes rare return to The Swamp

GAINESVILLE -- Emmitt Smith is a Florida legend and the most successful NFL tailback of all-time, but the former Gators star made a rare return to The Swamp over the weekend. 

Smith addressed coach Jim McElwain’s team the night before Florida’s shocking 38-10 beatdown over then-No. 3 Ole Miss. 

Smith then watched the game from the sidelines and drew a raucous cheer when he was acknowledged over the PA system. 

“I love the [former] Gators coming back,” McElwain said. 

“I was like a kid in a candy store. I actually got to shake Emmitt Smith’s hand. That was pretty neat. … I was a little giddy. I had a chance to meet one of the best ever at his position. Never would have thought that would happen.”

McElwain said having former players back around the program helps Florida restore its old order. 

“Our guys got to understand they’re carrying on a legacy that’s bigger than them,” he said. 

“You think about -- not only Emmitt, but a lot of those players. Every time people see them, they say the University of Florida. That’s top-of-mind awareness. From a business standpoint, think of what he’s generated for the University of Florida. I’m not sure you can put a number on it.”

Smith wasn’t the only former Gator on the sidelines, as former defensive tackle Dominique Easley served as the honorary ‘Mr. Two Bits’ and former first-round safety Matt Elam was also in attendance. 

Junior safety Marcus Maye called the experience “awesome,” saying, “That was really cool. … Having an NFL great and Gator great come back and share some knowledge and some of his experience with us was awesome because you don’t get that everywhere.”

Smith’s relationship to his alma mater hasn’t exactly been chummy in recent years, though.

After starring at UF from 1987-89, Smith hardly ever returned to Gainesville and didn’t even mention the Gators in his Hall of Fame speech. 

In 2013, he criticized former quarterback Jeff Driskel on Twitter and later apologized to Driskel and former coach Will Muschamp. 

So the fact Smith is back around the program again is a big deal.

“Coach always says you’re playing for something bigger than yourself,” defensive end Alex McCalister said. 

“I was getting dressed and I just had happened to turn right and Emmitt Smith is sitting down right there. My heart dropped for a second. I was like, ‘Dawg, Emmitt Smith is really right here in our locker room just chillin.’ That’s big, that’s big for everybody though. Former Gators coming back and helping us out, talking to us here and there. I love that.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 06, 2015

Notebook: Morrison honored, recruiting updates

GAINESVILLE -- Antonio Morrison is just nine months removed from major knee surgery, but the senior linebacker has started every game for No. 11 Florida.

Morrison hasn’t quite looked himself, though, until last Saturday. 

The middle linebacker recorded a ridiculous 16 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a half sack in UF’s upset win over Ole Miss.

He was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week and also earned Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors for his standout performance. 

“There’s the story of this football team,” McElwain said. 

“What he has overcome. The work he has put in. … I can’t say enough about this guy.”

Morrison now leads the team in stops with 40, adding 1.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. 

ONE IN, ONE OUT 

Former Miami commit McArthur Burnett (Pahokee) verbally pledged to Florida over the weekend.

The wideout/cornerback is the third prospect to flip from Miami to Florida in the 2016 cycle, joining corner Chauncey Gardner (Cocoa) and wideout Isaiah Johnson (Dwyer). 

Meanwhile, the Gators lost a commitment, as athlete Tyrek Tisdale (Orlando Oak Ridge) announced on Twitter he was backing off his pledge. 

The Gators’ 2016 class is ranked No. 14 nationally with 20 verbal commits, per 247 Sports.  

THIS & THAT

Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk remains indefinitely suspended and will not play against UF. Freshman quarterback Drew Lock will make his second straight start. … Despite playing every snap the last three weeks, Will Grier still isn’t listed as UF’s unquestioned starter at quarterback -- at least not on the depth chart. There were no changes to the Week 6 two-deep, as the ‘OR’ remains between Grier and sophomore Treon Harris.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 04, 2015

Soaring: UF climbs to No. 11 after routing Ole Miss

GAINESVILLE -- The climb has started earlier than anticipated. 

Fresh off a shocking 38-10 manhandling of then-No. 3 Ole Miss, Florida jumped 14 spots in the Associated Press Top 25 -- the third-highest jump in AP Poll history dating back to 1936. 

UF (5-0, 3-0 SEC) also checked in at No. 12 in the coaches’ poll. 

The Gators dramatic rise comes one week after reentering the rankings for the first time since Oct. 2013 -- a 25-week absence following a blowout loss at Missouri.

The SEC East leading Gators travel to Columbia, Mo. this weekend to take on the Tigers (7:30 p.m., SEC Network).

Sunday marks UF’s highest ranking since opening the 2013 season No. 10. The Gators also jumped several rivals including No. 12 FSU and No. 19 Georgia. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Gator Grades: A Sick Result

GAINESVILLE -- Five years ago, Florida had a first-year coach, was undefeated and set to face-off against the No. 3 team in the country. 

Alabama demolished Will Muschamp’s 12th-ranked Gators 38-10, but there would be no déjà vu Saturday night in The Swamp. 

The Gators, led by the devilishly shrewd Jim McElwain, flipped the script and annihilated No. 3 Ole Miss by the exact same score (38-10) in a shocking upset. 

Seriously. 

Stunning. 

OFFENSE - A 

Will Grier was the star (24-of-29 for 271 yards and four touchdowns), but Florida’s offensive line and offensive coordinator deserve major kudos, too. Doug Nussmeier called a brilliant game, keeping Ole Miss’ aggressive and attacking defense off balance with motions, play action, boot-legs and a lot of easy reads for Grier. 

Florida couldn’t really run the ball (111 yards on 34 yards), but they didn’t really have to because the OL held up well enough in pass protection. Demarcus Robinson was great (8 for 94) and Brandon Powell showed off the jets on a 77-yard score. 

Grier was simply one of many sick players, but he played nasty, too. He threw four touchdowns in the first half and managed an offense that never turned the ball over and went 8-of-16 on third down. 

The Gators didn’t gain many yards after halftime, but they capitalized on a couple of turnovers and ran the clock with some key first downs.  

DEFENSE - A+ 

Mercy. Florida’s violent, swarming, mauling defense was unrelenting Saturday night. The Gators held the Rebels’ to a season-low 328 yards and just 10 points. 

Quarterback Chad Kelly took a beating (4 sacks, numerous other hits) and UF’s secondary held Ole Miss’ talented receiving corps in check. 

The Gators forced 4 turnovers, had 11 tackles for loss and sealed the blowout with a critical goal line stand in the third quarter. 

Jon Bullard was terrific again (shocker), but fellow senior Antonio Morrison finally looked like his old self (13 tackles, 3.5 TFL). Vernon Hargreaves collected another interception and five-star freshman CeCe Jefferson nearly recovered a popup fumble (a nifty one-handed snag) for a touchdown. 

All in all, it was dominant performance from a defense that prides itself as #BDN. 

SPECIAL TEAMS - A

Florida’s third unit also delivered its best performance of the season. The missed PAT led to some interesting decisions, but otherwise UF was great. 

Johnny Townsend averaged 47 yards on five punts and his 57-yard boot after Florida’s opening three-and-out immediately flipped field position and was an underrated play early in the game. 

Jorge Powell drilled both field goal attempts and might’ve usurped Austin Hardin’s job. 

The coverage units, especially punt coverage, were excellent. 

OVERALL - A

A month ago, I said Florida’s opening win felt different. But nothing looked that different as UF struggled to beat East Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. Welp ...  the Gators’ days an SEC doormat appear over. McElwain is the first UF coach to start 5-0 since Steve Spurrier in 1990. The atmosphere was electric. 

The Gators didn’t just win. They destroyed a consensus national title contender. I don’t know if Florida is truly back, but suddenly it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait so long to actually find out. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 03, 2015

GameDay Primer: Florida vs. Ole Miss

 

GAINESVILLE -- There’s no shortage of storylines for today’s primetime tilt between No. 25 Florida and No. 3 Ole Miss, but Friday’s Will Grier-is-sick-news has overshadowed all the other pregame chatter. 

Here’s what we know: Grier, UF's redshirt freshman quarterback eying his fourth-straight start, has an illness that kept him out of practice Thursday. He was at Friday’s team walk-through and there’s hope he plays. 

Grier’s father, Chad, told The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley his son wouldn’t miss the game.

We’ll see. 

Yesterday, ESPN’s Brad Nessler was on The Paul Finebaum Show and opened the whole can of worms, saying, “It’s going to be a major theme to see if Will Grier is even ready to go. He had the flu. … So [coach] Jim McElwain told us he’s not going to name a starting quarterback until they do their Gator clap before they go on the bus and come to the stadium. So we don’t know right now. We think that Treon Harris might be the guy that starts. They’ll probably play both.”

According to Nessler, Florida had as many as 21 players sick this week.

As for those healthy enough to play, here’s several storylines to watch. 

* Are the Gators truly a Top 25 team?

* Can UF’s offensive line hold up against Robert Nkemdiche & Co?

* Who will win the ballyhooed Vernon Hargreaves-Laquon Treadwell matchup? 

* Will Florida’s defensive line create enough pressure to disrupt Chad Kelly?

The Gators feel primed to shock the country. At least that's what they're saying.

“You can feel it in the air,"  wideout Valdez Showers said.

"We've been sick of not being ranked and not playing Top 25 opponents and stuff like that, so we're not taking this lightly. When you start winning games and get on a four-game win streak that gives us momentum going into the fifth game and gives us a lot of confidence. You feel like you can definitely take these guys, too.”

WHERE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

WHEN: 7 p.m.

WATCH: ESPN

LINE: Ole Miss -7 

THREE QUESTIONS 

1. Who can win the turnover battle?

2. Can the Rebels run the ball to stymie Florida’s pass rush?

3. Will UF play loose, confident and throw the kitchen sink at Ole Miss? 

LINKS - UF vs. Ole Miss

Will Grier sick, status uncertain

UF embracing the underdog role

Ole Miss game a true measuring stick for UF

Treon Harris a "change-of-pace" option

Florida shuffles OL due to injuries

Report: "Some reality" in UF's interest in Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze

The Gators address their tackling woes

Florida hosting Ole Miss conjures famous Tim Tebow speech

McElwain expects even more from his quarterback

Grier shows leadership in comeback win

Flu bug hampers Florida's early preparation  

Depth Chart Dispatch: Week 5

THE SKINNY SIX-PACK:

I’m ready to bounce-back after my first crappy week of the season (2-2-1). Still a bodacious 14-5-1 ATS on the year. 

Arkansas (+8) at Tennessee 

Baylor (-17) vs. Texas Tech

Oregon at Colorado (+8)

Alabama at Georgia (PK)

Lastly, Ole Miss (-7) at Florida. A flu-ridden roster probably curtails Florida’s real chance to spring the upset, but I’m not sure the Gators have enough anyways. If you’re an optimist, Florida does have some favorable matchups (DL, secondary). Still, UF has overachieved a bit and this game is a measuring stick to see exactly where it stands in the conference. Should be a live atmosphere in The Swamp. 

Enjoy the cool evening, y’all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 02, 2015

QB Will Grier battling illness, status uncertain

GAINESVILLE -- Florida quarterback Will Grier is battling an illness in advance of Saturday’s primetime tilt with No. 3 Ole Miss, according to ESPN’s Brad Nessler. 

Sources confirmed Grier is sick and missed practice Thursday. The redshirt freshman quarterback was at Friday’s team walk-through, though, and Florida is hopeful Grier can play against the Rebels. 

Grier’s father, Chad, told The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley his son wouldn’t miss the game. 

Should Grier be unavailable, sophomore quarterback Treon Harris would get the start and make his first appearance since closing out UF’s 31-24 win over East Carolina on Sept. 12. 

Earlier Friday, Nessler was on The Paul Finebaum Show and let slip some details from his production meeting with UF’s coaches and players.

“It’s going to be a major theme to see if Will Grier is even ready to go. He had the flu,” Nessler said. 

“So [coach] Jim McElwain told us he’s not going to name a starting quarterback until they do their Gator clap before they go on the bus and come to the stadium. So we don’t know right now. We think that Treon Harris might be the guy that starts. They’ll probably play both.”

Last weekend, Grier was one of the hero’s in Florida's comeback over Tennessee, engineering a 13-point fourth-quarter rally and cementing his status at the team's starting quarterback. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

OT Martez Ivey working at guard some this week

GAINESVILLE -- With a pair of starting offensive linemen limited in practice this week, Florida has worked five-star freshman left tackle Martez Ivey at guard in advance of Saturday’s game against No. 3 Ole Miss.

Starting guards Trip Thurman (shoulder) and Antonio Riles (ankle) are expected to play against the Rebels’ fearsome defensive line, as UF coach Jim McElwain said Ivey’s move “is strictly because of depth.”

“We’re just trying to make sure we’ve got enough [bodies] that should something happen we’re able to plug in the next best available.”

Despite serious limitations (depth, experience), the Gators’ young offensive line has performed adequately this season. At times, Florida has played as many as three true freshmen (Ivey, tackle Fred Johnson and guard Tyler Jordan) together.

Still, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche -- the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Drat -- and the rest of Ole Miss’ talented front pose the toughest challenge UF has seen to date.

“As I tell them, I don't care how many starts you have, I don't care how young you are. We're playing in the SEC and we're playing conference games, so you've got to play like a veteran,” McElwain said.

“That's the expectation. I think we'll continue to grow at that spot. I think we'll get better and better with every rep that we take. But there is no time for the future. It's about the now and, you know, they've held up OK. The guys they're playing this week, they're probably licking their chops and think they're going to set an NCAA record on sacks or something.”

INJURY REPORT

Florida’s All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III reaggravated a lower back injury against Tennessee, but McElwain said the junior isn’t even on the injury report before his marquee showdown with Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell. 

“I haven’t noticed anything on him,” McElwain said of Hargreaves.

“I haven’t even seen his name on the injury list all week.” 

Meanwhile, starting middle linebacker Antonio Morrison (knee) sat out portions of practice this week for precautionary reasons and McElwain is confident the senior will play Saturday. 

Redshirt freshman tight end C’yontai Lewis remains questionable with a hand injury. McElwain said if Lewis can get a soft cast on his left hand he should be able to give it a go. 

Linebackers Alex Anzalone (shoulder) and Jeremi Powell (ankle) remain sidelined, while wideout C.J. Norton (leg) and backup guard Travaris Dorsey (undisclosed) are questionable. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 01, 2015

Report: "Some reality" in UF's interest in Hugh Freeze

GAINESVILLE -- When Florida fired Will Muschamp last November, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze was the school’s rumored No. 1 target. 

Freeze, an Oxford, Miss. native, ultimately signed a four-year contract extension with the Rebels, and Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley denied he ever made a formal offer to Freeze.

Days later, UF hired Jim McElwain from Colorado State. 

To date, everything has worked out for both sides, as No. 25 UF (4-0 for the first time since 2012) hosts No. 3 Ole Miss this Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN). 

But at the SEC meetings this spring, Rebels athletics director Ross Bjork told the Orlando Sentinel that there was “some reality” in Florida’s purported strong interest in Freeze. 

“Thing about coach and I is we have a great relationship, so I knew every step of the way what was happening,” Bjork told the Orlando Sentinel. 

“We were able to communicate. I was never concerned because I thought we had a great plan. I thought we were proactive.”

For more, checkout the Sentinel’s complete story

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 30, 2015

UF addresses tackling woes in advance of Ole Miss

GAINESVILLE -- Florida missed upwards of 30 tackles against Tennessee, and the Gators know they can’t afford a repeat performance against an explosive Ole Miss offense this weekend. 

The No. 25 Gators spent an extended portion of practice Tuesday just working on the fundamentals.

“We did a poor job,” senior linebacker Antonio Morrison said. 

“We were so into the gameplan we forgot the little things. The basics. We just got back to the basics today, you know wrapping up, clubbing up, running your feet and bringing your feet [to] the tackle.”

Last Saturday, the Volunteers’ Josh Dobbs (136 yards) and Jalen Hurd (102 yards) consistently reached the second level of UF's defense thanks to missed tackles at the line of scrimmage. Coach Jim McElwain said UF struggled with tackling in practice and wasn’t surprised with the team’s issues on gameday. 

“These are prideful guys,” McElwain said.

“I want you to keep writing about it. That helps us.”

Unlike Tennessee, the No. 3 Rebels don’t tout a bruising, power-run game. Instead, their offense is predicated on playmakers making people miss in space, so UF’s secondary must be ready to tackle a group of athletic, rangy receivers 1-on-1. 

“It wasn’t us,” said safety Keanu Neal, lamenting last weekend’s performance. 

“We want to be BDN. We want to be the best in the nation and we didn’t show that.” 

THIS & THAT

Morrison extended some high praise to freshman wideout Antonio Callaway, comparing Saturday's hero to a recent Top 5 NFL Draft pick. "Since he stepped on here I said he’s Amari Cooper in the making,” Morrison said. “Just watch and remember I said that. Amari Cooper from Alabama. That’s him right here.” … With more than nine players sidelined with flu-like symptoms, Florida didn’t practice Monday but returned to the fields for its normal work Tuesday afternoon. …  McElwain on Florida’s big recruiting weekend: “The buzz, the amount of guys that were just here, the environment, I credit the Gator Nation for that. We’ll see how it pans out come February. … But’s it’s sure something that we’re excited about.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 28, 2015

Depth Chart dispatch: Robinson back to first-string

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s meaningless worthless perfunctory depth chart release Monday yielded a couple notable changes, highlighted by Demarcus Robinson’s promotion back to first-string in advance of Saturday's primetime tilt with No. 3 Ole Miss (7 p.m., ESPN).  

The junior wideout leads the Gators in targets through four games, recording a team-high 20 receptions for 153 yards and a score. 

Redshirt freshman Will Grier engineered Saturday’s comeback win, but the ‘OR’ remained at quarterback -- something coach Jim McElwain addressed Monday

Defensively, five-star freshman CeCe Jefferson is now the first-string defense end, while Jon Bullard, who’s delivered an All-American-type season, officially moved to tackle after playing the majority of snaps inside all year. Caleb Brantley was bumped down to second-team.

Meanwhile, Jalen Tabor returns from his suspension but there’s no longer an ‘OR’ at cornerback between Tabor and Quincy Wilson. Wilson, a sophomore from University School, is the unequivocal starter opposite of Vernon Hargreaves III now. 

On special teams, veteran kicker Austin Hardin, who missed the Tennessee win with a leg injury, is no longer the starter, and the redshirt junior appears to be in McElwain’s doghouse. 

*************** Florida’s Week 5 Depth Chart ***************

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 8.00.06 PM

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 8.00.17 PM

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 27, 2015

Drought over: UF ranked for the first time since 2013

GAINESVILLE -- Following Saturday’s dramatic comeback win over rival Tennessee, Florida is ranked for the first time in nearly two seasons. 

The Gators opened at No. 25 in Sunday’s Associated Press Top 25, and they checked in at No. 23 in the coaches’ poll.

UF’s return to the polls ended a 25-week drought -- the program’s longest stretch since a 32-week span from Nov. 5, 1977 to Oct. 4, 1980. 

The last time UF (4-0, 2-0 SEC) was ranked was Oct. 19, 2013 -- a 36-17 loss at Missouri.  

The Gators host No. 3 Ole Miss next weekend in a primetime showdown (7 p.m., ESPN) in The Swamp. 

“We’ve played four games and I don’t think we’ve lost yet,” coach Jim McElwain said. 

“Now we a chance to go test ourselves against a great opponent that obviously probably should come in here and beat the heck out of us.”

The Rebels, ranked No. 5 in the coaches’ poll, are just the first of several top 10 teams Florida will face over the course of the regular season (No. 6 Georgia, No. 8 LSU, No. 9 FSU).

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

'Train Right, Jill, Big Ben, In' ... for the win

 

GAINESVILLE -- You simply had to be there.

Some will swear they were.

The Florida Gators’ astonishing comeback over Tennessee was one for the ages, as youngsters Will Grier, Brandon Powell and Antonio Callaway combined for one of the most memorable plays in recent history and cemented their place in Florida-Tennessee lore.

The Gators’ improbable 28-27 win over the Volunteers -- their 11th straight victory in the series -- was the second-largest fourth-quarter comeback in UF history.

Here’s how it all broke down according to Florida’s coach, players and popular radio team. 

JIM MCELWAIN, UF head coach

“It’s Train Right, Jill, Big Ben, In. Why? Why not? That’s the name of it. We blow out the middle, run a little double-dig deal and hopefully you have enough time up front to read it inside-out. We try to get it to the sticks. It’s something we do every single Friday. … Something that our guys practice every week against teams that are in those long-yardage defenses. I mean, they probably could’ve answered what the call was going to be. So that’s good.” 

WILL GRIER, UF quarterback

“It’s a kind of deep end. Two guys running just deep ends, kind of at the sticks. And I’m going inside dig, outside dig. It’s just a deep end flat package that we’ve had and repped every practice since camp started. You just gotta find the open guy and get it to him, convert the first down.” 

BRANDON POWELL, UF receiver 

“My responsibility was to get the corner route because hopefully he’ll throw it deep, and I’ll make the catch.” 

***** With under two minutes remaining, Grier faced 4th-and-14 from UF’s 37-yard line. Tennessee lined up in a soft zone and Callaway found an opening for a first down … and then a whole lot more. *****

GRIER 

“Callaway. Just made a hell of a play, man. That guy has just stepped up and is making a lot of plays. He turned that first down into a touchdown. Big players make big plays in big games like that.”

MCELWAIN

“We knew there was something special in this kid when we started recruiting him and I think he’s proving that. And it’s still I don’t think really scratched the surface. He’s still learning how to play.” 

JAKE MCGEE, UF tight end 

“It was actually a five-wide receiver set, so I was [on the sideline]. Will rolled out of the pocket, Antonio came up and came open and then I thought it was going to just keep the drive going.”

***** But even with blazing speed, Callaway doesn’t go 63-yards to the end zone without the effort of diminutive wideout Brandon Powell, who took out three Vols on the play with a diving block. *****    

POWELL

“I was already up field, saw that he caught it, made a move and came back for a block and he just used his speed to score a touchdown and win the game.”

MCELWAIN

“It wasn’t just him. Brandon Powell, you know, got them peeling back on that and got in the way of those two guys who had angles on him that let him score there at the end. So to me, Brandon probably had more to do on that play because he had to clear out the middle than anyone else on the field there. That’s great to see. … It was pretty special and they deserve it.”

JARRAD DAVIS, UF linebacker

"When Will threw that ball, I was like there's so many white jerseys over there, and here comes Antonio out of nowhere. Catches it, wheels up the sideline and my man Brandon Powell. Coach McElwain says it every time, 'You have to be unselfish, you have to give it up for the team.’ [Powell] came in, he made an awesome block, sprung Antonio. He took it to the house, that Miami-Dade speed." 

***** Florida practices Train Right, Jill, Big Ben, In every week. It’s never gone for a score though … until Saturday night.*****

MICK HUBERT, UF radio play-by-play announcer 

“Snap to Grier. Grier looking, looking, got a receiver. There’s a catch made on the near sideline. Down the right sideline, 35, 30, it’ll be Callaway down the sideline. HE’S GOING TO SCORE. HE’S GOING TO SCORE. HE’S GOING TO SCORE. IT’S A TOUCHDOWN. OH MY. OHHH MYYYY.” 

POWELL 

“That’s like one of the last plays we practice before we end practice. Coach Mac when we first started he was like, ‘This play is going to work one day.’ Tonight it did.” 

MCELWAIN

“You know I haven’t seen it go for a touchdown if that’s what you’re asking. But sure glad it did today.” 

***** Suddenly, The Swamp shook like it hasn't in years. *****  

KEANU NEAL, UF safety 

“I was praying but I didn’t think it was going to happen. It was amazing. That was a classic. … I just prayed and hoped for the best. He freaking scored. Just unbelievable. It was such a memorable moment.”

DAVIS 

“I could not tell you that was coming. I went up to [Callaway] in the middle of the third quarter and said, ‘Hey look man, it’s going to come down to you on special teams. I thought it was going to be a punt return. He was doing his thing on punt return, next thing you know he does it on offense. … That kid right there is gonna be something special.”

GRIER

“You’ve got to battle. You deal with adversity. You’ve got to respond. … We fought to the end and that’s what you’ve got to do to win games like that.”

MCELWAIN

“I was worried about our guys running down to celebrate with them to get a 15-yard penalty, to be honest with you. That was the only thing I was worried about at the time because I knew a field goal would beat us. We didn’t need that on the kickoff cover to be 15 yards back, but Antonio told me before the game that he was going to score. He thought it was going to be on a punt return. He actually wanted to practice chest bumping with me and I said I didn’t know if I could get up that high anymore.”

LEE MCGRIFF, UF’s radio color commentator 

“I just saw magic.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

September 26, 2015

Gator Grades: The Great Escape

GAINESVILLE -- WOW. 

College football is the best.

Even when Florida and Tennessee aren't any good, the game doesn't disappoint. 

Florida capped a crazy comeback with some stupendous plays (hat tips to Will Grier, Antonio Callaway, Brandon Powell, Keanu Neal) and some stupefying decisions by Vols coach Butch Jones. 

The Gators probably didn’t deserve to win, but they didn’t quit and found a way to anyway. That’s impressive.  

OFFENSE B-

Florida’s offense looked broken for much of the game, as Grier struggled with accuracy, happy feet and decision-making (his INT was a particularly heinous throw). 

Then suddenly, the Gators flipped a switch late, and Grier became unstoppable on fourth down (5-of-5 for 123 yards and a score). Callaway made the game-winning play, but Florida never would’ve rallied without the contributions of Powell (several clutch catches and a critical block on the winning-play). The Gators gained 392 total yards and averaged just 5.5 yards per play. 

The offensive line actually performed OK against a solid Tennessee front-seven. Kelvin Taylor rushed for 104 yards on 19 carries. 

Florida didn’t incorporate wideout Demarcus Robinson (five catches after halftime) until it was almost too late, and DeAndre Goolsby, Ahmad Fulwood and the two freshmen tailbacks combined for just one touch.  

DEFNESE B

Truly a mixed bag. Florida’s defense, particularly Neal (13 tackles) and safety Marcus Maye (10 tackles), laid some vicious hits, but the Gators also missed upteen tackles. Tennessee’s two-headed attack of Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurd made the Gators look silly sometimes, as Florida surrendered 294 rushing yards after giving up 166 on the season entering the night.  

On the other hand, UF’s defense eventually found its footing and forced Tennessee into abandoning the pass.  Dobbs did everything for the Vols (led them in passing, rushing and receiving), but his fumble changed the game’s momentum. 

The Gators were totally lost on both trick plays, but forcing a three-and-out at the end helped spur the comeback. 

SPECIAL TEAMS C-

Johnny Townsend turned in a nice day, averaging nearly 50 yards (49.6) on seven punts, otherwise Florida’s special teams weren’t anything special.  Callway had an explosive 65-yard punt return negated by a holding penalty, and the Gators allowed a couple big returns, especially on kickoffs.  Redshirt freshman walk-on kicker Jorge Powell, filling in for the injured Austin Hardin, did drill all four extra points, though. 

OVERALL B 

Jim McElwain summed up UF’s bonkers win best, saying, “Don’t know if we deserved it or not, but I sure like it this way than the other way. It was pretty cool, wasn’t it?”

The Gators made a lot of mistakes Saturday, but effort certainly wasn’t one of them. While this team remains a work in progress, beating Tennessee for the 11th straight year is nothing to bristle at. Somehow, some way, Florida's imperfect performance turned into a perfect ending.

College football is nuts.   

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

GameDay Primer: Florida vs. Tennessee

Unnamed

GAINESVILLE -- Four coaches -- Phillip Fulmer, Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and Butch Jones -- and a decade later, Tennessee is still trying to beat Florida. 

Is today's the day?

The once storied 1990’s rivalry has lost its luster as both programs devolved into conference also-rans, but today’s matchup is critical for both programs, just for different reasons. 

The Volunteers are in Year 3 of a rebuilding project, eying a signature win on the road. Snapping an embarrassing streak would be nice, too. 

Meanwhile, the Gators are just three games into their own rebuild, so a victory would maintain their supremacy over a division rival and give a young team confidence and a little momentum before a brutal gauntlet over the next month (No. 3 Ole Miss, at No. 25 Missouri, at No. 8 LSU, vs. No. 7 Georgia).

On Friday, former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow broke down the showdown.

"I think Tennessee is a really good football team," Tebow said.

"If they would've closed out and played a second half versus Oklahoma and played a little bit more free and to win, I think we would be talking about a Top 15 football team. And because they weren't able to really finish out that game I think that hurts a little bit from the national recognition. I still think they have a lot of talent. Young talent."

As for the Gators, Tebow said his alma mater needs to start winning marquee games to return to national relevancy. 

"I think it starts [Saturday]," he said. 

"It would be a big win. Guess what, next week it’s an even bigger game if you win. It’s crazy, but when you win, the games get even bigger, and then when you get a chance to be in those big games and you win, guess what? Everybody in the country is talking about you. Then it's 'The Swamp is what it was. The excitement is what it was. The recruits' … it changes.”

WHERE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

WHEN: 3:30 p.m.

WATCH: CBS

LINE: Tennessee -2 

THREE QUESTIONS 

1. Can UF dominate the turnover margin for the 11th straight season?

2. Who controls the trenches (and who runs the ball more effectively)?

3. How will special teams factor into the ballgame?

LINKS - UF vs. Tennessee

Gators eager to restore legacy of the once-feared ‘Swamp’

QB Treon Harris, CB Jalen Tabor suspended for UT

Harris’ suspension could force Gators to run some ‘Wildcat’

Will Grier will have an opportunity “run the ship”

#TweetGate: Tabor apologies for Twitter rant

Q&A: Florida Gators OL coach Mike Summers

McElwain pleased with Martez Ivey’s debut

Gators putting emphasis on fixing special teams

Former Booker T. Washington star Antonio Callaway already making impact at UF

Florida’s quarterback job still unsettled as offensive line struggles

UF loses two more linebackers to injury

The Gators’ defense is carrying the load 

Depth Chart Dispatch: Week 4

THE SKINNY SIX-PACK: 

Heed my advice, y’all, I’m a smokin’ 12-3 ATS to start the season. 

Mississippi State at Auburn (-1.5)

Michigan (-5.5) vs. BYU

Georgia Tech (-7) at Duke

Texas A&M (-7) at Arkansas 

Finally, Tennessee at Florida (+2). I expect an ugly, knock-down, drag-out Big 10-esque game. Just with more follies. First to 14 wins. The Volunteers have more talent, can run the ball better and should leave with a victory. But weird stuff happens in these games. After 10 years of futility, I don't have any confidence in picking Tennessee on the road, so I'm grabbing the points.  

Enjoy the afternoon, everybody. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


Team Stats


» View more stats

Categories


Archives


Powered by TypePad