August 15, 2015

UF's 2015 class: Guesses at who will and won't play

GAINESVILLE -- With a depleted roster, a number true freshmen will play key roles for the Florida Gators this season. 

UF coach Jim McElwain hasn’t been shy embracing the team’s youth movement, but the new coach also insists he won’t simply burn a redshirt season for limited snaps. 

“My deal is if we’re going to play them, they’re going to play,” he said.

“Whether it’s significant on every single special teams and in certain series on defense and offense. I think you can probably look at the depth or just the numbers at the position, there will be a lot of young guys probably playing and kind of philosophically if they’re ready and can help the football team and play valuable reps they’re going to play. If they’re not and need some seasoning then we’ll go ahead and redshirt [them].”

Florida scrimmaged for the first time this preseason on Friday, and McElwain said he and the staff will begin honing the depth chart after its second scrimmage next week. 

 “After the second scrimmage you’re usually able to know which guys kind of work in,” he said.

“It really comes down to their value on special teams. Moving forward, that’s how you make a roster.” 

Based on watching practice and talking to coaches/players, here’s a breakdown of where the 2015 class stands with three weeks before the team's Sept. 5 opener. 

DEFINITES TO PLAY

Martez Ivey, offensive tackle

Jordan Scarlett, tailback

CeCe Jefferson, defensive end

Antonio Callaway, receiver

Jordan Cronkite, tailback

Rayshad Jackson, linebacker

Tyler Jordan, center/guard

***** Ivey, Jefferson and Scarlett will all see significant snaps, while Callaway, Cronkite and Jordan have already worked their way into their prospective positional rotations. Jackson should be a special teams stud. 

PROBABLES TO PLAY

Fred Johnson, offensive tackle

Nick Buchanan, offensive tackle

Chris Williamson, cornerback

***** Both offensive linemen are currently taking reps with the second-unit. Williamson won’t see much PT at cornerback but should be another special teams contributor. 

ON THE FENCE

T.J. McCoy, center/guard

Jabari Zuniga, defensive end

Dylan Johnson, safety

Kalif Jackson, receiver 

***** The question here is opportunity. McCoy has impressed in camp, but Jordan, Johnson and Buchanan have all been better. Zuniga could play, too, but Florida probably doesn’t need him right now. Johnson and Jackson are wild cards candidates for special teams snaps.  

LIKELY REDSHIRT CANDIDATES 

Brandon Sandifer, offensive guard

Andrew Ivie, defensive tackle

Camrin Knight, tight end

Richerd Desir-Jones, defensive tackle

Keivonnis Davis, defensive end

Luke Ancrum, defensive end

***** There's potential with this group, but also lots of development needed.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 13, 2015

UF's pair of five-star recruits already making impact

GAINESVILLE -- Two of Florida’s blue-chip signees are already living up to their five-star billings early in training camp. 

Gators offensive tackle Martez Ivey and defensive end CeCe Jefferson have quickly impressed teammates and coaches with their work ethic, maturity and raw talent. 

“Martez Ivey is a freak,” junior tailback Kelvin Taylor said. 

“He’s going to be great. He wasn’t a five-star for nothing, trust me. He’s physical. He’s smart. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s a load. He’s going to be really good.”

Ivey, the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect according to 247Sports, is 6-5, 300-pounds and is competing for snaps at both tackle positions. 

Meanwhile, Jefferson, a fellow five-star freshman, has also awed teammates with his athleticism and relentless motor. 

“He’s showing grit,” junior safety Keanu Neal said. “He’s showing work. He’s showing that he can make plays.”

Jefferson sat out most of his senior season at Baker County High with a shoulder injury, but the 6-1, 280-pound pass rusher is healthy now and already wreaking havoc in camp. 

“He’s one of the young guys doing a heck of a job,” UF coach Jim McElwain said.  

“He shows up. … I’m sure glad that he’s here. He’s a guy that can make an impact. He’s a guy that’s eager to learn, jumped right in at everything we’re doing. That just speaks volumes of the type of kid he is, too.”

******************** BONUS QUOTES ********************

Here’s several snippets on Jefferson and Ivey that didn’t make the short piece. 

“You could tell, just his demeanor. Just the way he carries himself around the locker room. He’s quiet. He gets his work done. He goes about the next play. The guy’s very mature, man. He’s going to be a really good one. Just remember I told you that. He’s going to be a really good one, trust me.”

- Kelvin Taylor, on not being surprised by Ivey’s rapid progression early in camp…

“CeCe’s stepping up as kind of like a young Jon Bullard. … Martez is definitely going to be something special here at Florida I believe, just based on how big he is. He’s huge, and he’s definitely wanting to learn as well. A lot of guys think they’re just going to roll into the position, but Martez is a guy who wants to learn the position, wants to be the guy at left tackle. He’s going to be pretty good.”

- Trip Thurman, on both five-star freshmen…

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August 04, 2015

Florida hype video: "A storm is brewing in Gainesville"

GAINESVILLE -- Florida released a hype video Tuesday promoting the program’s new direction (and hope), building buzz before training camp opens Thursday. 

The “New Regime” video was well-produced (aside from an odd narration choice) and includes highlights and clips from past and present moments. The four-minute piece ends with the narrator saying, “I see a storm brewing in Gainesville.”

Check it out. 

The Gators report for training camp Wednesday (also UF’s annual Media Day), with their opener against New Mexico State slated for Sept. 5. 

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July 27, 2015

Monday Musings: Florida's recruiting after FNL

GAINESVILLE -- Florida wrapped up its annual recruiting extravaganza over the weekend, and the success of this year’s Friday Night Lights has recruits looking at the Gators like...

In a three day span, UF netted five commitments -- (in order): 2016 defensive back Quincy Lenton, 2017 wideout Daquon Green, 2016 center Brent Hegie, 2016 linebacker Jeremiah Moon and 2016 quarterback Kyle Trask -- and generated exciting buzz with a number of other top-100 prospects. 

The Gators nabbed some recruiting momentum, but can they keep it during a transition season? 

In February, first-year coach Jim McElwain capped his inaugural recruiting class with a pair of five-star standouts (Martez Ivey, CeCe Jefferson). He proved he could fill out a class quickly, but nearly as important, he planted the Gators flag back in South Florida.

UF closed with a number of key prospects from the area (wideout Antonio Callaway and tailbacks Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite), reopening a pipeline with former Miami coach Randy Shannon leading the pillaging.  

With fall camp just around the corner (August 6), the summer evaluation/camp period is over. A couple of takeaways following Florida’s fruitful FNL. 

1. FORTIFYING A PIPELINE 

The Gators continue to strengthen their position in South Florida. Case in point:

Not only is UF targeting uncommitted South Florida prospects, the Gators are openly aiming to poach a number of Miami Hurricane commits. 

Florida’s 2016 class already includes six prospects from South Florida, including wideout Joshua Hammond, linebacker Vosean Joseph and wideout Isaiah Johnson. 

Three of UF’s four 2017 verbal commitments -- highlighted by top 2017 quarterback Jake Allen -- hail from Miami-Dade or Broward County. 

McElwain's plan is taking shape. 

The state is stocked with playmakers (especially receivers in the 2016 and 2017 classes) and the Gators have (seemingly) positioned themselves well with South Florida wideouts Binjimen Victor and Sam Bruce (a Miami commit) -- both players who traveled to FNL with Allen. Florida is also surging (per 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions) with four-star wideout Calvin Ridley (Deerfield Beach). 

Meanwhile, UF hosted a bevy of other prospects from the area, including 2017 wideout Jerry Jeudy (Deerfield Beach) and 2016 defensive target McArthur Burnett (Pahokee).

Florida's is building its foundation for the future almost exclusively from the fertile area.

2. AN INTERESTING BLUEPRINT 

Make no mistake, Florida’s 2016 class is critical in resuscitating the program. UF can ill-afford failing further behind the rest of the SEC, especially as rivals Tennessee, Georgia and LSU continue to recruit as well as any school in the country. 

Florida currently ranks 14th nationally -- fifth in the SEC -- according to 247Sports.

If the Gators can snag a commitment from any of the aforementioned South Florida studs, as well as four-star defensive end Antonneous Clayton or even five-star defensive end Shavar Manuel (who surprisingly named UF in his top 3), their rankings will undoubtably rise. 

But UF is in an interesting position heading to the fall because of its early strategy in the 2016 class: mining for diamonds in the rough.

Florida turned heads this spring hauling unheralded (or unknown) after unheralded prospect. Recruiting rankings are an inexact science, but they continue to get better and UF appears to be betting big on its staff’s developmental potential.

That’s not necessarily the wrong approach, just an interesting one for Florida.

Considering UF's current position in the league, can it afford to gamble on so many projects (like signing a quarterback who doesn’t even start in high school)? We'll see. 

Depending on some roster gymnastics (normal attrition, early NFL departures, early enrollees counting backwards, etc.), Florida probably has room to sign around 25 guys in 2016. Obviously, McElwain & Co. will nail down an exact number, but it’s a fluid process and semi-complicated by the fact UF already has 18 commits -- 15 rated three-stars or lower. 

The Gators exit the summer with lots of recruiting mojo, so it bears watching how many of their early commits actually end up in Gainesville or if they’re processed for new highly targeted prospects.  

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July 25, 2015

#FNL proves profitable as UF nabs three commits

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s recruiting showcase Friday Night Lights -- now a three-day event -- wraps up Saturday with a camp strictly for offensive and defensive linemen, and UF hopes Friday's momentum continues into the weekend. 

First-year coach Jim McElwain nabbed three commitments (or more??) Friday, including a pair of pledges before the event even got started. 

Four-star defensive back Qunicy Lenton was the first to commit to UF. Lenton, who hails from Meridian, Mississippi, was originally committed to Mississippi State when Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins was still on the Bulldogs’ staff. 

Later, UF landed its fourth commitment for the 2017 cycle, as standout wideout Daquon Green tweeted his announcement.

Green (Tampa Bay Tech) is a 6-1 burner who shredded defenses as a sophomore. The playmaking wideout considered one of the top receivers in the 2017 class and could be a potential five-star talent. 

Hours later, three-star center Brett Heggie verbally committed to Florida. According to 247Sports, Heggie is the sixth-best center in the 2016 class. 

McElwain tweeted out his famous #ChompChomp bat signal later in the evening -- only the tweet contained four chomps.

Many recruiting analysts predict Hoover, Ala. linebacker Jeremiah Moon is the secret pledge, but he told The Gainesville Sun he had not committed... yet. 

Perhaps the mystery recruit will be revealed later today. 

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

Moon it is. The four-star outside linebacker becomes the 17th commitment in Florida's 2016 class. 

Stay tuned. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

February 21, 2015

Florida not penalized for NCAA violation

GAINESVILLE -- Former University of Florida football assistant Joker Phillips committed a Level II NCAA violation last summer for having “impermissible contact with a prospect,” but UF wasn’t penalized after properly handling the situation.

In a ruling released Friday, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions determined “the corrective actions and penalties self-imposed by the school were appropriate and assigned no additional penalties or measures.”

Phillips, who served as the Gators’ wide receivers coach in 2013, resigned from UF on June 11, citing “personal reasons.”

But the former Kentucky head coach had already been suspended by the school from all off-campus recruiting for 30 days beginning on April 10, 2014.

Florida also ended the recruitment of the prospect involved in the illegal “bump.”

Phillips was not named in the report, but details describe a restaurant meeting with a recruit during a mandated dead period. According to the NCAA, Phillips’ “bump” --  notably arranged by a recruiting service reporter -- resulted in a recruiting advantage for the Gators and “exceeded the boundaries of permissible recruiting.”

Still, UF wasn’t levied penalties due to its swift action and the determination Phillips acted alone and without direction. 

“The University of Florida Athletic Association takes pride in the culture of compliance it has built over the years. Integrity is one of the core values of our organization -- we act in a fair, ethical and honest manner and we strive to do things the right way every day,” UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said.

“That is why we took quick and decisive action after we learned of a recruiting contact rule violation involving one of our assistant football coaches in January 2014. We stopped recruiting the involved student-athlete, we removed the assistant coach from all recruiting activities, and later secured his resignation. We thank the NCAA Committee on Infractions for their thoughtful deliberation. We look forward to putting this issue behind us and we will continue to operate with the highest level of integrity and compliance.”

Phillips is currently the wide receivers coach for the Cleveland Browns. 

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February 18, 2015

Pipeline continues: Two SoFla recruits commit to UF

GAINESVILLE -- The Gators’ new football staff continues to make inroads in South Florida, landing a pair of unknown 2016 defensive prospects Wednesday. 

Miami Norland linebacker Vosean Joseph -- a three-star recruit according to 247Sports -- verbally committed to Florida via Twitter.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 2.18.13 PM
Later, Joseph’s former teammate and current Miami Central defensive end/outside linebacker Eric Mitchell, an unrated prospect, also pledged his oral commitment to the Gators.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 2.18.47 PM
Both prospects played at Norland High last season and were personally recruited by Randy Shannon, a former Vikings alum.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 2.19.35 PMAfter landing just a single linebacker commit during the 2015 cycle (Norland standout Rayshad Jackson), the Gators must stock up on the position in 2016 with five upperclassmen ready to graduate in the next two seasons. 

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February 10, 2015

Florida finalizes staff, hires Dixon as WR coach

GAINESVILLE -- Jim McElwain’s inaugural coaching staff is finally complete. 

Florida named Kerry Dixon II its wide receivers coach Tuesday, poaching the former Florida International running backs assistant. 

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.40.09 AMDixon coached tailbacks at FIU in 2014 and FAU in 2012-13, but he has never coached wide receivers in his eight years as a collegiate assistant. He's regarded as a valuable recruiter, with strong ties to South Florida and Texas.   

“Kerry is a young, energetic, up-and-coming coach, McElwain said in a statement. 

“He has strong recruiting ties throughout the state and as a former offensive coordinator he will bring value to the offensive game plan.”

Dixon, from Booker T. Washington High in Texas, played quarterback at Baylor in 2002 before transferring to Hampton and starring as a wideout. 

The Gators desperately need stability and leadership at the position, as Dixon is now Florida’s seventh wide receivers coach in as many seasons.

Like McElwain, Dixon has history in the Big Sky Conference, spending two seasons at Montana State coaching running backs.  

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Foley: Muschamp is "free to make a living"

GAINESVILLE -- Florida finished National Signing Day with a flurry, but after a number of ballyhooed in-state targets signed with Auburn, a former friend-turned-foe became the focal point of frustration in the Gator Nation.

Former UF coach Will Muschamp, now the Tigers’ defensive coordinator, helped AU land five-star defensive end Byron Coward, as well as four-star linebacker Jeffery Holland and four-star wideouts Ryan Davis and Javarius Davis. He also flipped UF offensive tackle commit Mike Horton. 

Gator fans were infuriated. Muschamp was recruiting against his former employer, while still getting paid by Florida. 

UF athletic director Jeremy Foley, who’s been criticized for not structuring a contract to protect the university against such possibilities, said he understands fans’ “angst” but that “it’s part of the deal.”

"First of all, it's a one-year conversation,” Foley said. 

“I get the angst that that causes. But at the end of the day, we terminated Will. It's not like he moved on on his own. We terminated his contract. We said we needed to go in a different direction. He's free to work. He's free to go get a job. He's free to go get a job. He's free to do his job.”

Muschamp was fired after four topsy turvy seasons in Gainesville, and Florida is on the hook for nearly $6.3 million. Auburn made Muschamp the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the country, but Florida did not receive any relief in the buyout due to zero mitigation in Muschamp’s contract.  

“Will didn’t work at all and we’re still paying him the same amount of money,” Foley said. 

“That’s the world we live in. This is the big leagues. These coaches have a tough job, these coaches are in demand. When you’re negotiating contracts with them. I’m not really worried about that. I also expected Will coach here a long, long time. I certainly expect Mac to be here a long, long time.”

Instead of focusing on fans’ frustrations, Foley acknowledged coach Jim McElwain’s successful inaugural class. 

“I imagine Auburn was recruiting some of those guys before he got up there. And Will's a good recruiter,” Foley said. 

“But so is Jim McElwain. Look what he did on signing day, look at what he did a couple of day prior to signing day. We’re all fine. I get, like I said, it’s good conversation, it’s angst, but, you know, we terminated Will’s contract. He’s free to go make a living like anybody else.”

Florida finished No. 21 nationally in team rankings after sitting in the 70’s a week before NSD.

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February 02, 2015

Scarlett, Williamson commit to Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Florida finally reeled in some offensive firepower.

Four-star tailback Jordan Scarlett -- a star at St. Thomas Aquinas -- committed to UF over Miami and Florida State on Monday night.

The Army All-American instantly becomes the crown jewel of Florida’s class, as Scarlett is (currently) ranked as its highest prospect after scoring 79 touchdowns and leading the Raiders to a state title in 2014. 

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound back actually verbally pledged to Miami in July of last year, but he decommitted from the Hurricanes over the weekend following an official visit to FSU. 

With a number of other commitments (highlighted by three-star athlete Chris Williamson) in the last two days, UF’s class now has 16 members and is ranked 42nd nationally, per 247Sports. 

2015 VERBAL COMMITMENTS 

*** Daniel Imatorbhebhe – TE – North Gwinnett (Ga.) – 6-4, 227

*** Kalif Jackson – WR - Duncan U. Fletcher – 6-5, 200

**** Derrick Dillion – WR – Pine (La.) – 5-11, 173

*** Tyler Jordan – OL – Bishop Kenny – 6-4, 280

*** Brandon Sandifer – OL – Northside (Ga.) – 6-4, 335

*** Camrin Knight – TE – Lincoln – 6-4, 225

*** Andrew Ivie – DT – Pasco – 6-1, 265

*** Jabari Zuniga – DE – Sparyberry (Ga.) – 6-3, 255

*** Rayshad Jackson – LB – Norland – 6-2, 215

**** Jordan Scarlett – RB – St. Thomas Aquinas – 5-10, 222

*** Mike Horton – OT – Lakeside (Ga.) – 6-4, 310

*** Richerd Desir-Jones – DT – St. Thomas Aquinas – 6-4, 285

*** Kylan Johnson – S – Skyline (Texas) – 6-3, 202

*** Fredrick Johnson – OT – Royal Palm Beach – 6-6, 301

*** Luke Ancrum – DE – Sebring – 6-5, 230

*** Chris Williamson – CB – Gainesville (Ga.) – 6-1, 190 

January 27, 2015

Where Things Stand: Week+ before NSD

GAINESVILLE -- Jim McElwain said, “I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. … We’ve got a lot of ground to make up. When we took the job, we knew that there would be some [challenges.] It’s going to take a while.”

The “it” is rebuilding Florida, and based on the school’s 2015 recruiting class the foundation for the future might not come from its current crop of pledges.  

With National Signing Day rapidly approaching, the Gators have just 10 verbal commitments. They will sign their smallest class in years, and Monday, 247Sports reported that UF has its fewest commitments in a decade with just a week before NSD.

The Gators’ class is ranked last in the SEC by every recruiting service.

It gets worse. 

Florida has just 58 scholarship players for next season, and a 2015 class low in quantity (and quality at the moment) isn’t going to help the team’s numbers issue.  

But all is not dire, yet.

Florida should get a NSD bump -- UF is among the “leaders” for a trio of consensus 5-star prospects and a number of other recruits -- even though the Gators won't sign a real ballyhooed group. 

Over the weekend, they hosted top-ranked defensive end Byron Cowart and No. 1 offensive tackle Martez Ivey, as well as a number of other key targets. 

They picked up a verbal pledge from three-star linebacker Rayshad Jackson (a Miami Norland High standout) and flipped three-star defensive end Jabari Zuniga, hoping to make a final surge over the next week. 

But it’s late in the process, and UF is reportedly losing ground on Cowart (who favors Auburn) and five-star DL CeCe Jefferson (who favors Ole Miss). It would be a major blow to swing and miss on such talented in-state prospects, but thus is the hand McElwain has been dealt. 

With staff turnover and the school’s recent win/loss struggles, it’s no mystery why McElwain is fighting an uphill battle. 

Transition classes are traditionally weaker anyways, and UF’s struggles have been magnified due to McElwain’s lack of developed relationships, few Southern ties and little name recognition. 

The Gators are trying to salvage their class over the next nine days, but 2016 has already become a more important priority.

McElwain knows he must sign and deliver a monster class next season. Otherwise, the transition (or transformation) won’t truly take shape. 

Florida can sign upwards of 30 prospects next season (depending on normal attrition and the NFL Draft). 

UF has just eight seniors, but it could lose a number of players to the league (namely Vernon Hargreaves III, Demarcus Robinson, Alex McCalister and Keanu Neal) for the second straight year. 

The emphasis on 2016 starts now. McElwain can’t afford to have two subpar classes in a row -- especially one without a quarterback, elite skill position players and quality offensive linemen -- so if Florida is struggling with top prospects in the next recruiting cycle then the Gator Nation will really start worrying.

UF already has three verbal commitments for 2016, including Jacksonville Raines wideout Rick Wells, who committed Monday night. 

2015 VERBAL COMMITMENTS 

TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe - North Gwinnett (Ga.) ***

WR Kalif Jackson - Duncan U. Fletcher ***

WR Derrick Dillion - Pine (La.) ****

OL Tyler Jordan - Bishop Kenny ***

OL Brandon Sandifer - Norhside (Ga.) ***

TE Camrin Knight - Lincoln ***

DT Andrew Ivie - Pasco ***

DE Jabari Zuniga - Sparyberry (Ga.) ***

Rayshad Jackson - Norland ***

(Imatorbhebhe and Jackson are early enrollees)

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 30, 2014

GameDay Thread: Florida vs. Idaho

Unnamed

GAINESVILLE -- It's baaaaaaaacccckkkkkkk. 

I know the college football season officially kicked off in the middle of the week, but whatever.

Today, it really starts. 

Florida hosts Idaho tonight at 7 (ESPNU), as the Gators look to end their seven-game losing streak. 

There's a 70+ percent chance of thunderstorms, but Florida fans just hope the offense is raining touchdowns.

BOOM!

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

Florida announced wideout Demarcus Robinson (university sanction) and defensive tackles Darious Cummings (violation of team rules) and Jay-Nard Bostwick are suspended for tonight's opener. 

********************

If you missed ESPN "College GameDay" this morning, the Jimmy Kimmel-inspired "Mean Tweet" read is a must watch (Dan Mullen became an American hero). OnlyGators.com captured Will Muschamp's brief segment, but seriously, click the link. You'll die at Mullen's response. 

 

I'll pick Florida's game a little later, but in the meantime, if you missed a feature or article during the week, no worries. Read up now!

********* SEASON PREVIEWS *********

Gators' chance to rebound rest with quarterback Jeff Driskel

Grading the Gators: position-by-position look

Florida schedule predictions 

SEC capsules 

********* UF VS. IDAHO ********

Kurt Roper bring postive approach to offense

Gators face tough decision on whether to run Driskel

Former Deerfield Beach tailback Brandon Powell offers Gators speedy 'change-up'

Dante Fowler Jr. hopes to feast on Gators' opposing quarterbacks, spark anemic pass rush

Jabari Gorman brings much-needed experience to UF secondary

Former Booker T. Washington High standout Treon Harris wins backup quarterback job 

Gators' defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin very confident in unit 

Florida releases Week 1 depth chart 

Enjoy the game, y'all. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 02, 2014

Practice times set; Thomas picks Gators over Tide

GAINESVILLE -- Florida announced the times for eight open practices in August, starting with a Thursday night session (7:40) this week at the Dizney Lacrosse Stadium. 

The Gators, looking to rebound from a dreadful 4-8 campaign last season, kickoff fall training camp Monday. 

According to UF, fans will be allowed to take pictures and videos during specific periods of practice, while select players will be available to sign autographs following each open session. 

In an effort to reconnect an irritated fan base, Gator Booster season ticket-holders will be allowed to exclusively watch practice on Aug. 9. 

The complete schedule:

Thurs., Aug. 7 - 7:40-9:40 p.m. (Lacrosse Stadium)

Fri., Aug. 8 - 7:40-9:40 p.m. (Lacrosse Stadium)

Sat., Aug. 9 - 10:45 a.m - 12:45 p.m. (season ticket-holders only)

Mon., Aug. 11 - 8:50-11:00 a.m. (Lacrosse Stadium)

Tues., Aug. 12 - 8:50-11:00 a.m. (Lacrosse Stadium)

Wed., Aug. 13 - 8:50-11:00 a.m. (Lacrosse Stadium)

Thurs., Aug. 14 - 8:50-11:00 a.m. (Lacrosse Stadium)

Sat., Aug. 16 - 9:00-11:00 a.m. (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium)

KEY GET(s)

Consensus four-star linebacker Adonis Thomas (Central Gwinnett, Ga.) verbally committed to the Gators on Friday evening, capping a whirlwind two weeks on the recruiting trail for Florida. 

Thomas, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound Under Armour All-American, chose the Gators over Alabama, becoming UF’s 10th prospect in its 2015 class. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 2.17.36 PM

Following four decommitments in just over a week, the Gators are suddenly full of recruiting momentum.   

Thomas is the fourth prospect in seven days to verbally pledge his services to UF, joining offensive linemen George Brown Jr. and Mike Horton and wideout Kalif Jackson. 

Horton, a fellow Georgian and one of Thomas’ close friends, is a 6-4, 320-pound three-star prospect according to Rivals and committed to Florida on Thursday. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 2.15.50 PM

The Gators currently sit No. 34 nationally in team recruiting rankings, per Rivals. But Florida slides in at No. 13 in average prospect star ranking (3.4). 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

July 29, 2014

Gators nab three-star standout

GAINESVILLE -- A day after a fourth verbal pledge decommitted and four-star tailback prospect Ray-Ray McCloud III spurned Florida's interest, an unheralded Jacksonville wideout finally delivered the Gators some positive recruiting news. 

Three-star receiver/hybrid tight end Kalif Jackson (Duncan U. Fletcher) verbally committed to Florida on Tuesday, becoming the eighth member of UF's 2015 class. 

According to Rivals, Jackson -- who projects as a fit in offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's 'B' position -- starred at Florida's Friday Night Lights showcase, quickly receiving an offer. Within days, the wiry 6-foot-4, 202-pounder committed, telling Rivals he is "solid to Florida." 

 

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July 28, 2014

UF recruiting update: No forward progress

GAINESVILLE -- Friday Night Lights came and went this past weekend, and at least for the moment, Florida’s recruiting momentum seems to be heading in the reverse direction. 

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

This post became dated in less than an hour, as four-star cornerback Marcus Lewis offically decommitted from the Gators on Monday afternoon. 

Lewis, Florida's second-highest rated verbal pledge, tweeted today:

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.00.09 PM

According to Rivals, Lewis visted Michigan over the weekend. 

******************************

For the third time in nine days, the Gators lost a 2015 prospect to a public decommitment on Twitter. 

Orlando West Orange athlete Jalen Julius, who attended UF’s weekend showcase, reopened his options a mere two days later. 

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 11.17.51 AMAccording to recruiting experts, the three-star prospect hopes to play receiver in college but was recruited by Florida as a defensive back. 

A week ago, Tristan Payton, a three-star wideout from First Coast, announced his decommitment from the Gators -- also on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 11.20.53 AM
The Gators, with just eight seven prospects verbally pledged for 2015, have plummeted in Rivals’ team rankings, checking in at No. 35 nationally. However, Florida is ranked 10th in the country in average star rating (3.5). 

While July has been a turbulent month on the recruiting trail, Florida is reasonably optimistic for the near future. 

First, four-star tailback Ray-Ray McCloud III (Tampa Sickles) is set to announce his decision later tonight.

McCloud -- the nation’s No. 26 overall prospect according to Rivals -- attended Friday Night Lights and is considered a Florida lean  committed to Clemson. 

On Friday, four-star linebacker Adonis Thomas (Central Gwinnett, Ga.) will announce his decision -- a dogfight between Florida and Alabama according to most recruitniks. 

Meanwhile, the Gators are reportedly in the lead (or near the top) for Rivals100 prospects Byron Cowart (five-star defensive end/Armwood), CeCe Jefferson (five-star defensive end/Bake County), George Campbell (four-star wideout/East Lake) and Martez Ivey (four-star tackle/Apopka), but with enough uncertainty surrounding coach Will Muschamp this fall, Florida’s on-field success in 2014 will ultimately determine the ceiling of its 2015 class.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

July 25, 2014

Brown commits using live prop, Friday Night Lights set to start

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s annual recruiting extravaganza Friday Night Lights kicks off later today, but before the festivities even begin the Gators received some early good news. 

Cincinnati (OH) offensive lineman George Brown, Jr. verbally pledged his commitment to Florida -- and I’ve purposely buried the lede here -- announcing his decision by taking out a live baby gator during a ceremony at his high school. 

 

Brown, a four-star prospect according to Rivals, chose UF over finalists Kentucky and Alabama and is the Gators' ninth commit in their 2015 class. 

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 3.27.31 PMMeanwhile, Florida could receive a flurry of other commitments tonight, as (according to multiple reports) the Gators will host top prospects from the 2015 and 2016 classes including 2015 notables four-star wideout George Campbell (East Lake), four-star tailback Dexter Williams (West Orange; also a Miami commit), four-star tailback Ray-Ray McCloud III (Sickles) and four-star linebacker Jeffery Holland (Trinity Christian). Five-star defensive end Byron Cowart (Armwood) is among others rumored to attend. 

********** Again, I am not a recruiting expert/analyst/writer, but I will update the blog anytime news breaks of a new Gators commit. ********** 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

July 21, 2014

An examination: Most complete team?

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GAINESVILLE -- A week ago, Boom went bold.

Last Monday at SEC Media Days, Florida coach Will Muschamp made headlines when he confidently stated, “This is the most complete team we’ve had since I’ve been at UF.”

It was hardly a push the chips to the center of the table moment -- this is July after all and the annual circus event in Hoover ups the ante on any traditional customary bloviating by 400 percent. 

But the comment sparked turned heads because the Gators were so dreadful last season.  Muschamp, who embraced the hot-seat scuttle in Hoover, wasn’t haranguing delusions of grandeur but he wasn’t projecting false hope, either.

Florida’s roster is loaded with quality. According to Rivals’ rankings, the Gators have 49 players who entered college as four-stars or better.

But stockpiling prospects doesn’t necessarily equate to “the most complete team.”

The Gators need help today. Not tomorrow. 

There’s little doubt if Muschamp should be replaced at season’s end, whoever inherits Florida’s roster will be giddy about the immediate future. Gators fans have long shared ambivalent feelings towards Coach Boom, and a comment even slightly raising the stakes (or hope) strike at the heart of their contradictory thoughts.

I joked on Twitter Muschamp’s statement was incorrect. Case closed. 

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.20.29 AMWas it though?

An examination… 

QUARTERBACK

ADV: 2014

On the surface it’s Jeff Driskel’s potential versus Jeff Driskel’s linear development, but the talent behind Florida’s starting signal caller this fall is much stronger (Will Grier, Treon Harris). The fact Driskel is finally in an offense that can maximize his skills is another benefit.

RUNNING BACK

ADV: 2014 (if ever so slightly)

The Gators are super deep at tailback this fall, but in 2012, Mike Gillislee rushed for over 1,000 yards averaging 4.72 yards per attempt. Ultimately, the stable of tailbacks (Kelvin Taylor, Mack Brown, Adam Lane, Matt Jones) + the (theoretical) eradication of Murderball (cc: Bill Connelly) top a lone wolf. 

WIDE RECEIVER 

ADV: 2014 

The wideout position is easily Florida’s biggest strength compared to two years ago. Sophomores Demarcus Robinson, Chris Thompson and Ahmad Fulwood stand as emerging playmakers, while senior wideout Quinton Dunbar is the same ho-hum possession receiver he was two years ago -- when he was Florida’s top option at the position. 

TIGHT END 

ADV: PUSH

Jordan Reed was a second-team All-SEC performer in 2012 and standout rookie in the NFL last year. Although Virginia transfer Jake McGee could reasonably replicate Reed’s stats (45 rec., 559 yrds) in Kurt Roper’s spread attack, the promising talent behind the former Cavalier (C’yontai Lewis, DeAndre Goolsby) is eerily similar to the hyped outlook for former freshmen Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson. 

OFFENSIVE LINE

ADV: PUNT (or 2012)

It’s the difficult choice between a pair of pu-pu platters, but Florida’s line this fall is scary thin and starts a center who’s never played center, a pair of tackles who can’t stay healthy and a guard who’s 6-9, 350-pounds. Two seasons ago, the Gators’ line barely mitigated disaster; so again, this is like comparing the best Adam Sandler flicks since 1999.

DEFENSIVE LINE 

ADV: 2012

Florida started three former five-star recruits (Dominique Easley, Omar Hunter, Sharrif Floyd) and brought a pair of freshmen five-star studs (Dante Fowler Jr., Jon Bullard) off the bench. The Gators’ youthful front this fall could be stout, but UF’s 2012 contingent was a menacing, seasoned group.

LINEBACKERS

ADV: PUSH

2012 had the vets (Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins, Lerentee McCray) and 2014 has all the promise (Jarrad Davis, Daniel McMillian, Matt Rolin). Bostic was a steady force, but Davis is a natural breakout candidate this fall. How well Antonio Morrison rebounds from a rough 2013 will go a long way in determining the actual upside of the unit.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

ADV: 2012

Vernon Hargreaves III is possibly the best corner in the nation, but he can’t cover the entire field solo. Florida’s secondary is a gluttonous group (Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson) but the 2012 unit was ridiculous also. To wit: Matt Elam, Josh Evans, (a mentally engaged) Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson, Jaylen Watkins and De’Ante Saunders.

SPECIALISTS

ADV: 2012

Caleb Sturgis and Kyle Christy were All-Americans in 2012. The Gators’ kickers were so dreadful last season they replaced their special teams coach after just one year in Gainesville. Really, enough said. Sixth-year senior Andre Debose should reprise his ‘12 role as UF’s electric return man, but Solomon Patton actually averaged more yards per return last season than Debose ever has in his career.

FINAL SCORECARD 

2012: 3 (DL, DB, SPEC.)

2014: 3 (QB, RB, WR)

2 pushes (TE, LB); 1 punt (OL).

Ultimately, Muschamp believes this is his most complete team because he believes he’s actually found a functional offense. The purely (unscientific) prospect talent base in 2012 versus 2014 is almost negligible (48 four-stars or better in 2012; 49 in 2014), but two years ago the Gators knew they had a rock-star defense and this year they simply hope they do.

Offensively, UF’s talent pool is better now and in a LOST-like alternate universe its attack could actually be more consistent than its defense. But Florida’s margins remain thin. Although the ceiling on this year’s team could be higher than a group that went 11-2, its floor is definitely lower.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

July 15, 2014

Freshman DB cited for marijuana possession

GAINESVILLE -- Florida five-star freshman cornerback Jalen Tabor was cited May 27 for misdemeanor maijuana possession of less than 20 grams, as first reported by 247 Sports’ Thomas Goldkamp. 

Tabor, an early enrollee and UF’s top-rated prospect in 2014, reached a deferred prosecution agreement on June 3.  

“Jalen has faced the consequences for his actions and is very remorseful,” coach Will Muschamp said in  a statement to reporters in Hoover, Alabama. 

“He is aware that this is not how we represent [the University of Florida.]"

Tabor’s mom, Merri, tweeted out her support late Monday evening. 

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 7.25.33 AMAccording to the Gainesville Police Department report, Tabor was in a parked car in the University House apartment complex when an officer smelled marijuana emanating from the vehicle. A “probable cause search” yielded possession of less than 20 grams. 

The Under Armour All-American has already been disciplined by the team and school, and will not face any additional punishment, per The Gainesville Sun. 

Tabor’s arrest is Florida’s first run-in with the law since junior linebacker Antonio Morrison’s infamous barking-dog incident last July 21.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

June 11, 2014

Phillips resigns, Leak to take over WRs

GAINESVILLE -- For the fourth time in as many years, Florida will have a new wide receivers coach.

In a shocking announcement, Joker Phillips, a 26-year coaching veteran who joined the Gators’ staff in December 2012, resigned for “personal reasons,” the school announced Wednesday.

ESPN, citing anonymous sources, reported Phillips was forced to resign due to potential NCAA recruiting violations.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity that the University of Florida and Will Muschamp provided to me and my family, but at this time I have decided to step down from my position on the UF coaching staff for personal reasons," Phillips said in a statement.

"I appreciate Joker's contributions to our program and wish him and his wife, Leslie, nothing but the best in the future," head coach Will Muschamp added.

Phillips was also Florida’s recruiting coordinator, but the more pressing concern is UF’s merry-go-round coaching position.

Former Gators quarterback Chris Leak, a graduate assistant and quality control coach at Florida in 2013, was promoted and will replace Phillips as the wide receivers coach.

While Muschamp touted Leak as a “bright young coach,” the former national champion starting quarterback has minimal coaching experience and is the second graduate assistant in three seasons to either be promoted or coach the receivers despite the lack of coaching acumen.

"He is one of the all-time Gator greats and being at Florida is very important to him,” Muschamp said.

“He has been working with Coach [Kurt] Roper and our offensive staff and is very familiar with our players and new system."

Leak was a four-year starter at Florida (2003-06), amassing school records in yards (11, 213), completions (895) and attempts (1,458) while leading the Gators to their second school national championship in 2006.

"I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Muschamp has given me and my family," he said.

"It's an honor to be coaching at my alma mater where I have so many fond memories both on and off the field. We have a tremendous coaching staff, a great group of players and a support system in place and I'm excited to be a part of it."

More to come. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 30, 2014

Friday Fodder: Game times set, recruiting news, UF-UM update

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GAINESVILLE -- Florida fans will receive a brief reprieve from the heat this fall, as the Southeastern Conference announced the Gators’ season opener against Idaho (Aug. 30) will be a 7 p.m. kickoff on ESPNU. 

Earlier in the week, CBS announced the annual Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville (Nov. 1) will be televised on the network for the 12th straight year with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff. 

The Gators now have four game times set, as UF’s home tilts against Eastern Michigan (Sept. 6) and Kentucky (Sept. 13) are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively, with both games airing on the SEC Network. 

FAMILY CONNECTION

Three-star defensive tackle Andrew Ivie, younger brother of Florida sophomore defensive end Joey, committed to the Gators Thursday, per multiple recruiting services. 

The 6-foot-3, 288-pound Pasco product chose Florida over Ole Miss, Mississippi State and UCF. 

Ivie is the eighth prospect verbally pledged to UF’s 2015 class. 

UF-UM UPDATE

The SEC Spring Meetings concluded Friday, and while league commission Mike Slive announced several major tidbits from the week’s worth of discussions, the Florida-Miami series was a minor noteworthy topic early in the week. 

According to Associated Press reporter Mark Long, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said there’s “mutual interest” in renewing the Miami-Florida football series, but only as a “one-game deal at a neutral site.”

Foley’s quote on the matter hardly makes a potential showdown a reality (in the near or distant future), but it does clear up exactly how “receptive” Florida is in “renewing the series.”

The rub moving forward is how much cash can/will a neutral contest generate and what exactly constitutes a neutral site?

FILTHY RICH

The league announced record revenue in 2013, as $309.6 million will be distributed amongst the 14 schools -- an average of $20.9 million per university. With the league introducing its own TV network this summer, that number could double next season. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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