March 29, 2016

UF retains same offensive staff for first time since 2007 season

GAINESVILLE -- The coaching carousel in football -- both in college and the pros -- is a time of year now as much as flu season, so Florida’s second-year head coach Jim McElwain placed an extra emphasis on staff continuity this offseason as he continues to rebuild the program.

Barring any unforeseen moves, the Gators will enter the fall with the same offensive staff for the first time since the 2007 season under former coach Urban Meyer. 

“When you break down a lot of those programs that have been consistently successful, they haven’t had a ton of turnover,” McElwain said. 

"That consistency is something that is huge. For us to stick together … it’s a good thing.”

Since 2007, Florida has had 21 offensive staff changes, including six coordinators and receivers coaches. 

UF’s offensive staff in 2015 and 2016

Doug Nussmeier - Offensive Coordinator/Quaterbacks coach

Kerry Dixon - Wide Receivers coach

Tim Skipper - Tailbacks coach

Mike Summers - Offensive Line coach 

Greg Nord - Tight Ends coach

UF’s offensive staff in 2006 and 2007 

Dan Mullen - Offensive Coordinator/Quaterbacks coach

Stan Drayton - Tailbacks coach

Steve Addazio - Tight Ends/Tackles coach

Billy Gonzales - Wide Receivers coach

John Hevesy - Guards/Centers coach

This offseason, Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier rebuffed Southern Miss’ advances and decided to remain in Gainesville, while the Gators retained offensive line coach Mike Summers. Kerry Dixon (receivers), Tim Skipper (tailbacks) and Greg Nord (tight ends) all remain on staff, too. 

Continuity was good for recruiting and has been evident in camp this spring also, as the open-portions of practice have run smoother. The players aren’t swimming learning a new system again, either.  

McElwain (and Florida’s administration) smartly incentivized continuity by giving assistants multi-year contracts and retention bonuses.

Now we’ll see how much the move pays dividends in the fall. 

Florida’s offense still has plenty of question marks moving forward, but a lack of staff cohesion is no longer an issue. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

March 25, 2016

McElwain gets a raise, now the highest paid coach in SEC East

GAINESVILLE -- After becoming the first Florida coach to win 10 games in his inaugural season, Jim McElwain was rewarded with a raise. 

The Gators’ second-year coach received a $750,000 bump on Feb. 1, the school announced Friday. 

McElwain, whose deal runs through 2020, is now the highest paid coach in the SEC East, earning 4.25 million annually. 

The 54-year-old coach's compensation ranks sixth overall in the conference, behind Nick Saban ($6.9 million), Kevin Sumlin ($5 million), Hugh Freeze ($4.7 million), Gus Malzahn ($4.35 million) and Les Miles ($4.3 million).

"We recognized early in Coach Mac's tenure that he totally changed the vibe around football for The Gator Nation and in the building," UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. 

"Dr. Fuchs and I first talked about this in mid-October -- We didn't want to make it about winning one game or advancing to the SEC Championship Game.

"We wanted to make a change because of the direction of the program and his leadership. From the moment he set foot on this campus, he has steadily put into place his blueprint for the football program. His efforts have been relentless. We are very grateful to have him and his family in Gainesville."

Florida sprinted to a surprising 6-0 start in 2015, climbing as high as No. 8 in the polls. But following quarterback Will Grier’s suspension for violating the NCAA’s performance-enhancing drug policy, UF’s offense tanked and the team went 4-4 down the stretch including a three-game losing streak to end the season. 

Still, McElwain was named the SEC Coach of the Year by the Associated Press, earning a $25,000 bonus. McElwain also received bonuses for leading the Gators to the SEC Championship and the Citrus Bowl. 

"It's great to know that our university and administration believe in the direction we are taking this program,'' McElwain said in a statement. 

"This sends a strong message about the things we are putting in place and the work of the entire organization. It sends a real message in recruiting that we have the support and confidence in our long-term vision.”

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March 17, 2016

Caleb Brantley: "I feel like I'm the best d-lineman in the country"

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators have had a defensive lineman selected in the first round of the NFL Draft for three straight seasons, and and former UF standout Jon Bullard could make it four in a row this April. 

Now, another Gators defensive lineman is already chasing his own future first-round dreams. 

Caleb Brantley was a productive player as a redshirt sophomore in 2015, but the 6-2, 300-pound tackle was often overshadowed by Florida’s other defensive stars. 

Not anymore. 

After racking up 29 tackles, 6.5 TFL and three sacks last season, Brantley is ready to become a household name. 

“I feel like I’m the best d-lineman in the country,” he said. 

“So I’m going to go out and try to prove it.”

Last season, UF’s coaches praised Brantley for his improved motor, practice habits and unselfishness. He’s only getting better this spring. 

“I’ve been really happy with Caleb,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. 

“I think Jon Bullard did a great job kind of teaching him what it so to be that person. So far, he’s been really good this offseason.”

Brantley has come along way in four years, developing from a moody and raw playmaker into a reliable leader and budding star. He learned a lot from Bullard and is now paying it forward with sophomore stud CeCe Jefferson and the rest of UF’s defensive linemen. He’s accepted he’ll be double-teamed on nearly every snap, too. 

“[Bullard taught me how to be a leader, a role model to the younger guys. Always do stuff right,” he said.

“I can’t be selfish, you feel me? If you’re good, you’re going to get double-teamed nine out of 10 times. It’s a chance for other guys to step up. I’m not the only one on the d-line that’s a hell-raiser.”

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March 10, 2016

Problem solved? Pineiro perfect on first day of spring practice

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s kicking game was a disaster last season. 

The Gators made just 7 of 17 field goals -- the second-worst percentage nationally -- and the situation became so dire that coach Jim McElwain solicited students to try and find a solution. 

McElwain’s midseason ploy didn’t work either, but the second-year coach hopes he’s finally found an answer to UF’s problems. 

Enter Eddy Pineiro. 

The Miami native and No. 1 JUCO kicker enters the spring with an opportunity to win the starting job immediately. Pineiro has never kicked a live field goal -- not in high school or at ASA College in North Miami Beach -- but the redshirt sophomore was so impressive on the recruiting circuit that both McElwain and Alabama coach Nick Saban desperately sought his signature. 

When Pineiro committed to the Gators in December, McElwain went nuts.

On Wednesday, UF opened spring practice and Pineiro was perfect kicking field goals, drilling a 58-yarder to end the day. 

“He actually made them all, which was interesting,” McElwain said, smiling. 

“We’ve got to work on our timing, but the ball got up really quick. He finished here with, what was it, a 58-yarder here with everybody around him.”

Pineiro routinely posts viral videos nailing 70-yard field goals or trick shot kicks, so much so that McElwain joked about the kicker’s instant popularity Wednesday.

“This is the first time I haven’t seen it on social media,” McElwain said, chuckling. 

“But the ball comes up real quick and goes very far.”

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March 07, 2016

Mac's speaking tour set; UF roundup on baseball, softball & more

GAINESVILLE -- Fresh off a surprising 10-4 inaugural campaign, Florida coach Jim McElwain will speak to nine different clubs across the state this spring.

McElwain will begin his speaking tour on April 5 -- just three days before UF’s annual Orange & Blue Debut on April 8.

Four of McElwain’s assistants will also make appearances around the state, including a stop at the Palm Beach County Gator Club in West Palm Beach. Times and dates will be announced in the future.  

Coach Jim McElwain’s speaking schedule:

April 5 - Gainesville Quarterback Club (Gainesville)

April 11 - Polk County Gator Club (Lakeland)

April 13 - Broward County Gator Club (Fort Lauderdale)

April 19 - Gator club of Jacksonville (Jacksonville)

April 26 - Southwest Florida Gator Club/Naples Gator Club (Fort Myers)

April 27 - Tampa Gator Club/Pinellas Gator Club (Tampa)

May 3 - Space Coast Gator Club (Melbourne)

May 25 - Central Florida Gator Club (Orlando)

May 26 - Fightin’ Gator Touchdown Club (Gainesville)

UF ROUNDUP!

Every once in a while, Gator Clause will take a look at how the Gators are doing in sports other than football and men’s basketball. 

The short answer today: They’re dominating. Everyone. 

UF is currently ranked No. 1 in baseball and softball, and both teams completed impressive sweeps over the weekend. 

Florida’s baseball team moved to 12-1 after a 8-6 win over Dartmouth on Sunday. Sophomore slugger JJ Schwarz smashed his third homer on the year, while junior centerfielder Buddy Reed slapped a two-run triple for his sixth extra-base hit on the early season.

Friday night starter Logan Shore, a potential first round pick in June’s MLB Draft, continued his excellent start to the 2016 season, throwing seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts against Dartmouth. The junior moved to 3-0 and has allowed just a single run in 21.0 innings, adding 22 strikeouts and only two walks. 

Meanwhile, UF’s softball team remained undefeated after winning the Aquafina Invitational. The Gators outscored their five opponents by a 44-5 margin and their 22-0 record is tied for the third-best start in school history. 

Florida’s Delanie Gourley and Aleshia Ocasio are one of the best pitching tandems in the country, as the two hurlers are a combined 15-0 with three saves and a minuscule 0.45 ERA. 

Finally, UF’s lacrosse team knocked off No. 10 Stony Brook 7-6 on Sunday, moving to 7-0 on the year. Amanda O’Leary’s squad is No. 3 nationally and is 4-0 against ranked teams this season. Florida’s No. 8 women’s golf team won the Gator Invitational on Sunday, beating runner-up Florida State by 11 strokes. 

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February 25, 2016

Q&A: Torrian Gray talks decision to leave Virginia Tech for Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Torrian Gray spent a decade coaching at his alma mater, but Florida’s new defensive backs assistant left Virginia Tech to come home. 

Gray, 41, is a native of Lakeland and talked Thursday about the opportunity to return to the state where his mother and six siblings still reside. 

“To have a chance to come here, I was ecstatic about that,” said Gray, who played for the Hokies in the mid ‘90s and coached 10 NFL draft picks at the school in the last decade.

“To come home was just exciting to have that opportunity.”

Florida hired Gray on Feb. 4, and on Thursday he addressed a number of topics including DBU, recruiting with the Gator crest, learning a new scheme and evaluating Florida’s secondary talent.

What are your early impressions of Florida’s secondary?

“I’m very impressed with the top-end talent we have. We have to develop some depth there, but it’s pretty impressive the guys we do have coming back. I’m excited to start working with those guys. After those guys, we’ve got to build a lot of depth.”

So who is really the Defensive Back University?

“I think you got three or four schools that call themselves DBU, maybe more. Virginia Tech was one of the schools that called themselves DBU. Florida calls themselves DBU, LSU too. I hear Texas. I guess it’s whatever you think. We think we’re DBU here at the University of Florida, and we’re going to roll with that.” 

What is your philosophy on recruiting?

“It’s about building relationships, finding out who are the people that you really need to get close with and who’s important to the student-athlete that you’re recruiting. You always want to try to get in and build a great relationship with the student-athlete and who’s going to be important to that student-athlete’s decision.”

Did you have any prior relationships with Geoff Collins or Randy Shannon? How different is the scheme at Florida versus what you implemented at Va. Tech?

“I hadn’t had a lot of relationship with Coach Collins, or Coach Rumph or Coach Shannon for the most part. Getting to know those guys the past couple weeks has been pretty neat. The scheme that we do here is almost a lot different from what we do at Virginia Tech. It’s exciting for me.

I get to grow as a coach and get to learn Coach Collins’ scheme and what those guys are doing. … At Virginia Tech, we kind of got into playing a lot of man coverage. Almost every play. Our zones were matchup-zones. But you can only do so much in college football. You're either playing man or playing zone, but it's just kind of from the concept and the way we did things is a little bit different than here. At the end of the day you can only do certain things, but it's still a lot different.”

After 10 years in the ACC, how different is it recruiting at an SEC school now?

“Being in the ACC, and you come down to Georgia and it seems there was an awe or something about the SEC, an aura that you went up against sometimes. Some kids it didn’t matter, but for a lot of kids it did. If I’m spot recruiting Florida, sometimes it does matter. For some kids it didn’t, but there seems to be an aura for a lot of student-athletes about the SEC. It’ll be fun to see if that works in our favor now.”

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February 17, 2016

Florida Gators to kickoff spring practice on March 9

GAINESVILLE -- Florida will return to the gridiron on March 9, the school announced Wednesday. 

The reigning SEC East champs will kickoff the first of 15 spring practices, with the quarterback competition between walk-on Luke Del Rio and Purdue transfer Austin Appleby expected to be the storyline of camp. 

A dozen early enrollees will also debut for UF, including quarterbacks Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask and kicker Eddy Pineiro. 

The Gators will conclude spring practice with the annual Orange and Blue Debut on April 8 -- hosting the event on a Friday night for the first time in school history. 

UF will also hold its Pro Day on March 22. 

Florida’s tentative practice schedule:

March 9

March 11

March 14

March 16

March 18

March 21

March 23

March 24

March 28

March 30

April 1

April 4

April 5

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February 03, 2016

Report: UF hires Virginia Tech's Torrian Gray as next DB coach

GAINESVILLE -- During his National Signing Day press conference, Florida coach Jim McElwain hinted he was close to tabbing a new defensive backs assistant.

McElwain said he would wait until after National Signing Day to announce the hire, though. 

Too late. 

Gray replaces Kirk Callahan, who was fired two weeks ago. 

The longtime Hokies assistant is regarded as a strong recruiter and solid position coach. Gray logged 10 years at Virginia Tech -- his alma mater -- developing NFL standouts Kam Chancellor, Kyle Fuller and Brandon Flowers.

He is also a Lakeland native and will likely recruit the Tampa area -- a region Callahan struggled pulling prospects. 

Two hours before the news leaked, McElwain told reporters, “We’re down the road on that. Obviously, it goes back to something I believe in. I’m not going to run anybody’s [day]. This is something we’re ready to do. It will happen. You guys will probably know it via Twitter or whatever before I do, but yea, it’s ready to go.” 

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What compliment? McElwain fires back at Bielema's quip

GAINESVILLE -- Arkansas coach Bret Bielema mades waves Wednesday when he called Florida “the new Ole Miss,” adding, “They’re doing some things in recruiting that kind of shocks you a little bit.”

Shots fired? 

Not so, according to Bielema, who quickly backpedaled and explained that he was actually complimenting Ole Miss, currently under an NCAA investigation for recruiting violations, and Florida. 

Gators coach Jim McElwain wasn’t buying it, though. 

“You got to get a kick out of it a little bit because obviously this guy doesn't know who the heck I am,” McElwain said.

“I sure as heck don't know who he is. I'm not sure we really ran into him on the recruiting trail, but you know I know what I'm all about. I know what the University of Florida is all about and I think if you were to poll anybody in college football I think that they'd know that Mac does it right. I have no idea what this guy was talking about to be honest.”

During Wednesday’s National Signing Day, JUCO three-star cornerback Joseph Putu flipped from Arkansas to UF, while the Gators also beat out the Razorbacks (among others) for talented four-star receiver Tyrie Cleveland. 

Bielema told reporters he called McElwain to apologize, and it was “received well.”

“I said something earlier that came across in the wrong way, I guess. I was paying a compliment to Florida. We’ve seen them kind of pop up everywhere. Before my last couple years here, really had only competed against Florida in Georgia and Florida itself a lot, because I love to recruit Florida. Well, this last week we were competing against them on a wide receiver in Texas, a running back, a player in Louisiana and a player in North Dakota. And I’ve never seen that before; that’s all I was making reference to.

“It’s kind of like last week, we stumbled across an offensive lineman in Illinois and I really liked him and started to proceed with him and found out he _ before I got anything going _ had had committed to Ole Miss. And I told my staff, ‘Ole Miss, they’re everywhere.’ That’s kind of the comment we make. It wasn’t in reference to anything other than that. I mean that wholeheartedly and honestly, and when I said that earlier, I was paying a compliment to Florida.”

Interestingly enough, Florida travels to Arkansas for the first time since 2003 on Nov. 5.

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January 30, 2016

Report: Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier staying at Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier isn’t going anywhere. 

According to multiple reports, Nussmeier is no longer interested in the vacant head coaching job at Southern Miss and will return to UF for another season. 

Feldman added in a story that “Nussmeier didn’t feel like the situation at USM was the right fit.” 

Nussmeier -- who interviewed for the opening sometime last week -- presided over the nation’s No. 112th ranked unit, but his return gives the Gators some much-needed continuity heading into Jim McElwain’s second season in Gainesville. 

The report comes just five days before National Signing Day and also allows UF to avoid searching for its seventh OC since 2008. 

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January 22, 2016

Florida's Orange & Blue Debut turning into Friday Night Lights

GAINESVILLE — Jim McElwain isn't shy about making changes -- even with Florida’s spring game. 

The Gators will hold their annual Orange & Blue Debut under the lights for the first time in school history, hosting a spring scrimmage on Friday, April 8 at 7 p.m.

Admission is free. 

The move away from a traditional Saturday afternoon scrimmage is yet another change by McElwain to elevate Florida’s brand. Television details will be released at a later date, but by playing on Friday the Gators won’t be competing with the Masters or spring games of several marquee programs (FSU, Auburn, Clemson) on April 9. 

The move also allows UF to showcase another nighttime atmosphere for recruits and fans. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

January 15, 2016

Florida Gators make staff change three weeks before NSD

GAINESVILLE -- Florida parted ways with defensive backs coach Kirk Callahan on Friday, officiating announcing the move with a statement from head coach Jim McElwain on the school's website.

“We’re making a change on our staff,” McElwain said.

“Moving forward, Kirk Callahan will be looking at some other opportunities and he has a long career ahead of him.”

The move comes just three weeks before National Signing Day on Feb. 3. 

The 30-year-old assistant played at Central Florida and started his career as a student assistant at UCF before working as an intern and graduate assistant at UF. 

Callahan returned to alma mater to coach defensive backs for three seasons before joining McElwain in Gainesville last January. 

He signed a two-year deal, so UF is likely on the hook for his $315,000 salary in 2016. 

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January 12, 2016

UF adds 13 mid-year enrollees, checks in at No. 25 in final polls

GAINESVILLE -- Florida officially welcomed 13 mid-year enrollees -- including a dozen freshmen -- on Monday. 

The Gators updated their spring roster, as four-star quarterback Feleipe Franks was the last player to arrive on campus after playing in Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl in Texas. 

UF also confirmed the addition of graduate transfer quarterback Austin Appleby, formally of Purdue. 

After Florida’s 41-7 blowout loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl, coach Jim McElwain already had an eye on the future, saying, “We’ve got a bunch of guys coming in here at the break. Just know, we’ve got some good guys coming. Lots. Believe me, I’m excited as heck.”

UF's baker's dozen of mid-year enrollees is reportedly the most in school history. 

The complete list:

QB Feleipe Franks

QB Austin Appleby (graduate transfer)

QB Kyle Trask 

RB Mark Thompson (JUCO)

WR Joshua Hammond

WR Freddy Swain

WR ‘Dre Massey (JUCO)

OL Stone Forsythe

DE Jordan Smith

LB David Reese

DB Chauncey Gardner

DB McArthur Burnett

K Eddy Pineiro

FINAL RANKINGS

Florida checked in at No. 25 in the final AP and Coaches Poll. 

The Gators (10-4) finished the season on a dispiriting three-game losing streak -- getting throttled a combined 97-24 against Florida State, Alabama and Michigan. 

Florida climbed as high as No. 8 in the AP poll after upsetting then-No. 3 Ole Miss and moving to 6-0. But the Gators mostly treaded water the second-half of the season, going just 4-4 down the stretch. 

Considering UF’s finish and the school’s continued quarterback uncertainty, the Gators aren’t listed in ESPN, CBS or SI’s early 2016 Top 25 rankings. 

SOMETIMES, THE JOKES WRITE THEMSELVES

THIS & THAT

Electric playmaker Antonio Callaway was named a 2015 FWAA Freshman All-American, earning a spot as a punt returner. The Miami native scored two touchdowns as a returner and nearly broke the school-record for yardage in a season (435 yards). … Offensive tackle Marcus Tatum, long considered a UF lean until a change of heart late in the process, committed to Tennessee on Monday. The Daytona Beach-Mainland product is a three-star recruit. 

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January 07, 2016

Notebook: Six Florida players undergo offseason surgery

GAINESVILLE -- Five-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey was among six Florida players to undergo offseason surgery this week. 

The 6-foot-5, 302-pound freshman had shoulder surgery after exiting early in UF’s 41-7 blowout-loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. Ivey started eight games this season, mostly at guard. 

Meanwhile, sophomore cornerback Quincy Wilson (sports hernia), sophomore wideout Brandon Powell (foot), junior defensive tackle Joey Ivie (sports hernia), walk-on kicker Neil MacInnes (ACL) and sophomore defensive end Jordan Sherit (knee) also had surgeries this week.  

Florida did not announce return dates for any of the injured players, but the Gators are counting on Wilson, Powell and Sherit to have increased roles next season -- especially considering the early departures of cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, safety Keanu Neal, defensive end Alex McCalister and wideout Demarcus Robinson. 

THIS & THAT

Redshirt junior linebacker Jeremi Powell will not return for his senior season, opting to take “an eye toward the future outside the game,” according to Florida’s team website. … The Gators landed four-star defensive tackle Shavar Manuel (IMG Academy) on Tuesday. UF’s 2016 class now stands at 26 commits. … Fifteen former UF players will participate in the NFL Playoffs, per Florida’s team website. 

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December 30, 2015

Gators DT Jon Bullard glad he returned for his senior season

ORLANDO -- A year ago, Jon Bullard put his NFL dreams on pause, but Florida’s dominant defensive tackle hasn’t sweated his choice all season. 

“It’s the best decision I made in my life,” the senior said Wednesday.

“I thought about coming out with the coaching chance. You hear things about how that’s going to be and you have to learn new things. But I buckled down. Me and my family made a decision to come back, and I think it was a great decision. I’m playing the best ball I’ve played since I’ve been here.”

After a solid junior season, Bullard was viewed as a potential mid-round pick, but the former five-star recruit opted to return for one final year in Gainesville and his decision is likely to pay significant dividends for the future.  

Bullard earned All-American honors in 2015 and emerged as a possible first-round pick after leading UF with 17.5 tackles for loss -- third-best in the SEC. He also recorded 6.5 sacks, tying pass-rushing specialist Alex McCalister for the team lead. 

First-year coach Jim McElwain has praised Bullard’s selflessness and maturity all season, and on Wednesday, Florida’s defensive coordinator Geoff Collins called the senior “the poster child” for how Bullard handled both his NFL future and Florida’s coaching transition. 

“Him being a premier player last year, I’m sure he wrestled with the decision to come back or to leave,” Collins said. 

“But the things he did in the offseason, the things he did throughout the year to make himself one of the best players in college football, you don’t see guys do that a lot.”

SHOW YOUR BRAND

As Florida prepares for Friday’s Citrus Bowl showdown against No. 17 Michigan, a handful of future Gators are readying to showcase their skills on the same field the very next day. 

Four UF oral commits will participate in Saturday’s Under Armour All-American Game (Noon, ESPN2): WR Josh Hammond, DE Antonneous Clayton, CB Chauncey Gardner and OL Brett Heggie.

A number of other blue-chip targets on Florida’s board will also play in the all-star game, including linebacker Mack Wilson, wideouts Nate Craig-Myers, Eli Stove (Auburn commit) and Sam Bruce (a Miami commit) and defensive tackle Shavar Manuel. 

With so many top prospects in the same area code, Florida’s first-year coach Jim McElwain said Friday’s game is “an opportunity to show your brand.”

“Look, that’s part of advertising, right? This is no different. We get a chance to take a three-hour block and put the University of Florida on for a three-hour commercial.” 

Florida’s 2016 class currently has 25 commits and ranks No. 8 nationally according to 247Sports. 

THIS & THAT

Both Michigan and Florida spent time with kids from a local Boys & Girls Club on Wednesday.  … McElwain said Florida’s practices this week have been “pretty darn good.” … Michigan’s freshman star Jabrill Peppers remains questionable for Friday, as the three-way playmaker is reportedly battling an undisclosed hand injury. Peppers, a former five-star recruit, is the Wolverines’ starting safety, and the redshirt freshman also returns kicks, punts and plays a little running back. On the season, he has 45 tackles, 10 pass breakups and two touchdowns on 72 yards rushing. UF is wary of Peppers’ talent, but sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor said, “We’ve got 11 Jabrill Peppers on defense. Michigan, they only got one of him. We got 11.” 

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December 17, 2015

UAA Approved: Florida raising ticket prices for 2016 season

GAINESVILLE -- On the heels of an unexpected 10-3 season and a berth in the SEC Championship Game, the Florida Gators are raising ticket prices for the 2016 season -- coincidentally perhaps -- but also in advance of the worst home schedule in years. 

The University Athletic Association Board of Directors approved a price hike of 33 percent for student season tickets and 10 percent for booster season tickets, as first reported by The Gainesville Sun. 

Although tickets prices were modestly raised, booster fees remain unchanged for the third straight year. 

“These additional dollars will allow us to continue to maintain a high-level athletic program in our 21 sports,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement on FloridaGators.com

“Our students are very important to us. They create a special environment at all our venues and we try to maintain reasonable prices for them. That’s the reason why this is the first increase in four years.”

According to the UAA, booster season tickets will now be $330 -- instead of $300 per season ticket package. Student prices will go from $105 to $140 for the seven-game slate -- or $5 per game. Foley noted that the increase still leaves Florida “the the median range relative to other SEC programs.”

In Jim McElwain’s first season, the Gators sold out The Swamp four times -- something former coach Will Muschamp didn’t do in four seasons. UF went 6-1 at home, losing the finale 27-2 to Florida State. 

But the price hike comes at a tough time, as Florida's 2016 home schedule is a drag. The Gators non-conference slate -- UMass, North Texas and Presbyterian -- is awful and LSU is the only conference opponent that finished the 2015 season with a winning record. 

Of note though, Muschamp will return to The Swamp on Nov. 12 with South Carolina. 

THIS & THAT

Three-star defensive end JaQuan Bailey (Jacksonville Raines) decommitted from UF on Wednesday, and Miami Central three-star defensive end Eric Mitchell backed off his UF pledge on Thursday. Florida’s 2016 class now stands at 24 commits and is ranked No. 8 according to 247Sports. … Wideout Antonio Callaway, a star at Miami Booker T. Washington, and defensive end CeCe Jefferson were both named to ESPN’s True Freshman All-American team. Callaway quickly emerged as a dynamic playmaker, leading the Gators with 603 receiving yards and four touchdowns and adding two punt return scores, too. Jefferson, a former five-star recruit, was also a standout, recording 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.  

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December 13, 2015

Florida Gators recruiting news: One addition, one subtraction

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s 2016 recruiting class changed a bit Sunday. 

Dwyer wideout Isaiah Johnson decommitted from UF after spending the weekend in Gainesville on his official visit. The three-star prospect was once a Miami commit, too, and is an early enrollee. According to recruitniks, the decision was a mutual one, as Florida hopes to land several blue-chip prospects as the position.

But minutes before Johnson announced his intentions, the Gators landed a verbal pledge, as four-star defensive end Jordan Smith (Lithonia, Ga.) committed following his official visit. 

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound pass rusher was recently a member of South Carolina’s 2016 class. But Smith reopened his commitment following the hiring of former UF coach Will Muschamp. 

Florida’s class now stands at 25 commits and is ranked No. 7 nationally by 247Sports. The month-long dead period starts Monday.

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December 09, 2015

Jim McElwain hopes Florida's staff stays together

GAINESVILLE -- While staffs across the country are busy recruiting before Monday’s month-long dead period begins, the coaching carousel is in full swing, too. 

Jim McElwain just hopes the Gators aren’t involved in any of it. 

Asked if he anticipated any changes, McElwain said, “Well I sure hope not.”

Florida’s first-year coach, recently named the SEC’s Coach of the Year, added, “We’ve got a great staff, and I know a lot of guys would be in high demand because they are great coaches. We’ve been able to put together an outstanding staff here. I hope all of them are back.”

According to USA Today’s database, UF’s assistants ranked 20th nationally -- 10th in the conference -- in salary pool last season. 

Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and linebackers coach/assistant head coach Randy Shannon were candidates for Central Florida’s opening before Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost got the gig. 

Recently, offensive line coach Mike Summers, the only UF assistant without a contract for next season, and defensive line coach Chris Rumph were rumored targets for Will Muschamp’s staff at South Carolina. However, Muschamp reportedly retained interim USC coach Shawn Elliott, who will serve as the OL coach. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

November 30, 2015

Gators add three commits including heralded QB Felipe Franks

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s offense was shutout in its humbling 27-2 loss to Florida State, so the Gators went out and secured some future help. 

UF continued its recent momentum on the recruiting trail over the weekend, adding three verbal commits headlined by four-star quarterback Felipe Franks. 

Franks (Wakulla High) decommited from LSU last week and has long been rumored to flip to Florida. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound prospect is the No. 5 quarterback recruit in the country. With Florida’s issues and uncertainty at the position next season, securing Franks, an early enrollee, was a must for Jim McElwain & Co. 

Meanwhile, the Gators also added a playmaker and someone to protect their future quarterback.  

Junior college athelte Dre Massey, a four-star prospect from Holmes C.C. in Mississippi, committed to Florida following his official visit over the weekend. 

Later, the Gators added mammoth three-star offensive guard Jawaan Taylor (Cocoa), who flipped from Miami on Sunday night. Taylor, a 6-5, 330-pounder, is teammates with UF commit Chauncey Gardner. 

Finally, Florida’s class did take a hit with the decommitment of Pasco cornerback Jayvaughn Myers. The three-star athlete is considered a bit of a project, but he is also the half-brother of five-star receiver Nate Craig-Myers -- a key UF target. 

Craig-Myers (Tampa Catholic) is rumored to be a Florida lean, but his half-brother’s decommitment could potentially throw a wrench in his recruitment. We’ll see. 

The Gators’ 2016 class now has 25 commits and is ranked No. 10 nationally by 247Sports. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

November 26, 2015

Bullard, McCalister remain doubtful for Florida State

GAINESVILLE -- Senior star Jon Bullard is one of three Florida defensive linemen who remain doubtful for Saturday’s showdown with Florida State. 

Gators coach Jim McElwain released an early evening injury report Wednesday, listing Bullard (knee), defensive end Alex McCalister (foot) and defensive tackle Taven Bryan (ankle) as doubtful. Two more rotational linemen are questionable (Jordan Sherit, hamstring; Joey Ivie, leg). 

The Gators also listed starting guard Martez Ivey (shoulder) and center Cam Dillard (leg) as questionable. Slot receiver Brandon Powell (foot) and starting left tackle David Sharpe (foot) were upgraded to probable, though.  

“We’ll have 11 players take the field on Saturday versus Florida State,” McElwain said. 

The complete injury report: 

PROBABLE

Caleb Brantley

Antonio Morrison

David Sharpe

Brandon Powell

QUESTIONABLE

Cam Dillard

Joey Ivie

Martez Ivey

Jordan Sherit

DOUBTFUL

Jon Bullard

Alex McCalister

Taven Bryan

THIS & THAT

FootballScoop.com reported that Central Florida “plans to interview” UF co-defensive coordinators Geoff Collins, a former Knights assistant, and Randy Shannon, Miami’s head coach from 2007-10, for its head coaching vacancy. Collins was recently named a 2015 Broyles Award finalist, honoring the nation’s top assistant. … Florida president Kent Fuchs will serve as the honorary Mr. Two Bits on Saturday.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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