October 28, 2010

Chris Rainey will be right where he belongs Saturday: on the field for the Gators

Chris Rainey I'm not a defender of Urban Meyer.

He does plenty of things I disagree with, I'm rarely comfortable believing anything he says, and in my first three seasons covering the Gators, his behavior around the media was usually standoffish and lame (he's been better this year).

With that said, I'm 100 percent on his side when it comes to his handling of Chris Rainey.

You know the story by now: "Time to Die," suspension, lawyer time, reduced charges, back to practice, fulfills vague behavioral requirements and now, Rainey will make his return this weekend against Georgia.

Yes, this is a crucial time and the Gators are in serious need of Rainey's services, but that's not the whole picture. Rainey made a mistake, accepted his punishment and should be allowed to play again. He fulfilled his duties to the legal system and then sat out a game. Are we really going to hold football teams to a standard higher than that? If your answer is yes, then you should also be disgusted with the academic standards at schools like Florida that admit students with subpar grades because they're big and fast. If that's you, the ideal time to switch your fandom is next weekend in Nashville. Buy a Vandy shirt.

But Rainey's case also raises a touchy subject: violence against women. The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi wrote this week that Meyer should have kicked Rainey to the curb and taken a stand for women everywhere. Check it out. Sure, Meyer could have done that, but this wasn't the time to make such a statement. Meyer has had several cases of actual violence against women (Avery Atkins, suspended and transferred; Ronnie Wilson, kicked off team; Jacques Rickerson, kicked off team) and came down harder. Wilson and Rickerson also had prior suspensions for unrelated incidents.

Rainey's was not a serious case. Maybe that looks insensitive, but anyone who has met Rainey knew as soon as this story broke that it was another stupid, speak-before-you-think act without much of a real threat behind it. His similar statements in this category had been funny, when he professed his love for white girls and said "It's good to be Chris Rainey." This was far from a laugher, but not even the ex-girlfriend he sent it to took it literally.

The next morning, she stood up in court and said she didn't want charges pressed, adding that she never felt threatened and only called police to defuse the situation. Here's her full statement (along with her sister) from when the charges against Rainey were reduced to a misdemeanor:

“We would like to make a statement in regards to the incident on the night of September 14 between us and Chris Rainey. First and foremost, we want the public to know that any violence or potential violence against any person is unacceptable and needs to be seen as a very serious matter. We encourage anyone to follow our lead and call the police if involved in any situation where violence is possible. With that said, there are some key facts in this case that we would like the public to know. We have known Chris Rainey for three years and never during that time has he displayed any violent or threatening behavior towards us or anyone. To our knowledge, Chris does not drink alcohol or use drugs. His actions that night were out of character for reasons unknown to us, which is why we stood up in court on his behalf. The police we called that night to ensure the safety of everyone involved. We knew this was a particularly sensitive situation because of Chris’s position on the UF football team, which is why his last name was not given to the 911 operator. We felt this was a private, personal matter, and did not want it to become the media frenzy that it has become. The lack of sensitivity to our privacy has been disturbing, and we ask that our privacy be respected moving forward. We are in full support of the decision made by the State Attorney.”

Bianchi spoke to the director of a domestic violence shelter, who said she's skeptical of the statement because abused women often defend those who harm them. I certainly can't argue with someone who deals with these cases every day, but similarly, she's in no position to pass judgment on Rainey and the victim without knowing their case.

The people who did understand the situation (state's attorney, the victim, Meyer) are all in agreement that Rainey should be free to play football. Those who disagree are the ones on the outside looking in.

If what Rainey did is infinitely repulsive to you, don't cheer for him. But as far as whether he should have been allowed back on the team, I believe the case was handled correctly.

What would you have done with Rainey? Kick him straight off the team? Suspend him for more games? Bring him back for Miss St. after his legal duties were fulfilled? Please share your thoughts below, complete with all the usual back-and-forth that has nothing at all to do with the topic at hand.

 

July 01, 2010

Florida Gators boosters show off considerable smarts (and wealth) in Heisman statues

GAINESVILLE -- Alabama erects statues of its national championship coaches. Florida commissions statues of its Heisman winners. Which tradition do you think most helps with recruiting?

Florida's Heisman winners -- Stephen Orr Spurrier, Daniel Carl Wuerffel and Timothy Richard Tebow -- will be immortalized (once again) after the 2010 football season when the University of Florida erects three bronze statues of the former UF passers. Price tag: over $500,000. 

QUESTION: Why erect the statues now?

ANSWER: Tim Tebow, of course.

QUESTION: Who's the big time Bull Gator who donated the money? 

ANSWER: Bill Heavener, we're assuming.

Heavener is a close family friend of the Tebows and has donated millions to the program ever since Timmy became a Gator. But it doesn't matter who donated the money. That's not the point. The Point: This is an audacious move by UF and serves two purposes. One: it pays tribute to former Gator greats. Two (the real reason): it serves as an excellent recruiting tool. This statues idea has Urban Meyer's savvy recruiting fingerprints all over it.

URBAN MEYER: "See these three statues, RECRUIT A. If you win a Heisman, you get a statue."

RECRUIT A: "I'm an eight-star recruit. I deserve a statue right now."

URBAN MEYER: "With that attitude, you'll be great at Florida State."

ANYWAY, spending half a million on three bronze statues might seem a little excessive. That's because it is. But, hey, this is the SEC, where the only thing more important than winning football games is winning recruits who win football games. Some might consider the three Heisman statues gaudy. I am one of those people. It's pretty disturbing, but I do understand the logic and respect it for being so bold and over the top. Consider these statues a sound investment. (And a shrine to Timmy. Personally, I would have went with an eternal Timmy flame.)

-jo-

December 05, 2008

Dainty Florida will roll the rough and rugged Tide

GAINESVILLE -- Big game this weekend up in the ATL. Stubhub expects No.2 Florida (11-1) vs. No.1 Alabama (12-0) to rank in its top 10 list for ridiculously inflated ticket prices. And that's not top 10 for a college football game. That's top 10 regardless of sport. Only Super Bowl and World Series tickets have gone for more. Club seats in the Georgia Dome are pushing $1,300.

Gator Clause isn't leaving Gainesville until Friday night, so I'll have plenty of time to bloggy blog until then. Something a bit odd I just realized. While interning for The Birmingham News, I covered Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson when his Hoover Bucs won a high school state championship. As a preps writer for The Herald, I covered Tebow's state championship in 2005. Pretty cool, huh?

Both Wilson's and Tebow's state championship wins were blowouts by the fourth quarter. The only difference in the two state championship games -- and this has something to do with my officially licensed prediction of the game -- Tebow played nose guard in the fourth quarter for Ponte Vedra Beach Nease. So, that whole idea about UA's rough and rugged style of play being too much for UF's dainty little spread-option offense ... it's nonsense. UF 38, UA 18

Saturday's game will be much more than a contest between Tebow and Wilson, of course. There will be plenty of talented players on the Georgia Dome's artificial turf and we're here to highlight a few important match-ups because, well, like y'all, I'm pretty excited about watching this game...

11) UA cornerback Javier Arenas vs. UF receiver Percy Harvin: Assuming Harvin plays more than a decoy role (I doubt it), this could be one of the best one-on-one match-ups on Saturday. Harvin will play receiver if he does anything. Arenas is looking forward to the challenge. When asked about Harvin this week, Arenas said he expects Harvin will play.

10) UA receiver Julio Jones vs. UF cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Joe Haden: Jones and Jenkins know a little about each other going in. They squared off in a high school all-star game over the summer. Jenkins has three interceptions and leads the team with 10 pass break-ups. Haden is one of the nation's brightest up-and-comers. He's second on the team with 69 tackles and eight pass break-ups. He also has two interceptions. Jones leads UA with 46 receptions for 723 yards and four touchdowns. He's the Crimson Tide's only downfield threat. UA tight end Nick Walker is second on the team in receptions (26 for 262 yards, two TDs).

9) UF quarterback Tim Tebow vs. UA linebacker Rolando McClain: In this corner, the Mac Attack (team-high 82 tackles, 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, three sacks), standing six feet and four inches and weighing in at 249 pounds. Wearing a crimson hat and menacing scowl, Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain. And in this corner, The Chosen One (tougher to take down than the Berlin Wall, 12 rushing touchdowns, third-down conversation machine, 43 career rushing touchdowns), standing six feet and three inches and weighing in at 240 pounds, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and heavyweight CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, Tim Tebow.

8) UF offensive coordinator Dan Mullen vs. UA defensive genius Nick Saban: Florida's offense leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring. The Gators are averaging 46.3 points per game. (That's a big number.) Alabama's defense leads the league in points allowed. The Crimson Tide is allowing 11.5 points per game. (That's a small number.) Florida's offense leads the SEC in total yards (449.4 yards per game). Alabama's defense leads the league in total yards allowed (248.5 yards per game). Something's gotta give, right?

7) UA tackle Andre Smith vs. UF end Carlos Dunlap: NFL scouts (and me) will be watching this match-up. Many consider Smith the best offensive lineman in the nation. Dunlap leads the Gators with nine sacks and is peaking at the perfect time. Sounds a lot like a young Derrick Harvey.

6) UF center Maurkice Pouncey vs. UA nose guard Terrence Cody: Cody is the guy that allows UA linebacker Rolando McClain to fill the gaps and make the tackles. UF leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (237.1 yards per game) and Cody will do his best to limit UF on first down. Cody (6-5, 365 pounds) will be highly motivated for this game. He's from Fort Myers. Pouncey is one of the best young offensive linemen in the country (along with his brother, of course). Maurkice and guard Mike Pouncey will also be highly motivated for this game. The Pounceys' stepfather, Robert Webster, who was severely injured (lost a leg) at work in Lakeland last week, is expected to make the trip to Atlanta for the game.

5) UA tight end Nick Walker vs. UF strong safety Ahmad Black: Here's a match-up that will draw my attention. Nick Saban loves to get his tight ends involved and UA will be looking to isolate Walker (6-5, 248-pound senior) in one-on-one coverage against Black, UF's undersized (5-9, 185 pounds) strong safety. Walker is Alabama's second-leading receiver (26 receptions for 262 yards). Black (What a story this kid has turned out to be, right.) leads UF in interceptions with six. Another thing: Getting Black out of the run-box will be one of the top priorities for UA quarterback John Parker Wilson. In the words of Black, "Pick party!"

4) UF linebacker Brandon Spikes vs. UA running backs Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch: UF linebacker Brandon Spikes leads the Gators in tackles (80) and is a finalist for the Nagurski Award. UA's trio of power running backs are all downhill runners. Coffee is averaging 6.2 yards per carry (102.9 yards per game). Ingram and Upchurh are just as tough to take down. Expect some big collisions, folks.

3) UA's sure hands vs. UF's defensive thievery: UF has forced 21 turnovers during its current eight-game winning streak and converted 16 of those turnovers into touchdowns. Alabama has lost nine fumbles this season and quarterback John Parker Wilson has only thrown five interceptions. Alabama cannot afford to turn the ball over.

2) UF nose tackle Lawrence Marsh vs. UA center Antoine Caldwell: The importance of this match-up cannot be overstated. Marsh, recovering from a sprained medial-collateral ligament, has been UF's most reliable interior defensive lineman. Caldwell is a finalist for the Remington Award, given to the nation's best center, and helps pave the way for Alabama's between-the-tackles running game. UA is second in the SEC in rushing yards per game (201.5 yards). Florida is third in the league in rush defense (102.8 yards per game).

1) UF quarterback Tim Tebow vs. UA nose guard Terrence Cody: UF leads the SEC in third-down conversions (48.9 percent). UA leads the league in third-down conversion defense (25 percent). Another interesting statistical comparison: UA leads the SEC in fourth-down conversion (8 of 9, 88.9 percent). UF's defense leads the league in denying teams on fourth down (8 of 21, 38.1 percent).

1A) UA strong-side linebacker Cory Reamer vs. UF scatbacks Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey: What!? All this hard work in the middle of the night and this is your No.1 match-up of the biggest game in SEC history? I can hear you now, "Goodman, you're an idiot." Well, hear me out first before you leave a snarky comment. UA is allowing an SEC-best 73.6 rushing yards per game, but the Crimson Tide hasn't faced a running game quite like Florida's. That's where Reamer comes in. This guy is fast. Reamer (6-4, 218 pounds, another Hoover High guy) was actually a defensive back in high school. UF leads the SEC in rushing (237.1 yards per game) on account of the team's speedy backfield. With Percy Harvin likely injured, the bulk of UF's rushing responsibilities will fall to Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey, who, gulp, limped off the practice field on Thursday after reaggrevating his groin pull. Demps and Rainey like to get outside. Reamer will be waiting.

-jo-

October 23, 2008

With Election Day nigh, Brandon Spikes gets political

GAINESVILLE -- Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has made a point to not speak publicly about the upcoming election. (Raise your hand if you assume Tebow is a left-winged liberal.)

Tebow's apolitical stance hasn't stopped other team leaders from trumpeting their favorite Presidential candidate. Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes has created a little buzz around campus by wearing a Barack Obama shirt to football practice. Spikes is a North Carolina native.

Florida coach Urban Meyer welcomes his players' involvement in the political process.

"I love when our guys talk about that stuff," Meyer said. "I actually hear them a little bit this year. I just think that's great and that's very mature. When I was 18 years old, that wasn't at the top of my list."

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
If you're making the trip to Gainesville on Friday for Gator Growl, then make sure to pack a raincoat or umbrella. According to weather.org, Friday's forecast calls for rain/thunder/wind. Things should be cleared up by the 12:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, but pack a poncho just in case.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Atlanta Journal-Constitution college football columnist Tony Barnhart wrote earlier this week that UF should be ranked No.4 in the BCS. Here's an excerpt from Mr. Barnhart's column:

"Bottom line: After watching Ole Miss take Alabama to the limit in Tuscaloosa, the Gators’ 31-30 loss to the Rebels should be viewed in a different light. They have a scary collection of fast players. If Florida finishes 12-1 and beats Alabama in Atlanta, the Gators should be considered the best one-loss team in the mix."

Barnhart has Florida ranked ahead of Oklahoma. Gotta disagree there based on what I've seen from both teams so far this season.

Should one-loss Florida be the nation's top-ranked one-loss team?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S GRAND FINALE
Just got an email that the annual Army-Navy game will be moved back an additional week next season. The game will now be played on the second Saturday of December and be the final regular-season college football game of the year. (One week after the SEC championship game.)

Question: Does anyone care? Who out there actually watches the Army-Navy game?

-jo-

October 21, 2008

Meyer: Gators healthier right now than ever before

This is when you know you live in a rural college town: An owl almost ate my cat tonight. No kidding. Swooped right down from the tree, talons and all. OK, on with the show...

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer agreed on Tuesday after practice that his team is healthier right now than it has been all season.

"Couldn't ask for much better than where we are right in the middle of the season," Meyer said. "I'm pleased with where we're at."

A few Gators are suffering from minor injuries but UF's health concerns are nothing compared to Kentucky, which travels to Gainesville this weekend with eight starters either out for the season or injured. That list includes the Wildcats' two most consistent offensive players, wide receiver Dicky Lyons, Jr. and running back Derrick Locke.

While the Gators are healthy at nearly every position, a few running backs remain limited this week. Emmanuel Moody (high-ankle sprain) is practicing again but he is continues to favor his injured ankle, according to Meyer. Moody's status remains questionable.

Running back Chris Rainey (shoulder) returned to practice this week but his shoulder still seems to be a concern. Rainey, who has had surgery on both of his shoulders, separated his right shoulder against LSU.

"It was out," Rainey said of his shoulder. "I had to wait until one of the trainers put it back in and I felt fine when they put it back in."

Kestahn Moore (ankle) is listed as the Gators' starting running back against Kentucky, according to UF's most recent depth chart. With Moody and Rainey still sore, UF running back Jeffery Demps is expected to receive additional carries against Kentucky.

HICKS, JOHNSON REMAIN STARTERS
UF back-ups Brandon Hicks (weak-side linebacker) and Carl Johnson (left guard) appear to be making the most of their chances in the starting line-up. Weak-side linebacker Dustin Doe (hernia) returned from his surgery this week and left guard Marcus Gilbert (ankle) is also listed as available but neither player is back in the starting line-up, according to UF's game notes.

Johnson showed drastic improvements against LSU and Hicks (15 tackles in six games) appears to be a reliable option. Doe, a second-year starter, has only appeared in four games this season.

Drevil_bigglesworth1MEYER GETS HAIRCAT...Names it Mr. Bigglesworth
The coach got a haircut this week. It's nice and neat for homecoming. Meyer is looking a little thinner these days, especially in the face. I asked him if he has lost weight and he said, "Not that I've noticed." Maybe it's just the haircut.

-jo-

October 17, 2008

Urban Meyer spotted at St. Thomas Aquinas

GAINESVILLE -- Florida football coach Urban Meyer attended the South Florida heavyweight high school match-up on Friday night between Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas and Deerfield Beach. Florida is recruiting players from both schools, including Deerfield Beach quarterback Denard Robinson.

Robinson has been offered a scholarship by Florida and he would likely be converted to a defensive back if he committed to the Gators.

Meyer arrived near the end of the first half, according to Miami Herald writer Bob Emanuel Jr., and stood on the St. Thomas sideline. Florida's coach has built a pipeline of sorts from St. Thomas to UF. Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert and sophomore free safety Major Wright are St. Thomas grads.

CALATHES CLEARED TO PRACTICE
The Florida men's basketball team's medical training staff cleared sophomore guard Nick Calathes for practice on Friday, the first day of preseason basketball practice.

Calathes injured his hip several weeks ago during a training drill. Florida coach Billy Donovan said on Wednesday that Calathes could be limited for as many as three weeks.

That's all I've got today. In Birmingham, Ala., this weekend visiting family. Attending a Hoover Bucs youth football game on Saturday. Just had Thai food in Montgomery, Ala. This was a bad idea.

-jo- 

October 09, 2008

Les Miles vs. Urban Meyer: Who has more street cred?

Metmilesrotaryal121Oh, the things these coaches will do to impress recruits. LSU coach Les Miles says he likes "a couple" Snoop Dogg songs ... Maybe this is one of them? ... "Cause it's 1-8-7 on a [expletive] cop."
That's an excerpt from the hit single "187" that put Snoop Dogg on the map way back in 1992. Of course, Les knows all about that. It's his ring tone. PICTURED: Snoop Dogg let's everyone at the Baton Rouge Rotary Club meeting know how many times he has smoked out former LSU quarterback Jamarcus Russell, now a Raider. The woman in the picture doesn't seem very starstruck. Then again, who cares. She can't run a 4.2.

_________________________________________________________________

Les is down with Snoop but Urban is, well, Urban

GAINESVILLE -- It is in the spirit of Les Miles' affinity for West Coast gangsta' rap that Gator Clause presents this week's Ultimate Preview. If you didn't know already, "you better axe somebody."

Les Miles has been "down from Day One" when it comes to the hippest ways to lure recruits into Baton Rouge, La. He met up with Snoop Dogg (Can someone say, "Photo opp!") a few months back in Baton Rouge, La., and even had the rapper speak at a Rotary Club event. (Can someone say, "Honorarium!") Tigers fans, witness your booster club dollars hard at work.

After passionately addressing Baton Rouge's civic-minded audience, Snoop Dogg broke out one of his most famous rhymes, And now you hookers and [rhymes with jos] know how I feel. 'Cause that's realer than Real Deal Holyfield.

And then Snoop politely said, Hey, yo, Miles. Creep to the mic like a phantom.

We kid, of course. (And if you don't recognize those Snoop Dogg lyrics, then you're too old.) But, on the fo'-shizzle tip, why would Snoop entertain some crusty Deep South college football coach? The answer is simple. Because the rapper understands what nobody else in this world seems to be able to comprehend. That Les Miles is the "O.G." (That and if Pete Carroll won't give Snoop's son a spot on USC's roster, then maybe Miles will pony up.)

Florida coach Urban Meyer (Tupac guy) isn't very impressed with Miles' budding friendship with Snoop Dogg. "Good for him," Meyer said.

That's coach speak for "jive turkey."

But seriously, though. It's no surprise that Meyer disrespected Miles for the LSU coach's obvious attempt to, well, be like Meyer. Everyone knows Florida's coach is the one with all the street cred. His name says it all.

THE DETAILS
NO.4 LSU (4-0, 2-0) at NO.11 FLORIDA (4-1, 2-1)
Where: Gainesville, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548)
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
TV: CBS
What's at stake: You mean besides this rivalry's annual trophy? Well, a Florida loss would pretty much end the Gators' chances at a national title. LSU, meanwhile, can probably bounce back from a road loss to the Gators if the Tigers win the rest of their games.

FACTOID
When Florida and LSU meet on Saturday it will be the first time since 1990 that the two most recent national champions have played during the regular season (see Notre Dame 29, Miami 20). Florida, of course, won the BCS national title in 2006 and LSU won it last season.

THE INJURY REPORT
N0.11 FLORIDA
PROBABLE

SS Will Hill (hamstring)
RB Kestahn Moore (ankle)
LB Ryan Stamper (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE
WR Percy Harvin (ankle)
OG Jim Tartt (shoulder)
OG Marcus Gilbert (ankle)
DT Brandon Antwine (back)
OG Ron Wilson (ankle)
DOUBTFUL
RB Emmanuel Moody (ankle)
LB Dustin Doe (hernia)
OG Maurice Hurt (neck/shoulder)
DT Omar Hunter (ankle)
SS Bryan Thomas (knee)
OUT
SS Dorian Munroe (knee, year)
LB Brendan Beal (knee, year)
TE Cornelius Ingram (knee, year)
SS John Curtis (knee, year)
OL Jim Barrie (knee, year)
DT John Brown (wrist, year)
S Cody Worton (knee, year)
NO.4 LSU
PROBABLE

LB Darry Beckwith (knee)
QB Andrew Hatch (head)
OL Lyle Hitt (undisclosed)
DT Ricky Jean-Francois (leg)
DT Charles Alexander (ankle)

THE STARTING LINE-UPS
NO.11 FLORIDA
OFFENSE

WR 1 Percy Harvin (Jr., 5-11, 195)
WR 9 Louis Murphy (Sr., 6-3, 205)
WR 6 Deonte Thompson (RFr., 6-0, 195)
LT 75 Phil Trautwein (RSr., 6-6, 310)
LG 57 Carl Johnson (RSo., 6-6, 330)
C 56 Maurkice Pouncey (So., 6-5, 312)
RG 55 Mike Pouncey (So., 6-5, 312)
RT 77 Jason Watkins (RSr., 6-6, 310)
TE 81 Aaron Hernandez (So., 6-3, 255)
QB 15 Tim Tebow (Jr., 6-3, 240)
RB 33 Kestahn Moore (Sr., 5-10, 212)
DEFENSE
DE 94 Justin Trattou (So., 6-3, 265)
NT 90 Lawrence Marsh (RSo., 6-5, 305)
DT 92 Terron Sanders (RSo., 6-2, 300)
DE 49 Jermaine Cunningham (Jr., 6-3, 250)
SLB 16 A.J. Jones (RSo., 6-1, 225)
MLB 51 Brandon Spikes (Jr., 6-3, 245)
WLB 41 Ryan Stamper (RJr., 6-2, 232)
or NB 14 Markihe Anderson (Jr., 5-10, 182)
CB 29 Janoris Jenkins (Fr., 5-10, 185)
CB 5 Joe Haden (So., 5-11, 185)
SS 35 Ahmad Black (So., 5-9, 190)
FS 21 Major Wright (So., 6-0, 200)
SPECIALISTS
PK 38 Jonathan Phillips (Sr., 5-10, 210)
KO 19 Caleb Sturgis (Fr., 5-11, 192)
P 17 Chas Henry (So., 6-4, 215)
LS 43 James Smith (RSr., 6-2, 240)
HLD 37 Butch Rowley (RSr., 6-1, 195)
KR/PR 25 Brandon James (Jr., 5-7, 186)

LSU
OFFENSE
WR 1 Brandon LaFell (Jr., 6-3, 209)
WR 2 Demetrius Byrd (Sr., 6-3, 200)
WR 80 Terrance Toliver (So., 6-5, 194)
LT 70 Ciron Black (Jr., 6-5, 325)
LG 79 Herman Johnson (Sr., 6-7, 375)
C 74 Brett Helms (Sr., 6-3, 278)
RG 65 Kyle Hitt (Jr., 6-2, 289)
RT 78 Joseph Barksdale (So., 6-5, 315)
TE 18 Richard Dickson (Jr., 6-3, 246)
QB 12 Jarrett Lee (RFr., 6-2, 216)
RB 32 Charles Scott (Jr., 5-11, 233)
or FB 45 Quinn Johnson (Sr., 6-2, 262)
DEFENSE
LE 93 Tyson Jackson (Sr., 6-5, 290)
LT 91 Charles Alexander (Sr., 6-3, 310)
RT 90 Ricky Jean-Francois (Jr., 6-3, 289)
RE 49 Kirston Pittman (Sr., 6-4, 257)
SLB 56 Perry Riley (Jr., 6-1, 240)
MLB 48 Darry Beckwith (Sr., 6-1, 232)
WLB 11 Kelvin Sheppard (So., 6-3, 237)
or NB 44 Danny McCray (Jr., 6-1, 212)
or DiB 3 Chad Jones (So., 6-3, 214)
CB 29 Chris Hawkins (Jr., 6-1, 184)
CB 4 Jai Eugene (So., 5-11, 191)
SPECIALISTS
PK 6 Colt David (Sr., 5-9, 172)
KO 30 Josh Jasper (So., 5-11, 165)
P/HLD 38 Brady Dalfrey (Sr., 6-0, 213)
LS 85 Alex Russian (RFr., 6-4, 239)
KR 8 Trindon Holliday (Jr., 5-5, 164)
PR 3 Chad Jones (So., 6-3, 214)

THE BETTING LINES
bodoglife.com: Florida minus-6
sportsbook.com: Florida minus-6
Vegas: Florida minus-6

THE PERCY SITUATION
Florida coach Urban Meyer says he expects Florida receiver Percy Harvin to play on Saturday but Meyer also says he won't know for sure until Friday. Harvin sprained his ankle against Arkansas and had three carries and three receptions against the Hogs. Harvin practiced on Wednesday for the first time this week but was limited. My gut feeling: After watching Harvin walk off the practice field on Wednesday with no sign of limp and no ankle brace, I'm going to have to say that Harvin will see the field on Saturday night.

MOST IMPORTANT
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow said that Saturday's game is going to feature "speed, speed and more speed." That might be true, but the contest will likely be won at the line of scrimmage. At question: Can Florida's defensive line limit LSU running back Charles Scott? Scott will be running behind an enormous offensive line, which features a powerful left side. LSU junior left tackle Ciron Black (6-5, 325) and senior left guard Herman Johnson (6-7, 375) will look to clear a path for Scott, who is averaging and SEC-best 7.5 yards per carry. Can Florida defensive tackles Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders and Matt Patchan free themselves from Black and Johnson? Expect Florida defensive tackle Torrey Davis -- no longer in the doghouse -- to help out.

On offense, Florida's interior running game will have to get creative if scatbacks Chris Rainey and Jeffrey Demps are the best options. A key match-up: LSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois vs. UF left guard Carl Johnson. If Johnson can't hold his own against one of the best defensive lineman in the SEC, the Jean-Francois just might get his wish, a clean shot at UF's quarterback. Note to Carl Johnson: CLICK ME, Carl, for an important message.

LSU RECEIVERS VS. UF SECONDARY
Everyone expects Florida's receivers to have a big day against LSU's secondary but what about UF's secondary. LSU's receiving corps rivals the Gators in talent and the Tigers have several tall receivers who could give the Gators some problems in one-on-one situations. Keep and eye on LSU junior Brandon LeFell (6-3), senior Demetrius Byrd (6-3) and sophomore Terrance Tolliver (6-5). These receivers will be searching for weaknesses in the Gators' secondary after after watching Arkansas gain 220 yards through the air against Florida last week. Tolliver only has one catch on the season but if he finds himself matched up against UF strong safety Ahmad Black (5-9), Tolliver could see more action.

5 KEYS TO UF VICTORY
5. Force LSU redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee to pass on third and long.
4. At least five receptions for UF tight end Aaron Hernandez.
3. Keep giving Chris Rainey the ball.
2. Settle for the field goal.
1. Do the words "LSU fourth down" meaning anything to you?

-jo-

October 08, 2008

Harvin still limited; UF lands major commitment

GAINESVILLE -- Florida receiver Percy Harvin practiced on Wednesday afternoon for the first time this week but was limited, according to UF coach Urban Meyer. Meyer says he thinks Harvin will be able to play on Saturday against LSU.

Other injury updates to report: Meyer said that redshirt junior linebacker Ryan Stamper and freshman safety Will Hill are both "good to go" for Saturday's game. Stamper missed the Arkansas game with a sprained ankle while Hill played sparingly against Arkansas with a sore hamstring.

--Left guard Jim Tartt (shoulder) and Marcus Gilbert (ankle) both practiced on Wednesday but were limited. Meyer said that redshirt sophomore Carl Johnson will start at left guard on Saturday night.

--Freshman defensive tackle Omar Hunter (ankle) did not make the trip to Arkansas last week and has not practiced this week. (Sounds like a typical medical redshirt situation to me.)

--I watched Harvin and running back Emmanuel Moody walk off the practice field on Wednesday. Harvin appeared healthy but Moody had a considerable limp.

ANOTHER 2010 COMMITMENT
Florida picked up its third commitment for the 2010 recruiting cycle on Wednesday and it was a big one. West Palm Beach Dwyer athlete Matt Elam (6-0, 205) orally committed to attend the University of Florida. Elam is projected to be the top recruit in the state of Florida next season.

Oral commitments are non-binding and Elam won't sign with Florida until February of 2010. According to Rivals.com writer Adam Gorney, Florida is the only program in the country with three commitments for the 2010 recruiting cycle.

Not too long ago, Meyer did not like to receive early commitments. His philosophy is changing slightly, he said on Wednesday. Florida's 2010 oral commitments include Elam, Venice quarterback Trey Burton and Fleming Island lineman Ian Silberman.

"It's risky," Meyer said. "You're talking about taking them off of sophomore tape and they're playing their junior year right now. I'm not a big fan of it but like I said if you already know them, know their families and know what they're all about."

Elam, a two-way star for Dwyer but projected as a safety for UF, first met Meyer 10 years ago when Meyer was an assistant at Notre Dame. Elam's brother, Abram, was recruited by Meyer as a receiver for the Fighting Irish.

"I do remember him then," Elam told Rivals.com. "[Meyer] actually taught me a wide receiver's stance then. After that we didn't talk at all. Then I heard he was at my high school my freshman season to recruit a teammate of mine. So I found him and introduced myself. Coach Meyer remembered me and the rest is history. That's when I really starting liking Florida."

MEYER DENIES LSU PATRICK PETERSON'S CLAIM
Back in January, former Pompano Beach Blanche Ely cornerback Patrick Peterson (at the time his name was Patrick Johnson) caused a stir when he told reporters that Florida had alerted the NCAA of problems with Peterson's ACT score. Peterson called Florida "cowards" at the time. On Wednesday, Meyer said Florida never contacted the NCAA about Peterson's ACT scores.

-jo-

October 07, 2008

REPORT CARD: Gators grade out at 91.8 percent

Changing up the weekly grades a bit. I'm sure everyone will enjoy...

GAINESVILLE -- Florida junior Brandon James is Gator Clause's player of the week for his contributions against Arkansas. James had a two-yard touchdown catch, executed a fake punt for a first down and recovered a fumble on special teams. And, if not for a blocking penalty, James would have also had a punt return for a touchdown. Player of the week runners up include sophomore strong safety Ahmad Black (blocked field goal), sophomore cornerback Joe Haden (interception), freshman running back Jeffrey Demps (two touchdowns).

QUARTERBACKS 90 percent
Junior quarterback Tim Tebow, competing with a sore back, tossed his first interception of the season in the third quarter against Arkansas. He made up for the error, however by leading an impressive touchdown drive to begin the fourth quarter. Tebow has missed on a few deep passes the past two games but he leads the SEC in passing efficiency with a league-best completion percentage of 61.7 percent. He also has the highest quarterback rating in the SEC (148) and leads the league in touchdown-to-interception ratio (plus-seven).

RUNNING BACKS 94 percent
Underclassmen running backs Chris Rainey and Jeffrey Demps combined for 206 yards rushing. Demps scored a 36-yard touchdown on first down-and-30 in the second quarter, bailing out his penalty-prone offensive line. He also scored with a minute left in the game. Rainey rushed for a 75-yard score in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Some say Rainey and Demps rushing yards were deceiving because many of the yards came in the fourth quarter. Another way to view it, these speedy backs are serious weapons in any fourth quarter when opposing defenses are slower.

RECEIVERS 92 percent
Senior Louis Murphy (five catches, 70 yards) turned in his best game of the season and junior Percy Harvin had a touchdown catch. Junior Carl Moore and redshirt freshman Deonte Thompson got involved. They had two receptions each for a 68 yards combined.

OFFENSIVE LINE 89 percent
Take away the penalties and Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that the offensive line played its best game of the season. Florida had two 100-yard rushers for the first time since 1997. Eight penalties and one sack subtract from the total.

PLAY CALLING 94 percent
Florida scored every time it reached the red zone (3-for-3) and scored a touchdown on a first down-and-30 situation. Also, the Gators converted 3-of-3 fourth-down chances.

SPECIAL TEAMS 97 percent
Aside from the blocking penalty on Brandon James' would-be punt return for a touchdown, the Gators were at their best on special teams. Chas Henry averaged 46 yards per punt and placed two inside the Arkansas 20. James successfully faked a punt and also recovered a fumble on punt defense. Ahmad Black blocked a field goal.

DEFENSIVE LINE 88 percent
The Gators registered four sacks but allowed Arkansas running back Michael Smith to gain 133 yards on 20 carries (an average of 6.7 yards per carry). UF freshman Matt Patchan recorded his first career sack.

LINEBACKERS 89 percent
Arkansas' crossing patterns caught the Gators' linebackers by surprise as Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick threw for 220 yards. A.J. Jones forced a fumble and Brandon Hicks, making his first career start, had six tackles.

SECONDARY 93 percent
Defensive backs Major Wright and Joe Haden led the Gators in tackles (11 each). Haden had an interception at the goal line to end a scoring threat. Ahmad Black made several touchdown-saving tackles.

OVERALL 91.8 percent
These days the Florida Gators' toughest critics are their own fans. But despite what you might read on a message board, Florida is playing like one of the best teams in the Southeastern Conference. No.11 Florida (4-1, 2-1 in SEC) is leading the league in scoring average (36 points) and is ranked third in average scoring defense (11.4 points). The Gators played above both of those averages against Arkansas.

-jo-

September 26, 2008

No.1 USC loss signals statement weekend for UF

Twenty-three years since a No.1 lost to an unranked team. That is, until Oregon State 27, No.1 Southern Cal 21 on Thursday night ... Thoughts? I got a couple: How does Penn State vs. Florida sound? What about Missouri vs. Georgia?

GAINESVILLE -- Speaking of unthinkable upsets. Ole Miss nearly upset Florida in 2007. This happened for two reasons.

1. Tim Tebow
2. Seth Adams

Tebow, of course, is the Florida quarterback who rushed for two scores and 166 yards on 27 carries last year against the Rebels. He prevented the upset and is back for Round 2.

Anyone remember Seth Adams? Didn't think so. Seth Adams, not back for Round 2, was the Ole Miss quarterback in 2007. He wasn't anything special, but he was nearly good enough to beat Florida last season. Ole Miss racked up nearly 400 yards of offense against the Gators. Let's you know how bad UF's defense was last season.

Round 2 of this wonderful SEC East vs. SEC West Raycom special features a new Ole Miss quarterback. His name is Jevan Snead and he must be good. He was once committed to Florida.

Snead is apparently better than Adams. I'm not convinced -- never really a fan of players who de-commit from one school (Florida) and then later transfer from another (Texas). Ole Miss seems like the college football haven for quarterbacks who think they're better than they really are. (See Brent Schaeffer of Deerfield Beach). Come to think of it, it all makes perfect since. Ole Miss always thinks it's better than it actually is.

ANYWAY, everyone keeps telling me that Snead is a great quarterback. At first, I believed them. I'm not convinced anymore. Snead has thrown seven interceptions in his last three games. He's an inexperienced quarterback and now he's playing at The Swamp against a Florida team that is plus-nine in turnover ratio. This is the fourth game this season Florida has faced an inexperienced quarterback.

THE DETAILS
Ole Miss (2-2) at No.4 Florida (3-0)
When: 12:30 p.m.
TV: Raycom
Series history: Ole Miss leads 11-10-1

INJURY REPORT
OLE MISS
DL Greg Hardy (foot, out)
FLORIDA
DE Jermaine Cunningham (knee, questionable)
LB Ryan Stamper (ankle, questionable)
QB Cam Newton (ankle, questionable)
OL Maurice Hurt (neck, questionable)
DT Torrey Davis (disciplinary, out)
DT John Brown (hand, out)
TE Cornelius Ingram (knee, out)
SS Dorian Munroe (knee, out)

STATEMENT GAME
Any Gators watching TV late last night? The No.1 team in the nation lost. OK, but on a Thursday night? I thought Thursday nights were reserved for bingo. ANYWAY, the significance of Southern Cal's epic collapse Part II (Stanford in 2007 was Part I) should not be lost on any team in the AP Top 10. With the No.1 ranking up for grabs, this weekend is all about making a statement to national voters. Let's take a look at the match-ups this weekend for teams in the AP Top 5.

No.1 USC (Believe it or not, USC could still be in the national title picture at the end of the season. USC losing was good news for any one loss team. Auburn?)
No.2 Oklahoma vs. No.24 TCU: Game against ranked opponent comes at great time for Oklahoma to make a case for being No.1.
No.3 Georgia vs. No.8 Alabama: A big win in Athens could vault Georgia into the No.1 spot. AP voters are apparently in love with Bama.
No.4 Florida vs. Ole Miss: Voters not sold on Gators yet. Florida fans apparently no sold on Gators yet. I think I'm the only person in the country that thinks Florida is the best of the best.
No.5 LSU vs. Mississippi State: A letdown game? Not a chance.

It is conceivable that Florida could be the No.1 team in the country on Sunday. TCU is a quality football team and many believe Alabama is going to upset Georgia (for the record, I am not one of those people).

RANDOM THOUGHT
Does ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit have a man-crush on Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford?

RANDOM THOUGHT NO.2
I'm sure Jevan Snead is upset he has to miss tonight's presidential debate. Ole Miss is hosting a presidential debate tonight (Friday) between U.S. Senators and Presidential candidates John McCain (Ariz., R) and Barack Obama (Ill., D).

OLE MISS BETTER THAN TENNESSEE?
According to UF defensive line coach Dan McCarney, it's a no brainer. He says Ole Miss' offense is much better than Tennessee's. Florida beat Tennessee 30-6.

"I thought Tennessee had a heck of an offensive line -- I think Mississippi is better," McCarney said. "[Tennessee] had a good solid quarterback. I think this one is better. Running backs, they're using four of them. I like them all."

SPEAKING OF FOUR RUNNING BACKS...
Four is exactly the number of running backs that Florida has at its disposal. (Five if you include receiver Percy Harvin.) Emmanuel Moody was the featured back against Tennessee? Who gets the call against Ole Miss? How would you break down the carries? Here's what I would shoot for if I'm Florida OC Dan Mullen...

UF BACKFIELD BREAKDOWN (projected number of carries)
RB Emmanuel Moody: 12
WR Percy Harvin: 10
RB Chris Rainey: 8
QB Tim Tebow: 8
Others (Jeff Demps/Louis Murphy/Aaron Hernandez) 5
RB Kestahn Moore: 0

REAL TALK
Florida coach Urban Meyer made a point to complain and complain and complain about the NCAA's new clock rules this week. (Cheating the players, he says...please.) Some reporters took the bait and wrote about the new clock rules like they're killing college football. Here's a thought: Just shut up and play football. If college football is going to sell its soul to the television networks, then the TV networks are going to be able to dictate how the game is played. (ESPN is going to be dictating a whole heck of a lot more in the future, so get used to it.) If Meyer wants more plays, then his offense needs to be more efficient and better prepared to run more plays. Quicker substitutions, better play calling (Mullen should always be two plays ahead of his offense) and a no-huddle offense should allow for more chances for Florida to run up the score on people. (And isn't that what it's all about?)

BIG TEST FOR JOE HADEN
Ole Miss' best player is receiver Mike Wallace. He toasted Florida's secondary last season and just last week Wallace returned a 98-yard kickoff for a touchdown. Meyer says that Joe Haden is turning into an All-SEC cornerback. We shall see.

5 KEYS TO VICTORY FOR UF
5. Pressure the quarterback. Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead is apparently still adjusting to the speed of the SEC. He tossed four interceptions against Vanderbilt last week. If UF defensive end Carlos Dunlap has a big day, then that will go a long way towards Florida beating Ole Miss. (We're assuming UF defensive ends Jermaine Cunningham and/or Justin Trattou will line up opposite Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher.)

4. Contain Ole Miss receiver Mike Wallace. Wallace is averaging 136.3 all-purpose yards in his last three starts.

3. Keep an eye on the battle between UF guards and Ole Miss defensive tackles Peria Jerry and Ted Laurent. If these players get in the backfield consistently, it could be a long day for the Florida offense. Both Jerry and Laurent have 4.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Strong efforts from UF guards Jim Tartt and Mike Pouncey and center Maurkice Pouncey are critical.

2. Score touchdowns in the red zone. Florida settled for field goals last week against Tennessee. If Florida's offense continues to be limited by the new play clock rules, then the Gators need to score touchdowns. Tebow is money from inside the red zone. I repeat: Let Tebow run the ball inside the red zone.

1. Get one big play from either special teams or the defense.

THE CORNERBACK SITUATION
Is Wondy Pierre-Louis or Janoris Jenkins starting at cornerback? My guess is both players will see significant amounts of playing time. Expect a lot of 3-3-5 from Florida with Janoris and Wondy at cornerback and Joe Haden at the nickel. If Florida doesn't trust Wondy to perform, expect more playing time for Markihe Anderson if the Gators stick with the 3-3-5. Anderson will play the nickel and Haden will move back to the edge. (This is what I would do.)

BIG PREDICTION
UF is a 22-point favorite. Sounds about right to me. Ole Miss' close losses to Wake Forest and Vanderbilt were devastating for an emotionally vulnerable program. If Florida goes up early, then expect a blowout. UF 42, Ole Miss 17

-jo-

September 22, 2008

NOTEBOOK: I'll be the first to say it, Florida should be No.1 in the country

GAINESVILLE -- Florida is No.4 in the latest AP poll. This is an absolute joke. Florida should be No.1. Here's why.

Statistics don't lie. As Florida coach Urban Meyer would say, stats are "real."

Everyone reading this blog will agree that the SEC is the best league in the country, right? No argument there. OK, with that in mind, know that Florida is leading the SEC in scoring offense (37.3 points per game), scoring defense (6.3 points per game), total defense (213 yards per game), kickoff returns (27.6 yards per game), punt return average (24.6 yards per game), third-down conversions (53.8 percent) and Florida is tied for first with Vanderbilt in field goal accuracy (4-of-4).

After knowing that, I challange anyone out there to argue that another team -- USC, Oklahoma, LSU, Georgia, Alabama, whoever -- is better than Florida at this point in the season. Even if you tried, here's my ace in the pocket, the clinching fact for my argument, the biggest stat of all: Florida is the only team in the country that hasn't allowed a turnover. Florida is plus-nine in turnover margin.

(FYI: Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead has tossed six interceptions in his last two games.)

SURPRISING DEFENSE
The early season dominance of the Gators' offense and special team comes as no surprise to Meyer but the coach did admit that he is pleasantly surprised by the Gators' defensive play. If you're counting at home, Florida started SEVEN (1-2-3-4-5-6-7; CB Joe Haden, FS Major Wright, SS Ahmad Black, SSL A.J. Jones, DE Carlos Dunlap, DT Lawrence Marsh and DT Terron Sanders) SOPHOMORES on defense against Tennessee.

Meyer tempered his excitement by telling reporters that "I don't think we've been challenged yet" by an experienced quarterback. "That's what I'm anxious to see," Meyer said.

MEYER HATES NEW CLOCK RULE
Florida coach Urban Meyer has a message for the NCAA: Get rid of the new clock rule. His offensive players aren't getting enough touches.

Meyer made a point on Monday to explain why he hates the new clock rule. According to Meyer, Florida's offense only had 46 "competitive" plays. Florida had 54 total offensive players but Meyer contends that nine of those were throw-away plays while Florida was trying to run out the clock.

Florida scored on five of its six offensive possessions but was out gained by Tennessee's offense by 18 yards. Don't look to much into this fact, folks. Florida smoke Tennessee and Meyer is upset about the clock rule because last year the score would have been 60-6 instead of 30-6.

MEYER HAS ZINGER FOR MIAMI'S SHANNON
The stats sheet reads that Florida's offense only scored three of the four times it was in the red zone on Saturday. Meyer says it should be 4-of-4. On the Gators' final drive, Florida took a knee instead of kicking a field goal. Meyer received criticism against Miami for kicking a late-game field goal.

"People get upset around here with field goals, so we were 4-of-4," Meyer said.

JAMES NAMED SEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
UF return specialist Brandon James was named special teams player of the week on Monday by the conference's sports information staff. James accounted for 144 yards on kick returns, including a 78-yard punt return for a score. James also had a 52-yard kickoff return on the opening kickoff, which led to a quick Florida score.

Here's a link to the rest of the SEC players of the week. CLICK ME!

MAJOR'S MISSED TACKLE
Major Wright had a great game against Tennessee. He was second on the team with eight tackles and graded out at "champion" status (94 percent), according to UF coach Urban Meyer. Still, I had to ask him about that one missed tackle, the one which allowed UT running back Arian Foster an apparent big gain. (The play was called back because of a UT penalty and Wright's mistake went unnoticed.)

"I was trying to make the perfect tackle," Wright said. "[Foster] got me."

Don't sweat it, Major. Gator Clause still thinks you're the best safety in the SEC. Just had to ask.

JANORIS COULD START AGAINST OLE MISS
Major had good things to say about UF freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins and so did Florida coach Urban Meyer. Meyer said that Jenkins could start against Ole Miss and that it will be a game-to-game decision whether Jenkins starts at cornerback or Wondy Pierre-Louis.

Pierre-Louis had a terrible game on Saturday while Jenkins had an interception and a forced a fumble. Meyer said that Pierre-Louis will get every chance to keep his position because Wondy is an "invested player." Meyer said the same thing about former Florida safety Kyle Jackson last season. Everyone remembers what happened there. Wright was starting by LSU.

Will Jenkins be starting by LSU?

TEBOW RECRUITED AS A LINEBACKER?
Florida's coaching staff began recruiting Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead when Meyer and OC Dan Mullen were at Utah. When Meyer and Mullen moved to Gainesville, Snead was still at the top of Mullen's recruiting board as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Snead initially committed to Florida before changing his mind.

According to a book published last year about college football recruiting, Snead said Florida wanted him so badly that the Gators' coaching staff actuall told him that Florida was recruiting Tebow as a linebacker. On Monday, Tebow said Florida never tried to recruit him as a linebacker and Meyer refused to address the claim.

Recruiting is a dirty business ... but it's supposed to be. Get over it, people.

September 16, 2008

Percy Harvin clarifies his position; Hernandez plays coy; Meyer bites my head off

FIRST, UF-related links in today's sports section of The Miami Herald:
LINK:
UF's Harvin fully healthy for SEC opener
LINK: UF's Moody speaks about lack of playing time

GAINESVILLE -- One of the most interesting things from Monday's interview with UF receiver Percy Harvin that didn't make the newspaper was Harvin's clarification of his position. Harvin is listed as a "slash" player on the Gators' official roster (RB/WR), but Harvin told me on Monday that he still considers himself a receiver.

Harvin had five carries and one catch against Miami. Thoughts?

ROCKY WHO?
When asked on Monday if he was getting annoyed with Rocky Top, UF tight end Aaron Hernandez said, "Who's Rocky Top?"

Come on, Aaron. We know you don't like giving credit to an opponent for anything but at least act like you know Tennessee has a very famous fight song entitled Rocky Top. As is the custom every year, Florida's football support staff is blaring Tennessee's fight song inside the Gators' football facility all week.

"They play Rocky Top probably 100 million times before we play the game," UF cornerback Joe Haden said. "The whole week that's all that's on and we just listen to that song. When we get there, I'll know the song by heart. I'll probably start singing."

MOODY PERSEVERING?
Can we have a little perspective, people? Several media outlets are covering the story about UF running back Emmanuel Moody not playing against Miami like it's some kind of personal tragedy for Moody.

The guy is going to play. He's too good to be left out of the line-up much longer. The Miami Herald wrote last week that Moody will get his big shot against Tennessee. Florida must out rush Tennessee to win the game. No one expects running back Kestahn Moore to establish a running game. Pretty sure Moody will have to help out on Saturday.

OLE MISS GAME
Good news for sports writers and bad news for fans: UF's home game against Ole Miss in two weeks will begin at 12:30 p.m. and air live on Raycom Sports.

ANXIOUS URBAN
Urban Meyer, always terse with reporters, was particularly brusque on Monday. He reminded beat hacks that he didn't like answering questions from the media, especially the week before playing a big SEC rival.

Here's the answer I received when I pointed out that 10 SEC defenses are allowing 17 points or less through the first three weeks of the season and, related to that fact, I asked Meyer about the importance of attention to detail in this league.

"We got a game to play here. That's why sometimes I'm short with your questions," Meyer said. "Because, really, if you spend any amount of time even thinking about, like, the gentleman's question here (Not me, someone else). Come on. Let's go. Let's go. ... We got enough things to worry about. The key to winning this game is what I told you: Play great defense. You got to be tough. And you got to take care of the football. If there's any focus on anything else other than that, then there is a chance we'll fail. And that's a bad job on me. So, let me answer your question: That's great about all the defenses. I just told you what our focus is going to be. I made it real clear today."

Well, coach, at least you made one thing crystal clear.

-jo-

September 11, 2008

UF isn't getting the job done; Put me in charge of Percy Harvin's Heisman campaign, please

GAINESVILLE -- Florida has only played two games and already Percy Harvin's Heisman campaign is on life support. Bring in the doctor ...

That's me. I'm the marketing genius that is going to resurrect Harvin's Heisman hopes. Here are 10 steps to getting Harvin to New York. And that's what Florida really wants, right? That's what Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has said several times. Tebow wants to cast his vote in December for his good buddy Percy Harvin.

10. Call an emergency meeting with every member of Florida's sports marketing team. It's almost like Florida wants everyone to think Tebow is the best player in college football. It's almost like Florida wants Tebow to win back-to-back Heismans. What happened to the Percy-in-2008 campaign?

9. Percy Harvin is the best player in college football. Direct and to the point. Slap it on a poster.

8. Percy has only spoken with reporters one time this season. One........stinking........time! That's no way to pimp a Heisman hopeful. Note to Percy: Reporters vote for the Heisman.

7. Let Harvin play his real position. And by real position we mean the position Harvin will play in the NFL. Harvin is a receiver yet he only had one reception against Miami. It's a nice gimmick when Harvin lines up in the backfield, but he should never have more rushing attempts than receptions.

6. Percy Harvin should be returning kickoffs. Nothing says Heisman moment like a kickoff return for a touchdown against Georgia.

5. Every time Tim Tebow opens his mouth during a press conference, he should be praising Percy Harvin. "Percy won the game tonight," Tebow said. "Percy is the hardest working man on the team," Tebow said. "Percy is the greatest player in college football," Tebow said. "I'm naming my first born child after Percy Harvin," Tebow said.

4. Everyone knows what Tebow did last summer. What type of charitable work did Percy do? Donate blood, perhaps? Adopt a dog? ESPN College GameDay needs to know!

3. Speaking of ESPN ... Why is Erin Andrews doing a feature on Tebow lifting weights? Harvin is the real story. He's a college receiver who can bench press 400 pounds. As a professional journalist and Heisman Trophy marketing genius, I'm volunteering my services to do an in-depth story on exactly how Harvin got so big and strong this offseason.

2. Talk to reporters, Percy.

1. Repeat after me, Percy. Reporters are my friends.

-jo-

September 08, 2008

Meyer and Tebow respond to Shannon's comments, here are the audio files

GAINESVILLE -- It was anything but boring on Monday here in hogtown. Miami coach Randy Shannon's comments on Sunday about Florida coach Urban Meyer fired up UF quarterback Tim Tebow. Gator Clause is the only place you're going to hear the audio file for free.

Just like Shannon chose not to call out Florida's coach by name, Florida's coach played along and did the same. Meyer and Tebow praised Miami's defensive coordinator, which has been Meyer's less-than-subtle way of giving Shannon no credit for Miami's impressive defense. Tebow followed suit.

This is all very silly, folks. Enough with the backhanded compliments. I wish these guys would just kiss and make up...And I sooooooo hope that Tebow sticks around for another season. If he does, I'm calling it right now. Florida vs. Miami in the 2010 national championship game. We'll dredge up these quotes if that happens.

(The quote from Tebow about jail is pretty funny.)

-jo-

1.Tebow defends Meyer, gets fired up about Shannon comments.

2.Tebow talks about Miami defensive coordinator.

3.Meyer credits Miami's talented players.

4.Meyer: "I learned a long time ago to just coach your team."

5.Meyer on the proper way to "communicate."

Emails I get: UF's offense is inconsistent; Thoughts on late field goal

From time to time, Gator Clause publishes emails that come our way. Here's one that caught our attention ... (email in blue; To get an email published on Gator Clause you have to leave your name and your email must make sense.)

DeVontae Brooks of parts unknown writes:

Hey Jo,

That was a great game Saturday night and Miami's defense is very good already and will be great by the end of the season. Although I'm a big Gator fan, I always give respect when it is due and they have a [heck] of a team to build the future with. What's up with [Florida offensive coordinator] Dan Mullen he can call a good game sometimes and others times like Saturday look awful? He and [Florida coach] Urban Meyer need to quit all the cute [stuff] and not run every play out of the spread trying to get outside.

You would think they would learn that after so many years that it is OK to line up in the I-formation or a single-back formation and run it straight at people. This is why Florida will have problems recruiting 5-star backs because they are too [dang] prissy on their offense. I have no problem with them running the spread offense, but please try having the quarterback under center sometimes. Look at Oklahoma's success on offense over the years. I think they have the perfect offensive scheme because they always mix it up. It is painful to watch the Gators sometimes because they try to run around people a lot when sometimes you just need to knock the [heck] out of somebody and run right at them.

Sounded like you had a great weekend, though that podcast says it all for me. I know you had more than just some barbecue to get you sick. LOL! What did you think about Florida kicking that field goal on fourth down with a few minutes to go? Randy Shannon was [PO'd] about that and was out of his mind on the sideline. What else did he expect them to do? It is in the rules of the game and I didn't think too much of it. He barely shook Urban Meyer's hand. It wasn't like Georgia's celebration after they scored. He even made a comment about it on Sunday. Keep up the excellent work.

DeVontae,

At first I thought UM coach Randy Shannon might have gotten caught up in the moment, but after he had a few hours to cool off he was still upset about Florida's late field goal. Here's what Shannon said in his Sunday press conference:

''I'll just say this one statement,'' Shannon said. "Sometimes when you do things, and people see what type of person you really are, you turn a lot of people off. Now, whatever you want to get out of that, I won't say it again. But it helped us. It helped us more than you'll ever know.''

Clearly, Shannon is drawing a line in the sand. He got beat and he is looking for something, anything, to take away from the game as leverage. (Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. Gotta do what you gotta do, right?) It should be noted that Meyer said repeatedly last week that Miami has the most talented team in the country. Some interpreted this to mean that Miami should be better, a shot at UM's coaching staff.

Personally, I could care less. It's a football game. You play football games to score points.

-jo-

September 07, 2008

The Day After: Gators-Canes still on the brain

Florida coach Urban Meyer did not have a Sunday teleconference today. A spokesman for the Gators told me receiver Carl Moore's diagnoses on Sunday is still a "hip pointer."

GAINESVILLE -- Here are some random thoughts popping into focus as I watch the NFL today, reflect on last night's game and flip through the pages of my reporter's notebook...

--I used to like Brett Favre.

--Why was Florida tackle Phil Trautwein flagged for that personal-foul penalty? I couldn't figure it out from the press box. Whatever the reason, it ruined the Gators' momentum in the first quarter.

--Trautwein's personal-foul penalty wasn't as costly as the one charged to UM lineman Orlando Franklin at the end of the first half. It led to Jeffrey Demps' blocked punt.

--Florida receiver Louis Murphy apologized after the game for his smack talk earlier in the week. I don't know what to think about this. On one hand, it seems commendable. On the other hand, it's not like Murphy called out someone's mom. Whatever...

--Florida free safety Major Wright only had two tackles.

--Florida strong safety Ahmad Black appeared to hold his own against Miami's athletic skill players.

--Miami's only scoring drive featured a Wondy moment. Does anyone remember this? I had to chuckle a little bit in the press box.

--Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez said after the game that he was benched for the season opener because he didn't practice hard enough the week before Hawaii. Yeah, right...

--Linebackers: How many future first-round picks were on Florida Field last night? Two, I say. Florida middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and UM freshman reserve linebacker Sean Spence.

--The fourth quarter was Tebow time. That's a good sign for the Gators.

--Several reporters who cover Miami keep telling me that Florida will lose at least two games this season. Doesn't say much for Miami, I guess. I thought the Canes were pretty good.

--UM quarterbacks Robert Marve and Jacory Harris are both going to be excellent. Will one transfer?

--Tebow has 130 pass attempts without an interception, a new Florida record. Danny Wuerffel held the previous record at 121 pass attempts.

--Florida has not committed a turnover in each of its last four games.

--Florida had five penalties for 35 yards. Not bad for the Gators. One of those penalties was on redshirt sophomore guard Marcus Gilbert (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas), who filled in for Jim Tartt. Meyer said he wants to get Tartt back into the line-up as soon as possible.

--The Gators started the second half with two fruitless offensive drives. Tebow appeared to be pretty frustrated after the second drive. He was seen on the sidelines screaming at Meyer to leave the offense on the field for a fourth-and-two from the UF 48. Meyer punted.

-jo-

September 02, 2008

Percy breaks his silence...no kidding, we've posted the entire audio file just to prove it

GAINESVILLE -- Florida receiver Percy Harvin spoke with reporters today, something that hasn't happened since 1983. (No one really actually remembers. 1983 is just a guess.) I know, I know. Prove it, you say. OK...CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON BELOW! 

Percy Harvin speaks on Sept. 2, 2008 A.D.

(In a related story, white smoke was seen billowing from the Vatican ... I mean Gateway of Champions.)

Here are some of the highlights from Percy's chat:

1. Percy says he has participated in full contact drills for two days (Monday and Tuesday).
2. He's not sure if he'll play on Saturday but if he keeps progressing then he likely will.
3. Percy has a few aches and pains "but nothing significant."
4. Percy wanted to play against Hawaii but Florida coach Urban Meyer said no.
5. Percy weighs 202 pounds.
6. Percy says there were no setbacks with his rehabilitation. He wasn't cleared to begin running at full speed until mid August.
7. "If I had to redo it all over, I would do it the same way," Harvin said. [Wonder if NFL general managers will feel the same way come April?]
8. Doctors drilled holes in Percy's heel and shaved off some bone. "It was pretty nasty," Harvin said.
9. Percy says "maybe" he would have liked to have the surgery sooner. [Yeah, like in high school.]

--Meyer said on Tuesday that Harvin still isn't back to his old self but is a dynamic player nonetheless.

--Meyer said sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez was "full go" during practice on Tuesday. No word if Hernandez is playing on Saturday. Meyer told me on Monday that redshirt senior tight end Tate Casey will start in some packages. [I asked Meyer about Casey because, on Sunday, Meyer didn't want to talk about Hernandez.]

--LB Ryan Stamper (broken thumb) and OG Jim Tartt (shoulder) remain questionable for Saturday's game.

-jo-

August 28, 2008

Meyer: Patchan could get a starting nod

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Thursday evening that true freshman defensive lineman Matt Patchan could get the starting nod on Saturday. Seriously, Coach?

PatchanAccording to Meyer, Patchan [PICTURED, GREAT HAIR] is one of three players who could start at defensive tackle against Hawaii. The others are redshirt sophomores Lawrence Marsh and Terron Sanders.

Even if Patchan doesn't start, it's still quite a compliment for the kid to be considered worthy of a start in a season opener as a true freshman. And, considering Patchan's offseason, he must be one heck of a player. Defensive line coach Dan McCarney praised Patchan after Wednesday's practice. Gator Clause can't wait to watch this kid go. Sounds like he has the potential to be pretty special.

Patchan enrolled at UF for the spring semester and had a great spring practice despite some nagging injuries. Then, over the summer, Patchan was the victim of a seemingly random shooting near his hometown of Seffner. Patchan says he was lucky to walk away with his life. If that setback wasn't enough to discourage the freshman, he then strained his chest muscle while working out later in the summer.

The strained chest muscle limited Patchan's progression during the entire fall camp. He was only cleared for full contact drills on Monday. If you're counting, that means he has only practiced at full speed four times since the spring.

BACK-UP QUARTERBACKS
Meyer still won't name a back-up quarterback to Tebow. Can't damage the egos of reserve QBs Cam Newton and Jon Brantley, we suppose.

"We haven't settled on a back-up quarterback," Meyer said. "They're both fairly even and we hope to get them both in the game."

Get them BOTH in the game!?! This can only mean one thing: Florida must plan on beating Hawaii by at least 60 points.

-jo- 

August 27, 2008

Harvin, Spikes, Hurt are out; Ronnie Wilson moves back to O-line; Patchan wowing coaches

GAINESVILLE -- Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney said on Wednesday evening that Ronnie Wilson has been moved back to the offensive line and could begin competing for a spot on the Gators' two-deep offensive line depth chart immediately.

"Tough guy and strong guy," McCarney said. "He's got to help our team somehow, some way."

Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Wednesday that reserve offensive lineman Maurice Hurt (neck stinger) will be unavailable for Saturday's season opener against Hawaii. Hurt is a second-string right guard behind Mike Pouncey. Meyer also said that receiver Percy Harvin and linebacker Brandon Spikes are doubtful for Saturday.

There are two likely reasons why coaches moved Wilson back to offensive line. One, Wilson wasn't very good at defensive tackle. Two, they don't need him anymore because freshman Matt Patchan is wowing coaches in practice. Patchan has only been back to full-contact practice for three days and already McCarney likes what he sees.

"His motor never stops and when you say go play relentless for the Gators he understands that about as good as anybody," McCarney said. "The short time he has practiced he has really, really left a strong impression on everybody."

McCarney plans to play 9-10 players in the defensive line rotation. Here's an educated guess at list: Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap, Justin Trattou, Duke Lemmens, Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, Matt Patchan, Troy Epps, William Green and Javier Estopinan.

--Torrey Davis is not working with the defense. He is out of shape, according to McCarney and working with trainers during practice.

-jo-

August 19, 2008

Oddsmakers think Harvin is healthy; Set betting line at 1,500 yards; UF favored to win SEC over UGA; Plus a bookie's insight

A different and off-beat angle on some UF storylines that you guys won't read anywhere else...

GAINESVILLE -- Working hard today for you guys. I was in Orlando early Wednesday morning to cover Sen. Barack Obama's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. You can find that story on MiamiHerald.com, if you like. I missed UF's Wednesday practice, obviously, but I still have some interesting notes to pass along.

In between listening to and analyzing Obama's speech, I conducted an interview of sorts with an online gambling house, BoDogLife.com. The boys at BoDogLife.com, an offshore sports book, have set a collection of gambling lines and odds for various college football statistical measures, including the Heisman Trophy and BCS national championship. You can beat on pretty much everything, if that's your sort of thing.

One of the numbers that caught my eye was the website's over/under on UF receiver Percy Harvin's combined rushing and receiving yards. The line is set at 1,500 yards. Last season, Harvin combined for 1,622 yards receiving and rushing. I asked the betting house if they "knew something I didn't" regarding Percy's injury.

"[Harvin] was running full speed in earlier practices this week," said Jimmy Shapiro, a publicist for BoDogLife.com "I think they are just being more cautious than anything at this point. I'm OK with the number."

It should be noted that Harvin must play in the first game of the season for the wager to have action. Read into that however you like.

Still, 1,500 yards seems like an interesting number, considering Harvin had over 1,600 combined receiving and rushing yards last season and missed two games.

ODDS FAVOR UF TO WIN SEC
Another interesting number that sticks out is BoDogLife.com's odds for UF to win an SEC championship. UF has better odds than Georgia. In the BCS odds, Georgia is slightly ahead of Florida. UGA has 5-1 odds to win the BCS title. Florida is 11/2 (5.5/1).

Keep in mind that these numbers only mean that this online sports book thinks people will jump at these odds. Nothing else.

In addition to the sports book's publicist, I also spoke with Richard Gardner, BoDog sports book manager, about the numbers and odds placed on UF quarterback Tim Tebow.

“The Florida Gators should score a lot of points this season, something they have been doing ever since Tim Tebow took over the reigns," Gardner said. "This season, Tebow should put up similar numbers through the air but his Ground numbers should be smaller due to the influx of talent In the Florida backfield. USC transfer Emmanuel Moody and freshmen Chris Rainey should take away some carries that would normally be reserved for Florida’s do-all quarterback.

"Tebow’s passing numbers should improve in terms of yardage, however, don’t expect a big increase in his touchdowns through the air. Expect the Gators to pound the ball in with their new and improved running game and Tebow’s touchdown numbers should decrease slightly from last season as a result."

Gardner, online sports bookie, on the early numbers for BCS champion betting trends. And also a few betting tips:

"This should be a very interesting year in the BCS. With heavyweights Ohio State and USC playing early in the season, the race for the No.1 spot in the BCS will be heated early in the season. We have seen a substantial amount of money come in on Ohio State in the past week and currently have them No.2 behind USC in terms of shortest odds.

"The No.1 ranked team, Georgia, comes in third, but injury concerns and suspensions have made the bettors shy away from them so far. The rest of the top six come in with Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma as all short-odd favorites to take home the BCS championship. A team to watch out for is Texas Tech. They have been bettors' favorites for most of this offseason, and at 30/1 may be the best value on the board.”

-jo-

More UF-related wagers at BoDogLife.com. In blue font, I added last year's numbers:

Odds to win the 2008 BCS National Championship      
Florida                          11/2

2008 Regular Season Wins - Florida
Over                              10 (-130)
Under                            10 (EVEN)

Odds to win the SEC Conference
Florida                           3/2
Georgia                          2/1
Auburn                           3/1
LSU                                4/1
Alabama                         7/1
Tennessee                      9/1
South Carolina                15/1
Mississippi                      35/1
Arkansas                        40/1
Mississippi State            45/1
Kentucky                        50/1
Vanderbilt                      50/1

Odds to win the SEC East Division
Florida                            4/5
Georgia                           5/4
Tennessee                       4/1
South Carolina                  8/1
Kentucky                         20/1
Vanderbilt                       30/1

How many Passing Yards will Tim Tebow (FLA) have in the 2008 Season?
Over/Under        3,550 3,286

How many Passing TD’s will Tim Tebow (FLA) have in the 2008 Season?
Over/Under        32  32

How many Rushing Yards will Tim Tebow (FLA) have in the 2008 Season?
Over/Under        725  895

How many Rushing TD’s will Tim Tebow (FLA) have in the 2008 Season?
Over/Under        18 .5   23

How many Combined Receiving and Rushing Yards will Percy Harvin (FLA) have in the 2008 Regular Season?
Over/Under 1,500   1,622

How many combined Receiving and Rushing TD’s will Percy Harvin (FLA) have in the 2008 Regular Season?
Over/Under        12    10

Odds to win 2009 BCS National Championship
USC                             7/2
Ohio State                   4/1
Georgia                       5/1
Florida                       11/2
Oklahoma                    6/1
Missouri                     14/1
West Virginia             15/1
LSU                            20/1
Texas                         20/1
Clemson                     22/1
Virginia Tech              30/1
Tennessee                  30/1
Wisconsin                   30/1
Auburn                       35/1
Texas Tech                40/1
Florida State              50/1
Illinois                        50/1
Penn State                  50/1
Michigan                     50/1
Alabama                     55/1
Miami                         60/1
Notre Dame                65/1
South Florida              75/1

Odds to win the 2008 Heisman Trophy
Tim Tebow (FL)                        7/2
Chris Wells (Ohio St.)                6/1
Chase Daniel (Missouri)             6/1
Knowshon Moreno (UGA)           8/1
Michael Crabtree (TTech)         10/1
Pat White (WVU)                      10/1
Sam Bradford (Okl)                   14/1
DeMarco Murray (Okla)             15/1
Matthew Stafford (UGA)           15/1
Graham Harrell (TTech)           16/1
Percy Harvin (FL)                     20/1


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