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.

August 22, 2008

RAINY DAY (and Rainey Day) BLOG: Who do your favorite Gators hate more, Miami or FSU?

GAINESVILLE -- The rain continues to fall here in Hogtowne. Since UF football players and coaches here in Gainesville don't speak to reporters when the roads are wet, I'll have to fill the blog space today with a little intra-state smack talk. Works for me! Gotta write SOMETHING, right?

The Gator Clause staff (Goody and Mike-Mike McCall) polled several Gators recently with 10 random questions. One of the questions was, "Who would you cheer for between FSU and Miami?" Here are the answers...

--Back-up quarterback John Brantley: "I really don't like either team but I definitely don't like FSU. So, I'd have to say Miami."
--Offensive tackle Phil Trautwein: "Miami."
--Defensive end Duke Lemmens: "I just want Florida to beat both."
--Defensive end William Green: "Probably Miami."
--Safety Major Wright: "Miami."
--Defensive tackle Javier Estopinan: "They're both terrible to me. I couldn't even choose one."
--Cornerback Moses Jenkins: "Miami for sure."
--Running back Chris Rainey: "They're both sorry. FSU."
--Receiver Frankie Hammond Jr.: "Miami."
--Cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis: "I don't even care."

So, if you counting. Pretty much everyone polled hates FSU more than Miami except for Chris Rainey. Oh, and Wondy doesn't care. He just doesn't want Georgia to ever win another game.


TORREY DAVIS CHARGED
Florida sophomore defensive tackle Torrey Davis, who is currently suspended from the Florida football team due to academic concerns, pleaded not guilty to knowingly driving with a suspended license on Wednesday in Alachua County traffic court. Davis was cited twice in April for knowingly driving with a suspended license.

Those two citations came after Davis was stopped twice in 2007 for unknowingly driving with a suspended license. Davis’ pre-trail date is scheduled for Sept. 22. His lawyer, Huntley Johnson, also represents current Florida defensive tackle Ronnie Wilson and former Florida safety Jamar Hornsby. Both Wilson and Hornsby were initially arrested for felonies but their charges were later reduced to misdemeanors.

--RECRUITING: Miami Columbus defensive tackle Antwan Lowery (6-4, 335 pounds) has narrowed his college suitors to three schools -- Florida, Rutgers and Clemson. Sounds like good news for the Gators.

--THE LATEST FROM HAWAII: The Warriors are set to leave for Atlanta on Tuesday. Hawaii is only traveling with 65 players. The travel roster will not include quarterback Tyler Graunke, who was recently reinstated to the team.
 


--IN THE NEWS: Former Gator Jerimy Finch is eligible to play safety for IU this season. How is this possible? The NCAA cites extenuating circumstances. Finch is a father of a toddler, who lives in Indiana. The child never made the move to Gainesville when Finch lived in Florida. 

--CHECK OUT THIS 3-D map on Google Earth of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Brought to you by the fine folks at mapgameday.com. Pretty cool. (You'll need to install the Google Earth plug-in for this to work.)

--One columnist, the great Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun, says this is the most important season of Urban Meyer's career. Do you agree? Meyer already has won a national title with Florida and he's going to make about $3.5 million this season regardless, so there is room here for an argument.

--ON THE RADIO: Gator Clause will be chatting Florida football live around 8:45 a.m. on Saturday with Knoxville radio personality Josh Ward of Knoxville's WNML-AM, The Sports Animal. Listen live via the radio station's live Internet stream.

-jo-

August 08, 2008

PIERRE-LOUIS: 'Georgia, that's the game of the year'; Wright: Looking forward to Miami

GAINESVILLE -- This is all you need to know from Florida's media day. Everything else was white noise.

"Georgia, man," cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis said. "That's the game of the year. I'm not going to lie. Even though we're going to take it one by one, Georgia is the game of the year."

Of course, there is that little 'ol team down in Coral Gables. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas grad Major Wright is pretty excited about that one.

"It's a very important game," Wright said. "You know, every time I go home I never hear the end of it. It's going to be an intense game, high energy. I look forward to this game."

Wright grew up idolizing former 'Cane great Sean Taylor. Instead of following in Taylor's footsteps as one of the next great Miami safeties, Wright committed to the Gators. He's friends with Hurricanes Anthony Reddick and Leonard Hankerson, among other 'Canes.

As anyone who has read this blog for the last year can tell you, Wright and Pierre-Louis are two of my favorite Gators. Wright is busy teaching Will Hill how to play safety these days. Pierre-Louis is busy fending off fellow cornerback Markihe Anderson, who wants Pierre-Louis' starting job.

OTHER NOTES
--Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong says linebacker A.J. Jones is a mainstay on the defense this season at weak side.

--Defensive line coach Dan McCarney says Ronnie Wilson is strong but way behind.

--Safeties coach Chuck Heater on if Ahmad Black is too short to play safety: "We'll see."

--Offensive lineman James Wilson was very truthful with reporters on Friday. I says he was really upset that Florida wouldn't grant his request to transfer. He's happy that he stayed at UF, however. Left guard Jim Tartt's shoulders might not hold up this season.

--Anyone seen Percy Harvin lately?

--Pictures coming tomorrow morning.

-jo-

August 03, 2008

CAMP COUNTDOWN: Seven strengths in seven days...No.1: Experience, of course

Less than 24 hours until fall camp. Hope everyone enjoyed our CAMP COUNTDOWN. Posted below are individual links to the series...

7: TIGHT ENDS
6: SPECIAL TEAMS
5: BRANDON SPIKES
4: OFFENSIVE LINE
3: WIDE RECEIVERS
2: QUARTERBACKS
1: And the No.1 team strength entering fall camp is ... experience.

GAINESVILLE -- Last season was more about learning than it was about winning for the Florida Gators. The team that won a national championship in 2006 and the team that returned for 2007 were entirely different. From Tim Tebow to Urban Meyer, everyone had something to learn. Experience came in different forms.

061201_meyer_hmed_5phmediumFor Meyer, 2007 was the first time he had ever been a third-year head coach with a team. There were signs of inexperience. A number of Gators were arrested in the offseason following the national championship. The experience led to some in-house changes this offseason, including the hiring of full-time player mentor Terry Jackson. Distractions were limited this offseason. (Jamar Hornsby was dismissed from the team but that was addition by subtraction. Just my opinion.)

For Tebow, 2007 was about learning how to lead. He cried after losing to Georgia. The quarterback displayed a much different emotion after the Michigan defeat. He was just plain angry and admitted that his team lacked focus leading up to the bowl game.

Brandon Spikes wasn't in top form last August when the 2007 fall camp began. The experience helped him prepare his body correctly this offseason. Now, UF strength coach Mickey Marotti says Spikes is one of the Gators' most physically fit players.

Ncf_g_haden2_195One of the Gators' starting cornerbacks was a true freshman last season and the other was still learning how to play football. As a result, Florida's secondary was the worst in the Southeastern Conference. Joe Haden [PICTURED] and Wondy Pierre-Louis begin this season as preseason all-SEC defenders.

Those are just a few examples of how the Gators begin fall camp on Monday with the experience needed to vie for a conference and national championship. All told, the Gators return 17 starters. Depth and team speed are two of the Gators' greatest team strengths this season but experience might be the most important.

"With guys leaving early now -- and our championship year we had four guys on defense leave as juniors; last year we lost Derrick Harvey as a junior -- I think the shift of leadership has to go from the young players," Meyer said. "That's a big point of discussion with our group, and already has been, that just because you're a senior, that's not entitlement. We had some issues a year ago that weren't very good for our outfit. (Tony Joiner/Kyle Jackson?) If you're a sophomore, you walk the walk, talk the talk, do everything the right way, then you're a leader."

OK, with the countdown done and fall camp set to begin. Let's have some fun and predict the two-deep depth chart for offense and defense.

OFFENSE
LT: Phil Trautwein; Matt Patchan
LG: Jim Tartt; Carl Johnson
C: Maurkice Pouncey; Mike Pouncey
RG: Mike Pouncey; James Wilson
RT: Jason Watkins; Marcus Gilbert
TE: Cornelius Ingram; Aaron Hernandez
WR: Percy Harvin; Deonte Thompson
WR: Louis Murphy; Justin Williams
WR: Carl Moore; David Nelson
RB: Kestahn Moore; Emmanuel Moody
QB: Tim Tebow; Cameron Newton

DEFENSE
DE: Jermaine Cunningham; Carlos Dunlap
DT: Javier Estopinan; Torrey Davis
DT: Terron Sanders; John Brown
DE: Justin Trattou; Duke Lemmens
SLB: A.J. Jones; Ryan Stamper
MLB: Brandon Spikes; Lorenzo Edwards
WLB: Dustin Doe; Brandon Hicks
SS: Ahmad Black; Will Hill
FS: Major Wright; Will Hill
CB: Joe Haden; Markihe Anderson
CB: Wondy Pierre-Louis; Jacques Rickerson

SPECIALISTS
K: Caleb Sturgis; Jonathan Phillips
P: Chas Henry; Caleb Sturgis
PR: Brandon James; Chris Rainey
KR: Brandon James; Chris Rainey

FRIENDLY REMINDER: Free doughnuts!!!

-jo-


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