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46 posts from September 2008

September 20, 2008

UF-UT PREGAME: Ahmad Black looking good

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee taking the field in Neyland Stadium is really something to see. Love how the blue-tick hound leads the way.

--About 30 minutes to warm-ups and UF strong safety is Ahmad Black is listed as a starter and showing no signs of an injured right ankle...

--The rumors are true. Neyland Stadium is enormous...

--UF OG Marcus Gillbert is still listed as a starter ... Jim Tartt appears to be second string, according to the pregame depth chart...

--Tennessee OG Vladimir Richard of Sunrise is listed as a starter...

--Former Miami prep star Demetrice Morley is starting a strong safety for UT ...

--Former Boyd Anderson star Gerald Williams is a third-string linebacker for UT...

--Herald columnist Israel Gutierrez, seated next to me, and myself have a pregame bet: How many carries will UF running backs combine for. Closest to the correct number without going over wins. I say 12 carries. Israel says 8 carries. At stake is a beer. (FYI: Percy Harvin does not count as a running back.)

-jo-

September 19, 2008

PREGAME PODCAST: Will Hill starting at strong safety?

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Find out what Gator Clause learned today about late changes to the Gators' secondary before Saturday's game with Tennessee. Also, what exactly does it mean to be a Tennessee Volunteer? Maybe it has something to do with why Knoxville was so upset about UF middle linebacker Brandon Spikes' comments earlier this week. Lastly, Gator Clause takes a look at UF quarterback Tim Tebow's stats this season. Run time is five minutes and 30 seconds.

-jo-

Produced by Joseph Goodman, The Miami Herald

September 18, 2008

ULTIMATE PREVIEW: A healthy Harvin and Tartt should make all the difference

GAINESVILLE -- There is a dry-erase board outside the Tennessee locker room this week reminding the team that its next opponent thinks the Volunteers are a bunch of quitters.

SpikesResponding to a question about last season's game against Tennessee, UF middle linebacker Brandon Spikes [PICTURED] told reporters earlier this week that Tennessee "quit" during last season's 59-20 Florida win at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. As if this rivalry game wasn't big enough already, Spikes' controversial recollection of events has touched a nerve in Knoxville, Tenn., just in time for the Gators' trip to Neyland Stadium.

The Vols have latched onto Spikes' statements this week, drawing motivation from Spikes' claims -- one being that Tennessee players aren't as tough as Florida players.

Beat_tennessee"It was probably (said) to provoke and get a rise out of us,” Tennessee running back Arian Foster told reporters earlier this week. "It's complete disrespect."

While Tennessee is using Spikes' statements to get fired up for Saturday's game, Florida is doing the same in Gainesville with its own motivational bulletin board [PICTURED, EXCLUSIVE PHOTO ONLY ON GATOR CLAUSE]. Tennessee is a permanent fixture of the Gators' bulletin board, located in the back of Florida's locker room. Florida's support staff has been adding articles and quotes from Tennessee players to the board since the preseason.

PERCY IS BACK
While bulletin boards and dry-erase boards are fun to write about, all that nonsense (false Percyharvin_tenn2motivation) will only last about five minutes once the game begins. One of the most important storylines of this game is the full return of Florida receiver Percy Harvin, who had offseason surgery to his right heel.

Harvin [PICTURED] sat out the Gators' season opener against Hawaii and only touched the ball six times against Miami. The junior expects to be more involved this Saturday. In 2006, a freshman Harvin was only involved in a few plays before injuring his ankle against the Vols.

"All I can remember is the stadium shaking," Harvin said. "That was my first road game, my biggest game coming into that season. I can just remember the crowd and it shaking and not being able to hear Tebow call the plays in."

TEBOW LOVES NEYLAND STADIUM
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow told reporters earlier this week that Tennessee's Neyland Stadium is one of his favorite away venues in college football. (LSU's Tigers Stadium is the other.)

Tebow721890"I love playing at The Swamp but it is better playing on the road for me," Tebow said. "When you are playing at Neyland Stadium or at LSU or those stadiums that gets your blood going and that gets you excited and ready to play. For me, it is exciting and I enjoy it. The two probably loudest and most hostile are probably Tennessee and LSU."

Tebow [PICTURED] was a back-up quarterback to former Gator Chris Leak in 2006 but still had an impact in the Gators' win against Tennessee. It was the first road game of his career. Tebow, then a freshman, rushed for a two-yard gain on fourth down-and-one during the Gators' game-winning drive.

Harvin still remembers the look in Tebow eyes when UF coach Urban Meyer asked the freshman quarterback if he was ready to make the play.

"Coach came to Tebow on the sidelines," Harvin said. "Tebow kept telling [Meyer] to give him the ball and Coach said, 'If I put you in you better get this.' Tebow looked at him with this crazy look and he went in there and got it."

THE RUNNING GAME
Tebow will certainly get his carries on Saturday but Florida's offensive coaches will first try and involve the Gators' traditional running backs. That was a problem against Miami. Tebow led the Gators with 55 yards rushing. Harvin had five carries for 27 yards and three Florida running backs -- Chris Rainey, Jeffrey Demps and Kestahn Moore -- combined for seven yards on nine carries.

TRENDS IN THIS SERIES
The team with the most rushing yards has won 16 of the last 18 meetings between these two teams. Like Miami on Sept.6, Tennessee will focus on establishing the running game on Saturday and dominate time of possession. Tennessee senior Arian Foster is one of the best backs in the SEC and Tennessee's chances of winning the game will increase dramatically if Foster logs over 25 carries and grinds down the clock.

SPOTLIGHT ON SOPHOMORE STRONG SAFETIES
One key to Florida stopping Foster will be the play of Florida strong safety Ahmad Black, a sophomore. Florida has held Tennessee to 66, minus-11 and 37 yards rushing in each of the last Fbc_ten_eric_berry_102707_164w three contests. Florida coach Urban Meyer, who has never lost to Tennessee while at Florida (3-0), says there is no secret to stopping Tennessee's running game -- just overload the box. Black will be the extra man in the box when Tennessee runs the ball.

While Foster will help with run support, Tennessee's strong safety, sophomore Eric Berry, will help shut down Tebow and Florida's lethal passing attack. Berry [PICTURED] has two interceptions already this season and picked off Tebow last season and returned it for a long touchdown.

WILL STAN DRAYTON HAVE AN IMPACT?
To remind everyone, Stan Drayton is the running backs coach who left Florida for Tennessee during the offseason. This is a big week for Drayton, who expressed his displeasure with Florida's running game shortly after being hired by Tennessee. Drayton is familiar with Florida's personnel, something that worries Meyer.

WHAT'S AT STAKE?
This is the first conference game for both teams. While a loss won't kill either teams' hopes for an SEC East title, starting the SEC schedule with a win is very important.

Also at stake is Tennessee's all-time lead in this series. Tennessee leads the series 19-18. The rivalry started in 1916 and Florida has always trailed the Vols.

FIVE KEYS TO VICTORY FOR FLORIDA
Crompton 5. Score first. Catching up will be a lot harder for Tennessee.
4. Limit Tennessee RB Arian Fosters' carries early. If Foster gets into a rhythm, keeping Tebow and Company off the field, the Gators could be in for a slugfest.
3. Tight end Aaron Hernandez will be open. Get him the ball.
2. Keep Tebow healthy. Tennessee will be looking to knock the Heisman Trophy winner out of the game.
1. Force Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton to win the game. Crompton [PICTURED] is inexperienced. He couldn't beat UCLA and had trouble at times with UAB's secondary last week.

FLORIDA INJURY REPORT
PROBABLE
WR Carl Moore (hip pointer)
OG Jim Tartt (shoulder)
WLB Dustin Doe (groin)
QUESTIONABLE
TE Tate Casey (arm)
QB Cameron Newton (ankle)
OUT
OL Maurice Hurt (neck)
DT John Brown (hand)
DT Torrey Davis (disciplinary)
DT Brandon Antwine (back)
TE Cornelius Ingram (ACL)
LB Brendan Beal (ACL)
SS Dorian Munroe (ACL)
OL Jim Barrie (ACL)

TENNESSEE INJURY REPORT
PROBABLE
QB Jonathan Crompton (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE
S Daryl Vereen (knee)
OUT
RB David Holbert (knee)
TE Jeff Cottam (leg)
DT Chase Nelson (knee)
P  Britton Colquitt (suspended)

SERIES BREAKDOWN
Florida has won three in a row and five of its last seven games at Neyland Stadium.

BY THE NUMBERS
5: The number of times Tennessee has lost to a ranked opponent at home in the last nine games against teams in the AP Top 25.
3: The number of interceptions Vols' QB Jonathan Crompton has thrown in his first two starts.
75: The number of times Tennessee has rushed and passed in the Vols' first two games. A pretty balanced offense.

RECRUITING
This game isn't nearly as important to recruiting as Florida's games against Miami or Florida State but Tennessee and Florida will still be battling for some of the same high school players. Tennessee has seven Floridians on its roster, including two starters, free safety Demetrice Morley (Miami) and kicker Daniel Lincoln (Ocala).

PREDICTION
Florida is a 7 1/2-point favorite, according to online sports betting websites. This seems like a pretty low number considering Tennessee lost to UCLA and struggling to put away UAB. With UF starters Percy Harvin and Jim Tartt back in the line-up, I expect Florida to cover the point spread and beat Tennessee 30-21.

-jo-

September 17, 2008

SPIKES: Tennessee "not as tough" as Gators

Thoughts on UF linebacker Brandon Spikes' bulletin-board material ...

GAINESVILLE -- Brandon Spikes has no friends in Knoxville, Tenn., -- not after his comments earlier this week about the Tennessee Volunteers.

Spikes told reporters on Monday that Tennessee "quit playing" during last season's rivalry game against Florida. Florida won 59-20.

"They kind of gave up," Spikes said. "Our whole program is about, backed up against the wall, you've got to keep fighting. We saw them give up. ... They quit playing."

Want to add a little spice to a local pick-up basketball game? Call your opponents quitters. Want to set off a raging firestorm of hate before one of the biggest Southeastern Conference college football games of the season? Call Tennessee a bunch of sorry quitters.

And you thought LSU's Tigers Stadium was a hostile crowd last season. Ha! In all my years, I've learned two certainties of life.

1. Women.
2. Call a redneck a redneck and he takes it as a compliment. Call a redneck a quitter, and you might as well have spit on his momma.

Spikes ended his brilliance with this: "I know they are going to be pretty jacked up."

What Spikes meant to say: "I know they are going to try and jack me up."

OK, to put this whole controversy into some kind of perspective, you've got to know the context of Spikes' remarks. The story begins with a dude by the name of Derek Baldry.

Derek Baldry was pretty much the toughest son of a gun to ever play football in the SEC. How can I possibly write such a statement about a walk-on? Well, Baldry was a journalism major and ... OK, that Baldry majored in journalism has nothing to do with this story.

Baldry didn't know much about football before he walked on the team in 2006. Here's what Baldry did before he walked on the team: Fought in the mountains of Afghanistan as an Army Ranger. (I wrote a story about this last year.) Quitting really isn't an option for those guys.

Now, knowing Baldry's background, you can fully appreciate the surprise he felt last year when a Tennessee lineman told Baldry not to bother blocking him on an extra point attempt late in the game. The Tennessee lineman told Baldry he had no intention of trying to block the kick.

Baldry relayed this message to his teammates and reporters last year and reporters brought the story up again on Monday. (As good reporters are prone to do.) Spikes obliged by talking about Baldry's story. (Tennessee, by the way, denied that this happened.)

"That kind of surprised me, for him saying I don't want to rush," Spikes said. "But I know they are not really as tough as us."

That a Tennessee player would actually quit trying was a big topic among the Gators last season, according to Spikes. Especially since the story came from Baldry, who is pretty much the essence of toughness and integrity.

Spikes said he had never experienced anything like that, especially "at this level." Of course, Spikes also told reporters that he has observed Tennessee quitting before and he really wasn't that surprised. (No clue what Spikes meant by that statement other than to inflame this rivalry.)

OK, now for some real talk. I don't really think it matters much that a Tennessee player told Baldry last year that he wasn't going to try and block an extra point. Not a big deal, as far as I'm concerned. Tennessee was losing badly and the extra point didn't matter.

And if you try and tell me some cliche like, "Goody, all plays matter and Florida Gators never quit on any play," I'll just have to remind you that Tennessee won the SEC East last year and nearly beat LSU in the SEC championship game.

What is interesting about all this? For the second game in a row, a Florida "team leader" talked some major smack before playing a rival. (I have nothing against this but I don't think UF coach Urban Meyer likes it much.) Receiver Louis Murphy called out Miami in similar fashion two weeks ago.

Murphy got the muzzle but his teammates apparently didn't get the message.

-jo-   

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 15, 2008

Percy Harvin says he's ready to be cut loose

GAINESVILLE -- Percy Harvin spoke with reporters for more than 10 minutes on Monday during the Gators' weekly media day. Harvin says his doctor "cut the chains loose" on his playing time, so expect a full dose of Harvin on Saturday against Tennessee.

Harvin said that his limited role against Miami was planned by coaches and doctors to see how his surgically repaired heel performed. The heel responded well and Harvin says he feels healthier right now than he has since his sophomore year of high school.

So, basically, if you thought Harvin was pretty good before the surgery just wait until Saturday. Florida coach Urban Meyer said that Harvin had a great week of practice last week.

"I think six touches was to see if I still had my explosiveness," Harvin said. "Was it going to ache after the game and things like that. So, I think I'm ready to go."

-jo-

Top 25 breakdown: Five SEC teams in Top 10

QUESTION: In two more weeks, will the Sunshine State have four teams ranked in the Top 25?

GAINESVILLE -- The Week 3 AP poll features five SEC teams in the top 10. That's a record, according to the public relations people at the SEC headquarters. Florida remains at No.4. (Here's the poll. Gator Clause added comments only where we found it was completely necessary...That means everywhere.)

1. USC (2-0)
QB Mark Sanchez passed for four touchdowns against Ohio State.
2. Oklahoma (3-0)
Is QB Sam Bradford this year's Tebow? Bradford accounted for five touchdowns (four passing) in the Sooners blowout of Washington.
3. Georgia (3-0)
South Carolina had its chances on Saturday against Georgia but the Bulldogs held on. Did anyone see that seven-yard touchdown run by Knowshon? Simply amazing.
4. Florida (2-0) idle
5. Missouri (3-0)
QB Chase Daniel threw for 407 yards and four touchdowns in less than three quarters.
6. LSU (2-0)
Is Trindon Holliday a better kick returner than UF's Brandon James?
7. Texas (2-0)
Game vs. Arkansas postponed due to Hurricane Ike.
8. Wisconsin (3-0)
Bye week for Badgers before gauntlet of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. OK, maybe these days that's not much of a gauntlet.
9. Alabama (3-0)
What?
10. Auburn (3-0)
Great defense but Tigers have some serious concerns on the other side of the ball.
11. Texas Tech (3-0)
Receiver Michael Crabtree had eight receptions for 164 yards and three touchdowns.
12. South Florida (3-0)
QB Matt Grothe was spectacular in the second half.
13. Ohio State (2-1)
Without Beanie Wells, average 2.1 yards per carry in loss to Trojans.
14. Brigham Young (3-0)
Shock and Awe. QB Max Hall tossed seven touchdowns in historic 59-0 win against UCLA.
15. East Carolina (3-0)
Can Pirates spoil the party. Greenville Boys must run the table.
16. Penn State (3-0)
Three different QBs combined for five touchdown passes against 'Cuse. Poor 'Cuse.
17. Oregon (3-0)
Team Nike got the most out of their collective swoosh. The Ducks rushed for 307 yards (7.1 yards per carry) in overtime win against Purdue.
18. Wake Forest (2-0)
Big test next week waiting in Tallahassee.
19. Kansas (2-1)
QB Todd Reesing looked great but KU's offense was too inconsistent for a road win against a good team.
20. Utah (3-0)
Utes' defense held Utah State to 116 yards of total offense.
21. West Virginia (1-1)
Could impress voters (or fall out of poll) next week against Colorado.
22. Illinois (2-1)
Did the Illini look past Louisiana-Whoever or is Illinois just overrated?
23. Clemson (2-1)
Forget Spiller and Davis. Just hand the ball off to receiver Jacoby Ford (2 carries, 48 yards).
24. Florida State (2-0)
Hey, hey. Look who's back.
25. Fresno State (1-1)
Like Kansas, a tough loss to a great opponent.

-jo-

September 13, 2008

BYE WEEK GAMEDAY: Open forum today on Gator Clause; comparing Grothe to Tebow

GAINESVILLE -- Bye weeks are great for college football sports writers. It means we get to sit at home on Saturday, relax and watch football in a calm and stress-free environment all day. No deadlines!

Most Gators beat writers won't be blogging today, but since I'm neurotic about my job I'll be checking the blog throughout the day and leaving random comments and thoughts about the games on television. If you stop by, leave me a comment and let me know what you think about today's college football match-ups.

This a great Saturday for college football but the best game of the weekend might have already happened. No. 19 South Florida 37, No. 13 Kansas 34 on Friday night was a classic game. I drove over to Tampa last night and covered the game. Here's a link to my game story. CLICK ME!

USF quarterback Matt Grothe was brilliant, rushing for a 28-yard touchdown and passing for 338 yards and two touchdowns. Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing was great as well but it was Reesing's late mistake -- an interception by USF safety Nate Allen -- that was the difference in the game. USF converted the interception into a last-second field goal to pull the upset.

Grothe might not be as good a quarterback as Florida's Tim Tebow but the South Florida passer is certainly one of the best players in the Big East. With a pair of dramatic comeback wins in consecutive weeks, Grothe should be on everyone's early season Heisman Trophy list.

HERE'S A LIST OF TODAY'S SEC GAMES
UAB at Tennessee, 12:30 p.m., Raycom
Georgia at South Carolina, 3:30 p.m., CBS
Auburn at Mississippi State, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Middle Tennessee at Kentucky, 7 p.m.
Samford at Ole Miss, 7 p.m.
Rice at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.
Western Kentucky at Alabama, 7:07 p.m.
North Texas at LSU, 8 p.m.
Arkansas at Texas - Postponed to Sept. 27

Today's upset special: Tulane over East Carolina.

Goody's absolute locks: Florida Atlantic (+18 1/2) vs. Michigan State; Tulane (+12) vs. East Carolina; UCLA (+8) vs. BYU.

-jo-

September 12, 2008

Five questions with UF's Emmanuel Moody

First, the link to my story on Emmanuel Moody in today's sports section of The Miami Herald: Florida Gators football still waiting for Moody to produce

GAINESVILLE -- Now for the online supplement: Five questions with Coppell, Texas, native and Southern Cal transfer Emmanuel Moody. (Obviously, these questions and answers were asked during the preseason. Moody did not speak with the media this week.)

MoodyGATOR CLAUSE: What have you done to prepare for the season?
MOODY: "I've been spending time in the playbook. The more reps I get the more I get used to all the schemes. I'm taking rep after rep in practice."

GATOR CLAUSE: How does the talent at Florida stack up to the talent at USC?
MOODY: "There's talent at both schools. No matter what school you go to, if it's a school like Florida or USC, there's going to be competition there."

GATOR CLAUSE: Your main competition for playing time is Kestahn Moore. What have you learned from Moore since you've been at Florida?
MOODY: "I give him a lot of respect for working hard. He works hard every day, so I kind of just see what he does and just try to pick it up to his tempo."

GATOR CLAUSE: You don't sign autographs with your name, could you tell me a little bit about that?
MOODY: "I [write] a cross and I [write] Jesus and I [write] my number under Jesus. The cross represents the crucifixion that the Lord died for us. I put my number under His name because I count myself less and he's my savior. So my identity is in Christ and that's why I [write] Jesus, because I no longer live for myself. I live for Christ."

GATOR CLAUSE: When did you become so religious?
MOODY: "When I was 16 at a church retreat. Before then I was a totally different person but it changed my life for the better. I was getting into a lot of trouble and I was the complete opposite of what I am today, sinners of sinners. But I had an encounter with the Holy Spirit and became saved."

-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-

AROUND THE SEC: Former 'Cane Warren Sapp hating on UF coach Urban Meyer

GAINESVILLE -- Plenty of news around the Southeastern Conference this week. In a related topic, the Miami Hurricanes have officially traded in their Army fatigues for handkerchiefs.

--Tennessee running back Arian Foster doesn't have a fumbling problem, says Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer. Foster has a ball security problem.

--Could embattled South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia play against Georgia this weekend? It seems like a possibility, according to Joe Person of The State.

--Warren Sapp called Florida coach Urban Meyer a "classless dirtbag" on Tuesday during a media conference call for Showtime's Inside the NFL.

--Ole Miss is still sulking after its loss to Wake Forest.

--Arkansas' special teams needs work after the Hogs' 28-27 win against Louisiana-Monroe.

--Injured Alabama O-line star Andre Smith is ready to return.

--Auburn's new offense is still influx. Tigers quarterback Chris Todd, the transfer from Texas Tech, will start on Saturday's game against Mississippi State.

--Kentucky offensive coordinator Joker Phillips says Wildcats quarterback Mike Hartline will start on Saturday against Middle Tennessee State. Kentucky coach Rich Brooks isn't too sure.

--LSU is staying home. With Hurricane Ike drifting south towards Texas, school officials have decided not to move LSU's home game against North Texas on Saturday night.

-jo-

September 10, 2008

EMAILS I GET: Cris Carter says Riley Cooper will leave UF to play professional baseball

Per the custom here on Gator Clause, if we receive a quality email, then we share it with everyone. (email in blue; Gator Clause's answer in black) ...

This email comes to us from Todd of Columbus, Ohio. Todd writes:

Jo:

I'm a Gator alum living in Columbus, Ohio, and yes I do have a great time poking my co-workers and neighbors with my Gator/SEC stick. I was listening to the local talk show and Cris Carter was on talking about the USC/OSU game. The conversation turned to his son, who appears to be a highly regarded receiver from Fort Lauderdale and has committed to the Buckeyes. Carter stated that Urban Meyer is trying to get him to de-commit because he is going to lose Riley Cooper and another receiver to baseball.

Does this story have any legs? Or is Carter's son that good?

I enjoy your articles and blogs.

Take care,

Todd

Interesting email, Todd. Thanks. Here's what I found out for you this morning. I phoned Larry Cooper, Riley's father, who said his son might leave Florida for next summer's MLB Draft but any talk of that was "all speculation at this point."

Riley Cooper participated in a summer baseball league for college players a few months ago and apparently impressed a few people with his speed, arm strength and improved power. Larry Cooper said that of all the college baseball players who participated in summer leagues, his son was rated the highest by PGCrosschecker.com. This website is basically like Rivals.com but geared specifically to baseball.

Cooper, UF's receiver who also played baseball for Florida last spring, played in the Valley League this summer and batted .231 with three home runs and seven stolen bases. The website does rate Cooper as the top prospect of last summer's Valley League. I couldn't find any information about Cooper being the top-rated project of all the leagues, as his father claimed. (He might be but I wasn't about to pay the fee for this website to find out.)

ANYWAY, Riley Cooper is eligible for next year's draft because he recently turned 21. College baseball players must be 21 years old or a junior in school to be drafted. If Riley is drafted high enough in the MLB Draft next June, then the receiver might take his chances in professional baseball, according to his father. If Riley isn't drafted high enough, then he will return to Florida for another season and play baseball and football. Cooper was drafted by the Phillies in the 15th round of the 2006 MLB Draft.

"It's all speculation right now," Larry Cooper said. "Riley is playing football. Where it goes, nobody knows."

As for the other UF receiver Cris Carter claimed will leave UF to play baseball, I know of no other player on the Florida football team who fits that description.

Duron Carter (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) is a fundamentally sound high school receiver who should fit in well with the OSU offense. I would be slightly surprised if Duron signed with Florida next February and not OSU (Cris Carter played at OSU). It should be noted that Cris Carter is close friends with Florida coach Urban Meyer.

TATE CASEY INJURED
Just passing along some information from Miami Herald correspondent Mike McCall. Mike was eating at a Gainesville restaurant on Monday night and spotted UF tight end Tate Casey with his right arm in a sling.

-jo-

September 09, 2008

Gators Report Card: Good teams win in the 4th

GAINESVILLE -- We're looking back one final time (we think) at Florida's 26-3 win against Miami. Overall it was an excellent effort by the Gators, who held Miami to 140 yards of total offense, forced a safety on special teams and scored 17 points in the fourth quarter.

Good football teams win games in the fourth quarter. OK, on to the report card.

OFFENSIVE LINE: C+
This preseason, Florida coach Urban Meyer called his offensive line the Gators' best unit. It sure didn't look that way against Miami, which held Florida's running backs to 34 yards combined. The Hurricanes' blitz packages also disrupted UF quarterback Tim Tebow, who only had 150 yards passing entering the fourth quarter.

RUNNING BACKS: D-
Tebow led the Gators in rushing. A receiver, Percy Harvin, out gained the Gators' traditional running backs and Harvin only had 27 yards on five carries. Running backs Chris Rainey, Jeffrey Demps and Kestahn Moore combined for seven yards on nine carries. Anyone see Emmanuel Moody lately?

QUARTERBACKS: A
Without Tebow, Florida might have lost this game. The junior completed 21-of-35 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 55 yards on 13 carries and Mr. Heisman was at his best in the fourth quarter.

DEFENSIVE LINE: A+
Florida coach Urban Meyer chuckled on Monday when he announced that redshirt sophomore Terron Sanders had the best game of his career. Yes, it was that kind of game for the Gators' D-line, which held Miami running backs to 1.6 yards per carry. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham had nine tackles and a sack. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap had two sacks.

LINEBACKERS: B+
MLB Brandon Spikes led the Gators in tackles with 11 and reserve linebacker Ryan Stamper had five tackles despite a broken hand. Special teams dynamo Brandon Hicks earned playing time against Miami and had three tackles. WLB Dustin Doe was limited with a groin injury.

SECONDARY: A
Two impressive games in a row for the Gators' secondary. And to think this unit was one of the worst in the SEC last season. It seemed Miami's offensive coordinator was so intimidated by Florida's cornerbacks and safeties that he only chose to throw downfield a few times. UF free safety Major Wright only had to make two tackles and Gators strong safety Ahmad Black held his own against Miami's athletic receivers and running backs.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A+
Punter Chas Henry netted an average of 40 yards on seven kicks and freshman Jeffrey Demps forced a Miami safety with a blocked punt in the end zone. Florida return specialist Brandon James led the Gators in all-purpose yards with 49 yards on punt returns, 82 yards on kickoff returns and 30 yards receiving.

COACHING: A-
Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney is proving to be an excellent offseason hire. Florida's offensive coaches made the proper adjustments in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 points. Had to cringe a little bit when the Gators threw for the end zone late in the fourth quarter with an insurmountable lead. Would hate to see someone injured in a situation like that.

RECRUITING: A+
Much to the chagrin of UM coach Randy Shannon, Florida's 26-3 win showcased the best of Florida football for about 75 recruits.

BY THE NUMBERS
Florida's sports information staff was quick to respond to Miami's claim that the Hurricanes were the younger team on Saturday. The Gators sent out this text message to beat writers and reporters who cover the Gators: "Interesting nugget about UF youth -- 60 of 85 players are frosh or soph and we started 10 jr/sr and Miami started 13."

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Here's what I think: College football programs must think high school recruits are stupid. Are they? Football teams try to make such a big deal about playing young players. The reason football teams do this is to make high school recruits believe they have a chance at playing time as freshmen. Here's the funny thing about that: If a team plays a bunch of young players one season, doesn't that mean that the next season those same young players will still be starting, meaning it will actually be harder for incoming freshmen to get playing time?

INJURIES
WLB Dustin Doe has an injured groin muscle and will miss practice this week. Receiver Carl Moore will miss practice this week due to the hip injury he suffered against Miami. Walk-on safety Cody Worton of Miami Homestead tore a knee ligament against Miami and will miss the rest of the season.

-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-

UF 26, UM 3: Post-game thoughts and notes

FIRST, UF-related links in The Miami Herald...All these stories in today's paper. This is why the Herald is the best of the best, folks...

GAME STORY LINK: Chomped in The Swamp
MAIN UF SIDEBAR LINK: Special teams delivers for Gators
MAIN UM SIDEBAR LINK: Hurricanes hang tough with Gators
UF NOTEBOOK: Big recruiting night in Gainesville; SEC commish talks TV
UM NOTEBOOK: UM-UF discuss keeping rivalry alive
Greg Cote's column: What's the difference between UM-UF? One great quarterback
Israel Gutierrez's column: Despite the loss, Miami Hurricanes show promising signs

GAINESVILLE -- Top 5 things to think about after UF 26, UM 3. By me, Joseph Goodman, and the fearless Mike-Mike McCall (Miami Herald correspondent).

5. The defensive line played extremely well. The Canes only rushed for 61 total yards. Miami had 140 total offensive yards.

4. Do people still think Florida's offense is unstoppable? Tebow said the last time the Gators offense had to rely on the defense was his freshman season. And we all know what happened that year.

3. Should Harvin have had more touches or considering his offseason surgery was his limited role appropriate? Meyer said he knew he could do more with Harvin and Meyer says he will. Harvin rushed for 27 yards on five carries and a touchdown and had one catch for 12 yards. He only touched the ball twice in the first half.

2. Urban Meyer is 11-0 at Florida when the Gators' block a punt and 18-2 overall. Florida has blocked 39 kicks since 2001. What's more, Florida blocked eight kicks in 2006 when the Gators won the national title. Saturday was certainly a good start. Jeff Demps block at the end of the first half swung the momentum in the Gators' favor for the rest of the game.

On the blocked punt: “We called (the play) once earlier and they kept screaming at me to run it again because it was wide open,” said Meyer, who cited Demps’ and Chris Rainey’s 100-meter times. They did a great job with that.”

1. Let's hope Carl Moore is not severely injured. Moore left the game with an apparent hip pointer (according to Meyer) after his incredible reception at the end of the third quarter.

“[Moore] is not used to running that route," Florida quarterback Tim Tebow said. "I don’t think it was actually planned for him to be there. I wasn’t really expecting him to be there, so it was a little bit of a miscommunication. I just waited for him to turn so I could throw it.”

-jo- and mike-mike

September 06, 2008

GameDay podcast: Who has more motivation today, Canes or Gators?

GAINESVILLE -- It's a combined effort today, boys and girls. Miami Herald blogs Gator Clause and Eye On The U joined forces a few minutes ago to produce a rivalry podcast you won't want to miss. Click the play button and enjoy.

-jo-


September 05, 2008

It's going to be closer than you think ...

FIRST, your daily UF-related links in sports section of The Miami Herald...
LINK: Ex-Aquinas star gets rare start against his boyhood team
LINK: Marve has UF football in the dark
LINK: UM defense not afraid
LINK: UM players expect taunts from UF fans

GAINESVILLE -- Here's a reassuring fact for Gators fans: Since Florida coach Urban Meyer took over the helm in Hogtown, he has never lost to an instate rival, 5-0. On the other hand, Florida hasn't beaten Miami since 1985. The Gators have lost six straight to the Canes since then.

At least one thing is for sure on the eve of this important rivalry game, one of those streaks will be broken.

And don't think for a second that this rivalry has lost luster because it's not played every year. Actually, it seems like quite the opposite is true. UF-UM is kind of like anticipating the World Cup or the Olympics. It only happens once every four years or so.

According to Rivals.com, more than 30 recruits are traveling to Gainesville on Saturday for this rivalry game. Many of those players are from South Florida. Florida's new $28 million Gateway of Champions is in place to wow those recruits. The Gators are ranked No.5 in country and are favored to beat Miami by three touchdowns. If ever there was a year the Gators could make a major dent in recruiting Miami-Dade County, then this seems like the year.

FRIENDS AND FOES
Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas features four players in this rivalry game: From Uf, safety Major Wright and offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert.  From UM, safety Anthony Reddick and receiver Leonard Hankerson. Reddick, a senior, was a mentor to Wright, a sophomore, when Wright transferred from Tallahassee Godby to St. Thomas his sophomore year.

What's more Wright and Hankerson, a sophomore, are very good friends. The two buddies carpooled to high school together and hung out together on the weekends and summers while in high school.

Wait ... there's more. Gilbert, a redshirt sophomore, is very good friends with Reddick. Reddick grew up behind Gilbert's grandmother's house and, according to Gilbert's older sister, Reddick basically taught Gilbert how to play football when the two were young.

RANDOM THOUGHT
Did anyone watch Vandy vs. South Carolina last night? Stunning. (By the way, Vandy has the best uniforms in the Southeastern Conference.)

THE QUARTERBACKS
There isn't much of a connection here other than UM redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Marve broke all of Tim Tebow's high school records one year after Tebow graduated from Ponte Vedra Beach Nease. Tebow chuckled and then looked like he wanted to rip out my throat when I reminded him of this fact earlier in the week.

While Tebow was busy winning the Heisman Trophy last season, Marve was recovering from surgery to his left (non-throwing) wrist and also getting in trouble with the Coral Gables police for breaking a car's mirror (girl problems). We bring up the surgery and Marve's run-in with Johnny Law to remind everyone why Saturday is the first start of Marve's career. UM coach Randy Shannon suspended Marve for the Canes season opener because of the mirror thing. Now Marve is starting the first game of his career in The Swamp against the No.5 team in the country. Talk about trial by fire.

RUSHING THE QUARTERBACK
Florida played some three-linemen sets in the season opener against Hawaii. Don't expect that hybrid stuff on Saturday against The U. Miami's running backs, Javarris James and Graig Cooper, are both talented football players and Miami's offensive line is a formidable. This will be the first test of the season for Florida's defense. The Gators looked great last week against Hawaii (six turnovers) but, let's face it, Hawaii was absolutely terrible.

Stopping Miami's running attack is all Florida needs to do to win this game. I'll repeat that: Stopping Miami's running attack is all Florida needs to do to win this game. Florida will force Marve to throw. That's the plan.

PREDICTION
I posted this yesterday. UF 31, Miami 28. A Miami defensive touchdown here, a UF fumble there and this ball game goes undecided until the fourth quarter. Good thing the Gators have that guy named Tim Tebow. Leadership and one year of starting experience pays off for Tebow against the Canes.

LOUIS MURPHY DISSES THE U
Just to remind everyone why we love rivalry games, we'll post the infamous Louis Murphy-dissing-The-U audio file one last time. Everyone has been talking about it, and this is the only place in the world you can listen to it. AND IT'S FOR FREE!

Produced and edited by Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald 

Check back tomorrow for the PREGAME PODCAST! Me and my buddy Manny Navarro (UM beat writer) will preview Gators vs. Canes with our first co-podcast since we both covered high schools together in South Florida.

-jo-

September 04, 2008

GameDay is here! And meet Senator Ahmad

GAINESVILLE -- ESPN GameDay in da' house! I snapped this picture a few minutes ago after listening to UF coach Urban Meyer address the press one last time before Saturday.

No Lee Corso sighting on Thursday afternoon.
Img004461

Ahmad Black calls himself The Senator. Click the play button.
Img004451

Girls, nice coconuts.
Img004361_3

Check back tomorrow for THE ULTIMATE PREVIEW!

-jo-



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