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10 posts from May 2015

May 29, 2015

Roundup: The latest Florida tidbits

GAINESVILLE -- The SEC spring meetings are wrapping up in Destin, with the league set to vote on a number of proposals later today. 

But first: A Florida news dump! 

TRANSFER LOOMING?

Jim McElwain’s first commitment is reportedly set to transfer before ever suiting up at Florida. 

Daniel Imatorbhebhe, a tight end from Suwanne, Ga., has cleaned out his locker and is leaving the program, per multiple media reports. 

The 6-foot-3, 227-pounder was an early enrollee, but he didn’t play in Florida’s spring game and was likely destined for a redshirt season competing at a crowded position. 

McElwain didn’t confirm the reports at the SEC spring meetings, only saying, “There’s been a couple guys who have come in and visited about [transferring]. They haven’t done anything yet. When that happens, I’ll come to it.”

Imatorbhebhe was born in Los Angeles and is the older brother of four-star wideout prospect Josh Imatorbhebhe, who recently committed to Southern California. 

The younger Imatorbhebhe was a UF target and Daniel had commented previously his desire for the brothers to play together.  

PERMANENT PAIRINGS

The SEC adjusted its scheduling format, with each team now having three permanent opponents for a home-and-home series.

The Gators are paired with Kentucky, Georgia and Vanderbilt.

The league will still play an 18-game schedule, but under the new format the rest of the schedule will be played against the remaining 10 teams in the league, with a pair of rotating home-and-home series each season. 

HALLOWEEN SHOWDOWN

For the 13th straight year, CBS will televise the Florida-Georgia battle on Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. The Gators snapped a three-game series losing streak last season, stunning the No. 11 Bulldogs 38-20 in what turned out to be former coach Will Muschamp’s swan song.  

SCHOLASTIC STARS

Three Florida teams posted perfect four-year Academic Progress Rate scores, according to figures in a report released Wednesday. 

The NCAA recognized UF’s men’s basketball team, as well as the women’s tennis and softball teams, for its outstanding performance in the classroom for the 2013-14 academic year. 

All three teams had perfect APR scores of 1,000 -- the fourth straight accomplishment for Tim Walton’s powerhouse softball program. 

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Donovan delivers inspirational message before WCWS

GAINESVILLE -- Billy Donovan left Florida less than a month ago, but his love for the Gators will clearly continue on. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder coach surprised UF’s No. 1 ranked softball team Wednesday night at its hotel in OKC, delivering one of his patented pep-talks in advance of the 2015 Women’s College World Series. 

Tim Walton’s team is aiming to claim back-to-back national titles -- a feat Donovan accomplished at UF in 2006 and 2007. 

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Donovan’s message was simple: Expect the unexpected because there’s no tomorrow.  

Message received: Florida routed Tennessee 7-2 on Thursday and will take on LSU tonight at 7 p.m. in the winner’s bracket.  

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May 27, 2015

Thurman progressing, Morrison's return unknown

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Jim McElwain provided a quick roster update Tuesday at the SEC spring meetings in Destin.

According to Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel, McElwain said senior center Trip Thurman, out all spring with a chronic shoulder injury, is lifting weights again and eying a return for fall camp. Thurman started 10 games last season and is UF’s lone upperclassman along the offensive line. 

“He’s kind of a one-hit away guy,” McElwain said.

“Taking what we can off has allowed him to get [his shoulder] strengthened and we’ll do the same thing this summer.”

Meanwhile, McElwain said defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. (hip surgery) and linebacker Jarrad Davis (knee) should be ready for training camp. Antonio Morrison’s knee injury remains clouded in mystery though, and his return is unknown. 

The senior linebacker -- and team’s leading tackler in 2014 -- continues to rehab after sustaining a serious injury in the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3.

“He’s continuing to work on that,” McElwain said.

“As you know, I would never put a guy out there who is not ready.”

Finally, McElwain provided no update on cornerback J.C. Jackson, but he did confirm recent graduate transfer Josh Grady, formally of Vanderbilt, will play quarterback at UF. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 25, 2015

UF earns No. 4 seed, sets sights on Omaha

GAINESVILLE -- After ripping off four straight wins to capture the 2015 SEC Tournament Championship, Florida's baseball team was rewarded with the No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament on Monday. 

UF, vying for its first trip to Omaha since 2012, won’t have to leave home to reach the College World Series either, earning a national seed for the sixth time in seven years. 

The Gators (44-16) -- who were the No. 1 overall seed last season but were bounced in the opening weekend -- will host fourth-seed Florida A&M (23-23) Friday at 7 p.m. The Gainesville Regional also includes Florida Atlantic (40-17) and South Florida (33-24-1). UF topped FAU 10-8 at Roger Dean Stadium earlier this year, and went 2-0 against USF. The Gators were scheduled to play FAMU on Feb. 17, but the contest was rained out. 

Should the Gators advance this weekend, they could have date with Florida State. UF -- 1-2 vs. FSU this year -- would host the winner of the Tallahassee Regional.  

2015 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Bracket copy 2Florida survived a pair of lengthy rain delays to win its seventh SEC Tournament title in school history with a 7-3 victory over Vanderbilt on Sunday. The Gators rallied for four straight wins, including a 2-1 upset over top-seeded LSU, after losing their opening game in the tournament against Arkansas. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 24, 2015

Donovan, wife say goodbye with full-page ad

GAINESVILLE -- Former Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan and his wife Christine wanted to say farewell one final time. 

The Donovan family took out a full-page ad in Sunday’s The Gainesville Sun, thanking the local community and the “Gator Nation” across the globe. 

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Donovan accepted a job with the Oklahoma City Thunder a little more than three weeks ago. 

Aside from the ad's silly spelling error, it was quintessential Donovan: heartfelt and self-deprecating. It's full text:

“Goodbye” is so difficult, especially after having spent two decades in this community. (And as you’ve seen before, leaving you all has never been easy for us!)

The University of Florida and Gainesville embraced us from the day we arrived so long ago, and we have grown to love not only this local community that has so loved us, but all of the Gator Nation — from Crescent Beach to Cedar Key, from Miami to New York, from Jacksonville to San Francisco, to all over the nation and globe.

We are so grateful to Jeremy Foley, staff and leaders at the University of Florida, along with scores of players and coaches who have become part of our family. And, of course, the Rowdy Reptiles. 

We leave with hearts full of love and cherished memories of euphoria and heartbreak -- on and off the court -- shared at every step with our Gator family. 

We are excited for all that Mike White brings as he puts his own unique mark on Florida basketball...Fannnnntastic!

And so, rather than “goodbye,” …UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN MAY GOD HOLD YOU IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND.

-- Billy and Christine Donovan

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May 18, 2015

Allen opts to play for White, Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Michael White is proving his recruiting prowess already. 

UF’s top-rated signee KeVaughn Allen will honor his commitment rather than seeking a release from his LOI, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman first reported. 

The 6-foot-3 combo guard -- the nation’s 54th ranked prospect per ESPN -- was a standout at North Little Rock in Arkansas and was rumored to sign elsewhere following Billy Donovan’s departure to the NBA. 

Not so, apparently.  

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.38.20 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 3.38.34 PMAllen’s stepfather went on a local Arkansas radio station roughly two weeks ago, saying Allen’s release was imminent. But Allen met with White in the interim and ultimately chose to stay at UF and play for a new coach. 

With Allen in the fold, White officially retained three of Donovan’s four signees, only losing four-star power forward Noah Dickerson. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 14, 2015

Dickerson released from LOI, Allen weighing options

GAINESVILLE -- New Florida coach Michael White is already facing his first test less than a week on the job. 

Former coach Billy Donovan signed a talented and deep recruiting class, but two of the Gators’ four signees are reportedly seeking other options following Donovan’s departure. 

Forward Noah Dickerson -- UF’s highest-rated commit -- has been released from his LOI, according to ESPN.com and other media outlets. 

  Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 6.17.46 PM

Dickerson, a 6-8 forward from Montverde Academy, is ranked No. 51 overall in the country. Meanwhile, explosive shooting guard KaVaughn Allen (North Little Rock, Ark.) is also reportedly seeking his release. 

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White met with Allen last weekend, and said the nation’s 54th ranked player continues to weigh his options. Still, White won’t obstruct any signee wanting to play elsewhere. 

“I don't think we've had any final answers yet,” White said Monday.   

“I’m not into begging. … But they wanted to play for Coach Donovan.  I understand them having second thoughts.  I understand that.  I appreciate it.  I accept it.  And if those guys want to be here, I'd love to have them.  If not, we'd love to help them find the right place for them.”

White did receive some good new late Wednesday evening though, as athletic forward Keith Stone tweeted he would be honoring his LOI with Florida. 

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Big man Kevarrius Hayes (No. 68 in ESPN Top 100) also remains committed to UF, giving White 10 scholarship players for next season. He could add to the roster before the year, and he’s confident he can restock the program with other quality players.  

“I think this place to a certain extent sells itself,” he said. 

“At the University of Florida we can recruit nationally.  I think you can get involved with kids in all 50 states, and I think that in the past that this basketball program has proven that.  But I also understand how important it is to recruit our state, especially a state that's as fertile as it is.

"I've always enjoyed recruiting this state.  Not only because I liked traveling to Florida, but because there are really good players here.  And we're not going to get them all, but we're going to recruit them all.” 

GATORS TO HOST MOUNTAINEERS 

Florida will square off against West Virginia in Gainesville on Jan. 30 as part of the SEC-BIG 12 Challenge, the conferences announced Thursday. 

The Gators played a home-and-home series with Kansas the last two seasons, but the Mountaineers pose a similar non-conference challenge next season.  

Bob Huggins’ team went 25-10 last year, getting trounced by Kentucky in the Sweet 16. 

In years past, the SEC-BIG 12 matchups were held during the heart of football season in November and early December, so the games were moved to later in the schedule in order to boost visibility and interest. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 13, 2015

Mornhinweg transfers, QB depth now dangerously thin

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s depth continues to dwindle. 

Dangerously so. 

The Gators, already perilously thin at offensive line and linebacker, now have just two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster after backup Skyler Mornhinweg's transfer to Columbia. 

Coach Jim McElwain announced the move Wednesday, leaving UF with only redshirt freshman Will Grier and sophomore Treon Harris on the depth chart. 

"We wish [Mornhinweg] the best,” McElwain said on the SEC Teleconference. 

“We'd love to have him stay here. … Moving forward, as you guys all know, that position, especially in this league now, you need to have some depth, so we're constantly looking at that spot.”

Mornhinweg is the fifth quarterback -- Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Jacoby Brissett and Max Staver -- to leave the program since 2013. 

An unheralded three-star recruit from Philadelphia, Mornhinweg started UF’s final three games in 2013, all losses. He finished his career with 344 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. 

Even before Mornhinweg's exit, the Gators were already on the market for potential quarterback transfers. Still, the latest deflection leaves them truly scrambling for some much-needed depth. 

UF reportedly hosted Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson on Tuesday, but McElwain wouldn’t comment on the meeting and Florida isn’t considered the favorite to land the the one-year rental signal caller. 

"Per NCAA rules, he's a prospective student-athlete, so I can't really comment on that part," McElwain said. 

"Obviously him mentioning us is something that's exciting.”

Golson is reportedly on a Southern tour doing his due diligence with multiple schools, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Alabama. 

Although UF's remaining options are thin, help could still be on the way. 

Oregon State’s Luke Del Rio -- the son of former Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio -- has long been rumored to transfer to Florida this summer. The journeyman quarterback originally signed with Alabama in 2013 and would be reuniting with coordinator Doug Nussmeier. 

Meanwhile, 247Sports reported earlier this week that Vanderbilt graduate quarterback/Swiss Army Knife wideout Josh Grady is also seeking a waiver to transfer to Florida. 

“We look every single day to try and better the organization,” McElwain said. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Jackson's future in doubt, no longer enrolled at UF

GAINESVILLE -- J.C. Jackson’s career at Florida is likely over before it ever truly started. 

The troubled redshirt freshman cornerback -- currently facing multiple felony charges for an alleged armed robbery last month -- is not enrolled in school for the Summer A semester, coach Jim McElwain confirmed Wednesday on the SEC Teleconference. 

“He’s got a lot of things he’s dealing with right now,” McElwain said.

“He’s trying to take care of certain things and we’ll support him and help him do what he can, but right now he’s not enrolled in school and dealing with some things that are a lot bigger than the Florida Gators.”

Jackson, 19, has pleaded not guilty to three charges stemming from an incident at a Gainesville apartment complex on April 18.  

The former Under Armour All-American redshirted last season after undergoing shoulder surgery, but the electric athlete was competing for a starting job in UF’s crowded secondary this spring.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 07, 2015

Reports: La. Tech's White emerges as top candidate

GAINESVILLE -- Louisiana Tech coach Michael White “has emerged as the leading candidate” to replace former Florida coach Billy Donovan, Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday. 

ESPN and other outlets quickly confirmed Pat Forde’s scoop, too. 

White, the son of Duke athletics director Kevin White, is regarded as one of college basketball’s hottest young coaches, leading the Bulldogs to three-straight Conference USA regular-season titles. The 38-year-old coach is 101-40 in four seasons at La Tech, but he’s yet to make an NCAA Tournament.

White is considered a strong recruiter, with a track record of success in the state of Florida. 

According to Yahoo! Sports’ report, White and UF athletics director Jeremy Foley could meet “as soon as today.”

White was born in Dunedin and played at Ole Miss from 1995-99. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Jacksonville State before returning to his alma mater as a part of Andy Kennedy’s staff from 2004-11. White was reportedly targeted for openings at Tennessee and Missouri last offseason. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton



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