« July 2015 | Main | September 2015 »

19 posts from August 2015

August 31, 2015

UF releases Week 1 depth chart with few surprises

GAINESVILLE -- Just five days away from Florida’s opener against New Mexico State, the unranked Gators released their first official depth chart of 2015. 

My prediction earlier in the day…

Some people didn’t get the joke, but alas. 

*************** FLORIDA GATORS WEEK 1 DEPTH CHART ***************

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 2.46.12 PM

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 2.46.26 PM

Florida’s depth chart didn’t yield a ton of surprises other than the news senior linebacker Antonio Morrison is slated to start at MLB. Gators coach Jim McElwain later acknowledged Morrison’s miracle recovery (knee injury) and said the senior would play against the Aggies on Saturday (7:30 p.m., SEC Network). 

With five-star freshman tackle Martez Ivey sidelined, UF’s starting offensive line is what we’ve seen in camp the last few days: (L-R) Mason Halter, Trip Thurman, Cam Dilliard, Antonio Riles and David Sharpe.

Other takeaways include just three OR's (naturally the quarterbacks, backup tailbacks and cornerback spot opposite VH3); little-used safety Nick Washington earning the start with Marcus Maye suspended for the opener; freshman wideout Antonio Callaway earning the nod over junior Chris Thompson; a total of 16 redshirt or true freshmen listed on the two-deep. 

Really, the initial depth chart release is a perfunctory exercise, but it does (at least) confirm much of what I've seen and reported from practice. Still, plenty stands to change as the season progresses. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 30, 2015

Q&A: Florida Gators receiver Brandon Powell

GAINESVILLE -- Converted wideout Brandon Powell stands as Florida’s offensive X-factor this season. 

The former Deerfield Beach star tailback recorded just 217 total yards in 2014, but the sophomore could be the critical piece to revive the Gators’ moribund offense under first-year coach Jim McElwain. 

Recently, Powell spoke on his transition to receiver, the complexity of Florida's new offensive scheme, the financial help of a COA check and more. 

ON HIS DEVELOPMENT AS A WR…

“From training camp we’ve been doing a lot of formations. Lining up in different up in different spots on the field. It’s been a lot, but I've been able to take that challenge to learn everything and it’s been going good this whole camp. … I’m all over the field, you’ll see come Sep. 5. I mean they’ll have me all over the field.” 

ON HIS COMFORT LEVEL AT THE POSITION…

“I’m still trying to get a little used to it. You know it’s tough to come here in college and play a whole new position that you’ve never played before. You know I’m just still trying to get used to it. Still a couple of things that I have to learn. I’m just still trying to take some time and learn it until the season starts.”

ON HIS ABILITY TO CREATE EXPLOSIVE PLAYS FROM THE SLOT… 

“You know in the slot you have a lot of linebackers and safeties trying to guard you, and you know coaches they always say, 'If you got a safety on you, you gotta win.’ That’s kind of what I take advantage of when I see a safety or linebacker lined up on me and I try to win.”

ON HIS FIRST COST OF ATTENDANCE CHECK…

“Playing football and all that, you still have to pay your rent and all that stuff, and some people, depending on their family situation, help out back at home, so it kinda helps a lot. You have extra money in your pocket and do the things you want, live like a normal student instead of like an athlete all the time. It kinda helps.”

ON THE COMPLEXITY OF NEW OFFENSE…

“Talking to Vernon and everybody after practice, after the scrimmage, they tell some of the routes, ‘This route is hard to cover,’ and this year it’s a lot of different routes than the little corner route or over route we were running last year every play. Coach, he got a lot of good routes for us and plays that are gonna kill some defenses this year. We’re just waiting to put it all together.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 27, 2015

Five-star freshman OL Martez Ivey "to be scoped"

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s paper-thin offensive line can ill-afford any significant setbacks, but the patchwork unit suffered a big blow Thursday.

Five-star freshman Martez Ivey, who was competing for a starting job at left tackle, will undergo arthroscopic surgery Friday to “clean up a pre-existing” leg injury, coach Jim McElwain said.

Ivey is sidelined indefinitely and his return date is unknown.

“I don’t know how quickly or anything yet,” said McElwain, who refused to offer specifics of the injury.

“It doesn’t appear to be a season-ending thing or anything like that.”

Still, it’s a major loss for a unit counting on the nation’s top offensive line recruit.

Ivey, a 20-year-old freshman, had quickly impressed teammates and coaches with his work ethic and raw talent. The 6-foot-5, 302-pound Apopka standout had recently worked his way into the starting lineup.

Now, sophomore David Sharpe will flip to left tackle and Fordham transfer Mason Halter and freshman Fred Johnson, a West Palm Beach native, will compete for the opening at right tackle.

“It’s a big blow for us,” starting guard Antonio Riles said.

“There are guys who are going to step up. Sharpe plays left and right. Halter plays left and right. I’m pretty sure everybody is going to adjust to it and we’ll be just fine.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Foley: O'Dome renovation plans likely finalized soon

GAINESVILLE -- With Florida's $17 million indoor practice facility recently completed, the plans for the school's next major project remain on track. 

Gators athletics director Jeremy Foley said the contract for the Stephen C. O’Connell Center renovation -- delayed a year due to budgeting issues with the project’s initial construction firm -- should be finalized in the near future. 

“We’re getting close. The process now is to finalize the pricing,” Foley said Wednesday. 

“We’re close on that.” 

Florida -- both the school and University Athletic Association -- is negotiating with Brasfield & Gorrie, a Birmingham, Alabama-based company. UF has earmarked roughly $60 million for the O'Dome renovations -- which include overhauled concourses, renovated concession stands and club seating -- but is seeking a more managable budget. 

“I would say once that pricing gets set and once we’re set, meaning the contract to the University and Athletic Association, here’s the pricing, we’re OK with the schedule, then we’ll let the world know,” Foley said. 

“I think we’re close to being able to let the world know. We’re just not there yet. I would hope in the next three weeks maybe, a month or so, we can tell people this is what pricing is going to be, this is the timetable. I can tell you it’s going to happen. That I can tell you.”

The plan remains to begin construction in March 2016, with the goal of completing the renovation in time for Florida’s conference schedule in early January 2017. 

“That’s the same time frame. I don’t expect any snafus,” Foley said. 

“I’m confident about that. Now that being said, until everything is signed, you don’t have a done deal. Like any contract until it’s signed you don’t have a done deal. I’m very confident where we’re headed. Very confident.”  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 25, 2015

UF places five on coaches' preseason All-SEC teams

GAINESVILLE -- All-American cornerback Veron Hargreaves III is among five Florida Gators named to the 2015 preseason All-SEC coaches' teams. 

The junior cornerback, a two-time all-conference honoree, is UF’s sole representative on the first team, released by the league Tuesday

Seniors Jonathan Bullard, a versatile defensive lineman, and linebacker Antonio Morrison, an All-SEC performer in 2014 after leading UF in tackles with 101, were named to the coaches’ second team defense. 

With Dante Fower Jr. off to the NFL, Bullard is expected to anchor Florida’s young but promising defensive line. Meanwhile, Morrison remains sidelined with knee injury sustained in the team’s bowl game and his status for the season is unknown. 

After the league’s media refused to vote a Florida offensive player to its preseason teams last month, the Gators placed a pair of offensive players on the coaches’ third-team: junior tailback Kelvin Taylor and junior wideout Demarcus Robinson. 

Last season, Robinson was Florida’s most productive receiver since 2009, recording 53 catches for 810 yards and eight touchdowns. 

Taylor averaged just 4.7 yards per carry in 2014, but is eyeing a breakout season as Florida’s No. 1 tailback.   

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 22, 2015

UF's Jim McElwain: Enough with the selfish penalties

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Jim McElwain is fed up with the Gators’ penalty problems.

UF ranked last in the SEC in three of the last four years in flags per game, never finishing higher than 89th nationally during the Will Muschamp era. 

During Friday’s second preseason scrimmage, McElwain ejected an unnamed defensive tackle for committing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

McElwain expressed his frustrations over the incident, even taking a swipe at Muschamp and UF’s lack of on-field discipline in recent seasons. 

“I kicked [a player] out of the scrimmage. That’s not how it works. He’s gone. That’s the way it is. Those are the unforced errors that have been the Achilles heel for a long time around here,” McElwain said. 

“I’m tired of it.”

He continued: “If that’s the way you’re going to act, go sit on the bench. Somebody else can play. I was very upset about that. … We’ve got some behavior that we’ve got to keep working on. What are we? The most penalized team in the last five years, six years, whatever it is? “It’s ridiculous.”

Penalties played a role in several of Florida’s brutal defeats last season, so when McElwain took over the program in January he immediately made it known players would be held accountable for selfish mistakes. 

"That’s one of the first things he said, in the first team meeting he said we need to clean up penalties," sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor explained. 

"With all the penalties we had, we’re giving teams the game. Last year we had a holding penalty when Treon [Harris] scored against South Carolina. If we don’t get that penalty, the ball game’s won. We get a 3rd and [17] against LSU, they're coming out. Just little penalties like that, and they end up winning the game."

McElwain did say Friday’s incident was a rarity during training camp, calling it "a teachable moment." 

“I’ve been around some really good coaches, obviously, and that’s something you don’t see by great football teams,” he said. 

“That’s not how they act. They play hard between the whistles the way the game’s supposed to be played, and they don’t bring attention to themselves. That’s just what we believe in and how we’re going to run the program.” 

NOTE: UF’s penalty problems predate Muschamp. The 2008 National Champion Florida Gators ranked second to in the SEC -- and 96th nationally -- in penalties. In fact, recently some of the country’s top teams have also been the most penalized (see: Baylor, Oregon, UCLA).  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 21, 2015

Safety Keanu Neal injured in UF's second scrimmage

GAINESVILLE -- Florida Gators starting safety Keanu Neal was injured in Friday’s scrimmage and did not return.

The junior safety, a veteran linchpin in UF’s acclimated secondary, hurt his leg but was not carted off the field.

Gators coach Jim McElwain didn’t believe the injury was serious.

“He didn’t finish the scrimmage. It was something in his leg. We’ll see. Our trainers and medical staff do a great job. They’ll get him ready. I’ll let you know as we go — I think Monday or Tuesday. I’ll have a better idea.”

Late Friday evening Neal tweeted:

Meanwhile, Freshman safety Kylan Johnson also suffered a leg injury during the scrimmage and tackle Kavaris Harkless exited practice with an ankle injury. Sophomore safety Marcell Harris sustained a shot to the ribs, but is “OK,” per McElwain.

Sixth-year senior tight end Jake McGee was held out of the scrimmage due to a foot ailment.

On the bright side, McElwain said several banged up players are close to returning. 

“We’re starting to get some guys back, that’s really the good thing,” he said.

“We’ll get [Travaris] Dorsey back here the beginning of next week, that’s gonna help us. We should get [Valdez] Showers and [Raphael] Andrades back as well. They’re battling some strings there in the back in their leg, those guys should be ready to go.”

McElwain didn’t mention wideout C.J. Worton, but fellow receiver Alvin Bailey said Worton is back practicing and is full-contact.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Three Florida Gators suspended for season opener

GAINESVILLE -- Florida suspended three players, including a pair of defensive starters, for its Sep. 5 opener against New Mexico State.

Defensive end Alex McCalister, safety Marcus Maye and wideout Latroy Pittman will all miss the opener “due to University Athletic Association policy,” the school announced Friday.

McCalister, a redshirt junior, stands as Florida’s top returning pass rusher, recording six sacks and nine tackles for loss in a reserve role in 2014.

Maye, also a redshirt junior, started nine games last season and finished third on the team in tackles with 62.

Pittman, a senior backup receiver, was also suspended the first three games to open the 2013 season.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 19, 2015

Florida's 2015-16 basketball schedule finalized

GAINESVILLE -- The SEC released its 2016 men’s basketball schedules Wednesday, finalizing Florida’s 2015-16 slate on a SEC Network special.  

ESPN is betting big on new coach Michael White, as UF will play seven Super Tuesday games. The Gators also face at least eight 2014-15 NCAA Tournament teams. 

In all, UF will play a home-and-home series with Georgia, LSU, Mississippi, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The Gators will also host Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State, while traveling to Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M and South Carolina.  

For the first time since 2011, Florida will close out its regular-season slate against a team other than Kentucky (at Missouri).  The Gators do finish their home schedule with a mid-week date with the Wildcats for Senior Day.  

*************** Florida’s complete 2015-16 schedule ***************

Nov. 13 - at Navy (Veteran’s Classic) - 9:30 p.m., CBS Sports

Nov. 16 - vs. North Carolina A&T

Nov. 21 - vs. St. Joe’s (HoF Tip-Off Classic) - 2:30 p.m.

Nov. 22 - vs. Purdue or Old Dominion (HoF Tip-Off Classic)

Nov. 25 - vs. Vermont 

Nov. 27 - vs. Florida Gulf Coast 

Dec. 8 - at Miami - 7 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 12 - at Michigan State - 6 p.m., ESPN2

Dec. 19 - vs. Oklahoma State (Orange Bowl Classic)

Dec. 22 - Jacksonville

Dec. 29 - Florida State - 7 p.m., ESPN2

Jan. 2 - Georgia - 8 p.m., ESPNU

Jan. 6 - ar Tennessee - 7 p.m., ESPN2

Jan. 9 - LSU - TBA, CBS

Jan. 12 - at Texas A&M - 7 p.m., ESPN

Jan. 16 - at Ole Miss - 8 p.m., ESPN2

Jan. 19 - Mississippi State - 7 p.m., ESPNU

Jan. 23 - Auburn - 8 p.m., SEC Network

Jan. 26 - at Vanderbilt - 9 p.m., ESPN 

Jan. 30 - vs. West Virginia (SEC/BIG 12 Challenge) 

Feb. 3 - Arkansas - 7 p.m., SEC Network

Feb. 6 - at Kentucky - 4 p.m., CBS

Feb. 9 - Ole Miss - 9 p.m., ESPN

Feb. 13 - Alabama - 5:30 p.m., SEC Network

Feb 16 - at Georgia - 9 p.m., ESPN

Feb. 20 - at South Carolina - 12 p.m., SEC Network

Feb. 23 - Vanderbilt - 7 p.m., ESPN

Feb. 27 - LSU - TBA, ESPN

March 1 - Kentucky - 7 p.m., ESPN

March 5 - at Missouri - 7:30 p.m., SEC Network 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 18, 2015

Florida enters critical juncture of training camp

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators are in the dog days of training camp, but coach Jim McElwain was ecstatic about the team’s latest performance in Sunday’s two-a-day session.

“There was some real spark there,” he said.

“Yesterday’s two-a-day was as good a back-to-back practices I’ve ever seen. The energy. The attention to detail. The guys really came out prepared. We had a great night practice in full pads.”

The Gators are halfway through preseason practices, and entering Week 3 McElwain is emphasizing a sense of urgency at what he considers the most critical juncture of camp.

“The novelty of the new season, the fresh new uniforms you’ve got have now been washed a whole bunch,” he said.

“Sometimes the guys’ focus on detail starts to slip as their bodies are really sore and they get tired and the monotony of the every-day kind of takes in. We’re really looking to where our leadership moves us forward to where we make a big huge push week rather than just a settle for average week.”

McElwain has stressed details and daily improvement ever since arriving in Gainesville, and he said this could be Florida’s make or break week.

“At this point in camp is really when a lot of teams decide they're either really going to get better or they're going to try to just endure to get through the grind of what is two-a-days. …We’re kind of getting to that separation point moving forward.”

With the team battling fatigue, redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier said Florida’s sole focus is to “keep this thing rolling, keep getting better. This is that time where you have to push through that wall and not fall off, keep getting better. That's the main thing we're focusing on right now, everybody really."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 15, 2015

UF's 2015 class: Guesses at who will and won't play

GAINESVILLE -- With a depleted roster, a number true freshmen will play key roles for the Florida Gators this season. 

UF coach Jim McElwain hasn’t been shy embracing the team’s youth movement, but the new coach also insists he won’t simply burn a redshirt season for limited snaps. 

“My deal is if we’re going to play them, they’re going to play,” he said.

“Whether it’s significant on every single special teams and in certain series on defense and offense. I think you can probably look at the depth or just the numbers at the position, there will be a lot of young guys probably playing and kind of philosophically if they’re ready and can help the football team and play valuable reps they’re going to play. If they’re not and need some seasoning then we’ll go ahead and redshirt [them].”

Florida scrimmaged for the first time this preseason on Friday, and McElwain said he and the staff will begin honing the depth chart after its second scrimmage next week. 

 “After the second scrimmage you’re usually able to know which guys kind of work in,” he said.

“It really comes down to their value on special teams. Moving forward, that’s how you make a roster.” 

Based on watching practice and talking to coaches/players, here’s a breakdown of where the 2015 class stands with three weeks before the team's Sept. 5 opener. 

DEFINITES TO PLAY

Martez Ivey, offensive tackle

Jordan Scarlett, tailback

CeCe Jefferson, defensive end

Antonio Callaway, receiver

Jordan Cronkite, tailback

Rayshad Jackson, linebacker

Tyler Jordan, center/guard

***** Ivey, Jefferson and Scarlett will all see significant snaps, while Callaway, Cronkite and Jordan have already worked their way into their prospective positional rotations. Jackson should be a special teams stud. 

PROBABLES TO PLAY

Fred Johnson, offensive tackle

Nick Buchanan, offensive tackle

Chris Williamson, cornerback

***** Both offensive linemen are currently taking reps with the second-unit. Williamson won’t see much PT at cornerback but should be another special teams contributor. 

ON THE FENCE

T.J. McCoy, center/guard

Jabari Zuniga, defensive end

Dylan Johnson, safety

Kalif Jackson, receiver 

***** The question here is opportunity. McCoy has impressed in camp, but Jordan, Johnson and Buchanan have all been better. Zuniga could play, too, but Florida probably doesn’t need him right now. Johnson and Jackson are wild cards candidates for special teams snaps.  

LIKELY REDSHIRT CANDIDATES 

Brandon Sandifer, offensive guard

Andrew Ivie, defensive tackle

Camrin Knight, tight end

Richerd Desir-Jones, defensive tackle

Keivonnis Davis, defensive end

Luke Ancrum, defensive end

***** There's potential with this group, but also lots of development needed.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 13, 2015

UF's pair of five-star recruits already making impact

GAINESVILLE -- Two of Florida’s blue-chip signees are already living up to their five-star billings early in training camp. 

Gators offensive tackle Martez Ivey and defensive end CeCe Jefferson have quickly impressed teammates and coaches with their work ethic, maturity and raw talent. 

“Martez Ivey is a freak,” junior tailback Kelvin Taylor said. 

“He’s going to be great. He wasn’t a five-star for nothing, trust me. He’s physical. He’s smart. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s a load. He’s going to be really good.”

Ivey, the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect according to 247Sports, is 6-5, 300-pounds and is competing for snaps at both tackle positions. 

Meanwhile, Jefferson, a fellow five-star freshman, has also awed teammates with his athleticism and relentless motor. 

“He’s showing grit,” junior safety Keanu Neal said. “He’s showing work. He’s showing that he can make plays.”

Jefferson sat out most of his senior season at Baker County High with a shoulder injury, but the 6-1, 280-pound pass rusher is healthy now and already wreaking havoc in camp. 

“He’s one of the young guys doing a heck of a job,” UF coach Jim McElwain said.  

“He shows up. … I’m sure glad that he’s here. He’s a guy that can make an impact. He’s a guy that’s eager to learn, jumped right in at everything we’re doing. That just speaks volumes of the type of kid he is, too.”

******************** BONUS QUOTES ********************

Here’s several snippets on Jefferson and Ivey that didn’t make the short piece. 

“You could tell, just his demeanor. Just the way he carries himself around the locker room. He’s quiet. He gets his work done. He goes about the next play. The guy’s very mature, man. He’s going to be a really good one. Just remember I told you that. He’s going to be a really good one, trust me.”

- Kelvin Taylor, on not being surprised by Ivey’s rapid progression early in camp…

“CeCe’s stepping up as kind of like a young Jon Bullard. … Martez is definitely going to be something special here at Florida I believe, just based on how big he is. He’s huge, and he’s definitely wanting to learn as well. A lot of guys think they’re just going to roll into the position, but Martez is a guy who wants to learn the position, wants to be the guy at left tackle. He’s going to be pretty good.”

- Trip Thurman, on both five-star freshmen…

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 10, 2015

Q&A: Florida Gators OL Trip Thurman

GAINESVILLE -- Fifth-year senior Trip Thurman is Florida’s lone offensive linemen to start a Division-1 football game. 

Yea, Thurman is rather important heading into the 2015 season. 

The versatile senior sat out spring practice resting a chronic shoulder injury, but Thurman said he’s as healthy as can be and is embracing his leadership role for an extremely inexperienced unit

Thurman is cross-training at all five position along the line, but he’s likely start at either left guard or center. 

Recently, the senior spoke about his health, his adoration for position coach Mike Summers, his expectations for blue chip freshman Martez Ivey and more.  

On his shoulder… 

“It feels great. No problems at all. This offseason was key and taking out the spring was a big thing for me. I really appreciate Coach [Jim] McElwain looking out for me and my well-being.” 

On McElwain retaining OL coach Mike Summers…

"It was huge for me. I really enjoy working with coach Summers and he’s a great guy. I say he’s one of the best in the country, so it was great to have him back. … He is a great technician. Being in the right position in the O-line is key. You can be the strongest guy or the weakest guy, but if you have hands inside and you’re taking the correct footwork that’s key to playing offensive line.” 

On Summers’ nickname…

“Little bass? He loves to bass fish. He’s done it back home in his home state of Kentucky, him and Coach [Greg] Nord. I’ve heard Coach Mac call him ‘Little Bass’ a couple of times. I’m assuming Coach Nord is ‘Big Bass.’ Those guys are two peas in a pod. They go bass fishing almost every weekend they have off.”

On five-star freshman Martez Ivey…

“Physically he’s a specimen. He’s a big guy coming in as a true freshman (6-6, 290). He’s going to be a big part of this offensive line moving forward. He and Tyler Jordan have stood out because they want to learn. They are in the meeting room with me and Coach Summers going over plays, being ready to go come the practice time.” 

On the importance of continuity with such an inexperienced group…

“We need everybody on the same page. Last year, fall camp was big for us with the older guys getting everybody on the same page. That’s really key. Five guys working together doing the same thing.” 

On David Sharpe’s athleticism… 

“It’s very rare. You see about one in a dozen every year. He’s a pretty big guy (6-6, 355). He’s a guy who’s gonna be key for us this year as a tackle. He’s been stepping up and he needs to work on the mental part of the game as well, everybody does. When that heat hits you, we all need to dig deep and stay focused.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 09, 2015

The Birmingham Bowl MVP transferring from Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Florida running back Adam Lane propelled the Gators to their final win last season, but the Birmingham Bowl MVP won’t suit up for UF again. 

Lane asked for and received a release from his scholarship just four days into training camp, the school announced Sunday. 

"Adam Lane has some family issues that he is dealing with and wants to be closer to home,'' coach Jim McElwain said in a statement. 

"As you've heard me say many times family comes first in this program and we will grant him his release and we will do everything we can do to help him."

Lane, a 5-7, 226-pound battering ram, rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown in Florida’s 28-20 win over East Carolina. 

Last season, the redshirt sophomore struggled to crack the tailback rotation under former coach Will Muschamp. Then this spring, Lane missed a majority of camp due to a quad injury, drawing the ire of McElwain. 

Still, Lane, who was likely third on Florida's depth chart, was optimistic he would be a factor in the fall. 

"I just want to go out there everyday and compete and get a spot,” Lane said at UF’s media days Wednesday. 

“That's the main goal. When you have everybody competing that's when you get great things. … I just want to take every opportunity like it's my last. I just want to go out there and perform to the best of my abilities."

With Lane’s departure, Florida will count on a pair of freshman tailbacks from South Florida. Former Army All-Americans Jordan Scarlett (St. Thomas Aquinas) and Jordan Cronkite (Westminster) should see ample carries relieving starter Kelvin Taylor this season. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 08, 2015

UF practice observations: Day 3 of training camp

GAINESVILLE -- Florida held its third preseason practice Saturday morning. Here are some brief takeaways and general observations from the five flex periods open to the media on a hot and muggy morning. 

First: the highlight from the media’s allotted viewing period. 

That’s perfect technique -- with a flair of a one-handed interception.  

*** I was around the secondary a bunch Saturday, and Florida’s defensive backs are simply an impressive group. Shocking, I know. They’re all big, long and athletic. 

A year in the program has done wonders for Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Duke Dawson and Deiondre Porter. They’re all so much thicker without losing any speed or lateral quickness. 

Vernon Hargreaves is clearly the star, but Neal seems poised for a breakout season. 

*** Antonio Morrison was moving OK, but it’s clear why coach Jim McElwain considers the senior linebacker so important to the defense -- even if Morrison can’t really play yet.

Morrison is always talking and yelling, oftentimes acting as a second position coach on the field.

Meanwhile, Georgia Tech transfer linebacker Anthony Harrell had his left knee wrapped and did not participate in the early portions of practice. 

*** Several of the open periods were spent in positional drills, with the receivers and tailbacks practicing pass protection fundamentals, the linebackers practicing run assignments, the offensive linemen working on footwork, etc.

The main takeaway: Tempo. The Gators practice with pace. 

*** Finally, the quarterbacks. Following practice, I tweeted:

The sample size caveat isn’t a hedged bet as much as it is a full disclosure point.

Still. It’s really simple, Grier, who has plenty of room for improvement, is head and shoulders better than Treon Harris.

The redshirt freshman’s added weight was key, but it also seems like a year not playing has really slowed things down for Grier. His footwork and mechanics are better, and he carries himself with a certain aura.

Grier shined during multiple skeletons passing drills, especially during the “on air” route tree. He threw a couple gorgeous 35-yard touchdowns on deep corners, hitting Chris Thompson and Ahmad Fulwood in stride on consecutive throws. Grier’s shorter passes (the quick hitches, screens, throws to the flat) were all on point, too. 

Meanwhile, Harris, who wore a Go-Pro camera on his helmet, struggled mightily during the open periods.

He connected on a few really nice throws, but the sophomore remains too inaccurate in the pocket. McElwain chewed Harris out during one pass skeleton drill against air. Dawson and Wilson both intercepted Harris during a different drill. 

Florida won’t officially tab Grier as the starter for another couple weeks, but the ballyhooed “battle” appears short-lived.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 06, 2015

Florida media day: Nuggets, Notes & Quotes. Oh my!

GAINESVILLE -- Here's a bunch of nuggets, notes & quotes from UF's media day Wednesday. The Gators open training camp this afternoon -- their first of 29 practices before their opener Sept. 5 against New Mexico State. 

1. HOT AIR

Let’s get the skepticism out of the way first: Just like every offseason, the summer reports were GLOWING. Everyone is better, bigger, faster, stronger, nicer, etc. Team bonding is at an all-time high! Egos are gone! Everyone is committed to winning!

Now, these reports are hardly unique to Florida, but the Gators have cried wolf so many times the last several years that some things are best left unsaid. Still, plenty of things said yesterday were notable. Like... 

2. I’M THE MAN, I’M THE MAN, I’M THE MAN

Following a frustrating sophomore season, tailback Kelvin Taylor said he has “a really big chip on [his] shoulder.” The junior is motivated to prove why he was “one of the top running backs coming out of high school.” 

Taylor has clearly added muscle in his upper body and spent the summer working on catching the ball out of the backfield and hand-placement in pass protection. 

“I'm just looking forward to being the man this year,” he said.

"I want to be the lead back. Being the lead back, being a leader for just for like me going into the season being like the lead back I'm just so thankful and ready to show everyone I can take on that responsibility and the bulk of carries. Now I got that chance and I'm probably [the most] focused I've ever been. Just now I'm ready to show everyone I can be the man and that I will be the man this year. I'm ready." 

3. CALL ME CLUTCH

Sixth-year senior tight end Jake McGee is 100% healthy and has “no issues whatsoever” from his broken leg last season. McGee hasn’t recorded a catch since Nov. 30, 2013, but the senior is expected to be a valuable weapon in UF’s passing game in 2015. 

In two seasons at Virginia, McGee was a third-down machine, tallying 27 catches for 299 yards and six touchdowns on the money down. 

“I’ve always sort of been known as a clutch player,” he said. 

“Third down, big situations in the game you always want the ball. It’s something you want to help the team with moving the chains or game-winning touchdowns, whatever it is. It’s one of those things when you want to step up and make an impact.”

4. FANTASTIC FOUR

A number of veterans identified four freshmen they think will absolutely contribute this season: DE CeCe Jefferson, OT Martez Ivey, WR Antonio Callaway and LB Rayshad Jackson. 

McElwain noted that Ivey will begin at tackle, saying, “that's where we recruited him to play.” 

Jackson -- a three-star Miami Norland standout -- was mentioned by several players as guy who can help a unit desperate for depth. 

Freshmen tailbacks Jordan Scarlett (Taylor called him fast and strong) and Jordan Cronkite also received praise, as did newbie defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga. 

5. B.D.N. 

Geoff Collins’ motto for the defense is B.D.N. - as in Best Defense in the Nation. Posters are plastered all over the locker room and Bryan Cox Jr. said wristbands could be on the way, too.

According to players, Collins hasn’t changed much of anything with the scheme of the defense, but he is emphasizing pressure and playmakers. He’s also brought a certain energy to a loaded unit. 

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right.? It wasn’t broke,” safety Keanu Neal said.  

6. MASS EXODUS? 

Junior safety Marcus Maye spoke extensively about the depth and talent in UF’s secondary. DBU has received a lot of internet play this offseason, but Maye was more excited about the overall growth and maturity of a “veteran” unit. 

Maye said the group has set “really high expectations” because “we’ve seen each other grow. We’ve grown with each other. … It all should correlate [to success] when we get on the field.”

He dismissed any jealousy concerns over playing time or starting roles, and instead teased a mass exodus to the NFL next season. 

“Four or five leaving is definitely a possibility. There’s a few guys that if they have a great year, they’ll move on to the next level. It’s been a journey.” 

7. NO LOVE LOST 

Redshirt sophomore Caleb Brantley is considered a potential breakout star, but the powerfully quick defensive tackle said he had high expectations last season but simply wasn’t afforded the opportunity to shine. 

“I feel like I was ready last year but I only played like 15 snaps a game,” he said. 

“I didn’t really get a chance. I’m playing a lot this year and I’m ready to show the world.”

Brantley, along with ends Alex McCalister and Bryan Cox Jr., didn’t shy away from expressing glee in a new position coach. Brad Lawing, now at Florida State, is a renowned technician and cursing hard-ass, but the group feels much more comfortable with new assistant Chris Rumph. 

"Lawing was way stricter, man,” Brantley said. “Rumph is more of a let it rip and go make a play.” 

Added McCalister: “Rumph is more of a father figure first and then a coach. He’s going to talk to you make sure everything’s straight. He’s never going to curse at you; he’s going to yell his butt off, but he never curse at you. You get it more with Coach Rumph because he’s laid back, but he knows how to bring the heat with it. … It’s just a different type of coaching coming from him. I’ve never had this before in a coach. It’s kind of cool." 

8. KEEPING IT 100

Antonio Morrison’s knee rehab is ahead of schedule, but the All-SEC senior linebacker still isn’t guaranteed to play in 2015. 

Morrison, who started 12 games last season and led UF in tackles, suffered a significant knee injury in Florida’s win in the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3. He’s had two surgeries since the injury and there’s no timetable for his return. 

The details of Morrison’s injury remain clouded, and the senior shared his reluctance to talk about the injury. 

“My parents don’t want that information disclosed,” he said, bluntly. 

“I feel like y’all don’t need to know that. It’s not helping me in any way. My parents felt that way, and they don’t want to release any of that information. We kept it in. We got the training staff with the guys on our team. That’s how it was.” 

9. BUILDING AN OL ROTATION

McElwain hopes to settle on an eight-man rotation by the end of training camp.

UF will cross-train a number of players, most notably, senior Trip Thurman, the only linemen on the roster with a single career start in FBS. Transfer Mason Halter will play at tackle, exclusively, and while Cam Dillard seems poised to start at center, he said he’s also training at both guard positions. 

“What we need to do is develop eight solid guys,” originally,” McElwain said. “It’s a little bit like an NFL mentality where some guys have to be able to swing in some positions.”

10. QUICK HITTERS

McCalister called Brantley “a young Sharrif Floyd.” The defensive end also said he wants double-digit sacks this year to beat his best friend Dante Fowler’s 8.5 quarterback takedowns from a year ago. … WR Demarcus Robinson is eyeing “at least” 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. … Latroy Pittman said it’s “way past due, way past due” to bring an explosive offense back to UF. … Sophomore defensive back Quincy Wilson called last season a learning experience, but said now everything feels “like high school again.” … Co-DC Randy Shannon said the best 11 players will play on defense -- regardless of position. Shannon said UF could line up four DT or play three outside linebackers -- “The best players will play,” he said. … David Sharpie -- at 6-6, 350+ pounds -- is a massive man. … McElwain called star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III "arguably" the best defensive player in the country. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 05, 2015

UF releases contracts for McElwain, assistants

GAINESVILLE -- Florida released the contracts for its football staff Wednesday, hours before the Gators held their annual Media Day. 

Head coach Jim McElwain signed a six-year contract worth $3.5 million annually, with a $500,000 signing bonus and a $500,000 retention bonus annually (starting Jan. 31, 2017) should he remain employed at Florida until 2021.  

After paying Will Muschamp a hefty sum to go away and chipping in on McElwain’s expensive buyout from Colorado State, Florida tagged its new coach with an expensive de-escalating buyout clause. 

McElwain would have to pay Florida anywhere between $3.5 million and $1.5 million should he leave the school prior to 2021. A large portion of his de-escalating buyout would actually be paid back to CSU as part of UF’s payment on McElwain’s original buyout. 

The yearly details: 

2016 - $3.5 million ($2.5 million to CSU)

2017 - $3.25 million ($2 million to CSU)

2018 - $3 million ($1.5 million to CSU)

2019 - $2.5 million ($1 million to CSU)

2020 - $2 million ($500K to CSU)

2021 - $1.5 million.  

McElwain’s deal also includes a provision where his buyout would be offset (should he be fired) if he takes a job with another SEC school within 90 days. As 247Sports' Thomas Goldkamp tweeted, just call it the Muschamp Clause. 

Meanwhile, UF’s nine assistants will earn a combined $3.325 million in base salary in 2015. Last year, Florida doled out roughly $3.2 million for Muschamp’s staff. 

Under McElwain, the Gators are clearly placing an emphasis on staff continuity, with lots of retention bonuses included in assistants' deals.  

***** UF assistant coaching contracts (base salary + 10,000 endorsement deal) *****

OC Doug Nussmeir - Three-year contract worth $500,000 in 2015, $525,000 in 2016 and $550,000 in 2017. He also receives a $300,000 retention bonus if he’s still employed at UF on Feb. 14, 2017. 

DC Geoff Collins - Three-year contract worth $600,000 annually. He received a $100,000 signing bonus. Collins is also due a $125,000 retention bonus on Feb. 14, 2016 and $150,000 retention bonus on Feb. 17, 2017. 

LB/DC Randy Shannon - Three-year contract worth $400,000 in 2015 and 2016 and $425,000 in 2017. Shannon doesn’t have a buyout, received a $200,000 signing bonus and a possible pair of retention bonuses ($100,000 on Feb. 14, 2016 and $125,000 on Feb. 14, 2017). 

DL Chris Rumph - Two-year contract worth $415,000 in 2015 and $425,000 in 2016. 

TE/ST Greg Nord - Two-year deal worth $375,000 in 2015 and $400,000 in 2016. 

RB Tim Skipper - Two-year contract worth $350,000 in 2015 and $375,000 in 2016. 

DB Kirk Callahan - Two-year contract worth $300,000 in 2015 and $325,000 in 2016. 

OL Mike Summers - A one-year contract (the last year of a two-year deal since he was the only member of Muschamp’s staff retained) worth $200,000 in 2015. 

WR Kerry Dixon - Two-year deal worth $275,000 in 2015 and $285,000 in 2016. 

Other notes include:

All of the retention bonuses are after National Signing Day. Just something to watch in the future.

Both Rumph and Shannon will earn the same amount (in 2015) they were paid at Texas and Arkansas, respectively.

Nussmeier is taking a healthy pay-cut after earning $830,000 as Michigan’s OC. Lastly, Nord is earning a massive raise. At Western Kentucky, Nord earned just $58,500 in 2014. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Florida Gators football: 2015 training camp primer

GAINESVILLE -- It. Is. Time. 

Florida opens training camp tomorrow, exactly a month before its opener against lowly New Mexico State on Sept. 5. 

First-year coach Jim McElwain & Co. will address a room full of hacks later today, but before UF hosts its annual Media Day, here’s a primer on UF’s training camp, including position battles to watch, storylines to follow and more. 

FIRST THINGS FIRST: ARE PRACTICES OPEN TO FANS?

No. Barring a shocking change of heart, McElwain, like most coaches, prefers practices closed. Reporters will be permitted to view certain “open periods” throughout the fall, though.

Fans will have their chance to interact with the team, take pictures and get autographs on Aug. 15 from 2 to 4 p.m. during Florida’s annual Fan Day. 

SO WILL THE INDOOR PRACTICE FACILITY BE READY FOR CAMP?

Well … probably not. Two crews are working day and night to get the $17 million facility completed, and Florida desperately wants to utilize the facility as fast as it can with the amount of buckets dropping in Rainsville lately. 

At SEC Media Days in mid-July, McElwain suggested the IPF was ahead of schedule and that the team “would get to go ahead and spend a couple hours in there as we go through two-a-days this fall.” That won’t be the case, but on Tuesday, UF released a video update, announcing that the IPF “could be completed” as early as Aug. 22 -- right after two-a-days are over.  

The facility was initially projected for completion sometime in late September, so even if the latest reports are rather optimistic, the IPF should be available by the time the season officially starts on Sept. 5. Florida will hold 29 practices prior to its opener. 

WHAT ARE THE KEY POSITION BATTLES TO MONITOR? 

Obviously, the competition for the starting quarterback gig is THE storyline. Redshirt freshman Will Grier exited the spring ahead of Treon Harris, and it would truly be surprising if Grier (who has the size, arm strength and mobility best suited for McElwain’s preferred scheme) didn’t win the job outright.

Now, it will be interesting to see if Florida keeps Harris involved in the offense or if the sophomore is simply relegated to traditional backup duty.

Aside from the quarterback battle, how will the offensive line shake out? Graduate transfer Mason Halter was a key addition, but it remains to be seen if he’s starter material or will serve as Florida’s swing tackle. Furthermore, can sixth-year senior Trip Thurman stay healthy (chronic shoulder injury) and is five-star freshman Martez Ivey ready for primetime immediately?

Other competitions to watch are the tailback rotation, linebacker depth chart and who plays where exactly in Florida’s deep and talented secondary. 

HOW ABOUT SOME OTHER STORYLINES TO FOLLOW?

A year ago, Jake McGee was anointed Jordan Reed 2.0 during training camp, but a broken leg nearly ended the tight end’s UF career before it ever started. Now, the sixth-year senior is healthy and expected to serve as a featured target and key weapon in McElwain’s offense. Can he fulfill those lofty expectations?

Ivey (as mentioned above) is UF’s most important newbie, but over the next month, the Gators will find out if guys like CeCe Jefferson (DE), Jordan Scarlett (RB), Antonio Callaway (WR) and Tyler Jordan (C) can be difference makers right away, too.

Special teams doomed UF in a number of games last season (Missouri, South Carolina), so will they improve under a new regime? Will there be in added emphasis on blocking kicks again? Who will serve as the main returners?

WHO ARE SOME GUYS NOT GETTING A TON OF PRESS BUT LIKELY TO PLAY KEY ROLES NEXT SEASON?

Florida’s defensive line is talented … but raw and young. Caleb Brantley and Taven Bryan posses a good blend of power and speed inside -- especially as pass rushers -- but it remains to be seen if they’re capable of consistently clogging the middle and stopping the run.

Alex Anzalone has been heralded as a breakout candidate, but 2015 could be the year Jarrad Davis shines as the team’s top linebacker.

Lastly, a broken hand sidetracked C.J. Worton’s freshman season, but the shifty wideout shined during the spring and could emerge as a viable secondary target opposite Demarcus Robinson. 

FINALLY, WHAT IS THE MAIN GOAL OF TRAINING CAMP? 

To get better -- daily. It’s a simply adage, but for a team with so many unknowns, it rings true. Florida’s entire 2015 season -- from training camp until its finale against Florida State -- should be about steady improvement.

As the esteemed Bill Connelly explained in his extensive season preview, the Gators can beat or lose to anybody in 2015. This team could snap its 28-game winning streak against Kentucky and it could beat a top-10 foe.

The Gators’ focus should be “figuring out what [they’ve] got on offense, figuring out [their] next generation on defense, winning a big game or two, and winning the fans back.”

It ain’t sexy, but slow and steady progress rarely is. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

August 04, 2015

Florida hype video: "A storm is brewing in Gainesville"

GAINESVILLE -- Florida released a hype video Tuesday promoting the program’s new direction (and hope), building buzz before training camp opens Thursday. 

The “New Regime” video was well-produced (aside from an odd narration choice) and includes highlights and clips from past and present moments. The four-minute piece ends with the narrator saying, “I see a storm brewing in Gainesville.”

Check it out. 

The Gators report for training camp Wednesday (also UF’s annual Media Day), with their opener against New Mexico State slated for Sept. 5. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton



Categories


Archives


Powered by TypePad