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5 posts from October 2017

October 29, 2017

Updates on Florida football, McElwain aside

Jim McElwain's firing is the news of the day, week, month and year for the Florida football program. But with the team now having lost three consecutive games, where does it go from here? A few clues were offered Saturday.

First, at quarterback, where starter Feleipe Franks managed 30 yards on 19 attempts. He was relieved by backup Malik Zaire, who managed 36 yards on six attempts and added 30 rushing yards well after the game was out of reach. 

"It’s not showing up on Saturday," Franks said of the lack of offensive improvement. "There’s a lot of things we can improve on. Like I said man. we’re not going to fold. We’re not going to just bow our heads down."

McElwain didn't address Zaire's apparent spark after the game, though his opinion matters little now. With the SEC title game now officially out of reach, it'll be interesting to see how Florida approaches the quarterback competition between Franks — the incumbent starter who played poorly in meaningful action — and Zaire — the Notre Dame graduate transfer who didn't work out as a starter but who played well on Saturday in meaningless action.

Florida's offense took a hit at running back, where leading rusher Malik Davis was injured and taken to the locker room in the first half. McElwain said he injured his knee, and reports surfaced Sunday that it was season-ending. Davis' mom told the Herald those reports were premature and he hadn't had an MRI yet, but Davis retweeted several teammates wishing him a speedy recovery. So season ending or not, it doesn't sound good. Davis, a true freshman from Tampa, leads the team with 526 yards this season. 

His counterpart Lamical Perine managed 93 yards in Davis' absence against the Bulldogs. He's up to 365 on the year, and he's scored six touchdowns. 

The other injured Florida players mentioned by McElwain were Jachai Polite (shoulder), Kylan Johnson (hamstring), Tyrie Cleveland (ankle) and Kadarius Toney (shoulder). He didn't specify any of their statuses moving forward. 






October 25, 2017

Gators hopeful about getting big-play receivers back against Georgia

A Florida assistant coach meets with reporters every Wednesday at noon. The coach rotates from week to week, but the procedure is usually the same: Ask about each individual player in that position group, because who knows when that coach will speak again. This Wednesday was receiver coach Kerry Dixon’s turn, but the procedure was a little different.

Only two players were asked about by name: Tyrie Cleveland and Kadarius Toney. That makes sense. When they’re on, Florida’s offense is noticeably improved. When they’re not, like against Texas A&M when they were both injured, well, Florida’s offense is even worse than usual. So heading into a game Florida (3-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) must win to stay in slim contention for the SEC eastern division title, it wasn’t surprising to hear them brought up. Because without them, Florida’s chances this Saturday against No. 3 Georgia (7-0, 4-0 SEC), which are already bad (the Bulldogs opened as 14 ½-point favorites), are much worse.

Toney came up in the second question of Dixon’s press conference. He’s the less important of the tandem based on production. At 107 yards through the air this year, he ranks fourth on the team. But his value is more in his electricity.

He can run the ball on sweeps, he can run out of the wildcat formation, he can catch passes, and as a guy who played quarterback in high school, he can throw as well. That versatility is why he’s listed as an athlete — the only athlete — on Florida’s roster. If there was such a thing as the “eyeball test” for Florida’s offense, his moves and cuts would make him one of the few guaranteed to pass.

“We knew he was special in the spring,” Dixon said. “Moving forward we definitely hope to use him a lot more."

McElwain said Wednesday afternoon that Toney’s return is not certain, but he’s “doing everything” to be able to play.

Cleveland came up a little later for Dixon. Despite not registering a catch in UF’s last two games — that’s a third of the season — he still has twice as many yards as the next-closest receiver at 326. Brandon Powell is next at 149. He missed those two games with a high ankle sprain, and his absence limited Florida’s vertical passing game. Coach Jim McElwain said that will be a big part of this weekend’s contest against Georgia given how the Bulldogs load the box to stop the running game.

“We're going to have to make some plays downfield,” he said.

Players sounded hopeful Cleveland will be back. So did McElwain, who called him probable.

"He's back to his normal self,” Powell said. “It's just an ankle sprain, so he needed some time off, he got the bye week, so now he's back to his old self.”

However, Powell then referred to the abilities of other players in the wideout group.

“We've got playmakers everywhere,” he said. “Just to have another one of our playmakers back just makes us that much better.”

That’s not exactly true. At least not so far. In the two games without Cleveland, UF managed 135 and 108 passing yards. With him, it’s managed 249, 209, 212 and 181. Dixon knows the difference Cleveland makes.

"There's a comfort level when you have that deep threat out there,” he said. “They have to make certain coverage adjustments to him, which is a great asset to the offense.”

-- In addition to updates on Toney and Cleveland, McElwain said defensive end Jabari Zuniga, who was nursing an ankle injury, should be able to play. He added wideout Josh Hammond is questionable with a tweaked back.

-- Jim McElwain ignited Florida’s fan base Monday by revealing he’d received death threats. Some questioned the legitimacy of those threats after UAA spokesman Steve McClain sent out statement ending with, “Our administration met with coach McElwain this afternoon and he offered no additional details.” McElwain tried to clarify on Wednesday.

“It’s just something that came up and obviously was on my mind,” he said. “It doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it right to air that laundry, and yet at the same time [we’ve] got total, total support.”

When asked if his family was threatened directly, he said the threats were anonymous but didn’t offer many other details. His response, in its entirety:

“Obviously, I understand that's the news,” he answered. “It goes with the territory. You know what? It’s hard to leave sometimes. You know how much I care about this program, these players. Obviously, everything that goes in with it. But ultimately allowing one or two, and who even knows who it was, right? You don’t know. It’s anonymous. So, that is what it is, and I’m confident we’re all right.”

October 18, 2017

UF DL Sherit out for season

Starting defensive end Jordan Sherit will be out for the season after sustaining a hip injury on Saturday against Texas A&M. Coach Jim McElwain said he had surgery earlier this week. 

Sherit was finally in the midst of a breakout campaign after suffering injury setbacks in previous years at UF. Once again, though, his season ended with an ailment. And this time, it's permanent. 

A redshirt senior, Sherit's college career is over. He finished his final campaign with with 2 ½ sacks, 23 tackles and five tackles for loss. 

Days before the injury, he told reporters how it was finally dawning on him that this season was his last in The Swamp. That he only had so many college games left. 

Days later, all of it ended sooner than he thought it would. 

"It's a bad deal, man," coach Jim McElwain said. 

October 08, 2017

Gators fall from AP poll, announce time for TAMU game

Florida fell out of the AP Poll Sunday for the first time this season. The Gators entered Saturday's matchup against LSU ranked No. 21 before they lost to the Tigers 17-16.

UF also fell from the Amway Coaches Poll. It was ranked No. 20 before the loss to LSU. 

It was also announced that this Saturday's matchup against Texas A&M in Gainesville will be played at 7 p.m. ESPN2 will broadcast it. 

October 05, 2017

UF to honor Tom Petty during game against LSU

There was some speculation after Gainesville native Tom Petty passed away on Monday that the halftime show during the Florida-LSU game would honor the late musician. While that hypothesis hasn't been refuted, it now seems unlikely. 

The UF Athletic Association announced Thursday that it will pay a different tribute to Petty. After the band plays "The Boys of Old Florida" at the conclusion of the third quarter, Petty's "I won't back down" will echo through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. 

"Let's celebrate together what he meant to the world of music and what he meant to this community,'' UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a release. "Since we are already singing 'We are the Boys,' let's go right from that into one of his great anthems and make that the way we are going to jointly celebrate Tom Petty and the Gators."



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