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4 posts from December 2017

December 20, 2017

UF signing tracker

Florida could still land a few more recruits before the day is done, but here's who the Gators have reeled in so far on the first day of the first-ever early signing period. Quarterback Emory Jones is their top recruit at No. 40 overall, and UF's class — counting commitments as well as signees — ranks 17th nationally. 


Emory Jones, quarterback:


The centerpiece of Mullen’s early signing day haul is Emory Jones, a 4-star dual threat quarterback from Georgia who spurned his commitment to Ohio State and picked the Gators. Jones is rated as the fourth-best dual threat quarterback in the country by the 247Sports Composite and the nation’s 40th-best player overall.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Jones replaced fellow 4-star passer Matt Corral, who spent months committed to Florida before flipping to Ole Miss on Thursday night. Corral, a pocket passer, was rated as the nation’s 86th-best player.

Mullen made Jones a priority for the quarterback-starved Gators, who had just three scholarship tossers — Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Jake Allen — on their roster before Wednesday. Known as a quarterback guru after transforming Dak Prescott into a Heisman candidate at Mississippi State, among other success stories, Mullen’s first priority at Florida will be getting either Jones or any of UF’s other quarterbacks to a level of competence. He believes he’s off to a good start with Jones.


Evan McPherson, kicker:


While he’s Florida’s lowest-rated signee of the day and probably of the year, McPherson’s commitment to the Gators could end up being one of the most important of 2018. Junior Eddy Pineiro announced Tuesday that he’s leaving Florida early for the NFL Draft, so McPherson should challenge redshirt senior and Miami Belen Jesuit alum Jorge Powell to replace him.

McPherson is the nation’s top-rated kicking prospect.


Kyle Pitts/Dante Lang, tight end:


Florida snagged an elite tight end prospect in Kyle Pitts, a 4-star recruit from Warminster, Pennsylvania. He’s billed as the sixth-best tight end in the nation and brings great size to the position at 6-foot-6, 235 pounds.

The Gators lost tight ends Kalif Jackson and 2017 starter DeAndre Goolsby this offseason, so Pitts adds another body to the mix. But with veterans C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens returning along with Kemore Gamble, who was rated the seventh-best tight end in the nation in the 2017 class, Pitts could find the field later on in his career. The same is true of Dante Lang, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound tight end out of Boca Raton who is rated the 28th best at his position. Although with Mullen, more tight end involvement is possible.

While Florida didn’t use its tight ends in the passing game much under former coach Jim McElwain (Stephens led the group with 141 yards in 2017 while Goolsby and Lewis had the most touchdowns with one apiece) Mississippi State tight end Jordan Thomas amassed 227 yards and three touchdowns for the Bulldogs last season under Mullen.


Amari Burney/Trey Dean/John Huggins/Randy Russell, safety:


Florida set itself up for success at defensive back with its 2017 class, which brought six players into the group. But with seniors Duke Dawson, Nick Washington, Marcell Harris and Joseph Putu gone, signing safeties Amari Burney, John Huggins and Randy Russell bolsters the unit’s depth.

As the nation’s 15th-best safety prospect, Burney, a Clearwater native, could challenge Chauncey Gardner, Jeawon Taylor, Shawn Davis and Quincy Lenton for playing time. He has the size at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds.

Huggins is a little smaller at 6-feet, 200 pounds, and is rated a little lower at No. 32. Russell, who signed out of Miami Carol City, is even smaller at 5-fo0t-10, 180 pounds, but he’s rated higher than Huggins at No. 28. And Dean, the latest addition to Florida's class, has great length at 6-foot-2 but need to bulk up at 180 pounds. He's rated 22nd at his position. 


Dameon Pierce, running back:


The Gators lost running back Mark Thompson to eligibility expiration and could also lose Jordan Scarlett, who didn’t play in 2017 but is nevertheless eligible for the NFL Draft. Florida addressed those losses with Pierce.

Rated the nation’s 10th-best running back, Pierce’s 5-foot-11, 205-pound frame is ideal. But with returning backs Lamical Perine, Malik Davis and Adarius Lemons in front of him on the depth chart, it will be an uphill climb for Pierce to see the field consistently in 2018.

That being said, he’s a higher-rated recruit then Davis was, and he finished second on the team in rushing as a true freshman.


Iverson Clement, athlete:


Clement is listed as an athlete by recruiting services, but he plays running back and is expected to stay at that position when he arrives in Gainesville. Pierce brings acceptable size at 5-foot-11, 199 pounds and is ranked as the nation’s 282nd-best recruit. Like Pierce, he'll have to claw onto the depth chart with three experienced backs ahead of him. 


Chris Bleich/Noah Banks, offensive tackle:


The Gators addressed a need at offensive tackle with a pair of large additions. Chris Bleich, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound player from Plymouth, Pennsylvania, and Noah Banks, a 6-foot-7, 305-pound player from Pensacola both signed with the Gators. Bleich is rated No. 33 among high school offensive tackles while Banks is No. 6 among junior college tackles. With starting left tackle Martez Ivey possibly leaving for the NFL and with all the injuries Florida suffered along the offensive line a season ago, Mullen got some valuable depth with the two of them.


David Reese, linebacker:


The Gators will have two players named David Reese at linebacker in 2018. Junior middle linebacker David Reese led the team in tackles last season, while incoming freshman outside linebacker David Reese hopes to do the same at some point during his career in Gainesville.

The younger Reese brings height to a major position of need at 6-foot-3, 213 pounds.

December 07, 2017

Florida hoops focused on rebounding, in more ways than one

Coach Mike White was his normal self on Monday, strolling through the Florida basketball complex in a grey sweatsuit, a lone Nike swoosh mark on the shoulder, coffee cup in hand. He seemed calm, which was appropriate given his message to his team following its third straight loss — this time against Loyola-Chicago — on Wednesday night: Don’t panic. There are plenty of games left to play.

His team, however, seemed panicked against the Ramblers. Florida had earned its No. 5 ranking by making shots and scoring at will, but that ability has evaporated since the Gators lost to No. 1 Duke on Nov. 26. White said the only thing to do to combat the funk is play better and make shots, which he said can mask some of the other shortcomings that need to be addressed.

“We’re just not making shots right now,” White said. “We’re coming off a really, really tough week.”

It started on Monday, when the Gators were dominated by Florida State in a 17-point loss. It marked UF’s fourth consecutive loss to the Seminoles.

Florida two leading scorers — guards Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov — shot a combined 9-of-24 against FSU, including 3-of-13 from 3-point range. The rest of the team couldn’t do much better.

The Gators shot 37 percent combined against Loyola and Florida State, with nearly identical percentages in each game. Like with Hudson and Koulechov, the shooting has been even worse from deep. The Gators went 8-of-44 in the two games.

White said he didn’t see the sudden frost coming. He said based on practice, he thought his team was just a good shooting team, and he expected that trend to continue. But he has a couple hypotheses for why.

First is the fact that the two games have been at home, and maybe that’s caused some jitters. Then there’s shot selection.

“Let’s make sure your first shot is a really good one,” White’s told his players. “We've gotten away with making a contested one or two early in games early in the season against inferior opponents, and that's backfired on us.”

Florida’s lack of size has also backfired. The Gators’ three leading rebounders are guards — Hudson, Koulechov and Chris Chiozza — and that trio is UF’s only representation on the Southeastern Conference’s top 32 rebounders.

The issue was especially prominent against FSU, which outrebounded the Gators 51-34.

“We're just a very average defensive and rebounding team,” White said, “and when we're not making shots, it's hard to beat anybody.”

But White is trying to extract at least positive from those struggles. He said maybe his players didn’t really believe they were in trouble when they were scoring in the triple digits game after game while allowing other teams to score high as well.

Now that shots aren’t falling and rebounds aren’t getting grabbed, White said his team will learn and get tougher. Florida will have a chance to show off that toughness, or not, on Saturday against No. 17 Cincinnati (7-1). White, meanwhile, will stay calm and sip his coffee with SEC play still several weeks away, trying to get his players to a similar level of tranquility.

“Is everything OK?” They’ve asked him in recent days. “Coach, are you good?”

“Yeah,” White has answered. “We're alive and healthy and we have a great opportunity today and we're in Florida. Are you kidding me? An opportunity to have a great practice today, come together, get better. Tough week, (but) a lot of people in Gainesville are having a lot tougher time in life than we are right now.”


Report: Antonio Callaway leaving Florida

Antonio Callaway, a Miami native and star Florida receiver, will forgo his final year of eligibility at UF and enter the NFL Draft, per a report from InsideTheLeague.com's Neil Stratton. 

Callaway's career at Florida was marred by controversy, from accusations of sexual assault as a freshman to his suspension for the entirety of the 2017 season — along with eight other players — for accusations of credit card fraud. But his play on the field was memorable, too. 

The Miami Booker T. Washington alumnus was Florida's leading receiver in his freshman and sophomore seasons, grabbing 678 and 721 yards, respectively. He finished his college career with seven touchdowns, including a memorable 63-yarder against Tennessee as a freshman that helped the Gators stun the Volunteers. 

Callaway's 5-foot-10, 193-pound frame is smaller than a typical NFL receiver and his speed also isn't elite, but his playmaking ability when he was on the field at Florida was never in doubt. That should at least get him drafted at some point, though it's unclear how much his off-the-field issues may also play a role in his stock. 

December 06, 2017

No. 5 Florida hoops loses third straight to unranked Loyola-Chicago

The Gators lost to Duke — the No. 1 team in the nation — fewer than two weeks ago by just three points. But since then, Florida has fallen apart. 

The No. 5 Gators (5-3) dropped their third straight game on Wednesday against Loyola-Chicago (9-1) at home, 65-59. The Ramblers' six-point win was Florida's second-worst loss of the season, trailing only Monday's 17-point beatdown from Florida State. The Ramblers led for over 95 percent of the game. 

Florida, which boasted the nation's most prolific offense entering the game against FSU at just over 99 points per game, has gone cold from deep since the loss to Duke. It went 2-of-19 from 3-point range against Loyola. 

Transfer Egor Koulechov, who scored 34 points for Florida on opening night and was counted on as one of the team's leading scorers, is the embodiment of that frost. The senior went 1-for-10 from 3-point range against FSU and Loyola combined. He also went 7-of-26 from the floor over that same stretch. 

He and his team have three days to correct that problem, as well as struggling interior defense, before they take on Cincinnati (7-1) on Saturday in Newark, New Jersey. 





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