February 23, 2009

TIM TEBOW: 'Come watch us beat Georgia again'

GAINESVILLE -- When it comes to the Georgia-Florida rivalry these days, it's never too early to start talking a little smack. Not even for UF quarterback Tim Tebow.

Tebow was up in the Panhandle this weekend accepting yet another postseason award. This time it was the Wuerffel Award, presented by the good folks of Fort Walton Beach. After accepting his award, Tebow helped raise money for local charities by auctioning off a package of four tickets to the UF-UGA game in Jacksonville. Tebow got $5,500 for the tickets, sealing the deal with this zinger: "Four tickets to come watch us beat Georgia again."

We know spring football doesn't start for about three more weeks, but it's never too early to toss a few ideas around. Who replaces Percy Harvin? Who plays right tackle? Who plays left tackle? The Herald asked five questions regarding the Gators as spring football nears in Monday's paper. CLICK ME! 


December 05, 2008

Dainty Florida will roll the rough and rugged Tide

GAINESVILLE -- Big game this weekend up in the ATL. Stubhub expects No.2 Florida (11-1) vs. No.1 Alabama (12-0) to rank in its top 10 list for ridiculously inflated ticket prices. And that's not top 10 for a college football game. That's top 10 regardless of sport. Only Super Bowl and World Series tickets have gone for more. Club seats in the Georgia Dome are pushing $1,300.

Gator Clause isn't leaving Gainesville until Friday night, so I'll have plenty of time to bloggy blog until then. Something a bit odd I just realized. While interning for The Birmingham News, I covered Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson when his Hoover Bucs won a high school state championship. As a preps writer for The Herald, I covered Tebow's state championship in 2005. Pretty cool, huh?

Both Wilson's and Tebow's state championship wins were blowouts by the fourth quarter. The only difference in the two state championship games -- and this has something to do with my officially licensed prediction of the game -- Tebow played nose guard in the fourth quarter for Ponte Vedra Beach Nease. So, that whole idea about UA's rough and rugged style of play being too much for UF's dainty little spread-option offense ... it's nonsense. UF 38, UA 18

Saturday's game will be much more than a contest between Tebow and Wilson, of course. There will be plenty of talented players on the Georgia Dome's artificial turf and we're here to highlight a few important match-ups because, well, like y'all, I'm pretty excited about watching this game...

11) UA cornerback Javier Arenas vs. UF receiver Percy Harvin: Assuming Harvin plays more than a decoy role (I doubt it), this could be one of the best one-on-one match-ups on Saturday. Harvin will play receiver if he does anything. Arenas is looking forward to the challenge. When asked about Harvin this week, Arenas said he expects Harvin will play.

10) UA receiver Julio Jones vs. UF cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Joe Haden: Jones and Jenkins know a little about each other going in. They squared off in a high school all-star game over the summer. Jenkins has three interceptions and leads the team with 10 pass break-ups. Haden is one of the nation's brightest up-and-comers. He's second on the team with 69 tackles and eight pass break-ups. He also has two interceptions. Jones leads UA with 46 receptions for 723 yards and four touchdowns. He's the Crimson Tide's only downfield threat. UA tight end Nick Walker is second on the team in receptions (26 for 262 yards, two TDs).

9) UF quarterback Tim Tebow vs. UA linebacker Rolando McClain: In this corner, the Mac Attack (team-high 82 tackles, 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, three sacks), standing six feet and four inches and weighing in at 249 pounds. Wearing a crimson hat and menacing scowl, Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain. And in this corner, The Chosen One (tougher to take down than the Berlin Wall, 12 rushing touchdowns, third-down conversation machine, 43 career rushing touchdowns), standing six feet and three inches and weighing in at 240 pounds, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and heavyweight CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, Tim Tebow.

8) UF offensive coordinator Dan Mullen vs. UA defensive genius Nick Saban: Florida's offense leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring. The Gators are averaging 46.3 points per game. (That's a big number.) Alabama's defense leads the league in points allowed. The Crimson Tide is allowing 11.5 points per game. (That's a small number.) Florida's offense leads the SEC in total yards (449.4 yards per game). Alabama's defense leads the league in total yards allowed (248.5 yards per game). Something's gotta give, right?

7) UA tackle Andre Smith vs. UF end Carlos Dunlap: NFL scouts (and me) will be watching this match-up. Many consider Smith the best offensive lineman in the nation. Dunlap leads the Gators with nine sacks and is peaking at the perfect time. Sounds a lot like a young Derrick Harvey.

6) UF center Maurkice Pouncey vs. UA nose guard Terrence Cody: Cody is the guy that allows UA linebacker Rolando McClain to fill the gaps and make the tackles. UF leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (237.1 yards per game) and Cody will do his best to limit UF on first down. Cody (6-5, 365 pounds) will be highly motivated for this game. He's from Fort Myers. Pouncey is one of the best young offensive linemen in the country (along with his brother, of course). Maurkice and guard Mike Pouncey will also be highly motivated for this game. The Pounceys' stepfather, Robert Webster, who was severely injured (lost a leg) at work in Lakeland last week, is expected to make the trip to Atlanta for the game.

5) UA tight end Nick Walker vs. UF strong safety Ahmad Black: Here's a match-up that will draw my attention. Nick Saban loves to get his tight ends involved and UA will be looking to isolate Walker (6-5, 248-pound senior) in one-on-one coverage against Black, UF's undersized (5-9, 185 pounds) strong safety. Walker is Alabama's second-leading receiver (26 receptions for 262 yards). Black (What a story this kid has turned out to be, right.) leads UF in interceptions with six. Another thing: Getting Black out of the run-box will be one of the top priorities for UA quarterback John Parker Wilson. In the words of Black, "Pick party!"

4) UF linebacker Brandon Spikes vs. UA running backs Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch: UF linebacker Brandon Spikes leads the Gators in tackles (80) and is a finalist for the Nagurski Award. UA's trio of power running backs are all downhill runners. Coffee is averaging 6.2 yards per carry (102.9 yards per game). Ingram and Upchurh are just as tough to take down. Expect some big collisions, folks.

3) UA's sure hands vs. UF's defensive thievery: UF has forced 21 turnovers during its current eight-game winning streak and converted 16 of those turnovers into touchdowns. Alabama has lost nine fumbles this season and quarterback John Parker Wilson has only thrown five interceptions. Alabama cannot afford to turn the ball over.

2) UF nose tackle Lawrence Marsh vs. UA center Antoine Caldwell: The importance of this match-up cannot be overstated. Marsh, recovering from a sprained medial-collateral ligament, has been UF's most reliable interior defensive lineman. Caldwell is a finalist for the Remington Award, given to the nation's best center, and helps pave the way for Alabama's between-the-tackles running game. UA is second in the SEC in rushing yards per game (201.5 yards). Florida is third in the league in rush defense (102.8 yards per game).

1) UF quarterback Tim Tebow vs. UA nose guard Terrence Cody: UF leads the SEC in third-down conversions (48.9 percent). UA leads the league in third-down conversion defense (25 percent). Another interesting statistical comparison: UA leads the SEC in fourth-down conversion (8 of 9, 88.9 percent). UF's defense leads the league in denying teams on fourth down (8 of 21, 38.1 percent).

1A) UA strong-side linebacker Cory Reamer vs. UF scatbacks Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey: What!? All this hard work in the middle of the night and this is your No.1 match-up of the biggest game in SEC history? I can hear you now, "Goodman, you're an idiot." Well, hear me out first before you leave a snarky comment. UA is allowing an SEC-best 73.6 rushing yards per game, but the Crimson Tide hasn't faced a running game quite like Florida's. That's where Reamer comes in. This guy is fast. Reamer (6-4, 218 pounds, another Hoover High guy) was actually a defensive back in high school. UF leads the SEC in rushing (237.1 yards per game) on account of the team's speedy backfield. With Percy Harvin likely injured, the bulk of UF's rushing responsibilities will fall to Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey, who, gulp, limped off the practice field on Thursday after reaggrevating his groin pull. Demps and Rainey like to get outside. Reamer will be waiting.


November 30, 2008

Percy Harvin not practicing for Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE -- SEC championship week began on Sunday and already Alabama is trying to sabotage the Gators.

Florida coach Urban Meyer spoke with league reporters on Sunday via telephone conference call and the fire alarm inexplicably sounded inside the Gators' football facility during the interview. "What the heck is that?" said Meyer, who joined the press conference 15 minutes late.

--The Gators lost junior Percy Harvin to an ankle injury in the first half against FSU and Meyer said on Sunday that Harvin is questionable for Saturday's game against Alabama. Florida's coach said that Harvin would not practice on Sunday. The Gators' off day is Monday. Harvin left Doak Campbell Stadium in crutches and a protective boot on Saturday.

--Saturday's game between No.1 Alabama (12-0) and No.2 Florida (11-1) is the first match-up of the nation's top ranked teams in the SEC championship game.

--Florida remained at No.4 in the BCS standings on Sunday. Oklahoma (11-1) jumped ahead of Texas (11-1) to No.2 in the BCS standings, meaning the Sooners will play Mizzou in the Big 12 championship game by way of the league's fifth tie-breaker, which states that in the event of a tie in divisional play, then the highest ranked team in the BCS standings will play for the conference championship. Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech are all tied for first place in the Big 12 South.

--If Oklahoma loses to Missouri in the Big 12 championship game, then could USC could be in a position to play the winner of the SEC championship game in the BCS title game on Jan.8? No. USC (11-1) is ranked No.5 in the BCS, behind Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida. If Oklahoma loses, then Texas could play for the national championship.

--If Florida beats Alabama in the SEC championship game, could there be a rematch between Alabama and Florida in the national championship? It's unlikely but could become an outside possibility if Oklahoma loses to Missouri and Florida beats Alabama in a classic game.

--UF defensive tackle Brandon Antwine is doubtful for Saturday's game against Alabama, according to Meyer. Antwine is the second defensive tackle to suffer a knee injury in as many weeks. Against The Citadel, Matt Patchan injured a ligament in his knee. Meyer said that Florida will use a four-man rotation at defensive tackle in Atlanta: Terron Sanders, Torrey Davis, Lawrence Marsh and Jaye Howard. Like Patchan, Marsh injured his knee against The Citadel but played at about 70 percent on Saturday, according to Meyer.

--Meyer said that defensive end Carlos Dunlap could move inside to play defensive tackle.


October 23, 2008

Tebow a no show in initial NFL Draft projection

GAINESVILLE -- Shortly after his sophomore season, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow told Gator Clause that he would play four seasons for the Gators. He changed his stance slightly this season and now says he will wait until his junior season is complete before he makes a decision on whether or not to turn pro.

On Thursday, Tebow might be leaning towards returning to school for his senior season. Scouts Inc. released its first-round NFL Draft projections today (CLICK ME!) and Tebow isn't on the list. Junior quarterbacks on the list: Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, No.1 pick; Georgia's Matt Stafford, the No.5 pick; USC's Mark Sanchez (redshirt junior), the No.12 pick.

While Tebow isn't listed in the early NFL Draft projections, other Florida juniors are among Scouts Inc.'s Top 32. Percy Harvin is No.22, the third-ranked wide receiver. Brandon Spikes is No. 26, the fourth-rated linebacker.

Other instate notables: South Florida junior defensive end George Selvie is No.24. Florida State defensive end Everette Brown is No.21. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas alum Geno Atkins is No. 16 and the fifth-rated defensive linemen. (Note: ESPN lists Atkins as playing for Texas but Atkins actually plays for Georgia.) Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, a Lake Butler, Fla., native, is No.32.

It should be noted that Scouts Inc. does not project any Miami Hurricanes in the first round. At least one Miami Hurricane has been drafted in the NFL first round each of the past 13 seasons. That streak is in jeapardy this season.

This from The Miami Herald's own Dolphins columnist Armando Salguero. Mr. Salguero analyzed some Dolphins NFL Draft projections today and he apparently couldn't help himself by adding this zinger to his biting prose:

"Also: I know Florida faithful will shout from the rooftops that Percy Harvin deserves mention here as a top receiver prospect. But the guy has had some injury issues this year, is not a big guy per se at 5-11 and 195 pounds, and I just don't like Urban Meyer. So there."

Say it ain't so, Armando! Say it ain't so!

For what it's worth, Gator Clause believes Harvin would make a great addition to the Dolphins' line-up.

When Billy speaks, you should listen. Click the play button. Live from Birmingham, Ala.


October 08, 2008

Harvin still limited; UF lands major commitment

GAINESVILLE -- Florida receiver Percy Harvin practiced on Wednesday afternoon for the first time this week but was limited, according to UF coach Urban Meyer. Meyer says he thinks Harvin will be able to play on Saturday against LSU.

Other injury updates to report: Meyer said that redshirt junior linebacker Ryan Stamper and freshman safety Will Hill are both "good to go" for Saturday's game. Stamper missed the Arkansas game with a sprained ankle while Hill played sparingly against Arkansas with a sore hamstring.

--Left guard Jim Tartt (shoulder) and Marcus Gilbert (ankle) both practiced on Wednesday but were limited. Meyer said that redshirt sophomore Carl Johnson will start at left guard on Saturday night.

--Freshman defensive tackle Omar Hunter (ankle) did not make the trip to Arkansas last week and has not practiced this week. (Sounds like a typical medical redshirt situation to me.)

--I watched Harvin and running back Emmanuel Moody walk off the practice field on Wednesday. Harvin appeared healthy but Moody had a considerable limp.

Florida picked up its third commitment for the 2010 recruiting cycle on Wednesday and it was a big one. West Palm Beach Dwyer athlete Matt Elam (6-0, 205) orally committed to attend the University of Florida. Elam is projected to be the top recruit in the state of Florida next season.

Oral commitments are non-binding and Elam won't sign with Florida until February of 2010. According to Rivals.com writer Adam Gorney, Florida is the only program in the country with three commitments for the 2010 recruiting cycle.

Not too long ago, Meyer did not like to receive early commitments. His philosophy is changing slightly, he said on Wednesday. Florida's 2010 oral commitments include Elam, Venice quarterback Trey Burton and Fleming Island lineman Ian Silberman.

"It's risky," Meyer said. "You're talking about taking them off of sophomore tape and they're playing their junior year right now. I'm not a big fan of it but like I said if you already know them, know their families and know what they're all about."

Elam, a two-way star for Dwyer but projected as a safety for UF, first met Meyer 10 years ago when Meyer was an assistant at Notre Dame. Elam's brother, Abram, was recruited by Meyer as a receiver for the Fighting Irish.

"I do remember him then," Elam told Rivals.com. "[Meyer] actually taught me a wide receiver's stance then. After that we didn't talk at all. Then I heard he was at my high school my freshman season to recruit a teammate of mine. So I found him and introduced myself. Coach Meyer remembered me and the rest is history. That's when I really starting liking Florida."

Back in January, former Pompano Beach Blanche Ely cornerback Patrick Peterson (at the time his name was Patrick Johnson) caused a stir when he told reporters that Florida had alerted the NCAA of problems with Peterson's ACT score. Peterson called Florida "cowards" at the time. On Wednesday, Meyer said Florida never contacted the NCAA about Peterson's ACT scores.


Can UF beat LSU with limited Harvin? (with poll)

Rainey_2Little known fact: When UF running back Chris Rainey [PICTURED, NO.8] was a true freshman, he refused to play in shoes. (Much like a young Pele.) UF coach Urban Meyer is a big shoe guy (free trips from Nike), so the coach protested Rainey's no-shoe antics and redshirted the former Lakeland High running back. Now you know why Rainey wears shoes. Here's a picture from Rainey's rebellious days a true freshman, refusing to lace up his Nikes during a game.


With Moody, Moore and Harvin nursing ankle injuries, will RBs Demps and Rainey be enough to balance the Gators' offense

GAINESVILLE -- Percy Harvin didn't practice on Tuesday, Kestahn Moore is doubtful for Saturday's game against LSU and Emmanuel Moody is unable to play. All three players are suffering from ankle injuries.

If you're counting, that's three potential Florida running backs who are either questionable, doubtful or out for Saturday's game against No.4 LSU (4-0, 2-0). On Tuesday, Meyer said that he thinks Harvin's ankle should be healthy enough to play. Of course, if history is any kind of guide, when Meyer's players don't practice until Wednesday, that usual means they will play a limited role on game day. Assuming Harvin is an exception to the rule, expect the Gators to at least limit his backfield carries and focus Harvin's efforts at slot receiver.

Percyharvin_001Can No.11 Florida (4-1, 2-1) upset LSU with a limited Percy Harvin? The gambling establishment certainly believes so. News of Harvin's practice status on Tuesday did nothing to the betting lines. According to one offshore betting service, Florida is favored by six points.

With Harvin [PICTURED, NO.1] limited, Moore either out or limited and Moody out, the bulk of the Gators carries will fall to quarterback Tim Tebow, junior return specialist Brandon James and underclassmen running backs Chris Rainey and Jeffrey Demps. (Where are Mon Williams, Bo Williams, Chevy Walker and Jarred Fayson when you need them?)

ANYWAY, Tebow's rushing yards are down this season while Rainey and Demps just turned in the best games of their young careers. Rainey is a redshirt freshman and Demps is a true frosh. They combined for 206 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Arkansas. James, the return man, has performed well in spots as a running back but hasn't had any significant success out of the backfield.

Rainey's and Demps' performances against Arkansas provided hope for this week, but is anyone out there really convinced Rainey and Demps can run the ball effectively against LSU based on the Arkansas game? Arkansas ranks last in the SEC in average rushing defense (208.4 yards per game). Meanwhile, LSU is ranked third and only allowing an average of 69.0 yards per game. The Tigers have allowed just three rushing touchdowns this season.

DempsRainey and Demps [PICTURED, NO.2] had touchdown runs of 75, 48 and 36 yards against Arkansas but, according to Tebow, long touchdown runs by those players would only be a bonus against LSU. Tebow says Rainey and Demps must help establish the Gators' short-yardage running game.

If the long run isn't there, Tebow says it's important that Rainey and Demps "get us two or three yards and keep us in a good down and distance."

More to the point, Tebow was asked directly if UF needed big games from Demps and Rainey to win.

"I think so," Tebow said. "Do they need to make 80-yard runs like they did last week? I don't know. That would be nice -- be extremely nice -- but just manage the ball; get us in good down and distances; if they're in pass protection, make sure they pick up their blocks: those types of things first to keep the offense going and then, when they get in the open field, if they make somebody miss, that's just a plus."


October 07, 2008

REPORT CARD: Gators grade out at 91.8 percent

Changing up the weekly grades a bit. I'm sure everyone will enjoy...

GAINESVILLE -- Florida junior Brandon James is Gator Clause's player of the week for his contributions against Arkansas. James had a two-yard touchdown catch, executed a fake punt for a first down and recovered a fumble on special teams. And, if not for a blocking penalty, James would have also had a punt return for a touchdown. Player of the week runners up include sophomore strong safety Ahmad Black (blocked field goal), sophomore cornerback Joe Haden (interception), freshman running back Jeffrey Demps (two touchdowns).

Junior quarterback Tim Tebow, competing with a sore back, tossed his first interception of the season in the third quarter against Arkansas. He made up for the error, however by leading an impressive touchdown drive to begin the fourth quarter. Tebow has missed on a few deep passes the past two games but he leads the SEC in passing efficiency with a league-best completion percentage of 61.7 percent. He also has the highest quarterback rating in the SEC (148) and leads the league in touchdown-to-interception ratio (plus-seven).

RUNNING BACKS 94 percent
Underclassmen running backs Chris Rainey and Jeffrey Demps combined for 206 yards rushing. Demps scored a 36-yard touchdown on first down-and-30 in the second quarter, bailing out his penalty-prone offensive line. He also scored with a minute left in the game. Rainey rushed for a 75-yard score in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Some say Rainey and Demps rushing yards were deceiving because many of the yards came in the fourth quarter. Another way to view it, these speedy backs are serious weapons in any fourth quarter when opposing defenses are slower.

RECEIVERS 92 percent
Senior Louis Murphy (five catches, 70 yards) turned in his best game of the season and junior Percy Harvin had a touchdown catch. Junior Carl Moore and redshirt freshman Deonte Thompson got involved. They had two receptions each for a 68 yards combined.

Take away the penalties and Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that the offensive line played its best game of the season. Florida had two 100-yard rushers for the first time since 1997. Eight penalties and one sack subtract from the total.

PLAY CALLING 94 percent
Florida scored every time it reached the red zone (3-for-3) and scored a touchdown on a first down-and-30 situation. Also, the Gators converted 3-of-3 fourth-down chances.

SPECIAL TEAMS 97 percent
Aside from the blocking penalty on Brandon James' would-be punt return for a touchdown, the Gators were at their best on special teams. Chas Henry averaged 46 yards per punt and placed two inside the Arkansas 20. James successfully faked a punt and also recovered a fumble on punt defense. Ahmad Black blocked a field goal.

The Gators registered four sacks but allowed Arkansas running back Michael Smith to gain 133 yards on 20 carries (an average of 6.7 yards per carry). UF freshman Matt Patchan recorded his first career sack.

LINEBACKERS 89 percent
Arkansas' crossing patterns caught the Gators' linebackers by surprise as Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick threw for 220 yards. A.J. Jones forced a fumble and Brandon Hicks, making his first career start, had six tackles.

SECONDARY 93 percent
Defensive backs Major Wright and Joe Haden led the Gators in tackles (11 each). Haden had an interception at the goal line to end a scoring threat. Ahmad Black made several touchdown-saving tackles.

OVERALL 91.8 percent
These days the Florida Gators' toughest critics are their own fans. But despite what you might read on a message board, Florida is playing like one of the best teams in the Southeastern Conference. No.11 Florida (4-1, 2-1 in SEC) is leading the league in scoring average (36 points) and is ranked third in average scoring defense (11.4 points). The Gators played above both of those averages against Arkansas.


September 26, 2008

No.1 USC loss signals statement weekend for UF

Twenty-three years since a No.1 lost to an unranked team. That is, until Oregon State 27, No.1 Southern Cal 21 on Thursday night ... Thoughts? I got a couple: How does Penn State vs. Florida sound? What about Missouri vs. Georgia?

GAINESVILLE -- Speaking of unthinkable upsets. Ole Miss nearly upset Florida in 2007. This happened for two reasons.

1. Tim Tebow
2. Seth Adams

Tebow, of course, is the Florida quarterback who rushed for two scores and 166 yards on 27 carries last year against the Rebels. He prevented the upset and is back for Round 2.

Anyone remember Seth Adams? Didn't think so. Seth Adams, not back for Round 2, was the Ole Miss quarterback in 2007. He wasn't anything special, but he was nearly good enough to beat Florida last season. Ole Miss racked up nearly 400 yards of offense against the Gators. Let's you know how bad UF's defense was last season.

Round 2 of this wonderful SEC East vs. SEC West Raycom special features a new Ole Miss quarterback. His name is Jevan Snead and he must be good. He was once committed to Florida.

Snead is apparently better than Adams. I'm not convinced -- never really a fan of players who de-commit from one school (Florida) and then later transfer from another (Texas). Ole Miss seems like the college football haven for quarterbacks who think they're better than they really are. (See Brent Schaeffer of Deerfield Beach). Come to think of it, it all makes perfect since. Ole Miss always thinks it's better than it actually is.

ANYWAY, everyone keeps telling me that Snead is a great quarterback. At first, I believed them. I'm not convinced anymore. Snead has thrown seven interceptions in his last three games. He's an inexperienced quarterback and now he's playing at The Swamp against a Florida team that is plus-nine in turnover ratio. This is the fourth game this season Florida has faced an inexperienced quarterback.

Ole Miss (2-2) at No.4 Florida (3-0)
When: 12:30 p.m.
TV: Raycom
Series history: Ole Miss leads 11-10-1

DL Greg Hardy (foot, out)
DE Jermaine Cunningham (knee, questionable)
LB Ryan Stamper (ankle, questionable)
QB Cam Newton (ankle, questionable)
OL Maurice Hurt (neck, questionable)
DT Torrey Davis (disciplinary, out)
DT John Brown (hand, out)
TE Cornelius Ingram (knee, out)
SS Dorian Munroe (knee, out)

Any Gators watching TV late last night? The No.1 team in the nation lost. OK, but on a Thursday night? I thought Thursday nights were reserved for bingo. ANYWAY, the significance of Southern Cal's epic collapse Part II (Stanford in 2007 was Part I) should not be lost on any team in the AP Top 10. With the No.1 ranking up for grabs, this weekend is all about making a statement to national voters. Let's take a look at the match-ups this weekend for teams in the AP Top 5.

No.1 USC (Believe it or not, USC could still be in the national title picture at the end of the season. USC losing was good news for any one loss team. Auburn?)
No.2 Oklahoma vs. No.24 TCU: Game against ranked opponent comes at great time for Oklahoma to make a case for being No.1.
No.3 Georgia vs. No.8 Alabama: A big win in Athens could vault Georgia into the No.1 spot. AP voters are apparently in love with Bama.
No.4 Florida vs. Ole Miss: Voters not sold on Gators yet. Florida fans apparently no sold on Gators yet. I think I'm the only person in the country that thinks Florida is the best of the best.
No.5 LSU vs. Mississippi State: A letdown game? Not a chance.

It is conceivable that Florida could be the No.1 team in the country on Sunday. TCU is a quality football team and many believe Alabama is going to upset Georgia (for the record, I am not one of those people).

Does ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit have a man-crush on Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford?

I'm sure Jevan Snead is upset he has to miss tonight's presidential debate. Ole Miss is hosting a presidential debate tonight (Friday) between U.S. Senators and Presidential candidates John McCain (Ariz., R) and Barack Obama (Ill., D).

According to UF defensive line coach Dan McCarney, it's a no brainer. He says Ole Miss' offense is much better than Tennessee's. Florida beat Tennessee 30-6.

"I thought Tennessee had a heck of an offensive line -- I think Mississippi is better," McCarney said. "[Tennessee] had a good solid quarterback. I think this one is better. Running backs, they're using four of them. I like them all."

Four is exactly the number of running backs that Florida has at its disposal. (Five if you include receiver Percy Harvin.) Emmanuel Moody was the featured back against Tennessee? Who gets the call against Ole Miss? How would you break down the carries? Here's what I would shoot for if I'm Florida OC Dan Mullen...

UF BACKFIELD BREAKDOWN (projected number of carries)
RB Emmanuel Moody: 12
WR Percy Harvin: 10
RB Chris Rainey: 8
QB Tim Tebow: 8
Others (Jeff Demps/Louis Murphy/Aaron Hernandez) 5
RB Kestahn Moore: 0

Florida coach Urban Meyer made a point to complain and complain and complain about the NCAA's new clock rules this week. (Cheating the players, he says...please.) Some reporters took the bait and wrote about the new clock rules like they're killing college football. Here's a thought: Just shut up and play football. If college football is going to sell its soul to the television networks, then the TV networks are going to be able to dictate how the game is played. (ESPN is going to be dictating a whole heck of a lot more in the future, so get used to it.) If Meyer wants more plays, then his offense needs to be more efficient and better prepared to run more plays. Quicker substitutions, better play calling (Mullen should always be two plays ahead of his offense) and a no-huddle offense should allow for more chances for Florida to run up the score on people. (And isn't that what it's all about?)

Ole Miss' best player is receiver Mike Wallace. He toasted Florida's secondary last season and just last week Wallace returned a 98-yard kickoff for a touchdown. Meyer says that Joe Haden is turning into an All-SEC cornerback. We shall see.

5. Pressure the quarterback. Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead is apparently still adjusting to the speed of the SEC. He tossed four interceptions against Vanderbilt last week. If UF defensive end Carlos Dunlap has a big day, then that will go a long way towards Florida beating Ole Miss. (We're assuming UF defensive ends Jermaine Cunningham and/or Justin Trattou will line up opposite Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher.)

4. Contain Ole Miss receiver Mike Wallace. Wallace is averaging 136.3 all-purpose yards in his last three starts.

3. Keep an eye on the battle between UF guards and Ole Miss defensive tackles Peria Jerry and Ted Laurent. If these players get in the backfield consistently, it could be a long day for the Florida offense. Both Jerry and Laurent have 4.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Strong efforts from UF guards Jim Tartt and Mike Pouncey and center Maurkice Pouncey are critical.

2. Score touchdowns in the red zone. Florida settled for field goals last week against Tennessee. If Florida's offense continues to be limited by the new play clock rules, then the Gators need to score touchdowns. Tebow is money from inside the red zone. I repeat: Let Tebow run the ball inside the red zone.

1. Get one big play from either special teams or the defense.

Is Wondy Pierre-Louis or Janoris Jenkins starting at cornerback? My guess is both players will see significant amounts of playing time. Expect a lot of 3-3-5 from Florida with Janoris and Wondy at cornerback and Joe Haden at the nickel. If Florida doesn't trust Wondy to perform, expect more playing time for Markihe Anderson if the Gators stick with the 3-3-5. Anderson will play the nickel and Haden will move back to the edge. (This is what I would do.)

UF is a 22-point favorite. Sounds about right to me. Ole Miss' close losses to Wake Forest and Vanderbilt were devastating for an emotionally vulnerable program. If Florida goes up early, then expect a blowout. UF 42, Ole Miss 17


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:
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?

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."

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.

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.

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.


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."


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.


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.


September 02, 2008

Percy breaks his silence...no kidding, we've posted the entire audio file just to prove it

GAINESVILLE -- Florida receiver Percy Harvin spoke with reporters today, something that hasn't happened since 1983. (No one really actually remembers. 1983 is just a guess.) I know, I know. Prove it, you say. OK...CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON BELOW! 

Percy Harvin speaks on Sept. 2, 2008 A.D.

(In a related story, white smoke was seen billowing from the Vatican ... I mean Gateway of Champions.)

Here are some of the highlights from Percy's chat:

1. Percy says he has participated in full contact drills for two days (Monday and Tuesday).
2. He's not sure if he'll play on Saturday but if he keeps progressing then he likely will.
3. Percy has a few aches and pains "but nothing significant."
4. Percy wanted to play against Hawaii but Florida coach Urban Meyer said no.
5. Percy weighs 202 pounds.
6. Percy says there were no setbacks with his rehabilitation. He wasn't cleared to begin running at full speed until mid August.
7. "If I had to redo it all over, I would do it the same way," Harvin said. [Wonder if NFL general managers will feel the same way come April?]
8. Doctors drilled holes in Percy's heel and shaved off some bone. "It was pretty nasty," Harvin said.
9. Percy says "maybe" he would have liked to have the surgery sooner. [Yeah, like in high school.]

--Meyer said on Tuesday that Harvin still isn't back to his old self but is a dynamic player nonetheless.

--Meyer said sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez was "full go" during practice on Tuesday. No word if Hernandez is playing on Saturday. Meyer told me on Monday that redshirt senior tight end Tate Casey will start in some packages. [I asked Meyer about Casey because, on Sunday, Meyer didn't want to talk about Hernandez.]

--LB Ryan Stamper (broken thumb) and OG Jim Tartt (shoulder) remain questionable for Saturday's game.


August 27, 2008

Harvin, Spikes, Hurt are out; Ronnie Wilson moves back to O-line; Patchan wowing coaches

GAINESVILLE -- Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney said on Wednesday evening that Ronnie Wilson has been moved back to the offensive line and could begin competing for a spot on the Gators' two-deep offensive line depth chart immediately.

"Tough guy and strong guy," McCarney said. "He's got to help our team somehow, some way."

Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Wednesday that reserve offensive lineman Maurice Hurt (neck stinger) will be unavailable for Saturday's season opener against Hawaii. Hurt is a second-string right guard behind Mike Pouncey. Meyer also said that receiver Percy Harvin and linebacker Brandon Spikes are doubtful for Saturday.

There are two likely reasons why coaches moved Wilson back to offensive line. One, Wilson wasn't very good at defensive tackle. Two, they don't need him anymore because freshman Matt Patchan is wowing coaches in practice. Patchan has only been back to full-contact practice for three days and already McCarney likes what he sees.

"His motor never stops and when you say go play relentless for the Gators he understands that about as good as anybody," McCarney said. "The short time he has practiced he has really, really left a strong impression on everybody."

McCarney plans to play 9-10 players in the defensive line rotation. Here's an educated guess at list: Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap, Justin Trattou, Duke Lemmens, Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, Matt Patchan, Troy Epps, William Green and Javier Estopinan.

--Torrey Davis is not working with the defense. He is out of shape, according to McCarney and working with trainers during practice.


August 23, 2008

Harvin back on the field but limited; Tebow says Harvin at full speed

GAINESVILLE -- Florida receiver Percy Harvin practiced sparingly on Saturday. It was Harvin's first action since the beginning of fall camp, according to Florida coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Tim Tebow. 

Meyer said that "there's a chance" that Harvin could play in the season opener next Saturday against Hawaii. The decision will be made next week, Meyer said.

Tebow said Harvin practiced at full speed even though the receiver did not participate in contact drills.

For those that want to try and read between the lines, Meyer did not mention Harvin among the Gators' top four receivers.

"[Louis] Murphy, Carl Moore and Riley Cooper have separated themselves and then Deonte Thompson," Meyer said. "Those guys have to all be on the same page and going."

The Gators will not practice on Sunday. For the players, the break comes as a welcomed respite. Florida practiced for over two hours on Friday while Tropical Storm Fay was passing over Gainesville. The Gators practiced for 2 1/2 hours on Saturday as well.

"Right now on offense we're not very good because we're beat up," Meyer said. "I'm kind of counting on Monday when the ball is snapped we have our best 11 players going and right now they're not."

"He still didn't do everything but he did a lot," Tebow said. "You notice there's a different gear when Percy steps onto the field."

"Everybody has been going the whole fall camp and their legs are a little blown and a little slower then Percy comes out full speed, it makes everyone look a little slower."

--Freshman defensive lineman Matt Patchan practiced with the scout team on Saturday. Meyer said Patchan will rejoin the defensive line rotation on Monday.

--Meyer said that running back Emmanuel Moody, the transfer from Southern Cal, isn't the all-purpose back the Gators would like him to be. There is room for improvement, according to Meyer.

--Senior kicker Jonathan Phillips is ahead of freshman Caleb Sturgis, according to Meyer.

--Freshman defensive tackle Omar Hunter continues to participate in full-contact drills.

--Meyer remembering his first conversation with running back Chris Rainey: "Ever sit with a three-year-old and had a good, solid discussino about Santa Claus? That's what it was like. Now we talk about life, football and academics. It's kind of neat now. We're beyond the Santa Claus thing."

RECRUITING: Seffner Armwood defensive end Ryne Giddins (6-4, 235 pounds) attended the Gators' practice on Saturday.


August 19, 2008

Oddsmakers think Harvin is healthy; Set betting line at 1,500 yards; UF favored to win SEC over UGA; Plus a bookie's insight

A different and off-beat angle on some UF storylines that you guys won't read anywhere else...

GAINESVILLE -- Working hard today for you guys. I was in Orlando early Wednesday morning to cover Sen. Barack Obama's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. You can find that story on MiamiHerald.com, if you like. I missed UF's Wednesday practice, obviously, but I still have some interesting notes to pass along.

In between listening to and analyzing Obama's speech, I conducted an interview of sorts with an online gambling house, BoDogLife.com. The boys at BoDogLife.com, an offshore sports book, have set a collection of gambling lines and odds for various college football statistical measures, including the Heisman Trophy and BCS national championship. You can beat on pretty much everything, if that's your sort of thing.

One of the numbers that caught my eye was the website's over/under on UF receiver Percy Harvin's combined rushing and receiving yards. The line is set at 1,500 yards. Last season, Harvin combined for 1,622 yards receiving and rushing. I asked the betting house if they "knew something I didn't" regarding Percy's injury.

"[Harvin] was running full speed in earlier practices this week," said Jimmy Shapiro, a publicist for BoDogLife.com "I think they are just being more cautious than anything at this point. I'm OK with the number."

It should be noted that Harvin must play in the first game of the season for the wager to have action. Read into that however you like.

Still, 1,500 yards seems like an interesting number, considering Harvin had over 1,600 combined receiving and rushing yards last season and missed two games.

Another interesting number that sticks out is BoDogLife.com's odds for UF to win an SEC championship. UF has better odds than Georgia. In the BCS odds, Georgia is slightly ahead of Florida. UGA has 5-1 odds to win the BCS title. Florida is 11/2 (5.5/1).

Keep in mind that these numbers only mean that this online sports book thinks people will jump at these odds. Nothing else.

In addition to the sports book's publicist, I also spoke with Richard Gardner, BoDog sports book manager, about the numbers and odds placed on UF quarterback Tim Tebow.

“The Florida Gators should score a lot of points this season, something they have been doing ever since Tim Tebow took over the reigns," Gardner said. "This season, Tebow should put up similar numbers through the air but his Ground numbers should be smaller due to the influx of talent In the Florida backfield. USC transfer Emmanuel Moody and freshmen Chris Rainey should take away some carries that would normally be reserved for Florida’s do-all quarterback.

"Tebow’s passing numbers should improve in terms of yardage, however, don’t expect a big increase in his touchdowns through the air. Expect the Gators to pound the ball in with their new and improved running game and Tebow’s touchdown numbers should decrease slightly from last season as a result."

Gardner, online sports bookie, on the early numbers for BCS champion betting trends. And also a few betting tips:

"This should be a very interesting year in the BCS. With heavyweights Ohio State and USC playing early in the season, the race for the No.1 spot in the BCS will be heated early in the season. We have seen a substantial amount of money come in on Ohio State in the past week and currently have them No.2 behind USC in terms of shortest odds.

"The No.1 ranked team, Georgia, comes in third, but injury concerns and suspensions have made the bettors shy away from them so far. The rest of the top six come in with Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma as all short-odd favorites to take home the BCS championship. A team to watch out for is Texas Tech. They have been bettors' favorites for most of this offseason, and at 30/1 may be the best value on the board.”


More UF-related wagers at BoDogLife.com. In blue font, I added last year's numbers:

Odds to win the 2008 BCS National Championship      
Florida                          11/2

2008 Regular Season Wins - Florida
Over                              10 (-130)
Under                            10 (EVEN)

Odds to win the SEC Conference
Florida                           3/2
Georgia                          2/1
Auburn                           3/1
LSU                                4/1
Alabama                         7/1
Tennessee                      9/1
South Carolina                15/1
Mississippi                      35/1
Arkansas                        40/1
Mississippi State            45/1
Kentucky                        50/1
Vanderbilt                      50/1

Odds to win the SEC East Division
Florida                            4/5
Georgia                           5/4
Tennessee                       4/1
South Carolina                  8/1
Kentucky                         20/1
Vanderbilt                       30/1

How many Passing Yards will Tim Tebow (FLA) have in the 2008 Season?
Over/Under        3,550 3,286

How many Passing TD’s will Tim Tebow (FLA) have in the 2008 Season?
Over/Under        32  32

How many Rushing Yards will Tim Tebow (FLA) have in the 2008 Season?
Over/Under        725  895

How many Rushing TD’s will Tim Tebow (FLA) have in the 2008 Season?
Over/Under        18 .5   23

How many Combined Receiving and Rushing Yards will Percy Harvin (FLA) have in the 2008 Regular Season?
Over/Under 1,500   1,622

How many combined Receiving and Rushing TD’s will Percy Harvin (FLA) have in the 2008 Regular Season?
Over/Under        12    10

Odds to win 2009 BCS National Championship
USC                             7/2
Ohio State                   4/1
Georgia                       5/1
Florida                       11/2
Oklahoma                    6/1
Missouri                     14/1
West Virginia             15/1
LSU                            20/1
Texas                         20/1
Clemson                     22/1
Virginia Tech              30/1
Tennessee                  30/1
Wisconsin                   30/1
Auburn                       35/1
Texas Tech                40/1
Florida State              50/1
Illinois                        50/1
Penn State                  50/1
Michigan                     50/1
Alabama                     55/1
Miami                         60/1
Notre Dame                65/1
South Florida              75/1

Odds to win the 2008 Heisman Trophy
Tim Tebow (FL)                        7/2
Chris Wells (Ohio St.)                6/1
Chase Daniel (Missouri)             6/1
Knowshon Moreno (UGA)           8/1
Michael Crabtree (TTech)         10/1
Pat White (WVU)                      10/1
Sam Bradford (Okl)                   14/1
DeMarco Murray (Okla)             15/1
Matthew Stafford (UGA)           15/1
Graham Harrell (TTech)           16/1
Percy Harvin (FL)                     20/1

August 18, 2008

Duke Lemmens gearing up for the storm; Plus Meyer's (lack of) thoughts on Rainey vs. Harvin

FYI, folks. Gator Clause will be away from Gainesville on Tuesday and Wednesday, helping The Miami Herald's news section with tropical storm/hurricane coverage...If I can't get around to posting on Tuesday, Wednesday and possibly Thursday, then you guys will know why...

GAINESVILLE -- Gator Clause is gearing up for Tropical Storm Fay and so is Florida defensive end Duke Lemmens. Lemmens, a sophomore from sunny California, said on Monday that he's going to invest in an umbrella for the storm.

LemmensNeedless to say, Lemmens [PICTURED], a sophomore, got a few laughs from reporters today with that statement. Lemmens praised junior linebacker Brandon Spikes for his leadership during fall camp. Lemmens also said that the attitude of the defense is an improvement from last year and that "everyone is taking pride in what they're doing."

"The D-line is as close as I've ever seen it," said Lemmens, a back-up end. "It's the same with the [linebackers] and everyone is following Spikes and he is leading for us. He's doing an incredible job being a leader for us."

--Omar Hunter practiced with the team on Monday. Hunter has been limited to individual workouts due to his sore back. Lemmens is impressed with Hunter's potential but also said that Hunter is still out of shape.

"It was so good to see [Hunter] out there today," Lemmens said. "Coming out of high school so highly recruited, it's hard on someone's ego but he has always kept a level head. I know it's really good for him to be out there.

"He looks very explosive off the ball and I even saw get up into the Pouncey's a little bit, which shows his strength. Everyone here knows what the Pouncey's can do."

--When asked, Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that he did not discipline receiver Percy Harvin for his fight with redshirt freshman Chris Rainey. Meyer acted like he either didn't know about the fight or isn't worried about it.

"That's a minor thing," Meyer said. "Fights during practice happen every once in a while."

--Florida might cancel one practice this week due to Tropical Storm Fay. Meyer said on Monday that the Gators are ahead of schedule and could afford to cancel one practice. He would prefer, however, to practice through the week.

"I worry about the weather," Meyer said. "We can't have wasted time. So we're making sure our plan is in order because we can't just waste practices."

Meyer said he plans to conduct two practices on Wednesday and simulate a scrimmage against Hawaii on Tuesday. Back-ups will play the role of Hawaii.

--Carl Moore and David Young have lost their newcomer helmet stripes.


August 17, 2008

PODCAST: Receiver Percy Harvin is not a team leader; Does it matter to UF's success?

Your weekly Sunday podcast...

Harvin_2GAINESVILLE -- Florida receiver Percy Harvin started a fight with freshman running back Chris Rainey during fall camp. Harvin is a junior and a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. He is also, arguably, the most gifted athlete in college football.

But Harvin [PICTURED] has a history of assaulting other athletes and is a maverick among his teammates. Will Harvin's poor attitude affect the Gators' chances of winning a national championship? Gator Clause addresses the important topic on this podcast. Run time is four minutes and 21 seconds. Click the play button.


Podcast edited and produced by Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald.

August 08, 2008

Percy, Spikes didn't show up to media day


GAINESVILLE -- Florida's annual preseason media day was this morning. It's when all the reporters from around the state (and some from around the country) travel to Gainesville to interview the Gators' players. It's really a shame that two of the team's most important players decided not to show.

Percy Harvin was nowhere to be seen and neither was Brandon Spikes. Florida's official statement as to why these players skipped out: No clue.

I've got a suggestion. Maybe it's because a Sports Illustrated photographer wasn't there. No Erin Andrews, then no Percy, right?

Not cool.

Let the speculation begin, I guess. What else are reporters supposed to write about today? Percy Harvin, the Heisman Trophy candidate who is slow to recover from offseason heel surgery, can't even meet the press? (Must be pretty bad.) Spikes can't either?

Well, at least we know Tim Tebow is an accountable team leader. Tebow spoke at length with reporters today. In other words, Percy didn't show and Tebow was stuck answering questions about why his best receiver isn't practicing right now.

I don't know much about Percy's situation (He's hurt) but I do know this: Don't expect Percy or Spikes to be around next year for media day either.

(Check back later for more from media day, including behind-the-scenes pictures of Florida's new weight room and coaches' offices.)


August 06, 2008

Jeffrey Demps limping after last play of practice

GAINESVILLE -- Last play of practice and Jeffrey Demps goes down with what looks like a left knee injury. Doesn't look good. Hopefully it's just a cramp but trainers were with him on the ground for a couple minutes.

--Percy is taking another day off, apparently.
It doesn't look like Chris Rainey is practicing today either. Chris pulled a leg muscle on Tuesday.

--Kickers Caleb Sturgis and Jonathan Phillips both just made 47-yard field goals. Sturgis' was good from 55, at least. Phillips' kick barely cleared the bar.

--On to newcomers, as promised. (Oh, Bob Tebow makes his first apperance of the fall today.)

--One-on-one drills now. Deonte Thompson just juked Ahmad Black out of his shoes.

--Newcomer Ronnie Wilson getting one-on-one insruction from D-line coach Dan McCarney.

McCarney appears to be teaching Wilson the basics. Wilson's technique looks a lot like an O-lineman.

--Mike Pouncey, first-year starter, just nailed LB Ryan Stamper back five feet.

--O-line coach Steve Addazio of Wilson: "He's not even in the box. He's not even in this hemisphere.

--It's standing-room only here at the practice field. They're about to start turning fans away, I'm told.

--Full team drills: Newcomer Janoris Jenkins picks off QB John Brantley.

--Moses Jenkins on a cornerback blitz. Nice speed to chase Brantley down.




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