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.

-jo-

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.

-jo-

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

August 07, 2008

Is Aaron Hernandez ready to take over?

GAINESVILLE -- While Florida Nation awaits the status of Cornelius Ingram's knee, let's focus on the guy who will be starting at tight end if Ingram has a serious injury.

AaronHernandez played in 13 games as a true freshman but mostly on special teams. He began to show flashes of his ability late in the season and finished the year with nine catches and two touchdowns. Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) was the No.2-rated prep tight end in the nation in 2007, according to Rivals.com.

Hernandez could play an important role for the Gators if Ingram's MRI revealed ligament damage. According to Florida coach Urban Meyer, Ingram injured his knee on Monday during 7-on-7 drills. Ingram had an MRI on Wednesday night.

Ingram returned to UF for his redshirt senior season despite an opportunity to be drafted professionally. If injured for the season, Ingram will only be eligible for a medical hardship (sixth year of eligibility) if Florida's staff can prove to the NCAA that Ingram was previously redshirted because of an injury. Ron Zook was the head coach at UF when Ingram was redshirted (2004).

So, is Hernandez ready to be a first-stringer?

IN THE NEWS: Former Gator safety Jerimy Finch might have transferred for family reasons. CLICK ME! for more news on Finch's transfer.

-jo-

August 06, 2008

Three days down; Three speedsters down

GAINESVILLE -- Florida's three fastest players are injured.

After three days of practice, the most memorable mental image of fall football camp at the University of Florida occured this afternoon when Percy Harvin (jersey No.1), Jeffrey Demps (No.2) and Chris Rainey (No.3) limped side-by-side-by-side to the back of Florida's practice field. (Otherwise known as "The Pit." It's where the injured players go and mill about during practice.

DempsHarvin didn't practice for the second straight day (offseason heel surgery). Rainey pulled a groin muscle on Tuesday and didn't practice today. Jeffrey Demps [PICTURED IN BLACK] fell to the ground after the final play of practice with what appeared to be a left knee injury.

Florida coach Urban Meyer said he did not know the severity of the injury but Demps limped off the practice field with the help of an assistant trainer. At one point during Demps' walk back to the Gators' locker room inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (about 350 yards), a person stopped Demps, put his arms around the football player and appeared to whisper words of encouragement into his ear. (It looked like they were praying but I couldn't tell for sure.) I'm hoping since Demps was allowed to walk all the way back to the locker room under his own power then that means he's OK.

Demps' injury occured on the last play of practice. As the rest of the team huddled, Demps remained on the ground. Trianers immediately converged. Demps, the high school track phenom from Orlando, nearly qualified for the Olympics this summer in the 100 meters. He ran a 10.01 at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials and is considered to be the fastest teenager in the nation.

According to some, Demps could have pursued a career in professional track after his showing at the trials but instead chose to report to Florida for college football.

MARCUS GILBERT STARTING AT LEFT GUARD

Gilbert--Redshirt sophomore Marcus Gilbert (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas/PICTURED) told me after practice that he is playing first-string left guard as well as second-string tackle while senior Jim Tartt rests an ailing shoulder. Marcus' elbow is completely healthy after a long rehab. He played all last season with a brace. He is brace free right now and looking great physically. He told me about six times that he was excited about this season.

--Sophomore safety Major Wright (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) told me after practice that the new safeties have "a long way to go" but that he sees potential. Major did say that freshman Will Hill has "the body and the skills" to contribute. Major Wright waited on Ahmad Black to finish interviews today. They walked back together and are apparently really close friends. Fans of high school mega programs Lakeland and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas will get a kick out of that little nugget.

-jo-

August 03, 2008

CAMP COUNTDOWN: Seven strengths in seven days...No.1: Experience, of course

Less than 24 hours until fall camp. Hope everyone enjoyed our CAMP COUNTDOWN. Posted below are individual links to the series...

7: TIGHT ENDS
6: SPECIAL TEAMS
5: BRANDON SPIKES
4: OFFENSIVE LINE
3: WIDE RECEIVERS
2: QUARTERBACKS
1: And the No.1 team strength entering fall camp is ... experience.

GAINESVILLE -- Last season was more about learning than it was about winning for the Florida Gators. The team that won a national championship in 2006 and the team that returned for 2007 were entirely different. From Tim Tebow to Urban Meyer, everyone had something to learn. Experience came in different forms.

061201_meyer_hmed_5phmediumFor Meyer, 2007 was the first time he had ever been a third-year head coach with a team. There were signs of inexperience. A number of Gators were arrested in the offseason following the national championship. The experience led to some in-house changes this offseason, including the hiring of full-time player mentor Terry Jackson. Distractions were limited this offseason. (Jamar Hornsby was dismissed from the team but that was addition by subtraction. Just my opinion.)

For Tebow, 2007 was about learning how to lead. He cried after losing to Georgia. The quarterback displayed a much different emotion after the Michigan defeat. He was just plain angry and admitted that his team lacked focus leading up to the bowl game.

Brandon Spikes wasn't in top form last August when the 2007 fall camp began. The experience helped him prepare his body correctly this offseason. Now, UF strength coach Mickey Marotti says Spikes is one of the Gators' most physically fit players.

Ncf_g_haden2_195One of the Gators' starting cornerbacks was a true freshman last season and the other was still learning how to play football. As a result, Florida's secondary was the worst in the Southeastern Conference. Joe Haden [PICTURED] and Wondy Pierre-Louis begin this season as preseason all-SEC defenders.

Those are just a few examples of how the Gators begin fall camp on Monday with the experience needed to vie for a conference and national championship. All told, the Gators return 17 starters. Depth and team speed are two of the Gators' greatest team strengths this season but experience might be the most important.

"With guys leaving early now -- and our championship year we had four guys on defense leave as juniors; last year we lost Derrick Harvey as a junior -- I think the shift of leadership has to go from the young players," Meyer said. "That's a big point of discussion with our group, and already has been, that just because you're a senior, that's not entitlement. We had some issues a year ago that weren't very good for our outfit. (Tony Joiner/Kyle Jackson?) If you're a sophomore, you walk the walk, talk the talk, do everything the right way, then you're a leader."

OK, with the countdown done and fall camp set to begin. Let's have some fun and predict the two-deep depth chart for offense and defense.

OFFENSE
LT: Phil Trautwein; Matt Patchan
LG: Jim Tartt; Carl Johnson
C: Maurkice Pouncey; Mike Pouncey
RG: Mike Pouncey; James Wilson
RT: Jason Watkins; Marcus Gilbert
TE: Cornelius Ingram; Aaron Hernandez
WR: Percy Harvin; Deonte Thompson
WR: Louis Murphy; Justin Williams
WR: Carl Moore; David Nelson
RB: Kestahn Moore; Emmanuel Moody
QB: Tim Tebow; Cameron Newton

DEFENSE
DE: Jermaine Cunningham; Carlos Dunlap
DT: Javier Estopinan; Torrey Davis
DT: Terron Sanders; John Brown
DE: Justin Trattou; Duke Lemmens
SLB: A.J. Jones; Ryan Stamper
MLB: Brandon Spikes; Lorenzo Edwards
WLB: Dustin Doe; Brandon Hicks
SS: Ahmad Black; Will Hill
FS: Major Wright; Will Hill
CB: Joe Haden; Markihe Anderson
CB: Wondy Pierre-Louis; Jacques Rickerson

SPECIALISTS
K: Caleb Sturgis; Jonathan Phillips
P: Chas Henry; Caleb Sturgis
PR: Brandon James; Chris Rainey
KR: Brandon James; Chris Rainey

FRIENDLY REMINDER: Free doughnuts!!!

-jo-

July 30, 2008

CAMP COUNTDOWN: Seven strengths in seven days...Brandon Spikes

There will be plenty of time during preseason practice and two-a-days to write about the unknowns. For one week, let's break down the Gators' perceived strengths...

FIVE DAYS TO GO ... BRANDON SPIKES

GAINESVILLE -- Consider this when you're in the local sporting goods store, trying to figure out which UF jersey to rock on Sept 6: The success of the 2008 Gators might have more to do with No. 51 than No.15. (Interesting how those numbers mirror each other, isn't it.)

Spikesbrandon06wcu01Gator Clause posed this question to Florida coach Urban Meyer during SEC Media Days: All things considered, is the leadership of Brandon Spikes more important to the team's success this year than Tebow's?

I got some weird looks (well, that's nothing new) from some of the 56,003 reporters in the press conference who wanted nothing more than to talk about Tim Tebow for 30 minutes. But Meyer's answer confirmed my suspicion: Brandon Spikes' responsibilities this season are just as demanding as Tebow's.

Meyer's response: "That's a great question. I'd probably agree with that. You're asking me the question, I'd probably say yes. I thought about that quite often. That's a big part of our success. It was a void last year. Brandon Spikes is a great player. Could be a great leader. That's going to be a big part of our success, if that happens."

Ncf_g_spikes_275_2Brandon Spikes didn't begin to fully develop into a good football player until the second half of the season last year. That was the case for three reasons: 1. He was a first-year starter; 2. He was a sophomore; 3. He had a poor offseason.

According to Meyer and UF strength coach Mickey Marotti, Spikes didn't improve himself physically or mentally during the summer before his sophomore season. In short, he didn't feel like he needed to earn his starting position. Spikes' lack of preparation left a major hole in the defense when Brandon Siler left for the NFL.

Marotti tells a different story about Spikes one year later. According to Marotti, Spikes was one of the Gators' hardest workers this summer. Marotti now says that Spikes has the work ethic of a captain and will be the fulcrum of the Gators' defense.

Spikes led the Gators with 131 tackles (81 solo) in 2007. He begins fall camp on the Ronnie Lott Trophy and Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch lists.

-jo-

July 28, 2008

CAMP COUNTDOWN: Seven strengths in seven days...Tight Ends

The kids go to summer camp in one week. There will be plenty of time during preseason practice and two-a-days to write about the unknown. For one week, let's break down the Gators' perceived strengths...

SEVEN DAYS TO GO ... TIGHT ENDS

GAINESVILLE -- At the beginning of the 2006 season, the tight end position was a weakness for the Gators. Cornelius Ingram, Florida's only reliable option, was still learning the position. One year later, tight end is one of the Gators' top seven strengths.

IngramIngram wisely passed on the NFL Draft and returned for his senior season and sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez is an emerging star. Florida's coaching staff is so excited about the possibility of using a two-tight end power set that Meyer told reporters about the plan during SEC Media Days.

"We have a luxury this year," Meyer said. "We have two very good tight ends, two guys that are going to be playing football for a living if they stay healthy. So, you'll see two tight ends in the game at the same time quite often because they're both dynamic receivers. That's probably an element we have not done a lot of just because of personnel.

"Two years ago or three years ago we introduced a fullback. Everybody said, 'What a great addition to your offense.' Yeah, because we had a great fullback. Our fullback is gone. Now we have these two tight ends. We've been working quite diligently on putting together a little package with that."

Finally, a red zone option that doesn't involve Tebow scrambling or bulldozing his way across the goal line. Of course, I'm excited about this for selfish reasons. I'll have something different to write about on Saturdays.

HernandezIt's not like passing to Ingram in the red zone will be anything new. He had 34 receptions for 508 yards in 2007. And while her anked fourth in team receptions, Ingram led Florida in receiving touchdowns. By the end of the season, Hernandez could be better than Ingram.

With TWO all-SEC caliber tight ends on the field in 2008, opposing defensive coordinators will be overmatched. Teams simply won't have the personnel to properly defend each of the Gators' options. At least, that's the plan.

-jo-

July 26, 2008

SEC podcast: Top 10 Countdown from Media Days

First a link to my story in this morning's Miami Herald...CLICK ME!

HOOVER, Ala. -- Here's the podcast outline. Run time is six minutes. Huddle up.

10. The BIG Prediction
9. The Percy Situation
8. Auburn, are you kidding?
7. Calling out the Dumbest Reporter
6. Meyer listens to the Gator Clause podcast?
5. The Race
4. Did you know? SABAN!
3. You know you're in SEC country when...
2. Mark Richt shut your mouth
1. A dramatic reading of Kentucky receiver Dicky Lyons, Jr.'s dream about Matt Stafford (Yeah, it's weird.)
BONUS FEATURES:
1. By The Numbers: STEVE SPURRIER
2. Predicting the Gators' breakout player of the year

CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON!!!


-jo-

July 19, 2008

"The Dark Knight" after Friday Night Lights...

Sometimes on Gator Clause you get more than you asked for...

GAINESVILLE -- In case you didn't know this already, Gator Clause oftentimes doesn't limit itself to writing about football. This is one of those times.

After stopping by The Swamp last night for Urban's recruiting emporium (Friday Night Lights), I went to the movies over on Archer road, watched The Dark Knight and drank Cherry Coke. Scroll down if all you want to do is read about Friday Night Lights. Keep reading if you're interested in my thoughts on the movie. I'm not going to write much about it (because I'm no Rene Rodriguez) but here are a few thoughts you might not have read anywhere else. 

The_dark_knight_outro_poster5. There's a reason why we love Batman. He's human and we can relate. He loves, he hates, he errs and he suffers. People understand the painful feeling of simply being overwhelmed with the problems of the day and that's just one reason why The Dark Knight is such a powerful film. This superhero is flawed just like you and me. Good writing -- in any form -- is hidden in the details. Most people can't relate to a billionaire vigilante but most people can relate to the fear of getting bitten by a dog, losing a loved one and not being liked.

4. The Dark Knight is a story about selflessness and choices. Batman must choose between what's best for Gotham (saving Gotham's District Attorney) or what's best for Batman (saving the girl he loves). Gotham's citizens and convicts must choose between saving themselves or putting the fate of their lives into the hands of total strangers. Rachel Dawes must choose between her promise to Batman or marrying Harvey Dent. And then there's the Joker, who makes no choices. He just does. The polarization of these two ideas (hero and villain/good and bad/human consciousness and animalistic savagery) manifests itself in the form of another character, Dent, who falls and becomes Two Face, a villain who lost everything (His girl, his good looks, his will and then his mind and conscience). The random flip of a coin becomes his moral guide.

3. Did anyone other than me whisper, "That's my bike, punk." just before Zeus delivers his only line of the movie?

2. The Joker was the star of this movie. He was more than a villain. He was pure chaos. There was no motivation behind his evil other than the motivation to be evil. He destroyed order without reason. No one even knows what drove the Joker to madness. It didn't matter. That's why he made up those elaborate stories about his facial scars. Most people are driven to evil because of a dark Dark_knight_18past or daddy issues. Not the Joker. Nothing created this, he explained to the audience. I just am. Again, this movie was well written.

1. The movie left us with two metaphors. Joker was literally left hanging. Was this a nod to Heath Ledger's untimely death? The second metaphor was the white knight/dark knight image of Batman and Dent lying side by side. The Dark Knight gets up and keeps running. You've got to be a little bad to do a lot of good.

DID YOU KNOW? The actress who played Rachel Dawes in Dark Knight (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is the niece of Anders Gyllenhaal, editor of The Miami Herald.

Feel free, folks, to leave your own thoughts on the movie. Now for my take on Friday Night Lights...

OK, let's first get one thing straight. I'm not here to write about all the recruits that were at Friday Night Lights. That's for the weirdoes over at Rivals.com and Scout.com. It's one thing that Urban and his staff want to get a jump on the classes of 2010 and 2011 but it's quite another thing if you think I'm going to write about how some juniors and sophomores in high school performed at a summer camp. No one spit up on their bibs or shoulder pads. There, enough said.

My official report:
There were about 150 high school kids. According to a couple parents, they were invited to this camp by UF's coaching staff in the form of a mailed letter. The price of admission was $35. The speakers inside The Swamp pumped trendy bubble gum hip-hop into everyone's ear canals within a 10-mile radius. (I really hate this new hip-hop. What happened to good rap?) I chatted it up with a couple parents from South Florida who shelled out major bread at the gas pump just to be there.

From Broward, I'll highlight the kids from Deerfield Beach who made the trip. Senior quarterback Denard Robinson looked pretty good. He's got a good arm and can scramble. I spoke with Merilyn Strawbridge, the mother of Deerfield Beach junior running back Cassius McDowell for about 20 minutes. The Bucks are pretty excited about the combination of Robinson and McDowell in the backfield this season. I'm pretty sure Florida's coaching staff will be at some games. Robinson and McDowell are both speedsters. They anchored Deerfield Beach's state championship 4x100 relay.

From Miami-Dade, I spoke with the father of Miami Northwestern junior slot receiver/running back Corvin Lamb. Lamb (5-10, 190 pounds) apparently ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times of the camp. Here's an interesting story about Lamb. He played at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas his freshman season and guess who gave him a ride to school every day? None other than the Gators' starting free safety Major Wright. (Now that's inside information you won't read anywhere else.) Pretty sure that means Lamb will take a close look at the Gators next season.

RaineySpeaking of Major Wright and St. Thomas Aquinas, I'll finish up this blog with a nice picture I took last night of former Lakeland standout Chris Rainey, who beat Wright's St. Thomas Raiders three straight times in the 5A state championship game. I'm pretty sure Major will never be borrowing this shirt from Rainey. (Rainey has put on some muscle, by the way. He's looking pretty good.)

Oh, one more thing. I spoke with Urban's wife Shelley Meyer on Friday night and asked her about this spinning class I've been hearing about. Meyer teaches a spin class at Gainesville Health & Fitness and guess what? That's right, I'm going to take the class and see if I can hang. Check back on Tuesday or Wednesday for details. Check back tomorrow for my first podcast of the football season. I'll have a top 10 list from the FSWA college football media days, talk about the football team's worst dresser (Will Hill) and also preview what's on the agenda for next week.

-jo-

July 15, 2008

Top 10 things UF fans want to know; Make your suggestions now

GAINESVILLE -- Gator Clause will be in Tampa on Thursday and Friday for the Florida Sports Writers Association press conferences. Every college football team in the state will be represented and sports writers will get their first chances of the preseason to ask questions.

UF's Urban Meyer will speak with reporters on Thursday. Here's your chance, oh faithful reader of this blog, to enter the conversation. Post a question for Meyer on this blog in the comment field or email me at jgoodman@MiamiHerald.com and I'll begin a list. I'll whittle the list down to 10 questions and make sure Meyer addresses each one.

This is your chance to be a UF beat writer, so don't let me down! I'll start it off with a few obvious questions Meyer must address:

5. Depth at safety took a few hits this offseason. What's the plan for the position heading into preseason practice?

4. What are some things the defense can do to offset the losses at safety?

3. The bad news is your defense is a little thin at one position right now. The good news is your defense returns nine starters. How is the defensive outlook right now compared to last season?

2. One of your main concerns this offseason was addressing the false sense of entitlement the underclassmen displayed before the beginning of the 2007 season. How would you describe the team's collective attitude on the eve of two-a-days?

1. Brandon Spikes had a poor offseason in 2007. This offseason, Spikes has really embraced what it takes to be a success at UF and a leader. How important is it to have a player of Spikes' importance embrace the program's philosophy and become a role model?

SPIKES NOW THE LEADER COACHES KNEW HE COULD BECOME
Gator Clause realizes it's a little backwards to pose a question about Spikes' poor offseason in 2007 without first explaining the background of that question. Well, whatever. That's the way it's going to be. Here's the explanation:

As many of you know, I spoke with UF strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti last week. One of the topics that came up was Brandon Spikes' newfound enthusiasm for working out. In the 2007 offseason, Spikes didn't take workouts very seriously and it led to a slow start in two-a-days last August.

"I don't know how much effort [Spikes] put into the weight room last year," Marotti said. "Like a lot of really talented athletes, he didn't have to work much in high school to be better than everybody, so I think a little bit of that carried over to college.
"He had an adjustment period and now his whole attitude is completely changed. Now he's talking about loving workouts and he knows how important the offseason is for his personal goals and the team's overall goals."

MAROTTI CAN'T WAIT FOR A DEMPS VS. RAINEY FOOTRACE
Jeffrey Demps wasn't on campus in Gainesville but for a few days and already Marotti wanted to pit the almost Olympian sprinter up against UF speedster Chris Rainey in footrace. Marotti talked about it but passed on the urge to see the two players dual.

"I almost raced them the other day but it wouldn't be fair," Marotti said. "I imagine there will be a race once we get in pads. We'll line them up. You've got to remember that Demps is one step away from being in the Olympics. That's really fast. He had like the fastest high school time ever."

Marotti says Demps is more than just a speed demon. UF's strength and conditioning coach was surprised at Demps' strength considering he's just an incoming freshman. Demps weighs 175 pounds but Marotti said the running back has the strength of someone who weighs 225 pounds.

Marotti made it sound like Demps has the potential to get a serious look during two-a-days for playing time as a freshman.

"We're going to see what he's all about," Marotti said.

-jo-

July 10, 2008

Guess who's 44 today; Hint: His name rhymes with "inspire." You guessed it, Urban Meyer

GAINESVILLE -- The master of inspiration, psychology, text-messaging and punt coverage turned 44 today. What better time for a college football coach to have a birthday than July 10? He actually has time to enjoy it. But, will Urban Meyer enjoy his 44th birthday? That depends on how many recruits reply to his emails today.

Urban_meyer_poster2Before we reveal one of UF's most improved football players of the year, let's have some fun with Coach Meyer's big day. The Top 10 Moments From Urban Meyer's Birthday.

10. Burned out folk singer Jimmy Buffet sings surprise concert in Meyer's backyard. Next-door neighbor Billy Donovan calls the cops.
9. Emmanuel Moody swings by Publix to pick up the birthday cake but drops it as he's walking in the front door.
8. Chris Leak shows up unannounced. It was a little awkward, but it worked.
7. The party moves to the front yard when Chris Rainey challenges Jeff Demps to a foot race. Meyer nixes the idea and spoils the fun. The reasoning? No one called ESPN.
6. Dorian Munroe relieves himself in the bushes. (This actually happened last summer during preseason practice.)
5. Kyle Jackson doesn't stay long but he brings by some tasty finger foods: deviled eggs, pickled eggs and succotash salsa.
4. Tim Tebow and Louis Murphy bless the food.
3. Bobby Bowden and Randy Shannon were hiding behind Dorian's bushes. That was kind of weird.
2. Wondy Pierre-Louis bumps into the grill and gets burned.
1. Brandon Spikes only needs one swing to decapitate the Knowshon Moreno piñata.

OK, boys and girls. Feel free to get a little creative and write in your own favorite moment of Urban Meyer's birthday bash. Check back tomorrow for UF strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti's most improved player of the year. Hint: It's a South Florida special!

***By the way, this poster of Urban kills me. I know UF is a football school, but come on. First off, aren't there any writers around campus these days who could have posed for this picture? What happened to Harry Crews? (That's a joke, by the way.) And, I know The Swamp is a cradle of knowledge but shouldn't Meyer actually be in front of the library? And "Read...Urban Meyer @ your library."  Since when is "@" part of the English language? What is this, a PSA directed at the text-message generation? And, why is Meyer holding a self-help book? I know a UF professor wrote the book, but is that the best Florida can offer the world of letters these days? OK, random and dorky rant over.

-jo-

May 15, 2008

NCAA 09 overall ratings: Florida, Miami, FSU, UGA, LSU and Tenn.; Tebow leads all with 99

HERE'S SOMETHING WE CAN ALL ARGUE ABOUT ...

GAINESVILLE -- For those video game nuts out there, here's a sneak peek at some individual player ratings for NCAA '09. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has an overall rating of 99. Percy Harvin has a speed rating of 98.

Some random thoughts: Florida tight end Cornelius Ingram isn't rated among the Gators' best...LSU defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois appears to be underrated...Florida linebacker Dustin Doe is overrated...What, no Drew Weatherford?...A punter is Tennessee's second highest rated player...Georgia's video-game likeness looks pretty stinking good.

-jo-

FLORIDA

Tim Tebow, junior, quarterback 99

Percy Harvin, junior, wide receiver 96

Brandon Spikes, junior, middle linebacker 95

Dustin Doe, junior, outside linebacker 93

Phil Trautwein, redshirt senior, offensive tackle 92

Jim Tartt, senior, offensive guard 91

Maurkice Pouncey, sophomore, offensive guard 91


MIAMI

Eric Moncur, senior, defensive end, 93 (Miami)

Randy Phillips, senior, cornerback, 92 (Belle Glade)

Lavon Ponder, senior, safety, 91 (Miami)

Colin McCarthy, junior, outside linebacker, 91

Jason Fox, junior, offensive tackle, 90

Graig Cooper, sophomore, running back, 88

Darryl Sharpton, junior, linebacker, 88 (Coral Gables)


FLORIDA STATE

Myron Rolle, sophomore, rover (strong safety), 97

Derek Nicholson, junior, middle linebacker, 94

Everette Brown, redshirt sophomore, defensive end, 94

Antone Smith, junior, running back, 92 (Pahokee)

Marcus Ball, sophomore, outside linebacker, 92

Preston Parker, sophomore, wide receiver, 92 (Delray Beach)

Patrick Robinson, sophomore, cornerback, 91 (Miami) 


GEORGIA

Knowshon Moreno, sophomore, running 96

Dannell Ellerbe, senior, middle linebacker 95

Asher Allen, junior, cornerback 95

Jeff Owens, senior, defensive tackle 95 (Plantation)

Trinton Sturdivant, sophomore, offensive tackle 93

Matthew Stafford, junior, quarterback 93

Prince Miller, junior, cornerback 92


LOUISIANA STATE

Herman Johnson, redshirt senior, offensive guard, 96

Tyson Jackson, senior, defensive end, 93

Darry Beckwith, senior, middle linebacker, 95

Curtis Taylor, senior, free safety, 94

Ciron Black, junior, left tackle, 94

Al Woods, junior, defensive tackle, 93

Kirston Pittman, senior, defensive end 93


TENNESSEE

Demonte Bolden, senior, defensive tackle, 94

Britton Colquitt, senior, punter, 94

Robert Ayers, senior, defensive end, 94

Eric Berry, sophomore, defensive back, 94

Rico McCoy, junior, outside linebacker, 91

Lucas Taylor, senior, wide receiver, 91
Josh McNeil, junior, center, 89

May 09, 2008

Hornsby's career likely done at Florida

LINK TO THE STORY: UF football player charged in credit card fraud

GAINESVILLE -- Nice knowing you, Jamar Hornsby. Well, not really.

Hornsby was accused on Friday of using the BP gas card of Ashley Slonina, a UF student who died in a motorcycle accident in October 2007 along with Florida walk-on quarterback Michael Guilford. If true, that's pretty much one of the most disgusting things I've ever written. My fingertips feel dirty just typing it.

Imagine the Slonina family. Imagine receiving that credit card statement every month for the last six months. Tragic.

What's most bizarre about all this is that Slonina was the girlfriend of Florida cornerback Joe Haden. How did Hornsby get Slonina's credit card? According to Slonina's father, Hornsby took the card from Ashley Slonina's apartment while helping the family remove her personal belongings one day after the accident.

Hornsby emerged from spring football as a back-up safety to Major Wright. Florida coach Urban Meyer praised Hornsby this spring for showing signs of his potential. So much for that. There's no way Meyer can save Hornsby now.

Florida has lost two safeties in as many weeks. Back-up Jerimy Finch was recently granted permission to transfer.

-jo-

May 05, 2008

Hoops gains a player; Football loses one

A FEW NOTES...

GAINESVILLE -- The Gators' basketball team will likely fill the loss of center Marreese Speights with a transfer from Georgetown. Vernon Macklin (6-9, 230 pounds) visited Gainesville last weekend and is apparently ready to enroll. Macklin, who averaged 3.4 ppg and 2.1 rpg last season for the Hoyas, will have to sit out a season due to NCAA transfer rules. Macklin played with Speights at the prep-school level (Hargrave Military in Chatham, Va.), so he's got to be pretty smart.

In football news, reserve linebacker Jerimy Finch (the guy who broke his leg in the fourth quarter against Tennessee last season) is reportedly transferring out. Finch, who Urban Meyer said was struggling academically, was buried on the linebacker depth chart at UF but will likely play safety elsewhere...perhaps Indiana.

-jo-

May 03, 2008

Gators' rookie-camp roundup: Leak asking God for help

AROUND NFL ROOKIE CAMPS...

In Kansas City, former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak is asking God to help him make the Chiefs' 70-man summer roster. Leak, who went undrafted in 2007, was cut by the Bears last year before getting involved with the AAFL, the has-beens league that never happened. Said Leak: "I'll leave it in the Lord's hands." It's probably time Leak accepted his fate and became a quarterbacks coach for Illinois.

EggheadIn Tampa, safety Kyle Jackson (pictured) is trying to make the Bucs' 80-man team. Jackson was benched his senior season at Florida in favor of a true freshman. No word yet if the Bucs are fitting Jackson with a special helmet. In Nashville, Florida's other former (car-boosting) safety, Tony Joiner, is serving as a tackling dummy for football players who actually have a shot at making an NFL roster.

One of Gator Clause's favorite former Gators, offensive lineman Carlton "Package Store" Medder is trying out for the Arizona Cardinals. Medder used to make me laugh out loud when he would show up for Monday press conferences wearing -- no lie -- a discount card for a Gainesville liquor store around his neck. Medder should fit right in with Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinhart. Or maybe not. That would be one crowded hot tub.

Former Florida offensive lineman Drew Miller is in Jacksonville with defensive end Derrick Harvey. Miller actually has a pretty good shot of making the Jags' practice squad, where he would presumably go up against Harvey every day in practice.

In Cincinnati, former UF receiver Andre Caldwell is being praised daily for not being Chad Johnson or Chris Henry.

-jo-

Gators to raise awareness for charities with strength-and-agility competition

GAINESVILLE -- Anyone ever stumble across a cable TV show called Ninja Warrior while flipping through the channels? Hilarious stuff. Basically, it's a Japanese reality show aimed at exploiting dorks. The producers find the weirdest people possible (this is just me assuming everyone in Japan is not like the people on this show) and run the freaks through obstacle courses suspended about 10 feet above some nasty, muddy water. See dork run. See dork fall. See dork splash. Repeat.

Now imagine the freaks on Florida's football team running around and risking bodily harm for your entertainment. (OK, I realize that happens every Saturday in the fall.) ANYWAY, part of Florida's annual summer workout rigors always include a strength-and-agility competition. This is nothing new. What is new is that the competition is open to the public this summer and will take place at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Friday, July 25. Mark your calendars.

Ninja_warrioThe athletic department is calling the event "Friday Night Lights," or some derivative of that. According to one of the football players, a large portion of the football team is going to split into six groups and compete against each other in several different athletic disciplines: Pulling tires, roller derby, four square, calf roping, etc... The winners get nothing. They're amateurs, duh. Each team, however, will "represent" a charity already associated with Shands Medical Center. For some reason, the UAA was hesitant to say the football team was going to raise money for charities. Apparently, the NCAA frowns on raising money for anyone accept the NCAA.

Here's hoping that the athletic department let's crazy ol' coach Urban Meyer design a bizarre obstacle course in the vein of Ninja Warrior. Or, better yet, here's hoping Urban Meyer competes with the dorks of Team Sportwriter against his own players. Now, that would be weird. (All in the name of charity, of course.)

-jo-



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