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Tuesday September 1, 2015 Saturday can't get here soon enough for Gators TE Jake McGee

Updated: 1:56pm, September 1

Veteran tight end Jake McGee, right, has been a mentor to his younger teammates such as RS freshman C'yontai Lewis. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – It’s not difficult to imagine a modest list of goals for Jake McGee this season:

  1. Play a full quarter.
  2. Play a complete game.
  3. Catch a pass.
  4. Score a touchdown.
  5. Don’t break a leg (maybe this should be No. 1).

A sixth-year senior, McGee was granted an additional year of eligibility after he suffered a season-ending injury on his ninth play in a Florida uniform. Fully recovered, McGee has reason to be as excited as anyone Saturday when the Gators host New Mexico State in the season opener.

The one-year anniversary of his injury is Sunday, a day that, if all goes well Saturday for McGee, will be spent reviewing film from a victory over the Aggies mixed in with some rest following a good performance.

“It’s here now. If you’re not fired up and ready to go, it might not be the thing for you,’’ McGee said of the opening game. “I’ve just been anxious. Camp has winded down and now we’re here at game week, I’m just waiting for Saturday.”

McGee figures prominently into Florida’s offensive plans as the veteran among the receivers and tight ends. McGee caught 71 passes for 769 yards and seven touchdowns in his final two seasons at Virginia.

After graduating in the spring of 2014, McGee enrolled in graduate school at Florida with one season of eligibility remaining. And then before he got his uniform dirty, he was hurt in Florida’s 65-0 win over Eastern Michigan.

McGee said he spent a few days in the dumps but quickly regrouped and focused on turning his misfortune into a positive. A year later McGee has clearly done that.

“The recovery went great. I could have done [full-contact workouts in] spring but Coach was just cautious with me,’’ McGee said. “There really haven’t been any issues at all.”

As McGee rehabbed and first-year coach Jim McElwain took over the program, he took on more of a leadership role under the new coaching staff.

He is the senior voice among a talented but young group of tight ends that includes sophomore DeAndre Goolsby and redshirt freshmen C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens.

“They’ve still got their baby faces,’’ McGee said.

Lewis emerged in fall camp as a player to watch. McGee keeps a close eye on him.

“He stays on me about my weight,’’ Lewis said. “He makes me study the playbook. Every day he constantly coming after me to make sure I’m writing down my plays. He stays on me.”

McGee’s top priority is to help the Gators have a good season in his swan song to college football. He’ll then turn his focus toward a potential future in the NFL.

At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, McGee has a combination of size and speed that NFL scouts covet. But first, back to that list of goals.

Monday August 31, 2015 2015 college football rule changes you should know

Updated: 4:42pm, August 31

College football has adopted several rule changes for the 2015 season. (File photo)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The tailgate parties haven’t started yet, but a quick walk around Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and you can sense the campus is alive more than usual.

Yep, football season is close.

The Gators host New Mexico State on Saturday night (7:30, SEC Network) in the 2015 season opener and the first game for new Gators head coach Jim McElwain.

To help you get ready and perhaps save you some confusion, here are a few rule changes in place for this season:

EIGHT OFFICIALS INSTEAD OF SEVEN

The new official, the center judge (the guy with the letter “C” on his uniform), will be positioned in the offensive backfield opposite the referee. The SEC experimented with one eight-man officiating crew a season ago.

NO MORE OVERBUILT FACEMASKS

You have probably seen a defensive or offensive lineman over the years with a facemask that looks a lot different than most other players, one characterized by greater weight and smaller space between the bars. Those are not allowed any longer. Officials determined there was a safety issue because opponents can easily get their fingers caught in the tight space.

PLAYER HAS TO SIT A PLAY FOR ILLEGAL EQUIPMENT

In the past if officials noticed a player was using illegal equipment, his team was charged with a timeout. The new rule states the player must sit out at least one play and cannot return until the equipment is made legal.

SIDELINE WARNING RETURNS

Instead of a 5-yard penalty, officials will return to giving teams an initial sideline warning when players/staff leave the designated bench area. Penalty yardage will be assessed on a second infraction.

NO PUSHING, PULLING OPPONENT OFF PILE

If there is pile of players, usually when a fumble occurs, officials will hand out 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalties for players who pull or push opposing players off the pile.

INSTANT REPLAY TWEAK

Officials can now use instant-replay reviews to determine if a kicking-team player blocked a player on the receiving team before the ball travels 10 yards on onside kicks.

GET WARM

Teams are now guaranteed they may remain on the field for pregame warm-ups until at least 22 minutes prior to the opening kickoff. Officials were concerned teams were being forced into the locker room early for other pregame functions on the field.

RESETTING OF GAME CLOCK

If the play clock runs down to 25 seconds before the football is ready for play, officials will reset the clock to 40 seconds. Previously, the play clock was not reset until 20 seconds remained.

HELMET CLOCK RULE

If a defensive player’s helmet comes off in the final minute of a half, 10 seconds will be run off the game clock and the play clock will be reset to 40 seconds. Previously, the play clock was reset to 25 seconds. Officials report there were minimal situations in the final minute of a half where the offense had to take an extra snap to run out the clock due to a defensive player losing his helmet.

*****

SPINE INJURY RECOMMENDATIONS

This is not a rule change, but rather a modification of how spine-injured players should be cared for on the field immediately after a suspected injury.

Based on an executive summary of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, “it is essential and now recommended that, when appropriate, in an emergency situation with equipment intensive sports (e.g., helmets and shoulder pads in football, hockey and lacrosse), the protective equipment be removed prior to transport to the hospital.”

The alteration is based on multiple factors, including advances in equipment technology, expedited access to the athlete-patient for enhanced provider care, and chest access is prioritized.

Freshman offensive lineman Martez Ivey is out indefinitely with a leg injury. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators head coach Jim McElwain announced prior to Thursday night's practice that freshman Martez Ivey, one of the top offensive line prospects in the country, is out indefinitely due to an unspecified leg injury.

Ivey reported pain in the leg Thursday and will undergo what McElwain described as a "scope" on Friday morning.

"Found a pre-existing thing that was kind of bothering him,'' McElwain said. "We'll get that cleaned up. Have no idea exactly when his return will be."

Ivey emerged in preseason camp as the potential starter at left tackle. In Ivey's absence, sophomore David Sharpe will move from right tackle to the left side, and freshman Fred Johnson will play right tackle. Graduate transfer Mason Halter can also play either left or right tackle.

McElwain added that fifth-year senior Trip Thurman, working primarily at left guard, can also move outside if needed to provide depth. Redshirt freshman Travaris Dorsey (leg) returned to practice this week at guard, which allows Thurman to rotate positions if needed.

Right guard Antonio Riles has been impressed with Ivey's development in his short time on campus.

"It's a big blow for us, but I think Martez is going to be perfectly fine,'' Riles said. "We've all cross-trained certain positions, so I wouldn't be surprised if there are guys who are gonna step up. I've played left and right. Sharpe plays left and right. Halter plays left and right. I'm sure everybody will adjust to it and we'll be just fine."

*****

DOUBLE DOSE

McElwain reiterated Thursday that quarterbacks Treon Harris and Will Grier will both play in the season opener Sept. 5 against New Mexico State.

McElwain said playing both was the likely plan on Tuesday after practice.

"It will play itself out,'' McElwain said. "There isn't a timetable. The timetable is figure out a way to win the football game with whoever is moving the team at that position and getting the right parts at the other positions as well.

"By no means am I displeased with what they're doing, but we still need to see them in live action and ... how they elevate the play of the people around them."

--GatorZone.com senior writer Chris Harry contributed to this report.

Tuesday August 25, 2015 Gators Q&A: Receiver Alvin Bailey

Updated: 3:55pm, August 25

Receiver Alvin Bailey is entering his third season at UF. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – When he was a quarterback/receiver as a junior at Armwood High, Alvin Bailey once connected with former Gators running back Matt Jones on an 80-yard touchdown pass to clinch a victory in the state championship game against Miami Central.

When Bailey was a senior, he played his final high school game here at Citizens Field a few miles from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, a 42-10 loss to a Gainesville High team featuring Chris Thompson, who is now Bailey’s teammate at UF.

That November 2012 region championship is the last time Bailey recorded an official stat in a game. He was redshirted at UF in 2013 and played in six games a season ago on special teams and at receiver without showing up on the scoresheet.

Alvin Bailey

The 5-foot-11, 192-pound Bailey remains a mystery. Will he contribute as a redshirt sophomore in 2015, or fade into oblivion as the program transitions to a new era under first-year coach Jim McElwain?

The opportunities are there for Bailey and other unproven players to crack the lineup if they can show the new coaching staff they can contribute.

Here is a Q&A with Bailey as he attempts to make an impact on the college level:

Q: Who are the receivers that can step up behind Demarcus Robinson and Brandon Powell?

A: I think we’ve got a bunch of playmakers. We are going to use mostly everybody … spread it out so everybody is going to get a chance to make plays, instead of it being the other team focusing on one player.

Q: Is this a complex offense for receivers to learn?

A: It’s pretty much easier. Everything is laid out. If you don’t know it, then it’s not like this offense isn’t for you. Coach Nuss [offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier] make it simple for every receiver to understand what they have to do on the play and everyone knows each assignment on film.

Q: What’s it like as a receiver competing against the Gators’ secondary at practice?

A: Going against our secondary is like going up against anybody in the NFL. I mean, we've got the best secondary I think in college football. You know you got Vernon Hargreaves, Brian Poole, Marcus Maye. You got guys like Jalen Tabor. How can it not be tough going against those guys?

Q: What are your personal goals this season?

A: I think I did pretty good with the offense [in spring practice]. Coach Nuss and Coach Mac, they sat us down, talking to the receiver group and said that they need players to step up and I think I’ve done that this camp.

Q: Most of your work coming from the slot?

A: A lot. A lot. Me and Brandon, we work with each other to get each other better each and everyday in the slot.

Sunday August 23, 2015 Unranked Gators to face six teams in AP Top 25 preseason poll

Updated: 2:35pm, August 23

The Gators have a challenging schedule in Jim McElwain's first season with six games against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 preseason poll. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators will open the 2015 season unranked in the national polls.

However, they have ample opportunity to climb into the rankings once the season starts.

Florida plays six teams ranked in the AP Top 25 poll, which was released on Sunday afternoon. The USA Today/Amway Coaches Poll was released last month.

Ohio State became the first team to be the unanimous preseason No. 1 in the AP poll's history.

Eight Southeastern Conference schools are ranked: 3. Alabama; 6. Auburn; 9. Georgia; 14. LSU; 17. Ole Miss; 18. Arkansas; 24. Missouri; 25. Tennessee.

The Gators face Tennessee (Sept. 26), Ole Miss (Oct. 3), at Missouri (Oct. 10), at LSU (Oct. 17) and vs. Georgia (Oct. 31) in Jacksonville in consecutive games. They end the season at home against Florida State, ranked No. 10.

Sunday August 23, 2015 Six Gators walk-ons awarded scholarships by McElwain

Updated: 10:57pm, August 23

Defensive back Garrett Stephens was one of six walk-ons to be awarded scholarships on Saturday. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators took the field Saturday for the first time in their new indoor practice facility, a day they will undoubtedly remember.

However, for six Gators, their memories of Aug. 22, 2015, will have a more personal touch. Head coach Jim McElwain awarded them scholarships on Saturday.

Walk-ons Case Harrison, Roger Dixon, Garrett Stephens, Bair Diamond, Steven Stipe and Dakota Wilson were put on scholarship for their contributions to the program.

Three of the players work on offense -- Harrison is a running back, Dixon plays receiver, and Diamond is a tight end -- and three are on defense. Wilson is a defensive lineman, Stipe a linebacker and Stephens a defensive back.

The former walk-ons primarily work on the scout team to help the Gators prepare throughout the week at practice.

Friday August 21, 2015 Three Gators to miss opener against New Mexico State

Updated: 4:26pm, August 21

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators will be without three players the first game of the season.

Due to University Athletic Association policy, defensive lineman Alex McCalister, defensive back Marcus Maye and receiver Latroy Pittman will not play Sept. 5 against New Mexico State.

A redshirt junior, McCalister had six sacks last season. Also a redshirt junior, Maye has started 11 games in his career. Meanwhile, Pittman has served primarily as a role player in his three seasons, catching 19 passes for 188 yards entering his senior season.

Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is the second-team QB on the FWAA's Silver Anniversary All-America Team. (File photo)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Tim Tebow was the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy and helped the Gators win two national championships.

How does the Florida icon rank among the best to play college football?

Based on the Football Writers Association of America's Silver Anniversary Team, Tebow is one of the game's all-time greats. So is former UF defensive lineman Jack Youngblood.

Tebow and Youngblood are the two Gators to earn spots on the FWAA's 75th Anniversary All-America Team, announced Thursday. The team celebrates the association's All-America teams from near the end of World War II through the 2014 season.

"This was one of the most fun, yet most difficult exercises I've had in life – next to parallel parking, that is," said FWAA 75th All-America Committee chairman Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman. "Truly, it was an exciting – if not impossible – task to find the best 75 college football players ever. Please save your hate mail, but feel free to weigh in and tell us how we messed up."

Florida fans might ask, "How is Tebow not the first-team quarterback?" Then again, former Navy Heisman winner Roger Staubach was pretty good, too. Staubach earned first-team honors and former Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier was selected as the third-team QB.

How was the team selected?

According to a press release from the FWAA: The team was chosen after nomination ballots with selected players from all FWAA All-America teams was sent to the entire membership this spring. The popular vote was then taken into consideration by a Blue Ribbon Committee of FWAA past presidents, current board members and officers. That committee put the finishing touches on selecting the 75-man team. In order for a player to be considered for the FWAA's 75th team, he had to be on a previous FWAA All-America team.

**********

75th ANNIVERSARY FWAA ALL-AMERICA TEAM

FIRST TEAM OFFENSE

QB

Roger Staubach

Navy

RB

Archie Griffin

Ohio State

RB

Herschel Walker

Georgia

WR

Larry Fitzgerald

Pittsburgh

WR

Jerry Rice

Mississippi Valley State

TE

Keith Jackson

Oklahoma

OL

John Hannah

Alabama

OL

Orlando Pace

Ohio State

OL

Will Shields

Nebraska

OL

Ron Yary

USC

C

Dave Rimington

Nebraska

FIRST TEAM DEFENSE

DT

Lee Roy Selmon

Oklahoma

DT

Ndamukong Suh

Nebraska

DE

Leon Hart

Notre Dame

DE

Ted Hendricks

Miami (Fla.)

LB

Tommy Nobis

Texas

LB

Mike Singletary

Baylor

LB

Derrick Thomas

Alabama

DB

Ronnie Lott

USC

DB

Deion Sanders

Florida State

DB

Jack Tatum

Ohio State

DB

Charles Woodson

Michigan

FIRST TEAM SPECIALISTS

P

Ray Guy

Southern Miss

K

Kevin Butler

Georgia

RS

Johnny Rodgers

Nebraska

SECOND TEAM OFFENSE

QB

Tim Tebow

Florida

RB

Tony Dorsett

Pittsburgh

RB

Barry Sanders

Oklahoma State

WR

Fred Biletnikoff

Florida State

WR

Randy Moss

Marshall

TE

Mike Ditka

Pittsburgh

OL

Bill Fralic

Pittsburgh

OL

John Hicks

Ohio State

OL

Calvin Jones

Iowa

OL

Jonathan Ogden

UCLA

C

Chuck Bednarik

Penn

SECOND TEAM DEFENSE

DT

Merlin Olsen

Utah State

DT

Randy White

Maryland

DE

Hugh Green

Pittsburgh

DE

Bruce Smith

Virginia Tech

LB

Brian Bosworth

Oklahoma

LB

Dick Butkus

Illinois

LB

Luke Kuechly

Boston College

DB

Champ Bailey

Georgia

DB

Kenny Easley

UCLA

DB

Jerry Gray

Texas

DB

Ed Reed

Miami (Fla.)

SECOND TEAM SPECIALISTS

P

Russell Erxleben

Texas

K

Mason Crosby

Colorado

RS

Raghib Ismail

Notre Dame

THIRD TEAM OFFENSE

QB

Tommie Frazier

Nebraska

RB

Bo Jackson

Auburn

RB

Doak Walker

SMU

WR

Anthony Carter

Michigan

WR

Calvin Johnson

Georgia Tech

TE

Gordon Hudson

BYU

OL

Barrett Jones

Alabama

OL

Willie Roaf

Louisiana Tech

OL

Jerry Sisemore

Texas

OL

Dean Steinkuhler

Nebraska

C

Jim Ritcher

N.C. State

THIRD TEAM DEFENSE

DT

Steve Emtman

Washington

DT

Reggie White

Tennessee

DE

Bubba Smith

Michigan State

DE

Jack Youngblood

Florida

LB

Jack Ham

Penn State

LB

Lee Roy Jordan

Alabama

LB

Chris Spielman

Ohio State

DB

Dré Bly

North Carolina

DB

Dave Brown

Michigan

DB

Troy Polamalu

USC

DB

Roy Williams

Oklahoma

THIRD TEAM SPECIALISTS

P

Rohn Stark

Florida State

K

Tony Franklin

Texas A&M

RS

Derek Abney

Kentucky

75th Anniversary All-Americans by school (75 players from 41 schools): Nebraska 6, Ohio State 5, Pittsburgh 5, Alabama 4, Oklahoma 4, Texas 4, Florida State 3, Georgia 3, Michigan 3, USC 3, Florida 2, Miami (Fla.) 2, Notre Dame 2, UCLA 2, Auburn 1, Baylor 1, Boston College 1, BYU 1, Colorado 1, Georgia Tech 1, Illinois 1, Iowa 1, Kentucky 1, Louisiana Tech 1, Marshall 1, Maryland 1, Michigan State 1, Mississippi Valley State 1, Navy 1, North Carolina 1, N.C. State 1, Oklahoma State 1, Penn 1, Penn State 1, SMU 1, Southern Miss 1, Tennessee 1, Texas A&M 1, Utah State 1, Virginia Tech 1, Washington 1.

75th Anniversary All-Americans by current conference: Big Ten Conference 19, Atlantic Coast Conference 15, Southeastern Conference 13, Big 12 Conference 10, Pac-12 Conference 7, Conference USA 3, Independents 3, American Athletic Conference 2, Ivy League 1, Mountain West Conference 1, Southwestern Athletic Conference 1.

Thursday August 20, 2015 Halter landed unexpectedly with Gators and welcomes the challenge

Updated: 9:26am, August 20

Graduate transfer Mason Halter (No. 75) is vying for a starting spot on Florida's offensive line. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – One of the most famous football coaches in history, Vince Lombardi, graduated from Fordham.

So did Vin Scully, arguably the greatest baseball announcer of all-time.

Denzel Washington, one of the most successful actors of his generation, is a Fordham man.

How does Mason Halter stack up against some of Fordham’s most famous alumni?

Well, the 6-foot-6, 295-pound Halter owns a huge size advantage and he was a two-time All-American for the Rams.

That’s a good start for a guy who is now in graduate school at Florida and a candidate to start on the Gators’ offensive line.

A three-year starter at Fordham, located in New York City, Halter did not play as a freshman in 2011 after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. Over the next three seasons Halter became a standout offensive tackle for the Rams, who play in the Patriot League.

However, the Patriot League does not acknowledge redshirt seasons, so with one year of eligibility remaining and his Fordham undergraduate degree in hand, Halter committed to play his final season at Old Dominion until Florida called in the spring.

Mason Halter

“Offensive line was thin here,’’ he said. “I just kind of went on the market. My coaches from Fordham helped me out.”

Fordham tight end coach Ian Pace is the brother of Gators graduate assistant Christian Pace. He vouched for Halter, who decided he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to play at Florida and test his skills against Southeastern Conference defensive linemen.

“It just seemed like a great fit for me,’’ Halter said. “Definitely a big jump in talent. It’s great for me. I love the challenge. It’s going to make me a better offensive lineman.”

Halter is learning about his new team on the fly.

The Gators can say the same about Halter.

Mason Halter is kind of the wild card,” coach Jim McElwain said. “He's a guy that's proven he can play a couple spots.”

Halter is adjusting to the Florida summer heat during camp and has his good days and bad days. He is anxious to experience a game in The Swamp.

In his final game at Fordham, Halter played in front of about 2,500 fans.

If the Patriot League honored redshirt seasons, Halter said he would still be at Fordham preparing for the Rams’ opener on Sept. 4 at Army. He was not looking to leave.

Instead, he’ll be in a Gainesville hotel that night anticipating his Florida debut the next day against New Mexico State.

“This is a lot different situation,’’ he said.

Monday August 17, 2015 Gators icon Tim Tebow draws standing O from hard-boiled Philly fans

Updated: 8:44am, August 17

Tim Tebow returned to an NFL field on Sunday. He returned to UF last September for his role with the SEC Network. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Tim Tebow’s wait finally ended with seven minutes left in the third quarter in Philadelphia’s preseason opener Sunday against Indianapolis.

In his first appearance in an NFL game in two years, Tebow entered to a standing ovation from Eagles fans in their 36-10 victory.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

He chuckled when asked about the ovation later by a throng of reporters.

“I was thankful,’’ he said. “But I was also like, ‘They won’t be able to hear me? We’ll have to go [to a] silent [count].’ It’s very humbling. It definitely means a lot.”

Tebow had not played on the NFL stage since the 2013 preseason with New England. He was cut prior to the season and sat out the season while trying to improve his throwing mechanics.

And then with no offers, Tebow put his playing career on hold as an analyst for the SEC Network a season ago. However, Philadelphia called Tebow in April and based on reports, the former Gators star has a solid chance of making the team as the third-string quarterback.

He did nothing to hurt his chances on Sunday, completing 6 of 12 passes for 69 yards. He rushed four times for 15 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown run.

Anytime Tebow plays he makes headlines. Here are some fresh links on Tebow’s performance Sunday:

--Tim Tebow has uneven preseason debut in Eagles’ win writes Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today.

--Tim Tebow still in lead over Matt Barkley in Eagles’ 53-man roster prediction writes Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com.

--Uneven Tim Tebow shakes off rust against Colts writes Conor Orr of NFL.com.

--Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly: ‘I really liked how Tim Tebow threw the ball’ writes Mark Eckel of NJ.com

--Tebowmania takes over Lincoln Financial Field writes David Murphy of Philadelphia Daily News.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As the Florida football team participated in Fan Day inside the O'Connell Center on Saturday afternoon, a construction crew nearby worked outside in the hot and humid conditions.

The workers continued to put the finishing touches on the Gators' new $17 million indoor practice facility. The building rose from the ground quickly this summer after extensive groundwork was completed in the spring.

First-year Gators head coach Jim McElwain has a formulated plan on how to use the facility once it is ready to move in, which is expected by the end of the month.

"I was able to learn from a master on this, obviously, at one of the stops," McElwain said following Friday afternoon's scrimmage under the mid-August sun.

Hint: McElwain was at Alabama as offensive coordinator for Nick Saban when the Crimson Tide's indoor facility got a makeover in 2009.

While the facility will allow the Gators to take cover when Mother Nature gets cranky, escaping inclement weather is not the only use McElwain has in mind for the facility.

Taking a break from Florida's famous heat is important, too.

"Anytime you can just take the heat-drain off, it helps you in the long run,'' McElwain said. "It helps you be a little fresher at the end of the year."

McElwain said during the regular season, the plan is for the Gators to practice outside Monday through Wednesday, and then go inside for Thursday's practice and Friday's walk-through.

Friday August 14, 2015 Dillard at center of Gators' quest to build a formidable offensive line

Updated: 9:41am, August 14

Center Cam Dillard is holding his ground as he works toward a starting position on Florida's inexperienced offensive line. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Considering the uncertainties about Florida’s offensive line and his job stepping into a position manned a season ago by Max Garcia, perhaps the Gators’ most consistent player in 2014, you could understand if center Cam Dillard was a bit anxious as a group of reporters surrounded him this week.

Sweat poured off Dillard’s forehead. The interrogators fired away.

After it was over, Dillard made a confession.

“I’m not nervous, I’m just hot,’’ he said.

Understandable. After all, the Gators had just finished practice earlier and Dillard is getting a lot of reps in preseason camp as the team’s projected starting center.

A redshirt sophomore from Canton, Mich., Dillard played in four games a season ago. But with Garcia playing at a high level and one of the team’s most respected players, Dillard spent most of his time watching and learning.

“He was very good at leading the offensive line and getting guys on the same page,’’ Dillard said. “He’s a really good guy to be behind last year and learn things from.”

Dillard also learned from another teammate as a true freshman two years ago. Those lessons came the hard way.

“I had to go against [Dominique] Easley, so I learned a lot against him,’’ Dillard said. “That was not fun.”

After two years in study hall, the Gators hope Dillard can anchor a young offensive line as the man in the middle.

Dillard has accepted the challenge, tossing his 6-foot-4, 308-pound frame into the path of human bulldozers to establish his ground.

“We butt heads every day,” defensive tackle Joey Ivie said. “We’re only making each other better.”

Dillard and true freshman Tyler Jordan are taking most of the snaps at center. Both players are relying on the tutelage of veteran offensive line coach Mike Summers to help overcome their lack of experience at one of the most important positions on offense.

“You’ve got to get five guys on the same page,’’ Dillard said. “You have to talk every play, every snap. That’s crucial.”

Dillard is spending as much time studying in the film room as on the practice field.

Florida head coach Jim McElwain retained Summers -- the only coach from last year’s staff still here -- because he knows Summers’ reputation as one of the best teachers in the game.

“I also felt having that continuity with the O-line group that was here, that was really important moving forward’’ McElwain said. “His experience both at the collegiate level and the NFL level was something that was really important.”

Dillard steps onto the practice field each day with a plan to walk off somehow a little better player than before.

He’ll try to do the same in Friday’s scrimmage, the first of camp.

“Looking forward to getting out there and showing what the offensive line can do,’’ he said. “We go against one of the best defenses in the SEC, so it helps us get better every day.”

Class remains in session.

Wednesday August 12, 2015 Gators freshman CeCe Jefferson has fit right in at preseason camp

Updated: 10:58pm, August 12

Freshman CeCe Jefferson, center, has made a strong impression the first week of preseason camp. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- CeCe Jefferson apparently meant what he said on National Signing Day.

When Jefferson decided to sign with UF in February, he made the announcement live on ESPN.

ESPN’s Rece Davis asked: “Why Florida?”

“I feel at home there. I fit into the defense they are trying to bring,’’ said Jefferson, adding that having offensive lineman Martez Ivey as a teammate didn’t hurt, either. “From day one, he was a guy I wanted to go to college with. That will be some great competition at practice every day. That’s pretty much why.”

Six months later first-year Gators coach Jim McElwain is thankful Jefferson landed at Florida rather than somewhere else.

Jefferson has a presence about him that is difficult to ignore on the practice field.

“He’s one of the young guys doing a heckuva job,’’ McElwain said this week. “He shows up.”

A highly recruited pass rusher out of Baker County (Fla.) High, Jefferson offers a combination of size (6-1, 275) and speed. Jefferson missed much of his senior season due to a shoulder injury but as a prep junior in 2013, he had 17 ½ sacks.

Florida safety Keanu Neal looks at Jefferson as a player who could help the Gators immediately.

While Florida’s defensive line has talent, the Gators lost their top pass rusher from last season in Dante Fowler Jr.

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

The Gators have Jonathan Bullard, Bryan Cox Jr. and Alex McCalister returning at defensive end, but with the way Jefferson has introduced himself to his new teammates, don’t be surprised to see him crack the rotation.

And yes, he has already battled Ivey some in practice.

“He’ a guy that can make an impact,’’ McElwain said. “He’s a guy that’s eager to learn and jumped right in on everything we are doing.”

Sunday August 9, 2015 Roster update: Gators RB Lane granted release; 2015 signee Davis joins team

Updated: 11:08am, August 9

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Turns out Gators running back Adam Lane's best game at UF was his last game.

Florida head coach Jim McElwain announced Sunday that Lane has been granted a release from his scholarship for personal reasons.

"Adam Lane has some family issues that he is dealing with and wants to be closer to home,'' McElwain said. "As you've heard me say many times family comes first in this program and we will grant him his release and we will do everything we can do to help him."

Lane played sparingly for the Gators but did earn MVP honors in Florida's victory over East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl.

With Lane's release, the Gators have Kelvin Taylor, Mark Herndon and true freshmen Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite in the backfield.

Meanwhile, the Gators added freshman defensive end Keivonnis Davis to the roster on Saturday evening. A 2015 signee, Davis has been cleared to enroll at UF and joined the Gators as they moved into their hotel Saturday for preseason camp.

Davis will practice for the first time with the Gators today.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – More than 18 months into his college career, Will Grier has yet to make an appearance in a regular-season game for the Gators.

The redshirt freshman quarterback is currently in a battle with sophomore Treon Harris. Graduate transfer Josh Grady is also on the roster and taking reps.

Grier entered preseason camp Thursday itching to return to the practice field to try and gain some separation in the competition to start Florida’s season opener Sept. 5 against New Mexico State.

Gators quarterback Will Grier talks with head coach Jim McElwain on the first day of practice Thursday. (Photo: Tim Casey)

“It would mean the world to me,’’ he said of that possibility. “It’s been a longtime coming. I’m really excited to just get out and play and work hard to put this team in the best position to be successful.”

Neither Grier nor Harris, who started six games as a true freshman and helped UF go 4-2 over that span, blew away head coach Jim McElwain on the first day of practice.

McElwain said the quarterbacks and receivers lacked sharpness Thursday and must show improved consistency throughout camp for the Gators to get where they want.

“I’m probably a little more critical because there’s no reason to me you should ever drop a ball on routes-on-air,’’ said McElwain, a quarterback in college. “Likewise, there’s no reason to me that you should ever miss the throw on routes-on-air. It’s on air. There’s nobody else out there.

“Sometimes guys do it thinking it’s a warmup. No. You have to understand that you’ve got to be critically detailed in that particular period. It’s not something we take lightly.”

Grier appeared to own a slim edge over Harris at the end of spring camp. Harris missed time due to a family death.

McElwain downplayed any edge that Harris may have gained by starting six games a season ago, reminding everyone that it’s a completely new offensive system that is still not fully installed.

Grier said there has been a learning curve to adjust to.

“Simply put, it’s just a different offense. It’s a different guy running a different offense,’’ he said. “You’ve got some more down-the-field pass plays, going through three and four reads and progressions. It’s a lot but it’s easy to follow. It puts you in a situation that if you know it and execute it, it’s a really successful offense.

“I think I fit this offense well.”

To prepare for the season, Grier added about 15 pounds in the offseason under Florida’s new strength-and-conditioning program.

The next step for Grier is to prove those gaudy numbers in high school (14,565 yards, a state-record 195 touchdown passes) at Davidson Day High in North Carolina were not a fluke.

He continues to learn the offense and is quick to quiz offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier about the system’s ins and outs.

“I really like how Nussmeier is very hands on,’’ Grier said. “When we watch film and watch practice, he does a really good job of teaching in the film room, which I think relates to the field a lot. He knows what he is doing. He’s done it and I feel really comfortable. I’m being a sponge as much as I can with him.”

Grier knows if he is going to win the job, he’s going to have to earn it.

“I try my best to make sure these guys know that I’m trying to be perfect, limit my mistakes, and try to help them know all their assignments so we can be successful as a unit,’’ he said of the offense. “I think I’ve improved in all areas. There is no question about that. Being able to develop with a lot of these coaches, I really think everything has improved.”

Wednesday August 5, 2015 McElwain optimistic as players report for preseason camp, updates injuries

Updated: 5:46pm, August 5

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators head coach Jim McElwain sounded like a man ready to get to work on Wednesday afternoon.

“We just left our first meeting,’’ McElwain said at UF’s annual football media day. “The optimism in here is awesome. The excitement in the air is awesome. Guys are ready to get after it.”

Eight months to the day after he arrived in Gainesville to be introduced as the 25th head coach in school history, McElwain welcomed the players to their first preseason camp under his direction.

Florida opens practice on Thursday.

“Always an exciting day,’’ he said.

Meanwhile provided updates on several players nursing offseason injuries early in his press conference:

Senior Antonio Morrison continues to work toward a return this season after a knee injury. (Photo: Tim Casey)

--Senior Antonio Morrison, the team’s most-experienced linebacker, continues to recover from a pair of knee injuries resulting from an injury he suffered in the Birmingham Bowl.

“I can’t tell you what a great job he’s done to put himself in position to have an opportunity to play this season,’’ McElwain said. “He’s well ahead of where we anticipated. He will be out of any contact drills but he will be able to do some non-contact stuff moving forward.”

McElwain credited Morrison for his leadership and impact on the locker room during his time rehabbing. He later cautioned that Morrison still needs time before returning to the field.

“Let’s not downplay what this injury was, OK? He’s had two surgeries on the same knee off the same injury,” he said.

--Two of McElwain’s assistants, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and special teams coach Greg Nord, are dealing with personal loss. Nord’s mother passed away last week and Collins was absent Wednesday following his father’s death from a heart attack earlier this week.

--McElwain said sixth-year senior tight end Jake McGee, who played all of nine snaps a year ago due to a broken leg, is “full-go” for camp.

--Defensive tackle Thomas Holley missed camp due to a hip injury and remains sidelined according to McElwain.

--Redshirt sophomore quarterback Luke Del Rio, who has impressed his teammates during offseason conditioning drills following his transfer from Oregon State, recently underwent an appendectomy. McElwain said he will miss time early in camp.

--Redshirt junior defensive tackle Bryan Cox Jr. missed the Birmingham Bowl and spring camp following hip surgery. Cox said he returned to full-speed in late May and is ready to go when practice starts Thursday.

--Linebacker Jarrad Davis was sidelined in spring camp following knee surgery but said he is back to full-speed and is not limited physically as camp opens.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In visiting with deep-rooted Gators season-ticket holder Hill Brannon on Thursday, the past was a popular subject.

Brannon is 85 and a 1954 UF graduate. He attended his first Florida football game as a 9-year-old and has been a season-ticket holder since the early 1970s.

Hill Brannon attended his first Florida football game 76 years ago. (Photo: Tim Casey)

First-year Gators head coach Jim McElwain surprised Brannon by dropping by and thanking him for all the years of support.

Brannon beamed and left no doubt he truly appreciated the gesture.

Prior to McElwain’s visit, Brannon showed off his “Gators Room” and reflected on more than 75 years as a Florida fan.

His first game was Florida’s 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech on Homecoming on Nov. 25, 1939.

Coincidentally, I had recently read an account of the 1939 season in a new book by former Tampa Tribune copy editor Bob D’Angelo titled, “Never Fear: The Life & Times of Forest K. Ferguson Jr.

Most fans have probably only heard of Ferguson because of the Gators’ annual Fergie Ferguson Award, given each year to the senior football player who displays “outstanding leadership, character and courage.”

Last season’s winner was center Max Garcia, now a rookie with the Denver Broncos.

When told of the book about Ferguson, whom he instantly recalled, Brannon took an interest in the topic. He asked where he could get a copy.

Ferguson was a sophomore in 1939 and joined the varsity after a year on the freshman team. According to D’Angelo’s extensive research, 15,000 fans joined Brannon and his uncle at Florida Field on that late November day when Georgia Tech visited.

“It was no contest,’’ D’Angelo wrote. “The Yellow Jackets trotted out the Statue of Liberty play and several triple reverses to befuddle the Gators. Florida fumbled at its 26 in the game’s first minute and Georgia Tech took advantage, with Johnny Bosch completing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Pair.”

Fergie Ferguson book

However, the Gators did tie the game when Tommy Harrison threw a 25-yard pass to Ferguson.

D’Angelo explains what followed: “Fergie lateraled to Julius ‘Mush’ Battista, who ran the rest of the way to score … but that was the Gators’ last gasp."

I forgot to ask Brannon about perhaps the most memorable part of his first Gators game.

The following paragraph from the book provides the details:

The best aerial show of the game might have been put on by a student, identified as 18-year-old Morris A. Young of Jacksonville, who climbed one of the stadium’s light towers during halftime. The freshman stayed airborne for more than 30 minutes, and “kept the big crowd gasping by daring antics that would have been a credit to a trapeze performer in the circus.” Four men tried to reach Young, but the student kicked at the heads of anyone who drew near. Sometime during the third quarter, another student climbed the tower, struggled with the aspiring acrobat and tied Young securely, lowering him down to the ground. Gainesville police chief J.B. Clements booked Young on a charge of drunk and disorderly conduct.

As first games go, Brannon’s may not have delivered a Florida victory but did provide ample entertainment.

Meanwhile, Ferguson was one of 17 sophomores to earn a letter on that '39 team that finished 5-5-1. Two years later Ferguson was named a First Team All-American, only the second player in school history behind Dale Van Sickle in 1928.

For more on Ferguson check out the book, which is well-researched and introduces Ferguson in a more in-depth way than ever before.

The back cover reads:

The story of Forest K. Ferguson Jr. is one of athletic greatness at Stuart High School and the University of Florida. “Fergie” was a World War II hero who distinguished himself on D-Day, and paid for it dearly as his promising career – and life – were cut short by his sacrifices.

Brannon’s copy is in the mail.

Wednesday July 29, 2015 Gators Coaches, Trainers Attend Seminar by Leading Concussion Expert

Updated: 5:01pm, July 29

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida coaches, athletic trainers and administrators gathered Monday morning to hear Dr. Micky Collins present a seminar on the latest developments in concussion management.

With concerns about the long-term impact of concussions and how to properly treat them at an all-time high, UF is ahead of the curve in its research. Florida is involved in a landmark concussion study in alliance with the NCAA and U.S. Department of Defense.

The visit by Collins, a renowned expert in sports-related concussions and member of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Concussion Program, provided an opportunity for members of Florida’s athletic department to learn more about the sports world’s most discussed injury in recent years.

“There is a lot of new information around concussion management,’’ Collins said. “This is a manageable, treatable injury. It presents differently in every patient we see. It’s time to change the conversation about this.”

Gators football coach Jim McElwain, volleyball coach Mary Wise and swimming coach Gregg Troy were among those in attendance.

Kelly Price of GatorVision covered the event. To watch her report, check out the following video:

Gators coach Jim McElwain has been busy on the preseason hype tour of late. (Photo: ESPN Images)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – July is that time of summer when college football starts to return to the forefront.

It’s also the time of year when many college football fans are on vacation, a chance to escape the day-to-day routine before summer ends and fall rolls in.

Along those lines, the past couple of weeks have featured two Southeastern Conference preseason events: SEC Football Media Days in Hoover, Ala., and the ESPN “Car Wash” in Bristol, Conn.

Florida head coach Jim McElwain, entering his first season, attended both.

Here are some headlines in case you were on the beach in Costa Rica or on a dude ranch in Montana:

--With expectations high, Florida coach Jim McElwain enters the SEC cauldron via Zac Ellis of SI.com.

--No offense, but Jim McElwain has it easy following Will Muschamp writes Mike Bianchi or The Orlando Sentinel.

--New head coach Jim McElwain determined to make Florida football relevant again writes Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star.

--LISTEN: McElwain appeared on the “Russillo Show” at ESPN headquarters to discuss expectations and challenges.

--Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News columnist Cecil Hurt needs time to get used to seeing McElwain in his new role.

--Quotes and notes from McElwain’s visit to ESPN via Anthony Chiang of The Palm Beach Post.

*****

Meanwhile, most of McElwain’s attention over the weekend was hosting “Friday Night Lights,” the program’s big recruiting event before camp opens Aug. 5.

There was some off-the-field news related to current Gators:

--Receiver Alvin Bailey spent a short time in jail for failing to appear in court on a second-degree misdemeanor traffic citation writes Zach Abolverdi of The Gainesville Sun.

--Gators Caleb Brantley and Adam Lane were recently cited for skipping out on a tab writes Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun.

*****

--A big night for Gators sprinter Kyra Jefferson at the Pan-American Games in Toronto.

--Former Gators standout Mike Miller traded from Cleveland to Portland writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

Friday July 24, 2015 Gators DL Bostwick granted release

Updated: 2:33pm, July 24

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick is no longer with the program.

Jay-nard Bostwick

Bostwick has been granted his release and is free to transfer to another school.

Bostwick did not participate in spring practice due to personal issues according to first-year head coach Jim McElwain.

Bostwick appeared in five games for the Gators in 2014, registering three tackles.

He was a member of Florida’s 2013 signing class out of Centennial High in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

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