Saturday November 28, 2015 Gators WR Demarcus Robinson to miss FSU game
Updated: 6:28pm, November 28
Welcome to Carter's Corner!
Updated: 6:28pm, November 28
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators will be without leading receiver Demarcus Robinson tonight against Florida State.
The team released a statement on Twitter that said Robinson "made a choice and will not play in tonight's game."
Robinson has a team-high 47 catches and is second on the team behind true freshman Antonio Callaway in receiving yards with 505. However, Robinson did not catch a pass last week and has only two receptions since a 9-catch, 106-yard game against Vanderbilt.
A junior, Robinson has started eight games and appeared in all 11 this season.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – As the Gators walked off the practice field recently, I had a chat with the player on the roster who in my view is Florida’s most improved player in 2015.
Mind you, this is a very unscientific study. In fact, I failed to consult even one analytics major on campus or reach out to any on the internet. Nope, I just relied on the good old-fashioned eye test every Saturday.
For those who pay close attention to the Gators, several players in the program prior to this season have shown improvement in 2015.
Senior defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard is now considered a potential No. 1-draft pick. Sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor is a playmaker of the highest order. Safety Marcus Maye has earned well-deserved respect for his stellar play.
On offense, junior running back Kelvin Taylor is having his best season. Quarterback Will Grier appeared on the way to a solid season prior to his suspension. And young tight ends DeAndre Goolsby and C’yontai Lewis are players to watch in the future.
Still, pound for pound I’m going with junior linebacker Jarrad Davis. You always knew Davis had the talent to be a good college linebacker, but he was always stuck behind somebody on the depth chart.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Davis has blossomed this season in Florida’s primary 4-2-5 defensive formation, teaming with senior linebacker Antonio Morrison to give the Gators good production and leadership at the position.
“I definitely feel like I’ve made a pretty big jump, but I know I still have a long way to go,’’ Davis said. “I’ve got a lot of room for improvement still. I’m doing a lot of things I wasn’t doing last year. I’m just becoming smarter with the game, and just more mature. I’m able to see things a lot better, play a lot faster and play a lot harder.”
Davis entered this season with 47 career tackles in 21 games (two starts). He is second on the team in tackles (77) this season behind Morrison’s 84. Davis has been a disruptive force for Florida’s sixth-ranked defense all season.
He has 10 tackles-for-loss, which is third on the team, 3 ½ sacks and an interception. Davis rebounded from a knee injury that cost him the final three games of last season, including the matchup against Florida State in Tallahassee.
As a freshman in 2013, Davis was named Florida’s Most Valuable Special Teams Player. His all-business, time-to-work approach quickly gained Davis respect in the locker room and from the former UF coaching staff.
“It’s how I grew up. You are either doing real good or real bad. When you are doing real bad, you’ve got to know how to address it,’’ Davis said. “You’ve got to know how to tackle the issue and get back on the right track. My mom put that into me early, my dad put that into me early. It’s just how I came to college. There is no point in changing just because you interact with a lot of new people. What’s got me here is exactly that attribute in my life.”
Davis said his confidence grew early in the season when he made some big plays and took off from there. He also wanted to become more of a vocal leader to complement the added responsibility he attained as a starter.
“I’ve taken on that role,’’ he said. “It’s just something that has to happen. You need someone there to push the defense. Me and ‘Tone [Morrison] both came off injuries and we both stepped into that role. It’s good when it comes from your linebackers. It really helps your defense out.”
Updated: 7:16pm, November 25
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators wrapped up their third practice this afternoon in preparation for Saturday's matchup against Florida State.
Florida head coach Jim McElwain told reporters to "get your pens and paper ready" earlier in the week when he went over the team's extensive injury report.
McElwain updated Florida's injury situation on Wednesday:
Probable: DT Caleb Brantley, LB Antonio Morrison, OL David Sharpe, WR Brandon Powell; Questionable: OL Cam Dillard, DT Joey Ivie, DT Thomas Holley, OL Martez Ivey, DL Jordan Sherit; Doubtful: DL Jon Bullard, DL Taven Bryan, DL Alex McCalister.
Despite Florida's longest injury report of the season, McElwain said the Gators will be ready.
"We will have 11 players take the field on Saturday versus Florida State,'' he said.
Updated: 7:52pm, November 24
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Been here, done that.
In Jake McGee’s case, he can say: “Been here, done that twice.”
“I’m pretty experienced with the whole Senior Day thing,’’ McGee said.
The 24-year-old McGee, Florida’s sixth-year senior tight end, participated in Senior Day two years ago at Virginia and again last year at Florida.
But on Saturday when No. 8-ranked Florida (10-1) hosts 14th-ranked Florida State (9-2), McGee’s college career is really over. McGee has capped it with a strong comeback season after playing nine snaps a year ago before suffering a season-ending leg injury in his Florida debut.
McGee is second on the team with 34 catches and his four touchdown receptions tie freshman Antonio Callaway for the team lead. If you want proof of McGee’s importance to Florida’s offense, 19 of his 34 receptions have gone for either a first down or touchdown.
The biggest came in overtime in the Gators’ 20-14 victory Saturday against Florida Atlantic. McGee started as a blocker on the play, rolled all the way across the field as quarter Treon Harris rolled the opposite direction, and then hauled in Harris’ misdirection pass.
McGee caught it around the 10-yard line, skipped his way past two defenders and ran freely into the end zone for a 13-yard score. The touchdown proved to be the game-winner as FAU failed to score on its ensuing possession.
Besides his role as clutch receiver, McGee also took on a leadership role in Jim McElwain’s first season. McGee keeps the Gators loose with his fun-loving personality. Several players call him the funniest guy on the team.
McGee doesn’t plan to get emotional on Saturday.
“I’m not a big crier,” he said. “I smile a lot, but hopefully I don’t cry. But if I do, you guys can get on me a little bit.”
McGee opted to transfer to Florida in the spring of 2014 to enroll in graduate school and play his final year of eligibility at another school. He not only will have a graduate degree by the time he is finished, but some special memories.
Virginia is 9-14 over the final two seasons. Meanwhile, McGee is closing his career with a game against Florida State, followed by the Southeastern Conference Championship Game and a bowl trip.
If the Gators can find a way to keep winning, they still have a shot at a spot in the College Football Playoff.
“This year has been a lot of good stuff,’’ McGee said. “You can’t take these moments for granted and you can’t let them slip away. I didn't expect to get hurt. You just sort of, as things come, you've got to make the most of it, smile, and have a good time with everything.”
McGee has done that and more.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Caleb Brantley has joined the group of Florida defensive linemen on the injury list today against Florida Atlantic.
A redshirt sophomore, Brantley is doubtful with an abdominal/groin injury. He has played in 10 games and started seven, recording 23 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss and three sackes.
The Gators will also be without defensive linemen Alex McCalister (foot), Jordan Sherit (hamstring) and (knee) today.
Khairi Clark is going to start for Brantley. Meanwhile, Taven Bryan, Justus Reed and Cece Jefferson are among the young UF defensive lineman expected to fill the void up front.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The NCAA on Friday denied an appeal by Gators quarterback Will Grier to have his one-year suspension reduced.
Grier was suspended last month for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance banned by the NCAA. He is eligible to return in the seventh game next season, which is an Oct. 15 home game against Missouri.
A redshirt freshman from Davidson, N.C., Grier started five consecutive games prior to his suspension. Sophomore Treon Harris has led the Gators to a 3-1 record since Grier was suspended.
Updated: 3:19pm, November 19
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jim McElwain turned his celebrated attention to detail toward his sandwich-making skills once more during his Wednesday press conference.
“Gotta do a better job of checking supplies,” he said.
If there’s one thing we know about McElwain from his first season as Florida’s coach, it’s that he values a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich perhaps more than any coach in the land.
The topic first surfaced in early October when McElwain shared an anecdote about making freshman receiver Antonio Callaway a PB&J sandwich in his office. Callaway preferred the edges trimmed, which does not go over well in the McElwain household.
He likes them the way his mom used to serve them. As McElwain made a PB&J this week, he had to use a plastic spoon instead of a knife, which is not ideal, either.
Asked Wednesday to dive deeper into his PB&J philosophy, McElwain provided insight into how something as simple as sharing a sandwich with a player has meaning.
“Here’s one of the things you gotta realize, where a lot of these guys are from, they don’t eat. I’m not kidding you,’’ he said. “And the opportunity I have to be able to impart a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on their life, that’s a good deal.”
McElwain spoke of the nutrition element that a PB&J provides, but beyond the science of calories, carbs and protein, the human element is the most important equation he spreads.
“Believe it or not, there’s a lot of great conversation that goes on there. It’s a chance to spend some one-on-one time and quality one-on-one time, and also hopefully, see that no matter what you do, doing it to the best of your ability and not cut corners.
"There’s a little symbolism in that as well. Be the best you can be. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. If you making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, get it to the edges. How hard is that? Why cut the corners. Those are all lessons again that all of us can learn from.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The ballots are starting to arrive.
OK, still a little early for that, but the college football awards season is on the horizon and more and more stories are surfacing each day on the Internet predicting the winner of this award or that award.
Who is most deserving of National Coach of the Year? USA Today asked the question this week and provided some suggestions.
Of course, anyone who lives for fall Saturdays has an opinion. If you live in Jackson, Mich., Jim Harbaugh is probably your guy. If you live in Anderson, S.C., Dabo Swinney is undoubtedly the favorite. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is the favorite.
Here along the sidewalks of University Avenue, Florida’s Jim McElwain is the man.
Florida is 9-1 and ranked eighth in the country entering Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic. McElwain has an opportunity to reach 10 wins in his first season, which would surpass former UF coaches Ray Graves (1960), Galen Hall (1985), Steve Spurrier (1990) and Urban Meyer (2005) for the most in school history for a coach in his first full season.
Spurrier, who resigned from South Carolina last month, recently said he would vote McElwain as his Coach of the Year.
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit tweeted this on Tuesday:
McElwain is certainly in the running as the Gators have surpassed preseason expectations and remain alive for a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Meanwhile, after Florida’s 24-14 win over South Carolina on Saturday, McElwain was asked about Spurrier’s endorsement.
“It’s very humbling, number one, that someone would even put you in that category, because guys, there’s a bunch of better coaches than me out there,’’ he said. “But what it does to, it speaks to the organization, it speaks to those players, the coaches, all the people that have kind of figured out: the difficulty lies not in the new ideas but in escaping the old ones.
“We’ve got a whole organization that is moving in a new direction, we aren’t sitting still. We’re continuing to build and create and not just sit there and say, ‘we’re Florida and you’re not.’ That’s’ what I love about it. We’ve energized a whole organization to move forward and it starts with those players.”
Updated: 11:17pm, November 16
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The UF women’s basketball team was down 15 points barely a minute into the second quarter Monday night and, let’s face it, everyone from the popcorn vendor to the clock operator figured it wasn’t going to end well for the Gators.
No. 7-ranked Florida State was at the O’Connell Center and the Gators were serving as the most gracious hosts, turning the ball over 18 times in the first half.
But just when you figured this matchup was going to go like so many others in recent years between the heated rivals – the Gators had dropped nine of the last 12 to the Seminoles – Amanda Butler’s team came on like a tidal wave to upset FSU, 82-72.
The Gators celebrated in front of an appreciative crowd when it was over, matching the seventh-largest comeback in program history.
“We beat a very, very, very good team,’’ Butler said. “I’m just proud, first of all, of our effort and our preparation. We had a quick turnaround and coming off the disappointment, I thought we showed a tremendous amount of maturity.”
The Gators (1-1) opened their season Friday night at Temple, losing 97-91. They practiced over the weekend in anticipation of Monday’s showdown against the Seminoles, who defeated Florida by 26 points last season.
For the first 15 minutes Monday a repeat appeared in the making. However, the Gators closed to within 38-29 at halftime. The teams went toe-to-toe in the third quarter before the Gators took control in the final period.
Florida seized momentum with a 14-2 run to start the fourth as Butler went with junior Ronni Williams (team-high 21 points) and a cast of newcomers, including freshman Dyandria Anderson (nine points in second half), junior guard Simone Westbrook (14 points) and freshman Eleanna Christinaki (13 points, seven assists).
“We got a good feel for it,’’ said Westbrook, whose 3-pointer early in the final period trimmed FSU’s lead to 59-56. Anderson scored Florida’s next nine points as the Gators surged to a 65-59 lead. “I’m glad we showed what the Gators are really about,’’ added Westbrook, a transfer from Northwest Florida State College who made her O’Dome debut.
The Gators missed the postseason for the first time under Butler a season ago, finishing 13-17. Meanwhile, since FSU head coach Sue Semrau took over in Tallahassee in 1997, she has built the Seminoles into the state’s premiere program.
FSU was 18-1 against Sunshine State opponents since 2012 prior to Monday’s loss. It was also FSU’s first loss in a season opener since 1993.
“They had something to prove,’’ Semrau said. “They made it tough for us.”
It didn’t start that way. But it ended exactly the way Butler wanted.
“We knew it was going to be a fantastic opportunity,’’ she said. “This is a significant game. This is why we love college sports because of these type rivalries. It’s always a big deal when we get together.”
Semrau agreed. The crowd was into it. Both teams were going at each other. It felt like a rivalry game and a perfect test for her team to open the season.
“It was exactly what we needed,’’ Semrau said.
Probably not as much as the Gators, though.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators defeated South Carolina on Saturday for their ninth win in 10 games.
On Sunday they moved up three spots in the latest AP Top 25. The Gators are now ranked No. 8, which matches their highest position in the poll since they were No. 4 entering the 2013 Sugar Bowl against Louisville. The Gators were ranked eighth prior to their 35-28 loss at LSU last month.
Three teams ranked ahead of the Gators last week -- Baylor, Stanford and Utah -- lost on Saturday.
Florida closed the conference portion of its schedule with a 24-14 victory over the Gamecocks. Freshman running back Jordan Cronkrite scored two touchdowns -- one rushing and one receiving -- and junior running back Kelvin Taylor sealed the victory with a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:01 left in the game.
The Gators limited South Carolina to 44 yards of offense before the Gamecocks made it a game in the fourth quarter with two scores, trimming a 17-0 deficit to 17-14.
The Gators host Florida Atlantic this week before closing the regular season Nov. 28 at home against Florida State.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Have you been busy and want to catch up on the latest news related to the Gators?
We’ve got you covered. Here are a few fresh links from around the Internet covering a variety of UF sports:
--Steve Spurrier has a rooting interest in Saturday’s Florida-South Carolina game and shared some thoughts on Gators kicker Austin Hardin’s game-winning field goal against Vanderbilt via Buddy Martin of GridironNow.com.
--Resolve, toughness and luck get Gators to Atlanta writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com.
--For Gators men’s basketball, new faces all around writes Gary Smits of the Florida Times-Union.
--Gators women’s basketball hoping new assistant coaches improve recruiting writes Ethan Bauer of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Five things you need to know for the NCAA women’s soccer tournament mentions the Gators via Graham Hays of ESPNW.com.
--Gators volleyball team focused on improving careless play writes Brian Lee of the Independent Florida Alligator.
Updated: 10:30am, November 11
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Rumors circulated for days that the Gators planned to alter their uniform in some fashion for last week’s homecoming game against Vanderbilt.
Those rumors turned to fact when the Gators raced out of the tunnel for the opening kickoff wearing a two-logo white helmet.
The helmet choice was a popular topic on social media for Florida fans throughout the Gators’ 9-7 victory over the Commodores. The last time the Gators wore white helmets was in the 2009 SEC Championship Game.
Team captains traditionally choose Florida’s uniform combination each week. The Gators have yet to wear the same combination in back-to-back games this season.
With an opportunity to clinch the program’s first trip to Atlanta in six years, the Gators opted for the white headgear.
“This time it was in front of the whole team,’’ senior defensive back Brian Poole said. “The whole team pretty much made the decision.”
However, the decision had nothing to do with the potential return to Atlanta.
“Some of our players asked about a white helmet and of course, I looked around the building and there are pictures of white helmets everywhere, so I just thought we had them and found out we didn’t,’’ Florida head coach Jim McElwain said.
With the players interested in wearing them, once McElwain learned white helmets are not part of Florida’s regular inventory, he set in motion a plan to order them to use during his first season.
Homecoming seemed the perfect opportunity. The helmets featured the familiar “Gators” script logo on the left side and Florida’s "F” logo on the right side. A blue stripe ran from front to back, bordered by a pair of orange stripes.
“I think there is some true symbolism in those helmets,’’ McElwain said. “For me, especially on a homecoming game, it was an opportunity to link the present – with the ‘Gators’ script on one side – and unite it with the past with the ‘Block F’ on the other side. That was really the driving force behind it and our guys appreciated it because some of them were recruited here thinking they were going to wear a white helmet sometimes.”
“I was excited we could do something for them and in turn honor all of those who played here in the past with the different logos on the helmets.”
The Gators revisited the past during homecoming weekend in more ways than wearing the alternate helmet. They had a captain’s lunch on Friday afternoon that featured several former players.
McElwain enjoyed the interaction between the current and former players.
“As I speak to our guys about legacies, about what it means to wear that Florida Gator helmet and to play in The Swamp, part of the responsibility is that you are playing for all those players who have played there in the past,’’ he said. “[We try] as much as we can do to link that and open our doors, because those past players are the ones who have built what is the University of Florida.”
Coincidentally, McElwain has a two-game win streak when the Gators wear white helmets. He was Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2009 when the Crimson Tide defeated the white-helmeted Gators in the SEC title game.
McElwain said Florida’s traditional orange helmets have significant value to the program’s brand. He also understands players and fans like to mix it up once in a while.
“When you look around college football, I think there’s a couple of things you see, people looking for a splash and an identity,’’ he said. “Where at the University of Florida, quite honestly, the tradition of our orange helmets, when those are on TV everybody knows who it is, which makes this a special place. There are certain programs around the country who are like that. And yet, there is something exciting about just having an alternate here or there.
“That’s part of what we do. But in our alternates, I’m a true believer in honoring the past and that’s something we wanted to do with this.”
Updated: 11:17am, November 6
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If you watch Florida linebackers Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis closely on Saturdays, then it should be no surprise to hear what defensive tackle Joey Ivie says about the two.
“I see both of those guys in the ice tub every single day,’’ Ivie said. “Those are definitely two guys that everybody can look at and [who] are accountable for everything they do.”
For a Florida defense expected to be the team’s strength in the first year under head coach Jim McElwain, if there was a major concern in spring practice, it was at linebacker.
The Gators lost starters Michael Taylor and Neiron Ball from last season, and Morrison and Davis missed spring while recovering from knee surgeries.
As the Gators prepare to face Vanderbilt on Saturday with an opportunity to clinch the SEC East, Morrison and Davis are drawing rave reviews from the coaching staff for what they mean to the Gators.
“They are the heartbeat of the defense,’’ defensive line coach Chris Rumph said this week.
Rumph’s comments were preceded by even higher praise from McElwain.
“Those guys are the heart and soul of this defense, and in a lot of ways are the heart and soul of this program," McElwain said. "They go about their business the way it should be done.”
All it takes is a quick glance at Florida’s defensive stats to see proof Morrison and Davis are thriving under the direction of associate head coach/linebackers coach Randy Shannon.
Morrison leads the Gators with 60 tackles, including seven tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks. Davis is right behind him with 55 tackles, 7.5 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception in last week’s victory over Georgia.
Beyond their production, Morrison and Davis offer intangibles that aren’t measured on a scoresheet.
Morrison is a fiery leader who is all-business on and off the field. Davis is as physical as any player on the roster and has shown tremendous improvement this season.
Sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor is thankful he plays defense. He has no interest in seeing the heart and soul come his way.
"Tone and JD, man those guys are crazy," Tabor said. "They just run around like I've never seen before. They really just have bad intentions when they get to the ball."
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Kelvin Taylor spoke last week about having a big chip on his shoulder as the Gators prepared to face Georgia.
He should keep it there.
Taylor’s season-high 125 yards in a 27-3 victory over the Bulldogs helped the Gators move within a victory of clinching their first SEC East title since 2009. The Gators can punch their ticket to Atlanta with a homecoming victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Taylor ran with physical abandon and hit holes when they were there Saturday in Jacksonville. The offensive line, after some empty drives early in the game, began to assert itself in the second half.
Gators coach Jim McElwain said Monday the running game, which produced a season-high 258 yards, was on point after a sluggish outing at LSU two weeks earlier.
“We really challenged our guys up front and we challenged our running guys to match their footwork with the O-line in the run game,’’ McElwain said. “We have not done a good job of that. We have been too fast to the hole at times, too slow to the hole at times. That’s all about matching up what they do up front.”
SECCountry.com took a more in-depth look at Taylor's performance by reviewing film.
Taylor arrived at UF in 2013 with a lot of hype as the state’s all-time prep rushing leader and as the son of former Gators standout Fred Taylor. He now has bragging rights on dad when it comes to facing Georgia.
In three career games against the Bulldogs, Kelvin has gained 398 yards on 70 carries (5.7 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns. Fred faced Georgia four times in his college career, rushing for 218 yards on 49 carries (4.4 ypa) and one touchdown.
Taylor expected a much better performance than his 15-carry, 25-yard effort in the 35-28 loss at LSU.
“Those guys [offensive line] did a great job for me. We practiced well all week running the ball and it paid off for us in the game,’’ he said. “I just made my reads and pretty much it was up to those guys. I just kept telling those guys, ‘look, we’ve got to have a great game and just give me a little crease and after that I’ll do the rest.’ Those guys did that.”
Taylor scored on runs of 3 and 16 yards. His 10 rushing touchdowns are the most by a Florida running back since Mike Gillislee had 10 in 2012. Taylor has eight rushing scores in conference play, the most by a UF back since his dad had nine 18 years ago.
“Every time I get close to that goal line I’ve got to get the ball in,’’ he said. “That’s one thing my dad always preached.”
In the wake of Saturday’s performance Taylor is now ranked 10th in the SEC in rushing with 584 yards through eight games, an average of 73 per game. Taylor has a shot at joining his dad in Florida’s 1,000-yard rushing club should he maintain that average in the final four regular-season games, the SEC title game and a bowl game.
But first the Gators must knock off Vanderbilt on Saturday.
“It will definitely mean a whole lot for us to get back to Atlanta,’’ Taylor said. “That’s our goal. That’s definitely our goal."
Updated: 10:53pm, November 1
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators maintained their grip on the SEC East lead Saturday with a 27-3 victory over Georgia.
They maintained their position in the polls Sunday.
Florida (7-1, 5-1) is ranked No. 11 in the AP Top 25 for the second consecutive week as it opens preparation for Vanderbilt (3-5, 1-3), which visits Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday. The Commodores lost 34-0 at Houston on Saturday.
Florida can clinch its first division title since 2009 with a victory.
Meanwhile, here is what they wrote after Florida knocked off Georgia for the second consecutive season Saturday:
--Five things we learned from Florida's big win over Georgia via Anthony Chiang of The Palm Beach Post.
--Florida wins ugly game behind productive defense writes Dave George of The Palm Beach Post.
--Jim McElwain has replaced Mark Richt as Big Dog of SEC East writes Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel.
--Jim McElwain has Gators believing, producing writes Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun.
--Florida seizes control of SEC East writes Andy Staples of SportsIllustrated.com.
--One win from SEC East title, Gators are learning to win games writes Matt Hayes of The Sporting News.
--Gators in midst of a potentially special season writes Tom Jones of The Tampa Bay Times.
--Florida Times-Union columnist Gene Frenette writes Georgia coach Mark Richt took a gamble and now finds himself in a dicey spot.
--Five thoughts on Florida-Georgia from Tony Barnhart of GridironNow.com.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When the Gators face Georgia this afternoon here at EverBank Field, Austin Hardin and recent walk-on addition Neil MacInnes won't be the only kickers on the sideline.
Donovan White, one of the finalists to emerge from the 216 people who signed up for Florida's recent midseason kicker tryouts, will be performing his regular job as a member of Florida's training staff.
His nickname around the team is "Water Boy."
"I'm used to running around at practice, if guys get blood on them, wiping it off and stuff like that,'' White said. "It was definitely different kicking on the practice field."
A senior at UF, White is studying to become an athletic trainer and has served as a student trainer for multiple Florida athletic programs.
Still, he is a kicker at heart.
A two-year starter at Sebring High, White once kicked a 52-yard field goal in high school and won a state title as a high jumper. He also played soccer all four years at Sebring.
White has been taking reps at practice the past two weeks with MacInnes and former Gainesville High kicker Dallas Stubbs since backup-turned-starter Jorge Powell was lost for the season due to a knee injury.
While White won't be in uniform today, he could factor into Florida's kicking plans later in the season if Hardin has issues or is injured.
"My strong point in high school when I kicked was definitely kickoffs,'' White said. "I didn't really peak until my senior year. I felt like this is cool, gives me another chance."
Updated: 9:56pm, October 28
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Michael McNeely will be at EverBank Field on Saturday.
No way the former Gators walk-on would miss this one.
But instead of pulling on his No. 31 jersey and scoring a momentum-shifting touchdown like he did in Florida’s 38-20 victory over Georgia last year – instantly becoming a Florida football folk hero – McNeely has a different kind of day planned.
First, he is going to former Gators long-snapper James Smith’s tailgate to celebrate Smith’s 30th birthday.
Once McNeely goes inside and finds his seat, he will keep a close eye on his brother Mark McNeely.
“He plays center snare in the drumline this year,’’ McNeely said Wednesday. “I never got to see him perform before. It’s been really nice to watch him play.”
Finally, as kickoff nears, McNeely expects to feel that familiar pull deep in his gut.
“I still expect to run down on kickoff, but of course, that’s not going to happen,’’ he said.
To everyone’s surprise, including his, McNeely became one of the best stories in college football in 2014 thanks to a play called “Dawg.”
Florida trailed Georgia 7-0 and faced a fourth-and-9 midway through the second quarter. The Gators needed a spark and had practiced “Dawg” all week.
As they lined up for a Frankie Velez field-goal attempt, it was time.
The holder on the play, McNeely took the snap, jumped up and darted toward the right sideline. He found a hole, made a couple of moves, and 21 yards later was in the end zone.
The play was arguably Florida’s biggest of the season and the Gators upset the No. 9-ranked Bulldogs in a game few gave them a chance.
“I never would have expected it in a thousand years,” McNeely said. “It’s a huge blessing.”
The next morning, McNeely showed up for his job as a cashier/bag boy at Publix. A photo of him at work went viral on social media.
The unassuming, polite-as-the-kid-next-door McNeely was suddenly a celebrity.
A year later and McNeely is back at UF in medical school. He started in August and life is much different.
For the first time in many years McNeely’s fall afternoons don’t include football practice. Instead, a lot of homework.
“The most studying I’ve ever done,’’ said McNeely.
He spent the summer at home in Clearwater working, but when McNeely returned to UF to start fall classes, he retired after several years at Publix to focus on his intense classwork.
He has attended all of Florida’s home games and watched the road games. He still tries to work out twice a week at The Swamp and got to meet new head coach Jim McElwain during training camp.
“I introduced myself and told him I’m a former player and going to medical school,’’ he said. “When I told him that, he high-fived me. It’s great to see him doing so well with the program.
“I still get to see some of the guys. It’s nice to be around. It’s a blessing. It’s super exciting to see the guys doing so well. I’m pumped for them.”
McNeely said he hasn’t seen a replay this week of his touchdown but classmates have told him they have. As for the football he carried into the end zone on that sunny afternoon in Jacksonville, one of the team’s trainers saw a replay of “Dawg” the week after the game and noticed some unique markings on the ball.
McNeely was so excited to score he said he never thought of keeping the ball. However, the trainer dug through Florida’s supply of game balls and found it and gave it to McNeely.
The ball is now at McNeely’s home in Clearwater. His playing days are over, but he’ll always have the play.
Now he is just a fan. And that’s fine with him.
“A completely different perspective,’’ he said. “It’s very weird. It’s very different. Medical school is keeping me busy. So I have my hands full.”
Updated: 10:57am, October 28
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators head coach Jim McElwain is due up on the weekly SEC media teleconference in about 25 minutes.
Will have more on this week’s matchup with Georgia later.
For now, a few fresh links of interest to Florida fans:
--Abby Wambach retires at appropriate time, place to cap iconic career writes Grant Wahl of SportsIllustrated.com.
--Abby Wambach’s legacy: The right athlete at the right time writes Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News.
--Former Gators coach Billy Donovan ready to open his first NBA season tonight. “I haven’t had any regret” Donovan told Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.
--Palm Beach Post beat writer Anthony Chiang answers a few questions about the Gators in his mailbag report.
--Jim McElwain is the perfect fit for the Florida Gators writes Robert Judin of CampusInsiders.com.
--Georgia plays underdog role in ‘elimination game’ writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com.
Updated: 3:36pm, October 27
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Abby Wambach is in demand.
She is also retired.
Abby Wambach announced retirement. She’s scored more international goals than any other player in soccer history. pic.twitter.com/gW0nznDAid— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 27, 2015
The U.S. Women's National Team announced Tuesday afternoon that Wambach is retiring in December.
A headliner on the USWNT that won the World Cup over the summer, the former Gators soccer star is scheduled to return to her alma mater on Nov. 3 as the guest speaker at an event hosted by ACCENT Speakers Bureau.
The event is scheduled for 8 p.m. at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Doors open at 7 and tickets are free and will be available at the Phillips Center box office.
UF students with a valid UF ID can pick up a maximum of two tickets per student starting at noon on Nov. 2. Two tickets per person will be made available to the general public starting at noon on the day of Wambach’s speech.
Ted Spiker, chair of UF’s Journalism Department, will moderate the event.
Wambach and her USWNT teammates have been extremely busy since their memorable World Cup title, visiting the White House, making appearances on TV talk shows, and for the 35-year-old Wambach, returning to the field.
She was in Orlando on Sunday as the USWNT defeated Brazil 3-1 in an exhibition game before more than 32,000 fans at the Citrus Bowl.
However, on Tuesday Wambach made official her future plans. She is calling it a career after a USWNT match on Dec. 16.
Wambach is the all-time women’s leading goal scorer in international competition and was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.
She recently headlined a panel at the espnW: Women + Sports Summit and continues to promote the game that has made her a global celebrity in the last few years.
She will continue to do so in retirement.
"I just can't wait to see what this game looks like in 15 years," Wambach said at the espnW event. "And I will make it my damn business to make sure the pay gap has been closed in the meantime."
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The No. 15-ranked Gators volleyball team has an opportunity to cap Revenge Week this afternoon at the O’Connell Center.
The Gators (14-4, 6-3 SEC) aren’t calling it that, but you know they are thinking it with Missouri (18-2, 6-1) in town. Florida won the first two sets at Missouri on Sept. 30 before crumbling as the Tigers stormed back to win the final three sets.
The loss was sandwiched between a home loss to Kentucky and a road loss at Arkansas. The Gators were a team in flux by the time they walked off the court at Arkansas on Oct. 4 reeling from a third consecutive conference defeat, a first in the program’s rich history.
However, Florida has rebounded nicely with a five-match win streak entering this afternoon’s contest against the Tigers.
The last two of those wins -- at Kentucky on Sunday and at home Friday night in a sweep over Arkansas -- highlight Florida’s recent resurgence.
The Gators played one of their most complete matches Friday, sweeping Arkansas with a crisp effort that relied heavily on the improved communication between players Coach Mary Wise stressed in the wake of the three-game losing streak.
“Everything everyone was doing was just so on-point the entire time,’’ Florida setter Mackenzie Dagostino told the SEC Network. “We passed so well. When we pass like that, it makes it so easy for any setter who comes in to run a really fast, consistent offense.”
This is a talented Gators team that has already proven it can defeat the best in the country.
Florida handed No. 2-ranked Texas its only loss of the season last month on the Longhorns’ home court.
Still, Florida lacked consistency both offensively and defensively and it showed during the three-game skid as the Gators looked out of sync.
Florida enters today’s match fourth in the SEC at the midway point of the conference schedule. That is plenty of time to climb back toward the top if the Gators can continue to play the way they have of late.
“That’s where the SEC is. You’ve got to have your A-game every single day,’’ Wise said. “The best thing is how much our team has improved.”
What has the improvement meant?
The Gators avenged their loss to Kentucky. They avenged their loss at Arkansas.
Is Missouri next?
It would be a perfect way to cap Revenge Week for the Gators.