Wednesday October 22, 2014 Billy D, Frazier, DoeDoe dribble around at SEC Tipoff
Updated: 9:41pm, October 22
Welcome to Carter's Corner!
Updated: 9:41pm, October 22
For more photos from Monday's practice, click here for a gallery from UAA photographer Tim Casey.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida head coach Billy Donovan traveled to Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday with Michael Frazier II and Dorian Finney-Smith for SEC Tipoff '15.
The event is the men's basketball version of media days.
Here are some links and tweets from the event:
--Two-team conference? SEC coaches say league is deeper than Florida and Kentucky writes Martin Rickman of SI.com.
--A notebook from Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun leads with Frazier's spot on preseason team.
--A Q&A with Donovan on resiliency and reloading for 2014-15 via Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com.
--Gators picked to finish second, Frazier a preseason All-SEC first-team selection via FoxSportsFlorida.com.
--Calipari's Cats first unanimous pick since Pitino's 'Untouchables' writes Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
--Don't bet against Donovan, Florida writes Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com ($).
--Five Kentucky players on All-SEC team writes Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com.
--Back in SEC, Bruce Pearl faces rebuilding job at Auburn writes Brockway.
--Alabama head coach and former Donovan assistant Anthony Grant says his team faces extremely challenging nonconference schedule writes Wesley Sinor of AL.com.
--Donovan is better at spinning a basketball on his finger than you are writes Andre Holleran of CollegeSpun.com.
Updated: 9:18pm, October 17
Sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor has received limited carries of late. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Why isn't sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor getting more carries?
That's one of the most-asked questions I've gotten from Florida fans the past couple of weeks.
Taylor has seen limited action recently, including only two rushes in Saturday's loss to LSU. Taylor started in place of injured running back Matt Jones but gave way early to true freshman Brandon Powell.
Taylor missed a blocking assignment on a third-and-4 on Florida's first drive. As he tried to recover and pick up a blitzing linebacker, Taylor ran into quarterback Jeff Driskel, causing Driskel to throw a wobbly pass to the ground toward an open Latroy Pittman.
Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was asked this week about Taylor's lack of use and the third-down play.
“Kelvin has do a better job of recognizing the Sam [linebacker] is coming and get over there faster and manage that,” Roper said. “We feel like we had a chance to convert a third down right there.”
While a talented runner -- Taylor had rushed for 508 yards as a true freshman, including 12 carries for 74 yards against Missouri, which visits The Swamp on Saturday -- he has struggled as an all-around back.
As the son of former Gators/NFL star Fred Taylor and the state of Florida's all-time leading prep rusher, Taylor joined the Gators as one of those celebrated recruits fans expect to become an instant star.
It rarely works out that way. While Taylor is clearly talented, he is a much different type of running back than his father, who checked in at 6-foot-1 and around 225 pounds. Kelvin is listed at 5-10, 209 pounds.
Fred Taylor rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior in 1997 and then went on to become the Jacksonville Jaguars' all-time leading rusher. Kelvin Taylor is a college sophomore 17 games into his career.
Roper is confident Taylor can be a factor as the season progresses.
"He is really good with the ball in his hands," Roper said. "There's no doubt about that. He's a guy that when you hand it to him, does a good job. But you've got to be able to manage the rest of the package."
As for perhaps the most-asked question about Taylor this week -- why didn't he get the carry instead of the 5-9, 177-pound Powell on first-and-goal from LSU's 2 late in the game? -- Roper answered that, too.
"Brandon Powell is a little lighter, physical guy. Tough guy," Roper said. "Felt really good with the ball in his hands. Had been playing a lot of football and been in that series and made some plays. That was the decision that we made at that point to put it in his hands. We felt pretty confident we knew what we were going to get schematically, and it was what we felt our best thought was at that point.
"Then the next down, we did, we obviously put a lead blocker in there and tried to run the quarterback to get our numbers right and put a heavier guy in there on second down and do that. But what we had felt like is we could number up, is the best way I can say it, on the scheme right there."
Updated: 6:21pm, October 15
Billy Donovan is impressed by job Will Muschamp has done since taking over Gators. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – One is coming off a four-win season. The other off a trip to the Final Four.
So no surprise to anyone, Gators football coach Will Muschamp is not as popular as UF basketball coach Billy Donovan these days.
Donovan is in the prime of his career, set to enter his 19th season at UF fresh off a 36-win season, a fourth trip to the Final Four and a season that featured a school-record 30-game win streak.
Meanwhile, Muschamp is preparing the 3-2 Gators for Saturday’s Homecoming game against Missouri and in need of a win for the Gators to stay in the thick of the SEC East race.
Donovan gave a thoughtful answer when a reporter asked him what it’s like for his program to have more success than the football program in recent years.
“I don't really look at it that way,’’ Donovan said. “I think the one thing that Jeremy [Foley] has done here is that we're all in this together. It's not about [who has the most success]. I've got an enormous amount of respect for Will.
“Obviously for him, I look at things a little bit differently. Certainly he took over a situation that was really, really challenging, in my opinion. I thought he imposed his style of play on his team. The year before, I saw an unbelievable change inside of his team from a physical standpoint from year one to year two.
“The way they had to handle all the injuries last year was something, to me, that was just totally insurmountable to ever overcome. You can’t lose the level of players – and I respected the way Will handled it because he never used that as an excuse – but the truth is you can’t lose that many good players and be good. You just can’t. You just don’t plug guys in and guys step up.”
Donovan invited Muschamp to speak to his team over the summer about that same topic. In the case of his team, Donovan is searching for ways to replace seniors Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather.
“There were times last year where I watched and you saw them kind of – I think Will talked about this, ‘Woe is me,’ all that stuff – their team [this year] is not that way at all," Donovan said. "I think the guy has done an incredible job of changing the culture in terms of his team from one year to the next in a very positive way.
“From a coaching standpoint, where his team is at emotionally now, it's really impressive. I look at things a little bit differently. I know a lot of times people look just at results, but if you look at the transformation inside their team, to me watching them play this year compared to last year, it's night and day. I don't know anything about football, strategies and schemes. I'm just talking about how they play the game.”
Updated: 4:19pm, October 14
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive will retire in July after 13 years. (Photo: CBSSports.com file)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jeremy Foley had already been in charge of Florida’s athletic department for a decade by the time Mike Slive took over as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference in 2002.
A lot has happened for the Gators – and the SEC – since then.
While the Gators’ football program won two of the unprecedented seven consecutive national championships SEC schools won from 2006-12, the SEC grew into such a force in college athletics under Slive’s direction that it now has its own TV network, which launched in August.
The SEC announced Tuesday that Slive will retire in July.
As the conference’s longest-tenured AD, Foley is well aware of the impact Slive made when he took the job after serving as the first commissioner of Conference USA from 1995-2002.
“Mike possesses all of the qualities of a great leader – visionary, consensus builder, integrity, intuition and commitment, but more than anything he is a great friend to so many of us in this league,’’ Foley said. “He’s led this conference to historical milestones during his tenure and the impact he’s had on collegiate athletics management and structure will be felt for many years. I look forward to working with him during his final year and in his future role as a consultant to the league.”
According to the SEC’s announcement, Slive will serve in the role of consultant to the conference for four years following his retirement.
Updated: 1:31pm, October 14
Gators coach Will Muschamp checks on receiver Latroy Pittman on Saturday. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At first I wondered if I had missed something. And then I replayed the scenario through my head, watched a replay and concluded, ‘wow, what’s all the fuss about?’
The moment happened Monday afternoon early in Gators coach Will Muschamp’s press conference when a reporter asked about Florida fans (or maybe "fan") being upset that Muschamp and the Gators weren’t on their knees as teammate Latroy Pittman lay motionless on the ground.
In a scary moment near the end of Florida’s 30-27 loss to LSU on Saturday night, Pittman collided with an LSU defender on a pass from quarterback Jeff Driskel that ricocheted into the air and was intercepted with 24 seconds left. The turnover set up LSU’s game-winning field goal.
The scene was one that you never want to see at a football game as a team of medical personnel attended to Pittman and a cart was brought out. While Pittman was stretched out on the ground closer to LSU’s side of the field, an LSU player was on the ground near UF’s sideline.
LSU defensive end Jermauria Rasco also went down on the play and several LSU medical personnel ran across the field to tend to Rasco for a few minutes after the play ended. Fortunately, Rasco was eventually able to get up on his own and walk off with the help of trainers.
As the sequence unfolded, Muschamp and Florida’s defense huddled down the sideline away from where Rasco was being treated and across the field from where Pittman lay. Meanwhile, several LSU players knelt on the field looking on with concern as their teammate received treatment.
Once Rasco was able to get up and walk their way, many of those LSU players converged closer to where Pittman was. When Pittman was lifted onto the cart to be taken off the field and to the hospital – thankfully he was released later that night after a series of precautionary tests checked out OK – several of the LSU players came over and offered well-wishes.
It was definitely a sign of good sportsmanship on LSU’s part.
Around that time Muschamp had broken from the defensive huddle and walked out to where Pittman was being treated, checked in on the situation, and asked a trainer to keep him informed.
Shortly thereafter, several Florida players walked out to offer their support to Pittman right before the cart pulled away.
However, according to Nola.com, Florida fan Kyle Morgan wrote a scathing editorial on Facebook about how “one of our players was gravely injured” late in the game.
Well, that’s where I kind of stopped reading. If you are “gravely injured,” you’re not giving a thumbs up as you leave the field as Pittman did. Heck, you’re probably not even breathing. That’s because you’re pretty much dead.
Here is Muschamp’s reply to the question Monday:
"Well, the information is relayed to me immediately that he had movement, and that they felt like he was -- precautionary reasons -- that he was going to be fine," Muschamp said. "We took that time -- and we’ve not instructed our players to take a knee in those situations -- any time someone gets hurt, we don't always know the severity of the injury or the situation. That’s not something that we’ve done, anywhere that I've ever been.
"We were trying to review the next set of downs for our defense we were also trying to get our situation ready for a field-goal block. After I had received the information that Latroy was fine, I went over to make sure he was fine. I looked at Latroy, Latroy said he was fine. I talked to our training staff, they said he was fine, they thought everything was going to be fine. That’s the situation."
So, that’s that.
Basically, much ado about nothing in my opinion. These types of topics sometimes become stories, usually after a difficult loss.
If Muschamp and the Gators had rushed out to Pittman and knelt in prayer for 15 minutes, and then when play resumed LSU scored an easy touchdown, the Gators would have been ripped for caring too much about their teammate and not enough about the next play.
That's sports fans on the Internet.
Anyway, since I received a couple of questions about this on Facebook and via email, I figured others might have questions as well, so felt like it might be worthwhile to post a blog.
Updated: 11:59am, October 12
Florida receiver Latroy Pittman flashes a thumbs up to the crowd on Saturday night. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Near the end of Florida's 30-27 loss to LSU on Saturday night the game was delayed for several minutes as UF receiver Latroy Pittman lay motionless on the ground.
Pittman collided with an LSU defender while trying to make a catch on a quick slant. The pass was intercepted and led to LSU's game-winning field goal. However silence engulfed The Swamp as a team of medical personnel attended to Pittman.
The good news: Florida announced this morning that Pittman was released from the hospital overnight after a series of precautionary tests checked out.
A junior from Citra in Marion County, PIttman has seven catches for 35 yards through five games.
Updated: 9:55am, October 8
Florida head coach Will Muschamp checks out a replay at Neyland Stadium. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators coach Will Muschamp is scheduled to address the media later this morning, first during his weekly appearance on the SEC coaches' media teleconference, and then a press conference with local UF beat reporters.
The Gators host LSU on Saturday night at The Swamp and in the wake of the Treon Harris news on Monday, Muschamp's regularly scheduled press conference was postponed until today.
Until we hear from Muschamp, here are some fresh links from around the Internet covering stories of interest to Florida fans:
--Quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg and defensive lineman Gerald Willis scuffled over a misunderstanding about cleats Monday night after practice. The Orlando Sentinel's Edgar Thompson has more details in his story.
--LSU playing in classic 1990s style writes Glenn Guilbeau of TheTownTalk.com.
--The Gators check in at No. 8 in Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley's latest SEC power rankings.
--Ex-Gator Bradley Beal is out to prove he and John Wall are NBA's best backcourt writes Don Coble of The Florida Times-Union. Beal is in Jacksonville tonight with the Wizards along with former UF standouts Patric Young and Vernon Macklin, who are with the New Orleans Pelicans, for an exhibition game.
--A good read on how the Mavericks stole former Gators standout Chandler Parsons from the Rockets to intensify the NBA rivalry from Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
--Former Gators forward Erik Murphy back to where his roots are as member of Boston Celtics writes Scott Souza of MetroWest Daily News.
--Florida Gym to celebrate its 65th anniversary writes Damaris Lopez of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Gators men's tennis coach Bryan Shelton wants his team to turn up the attitude writes Mary Francis for the Alligator.
Updated: 12:20pm, October 1
Gators defensive lineman Leon Orr (No. 8) will miss Saturday's game. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators coach Will Muschamp made his regular appearance on the SEC Coaches Media Teleconference this morning.
Here are some quick-hit items from the call:
--Muschamp said freshman running back Brandon Powell will miss Saturday’s game at Tennessee with a hamstring injury that has limited him. Muschamp also reiterated defensive tackle Leon Orr (knee) won’t play Saturday.
--Senior linebacker Michael Taylor practiced Tuesday and remains questionable for Saturday due to a knee injury. “We’ll see how he progresses throughout the rest of the week.”
--Junior left tackle D.J. Humphries (ankle) “looked great” at practice on Tuesday and will play. Humphries has missed the last two games after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the season opener.
--Muschamp said a combination of bad throws and drops has prevented quarterback Jeff Driskel from thriving in the shotgun the way the Gators expected in their new offense. “We’ve had over 10 drops at the receiver position. We’ve had a couple of drops at the tight end position. Our protection has been good,” Muschamp said. “We’ve had our opportunities and it’s not all on Jeff. We’ve got to do a better job as an entire offense executing. Certainly Jeff is part of that. I think as we continue to work through the season we’ll continue to see good numbers.”
--“I would say really at the skill positions offensively,’’ Muschamp when asked where he sees the most improvement in this Tennessee team. “There is no question the third-down defense has been outstanding. Execution of what they do has been the key for them defensively.”
--Muschamp was asked about the Florida-Tennessee rivalry in the 1990s when the winner often won the SEC East. “It was good for college football and good for both universities.”
--Muschamp said the secondary is to blame for most of Florida’s defensive struggles. “We haven’t played very well. We’ve given up too many big plays. We’ve played well enough up front. We need to get more pressure with four guys rushing. Our linebackers have fit the runs well and done some nice things in coverage and pressures. But we have not played well enough in the secondary. We’re looking for different combinations of guys and we’re going to continue to do that. Guys are going to go out and communicate and do things the right way.”
--Coming off loss to Alabama, Muschamp was asked about team’s confident level heading to Tennessee. “I think we’re confident. We’ve had good prep in the open week and I think we’ve had good preparation through this week, and through your preparation builds confidence in what you do. What I’ve tried to do is look at from fall camp to this point – of the positive things we’ve done [amidst] obviously a lot of the negativity that surrounds us here. I think our guys have seen that and understand the type of football team we can have when we put it together and that’s what we are looking forward to.”
--Muschamp on college football being on pace for record number of 500-yard passing games, 700-yard total offense games this season: “As much as anything, total yardage now because of the number of snaps that you are taking defensively is not as important a stat as maybe some people think. I think it’s more about yards per play. That’s a little more reflective on how you are playing defense.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is set to meet with the media here shortly.
Check out GatorZone.com for an update later.
For now, here are some daily links for your perusal leading up to Saturday’s SEC East showdown at Neyland Stadium between the Gators and Vols:
--Florida must start finding some answers writes Jeff Barlis of ESPN.com.
--Gators coach Will Muschamp still backing Jeff Driskel at quarterback writes Gary Smits of The Florida Times-Union.
--Muschamp: no plan to play two quarterbacks writes Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.
--Florida’s secondary still a work in progress writes Antonya English of The Tampa Bay Times.
--Driskel ignoring the criticism writes Cody Jones of Scout.com.
--Tennessee coach Butch Jones asks Vols fans to Checker Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
Updated: 11:37am, September 26
Gators coach Will Muschamp seeks improvement heading into Tennessee game. (Photo: Tim Casey).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators have a bye week, and according to head coach Will Muschamp, they need it.
Florida travels to Neyland Stadium next Saturday for an SEC East showdown against Tennessee. The Vols have lost nine consecutive games to the Gators and appear to be improving under second-year head coach Butch Jones.
Improvement was the focus this week for the Gators, who will have the weekend off after a Friday weight-training session. Florida is searching for improvement offensively and defensively after its 42-21 loss at No. 3-ranked Alabama.
With that backdrop in place, here are some fresh links from around the Internet covering the Gators football team and other sports:
--Florida's four-man pass rush not getting it done writes Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.com.
--Muschamp is not pleased at way defense is playing writes Jeff Barlis of ESPN.com.
--How can Florida save its season? Florida Today beat writer David Jones offers his take.
--Gators AD Jeremy Foley isn't ready to push the panic button writes Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel.
--Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley takes a look at greatest Gators to never play in NFL.
--Muschamp backs quarterback Jeff Driskel, expresses frustration over missed big plays writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.
--Gators' veterans work to keep team's attitude upbeat writes Antonya English of The Tampa Bay Times.
--Former Gators coach Urban Meyer was featured on HBO this week, and Palm Beach Post columnist Dave George writes only time will tell if Meyer is a changed man.
--Former UF standout and longtime NBA player Matt Bonner honored to be inducted into UF's HOF writes Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun.
--The UF volleyball team opens SEC play with a clean slate writes Eden Otero of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--The Gators women's swim team hosts Arkansas on Saturday in search of youth to replace departed seniors writes Aaron Friedland of the Alligator.
--Florida's soccer team is finally back home writes Jim Harvin of The Gainesville Sun.
Updated: 5:28pm, September 17
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators have two more practices before they head to Tuscaloosa on Friday afternoon for Saturday's big showdown with No. 3-ranked Alabama on Saturday.
This one has that big-game feel to it, which always makes the week more fun. There's plenty being said and written about this one.
Here is a look at some of the latest headlines:
--Gators say their 3OT win over Kentucky was a good prep for Alabama game writes Antonya English of The Tampa Bay Times.
--Junior running back Matt Jones carried load in second half vs. Kentucky writes Morgan Moriarty of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--UF pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. can't do it alone writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.
--Alabama determined to end turnover shortage on Saturday writes Andrew Gribble of AL.com.
--Alabama coach Nick Saban's thoughts on UF's offense, Will Muschamp, several more topics via Andrew Gribble of Al.com.
--Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky writes that it's not too early to consider Alabama receiver Amari Cooper for the Heisman Trophy.
--ESPN.com blogger David Ching offers a first look at this week's SEC games, highlighted by Florida-Alabama.
--Gators QB Jeff Driskel a dual-threat vs. Bama and other notes from Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.
--Florida freshman DT Gerald Willis and Alabama DB Landon Collins are brothers writes Chase Goodbread of NFL.com.
--Converting third downs might be key for Gators in game at Alabama writes Richard Johnson of The Florida Times-Union.
Vernon Hargreaves is excited about matchup with Tide receiver Amari Cooper. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – They have totally opposite missions on Saturday.
Gators cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will try to prevent catches. Alabama receiver Amari Cooper will try to haul in as many passes as he can.
The Hargreaves-Cooper battle is perhaps the most intriguing subplot to Saturday’s Florida-Alabama showdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The winner of their matchup figures to have better odds of being on the winning team.
“He’s excited, I’m excited, we both know the magnitude of the game, and it’s going to be a great matchup,’’ Hargreaves said.
A freshman All-American last season, Hargreaves' sophomore season is off to a good start in the first two games. He broke up a career-high four passes in Florida’s triple-overtime win against Kentucky.
Hargreaves is the glue of a Gators secondary that was hot and cold against Kentucky. The Gators picked off three passes but allowed 173 yards on six explosive plays that drew the ire of head coach Will Muschamp.
To beat Alabama the Gators must tighten up their communication issues in the secondary. And at least contain Cooper to some degree, which no one has been able to do thus far.
Cooper (photo, left) leads the country with 33 receptions and ranks third with 464 yards receiving in three games. To put Cooper’s production in perspective, he has accounted for more than 50 percent of Alabama’s receiving yards under first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
Cooper’s explosive start has some hyping him as the early Heisman favorite despite the fact a receiver hasn’t won the award since Desmond Howard in 1991.
Cooper’s on pace to shatter Julio Jones’ school-record for receptions (78) and yards (1,133) in a season, set in 2010.
"They do a nice job in the run game of getting the ball to him in a lot of what I call quick situation, of seeing a bad box, getting it out to him on the perimeter, creating some one-on-ones,’’ Muschamp said. “[They] move him around a little bit and we've got to make sure we identify him and know where he is. He's been targeted a bunch in their first three games, so there's no question he's a playmaker.”
Cooper is dangerous after the catch, picking up at least 13 yards-after-catch six times according to TideSports.com.
“Everybody knows what’s coming,” Hargreaves said. “Obviously I’m going to be covering him but you know I’m excited for it.”
While Hargreaves and Cooper will be matched up often, Cooper also lines up in the slot, presenting a challenge for Florida’s linebackers and safeties in coverage.
Cooper told reporters Monday he respects Hargreaves and the two follow each other on Twitter and have messaged one another in the past.
“He’s fast, quick,’’ Cooper said. “He plays smart.”
If Gators defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. wasn’t playing Saturday, he would probably turn on the TV and watch Hargreaves and Cooper.
The matchup has that type of potential.
“I knew Amari Cooper in the Under Armour Game and I saw him in practice and he’s a great receiver,’’ Fowler said Tuesday. “And being able to see Vernon, see how good he is, that’s going to be a good matchup. I can’t wait to see that.”
Updated: 11:17pm, September 11
Gators coach Will Muschamp took on another name when he called into the Gator Hotline Thursday.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators coach Will Muschamp is known for a good one-liner from time to time.
He showed off his sense of humor in a different way on Thursday night.
Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley filled in for Muschamp on the Gator Hotline radio call-in show.
About midway into the show, host Mick Hubert took a call from "Bill" from Gainesville.
First, I've got a confession to make: I was driving home from work and had the show on my radio when Bill called in. I didn't pick up the fact Bill sounded an awful lot like the Gators head coach.
I do remember Foley's response about falling asleep during Muschamp's appearances on the show and chuckling.
Anyway, thanks to this thing called the Internet, someone captured the exchange and posted on the Web.
Here is "Bill"...or maybe "Will" from Gainesville:
Updated: 6:25pm, September 10
Former Gator Trey Burton during last year's game against Georgia. (Photo: Jay Metz)
He is listed on the depth chart as the fourth tight end, but ask former Gator Trey Burton his role, and his answer sounds familiar.
Burton said he lines up some at tight end during practice, some at receiver, and some at running back. Basically, wherever the Philadelphia Eagles need him. He also plays special teams and made his NFL debut there Sunday in the Eagles’ 34-17 win over Jacksonville.
“Every team is looking for a guy who can play on all special teams and be a backup on offense and eventually they will groom him into being the guy in the future,’’ Burton said Tuesday. “I’m extremely excited for the opportunity. I was just trying to make the best out of it. My dream was definitely to make the 53-man roster, but my dream was also to play, and I was able to do that this week. It’s just been kind of like a fairy tale.”
An undrafted free agent, Burton defied the odds when he made Philadelphia’s 53-man roster. He was the only undrafted rookie signed by the Eagles in May who made the roster.
However, Eagles coach Chip Kelly and general manger Howie Roseman, a former UF student, had their eyes on Burton on draft day.
"Late in the draft, we ended up taking a couple of defensive guys,’’ Kelly told reporters last week. “After we drafted Beau [Allen] in the seventh round, you look at the barrel and say, 'Who do you want?’ He was a guy that was a priority guy for us.”
No surprise, Burton’s versatility -- he played quarterback, fullback, tailback, tight end and receiver at Florida the past four seasons -- played a role.
Kelly’s fast-paced offense uses skill players in creative ways and when you can play as many positions as Burton, you have a player who provides a lot of options.
Burton said the biggest adjustment to the NFL has been Kelly’s offense, one he utilized at Oregon before taking over the Eagles last season.
“It’s extremely different,’’ Burton said. “Nothing like I’ve ever seen or heard of before. You hear about it being fast-placed -- it’s extremely fast. The technique and the hand signals, there is so much you have to learn. It’s definitley been one of the hardest offenses I’ve had to learn.
“I struggled with it a little bit, especially not coming from a no-huddle background. Coming from that to here, it’s a whole new world for me. It’s been fun.”
Burton’s adjustment to the City of Brotherly Love has been smoother. He spent his off day Tuesday looking for a place to live and a car.
He got a taste of Philly fans’ love-hate relationships with their professional sports teams Sunday.
“I really love it up here. I like the city and just the whole environment,” Burton said. “They were booing us after the second drive on Sunday.”
Burton is teammates with former Gators Jaylen Watkins and Riley Cooper, which has helped in the transition.
So have the three tight ends ahead of him on the roster: veterans Brent Celek and James Casey, and second-year pro Zach Ertz out of Stanford.
They have welcomed him with open arms.
“I’ve been blessed with an unbelievable tight end group that has really helped me out,’’ Burton said. “They’re just a bunch of good guys. They are really good on the field, but off the field they are even better. They have been awesome to me.”
Burton maintains daily contact with his younger brother, Clay, a senior tight end for the Gators, and several of his former teammates.
He is ready for another new experience this week: Monday Night Football. The Eagles play at Indianapolis on national television.
“It’s prime time,’’ he said. “I’m excited to see what this is about compared to a Florida-Georgia or Florida-Alabama game.”
Updated: 2:33pm, September 10
Freshman CB J.C. Jackson will undergo shoulder surgery next week. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- True freshman cornerback J.C. Jackson will miss the rest of the season.
Florida coach Will Muschamp announced Wednesday that Jackson will undergo shoulder surgery next week to repair a labrum injury that limited him in contact drills during fall camp.
Jackson played in the season opener but did not record a tackle.
"A labrum issue he had in high school that was repaired and continued to slip out,” Muschamp said. "He possibly could continue to push through the season, but we felt with his young age, go ahead and try and get it fixed and move on."
A 5-foot-10, 196-pound product of Immokalee High, Jackson arrived as part of a deep and talented freshman class of defensive backs. Jackson, Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Duke Dawson all played in Florida's 65-0 win over Eastern Michigan.
The Gators were impressed by Jackson's physical presence at corner and expected him to contribute.
“A guy who certainly was going to help on special teams and at corner,'' Muschamp said. "He's going to be an outstanding player. Disappointed for him, but we've got to move forward."
While Jackson's loss is disappointing for the Gators, they have good depth in the secondary and expect to have safety Marcus Maye (hamstring) back against Kentucky on Saturday.
Updated: 7:07pm, September 9
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At UF’s media day last month Gators junior running back Mark Herndon sat at a table alongside fellow tailbacks Matt Jones, Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown.
A former walk-on who was placed on scholarship last season, Herndon took far fewer questions than his teammates from the large group of assembled media making its way around the room.
After rushing for more than 1,600 yards as a senior at Ocala (Fla.) Forest High, Herndon had opportunities to go play elsewhere on scholarship. However, he chose to remain close to home and walk on with the Gators.
Most of his time during practice is spent on the scout team. On game day he plays on special teams. Herndon is your classic “team guy” whom first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said during fall camp would be starting at other schools.
Herndon has no such illusions at Florida.
“I’m ready for whatever,’’ he said at media day. “I’m ready if I do play, if I don’t play. It’s not going to take away from anything if I do play or if I don’t play.”
In the Gators’ 65-0 win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Herndon dressed out for the game with the same attitude.
Running back Mark Herndon during his 78-yard touchdown reception Saturday. (Photo: Tim Casey)
“I wasn’t coming into the game really expecting to play,’’ Herndon said Tuesday afternoon. “But when we were up 50-something, I was like, ‘alright, I might get in.’ ’’
Playing on the kickoff coverage team in the second half, Herndon had to be helped off the field. He re-injured an ankle that hobbled him most of spring practice.
“It hurt pretty bad,’’ he said.
As a religious man actively involved in his church and a regular volunteer in the community, Herndon did what he often does in difficult moments. He prayed.
“Lord, just give me like two plays. Two plays,’’ was Herndon’s request on the sideline as trainers treated his injured ankle. “I started warming up on the sideline, jumping up and down. I got in.”
On the Gators’ second drive of the fourth quarter, Herndon took a handoff and gained nine yards. After the Gators were flagged for a 5-yard penalty on the next play, Herndon did something he hasn’t done since his senior season of high school: he scored a touchdown, catching a Treon Harris pass across the middle and then racing the rest of the way for a 78-yard score.
“We had a smash [route] call in the boundary which we felt like based on how they had been playing to that point, was just going to be a hitch ball thrown into the boundary,’’ Florida head coach Will Muschamp said. “And they rolled up into Cover 2 and [Treon] took right to his middle-read throw to Mark Herndon. Mark made a fantastic play.”
Once Herndon reached the end zone, several teammates congratulated him as he held tightly onto the football. He didn’t keep the ball although it looked as if wanted to. He remembered what running backs coach Brian White tells the players when they score: “Hand the ball to the official.”
Full of adrenaline, Herndon forgot about his injured ankle.
“I didn’t feel it again until the next morning,’’ he said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The most significant development in the win that started the streak was that it clinched a trip to the Aloha Bowl for the Gators.
When the Gators woke up on Nov. 14, 1987, they were 5-4 and coming off back-to-back losses to Auburn and Georgia. They were going nowhere fast.
However, a sloppy 27-14 victory over the Wildcats prompted the following message on the video board at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium: “Aloha Gators” … “Adios Wildcats.”
Twenty-seven years later, when it comes to victory in this annual series, nothing has changed.
The Gators host Kentucky on Saturday in search of their 28th consecutive victory over the Wildcats.
Gators coach Will Muschamp said Monday that those previous 27 wins have nothing to do with Saturday’s game, and he’s right, but as far as streaks go, this one is always worth revisiting for Florida fans.
Florida’s win streak over Kentucky is currently the sixth longest in NCAA history in an annual rivalry between major opponents. If Florida can make it 28 in a row, it will tie Texas’ 28-game win streak over Rice (1966-93) for the fifth-longest such streak.
Here is a game-by-game look at the Gators-Wildcats since 1987:
|Year||Opponent||W/L||UF||UK||Margin||UF coach||UK coach|
Updated: 11:35am, September 5
Sophomore Demarcus Robinson remains a pivotal part of Florida's plans on offense. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- He had been on campus for about a month when posed with a modest question.
In his mind, what was the ideal scenario for him heading into his first season at UF?
Receiver Demarcus Robinson, considered a potential jewel of Florida's 2013 recruiting class, answered the way you might expect from a young player still trying to find his way around.
"Just to get good with the plays and try to get on the field early and show the people what I can do," he said.
More than a year and half later Robinson's answer still connects easily to the state of his career.
As the Gators prepare to face Eastern Michigan on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Robinson's career totals read like this: seven games, five catches, five DNPs, three suspensions.
Robinson's most meaningful contribution to the Gators is a 10-yard catch on third-and-9 in Florida's win at Kentucky last season. The reception kept the Gators' 93-yard scoring drive alive and provided a brief glimpse why the 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver from Peach County (Ga.) High was such a hot commodity coming out of high school.
Due to maturity issues and violation of team rules Robinson was suspended for Florida's SEC opener against Tennessee and the final two games of last season. He opened his sophomore season suspended for a university sanction that has been resolved.
On Monday Gators coach Will Muschamp said Robinson and defensive linemen Darious Cummings and Jay-nard Bostwick are eligible to play Saturday -- Cummings and Bostwick were suspended for violation of team rules a week ago.
Robinson is the player Florida fans are clamoring to see.
Is this the year Robinson proves he is as good as they said he was in high school?
Through all the turbulence of his brief time at UF, his teammates and coaches continue to support Robinson and urge him to get his act together.
"I do honestly think that Demarcus is a good guy," quarterback Jeff Driskel said this week. "Sometimes he’s made poor decisions in the past, but I think he’s matured a lot. He did everything he could to help the team out this past week, knowing that he wasn’t going to play. And that takes a mature guy to do that and not hang your head.
"I think he’s going to help us out a lot this year. He’s a guy we’re going to have to count on."
Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves says Robinson is the most difficult receiver to cover in practice. Teammates tell stories about his acrobatic dunks on the basketball court. And Muschamp, despite his frustration with Robinson over the past 18 months, remains one of his most stout supporters.
"I love Demarcus, he's a great kid," Muschamp said. "Now, just because you make a couple of poor decisions doesn't make you a bad person. He certainly has learned from these situations and will move forward. I've told the players all the time, help me help you. And if they are willing to work with me we're willing to work with them."
First-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is pulling for Robinson. Roper knows that when Robinson is on the field and his head into the game, he provides the Gators' revamped up-tempo offense with an alluring weapon.
In Roper's short time with the Gators he has seen a player ready to contribute more than five catches for 23 yards like last season.
"He's a guy that's really working hard to improve himself, if that makes sense,'' Roper said. "And that's not always easy to go through some challenges that he's been through. To say this, I think he's working to try and be a better person all the time. And he empties the bucket when we go to the practice field, so I appreciate the way he works. Obviously, as a coaching staff, we're here to help him grow."
Based on what Muschamp, Roper and Driskel said this week, Robinson's support system is as strong as ever.
The rest appears up to him.
"He's had a 3.0 [grade-point average] the last two semesters at the University of Florida. He's worked extremely hard academically,'' Muschamp said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's a wonderful man to be around. He's got a smile on his face all the time.
"As far as football is concerned it's never been an issue. Demarcus works extremely hard on the field. Football is very important to him. Sometimes guys mature at different times and he's gone through that process."
Robinson is second on the depth chart behind Quinton Dunbar at the X-receiver spot. With a chance to get back on the field Saturday, maybe Robinson will finally develop into the X-factor the Gators' offense has been waiting on.
Updated: 3:24pm, September 3
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced Monday that receiver Demarcus Robinson, defensive lineman Darious Cummings and defensive lineman Jay-nard Bostwick are eligible to play Saturday against Eastern Michigan.
The trio was suspended for the Idaho game -- Cummings and Bostwick for violation of team rules and Robinson due to a university sanction that has been resolved.
While the Gators went through Saturday’s suspended game with the three players unavailable, their return to the active roster this week drew criticism from some despite Muschamp’s proven track regarding player discipline since taking over the Gators.
Muschamp responded on Wednesday morning’s SEC coaches media teleconference:
“It’s not just about suspending players for games. There’s a lot of things that go into discipline. It’s about altering and change behavior, which we’ve done here,” Muschamp said. “I think our discipline speaks for itself in how we’ve handled our football team.
“So it’s not just about missing [games]. If it’s about suspensions, then you would never have an issue, right? At the end of the day, there’s more than that. There are a lot of things that go into those situations, a lot more than people know. And it’s very frustrating for me as a coach, or any coach, to have someone being critical and you don’t even have all the information.
“At the end of the day, I make the decisions in this program and I handle the discipline in this program and it’s been handled very well.”
Updated: 5:55pm, September 2
Florida captains Max Garcia, Chaz Green, Michael Taylor and Jabari Gorman (l to r) on Saturday.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – As soon as the Florida-Idaho game was suspended late Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, a common question was repeated over and over.
My timeline on Twitter has flickered constantly with the query:
@GatorZoneScott RT Scott why didn't they reschedule game for Sunday @ 12:00?— Courtney Russin (@courtney_russin) September 2, 2014
@GatorZoneScott why is tomorrow apparently not an option?— Ben Kizer (@thebenkizer) August 31, 2014
@GatorZoneScott why can't they just play tomorrow?— Brody Meyers (@xXGatorChompXx) August 31, 2014
On the surface, sure, it seems like a simple enough solution. Tell both teams to go home, sleep a few hours, and come back in the morning and we’ll do this all over again.
Folks, it’s not that simple. Not even close.
College football teams plan their travel to road games months in advance.
They book hotel rooms, charter flights, arrange meeting rooms, meal services and all sorts of logistics way before they ever take off from home. Every move is scripted.
Teams generally arrive at their destination on Friday afternoon or early evening. The semi-trucks that carry the team’s gear and equipment usually leave a day or two in advance depending on how far the trip.
Once they arrive, the players usually gather in a meeting room at the hotel for dinner and then off to meetings with their position groups.
After that, they go down for the night with a curfew in place. And they repeat the meal-and-meeting process the next morning until it’s time to leave for the stadium. If it's a night game, they get some extra rest until departing for the game.
When something interrupts the schedule such as a severe thunderstorm that decides to hang around the stadium for a few hours with more than 1,100 lightning strikes in a six-hour window, well, the best laid-out plans go kaput.
Take Saturday for example. Idaho checked out of its hotel prior to leaving for The Swamp. By the time officials made the call to suspend the game several hours later, the Vandals’ chartered plane was already on the tarmac at Gainesville Regional Airport for the scheduled 2,700-mile flight home to Moscow, Idaho.
Meanwhile, here are just some of the organizations that staff each UF home football game. These organizations budget resources in their annual planning to meet fiscal, manpower and other requirements on game days.
--The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office
--The University of Florida Police Department
--The Gainesville Police Department
--The Alachua County Fire and Rescue Department
--The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County
--Multiple federal law enforcement agencies
In figures provided by the UAA, it takes an average of nearly 3,000 people to stage a UF home game.
A look at those figures according to the service provided: concession workers (1,300), private security (400), law enforcement (285), game operations (300), credentialed media and media staffing (300), cleaning crew (200), medical personnel (100) and caterers (100).
While far removed from the bright lights of the field, they are the ones who work to make the game-day experience possible.
By the time I left the stadium around 1 a.m. Sunday morning, cleaning crews still had tons of garbage to remove, work that would not be completed until Sunday afternoon.
In addition, stadium workers such as concession stand attendants, ticket takers and others would need to be available on short notice Sunday, basically an impossible task to arrange in such a short turnaround.
As you can see by the general game-day services listed above, there was no way such a massive undertaking could have been arranged for a Sunday game.
In fact, by the time most of the fans at the game woke up Sunday morning, the Vandals had already arrived back home, exhausted from their cross-country trip and unusual visit to the Sunshine State.
So, while the question “Why can’t they play on Sunday?” seemed a reasonable thought immediately after the news broke, now you know why that was never a possibility.
Too many moving parts. Too many people involved. Not nearly enough time.