Welcome to Carter's Corner!
The NFL Draft concluded Saturday night in what turned into prosperous weekend for the Gators.
Eight Florida players were selected during the three-day draft held at Radio City Music Hall in New York, including four players in Saturday's final day.
Sharrif Floyd (Vikings) and Matt Elam (Ravens) were selected in Thursday's first round, followed by Jon Bostic (Bears) and Jordan Reed (Redskins) in rounds two and three on Friday. Finally, Jelani Jenkins (Dolphins), Caleb Sturgis (Dolphins), Mike Gillislee (Dolphins) and Josh Evans (Jaguars) were selected Saturday in rounds four through seven.
After having only two players selected in 2012 and four in 2011, NFL talent evaluators focused their attention once again heavily on a UF program that finished 11-2 in Coach Will Muschamp's second season.
"I think everybody was a little surprised that our numbers were not what they should be at Florida [the last two years],'' Muschamp said. "If we do our job as a staff, we'll continue to have these types of years. It shows about the development of our players.
"There are four things to coaching: it's evaluation, it's recruiting, it's development and it's coaching. We've done a good job of developing and coaching the players. I'm just really proud of all of them and appreciate what they did for our program.''
Here are some fresh links from around the Internet with more on the Gators selected in the draft:
--The Miami Dolphins obviously scouted the Gators heavily, taking three UF players Saturday writes The Miami Herald's Adam Beasley.
--Safety Josh Evans won't have to move far for his NFL destination after being taken by Jacksonville in the sixth round. A look at what Evans had to say to JacksonvilleJaguars.com.
--Redskins coach Mike Shanahan likes what Gators tight end Jordan Reed brings to the roster in this blog from the Washington Post.
--Gators linebacker Jon Bostic brings a lot to table for Bears writes Don Pompei of The Chicago Tribune.
--ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert asks could Bostic be replacement for Bears great Brian Urlacher?
--Gators safety Matt Elam will learn to play strong and free safety with Ravens as he reunites with former UF defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who coached Elam his first season at UF.
--USA Today's Jim Corbett revisits some of the struggles Elam went through to become a first-round NFL Draft pick.
--Sturgis is first player out of St. Augustine High to get drafted and first kicker taken by Dolphins in draft in 24 years writes the St. Augustine Record.
--Sharrif Floyd "wants to prove people wrong" after his slide in first round writes The Philadelphia Daily News.
--Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Sid Hartman writes Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was thrilled to get Sharrif Floyd at 23rd overall.
--More on Gillislee going to Dolphins from Andy Kent of MiamiDolphins.com.
--MiamiDolphins.com goes 1-on-1 with Jelani Jenkins in this podcast after Jenkins was selected Saturday.
Matt Elam works out for NFL scouts at UF's Pro Day last month.
NEW YORK -- Gators safety Matt Elam won't be here tonight at Radio City Music Hall with teammate Sharrif Floyd for the NFL Draft.
Floyd is one of 24 prospects on hand for the draft's first round and is expected to hear his name called very early. Many mock drafts have Floyd going with the No. 3 overall pick to Oakland.
While Elam isn't participating in the red-carpet ceremonies, that doesn't mean he won't be a first-round selection. In most draft projections, Elam is listed as a late first-round pick or early second-round selection.
The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens have reportedly shown an interest in Elam in the wake of Ed Reed's departure. Elam blossomed in his final two seasons at Florida and was a first-team All-American as a junior.
He plays with the kind of toughness valued by Florida coach Will Muschamp, who said Thursday that Elam should not have to wait long to hear his name called.
"Matt is a first-round guy. He's got that ability,'' Muschamp said on the way to New York to attend the NFL Draft for the first time. "He is a violent player and plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. He is a tremendous competitor.
"Again, another guy who God has blessed with tremendous ability but he has worked hard and put himself in this position to be successful. He will be successful. He's a leader that people gravitate to. He's got natural leadership ability."
According to a report from Forbes.com this week, Elam is a rarity among top prospects -- he has yet to hire an NFL agent. His brother Abe Elam, a current free agent who has played 104 career games in the NFL and spent last season with the Chiefs, has been Matt's adviser through the draft process.
Abe Elam attended Florida's Pro Day in March and spoke to several scouts and reporters about his younger brother's prospects.
"Not to discredit any agent, but Matt has done the things to put himself in a position to have a high draft grade without an agent," Abe Elam told Forbes. "There is no contract right now to be evaluated because he hasn’t been drafted yet. At some point we will have to address whether Matt should hire an agent or an attorney."
Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will host first College Football Playoff title game on Jan. 12, 2015.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- After years of debate and complaints over the BCS, major college football officially welcomed its new playoff system on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif.
Starting after the 2014 season, the College Football Playoff will determine college football's national champion.
The new playoff system already has an official website and Twitter account (@CFBPlayoff).
In case you missed the news, here are the key points to remember as college football moves into a new era:
WHAT: College Football Playoff
WHEN: Starts after 2014 season
WHO: Four highest-ranked teams
WHERE: First championship game will be at Cowboys Stadium on Jan. 12, 2015
BOWLS: Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A bowls are in the six-bowl semifinal rotation
SCHEDULE: In the first year the CFB Playoff will feature back-to-back tripleheaders on Dec. 31 (Cotton, Orange, Fiesta bowls) and Jan. 1 (Chick-fil-A, Rose, Sugar bowls). The Rose and Sugar bowls will be the national semifinals.
QUOTE OF NOTE I: "We decided to call the playoff what it is -- the College Football Playoff. We think the new playoff will be the most dynamic improvement to college football in a generation. Certainly, it's what the fans want." -- BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock
QUOTE OF NOTE II: "The culture of New Year's Eve will change in this country.'' -- Hancock on emphasizing a return to playing major bowls on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day
QUOTE OF NOTE III: "We couldn't be more excited about bringing college football's biggest game to Cowboys Stadium. Rest assured, we all pledge to do everything we can to make sure this game exceeds everyone's highest expectations." -- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
According to ESPN.com, the semifinal rotation has been determined as follows: The Rose (Pasadena) and Sugar (New Orleans) bowls will host the semifinals in 2015, the Orange (Miami) and Cotton (Arlington) bowls will host in 2016, and the Fiesta (Glendale) and Chick-fil-A (Atlanta) bowls will host in 2017. They will keep that rotation through January 2026.
An additional note is that as part of the College Football Playoff's 12-year contract, the Chick-fil-A Bowl will be called the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in honoring the game's history and original name.
Florida coach Will Muschamp released a post-spring depth chart on Wednesday.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators coach Will Muschamp met with the media a little while ago to introduce new special-teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach Jeff Choate.
You can read my story about Choate by clicking this link.
The most notable items to come from Muschamp's press conference were 1) redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker, who has had multiple off-the-field issues in his time at UF, is transferring to "get a fresh start." That was not a huge surprise to those who follow the program closely.
And 2) Muschamp released a post-spring depth chart.
While Muschamp warned that the depth chart might not be worth the "paper it's printed on" since competition for spots will resume once fall camp opens, here is the way it looks on April 24:
The Gators sparkled in more ways than one at the NCAA Championships.
LOS ANGELES -- The Gators gymnastics team finally turned the Big Four into the Fab Five here at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday night.
Florida became the fifth school to win an NCAA women's gymnastics national championship, joining UCLA, Georgia, Alabama and Utah. The Gators reached the sport's pinnacle in their 31st trip to the NCAA Championships.
That wasn't the only long wait that came to end for Florida.
You may have noticed the Gators sparkled. Literally.
The Gators wore a Beyoncé-inspired leotard that featured 2,400 Swarovski crystals and designed by Gators coach Rhonda Faehn.
"That was a long time in the making,'' Faehn said. "We found a picture of Beyoncé on the Internet on the red carpet wearing a midnight blue mesh, sweetheart neckline. It was so gorgeous. I was like, 'we have to have this leotard.' We kind of filtered it through the girls because they get to design a few sets and I design two sets."
Faehn tested the design with junior Mackenzie Caquatto first. She liked it. Soon, others bought in and a plan was put in motion to order the leotards for a special occasion. The Super Six fit the bit and the Gators debuted their new threads Saturday.
The leotard featured white sleeves and shoulders and a blue bottom with the word "Florida" printed in white above the right hip.
As she talked about the leotard afterward, Faehn beamed with pride at her design.
"Gross amounts" of crystals,'' she said. "It was just spectacular."
You may see them again. Since the Gators won the national title -- which includes a ring -- there is already talk of another Beyoncé-inspired design in the works. The same leotard but with a ring on it -- hint: Beyoncé's huge hit song, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)."
To the victor go the spoils.
Faehn didn't want to talk much about her connection to UCLA, site of this year's NCAA Championships, leading up to the event. She preferred the focus be on the Gators instead of her return to Westwood, where she competed for the Bruins from 1990-92 and earned a history degree in 1994.
But after the confetti fell and the pictures were taken and the hugs shared, Faehn (in photo with assistants Robert Ladanyi and Adrian Burde) made sure to look up into the stands to wave goodbye to one of the last people in the stands Saturday night.
Jerry Tomlinson recruited Faehn, a Minnesota native, to move west for college. Tomlinson coached Faehn for only one season but they remain close and Tomlinson organized UCLA alumni to come watch this week's Super Six.
Faehn's Gators won the title while the host Bruins finished fourth.
"It was really special," Faehn said of winning in front of her former coach and some former teammates. "That was really nice to see that. I kind of came full circle."
Faehn also heard from a pioneer in Florida gymnastics, former coach Ernestine Weaver Russell. After the meet, Russell called to congratulate Faehn for elevating Florida's program to a national title. Russell served as the Gators' coach from 1980-92, including the program's transition into the NCAA starting with the 1981-82 season.
Senior Marissa King capped her career with the Gators on Sunday by finishing sixth in the individual floor finals and seventh on the beam.
The 2011 NCAA vault champion probably won't remember much from Sunday's action. She has been beaming on Twitter since celebrating her 22nd birthday on Saturday by helping the Gators claim the national title.
Gators coach Rhonda Faehn hugs senior Marissa King.
"I'm never going to forget this day,'' King said. "I couldn't be more happier than now."
King's performance was clutch Saturday, perhaps nowhere more than on beam when she steadied the Gators with a spectacular 9.925 routine after two Florida falls in the rotation. King then nailed a 9.950 on floor, scored a 9.900 on vault and a 9.875 on bars..
Faehn recalled King's focus for her final season when the two met in the preseason.
"It's going to be a blowout year,'' Faehn said King told her. "She was in the gym every day."
King was right. Not a bad way to celebrate a birthday or end a career.
QUOTE OF NOTE I
"My teammates helped me out a lot. I was really down. I knew I could stick that routine. They did cheer me up. We just came out and rocked floor." -- Gators senior Ashanee Dickerson on what transpired after her fall on beam
QUOTE OF NOTE II
"I want to do this every single year I'm here baby." -- Freshman Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto on winning the national title in her first season
QUOTE OF NOTE III
"It's about how you finish, and I know how to finish strong.'' -- Sophomore Kytra Hunter (photo, left) on rebounding from her fall on beam, including a 9.975 on floor
With Florida's win, here is how the five programs to win national titles rank in the event's 32-year history: 1. Georgia 10; 2. Utah 9; T3. Alabama, UCLA 6; 5. Florida 1 ... Alaina Johnson became the first UF gymnast to win the NCAA title on bars Sunday ... Freshman Bridget Sloan won the beam title Sunday to go along with the NCAA all-around title she captured Friday ... During their stay in Los Angeles, the Gators stayed across the street from the practice facility of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Sunday April 21, 2013Gymnastics Extra: Fresh links covering Gators' dramatic comeback to win NCAA title
Updated: 6:18am, April 24
The Gators overcame early trouble for a stirring win Saturday for the national title.
LOS ANGELES -- I'll admit it. I thought the Gators gymnastics team's national championship bid was dead after four routines on the beam Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion.
Less than 10 minutes into the meet and Ashanee Dickerson and Kytra Hunter had fallen off. Two of the best gymnasts in the country had inexplicably tumbled to the floor and you could sense the Florida contingent's shock.
In football, that's like being down 21-0 after the first quarter. But as we know, this Gators gymnastics team isn't just any collection of high-flying athletes.
Hunter, Dickerson, Marissa King, Bridget Sloan, Mackenzie Caquatto and the entire roster are at Florida because they are the best at what they do. They have competed in World Championships, in Olympics and every other major event the sport has to offer.
So, if you counted them out like I did, you were wrong. So very, very wrong.
The Gators responded in grand fashion to win the program's first national title in arguably the most stunning comeback in school history in any sport.
I'll have more on their comeback later today on GatorZone.com, but for now, here are some links from other media outlets that covered Florida's stirring comeback:
--The Gators stormed back after a rough start with a "lights out" performance writes Amy Donaldson of the Deseret News.
--Diane Pucin of the Los Angeles Times writes about the heavy SEC presence at Pauley Pavilion and how the Gators rose to the occasion.
--Tommy Deas of the Halifax Media Group led with Gators are cold-blooded, and they have thick hides in his story for the Gainesville Sun.
--A good read by Andy Hutchins of the SBNation.com blog Alligator Army, who writes what happened next is nothing short of magic after the Gators fell twice on beam.
--A blog by Antonya English of the Tampa Bay Times headlined Florida gymnastics team wins program's first national title.
--Orlando Sentinel UF beat writer Edgar Thompson writes about Florida overcoming the slow start and the disappointment of last year's runner-up finish.
--Gators stun field with comeback writes Lya Wodraska of the Salt Lake Tribune.
--The Associated Press story via ESPNLosAngeles.com on Florida joining Alabama, Utah, UCLA and Georgia as the only programs to win national titles in women's gymnastics.
Senior Randy Stageberg is unable to compete this weekend but remains involved.
LOS ANGELES -- This isn't the way Gators senior Randy Stageberg imagined her college career ending.
She envisioned the Gators gymnastics team having a great season and making it here for the NCAA Gymnastics Championships, that part of the script is spot on. The shoulder injury she suffered is a plot twist she could live without.
Instead of competing at Pauley Pavilion in today's Super Six to determine the national championship, Stageberg will serve as the Gators' lead cheerleader. Stageberg, who leads off on floor and beam, suffered a fractured shoulder during practice leading up to the regional meet, forcing a premature end to her career.
Despite her disappointment, Stageberg remains a visible force for the Gators as they try to win the program's first national title (7 p.m., ET).
"I'm just trying to keep moving and make sure the team knows that I'm still here for them in any way I can be,'' Stageberg said. "I've always kind of been like a cheerleader in the gym."
Stageberg was having perhaps her best season prior to the injury, including matching her career-best score on the floor (9.90) to help the Gators win the Southeastern Conference Championships last month.
The surgery is similar to the one she suffered in high school in 2008 that required surgery and sidelined her for a year. Once healthy, Stageberg arrived at UF in 2010 and reeled off 40 consecutive "hit" routines on the beam to finish her career.
Her loss was a tough blow for Florida coach Rhonda Faehn.
"When [the MRI] came back and we knew she was going to be done for the season, of course I addressed it because she has meant so much to the program,'' Faehn said. "But the most important thing was she has adapted into a new role and will be just as important to this team whether she is competing or not."
Stageberg is doing her part, constantly encouraging teammates during routines and providing an experienced voice when needed.
"I think at that moment [of the injury] I kind of started bracing myself for it, because it's pretty devastating,'' she said. "I've just been adjusting to my new role every day and accepting it. It's been different, it's been hard."
Stageberg plans to remain close to the sport after her time at UF ends. She already has a job lined up this summer at her gym in Chesapeake, Va.
If the Gators do win their first national title tonight, Stageberg's career will come to a close the way she imagined after all.
"It would mean so much,'' she said. "I don't think I've ever seen so much heart on one team, so much passion for the sport. We just want it so bad with everything that we've been through and how close we got last year."
Gators freshman Bridget Sloan (photo, left) captured the program's second consecutive all-around national title on Friday with her score of 39.600. She joins Kytra Hunter as the only Gators to win the all-around title.
Hunter claimed the title a year ago and finished tied for seventh on Friday. The NCAA all-around champion is determined on the first day of the tournament. Meanwhile, Florida senior Marissa King finished in a four-way tie for third.
Sloan scored 9.900 on the floor and beam, 9.875 on vault and 9.925 on the bars to edge second-place Rheagan Courville (39.575) of LSU.
"The last few months have been incredible,'' said Sloan, the 2009 World Champion. "Being a student-athlete is very hard, but it has been an awesome experience for me. It's been an incredible ride with incredible coaches."
Florida, LSU and Georgia advanced to the Super Six from Friday's first semifinal session, and Alabama, UCLA and Oklahoma moved on in the second session.
That means four of the six teams competing for the national title today are from the SEC, with the Gators and LSU trying to join Georgia, Alabama, UCLA and Utah as the only programs to win the national title.
"There is so much parity in the country, it's truly a feat to be able to advance,'' said LSU coach D-D Breaux.
Feahn's trip to UCLA for the national championships brings back some memories. She competed for the Bruins from 1990-92 and started her coaching career at a UCLA student assistant from 1992-94.
Faehn graduated in 1994 with a history degree and earned All-American second-team honors in the all-around and beam in 1992. She downplayed her return, preferring the focus to remain on the Gators.
"It will be a little different in that respect,'' Faehn said. "But I’m there with the team strictly for business and on Florida’s behalf we’re just thrilled to go there and be a part of this championship.”
She was impressed Friday by the renovations at Pauley Pavilion. When she competed for the Bruins, they held the biggest meet of the season at the iconic venue but not the same one the Gators saw Friday.
"This arena is absolutely gorgeous,'' she said. "Our team had a blast out there."
UF's Caquatto sisters -- junior Mackenzie and freshman Bridgette -- had a day to remember. Mackenzie scored 9.825 on vault and 9.950s on bars and beam. Bridgette finished with a 9.825 on the floor. Their combined score 39.550 wass good enough to challenge Sloan for the all-around title ... Stageberg isn't surprised by Sloan's success adapting to the college level. A former elite-level gymnast herself, Stageberg remembers meeting Sloan nearly 10 years ago at her first elite camp in Texas. "To be finishing my career with her is pretty cool." ... The combined attendance at Friday's Session I and Session II was 4,347.
Friday April 12, 2013Gators baseball team on verge of climbing back to .500 thanks to recent stretch
Updated: 1:37pm, April 12
The Gators baseball team is smiling more of late with six wins in its last eight games.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In Thursday night’s win over SEC rival South Carolina, the Gators’ break came when Gamecocks sophomore TJ Costen slipped as he came around third base with two outs in the ninth inning.
Catcher Tyler Gushue, on the receiving end of a throw from right fielder Cory Reid, quickly threw to third baseman Josh Tobias, who then tagged Costen for the final out in Florida’s 3-2 win.
In Tuesday night’s road win at No. 7-ranked Florida State, the Gators were the benefactors of a throwing error by Seminoles third baseman Jose Brizuela in the ninth that allowed Harrison Bader to reach second to lead off the inning. Brizuela had grounded into an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the eighth and things quickly got worse for him when he fielded Bader’s ground ball.
With Bader on second, Seminoles pitcher Robby Coles tried to pick him off, but Coles’ throw went into the outfield and allowed Bader to take third. Later in the inning Bader scored the game-winning run on Josh Tobias’ sacrifice fly in Florida’s 4-3 win.
In Sunday’s 8-3 win at Mississippi State, the Gators won the old-fashioned way -- they pitched better and hit better than the Bulldogs.
In case you had gone to sleep on this year’s Gators baseball team, you might want to take notice of Florida’s recent play. The Gators have won six of eight since losing 4-3 at Ole Miss on March 29 and falling a season-high five games below .500 (11-16).
They are 17-18, 6-7 in the conference entering the second game of a three-game series with South Carolina tonight at McKethan Stadium.
“I don’t think it’s just the last three games,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan told reporters after Thursday’s win. “I think this team has been better the last month. The results haven’t always been the way we wanted them, but I think we’ve been playing better.
“We’ve been getting a lot of contributions. We’ve lost some tough one-run games, but I have seen improvement over the last month.”
Some of the breaks that went against Florida early in the season are now going its way. And like O’Sullivan said, the team has improved in some key areas, such as:
--Florida’s defense has been sharper of late with four consecutive errorless games.
--No. 1 starter Jonathon Crawford, 2-5 with a 4.17 ERA, is showing signs of last year’s Crawford.
--Freshman Richie Martin is back from a broken finger and starting in center field instead of shortstop; Florida is 3-0 with him in center.
--Freshman lefty Danny Young has pitched well since he entered the rotation. Young has a 1.59 ERA in four SEC appearances spanning 11 1/3 innings.
--The Gators are gaining confidence with some success and making fewer mistakes on the basepaths.
Young, scheduled to make his fourth start of the season tonight, is just one example of a young player improving.
“A young pitcher coming in and doing that is big for any team,’’ Crawford said. “That’s a good job on his part.”
Florida has already used 10 different starting pitchers this season in 35 games; the Gators used seven in 67 games a year ago.
Meanwhile, Gushue credited an attitude change with helping the Gators turn their fortunes around.
Early in the season they were too tight and too afraid of making mistakes. It showed as the Gators dropped six consecutive games to drop to 3-7. While they remain a game below .500, Gushue sees a team that is more loose and positive than during the season’s early struggles.
“I feel a lot of it has to do with ourselves and our approach to the game,’’ Gushue said. “It’s comes from within ourselves.”
The next step is to make it last. The Gators have 21 regular-season games remaining. They would like to reach at least 29 wins to feel good about a regional berth. They need 12 wins to reach that mark.
The schedule shapes up more favorable down the stretch. While the Gators still have SEC power LSU left, they have faced most of the SEC’s best teams already.
Regardless, the most important thing for the Gators is to continue to find ways to win.
“We’ll take one anyway we can,” O’Sullivan said.
Thursday April 11, 2013Already a Great Gator, Tebow to be honored Friday by Gov. Scott as a Great Floridian
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Tim Tebow is a Heisman winner, a first-round NFL draft pick and has long been considered a Great Gator.
There is a statue outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to confirm his status in Gator Nation.
Tebow will become a Great Floridian on Friday when Florida Gov. Rick Scott presents Tebow with the "Great Floridian" award in Ponte Vedra Beach.
The “Great Floridian” designation is given in recognition of the outstanding achievements of men and women who have made significant contributions to the progress and welfare of Florida.
It's also a distinction that isn't handed out to just anyone. Tebow will join 66 other people who have received the award since 1981.
The way the honor works is the Secretary of State selects no fewer than two “Great Floridians” from nominees made by a committee representing the Governor (1), each member of the Florida Cabinet (3), the President of the Senate (1), the Speaker of the House (1), and the Florida Secretary of State (1).
Tebow will be presented the award at the TPC of Sawgrass on Friday. Tebow is holding his annual celebrity golf classic on Saturday in his hometown.
Gators coach Will Muschamp is scheduled to play in the tournament.
Gators Kenny Boynton (shooting) and Mike Rosario playing in Portsmouth Invitational this week.
Hey folks, getting ready to watch some of the Louisville-Michigan national title game.
Those are the last two schools to defeat the Gators in the NCAA Tournament.
On a more positive note, did you see that Gators junior center Patric Young announced today that he was coming back for his senior season?
Young's final team at UF could be his best yet with transfers Damontre Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith eligible to play after sitting out a year due to NCAA rules and newcomers Kasey Hill and Chris Walker joining Billy D's team.
Maybe next year the Gators will be playing on the final Monday night of the college basketball season.
For now, let's take a look at some fresh links covering sports news of interest to Gator fans:
--For more on Young returning, here is a story by Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun.
--A pair of Young's teammates this season, Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario, are playing in the Portsmouth Invitational to prepare for the NBA draft. Click here for all 64 players competing.
--Former Gators Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam are considered first-round picks in a lot of mock drafts. On Wednesday the NFL is released its list of players attending the draft in New York writes NBCSports.com.
--Former Gators receiver David Nelson reaches a one-year deal with Cleveland writes CBSSports.com.
--Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is expected to report to the Jets' voluntary workouts next week writes ESPNNewYork.com.
--Gators safety Josh Evans is keeping a busy schedule in his latest draft diary for OnlyGators.com.
--ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco writes about running back Matt Jones in wake of a quiet day for Jones in the Orange & Blue Debut.
--Sounds like former Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's defense in Seattle will be similar to what he ran at Florida writes FieldGulls.com.
--You know his father a lot better than Bryan Cox Jr., but the Gainesville Sun's Zach Abolverdi writes about the younger Cox's outlook.
Friday April 5, 2013T.J. and Tiger Meet at Augusta -- Gators golfer T.J. Vogel's Masters Experience off to Great Start
Updated: 9:40am, April 5
Florida's T.J. Vogel is an amateur but he will be sharing golf's grandest stage next week in Augusta.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators senior T.J. Vogel has tried to prepare the best he can for an event “that’s different than anything that I have ever experienced.”
Vogel left Friday for Augusta National, where he is playing in the Masters next week as an amateur. He qualified for golf’s most famous tournament by winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in July.
The 22-year-old Vogel has already experienced a thrill of a lifetime from his Masters experience. He was at Augusta National on Sunday to play a practice round.
As they discussed their plan on Saturday night, Vogel’s caddy told him that he had an 8 a.m. tee time. He also mentioned that Tiger Woods was in town for a practice round and was scheduled to tee off at 10 a.m.
The wheels immediately started spinning in Vogel’s head. When it comes to Vogel’s golf idol, there is only one player on the leaderboard.
“Tiger Woods, without a doubt,'' Vogel said.
When Vogel was 11, he attended the Masters for the first time and saw Tiger win in 2001. When he was 15 Vogel and his father returned to Augusta as fans and watched Tiger win again in 2005. That is the last time Woods, who recently returned to No. 1 in the world rankings and is on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, won in Augusta.
So Vogel has watched Tiger win half of his four Masters titles in person.
The chance to possibly meet Woods was too good an opportunity to pass up for Vogel, who devised a perfect plan with his tee time scheduled two hours in front of Woods. That meant he would be finishing the front nine about the time Woods was starting.
“We tried to time it perfectly as I was walking up No. 9 he was walking up No. 1,’’ Vogel said.
Vogel aced the plan.
“I basically just walked down No. 1 and then just ran into him and we talked for a few minutes,’’ he said Thursday. “It was really cool to finally meet him. It’s been kind of a dream to be able to talk with him. I’m hoping that we will be able to play some time before the tournament. I want to learn from him. He’s the best that’s ever been in my opinion and plays that course really well. I’m just going to try and learn as much as I can from him.”
Vogel said he was nervous at first but that Woods was friendly and approachable. Vogel broke the ice by telling the 37-year-old Woods that they share the same birthday: Dec. 30.
“He’s kind of a funny and sarcastic dude,’’ Vogel said. “I was just like, ‘I want to introduce myself. I’m one of the amateurs playing in the tournament.’ He was real sincere, ‘Congratulations. That’s such an amazing accomplishment.’ And then I was like, ‘You know, we have the same birthday. It’s kind of destiny that we are meeting here at Augusta National.’ We started naming all the famous people like LeBron James, all the different people that share our birthday.
“It was really cool. I didn’t really ask him anything about golf. I just wanted to introduce myself and meet him. Hopefully when I play with him for a tournament, that’s when we will talk about golf.”
Editor’s note: For more on Vogel’s trip to Augusta to play in the Masters, check back with GatorZone.com early next week for a feature story on what he hopes to gain from the experience.
Bradley Beal spent only one season at UF before entering the NBA Draft, where the Washington Wizards took him with the third overall pick.
Beal has lived up to the pick, averaging 13.9 points and 3.8 rebounds in his rookie season. However, the Wizards announced Wednesday that Beal’s rookie season is over due to a fibula stress fracture in his right leg.
To read more about Beal’s injury, click here for a story from USA Today Sports.
To catch up on more Gator-related sports news, here are some fresh links from around the Internet:
--Former Gators quarterback Rex Grossman, who is being inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday night, officially inked a deal to return to the Redskins on Monday writes The Washington Post’s Mike Jones.
--Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague sure does like former Billy Donovan assistants. Teague hired former UF assistants Anthony Grant and Shaka Smart when he was AD at VCU, and has hired FIU coach Richard Pitino – who spent time on Donovan’s staff – at Minnesota to replace Tubby Smith writes Andy Katz of ESPN.com.
--The Seattle Mariners released their minor-league rosters Wednesday and former Gators catcher Mike Zunino will start season at Triple-A Tacoma writes the Seattle Times.
--In case you missed this, GatorZone baseball man John Hines posted a story on the five Gators on MLB opening day rosters.
--Missed this over weekend, but a good read from Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel on Billy D and his decision to stay at Florida and the move’s potential impact on other young coaches.
--UF beat writer Edgar Thompson writes about Florida’s attempt at replacing starting safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans in this story in The Orlando Sentinel.
--Former Gators receiver Percy Harvin is the top impact acquisition this offseason according to Matt Bowen writes Seahawks.com writer Clare Farnsworth.
--Former Gators Preston Tucker and Nolan Fontana are teammates again in the Astros organization with the Lancaster Jethawks of the California League. A preview from CrawFishBoxes.com.
--“If I had to bet on a pitcher to watch, it would be Hudson.” – Those are words from former big-leaguer Larry Parrish on ex-Gators ace Hudson Randall, who is opening the season with the West Michigan Whitecaps in Detroit’s organization.
Wednesday April 3, 2013Muschamp: Battle to replace Sturgis has turned into a 3-man competition
Updated: 8:50am, April 18
Gators coach Will Muschamp has kept a closer eye on the kickers than usual with Caleb Sturgis departed.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators knew replacing kicker Caleb Sturgis would be difficult.
That has turned out to be the case this spring as Brad Phillips and Austin Hardin have been up-and-down in getting a leg up on the competition. Florida coach Will Muschamp has described them as "inconsistent" much of the spring and recently tossed redshirt junior walk-on Frank Velez into the mix.
"Obviously kickers don't want to be called inconsistent," said Phillips, the only member of the trio to see game action at Florida.
Phillips (photo, left) appeared to take a step forward on Monday at practice when he made a pair of field goals in late-game situational drills and performed well in red-zone drills.
"He's really kicking well,'' Muschamp said Tuesday. "Austin has done some nice things. Frank Velez has come along as a third kicker we've kind of thrown into the competition. Certainly no one has taken the job yet but I'm very pleased with our progress there.
"We've got to continue to see that success out of that position."
With the competition still open, the kicking trio will get an opportunity to showcase their progress on Saturday at the Orange & Blue Debut.
Hardin, a redshirt freshman and the only one of the three on scholarship, has the strongest leg of the three. He kicked a 59-yard game-winner in high school and all seven misses his senior season were more than 50 yards.
A former soccer player like Sturgis, Hardin has been working out with the former Gators standout this spring as Sturgis prepares for the upcoming NFL Draft.
They mostly work on minor techniques that only kickers can appreciate fully. Keeping his head down is the primary focus for Hardin during the drills.
"As a young kicker, I'm anxious to see the ball get up and through the uprights,'' said Hardin (photo, left). "That's one of the things that has really been helping me out."
Likewise, Phillips also relies on lessons he learned from Sturgis, who graduated as UF's all-time career leader in field goals made.
"Caleb has taught me so much,'' Phillips said. "He has helped me from everything from form to the mental approach of kicking the football. It's overwhelming. You've got to come in after a four-year starter who was automatic every time he stepped onto the field.
"We have the talent to fill his shoes, but Caleb was so consistent."
Regardless of how the rest of the week plays out, the competition appears one that is likely to continue into the fall.
When spring camp started, Hardin figured to be the frontrunner. Coming out of the Marist School in Atlanta, Hardin (photo, left) was ranked the top prep kicker in the country by various recruiting services.
His goal is to be on the top of the depth chart when the Gators open the season Aug. 31 at home against Toledo.
"I'm generally very hard on myself and I like to be the best, to be the No. 1 guy,'' Hardin said. "I don't shy away from competition. I need to be the kicker that I know I can be. I've had days where I've really done well and I think opened the coaches' eyes, and I know I've had days where I can do better. Missing one is enough to get me upset."
A senior, Phillips replaced an injured Sturgis in 2011 against Georgia and made 2 of 3 field goals. He has also kicked off during his time at UF.
Meanwhile, Velez (photo, left) is the least known of the three but walked onto the team in the fall of 2010 with some impressive credentials.
He made 24 of 26 field goals and 170 of 172 extra-points during his career at Trinity Catholic High in Ocala, the same school that produced former Gators quarterback John Brantley.
While it's too early to declare a winner in the competition, Phillips at least can tell the kickers are making progress. He said Muschamp has been in a better mood of late after watching the three at practice.
That's a good sign for the Gators with Sturgis no longer around as Mr. Automatic.
Saturday March 30, 2013The answer is not Magic Johnson, but rather Billy D
Updated: 11:02pm, March 30
VIDEO: A look back at Billy the Kid during his days at Providence.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- When Michigan guard Trey Burke scored 23 points and dished out 10 assists in the Wolverines' Sweet 16 win over Kansas on Friday, the only connection Burke's performance had to Gators coach Billy Donovan appeared to be a potential showdown with Florida in the Elite Eight.
The Gators did their part later by defeating Florida Gulf Coast.
Then a tweet from ESPN Stats & Info popped up, revealing that Burke was the first player to have at least 20 points and 10 assists in a Sweet 16 game since Donovan in 1987. Here is a link to an AP story in The Palm Beach Post from that game.
In a 103-82 win over Alabama 26 years ago, Donovan scored 26 points and had 10 assists as Providence upset the Crimson Tide in Louisville. Donovan earned South Region MVP honors that year in leading Providence to the Final Four.
Unaware of the connection Saturday morning when his wife, Christine, asked him if he knew who the last player to accomplish the feat prior to Burke, Donovan guessed Magic Johnson.
Christine then spilled the beans.
"I don't know how I got that,'' Donovan said. "I said I'm glad I'm comparing myself to Magic Johnson, that's great."
Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton said Magic was his first guess, too.
"It is hard to believe [it has been that long] knowing all the great players who have played in the NCAA Tournament,'' Boynton said. "I wouldn't have guessed Coach Donovan. That's obviously a great accomplishment. I've seen a lot of film on Coach. I know he was a great player."
Burke said he received about 200 text messages after his 3-pointer forced overtime against the Jayhawks.
When told of the Donovan connection Saturday, Burke replied, "that's definitely neat."
Thursday March 28, 2013A former Gator owns domain rights to FGCUDunkCity.com
Updated: 12:12am, March 28
Florida's opponent in the Sweet 16, FGCU, dunked its way to a pair of wins last weekend.
The Gators' mission on Friday night is to send Florida Gulf Coast University back to Dunk City.
Florida and FGCU meet at Cowboys Stadium in the Sweet 16. FGCU is the Cinderella of this year's NCAA Tournament and the hottest national story of March Madness.
In wins over Georgetown and San Diego State, the Eagles not only became a national story, they did so in eye-popping fashion. FGCU ran the court and was the best team in each game, fast-breaking and throwing down dunks with regularity.
Hence the nickname "Dunk City." The nickname has caught on with fans and media and become a pop cultural phenomenon this week.
There's even a newly created website named FGCUDunkCity.com, which has photos and videos of many of FGCU's dunks in the tournament.
Guess who owns the website: He's a former Gators tennis player.
Ryan Sherry is a Fort Myers native who concluded his career at UF in 2006. He told the Fort Myers News-Press Wednesday that he purchased the domain rights to FGCUDunkCity.com for $30.
"We don't know what to do with it, but right now, we're just having fun with it," Sherry told the newspaper.
Wednesday March 27, 2013Gators notebook: O-Line injuries reach critical stage, Muschamp on Billy D, Marcus Roberson
Updated: 10:47am, March 27
Gators offensive lineman Tyler Moore (No. 73) has made a good impression on UF's injury-plagued line.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The way things have been going for the Gators offensive line, seeing Max Garcia back at practice Monday had to be a relief for Florida coach Will Muschamp.
Slowed by a sore back, Garcia is the latest UF lineman to spend time watching instead of playing this spring.
Garcia appeared in good spirits Tuesday when he met with the media for the first time at UF, downplaying any concerns about his back.
"It was fine,'' he said. "It's just natural wear-and-tear of the body, an O-line thing, going hard every day."
As for some of Garcia's mates in the trenches, the news is not as promising.
Muschamp announced Tuesday that Trip Thurman, who has been backing up D.J. Humphries at left tackle, is the latest offensive lineman unable to play. Thurman has a shoulder injury and the Gators expected to get results of the MRI sometime Tuesday evening.
"It does not look good right now,'' Muschamp said. "Trip has had an outstanding spring and has really made some progress.”
Thurman was part of Muschamp's first recruiting class in 2011 and redshirted after shoulder surgery. He appeared in three games last season and figures prominently into the plans next season if healthy.
However, that is now in question.
Thurman joins offensive linemen Ian Silberman (shoulder surgery), Chaz Green (ankle) and Jon Halapio (knee) on the injury list.
Halapio is working in individual drills but has yet to be cleared to participate in 11-on-11 drills this spring according to Muschamp. The Gators are also without guard Jessamen Dunker, who is suspended this spring for off-the-field issues.
Fortunately, Humphries, center Jon Harrison and tackles Tyler Moore and Quinteze Williams are healthy, as is versatile Kyle Koehne, who is versatile enough to play all five positions on the line.
“I feel very strong with where we are on the offensive line,'' Muschamp said. "We’ve got some injuries, but Max Garcia and Tyler Moore are two good pickups for us. Both of those guys are good football players.”
Still, six healthy offensive linemen out of 11 on scholarship this spring is not enough. To compensate, Muschamp expects to tweak the format of the Orange & Blue Debut spring game on April 6.
Instead of a traditional scrimmage, Muschamp said the Gators will probably reduce the number of scrimmage snaps to ensure the healthy offensive line aren't overworked in the spring game.
"It’s just tough on those guys,'' Muschamp said. "It may be more of a practice-like atmosphere. We’ll have scrimmage snaps, but we may incorporate within that. What’s hard for the offensive line is taking 60 straight snaps."
Muschamp said freshman receiver Demarcus Robinson (high-ankle sprain) has missed time recently. "I’m not real sure when we will get him back. He’s in a walking boot trying to stabilized that. Probably next week I hope,'' Muschamp said. ... Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (hamstring), linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle) and defensive back Cody Riggs (hamstring) are also limited right now according to Muschamp.
ROOTING FOR BILLY D'S GATORS
Muschamp said he watched the Florida men's basketball team defeat Minnesota on Sunday night to advance to the Sweet 16 for a school-record third consecutive season.
He plans to do the same on Friday when the Gators face Florida Gulf Coast University in Arlington, Texas, for a berth in the Elite Eight.
"Certainly will be pulling hard for them,'' Muschamp said. "
While Gators coach Billy Donovan is the dean of SEC coaches -- he is in his 17th season at Florida -- Muschamp is in his third season leading Florida's football program. He is the fourth Florida football coach during Donovan's tenure.
Muschamp has quickly developed a deep respect for Donovan.
"With what he has done at Florida, I would say Billy Donovan is as good – not just basketball coach – a college coach there is in the nation,'' Muschamp said. "Everyone wants to point at the two national championships, but he has put Florida at an elite status, a relevant status in college basketball, which never was before.”
QUOTE OF NOTE I
“I think he is playing his best football. He’s playing very square on blocks, he’s doing a nice job of anchoring and playing the double teams and keeping his gap.” -- Muschamp on senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs
QUOTE OF NOTE II
“He’s changed his upper body. He’s gotten stronger and he’s better on the line of scrimmage in press, he’s more disruptive.” -- Muschamp on junior cornerback Marcus Roberson, who has added weight and is up to around 193 to 194 pounds
VIDEO: Cowboys Stadium being transformed for the 2010 NBA All-Star Game.
The Gators have played some big games over the years, but they have never played in a venue as big as Cowboys Stadium.
Florida faces Florida Gulf Coast University on Friday night at the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. Cowboys Stadium is the largest domed stadium in the world and has a listed capacity of 105,000.
However, it can hold more. When the 2010 NBA All-Star Game visited Jerry's World -- nicknamed after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones -- the announced attendance was 108,713, the largest crowd to ever attend a basketball game.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the stadium is being set up for this weekend's NCAA South Region to seat 30,000.
This weekend is a dress rehearsal for next year's Final Four, which is being held at Cowboys Stadium.
If you want to know more about the stadium's transformation this weekend, check out this story from DallasCowboys.com.
Tuesday March 26, 2013Sweet 16: A look at some fresh links talking about Gators, rest of field
Updated: 1:39pm, March 26
The Gators face Cinderella on Friday night in the Sweet 16.
After wins over Georgetown and San Diego State, Florida Gulf Coast is the media darling of this year's March Madness.
The Eagles are a hot national story and will be heavy underdogs Friday at Cowboys Stadium against the Gators.
With the matchup still more than 72 hours away, let's take a look at what some of the pundits are saying about the Gators after they made it to the Sweet 16 or a school-record third consecutive season. We’ll take an in-depth look at FGCU later.
Here are some links discussing the Gators and rest of the Sweet 16 field:
--In reseeding the field of 16, ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf has the Gators at No. 3.
--Here is a list of parting shots from ESPN.com after the first weekend of the tournament.
--CBSSports.com also reseeds the field of 16. They have the Gators at No. 6.
--Here is a glance at all 16 teams remaining from SI.com.
--Palm Beach Post columnist Dave George on the Sunshine State’s three teams standing in the Big Dance.
--NBCSports.com breaks down the X-factor in each of the Sweet 16 matchups.
--How unpredictable is this Sweet 16? CBSSports.com blogger Matt Norlander takes a look.
--SportsonEarth.com writer Chuck Culpepper writes about Florida’s defense in this story titled “Gator Warning.”
--SBNation.com offers up a 2013 Sweet 16 TV guide with names of announcers, game times, etc.
--If you are into advanced metrics for your college basketball ratings, check out Ken Pomeroy’s latest chart.
--Hoop dreams bombard Florida’s sports world writes Greg Cote of The Miami Herald.
--Yahoo! Sports columnist Pat Forde offers his take on the Sweet 16 field.
Sunday March 24, 2013You know the Gators, so here are 10 things to know about the Gophers
Updated: 2:16pm, March 24
AUSTIN, Texas -- If you're like me, you followed Big Ten basketball more than usual this season because the league was better than usual.
You watched Michigan and Indiana and Ohio State and Michigan State play on occasion, and you checked out Wisconsin when the Badgers came to the O'Connell Center.
But if we're all being honest here, my guess is that you didn't pay a lot attention to what was happening in Minnesota other than for those Percy Harvin trade rumors that finally came to fruition.
You probably knew former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith is coach of the Gophers nowadays, but if someone on the street came up and asked whom Trevor Mbakwe was, I bet it's safe to say you would have been stumped unless you really know your college hoops.
This blog is for those out there like me. I thought Mbakwe might have shared the stage with Wyclef Jean in The Fugees back in the day until I saw the 6-foot-8 forward snag 12 rebounds against UCLA on Friday night.
The Gators face Mbakwe (photo, right) and his Minnesota teammates here tonight with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.
If you already knew Mbakwe was never in the Fugees, you can stop reading and move along. If not, here are 10 things to know about the Gophers:
--The Gophers are monsters on the offensive glass. They lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, snagging 43.9 percent of their missed shots. Mbakwe is a major reason why. He averaged more than three offensive rebounds per game in Big Ten play and averages 9.6 rebounds per game over his career.
--If pressured defensively, the Gophers are known to play giveaway. Minnesota is ranked 267th in the country in turnover percentage, coughing up the ball on 21.7 percent of its possessions.
--This is a big deal for the Minnesota program. The Gophers had not won an NCAA Tournament game since making the Final Four 16 years ago prior to Friday night's 83-63 win over UCLA. Of course, those wins were later vacated due to an academic fraud scandal that cost former coach Clem Haskins his job and sent the program spiraling for several years.
--In his sixth season, there is actually talk that this could be Smith's final season at Minnesota due to a 5-11 record down the stretch. However, if the Gophers defeat the Gators, according to a report Saturday in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Smith's contract calls for a $200,000 bonus and an extra year on his contract.
--Quick, name the most famous player in Minnesota basketball history. I remembered former NBA big man Mychal Thompson played there, but he's not the answer. That would be former Celtics great and current Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale (photo, left), who still owns the school record for career blocked shots.
--You will hear the name Hollins a lot tonight. As in Minnesota guards Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins. They are not related although both are long used to being mistaken for brothers. In fact, both grew up in the Memphis area and played at different high schools. Both wore jersey No. 20. In the box scores in the local newspaper people got confused to see A. Hollins playing for Germantown High and an A. Hollins playing for White Station High. But regardless of what you hear in Tim Brando's call in tonight's game, they are not brothers.
--The highlight of Minnesota's season came Feb. 26 when the Gophers defeated then-No. 1 Indiana 77-73 at home. Mbakwe scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and Andre Hollins scored 16 points. Nine different Gophers scored in the game that set off a court storming at Williams Arena after the program's first win over a top-ranked team in 24 years.
--The Gophers are battle tested. They played 11 ranked teams during the regular season and entered the tournament with the second-best strength of schedule in the country. Minnesota improved to 6-5 against Top 25 teams with the victory over UCLA.
Gophers coach Tubby Smith directing his up-and-down team this season.
--Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Chip Scoggins wrote this column today about a team he calls either the Good Gophers or the Good Grief Gophers. People in Minnesota want to know which team will show up tonight, the one that started the season 15-1 or the one that limped into the NCAA Tournament.
--This is Minnesota's 12th trip to the NCAA Tournament and third in six years under Smith, who is 30-15 all-time in the tournament. Meanwhile, Gators coach Billy Donovan (29-10) can match Smith's March Madness win total with a victory tonight.
--Last but not least, here is another reason you might not be as familiar with Minnesota as say, Ole Miss or Auburn or LSU. The Gators have only played the Gophers once in school history, a 74-66 loss in the first round of the 1993 NIT. The next season Florida not only qualified for the NCAA Tournament, but the Gators made it all the way to the Final Four for the first time.
Friday March 22, 2013Gators Notebook: The mission, Presidential approval, The Gator Nation, plus more
The Gators hope to cut down more nets this postseason as they open NCAA Tournament play tonight.
AUSTIN, Texas -- As a freshman Kenny Boynton remembers the sting of a loss to BYU in the first round.
As a sophomore and junior, Boynton helped the Gators reach the Elite Eight both seasons before packing for home.
A senior guard, Boynton hopes his final NCAA Tournament is his best as the Gators open Friday night against Northwestern State.
"We want to go out as winners,'' Boynton said Thursday. "Our goal is to get to the national championship and win it. And nothing less than that."
Fellow senior Erik Murphy arrived with Boynton and developed into an All-SEC first-team pick his final year.
He wants more.
"We want to leave that legacy of just being winners,'' he said.
On the flip side, freshman Michael Frazier was in high school a year ago at this time and watching the Gators play in the tournament on TV.
He watched a horde of media come in and out of Florida's locker room Thursday and took in the scene stretched out on a trainer's table.
"There's nothing like this,'' Frazier said. "My dream has finally come true. I've always dreamed about playing in the NCAA Tournament. I'm very blessed to be in a situation where I get to play in it in my freshman year. It can't get much better than that."
The Gators are a popular Final Four pick with several national writers in the mainstream media. U.S. President Barack Obama also picked the Gators to make it to Atlanta.
Boynton doesn't want to disappointment the President.
"That's definitely big. I'm glad he got us in there but we've got to go out and live up to the expectations,'' he said.
UCLA’s Ben Howland and Minnesota’s Tubby Smith are the most high-profile coaches in the Austin tournament.
In 41 combined seasons, they’ve accumulated 911 career victories, 27 NCAA tournament appearances (Howland 10), four Final Fours (Howland 3) and one national championship (Smith at Kentucky, in 1998).
The above paragraphs ran in a local newspaper Friday. There's also a guy named Billy Donovan here in Austin who has 447 career wins, 13 NCAA Tournament appearances (28-10 record), and three trips to the Final four with two national titles.
Anyway, just thought it was worth a mention.
THE GATOR NATION ... THAT THING
Donovan was asked Thursday about how much impact winning back-to-back national titles have had on the culture of Florida athletics.
In other words, is Florida now more of a basketball school than football school? It's a question he has been asked many times over the years.
Donovan is in his 17th season at UF and, yes, things have changed for the better.
"In the Southeast there is nothing sports-wise that takes more precedent over football,'' he said. "The difference at Florida, in my opinion, to its fans, alumni and boosters, is bigger than any sports situation.
"And that's the thing that makes Florida so unique. People are supporting Florida when Florida whether it is playing volleyball, baseball, football, basketball, the university takes precedent over any sport."
Donovan said while others may see it a football vs. basketball question, that is not the way he has ever viewed it.
"There's a level of pride there in Florida, the Gator Nation, that thing,'' he said. "I just look at it that I'm part of a great athletics program and we're one sport and the goal is to have the best overall athletics department in the country."
FLASHBACK FOR DEMONS
Northwestern State was a No. 14 seed in 2006 when the Demons upset No. 3-seed Iowa in the NCAA Tournament on a shot at the buzzer.
While those players have long departed, the memory remains for this year's Northwestern State team.
"It gives us a lot of confidence,'' senior forward James Hulbin said. "Everybody is just reminiscing about the 2006 team. We are just pretty much trying to set our pace for our own memories in the future."
He started his career at Florida and is about to end it with Miami.
In between, fifth-year senior Kenny Kadji has played for the Gators against Miami (2009 NIT), missed time with a back injury, sat out a season due to NCAA transfer rules, experienced a coaching change, and rejuvenated his career with the Hurricanes.
Kadji played in 42 games at Florida his first two seasons before transferring to Miami, where he has started 61 of 65 games. Kadji is averaging 13.3 points and 7 rebounds this season.
Kadji turns 25 in May and credits better health and a change of scenery for helping him finish his career strong.
"I wanted to start anew, and Miami was recruiting me out of high school,'' Kadji said. And my brother was going to school there, so that sealed the deal for me."
What helped Kadji on the court was getting in better shape. When Jim Larranaga replaced Frank Haith as head coach prior to last season, he urged Kadji to drop 20 to 25 pounds. He did and it has made Kadji a better player.
"They wanted me to lose [weight], just to move better and don't put that much stress on my lower back. It's been great. I haven't had a problem since."
Being in the same region as his former team is one Kadji embraced when he learned of the groupings.
"I don't have anything but respect for them,'' he said. "It was a great time, a great two years at the University of Florida."
QUOTE OF NOTE I
"That wasn't an end-of-game problem. That was a coming-out-of-the-locker room problem." -- Donovan on losing a close game to Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament championship after owning a 12-point halftime lead
QUOTE OF NOTE II
"This event is like the lottery. You've got to be in it to win it. This is what college basketball is all about right now." -- Donovan on the mindset of playing in the tournament
QUOTE OF NOTE III
"As a shooter you always want to see another shooter get out of a slump because you know how it feels. You know how it feels to shoot and have it not feel right coming out of your hands. To see him get that back at the right time, it's great, this is when we need him to most." -- Frazier on seeing Boynton regain his shooting touch in SEC Tournament