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Gators guard Cassie Peoples is ready to reboot her career after transferring from Texas.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Sophomore year of high school, Cassie Peoples broke her right tibia.
Six games into her freshman year of college, it was her left tibia. She had a metal rod inserted to help the bone heal.
After the season, Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors announced her resignation.
Around that time, Peoples began to think about her future.
“I just felt it was in my best interest to move forward and play somewhere else,’’ she said.
Peoples, who had visited UF when she lived in Daytona Beach and played at Father Lopez High as a freshman, opted to leave Texas – she finished high school in San Antonio and helped Cypress-Fairbanks High win a state championship along with Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike.
While sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Peoples hurt her shoulder. She underwent surgery in February to repair a torn labrum.
Did you get all that?
As Peoples recounted her recent past at UF’s basketball media days last week, a smile washed over her face at the thought of playing again.
Finally, Peoples is healthy and ready to show why she was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school.
“I’m really excited and anxious to play,’’ she said. “More than anything I’m just trying to be patient and wait for the time to come. It will be a special moment for me.”
It will be for Florida head coach Amanda Butler, too.
Butler remembers watching Peoples play in high school, a fireball of energy racing up and down the court, dropping shots and tricky passes.
“Sometimes you don’t get it right the first go around,’’ Butler said. “There are factors that life throws at you that make you reconsider your initial decision. We’re glad to have her. She is going to really help our team.”
A 5-foot-6 point guard, Peoples hasn’t played in a game since a six-minute stint against Tennessee on Dec. 4, 2011.
That drought is expected to end on Nov. 8 when the Gators host Bethune-Cookman in their season opener.
Since enrolling at UF in July 2012, Peoples has developed friendships with her new teammates, adjusted to her new school and everything else that comes with being a college student.
“I’m accustomed to everything but the actual game,’’ she said. “It’s not a fun process to go through because you have to sit out a season.”
Considering what she has been through the past two years, Peoples doesn’t expect that transition to be nearly as difficult as the ones she has already made.
Peoples was ranked one of the nation’s top prep point guards coming out of high school, her skills refined from years of practice with her father Marcus Peoples, who played at the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor and professionally in Australia.
That quick stop-and-pop she is known for, those nifty no-look passes that cause fans to gasp, Marcus helped her develop those ever since she was a little girl.
“He is the reason I am the player I am today. He taught me everything skill-set wise that I needed to know,’’ said Peoples, a redshirt sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining.”
With the Gators transitioning to a more up-tempo style this season, Peoples and fellow guards Jaterra Bonds and Carlie Needles will have the ball in their hands a bunch.
That’s the way Peoples likes it.
“I’m a point guard first,’’ she said. “I like to shoot, I like to score, I like to drive. In my game, whatever the best shot for our team is pretty much what I’m looking for.”
Peoples played with Bonds on the Florida Essence UAA team prior to her family’s move to Texas.
“I don’t like to lose and she doesn’t either,’’ Peoples said. “I think we can make a great combo.”
She also was a teammate on the Orlando Comets UAA team with former Gators forward Jennifer George.
Those passes Butler remembers seeing her make back then come naturally.
“It’s really something I don’t think you can teach,’’ she said. “God just gave me the ability to see things and make passes. I’ve been told that I’m a player that makes plays off instinct. I think that’s a great description of how I can find people and how I can find people.”
The clock is ticking. Peoples’ return to the court is almost here.
“I’m finally healthy and back in shape,’’ she said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Tuesday October 15, 2013Muschamp benches Christy, Taylor to get more carries, SEC hoops tournament, more tidbits
Updated: 8:10am, October 15
Punter Kyle Christy's biggest play Saturday was a pass on a fake punt. Christy has struggled in kicking game.
The Gators face Missouri on Saturday with first place in the SEC East on the line.
The surprising Tigers are 6-0 and 2-0 in the SEC after upsetting Georgia on the road last weekend. Florida is 4-2, 3-1 following a 17-6 loss at LSU, dropping into a three-way tie with Georgia and South Carolina for second in the division.
Gators coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday. Here are some fresh links from around the Internet covering the Gators:
--Muschamp benches starting punter Kyle Christy in favor of true freshman Johnny Townsend writes Jesse Simonton of The Miami Herald.
--The Gators are enduring the most injury-plagued season of Muschamp's coaching career writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.
--Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor will see more action in wake of Matt Jones' injury writes Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post.
--Knee injury ends season of Gators' top running back Matt Jones writes David Jones of Florida Today.
--Gators kicker Frankie Velez embraces starting kickers' job writes Antonya English of The Tampa Bay Times.
--Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley writes there are no guarantees moving forward for Gators.
--Nashville eyed as primary site of SEC men's basketball tournament writes the AP via Jacksonville.com.
--Week 7 -- Hot and Not in the SEC writes Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com.
Thursday October 10, 2013Muschamp is no stranger to first-year LSU offensive coordinator Cameron
Updated: 3:47pm, October 10
The Gators will look to contain LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger like last year in The Swamp.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has an impressive track record over the last decade of developing quarterbacks.
Cameron was San Diego's offensive coordinator for five years (2002-06) and helped Drew Brees develop into one of the league's best quarterbacks. As Baltimore's offensive coordinator from 2008 to early in the 2012 season, Cameron did the same for Joe Flacco.
Cameron's latest protégé is LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who has thrown for 1,738 yards and 15 touchdowns and is on pace to break school records in both categories.
While Cameron spent the last 11 seasons in the NFL prior to joining Les Miles' staff -- he was Miami's head coach in 2007 -- Gators head coach Will Muschamp is familiar with Cameron's offensive system.
In Muschamp's one season in the NFL as a defensive assistant with the Dolphins under Nick Saban, the Dolphins faced San Diego, where Cameron was Marty Schottenheimer's offensive coordinator.
The game took place on Dec. 11, 2005 at Qualcomm Stadium.
Brees threw for 279 yards but needed 52 attempts in Miami's 23-21 win. The Dolphins entered as a 13.5-point underdog according to ProFootballReference.com but sealed the victory on a late field goal set up by a Brees fumble.
The Miami defensive lineman who recovered the fumble with 2:37 left in the game: former Gators All-American Kevin Carter.
The victory was the third in a six-game win streak to close the season in Muschamp's only season in the NFL. Miami rallied to finish 9-7 but Muschamp returned to college football the next season as defensive coordinator at Auburn.
Muschamp said his head-to-head win against Cameron eight years ago would have little impact on Saturday at LSU as the Gators try to stay unbeaten in the SEC.
The Gators have studied film of Cameron's offenses like they would for any other opponent.
“Different players, different level and a long time ago,” Muschamp said.
However, Muschamp can tell a difference in Mettenberger under Cameron's tutelage.
"He's more effective taking the ball. He's more accurate with the ball. I think he's got a better understanding in the passing game obviously last year being his first year as the guy,'' Muschamp said. "They are very efficient in what they do throwing the football and taking shots down the field and stretching the field vertically. Creating some intermediate throws. Tailoring the offense to fit the quarterback, and I think that’s one he’s done a nice job of.”
Florida's SEC-leading defense is expected to be challenged by Mettenberger, who was 11 of 25 for 158 yards and an interception in Florida's 14-6 home win over the Tigers last season.
The reason Miles brought Cameron on board was in large part to work with Mettenberger, a highly touted prospect coming out of high school but inconsistent in college.
That has changed.
"Cam gets a lot of credit,” Miles said this week. "Zach was ready to make changes and was very receptive to Cam. Cam is a very special coach and has made a difference."
Thursday October 10, 2013High Praise: Spurrier impressed by new Gators QB Murphy
Updated: 10:18am, October 10
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy has a big fan. A fan who knows a thing or two about playing quarterback at UF.
Former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the Gators who later groomed another Heisman winner in Danny Wuerffel, spent part of his Wednesday morning watching film of the Florida-Arkansas game.
Spurrier's South Carolina team faces the Razorbacks on Saturday.
No. 3 for Florida caught Spurrier's attention. Murphy threw for a career-high 240 yards in his first career home start.
"Tyler’s a very good player," Spurrier said on Wednesday's SEC media teleconference. "He’s a dang good player. His throwing motion is beautiful. He throws a nice, catchable ball and he can move around in the pocket. I mean, you’d never think the young man hadn’t played but, what, two or three games now?
"He must have looked good in practice down there. But he finally got his chance, and sometimes that’s the way it works out, you get your chance and make the most of it. But he’s a very good player."
Murphy's mechanics have been compared to former UF quarterback Chris Leak, who came along after Spurrier's time as Florida's head coach from 1990-2001.
Spurrier said Murphy does deliver a nice pass.
"Watching Tyler, he throws the ball beautifully, and fundamentally he’s very sound," Spurrier said. "And all their receivers are catching everything, he throws very catchable balls. He’s a very good quarterback I think."
Wednesday October 9, 2013Gators offensive lineman Max Garcia coming on strong after year of not playing
Gators offensive lineman Max Garcia, left, gets a hand from teammate Ian Silberman at Kentucky.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Sometimes, for whatever reasons, the grass appears greener somewhere else.
Often, a player transfers and is never heard from again. Other times the change of scenery works out.
Gators offensive lineman Max Garcia falls into the latter category.
Garcia has started all five games at left guard for Florida after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Garcia started his career at Maryland and played in 14 games as a sophomore in 2011, starting 12.
When former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was replaced by Randy Edsall, the 6-foot-4, 311-pound Garcia opted to start over somewhere else. His final choices were USC, Georgia, Clemson, Ole Miss and Florida.
Based on Gators coach Will Muschamp's comments the past couple of weeks, Garcia is playing at a high level.
Muschamp singled out Garcia's play after the Gators' win at Kentucky and Saturday's victory over Arkansas.
"He's been a really good fit for us,'' Muschamp said. "Max is a smart guy and the one guy I would say, you know, our pass protection grades are pretty good for our offensive line, not so much in our run game. But Max is pretty solid all over. He was a guy that did a lot of things well for us. He can play left tackle. He can play multiple positions."
Garcia's ability to run and pass block has helped quarterback Tyler Murphy in his transition and helped the Gators offense sustain drives in three consecutive SEC wins.
Garcia missed a portion of fall camp with a back injury but has improved and been a stabilizing force for an offensive line that has seen starters D.J. Humphries, Jon Harrison, Jon Halapio and Tyler Moore either miss games or stretches of games due to injury.
"The game has been slowing down for me,'' Garcia said Tuesday. "The first two games were just kind of getting back into football. It had been so long. I'm just trying to keep it going."
Prior to starting the season opener against Toledo, Garcia had not played since November 2011.
He spent last season adding about 20 pounds of bulk to face SEC defensive linemen like he will square off against at LSU on Saturday.
While his former team lost 63-0 at Florida State on Saturday, the Gators won 30-10 over Arkansas to get off to a 3-0 start in the SEC.
Garcia wants that streak to continue in what he expects to be a unique atmosphere at Tiger Stadium.
"It's going to be loud, it's going to be rowdy,'' he said of his first trip to Death Valley. "I'm excited for that. I just love playing in big games and I have a great opportunity to shine."
Thursday October 3, 2013Former Gators tennis player Sweeting makes a Big Bang off court
Updated: 11:42pm, October 3
Former Gators tennis player Ryan Sweeting and his famous fiancée.
No word on how Leonard, her boyfriend on "Big Bang Theory," feels about the news, but Penny -- or Kaley Cuoco in real life -- is engaged to former Gators tennis player Ryan Sweeting.
You can get the Hollywood details here from UsMagazine.com.
The couple has been dating only three months but that was apparently enough for love to blossom. If you are into celebrity news, you may have seen photos this week of Sweeting visiting Cuoco on the set her movie "The Wedding Ringer."
Seems an appropriate name for her next movie.
As for Sweeting, he played for the Gators in 2006. He wasn't around too long before embarking on a professional career.
Here is Sweeting's official bio from UF.
Sweeting was around long enough to hang out with The Gainesville Sun.
Sweeting continues to scratch out a career on the ATP World Tour, currently ranked 532nd in the world.
Needless to say, his ranking is much higher in Hollywood these days.
Congrats to Sweeting and Cuoco. More details to come after the wedding.
Thursday October 3, 2013Gators heavy on run, defending Collins, Bielema adds twist, plus more tidbits
Updated: 2:31pm, October 3
Gators running back Matt Jones was all smiles after a career-high 176 yards at Kentucky.
A few afternoon links for your perusal leading up to Saturday’s Gators-Razorbacks game at The Swamp:
--Success of Florida’s offense lies in running writes ESPN.com’s Edward Aschoff.
--The Gators are aware of Arkansas freshman RB Alex Collins writes Phillip Heilman of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Arkansas coach Bret Bielema presents a new challenge for Gators writes Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post.
--Florida leads nation in time of possession, a byproduct of run-heavy scheme writes The Associated Press (via WashingtonPost.com).
--What to watch in the SEC: Week 6 writes Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com.
--Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema not surprised by ‘feisty … angry’ quarterback Brandon Allen writes ArkansasNews.com.
--Gators expect to get more players back for Arkansas game writes Jesse Simonton of The Miami Herald.
--UF’s defense is money writes Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.
--Gators starting cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy is off to a slow start writes Orlando Sentinel beat writer Edgar Thompson.
--Arkansas hopes for history on Saturday writes David Jones of Florida Today.
--Gators look to Wisconsin for preparation for Razorbacks writes Antonya English of the Tampa Bay Times.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN The Magazine's "Franchise Issue" arrived in the mail this week.
It's one of the magazine's most popular issues. If you're a fan of the Memphis Grizzlies -- I figure at least a few of you converted over the summer when former UF standout Mike Miller left the Miami Heat to rejoin the Grizzlies -- then you will be pleased at ESPN's rankings.
The Grizzlies are ranked the No. 1 franchise in all of professional sports based on numerous criteria from concession prices to competitiveness. Meanwhile, the Shaqramento Kings ... umm, Sacramento Kings are dead last at No. 122. Shaq obviously has some work to do as one of the Kings' new owners.
The magazine also reviewed the last 15 years in college athletics and ranked schools based on their football and men's basketball programs during that time span.
Here is a ranking I know Florida fans will give two thumbs up: the Gators are No. 1.
ESPN The Magazine editors, with the help of consultant Jeff Phillips, principal at the Parthenon Group and alumnus of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, identified three principal categories of success – on-field success, off-field success and traditions of success -- to determine the top college programs.
Each of the three major categories of success was analyzed closer using nine different factors: title track, head coach, strength of schedule, academics, recruiting, player success, stadium edge, football/basketball revenue and NCAA violations.
Once the ingredients were mixed together and pulled from the oven, the Gators stood atop the college sports world over the past 15 years.
Here is what the magazine wrote to explain Florida’s ranking:
Since 1998, Florida is the only program to win championships in both sports – and the Gators did it twice in each (football in ’06 and ’08; hoops: ’06 and ’07). They’ve hauled in the most ESPN 150 football recruits (77) and rank behind only Ohio State and USC for player success. On the hardwood, UF ranks outside the top 25 in just one category (revenue, No. 27), and if Urban Meyer were still around to form a one-two coaching punch with Billy Donovan (No. 6), our rankings wouldn’t have been as close. (Will Muschamp ranks 51st.)
As for the rest of the top 10, here goes: 2. Ohio State; 3. Texas; 4. Oklahoma; 5. Michigan; 6. Michigan State; 7. Alabama; 8. UCLA; 9. Wisconsin; 10. Notre Dame.
If you are an ESPN Insider subscriber, you can access ESPN The Magazine online here for the complete rankings.
Tuesday October 1, 2013Hardin remains confident his right leg can help him avoid Muschamp's glare in future
Updated: 6:35pm, October 1
Redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin has made 4 of 7 field goals through four games.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Will Muschamp’s sideline rage has been aimed at several players in his three seasons as Florida’s head coach, but in Saturday’s 24-7 win at Kentucky, that famous glare was directed at a new target.
Muschamp had little to be upset with about Caleb Sturgis the past two seasons. Sturgis was nearly automatic and provided the Gators a huge advantage.
Sturgis is now with the Miami Dolphins and is doing what he did at Florida. Sturgis is 7-for-7 on field goals in his brief NFL career and is one of Miami’s most effective weapons.
With the game tied 7-7 early in the second quarter Saturday, Muschamp sent redshirt freshman Austin Hardin onto the field to attempt a 53-yarder. However, before Hardin and the Gators could get set, the play clock nearly ran out.
The Gators used their second timeout of the half, prompting Muschamp to share his displeasure with Hardin in front of a national TV audience.
“Austin has got to be more aware of marking it off,’’ Muschamp said afterward. “The play clock is ticking down in that situation. You shouldn't have been in the situation to begin with. I had total confidence he was going to hit it. It was a 53-yarder. He's got the leg to hit it. He hit it in warm-up. I was certainly expecting him to hit it. He was a little bit off and a little bit short.
“We'll put him in that situation again."
In his short tenure as the Gators’ kicker, Hardin is 4-for-7. He has made kicks from 24, 33, 23 and 33 yards, and missed from 39, 41 and the 53-yarder that fell short and wide right against the Wildcats.
Hardin said Tuesday that while others may have focused on Muschamp’s anger toward him Saturday, he hardly noticed.
“It wasn’t too bad. It was just him yelling and I know I got to do a better job next time,’’ Hardin said. “I get so zoned in that you are not really paying too much attention to anything else.”
Muschamp put Hardin on alert prior to the Kentucky game, informing reporters that backup Brad Phillips was going to take live reps in practice. Hardin kicked well enough to keep his grip on the job and is determined to prove that he is the right guy for the job.
“If anything, [the competition] just pushes me to learn and get better,’’ he said. “He doesn’t want me to be complacent in the spot I’m in. He wants to keep pushing me. It makes sense to keep the competition open. I think I have the potential and can do a really good job here.”
So does Muschamp.
After Hardin’s miss in the second quarter, Muschamp sent him back onto the field midway through the fourth quarter and the Gators in front 21-7.
Hardin nailed a 33-yarder to put the Gators ahead by three scores.
“It was huge,’’ Muschamp said. “We've got to convert in that situation to make it a three-score game. There is no question that was a big, big field goal. I've got a lot of confidence in Austin. I think we are all kind of used to what we've had before and that's not what is here.
“But he has also done a fantastic job. Every situation we have asked him to perform, I think he's done well. We'll just continue to work through it with him. That's why we've got to continue to get him some confidence. That's why I put him out there for the 53-yarder. I told him, 'If I don't have confidence in you we're not kicking in this situation. I've got confidence you're going to make this.' I thought he hit it well."
Hardin said the miss was primarily due to him hitting the ball with too much of his right toe.
“I didn’t get as much power behind hit,’’ he said.
Hardin is no stranger to kicks from 50-yards and out. He was 13-for-20 at Marist (Ga.) High, including a 59-yard game-winner. All seven of his misses came from 50 yards or more in high school.
So while he has yet to hit one from that distance at UF, Hardin has the leg strength.
He also has the confidence, even after Muschamp lit him up on Saturday.
“I think I’m improving each game but I obviously thing there is more room for improvement,’’ Hardin said. “There is a higher standard here at Florida that I continue to strive for. I really hope I can get another chance for a 50-plus yard opportunity. I love that opportunity.
“I think I will.”
To help cope with his early struggles, Hardin maintains contact with Sturgis, who finished his career with a school-record eight field goals from 50 yards or more.
Sturgis visited the Gators when they played at Miami last month and made sure to offer his replacement some encouragement after Hardin missed a 39-yarder in the season opener against Toledo.
“His main message is to continue to stay confident and calm and take it kick by kick,’’ Hardin said.
Monday September 30, 2013Easley will enter NFL Draft once he completes rehab on injured knee
Updated: 3:53pm, September 30
Dominique Easley pressures Tennessee quarterback Nate Peterman in UF's 31-17 win.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators coach Will Muschamp confirmed Monday what many suspected: Dominique Easley will enter next year’s NFL Draft.
A true senior, Easley suffered a right knee injury near the end of practice Tuesday night. He will miss the rest of the season.
Having played in less than 30 percent of Florida’s games by season’s end, Easley could have applied to the SEC in December for a fifth year of eligibility and earned a redshirt per NCAA rules.
However, Muschamp said Easley plans to move on and test his position in the draft.
“He's a guy that's had two [torn] ACLs,’’ Muschamp said. “You know, I think that's the best move for him right now and going to prepare himself for April and get ready for that. He and I talked briefly about it and that's what he wants to do and I support it 100 percent.”
In 32 career games, Easley recorded 72 tackles, 18 tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks, one fumble recovery and a blocked kick.
Easley was off to an excellent start when his right knee buckled in a non-contact situation.
Despite two ACL injuries at Florida – Easley suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the final game of his sophomore season in 2011 – Muschamp expects the 6-foot-2, 285-pound defensive tackle to garner plenty of attention in the draft.
He recently projected as a high first-rounder according to some mock-draft analysts.
"He'll be a productive guy on the next level,’’ Muschamp said. “He's a really good football player. He's extremely intelligent. He gets the game. His tape speaks for itself and how he plays the game and approaches the game. He'll be fine. There will be a lot of organizations that want him in their organization."
Meanwhile, Muschamp said he is uncertain if fifth-year senior receiver Andre Debose will apply for an extra year of eligibility. Debose suffered a season-ending torn ACL early in fall camp.
Thursday September 26, 2013Gators look to Cummings, others to help fill void created by Easley's season-ending injury
Updated: 2:35pm, September 27
Junior DT Darious Cummings is expected to play a more vital role in the absence of Dominique Easley.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Dominique Easley is listed at 6-foot-2, 285 pounds, but his presence in the middle of Florida’s defensive line this season dwarfed his official measurements.
Easley’s impact and the attention opposing teams gave him created plays for others.
Reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week Dante Fowler Jr. said Monday that he told Easley thanks for helping him win the award. Fowler forced two fumbles and was dominant in Florida’s 31-17 win over Tennessee.
“When they see everything clogged up [in the middle], the first thing they’re gonna do is bounce outside, and that’s all me," Fowler said. “Yesterday I thanked him: ‘thank you for letting me make all those plays.’ ”
Unfortunately, it was Easley saying thanks on Wednesday. The senior defensive tackled thanked Gator Nation on his Twitter account for their support during his career. That career likely ended Tuesday night when Easley turned to defend a screen pass.
His right knee buckled. The verdict: a torn ACL and medial meniscus. Easley is out for the season.
As Easley prepares for surgery and another long rehab process – he tore the ACL in his left knee in the final regular-season game of his sophomore season in 2011 – the Gators started to prepare for life without Easley on Wednesday.
The Gators lead the SEC in every major statistical category (total defense, run defense, pass defense, scoring defense) and while Easley put up modest stats (5 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss, 4 QB hurries) in the season’s first three games, he played an integral role in the defense’s overall production.
“Something we noticed in the box during the game is they were turning their protection to Dominique inside,’’ Florida coach Will Muschamp said after the Gators forced six turnovers in the win over Tennessee. “There’s no question Dominique commands a lot of attention.”
With Easley no longer part of the mix, junior-college transfer Darious Cummings is expected to eat some of the snaps Easley was taking. Cummings is listed behind Easley on the depth chart and had a 30-yard interception return against Tennessee.
He is 6-foot-1 and 309 pounds and transferred to UF from East Mississippi Community College, where he played a season after starting his career at Florida State.
At the nose tackle position Leon Orr and Damien Jacobs have split time. Orr is battling a shoulder injury but is expected to play at Kentucky on Saturday in the Gators’ SEC road opener.
The Gators also have true freshmen Jay-nard Bostwick (6-3, 305) and Joey Ivie (6-3, 270) available to move into the rotation on the interior line. Another option is to move defensive end Jonathan Bullard inside and move Fowler over to Bullard’s end spot and use Ronald Powell as the primary BUCK, Florida’s hybrid defensive line/linebacker position geared at rushing the quarterback. Bryan Cox Jr. is another young player who figures into the equation.
Muschamp and Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin have proven they can adjust the pieces of the puzzle and still put a strong defense on the field. Powell missed all of last season, which allowed Fowler and Bullard to get significant playing time as true freshmen.
The Gators will turn to their “man down man up” mantra once again to find production for life without Easley.
Easley is the latest in a long string of season-ending injuries for the Gators this season. He is the sixth player to suffer a season-ending injury, joining receiver Andre Debose, linebacker Matt Rolin, offensive lineman Chaz Green, defensive back Nick Washington and quarterback Jeff Driskel.
Durkin is ready to see what the healthy Gators can do.
“I’m very confident in those guys,” Durkin said of the defensive linemen remaining. “The way we practice and prepare and test our guys every day, I feel confident with every guy we have.
“We recruit great players here and their job is to come in when their number’s called. I think our guys understand there is a standard in our room that we have to play up to. Not just coming from myself and our staff, but also from the other players in our room. They hold those guys accountable and to the standard.”
You can be sure Easley, perhaps the team’s most vocal player, has already reminded them of that.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators coach Will Muschamp spoke a few minutes ago on the SEC coaches media teleconference.
Muschamp provided an injury update after Florida’s first two practices heading into Saturday’s game at Kentucky.
Senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley, who has played superbly in the season’s first three games, is uncertain for practice today after hurting his knee at Tuesday night’s practice.
“Dominique Easley tweaked his knee a little bit yesterday, will probably be out today,’’ Muschamp said. “We’ll see how it goes. It was non-contact. Just need more info on it.”
Muschamp said cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee), who missed Saturday’s game against Tennessee, has returned to practice. He expects offensive lineman Tyler Moore (ankle) to practice today and is hopeful defensive tackle Leon Orr (shoulder) is ready today or Thursday.
Muschamp said running back Valdez Showers (ankle) remains doubtful and that tight end Colin Thompson (foot) is out.
Wednesday September 25, 2013Pease and Phillips back to Kentucky, Demps update, Easley's play, plus more tidbits
Senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley is playing at a high level early in the season.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators are preparing for their SEC road opener on Saturday at Kentucky.
Florida has won 26 in a row over the Wildcats and seek to make it 27 straight in Tyler Murphy’s first career start at quarterback.
Here are some fresh links from around the Internet covering items of interest leading up to Saturday’s game:
--Gators punter Kyle Christy is facing competition from freshman Johnny Townsend writes Jesse Simonton of The Miami Herald.
--Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease wants new starting quarterback Tyler Murphy to be himself as Florida prepares to play at Kentucky.
--Speaking of Pease, he knows Kentucky well and really enjoyed his time in Lexington writes David Jones of Florida Today.
--Former Gators running back Jeff Demps was activated Monday by the Bucs, and the Leesburg (Fla.) Daily Commercial profiled the hometown track/football standout.
--South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, a former Gators quarterback, was impressed by Murphy over the weekend writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.
--Wildcats coach Mark Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, both at Florida State last season, talk about prepping for the Gators writes Kyle Tucker of the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal.
--Gators receivers coach Joker Phillips has spent most of his career at Kentucky and those in the Bluegrass State wonder how emotional it will be for him writes Larry Vaught of the Danville (Ky.) Advocate-Messenger.
--Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley playing better than stats indicate writes Chase Goodbread of NFL.com.
Florida will try to defeat Kentucky for the 27th consecutive time Saturday in QB Tyler Murphy's first start.
The last time the Gators lost to Kentucky, Ronald Reagan was President.
The last time Florida lost to the Wildcats, Tim Tebow wasn't even born.
The last time Kentucky beat Florida, the Rolling Stones had a lot less wrinkles.
You know where this is going.
Another Florida-Kentucky game, another week of "the streak."
Football coaches like questions about winning/losing streaks about as much as ingrown toenails.
Still, when you have beaten a team every year since Mars was discovered -- or at least it seems that way -- there's going to be a question or two.
Florida coach Will Muschamp answered one Monday about Florida's 26-game win streak over Kentucky. The Gators will try to make it 27 in a row Saturday night in Lexington.
"I don’t really talk about that at all. I just focus on this game, this week, this season, this team, what we need to do to be successful,'' Muschamp said. "I don’t think anything in that regard helps or hurts your football team in their preparation."
That's probably about as good as anything you'll hear from Muschamp about Florida's win streak over the Wildcats.
But coach-speak aside, Florida's streak over Kentucky is pretty remarkable.
To the best of our knowledge, the schools don't have a gentleman's agreement like, say, the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals.
Kentucky tries to win. It just hasn't been able to since a 10-3 victory in 1986.
The streak is currently the longest of any series between major programs in the country that play each other annually.
Muschamp needs about two more decades of strong recruiting classes to match the all-time record, Notre Dame's 43-game win streak over Navy that ended in 2007.
If the Gators win Saturday, they will set an SEC record for longest win streak over a conference opponent in an uninterrupted series. Florida and Tennessee currently share the record.
The Vols beat Kentucky 26 consecutive times from 1985-2010 until the Wildcats finally got a win in 2011. Gators receivers coach Joker Phillips was Kentucky's head coach at the time.
With the Gators coming off a win over Tennessee on Saturday -- stretching their win streak over the Vols to nine games -- let's take a look at Florida's longest win streaks against SEC opponents all-time (interrupted series and SEC Championships games included):
Opponent Streak Years
Alabama 4 1993-98
Arkansas 8 1995-current
Auburn 7 1995-2000*
Georgia 7 1990-96*
Kentucky 26 1987-current*
LSU 9 1988-96*
Ole Miss 3 1964-72, 1980-88
Miss. State 5 1966-70, 1974-78, 1987-91*
Missouri 1 2012^
S. Carolina 14 1964-2004
Tennessee 9 2005-current*
Texas A&M 1 2012^
Vanderbilt 22 1989-current
*Wins came during uninterrupted series
^Missouri and Texas A&M entered SEC in 2012
Friday September 20, 2013Gators-Vols rivalry, recent honor special for veteran UF training director Chris Patrick
Chris Patrick is in his 44th season with the UF football program.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Chris Patrick had no idea he was about to take center stage.
Patrick was standing in back of the room last month at Florida’s preseason coaches’ party when UF athletic director Jeremy Foley grabbed a microphone and started to honor some of the UF coaches for their accomplishments during the 2012-13 season.
Foley got serious for a moment as he began to honor one of the athletic department’s longest-tenured employees for more than 40 years of service.
As Patrick chatted with Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin he heard his name called. Foley unveiled a plaque that has since been placed by the door entering what is now called The Patrick South End Zone Athletic Training Room.
The room inside the Gators’ locker room is where players get their ankles taped and shoulders iced and treated for all sorts of ailments from playing the game Patrick has been a part of his entire adult life.
“It was quite surprising, quite a shock and quite an honor,” the 75-year-old Patrick said this week at one of Florida’s practices. “I don’t know if we deserve it but I’m not going to take the plaque down. I just very much appreciate the recognition and that I got to see something like that before I bellied up.”
Patrick arrived at UF in early 1970 as a trainer and has been here ever since, climbing to the top of UF’s athletic training staff where he remains involved daily with the football program.
The Tennessee native, who turns 76 next month, always gets a little extra pep in his step during Gators-Vols week.
Patrick was born in Fayetteville, Tenn., a short drive from Lynchburg, home of the famous Jack Daniel’s Distillery and where former Tennessee coach and Heisman runner-up Johnny Majors grew up. The two got to know each – Patrick’s sister dated one of Majors’ brothers for a while – and Majors helped land Patrick a job in Tennessee’s training room in the mid-1950s.
Patrick joined Tennessee’s training staff full-time in 1956 – the year Majors finished second to Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung for the Heisman – and stayed through the 1960 season.
Patrick then bounced around like a ping-pong ball with stops in the military, graduate school at Eastern Kentucky, a year as an assistant coach at a high school in Kentucky, a year at Furman, a pit stop at Florida State, three years at Mississippi State and two years at Kentucky.
And finally, he found home with the Gators.
“At that point and time in my life, everything that I was doing I was trying to direct it to the NFL,’’ Patrick said. “That was my goal and ambition. Really and truly, when I came to Gainesville, I figured I would come and use this in some way to get on the NFL. And then strangely enough, as time went on, I had the opportunity to go to some NFL clubs and didn’t want to go.
“I decided I had found my place right here, and that was it.”
Patrick still speaks in that Southern twang he brought with him to Gainesville 43 years ago. He is simply called “CP” by players, coaches, UAA staff and the countless graduate students and assistants who have worked for him over the years.
When Florida coach Ray Graves retired after the 1969 season, a rival SEC coach called Patrick to gauge his interest in leaving Kentucky for Florida. Patrick told him he was on board.
However, he never expected to come to Florida with another rival SEC coach, Tennessee’s Doug Dickey. Patrick made a favorable impression on Dickey during their visits in the 1960s and when Dickey left the Vols to replace Graves – shortly after the two teams met in the 1969 Gator Bowl – Patrick landed at UF but not the way he expected.
The Gators lost to the Vols in Patrick’s first two years with the program in 1970 and ’71. But when the schools met again in 1976, the Gators won 20-18 in Knoxville. They started playing annually in 1990 and Patrick has enjoyed a lot of success against his alma mater.
“This is more or less ‘my game’ in some ways,’’ he said. “There’s a lot of people on our schedule I maybe don’t really care for or consider rivals, but this week this is the rival of the year. It’s extra special to play Tennessee and beat Tennessee with the ties I had there.”
Patrick has worked under seven Florida head coaches (Dickey, Charley Pell, Galen Hall, Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook, Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp), plus interim coaches Gary Darnell and Charlie Strong.
These days, he often works in a room named in his honor.
Not bad for a small-town kid born in Tennessee.
“It means I’m very blessed and fortunate to have been here at the University of Florida and to have the support and guidance and leadership we’ve had,’’ he said. “They have supported some of my ideas and thoughts and let me do some things and given me the resources to build the athletic training program.
“I’ve got the greatest of all worlds right now. I get to come and be around the program, be around these kids and this coaching staff, and I don’t have to be the bearer of bad news and going to the head coach or athletic director with this and that. It’s truly all fun and games.”
Thursday September 19, 2013The original Mr. Two Bits, George Edmondson, is grateful to see UF continue the tradition
Mr. Two Bits, 91-year-old George Edmondson, is grateful the tradition he started will continue at UF.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- George Edmondson was at his Tampa home when the phone rang three weeks ago.
A good friend of Edmondson's was on the line and had someone with him who wanted to talk to the original Mr. Two Bits.
It was former Gators running back Errict Rhett, who as part of a new tradition at Florida Field, served as the honorary Mr. Two Bits prior to Florida's victory over Toledo in the season opener Aug. 31.
Rhett asked Edmondson what he thought of a Gator celebrity playing a role Edmondson made famous starting in 1949.
"That's great,'' Edmondson said this week. "I was pleased to hear about it. They wanted to check with me before they did it and I told them I think that's a great idea. I feel honored that some of these celebrities would portray me out there on the field before the game."
The 91-year-old Edmondson officially retired as the Gators' most famous cheerleader after the 2008 season. He never attended UF but at a Florida-Citadel game in 1949, Edmondson was surprised when he heard the home fans booing the Gators.
He decided to stand up and start his famous cheer, and he kept coming back for the next 60 years.
Edmondson doesn't get around like he used to. He had hoped to attend Saturday's game against Tennessee -- Florida announced Thursday that former Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel is serving as Mr. Two Bits -- but Edmondson decided he probably should stay home.
"My health has been going downhill steadily and I'm just not able to make the trip,'' said Edmondson, whose sense of humor remains sharp. "Each day I wake up and I thank the Lord for another day. Somebody asked me if I'm going out on the field. I have a hard time getting to the grocery story."
Edmondson's place in Florida football lore is secure and the Gators' new Mr. Two Bits tradition received a lot of fan support. Rhett gave a lively performance that was popular on social media, even wearing Edmondson's trademark yellow dress shirt and orange-and-blue tie.
Wuerffel takes his turn Saturday well aware of Edmondson's place in Gators history.
"There’s no question, you always knew who he was," Wuerffel said. "Every now and then you'd hear a certain part of the stands erupt and you just assumed it was Mr. Two Bits. The thing that’s hit me is just the whole life cycle from where this started to where it is.
"His story is a lesson of perseverance and faithfulness. This is someone who had an idea to lead some cheers -- was never commissioned or asked to do it. He did his small part, did it very faithfully for many years, and it grew and grew. And now, to be recognized by Florida and for it grow to the point where it’s a staple cheer for different celebrity folks, I just think it’s inspiring for all of us."
Edmondson said he doesn't own a computer and has not followed fan reaction to Florida continuing the Mr. Two Bits tradition.
But friends have called to tell him. And Rhett's call is one he won't forget.
If he starts to feel better, he wants to see it in person and cheer along. He has a couple of former Gators he would like to see in the role one day: Steve Spurrier and Cris Collinsworth.
"I hope we can make one game at least. I'm not getting any younger,'' he said. "It's great. That's all I can say."
Wednesday September 18, 2013Former Gators receiver Wes Chandler's special place in the 'Karate Kid' and NFL Draft
Updated: 9:21am, September 19
Former Gators receiver Wes Chandler's No. 89 Chargers jersey was featured in the "Karate Kid."
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The announcement on Wednesday that former Gators receiver Wes Chandler will represent UF as an SEC Legend at the conference championship game in December should surprise no one.
Especially the "more experienced" Gator fans who remember Chandler's exploits from 1974-77 at Florida.
Chandler was electric each time he touched the ball and was a first-team All-American his final two seasons as a dynamic receiver playing in a run-oriented offense.
Chandler caught 92 passes for 1,963 yards and a then-school-record 22 touchdowns in his college career. He also scored six more times on kick returns.
Chandler was the third overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft by New Orleans, where he played four seasons before being traded to San Diego and becoming part of the Chargers' Air Coryell offense.
I wondered how many other college receivers since 1978 have gone in the top three picks of the NFL Draft. Very few. Eight to be exact.
That's how good Chandler was.
Here is a list of the other receivers to go third or higher in the last 36 years:
Lam Jones (Texas), No. 2 overall to the Jets in 1980; Irving Friar (Nebraska), No. 1 overall to the Patriots in 1984; Keyshawn Johnson (USC), No. 1 overall to the Jets in 1996; Charles Rogers (Michigan State), No. 2 overall to the Lions in 2003; Andre Johnson (Miami), No. 3 overall to the Texans in 2003; Larry Fitzgerald (Pittsburgh), No. 3 overall to the Cardinals in 2004; Braylon Edwards (Michigan), No. 3 overall to the Browns in 2005; and Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech), No. 2 overall to the Lions in 2007.
Meanwhile, Chandler also has a special place in pop culture history.
If you've seen the "Karate Kid," Ralph Macchio's character wears a Chargers No. 89 jersey in several scenes in the movie. That was a replica of Chandler's jersey.
Chandler will be honored at the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Dec. 7.
Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley makes a tackle in last year's win at Tennessee.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – They say their favorite place to go eat as a unit is the Mandarin Palace, a Chinese buffet located in a Knoxville mall.
When Tennessee coach Butch Jones took over the program, he recommended a few more salads for his oversized offensive line.
The Vols’ starting offensive linemen have dropped some weight under Jones, but Gators coach Will Muschamp said they still present an enormous road block for those trying to get to the buffet line or opposing quarterbacks.
“This will be the best offensive line we will face this year,” Muschamp said. “Our guys felt that way last year after we played them.”
Tennessee’s veteran line has nearly 150 career starts and impressed 6-foot-7 Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner on Saturday despite the Ducks’ rolling to a 59-14 victory.
“The biggest I’ve gone against in my college career,’’ Buckner told the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard.
How big are they?
Left tackle Antonio ‘Tiny’ Richardson is 6-foot-6, 327 pounds, left guard Alex Bullard (6-2, 302), center James Stone (6-3, 291), right guard Zach Fulton (6-5, 323) and right tackle Ja’Wuan James (6-6, 318). If the Texas Instruments-1726 calculator (circa 1994) on my desk still works correctly, that’s 1,561 pounds of humanity.
Or as Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease might say, a 1,561-pound “mosh pit of humanity.”
With four seniors and a junior (Richardson) up front, the offensive line was the most experienced and talented unit on the team Jones inherited.
The Vols led the SEC in fewest sacks allowed last season and ranked fifth nationally. Through three games the Vols have allowed only two sacks, tied for fewest in the conference.
Tennessee’s massive offensive line against Florida’s SEC-leading defense will be an interesting battle to watch Saturday.
“Our goal is not to let an offense score, period,” Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley said. “Once we manage to get that stat, we could say we have one of the best defenses.”
If that happens Saturday versus the Vols, you know Easley and Co. will have earned it.
Monday September 16, 2013Former Gators, NFL star Rick Casares passes away at 82
Updated: 1:28pm, September 16
Former Gators star Rick Casares and UF coach Bob Woodruff in 1950s (Tampa Bay History Center).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Rick Casares arrived at UF around the same time as Norm Carlson in the early 1950s.
Carlson had never seen an athlete quite like the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Casares, huge by the standards of that era.
"No other like him,'' Carlson said. "He was a man among men."
Sixty years after his final season at UF, Casares passed away over the weekend at home in Tampa. He was 82.
As Carlson sat in the office he maintains at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as UF's historian on Monday morning, he was flooded by memories of Casares, who starred for the Gators from 1951-53.
"He was the best to ever play here in my opinion,'' Carlson said. "He was an incredible athlete. If they needed him to play quarterback, he would play quarterback. If they asked him to play linebacker, he would do that and knock somebody's head off. He was a great fullback. He could do anything on the football field and look so good doing it."
There were times when former Florida track coach Percy Beard might need some extra points in a big meet. He would ask Casares, who also played basketball and track at Jefferson High in Tampa, to come out and compete in the shot put.
"He would go over there and win the shot put against guys who were trained to do it,'' Carlson said. "He was just a phenomenal athlete."
Casares was an All-Southeastern Conference player in football and basketball at Florida, and in the Gators' inaugural bowl game -- a 14-13 win over Tulsa in the 1953 Gator Bowl -- Casares scored the first touchdown and then kicked the extra point.
He was drafted by the Chicago Bears and led the team in rushing for six consecutive seasons. He spent 10 seasons with Chicago (1955-64) and when he retired Casares was the franchise's all-time leading rusher (5,675 yards). Cesares remains third on the Bears' career rushing list behind Walter Payton and another former Gator, Neal Anderson.
His wife, Polly, whom Casares met while at UF, told The Tampa Tribune that he received autograph requests in the mail regularly from fans who remembered him bruising over tacklers as one of the best fullbacks to play the game.
"Our mailbox was full every day,'' she said. "He sent every one back. He was so flattered to be remembered."
Former Bears teammate and Chicago head coach Mike Ditka had this to say about Casares:
"He was the toughest guy I ever played with,'' Ditka told The Tribune.
A memorial service is scheduled for Wednesday morning at 11 at Gonzalez Funeral Home, 7209 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. The burial is private.
Friday September 13, 2013Gators use bye week to correct mistakes and get healthy prior to scattering for weekend
Gators BUCK Dante Fowler Jr. puts pressure on Miami QB Stephen Morris.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators wrapped up their off-week preparations in the weight room on Friday.
Following their workout sessions, players began to scatter in various directions for a rare early season bye week.
Offensive lineman Jon Halapio tweeted he was headed home to St. Petersburg. Receiver Quinton Dunbar posted he was off to Baltimore. Whatever plans they have for the weekend, the Gators return to practice Monday to start preparing for Tennessee.
Following their 21-16 loss at Miami, the bye week came at a good time based on Florida coach Will Muschamp’s injury report this week.
Several players came away from the Miami game hobbled by injuries, the most serious a season-ending shoulder injury suffered by freshman defensive back Nick Washington. He is scheduled to have surgery Monday.
“He was reaching in for a ball in a non-contact injury,’’ Muschamp said, adding that Washington had a previous shoulder in jury in high school. “It's unfortunate that happened. He was really progressing well at defensive back and on special teams.”
Quarterback Jeff Driskel (sprained knee), right tackle Tyler Moore (sprained ankle), left tackle D.J. Humphries (sprained knee), safety Marcus Maye (shoulder), and defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. (hip) also suffered injuries at Miami.
Meanwhile, starting right guard Halapio, who missed the first two games of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle, was expected to return to contact drills at practice Wednesday and Muschamp is hopeful Halapio can make his season debut against the Volunteers. The status of linebacker Darrin Kitchens (strained oblique muscle) remains uncertain. Kitchens did not play at Miami after getting hurt in the season opener.
Driskel, who passed for a career-high 291 yards at Miami, was on crutches in class this week as a precautionary move.
“He'll be fine for Tennessee,” Muschamp said on this week’s SEC media teleconference. “It's precautionary. We're trying to get him off his knee a little bit. We have a long season ahead of us.”
The open week not only gave Driskel’s knee time to heal, but provided the junior time to study film of his three turnovers at Miami and make corrections in practice. Driskel finished 22-for-33 against the Hurricanes but threw two interceptions in the red zone and had a fumble that led to a Miami touchdown.
“We’re going to have to respond from this and not hang our heads,’’ Driskel said. “It is frustrating right now but we’ve got a lot of football to play this year.”
Muschamp was straight forward when asked what the Gators worked on early in the week at practice.
“Ball security. Take care of the football,” he said. “Scoring in the red zone and end every possession with a kick. If you do that, you win the game. We just need to take care of the football.
“Give [Miami] credit. They took advantage of our mistakes.”
Note: Muschamp said that true freshman offensive tackle Roderick Johnson, listed at 6-foot-6, 316 pounds from American Heritage High in Delray Beach, will likely redshirt this season. Johnson returned to practice this week after missing fall camp with a knee injury.