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Jim McElwain

Gators head coach Jim McElwain has player ties in Super Bowl XLIX. (File photo)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Since Super Bowl I 48 years ago at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Gators have usually been represented in the biggest sporting event of the year.

In that very first Super Bowl between Green Bay and Kansas City, former UF punter/kicker Don Chandler was part of Green Bay’s 35-10 victory over the Chiefs. He was back a year later in Green Bay’s 33-14 win over Oakland in Super Bowl II.

Chandler’s four field goals against the Raiders still stand as the most ever in a Super Bowl, tied by San Francisco kicker Ray Wersching in Super Bowl XVI at the now-decrepit Pontiac Silverdome.

Logo

A year ago in Seattle’s 43-8 rout of Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, former UF star Percy Harvin turned Florida fans nostalgic when he returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

In Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX between Seattle and New England, the only former UF player on either roster is defensive tackle Dominique Easley, the Patriots’ first-round draft pick.

Easley played in 11 games this season and started two, recording 10 tackles and an interception before New England shut him down so he could further rehabilitate a knee injury he suffered as a senior at UF. He is currently on injured reserve.

However, there are plenty more UF connections in the game, including a trio of Seattle assistants, most prominently Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn was Florida’s defensive coordinator in 2011-12 and is heading to Atlanta to become the Falcons’ head coach after the Super Bowl.

Former UF defensive back Marquand Manuel is a defensive assistant for Seattle and Will Harriger, a graduate assistant at UF in 2012-13, is in his first season as an offensive assistant with Seattle.

Meanwhile, Florida’s new coaching staff is well-represented in this year’s Super Bowl.

Head coach Jim McElwain, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, associate head coach Randy Shannon, strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Kent, offensive line coach Mike Summers and defensive line coach Terrell Williams all have former pupils in the game.

Thanks to research by Florida football sports information director Dan Apple, a look at those connections:

Player                    Team                    Pos.        Connection

Ryan Wendell       Patriots                  OL           McElwain was Fresno State’s OC his senior season in 2007

Vince Wilfork        Patriots                  DL           Shannon was Miami’s defensive coordinator while he was at UM

Deontae Skinner  Patriots                  DL           Practice-squad player coached by Collins at Mississippi State

Darrelle Revis      Patriots                  DB          Kent was strength coach at Pittsburgh when Revis was there

Cliff Avril               Seahawks             DL           Williams was his position coach at Purdue

Alvin Bailey           Seahawks            OL           Summers coached him at Arkansas his redshirt freshman season

James Carpenter Seahawks             OL           McElwain was OC at Alabama during his career

Jermaine Kearse Seahawks             WR          Nussmeier was OC at Washington his final three seasons

Kevin Norwood    Seahawks             WR          McElwain and Nussmeier served as OC at Alabama in his career

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The UF women’s basketball team hosts Missouri tonight in search of a second consecutive win. The gymnastics team hosts Georgia on Friday night, and on Saturday the men’s basketball team welcomes Arkansas to the O’Connell Center.

Meanwhile, baseball and softball seasons are right around the corner and National Signing Day is Feb. 4.

To help you keep up, here are some fresh links from around the Internet:

--In its position-that-needs-improvement series, ESPN.com writer Ed Aschoff writes that position is quarterback for the Gators.

--Chris Walker shows signs of promise in Alabama writes Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun.

--Return of guard Carlie Needles and win over Arkansas encouraging for Gators writes Graham Hall of the Independent Florida Alligator.

--Freshman Alex McMurtry producing for UF gymnastics despite back pain writes Graham Hack of the Independent Florida Alligator.

--Cody Jones of FightinGators.com provides some baseball scrimmage observations with Florida preparing for Feb. 13 opener against Rhode Island.

--CBSSports.com columnist Dennis Dodd ranks offseason coaching hires in college football.

--Former UF receivers coach Joker Phillips resurfaces as next receivers coach of Cleveland Browns writes Tom Reed of Clevland.com.

--Gators lefty Delanie Gourley has room to grow in sophomore season writes Luis Torres of the Independent Florida Alligator.

--Former UF quarterback Tim Tebow showed off his golfing skills Wednesday writes Kevin Zimmerman of FOXSportsArizona.com.

--Former Gators standout Al Horford, whose Atlanta Hawks have won a franchise-record 17 consecutive games, sees some similarities with the back-to-back champion Florida teams he played on.

Orange & Blue Debut

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- There are more details to be finalized, but mark your calendar for April 11.

That is the date of the annual Orange & Blue Debut spring game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Kickoff time and other details will be announced in the coming weeks.

This will be the first spring game for new Gators head coach Jim McElwain, who was introducted as the 25th head coach in school history in early December.

Marcus Maye

As part of its National Signing Day coverage, ESPN will report from UF on Feb. 4. (File photo)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Two behemoths in the modern-day sports landscape – ESPN and National Signing Day – will be dominating the airwaves on Feb. 4.

ESPN logo

ESPN announced Tuesday plans to televise 11 hours of National Signing Day across its various network platforms, including live coverage from 14 campuses.

One of those is Florida.

ESPN reporter Laura Rutledge, a UF graduate, returns to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as part of ESPNU’s National Signing Day Special. The reporters will also provide regular updates on “SportsCenter.”

Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Southern California, Tennessee, Texas and Texas A&M are the other campuses ESPN will report live from on National Signing Day.

Monday January 26, 2015 Butler hopeful Gators can parlay Sunday's much-needed victory into something more

Updated: 5:24pm, January 26

Gators

The UF women's basketball team is fighting to finish strong down the stretch. (Photo: Jim Burgess)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Amanda Butler woke up Sunday morning and headed to the O’Connell Center for a rare noon tipoff against Arkansas.

Outside, a beautiful day. The same could be said of inside the O’Dome for the first time in three weeks.

The Gators women’s basketball team snapped a four-game losing streak with a 72-58 victory against the Razorbacks, earning Butler her 150th victory as Florida’s head coach.

The Gators pulled back even with .500 (10-10, 2-5 SEC) in a much-needed victory over an Arkansas team that, like Florida, has struggled in conference play.

Amanda Butler

In her eighth season at her alma mater, Butler has led Florida to the postseason every year (three NCAA trips, four WNIT berths). However, that streak appears in jeopardy as the Gators prepare to host Missouri on Thursday.

Florida has nine regular-season games remaining and five of those are against teams currently ranked in the Top 25.

Nothing has been easy this season, and nothing will be down the stretch.

The Gators are 10th in the SEC, ahead of only Arkansas (1-6), Missouri (1-6), Alabama (1-6) and Auburn (0-6) in the league standings.

On paper Missouri looms as a good shot at victory for Florida, but when the teams met Jan. 11 in Columbia, the Tigers won their only SEC game of the season, 66-47.

Florida shot 23 percent (14 of 61), including 6 of 32 in the second half after holding a slim 24-22 halftime lead.

The Gators needed a win in the worst way Sunday and they got one. It was as if the fog finally lifted and the sun splashed down on Butler’s team.

“It’s always important to win games for various reasons, obvious ones your record and positioning and those sort of things,’’ she said Monday. “You can work really, really hard, but at the end of it all, getting the win and experiencing success in that black-and-white objective column is sometimes more powerful than some of those other ideas that we try to make important.

“I think it puts us in a great place mentally.”

The short-term goal now is to still be in that place when they walk out of the O’Dome on Thursday night.

Mike Holloway

Florida track coach Mike Holloway builds his teams around strong relay squads. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The NCAA Indoor Track & Field National Championships are not until March 13-14 at the University of Arkansas.

A lot can happen between now and then. Still, as early favorites go in the 4x400 relays, the Gators men’s and women’s teams made loud statements over the weekend at the Rod McCravy Memorial in Lexington, Ky.

First, the UF women’s 4x400 relay team of Robin Reynolds, Destinee GauseKyra Jefferson and Claudia Francis set a new school record with a time of 3:29.58, which is the best time in the NCAA and world so far in 2015. The mark was the 12th-fastest all-conditions indoor time and just the 14th sub-3:30 mark in collegiate history in the process.

“I thought we could run fast, but I didn’t necessarily think we would run that fast,’’ Florida head coach Mike Holloway said Monday. “They’re four very talented young ladies. They’ve been there before.”

The Florida men’s 4x400 team of Najee GlassHugh Graham, Jr.Nick Uruburu and Gino Hall made history too, setting a new Nutter Fieldhouse record with a NCAA- and world-leading 3:04.22.

The McCravy Memorial is an early season meet that featured 15 teams, including 12 ranked in the Top 25.

Holloway got a better gauge of where the Gators stand heading into the heart of the indoor season. The impressive relay performances were an added bonus.

“We are never surprised when we run fast relays,’’ he said. “I tell people this all the time I don’t think there is anybody that looks at what we do and goes, ‘wow, I can’t believe Florida did that.’ We have a very talented group of people here. The relays are a staple of what we. We build our team from the relays out.”

That could mean trouble for the rest of the field in March. The Gators are ranked No. 1 in both the men’s and women’s poll. If the Gators go on to bigger and better things the rest of the season, they will look back at the McCravy as a sign of what was to come.

“There was kind of a championship feel to the meet,” Holloway said. “I think that’s why you saw our athletes step up the way they did. They knew coming in that it was going to be a great meet.”

Trenton Brown

Gators offensive lineman Trenton Brown certainly has the size to play in the NFL. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For the past two seasons Max Garcia and Trenton Brown were stalwarts on Florida’s offensive line.

Today at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Garcia and Brown are teammates on the North Team as they try to improve their stock in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators.

Max Garcia

Voted Florida’s Offensive MVP in 2014, Garcia (photo, left) transferred from Maryland and developed into the Gators’ most consistent offensive lineman the past two seasons. He moved to center as a senior and performed admirably considering he had never played the position.

In an interview with 247Sports.com this week, Garcia said he has faced questions about where he sees himself playing after moving to center as a senior.

“Teams are asking me where I feel most comfortable playing,’’ he said. “I’ve been playing center for a year, and I just like having the ball in my hand and being able to direct offensive linemen on the calls before the snap.”

Meanwhile, Brown transferred to Florida from Georgia Military College in 2013 and split time between starting and filling a reserve role. Brown’s size -- he measured 6-foot-8, 376 pounds this week in Mobile -- has draw attention from scouts and media this week.

Brown told 247Sports.com this week that his size -- and work ethic -- have been a topic in his interviews with teams.

“In my interviews, a lot of times the word ‘lazy’ had come up,’’ Brown said. “I’m not lazy. I’m just even-keeled, chill guy. I don’t get too high or too low.”

The Senior Bowl is at 4 p.m. today and will be shown live on the NFL Network.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has been on the road recruiting all week and has not seen the latest edition of Sports Illustrated.

SI cover

When informed that Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse was on the cover for his game-winning catch Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, Nussmeier let out one of those gratified chuckles.

“Gosh, that’s great,’’ he said. “It couldn’t happen to a better kid.”

While America is just getting to know Kearse in the lead-up to Super Bowl XLIX, Nussmeier got to know him very well six years ago in his first season as offensive coordinator at Washington. Taking over a program that finished 0-12 the previous season, first-year Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian tabbed Nussmeier to run his offense.

One of the first things Nussmeier did was make sure that Kearse was a featured part of the offense.

“He became our guy,’’ Nussmeier said. “Jermaine was really a guy we counted on. He was just a reliable player, a really good player. It doesn’t surprise me that he has made the big catches he has.”

In three seasons playing in Nussmeier’s offense, Kearse caught 160 passes for 2,570 yards and 27 touchdowns. He finished his career as Washington’s second all-time leading receiver.

Following Kearse’s senior season in 2011, Nussmeier left to become offensive coordinator at Alabama and Kearse joined Seattle as an undrafted free agent. A native of Lakewood, Wash., a Tacoma suburb about an hour south of Seattle, Nussmeier understands how big a story Kearse’s big moment Sunday is back in the Pacific Northwest.

“Anytime a guy gets to grow up in Tacoma, went to Lakes High School, and then to play in his backyard at Washington, and then to stay in his backyard to get to play in the NFL, that’s a big impact in your local community,” Nussmeier said. “Good for him. He’s one of those guys you like to root for. He was a great player when we had him.”

Nussmeier was recruiting most of Sunday and missed the majority of Seattle’s 28-22 overtime win over Green Bay. However, he did get to see Kearse make his now-famous 35-yard touchdown catch on a throw from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Running a straight Go route to the middle of the end zone, Kearse caught the pass with Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams wrapped around him. He unwrapped himself and immediately tossed the football into the stands of a trembling Century-Link Field.

It was Kearse’s only catch of the game after being targeted five times by Wilson. The first four of those passes toward Kearse were intercepted, including two that ricocheted off his hands.

"That throw was more so just a sign of frustration," Kearse said Monday. "Just letting a lot of frustration throughout that whole game out, just trying to throw it as far as possible. It's just something that happened in the moment.”

Doug Nussmeier

As Nussmeier watched, Kearse’s game-winning catch brought back memories.

“I remember one specifically he made for us our [second] year against Washington State to get us in a bowl game,’’ Nussmeier said. “Late in the game he caught a touchdown sort of like he did the other night, in tight coverage, just a phenomenal play. We win the game.”

The catch Nussmeier recalled was a 27-yard touchdown reception by Kearse on a throw from former Huskies quarterback Jake Locker to defeat Washington State, 35-28, with 44 seconds left in the game.

Kearse isn’t the only connection for Nussmeier on the Seahawks. Seattle quarterbacks coach Carl Smith was Nussmeier’s first quarterbacks coach in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints. Also, Seahawks quality control assistant John Glenn worked with Nussmeier during his time at Washington.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If you have walked down Gale Lemerand Dr. on the University of Florida's campus, you have likely seen the sign: "Gatorade's Birthplace."

The invention of Gatorade by Dr. Robert Cade at UF in the 1960s stands as one of the most important developments in sports science in the 20th Century. The famous sports drink now has its own movie thanks to ESPN.

On Wednesday ESPN released "The Sweat Solution," a 30for30 short film that traces Gatorade's beginnings back to the Florida football program in the 1960s.

Former Gators head coach Ray Graves, who turned 96 in December, is in the film, as is South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, UF's first Heisman Trophy winner in 1966.

Check out the video above and enjoy a trip into the past worth your time.

Jake McGee

Tight end Jake McGee (No. 83) has been granted a sixth year of eligibility. (File photo)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators tight end Jake McGee received good news Tuesday. The NCAA granted McGee's request for a sixth year of eligibility.

McGee transferred to Florida last summer after earning his undergraduate degree at Virginia, where he led the Cavaliers in receiving with 43 catches for 395 yards in 2013.

McGee enrolled in graduate school and was eligible to play immediately at Florida under NCAA rules. However, early in the season opener against Eastern Michigan, McGee suffered a season-ending broken left leg.

He applied for a sixth year of eligibility after the season and tweeted about the NCAA's decision on Tuesday afternoon. 

McGee's return provides first-year head coach Jim McElwain with a proven pass catcher and playmaker at tight end, a position that has lacked significant production since Jordan Reed left after the 2012 season.

Antoinette Bannister

Junior Antoinette Bannister is no longer a member of the UF women's basketball team. (File photo)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The UF women’s basketball team already faced a difficult challenge Monday night at home: No. 1-ranked South Carolina.

The undefeated Gamecocks (17-0, 5-0 in SEC) roll into town as the top-ranked team in the nation for the first time in school history. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley has built a program that is receiving its fair share of recognition this season, as is Staley.

Tonight’s game is live on the SEC Network (7 p.m.) with former UF head coach Carol Ross serving as analyst.

Meanwhile, the Gators (9-9, 1-4) have found wins elusive since the start of SEC play, including a 62-56 loss at No. 10 Kentucky on Thursday. Florida led 51-50 with 4:24 left in the game but returned home staggered as the Wildcats closed on a 12-5 run.

It got worse for head coach Amanda Butler over the weekend when news broke that one of her key reserves, junior guard/forward Antoinette Bannister, was charged with theft of a credit card and fraudulent use of a credit card.

Bannister, who played in 13 games and started three, is no longer on the team. She was averaging 6.2 points and 2.5 rebounds per game but had appeared in only one of the last six games (three minutes vs. Ole Miss on Jan. 8).

The Gators need something good to happen as they try to turn their season around and avoid dropping below .500 for the first time this season. Although unlikely based on the current circumstances, an upset of the Gamecocks would be one way to do that.

For more on tonight’s game and other news of interest to Gator fans, here are some fresh links from around the Internet:

--Staley wants to see her team break out on offense writes David Cloninger of The State newspaper.

--Former Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, in his second season as Seattle’s defensive coordinator, is set to become head coach of the Atlanta Falcons according to the NFL Network.

--Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah to miss tonight’s game against Cleveland, the second in a row the former UF star has missed due to an ankle injury.

--Gators head coach Billy Donovan addresses why Michael Frazier II and Dorian Finney-Smith were benched for long stretches in Saturday’s loss at Georgia writes Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun.

--Ex-Gator quarterback Brian Schottenheimer expects ‘easy fit’ at Georgia writes the Associated Press via ESPN.com.

--A new experience for former Gators standout Patric Young, who is now playing in Turkey, when fans threw pork legs onto the court during a game last week. Young competed in the Turkish Basketball League All-Star slam-dunk competition on Sunday.

--Recent traffic case against Gators quarterback Treon Harris was dropped writes Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.

--Florida offensive linemen Max Garcia and Trenton Brown on North Team for Saturday’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If Florida's football program was available to purchase on the open market, say, like the NFL's Buffalo Bills were recently, you better bring a big wallet to the negotiating table.

In the annual valuation of college football programs published by The Wall Street Journal, the Gators are worth more than any team in the Southeastern Conference.

In the latest study by Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, the Florida football program is valued at more than $815 million.

That figure ranks behind only national champion Ohio State ($1.1 billion), Michigan ($999 million), Texas ($972 million) and Notre Dame ($936 million).

Alabama ($760 million) is ranked seventh and Georgia ($710 million) and LSU ($659 million) also crack the top 10, giving the SEC four of the nation's most valuable programs in financial terms.

Texas had held the top spot for three consecutive years until the Buckeyes dethroned the Longhorns this year.

The study ranked teams from 1 to 116. Louisiana-Monroe checked in last in the study. If $815 million for the Gators is out of your price range, the Warhawks are valued at a more affordable $6.4 million.

Wednesday January 14, 2015 Horford's big night, Hutzler hired at Boston College, more Gators tidbits

Updated: 1:15pm, January 14

Coleman Hutzler

Former UF assistant Coleman Hutzler, right, has been hired by Boston College. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Al Horford is healthy. So is the Atlanta Hawks' record with Horford back from a season-ending injury a season ago.

Horford's comeback reached new heights on Tuesday night in Atlanta's 105-87 over the Philadelphia 76ers. Horford registered his first career triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. 

For more on Horford and other items of interest to Gator fans, check out the links below:

--Horford made 8 of 10 shots Tuesday and has been key to Atlanta's winning streak writes Zach Abolverdi of The Gainesville Sun.

--Former UF assistant Coleman Hutzler has rebounded quickly as special-teams coordinator at Boston College.

--Longtime NFL coach and former Gator Chan Gailey, out of the NFL since 2012, will join the New York Jets as offensive coordinator reports Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com.

--Gators head coach Billy Donovan and new Auburn coach Bruce Pearl renew their rivalry Thursday night writes Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.com.

--Kiersten Wang is back from injury as Gators gymnastics team prepares for home opener writes Graham Hack (finely suited last name for a sports writer) for the Independent Florida Alligator.

--Former UF golfer and current PGA star Billy Horschel not satisfied with FedExCup title writes David Jones of Florida Today.

--Jeff Driskel is ready for brighter days ahead writes Sean Isabella of the Monroe (La.) News Star.

--The UF women's basketball team is in need of a win writes Graham Hall of the Independent Florida Alligator.

Tuesday January 13, 2015 Former Gators record holder in women's discus passes away

Updated: 2:57pm, January 13

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jacqueline Mary Gordon enrolled at UF in the summer of 1975, two years after the birth of the Gators women’s track and field team in the wake of Title IX.

Gordon grew up in Annandale, Va., and chose Florida over Penn State, Virginia and UCLA according to a sports publicity questionnaire she filled out while at UF.

Jackie Gordon

The two-sided sheet of paper and three photos are all the items in a manila folder for “Jackie Gordon” filed away in the UF sports information office’s morgue.

A political science major, Gordon threw the shot put and discus for the Gators and made her mark in the sport, earning outdoor All-American honors twice (1976, ’78) in the discus.

A four-time state discus champion in high school, she set a then-UF record at the 1978 Penn Relays with a throw of 157 feet, 6 inches.

Gordon’s record has long since faded from the top 10 in school history as athletes and training methods have improved drastically since her college career. The current school record in the discus belongs to Rachel Longfors (188 feet, 7 inches), set in 2004.

After leaving UF Gordon attended law school at the University of Virginia and began a successful law career and real estate business. She turned 58 on Dec. 10.

One of the questions on that questionnaire she filled out all those years ago was a simple one: Why did you choose Florida?

“Had what I wanted and needed academically, athletically and socially. Also, Brooks Johnson was coming here.”

Johnson has been a prominent track and field coach since the 1960s and spent time at Florida during Gordon’s career.

Sadly, a recent email arrived with news of Gordon’s passing:

*****

Jacqueline (Jackie) Mary Gordon passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. She was born on Dec. 10, 1956 in Washington, D.C., the daughter of John “Flash” and Barbara Gordon.

At W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Va., Jackie was a five-sport athlete, was selected Woodson’s Athlete of the Year her senior year, and won state AAA championships in discus and shot put. She held a state record in discus that was not broken for over 30 years.

While at the University of Florida for undergraduate school, she was a member of the track & field team, selected Lady Gator Athlete of the Year and was an All American in discus. She graduated in 1979 Phi Beta Kappa and went on to law school at the University of Virginia.

After graduation in 1982, she practiced in Dallas for four years, until moving back to Virginia to join McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe for several years. She continued practicing real estate law and was a member of the Virginia and D.C. bar associations.

She was elected to the Virginia High School Hall of Fame, the W.T. Woodson High School Athletic Hall of Fame, and selected for the Advisory Board of the Virginia High School League.

Jackie enjoyed supporting her alma maters, their athletic programs, mentoring student-athletes and was an avid sports fan. She is survived by two brothers, David and Garry Gordon, two nephews, three nieces and her beloved dog, Discus.

A private family service was held and memorial donations may be made to the Virginia High School League http://www.vhsl.org/doc/upload/foundation-2013-case.pdf.

*****

You can share a memory of Gordon or your condolences here.

Monday January 12, 2015 Bridget Sloan's foot not broken; Gators now waiting on MRI results

Updated: 6:39pm, January 12

Bridget Sloan

The Gators gymnastics team is awaiting MRI results on Bridget Sloan's injured right foot. (File photo)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Junior All-American gymnast Bridget Sloan delivered the goods early in Florida's season-opening victory at Ball State on Sunday. Competing in her home state, the 2008 Olympian and 2009 all-around world champion posted a 9.95 on the uneven bars and later scored a perfect 10.0 on vault.

However, Sloan suffered an injury to her right foot on her last tumbling pass during floor exercise and immediately needed medical attention. The injury forced Sloan to skip the beam event, the meet's final rotation, and cast a big question mark over the two-time defending national champion Gators as they move forward.

On Monday Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn said X-rays revealed that Sloan did not break her foot.

"There is no fracture, so that is great news,'' Faehn said. "Hopefully it's just a bump in the road and we're able to get past it."

Sloan was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday evening to determine if there is any ligament or tendon damage to the foot. The Gators expect to know Tuesday the results of the MRI and have a better idea about Sloan's timetable to return.

The Gators host Auburn in their home opener Friday night starting at 6:45, the new start time for home meets this season.

It was challenging for the team [to see her get hurt]. They were rattled. I tried as hard as I could to get them together."

Sloan wasn't the only Gator injured Sunday. Senior Jamie Shisler suffered an Achilles tendon injury and will miss the season, Faehn said. Shisler was scheduled to perform during the exhibition period Sunday but was injuring during warm-ups.

Friday January 9, 2015 Gators' 1977 win over Georgia highlight of Chandler's Hall-of-Fame career

Updated: 2:55pm, January 9

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Whenever Gator fans discuss the most dynamic playmakers in school history, those 30-and-younger instantly bring up Percy Harvin, and deservedly so.

Those Florida football fans who need an extra cup of coffee or two in the morning, well, they instantly mention Wes Chandler. If you ever saw Chandler play you know why.

Those at the National Football Foundation did and on Friday morning, the NFF announced that Chandler will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2015 class.

Chandler arrived at UF in 1974 from New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) High and over the next four seasons, despite playing receiver in a wishbone offense, was a two-time All-American. Chandler finished his UF career with 92 catches for 1,963 yards and 22 touchdowns. He added 353 yards and six touchdowns rushing his senior season.

Chandler’s 21.3-yard average per catch (minimum 75 receptions) remains a school record nearly 40 years after he played his final game at UF.

“When you are growing up in high school, you wonder what it would be like to play with such great athletes and just being part of that,’’ Chandler said after learning of his induction. “For me, just to be able to get to Florida and participate with those individuals, individuals who had crates of talent, really helped me grow as a person and helped me grow as an athlete.

“I was just grateful to play there at Florida and with such great people and to be touched and coached by a lot of great people. I remember everyone that had an impact on my life.”

Wes Chandler

Chandler was the third overall pick of the 1978 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints and played 11 seasons in the NFL with the Saints, Chargers and 49ers. He was selected for four Pro Bowls and led the NFL in receiving in 1982.

But it was in college, wearing No. 89, where Chandler dazzled fans at Florida Field with an array of moves and athletic ability that provided head coach Doug Dickey a versatile weapon unlike perhaps any other Gator before him.

Chandler is the eighth former UF player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Dale van Sickel, Steve Spurrier, Jack Youngblood, Emmitt Smith, Wilber Marshall, Carlos Alvarez and Danny Wuerffel.

Chandler considers his signature game at Florida a victory over Georgia in 1977 at the old Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs had won three in a row over the Gators, including a 41-27 win the previous season in which the Gators blew a big lead.

In his final opportunity to get a win against Georgia, Chandler split time at receiver and running back.

The final score: Wes Chandler 18, Georgia 17.

For the record, the actual score was 22-17, but Chandler scored all three Florida touchdowns while catching three passes for 50 yards and rushing 15 times for 57 yards in an emotional win for the Gators.

“Beating Georgia for the first time, I’ve got to say that was one of the most gratifying moments of my college career because it was the stigma,’’ he said “We thought one year we were going to the Sugar Bowl and we lost. We had a commanding lead. The fact we had not beaten Georgia in my time there and to finally get over that hump was one of the major accomplishments.

“There are so many more memories, just playing with so many other guys who had great talent was a blessing in disguise for me. I still say that Georgia game was the impact moment in my career.”

Watching that day at the Gator Bowl was Bud Asher, Chandler’s high school coach and by then a scout for the Oakland Raiders.

After Chandler was named the game’s MVP, Asher told the Daytona Beach Morning Journal that Chandler was just getting started.

“I just wish there were some way the Raiders could get him, but with us picking so far down in the draft, there is no way a player of Wes Chandler’s ability will be available,’’ Asher said. “But one thing for sure, Wes Chandler is going to be a superstar in the pros.”

Asher was right. He had seen enough to know, first at New Smyrna Beach High, and then those four years at UF that earned Chandler a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame on Friday.

Wednesday January 7, 2015 McElwain holds team meeting, other tidbits

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators head coach Jim McElwain held a press conference earlier today and then spent some time to talk casually to reporters who cover the program on a daily basis.

McElwain took over day-to-day operations of the program on Monday and held his first team meeting Monday night to give the players an opportunity to meet the team’s new coaching staff.

McElwain said he plans to start meeting with players individually on Thursday and that the relationship-building process is key early in the transition.

McElwain

“I thought there was great energy in the room,’’ McElwain said. “The guys were very receptive and, you know what, should feel good about themselves.”

Check back with GatorZone.com later for a more in-depth story off McElwain’s press conference. For now, here are a few loose ends McElwain was asked about:

--Junior linebacker Antonio Morrison announced Tuesday that he was returning to school for his senior season. Morrison suffered a knee injury in the first half of the Birmingham Bowl and his status for spring practice remains uncertain.

“Right now it’s under evaluation,’’ McElwain said of Morrison’s injury. “I know that there’s probably some stuff in there, as far as what direction we go, when to fix it, how much needs to be fixed, all that is up to the medical staff.”

--McElwain has one spot on his coaching staff left to fill at wide receivers coach. He said there is no timetable attached to the hire.

“The key is to get the best guy,’’ he said. “The guy is going to affect these young men’s lives, allow them to perfect their craft.”

--As of now, former UF quarterback Chris Leak is not part of the football staff.

“He isn’t, and yet, who knows as we move forward,’’ McElwain said. “There’s a lot to be done before we move forward on that.”

Leak served as receivers coach in 2014.

--He was asked if new Associate Head Coach/Co-coordinator Randy Shannon would serve as a de facto co-defensive coordinator with defensive coordinator Geoff Collins. Shannon is also linebackers coach.

“With Geoff, yeah. As will defensive backs coach Kirk [Callahan], as will [I] when I come in and mess with them. There will be a lot of that, but he’ll have a big hand in that. And part of that is just because he’s been a defensive coordinator.”

--Finally, he was asked about the UAA announcement Tuesday that freshman defensive tackle Gerald Willis is transferring.

“He made a choice. There were some things that we all do. We’ll be here for him. It’s nothing personal. You know what? At the end of the day you have to affect the people around you in a positive way and do what’s right.”

Antonio Morrison

Gators linebacker Antonio Morrison is returning to school for his senior season (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Birmingham Bowl was not the final game for junior linebacker Antonio Morrison in a Gators uniform.

An All-SEC second-team selection this season, Morrison announced Tuesday that he is returning to school for his senior season.

"I'm returning to Florida and I will be getting my degree in 2015. That plays a big role in why I'm returning,'' Morrison said. "And as a leader of this team, I want to lead my team to Atlanta and possibly a national championship. Coach McElwain has put together a great staff and I'm looking forward to working with them this year."

The return of Morrison provides Florida's talented defense with its anchor at middle linebacker. Morrison led the Gators with 101 tackles this season, becoming the first UF player to eclipse 100 tackles in a season since Ahmad Black in 2010.

A native of Bellwood, Ill., Morrison started every game of his junior season and finished with 10 or more tackles six times, including a career-high 16 against South Carolina and 15 against Georgia.

Morrison also added six tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery in his best season at Florida. Morrison has played in 33 games the past three seasons and has 191 career tackles.

His return provides new UF defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and linebackers coach Randy Shannon a veteran in the middle to build around as young linebackers Jarrad Davis, Alex Anzalone, Daniel McMillian and Matt Rolin vie for playing time around him.

Birmingham Bowl

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators head coach Jim McElwain officially took over day-to-day operations of the team on Monday and had a busy day.

He announced six more additions to his inaugural UF coaching staff, highlighted by the hire of former University of Miami head coach Randy Shannon as associate head coach/co-coordinator and linebackers coach.

Meanwhile, junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard announced he is returning for his senior season and fourth-year junior quarterback Jeff Driskel confirmed he is transferring to Louisiana Tech.

Here are other links of interest to Florida football fans as the program transitions from one coach to another:

--While Bullard will return, Gators offensive lineman and fellow North Carolinian D.J. Humphries announced on Twitter that he was leaving school to enter the NFL Draft.

--Senior center Max Garcia, originally invited to play in Saturday's Medal of Honor Bowl, will now play in the more prestigious Senior Bowl on Jan. 24: 

--Florida punter Kyle Christy and offensive lineman Chaz Green are scheduled to play in Saturday's Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston S.C.

--Departing junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who had a career-high three sacks in Saturday's Birmingham Bowl, has hired agents Jimmy Sexton and James Denton of CAA Sports according to Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports.

--Less than 48 hours after leading Florida to a victory in the Birmingham Bowl, former UF interim head coach/defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has a University of Michigan email address writes Nick Baumgardner of Mlive.com.

--If you don't know much about new Gators defensive line coach Terrell Williams, here is a video introduction he did during his three-year stint with the Oakland Raiders.

Monday January 5, 2015 Bullard announces he is returning for senior season

Updated: 1:41pm, January 5

Jon Bullard

Gators defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard sacks ECU quarterback Shane Carden. (Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard made a decision on his future Monday.

Bullard is returning to school for his senior season.

"I wasn't projected to go where I want to go,'' Bullard said. "I want to leave a bigger mark on the Florida program than what I have."

After in-depth discussions with his family, former Gators head coach Will Muschamp, and others, Bullard considered it in his best interests to return to UF next season and futher develop as a player.

Bullard capped his junior season Saturday with six tackles and a sack in Florida's 28-20 victory over East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. He finished the season with a career-high 52 tackles and 8 1/2 tackles for loss.

A full-time starter the past two seasons, Bullard is looking foward to finishing his career before entering the NFL Draft in 2016.

"As a veteran player coming back, I want be a leader on this team as the program enters a new era with a new coaching staff,'' Bullard said. "I want to be a role model for the younger players and help them to buy into the future of the program."

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