Tuesday August 13, 2013Driskel's background, Taylor's HOF weekend, Floyd's good news, more tidbits
Updated: 12:42pm, August 13
Welcome to Carter's Corner!
Updated: 12:42pm, August 13
Former Gators RB Fred Taylor one of newest members to Florida Sports Hall of Fame.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators held a morning practice and will hit the field again this afternoon for their second two-a-day session of camp.
As they take a break, let’s catch up on some fresh links from around the Internet discussing the current Gators and past ones:
--‘Great Respect’ runs in family for Gators junior quarterback Jeff Driskel writes Antonya English of Tampa Bay Times.
--Tailback a concern for Gators with Matt Jones still sidelined writes Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.
--Gators coach Will Muschamp continues to search for pieces of the puzzle on offense writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.
--Florida ranked seventh in merchandise royalties last year writes Darren Rovell of ESPN.com.
--Former Gators DT Sharrif Floyd received good news Monday that his knee has no major damage writes USA Today’s tom Pelissero.
--Former Gators RB Fred Taylor was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday.
--Want to smell like an Alabama man or Florida woman? Now you can with SEC fragrances available from Masik Collegiate Fragrances. Al.com with the details.
--SI.com takes a look at games you can’t miss in 2013 and Florida at Miami in Week 2 on list.
--UF compliance director Jamie McCloskey talks to CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler about how UF dealt with Tebowmania.
--Gators buck linebacker Ronald Powell is using Vikings running back Adrian Peterson as inspiration coming off two major knee surgeries writes Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com’s GatorNation.
--The SEC will have guaranteed bowl spots for at least 10 of its 14 members beginning in 2014 writes Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com.
--Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde writes about how former Gators coach Urban Meyer has sped up Ohio State’s pace to catch SEC.
--Cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson lead way for corner-rich Gators defense writes Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post.
--Former Gators LB Jon Bostic impresses the Bears as a rookie writes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.
--Florida fans who watched Caleb Sturgis won’t be surprised that he kicked a 58-yard field on his birthday
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The pro football life was starting to take a toll on former Gators defensive lineman Joe Cohen.
Since he finished his career at Florida in the 2007 BCS national championship win over Ohio State, Cohen had fought off injuries and bounced around the NFL and CFL. He played for Detroit in 2009 and spent last season with the Toronto Argonauts.
With a wife and four kids, Cohen sat down last November to talk to his wife about their future.
“It’s just time for me to move on from football,’’ Cohen told her. “It’s time for me to put on my big-boy pants and see if I can do something.”
One of the first calls he made was to UF, where Tony Meacham, assistant director of academic services in the Office of Student Life, set up a plan for Cohen to return to school and finish his Anthropology degree.
“He was there every step of the way,’’ Cohen said.
Cohen enrolled in classes in January, 25 hours short of his degree. He took his final test on Thursday and on Saturday afternoon received his degree at the O’Connell Center during the summer commencement ceremony.
The 29-year-old Cohen has a much different perspective on what that means than the 18-year-old who showed up from Palm Bay 11 years ago as one of the state’s top football recruits.
“I worked so hard between working a regular job, coming up here for school, pulling doubles on the weekend, leaving my family back at home, between all that, I’m going to celebrate this to the max,’’ Cohen said. “I want everybody to know that I graduated. Everyone knew I got drafted, which was cool, but I really didn’t celebrate that. But this I’m celebrating.”
Cohen played in 48 games for the Gators from 2002 to 2006, starting out at fullback and then later developing into a starting defensive tackle. He was drafted by San Francisco in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
As he tried to scratch out a career in professional football, Cohen’s family grew and his goals did, too.
In his final game for Toronto, Cohen made five tackles. He got injured and was cut soon afterward and made the life-altering decision to leave the game that had been his primary outlet since he was a kid in Brevard County.
“It’s better late than never,’’ he said.
He knows he made the right decision. Cohen has spent the past seven months driving back and forth from Palm Bay to Gainesville on Tuesdays and Thursdays to finish school. He also had a full-time job back home.
“I knew if I put all my energy into my school and business endeavors, everything would work out just fine and as of right now the ball is rolling,’’ Cohen said. “I have been so focused on trying to stay healthy, trying to get healthy, trying to get back to the NFL – all my energy was on getting back to the NFL.
“I was neglecting the little things that I need to really focus on, which was school and becoming a business man outside of football because everybody knows football doesn’t last long. I’m trying to become dependent on myself instead of depending on football.”
Cohen and his wife want to start their own business and he plans to stay involved in working with kids. He currently works at Devereux, a nonprofit behavioral health organization that provides support to underserved and vulnerable people in communities across the country.
There is work ahead to reach some of his new goals outside of football. Cohen is looking forward to the challenges.
But on Saturday, it was time to celebrate with a large group of family and friends who made the trip to Gainesville for his graduation.
“I told everybody it’s an open invite,’’ he said. “It’s just been so cool to get as much love as I’ve gotten from the University of Florida. It’s one of the best places I’ve been and I’m just so glad I chose to go to school there when I was 18 years old. It’s time to make adults moves instead of playing football in the backyard.”
Gators linebacker Antonio Morrison tackles Heisman winner Johnny Manziel last season.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel wasn’t the only Gator back at practice Thursday night.
Following a heart-to-heart conversation on Wednesday with sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison, Gators coach Will Muschamp allowed Morrison to rejoin his teammates following a pair of off-the-field incidents over the summer that prompted Muschamp to suspend Morrison.
“It’s part of being the head coach,’’ Muschamp said Friday. “When a young man has poor judgment, you work them through it and you educate them and you help them, and that’s what we’re doing. I don’t treat these guys any differently that I treat my sons. It’s called tough love.”
Morrison finished spring practice projected to be the Gators’ starting middle linebacker. Morrison made 34 tackles as a freshman, including a forced fumble against Florida State that turned the momentum in Florida’s favor.
Muschamp announced last month that Morrison was suspended and would miss the season’s first two games. Whether that suspension might be reduced due to new information and Morrison’s attitude remains uncertain. Morrison won't be able to work in full pads until his fifth practice due to the NCAA-mandated acclimation period all players are subject to.
“He’s still working through some things for me,’’ Muschamp said. “We’re working through that at this point. I feel like missing a week of camp was a pretty strong statement to him and where I stood with some things. He's still a part of our team. He was never not part of our team. He was just suspended from all team activities."
From Bolingbrook, Ill., the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Morrison played in all 13 games last season after choosing Florida over Alabama, Tennessee, Arizona and Purdue.
Updated: 1:09pm, August 9
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Linebacker Matt Rolin's debut for the Gators won't come as soon as expected.
A freshman who enrolled early, Gators coach Will Muschamp confirmed Friday that Rolin suffered a season-ending knee injury at practice Wednesday night.
Rolin (photo) arrived at UF in January recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee that cost him the final portion of his season at Briar Woods (Va.) High. The latest injury to the same knee happened during a “non-contact” drill when Rolin's knee buckled, Muschamp said, the same type of season-ending injury suffered by senior receiver Andre Debose on Tuesday.
“I really hurt for both of those guys,’’ Muschamp said.
Rolin, expected to play on special teams and contribute on defense, tweeted his disappointment on Thursday.
“It's depressing when you work harder than you ever have in your life to get back to playing the sport you love and you find out it' [for] nothin’,” the dejected Rolin posted.
Muschamp talked to Rolin and his father Thursday and is confident Rolin can get back for next season.
“It’s disheartening,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got the right support people around him to help him through this. He’ll handle it well. He’s a tough kid."
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Rolin's versatility made him a candidate to earn playing time as a true freshman. He can play inside or outside linebacker and was getting regular reps early in fall camp. Rolin was part of a strong signing class of linebackers that also includes Alex Anzalone, Daniel McMillian and Jarrad Davis.
Rolin originally committed to South Carolina but opted to sign with the Gators after a visit to campus late last year. Several major programs recruited him after helping Briar Woods win three consecutive state championships as a linebacker/tight end.
Meanwhile, in other injury news, Muschamp said defensive lineman Damien Jacobs (sprained knee) is out approximately 10 days, and that defensive back Jaylen Watkins (sprained foot) is expected to miss about a week.
In addition, freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson will undergo surgery today to repair a pre-existing meniscus injury from high school and is expected to be unavailable for three to four weeks.
Finally, offensive lineman Max Garcia (back) has been cleared for non-contact drills and should be ready to go full-speed early next week according to Muschamp. Starting right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral muscle) is scheduled to visit the doctor this week to see how he is progressing. Both Garcia and Halapio were hurt prior to the start of camp.
Muschamp said running back Matt Jones, the other offensive starter out prior to camp, continues to do cardio training to get back in shape and that there is still no timetable on his return to the practice field.
The good news on the injury front is that junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who missed the first six practices due to an appendectomy, returned to action Thursday night.
Check back with GatorZone.com later for a story off Driskel’s press conference earlier today.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Trey Burton has played for two head coaches and worn two numbers at Florida. He has tried to scrape out yards under three offensive coordinators.
A lot has changed in Burton’s time at UF. Still, there has been one constant: Burton’s willingness to do whatever it takes to avoid standing on the sideline.
“Hopefully a little bit of everything,’’ Burton said Tuesday when asked what position he expects to play as a senior.
Did you really expect any other answer from one of 44 players on the Paul Hornung Award watch list to honor the country’s most versatile player?
Burton has reached the point in his career when others refer to him as a veteran, far removed from that six-touchdown game against Kentucky as a freshman. On the current roster, only offensive linemen Jon Halapio, Jon Harrison and Kyle Koehne have played more games for the Gators than Burton’s 38. He has started 22.
Burton has played quarterback, running back, fullback, tight end, receiver and H-back. He is working as the holder on field goals. Burton has played special teams and probably knows enough about Florida’s defense to sneak in for a play or two on that side if needed.
He really has been Mr. Versatile in his three seasons.
Trying to define Burton’s identity has never been easy. Football player seems most appropriate. However, with the Gators in need of receivers, Burton has worked primarily at that position early in camp.
“I’m with [receivers coach] Joker Phillips a lot, so that's good," Burton said.
Burton’s most productive season came as a freshman when he rushed for 349 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 32 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers dropped significantly as a sophomore when Burton was under utilized in Charlie Weis’ one season as UF’s offensive coordinator.
When Brent Pease arrived prior to Burton’s junior season, Burton’s touches didn’t go up but his production did. He averaged career highs for yards per rush (6.6) and per catch (9.6).
Besides his six-touchdown game against Kentucky in 2010, Burton’s signature moment for the Gators came in last year’s 37-20 win at Tennessee. Burton’s 80-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter shifted momentum to the Gators and they parlayed his run into the game’s final 24 points.
Burton’s has only 37 receptions the past two seasons but his role in the passing game could increase as the Gators search for dependable hands and playmakers for Jeff Driskel to throw to.
“The guy we forget about is Trey Burton,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “He's going to be in the slot for us and does a lot for us there. We obviously will have a Trey Burton [wildcat] package, which was very effective for us last year.”
So, you could see Burton line up at receiver some, then take a snap here and there out of the shotgun, perhaps line up in the backfield occasionally.
In other words, a little bit of everywhere.
Wherever he plays, Burton will likely have the ball in his hands a few times each game. That is the way he wants it.
He expects the offense to be a “lot smoother” in the second year under Pease.
“The second year in any offense is going to be better,’’ Burton said. “A lot of guys know the stuff, what to do and where to go.”
The “where” is usually the only question for Burton.
Updated: 1:30pm, August 6
The Gators face the nation's most difficult schedule in 2013 according to Phil Steele.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Playing a difficult schedule is nothing new for the Gators. That’s just a fact of life in the SEC.
Still, some years are more difficult than others. A year ago, based on the NCAA’s method of using opponents’ win/loss records, Florida finished the season with the nation’s toughest schedule.
According to college football analyst Phil Steele, that ranking won’t change in 2013.
Known for his number crunching and in-depth NCAA preview magazines, Steele’s formula includes his “9 sets of Power Ratings” and the amount of home and away games.
I’m going to use Steele’s own words to explain his “nine sets of Power Ratings” methodology:
“If you are a follower of my magazine, I am sure you are familiar with the fact that I have nine different sets of power ratings that I create each preseason to give me nine different ways of analyzing a team. One is based on the individual talent level and performance of each position on each team and those are added up for the rating. Another is based on my Power Plays numbers, which include rushing and passing offenses, defenses and special teams. Another is a continually updated power rating based on the score of the games and the strength of opponent. Finally a few years back, before computers became part of the BCS rankings system, there was without a doubt some flaws in the polls. Teams rated #2 or #3 in the country really were not that talented and were maybe the fifth- or sixth-best. One Internet site decided to produce a poll of some of the top analysts and experts each week and invited me to join. I myself work 365 days a year. During magazine time (March, April, May) and throughout the football season (August through January) there are many 15-18 hour days put in and all of them are spent solely working on football. When they invited me to join the poll, I wanted to give them the best set of power ratings in the country to help make the poll as accurate as possible. The dilemma I had was which set? What I decided to do was combine all eight into one rating which gives me a very solid overall ranking for each team. The rating takes into account EVERY factor, using it as my main set of power ratings, which thus created my ninth set.”
As you can see, Steele takes rankings seriously and while measuring strength of schedule is not an exact science and certainly includes some level of subjective analysis, Steele’s system takes into several factors that others do not.
Once he calculated the rankings entering the 2013 season, the Gators finished on top.
Florida opens the season at home against Toledo, and then visits Miami for the first time in a decade. The Gators travel to LSU and South Carolina this season, they face Georgia in Jacksonville, and they host Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida State. Florida also has road games at Kentucky and Missouri and home games against Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern.
To check out Steele’s complete rankings, click on this link.
Here are Steele’s 10 toughest schedules in 2013: 1. Florida, 2. Oklahoma, 3. California, 4. Purdue, 5. Arkansas, 6. Iowa State, 7. Colorado, 8. Stanford, 9. Kentucky and 10. Kansas.
The Gators are one of three SEC teams in the top 10, joining Arkansas and Kentucky.
For more on Steele’s rankings, check out this blog from FBSchedules.com.
Updated: 8:10am, August 5
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The new guy in the Gators' backfield trips up offensive coordinator Brent Pease.
The same is probably true for most of us.
In the spring, when talking about No. 25, Pease quipped, "Gideon ... I'm not even sure how to say his whole name."
Pease was talking about redshirt junior Gideon Ajagbe (uh-JOB-ee), whose career up to this point includes four games, one season-ending rotator cuff injury and a season-ending knee injury.
Add a position change, too.
The 6-foot-2, 243-pound Ajagbe began his career at linebacker. After last season, Gators coach Will Muschamp called Ajagbe into his office. Muschamp asked if Ajagbe would move to fullback to see if he could help the team at that position.
Ajagbe quickly said yes and in spring practice earned the backup spot behind starter Hunter Joyer.
That didn't surprise Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy, Ajagbe's former roommate.
"I know he is hard worker,'' Murphy said. "He is dedicated. [We] both kind of went through struggles, not getting much playing time. I know he is anxious to get out there and prove himself. Just watching him myself, he's done a great job.
"He is a physical fullback. We're excited about what Gideon brings to the table."
So is the coaching staff. Pease offered nothing but praise in the spring when Ajagbe's name came up.
Muschamp liked what he saw, too.
"Gideon has been really productive for us,” Muschamp said. “One hit [to Joyer] and you're out of it. So you've got to be careful how you invest your time with a guy when you don't have much depth at the position. All of a sudden, we feel very comfortable."
While fullback is new to Ajagbe, toting the football is not.
At Ransom Everglades High, Ajagbe rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns his senior season. He arrived at UF in 2010 and was redshirted because of a rotator cuff injury. After playing four games late in the 2011 season on special teams, Ajagbe suffered a knee injury in fall camp last season and never played.
The position switch served as a lifeline.
"I was really glad with the change. I really needed it,'' he said. "I worked a lot with the coaches on the transition. I went into the spring trying to be consistent every single day. Obviously there are some things I can do and do well, but I was more worried about being consistent, learning the techniques and getting better at the things I wasn't good at.
"That's the same focus I'm going to have in camp."
While Joyer is entrenched as the starter, Ajagbe and redshirt freshman Rhaheim Ledbetter, who moved from safety in the spring, now add some depth.
Ajagbe hasn't played since Florida's win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl in January 2012, so simply having a defined role this season is a move in the right direction.
"I'm not trying to 'wow' anybody, but just trying to be consistent and get better every day in what I'm supposed to do,'' he said.
If successful, his last name should be less daunting for Pease and everyone else.
Second-string quarterback Tyler Murphy was popular at UF Media Day on Thursday.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators hold their third practice of the season later today.
The season opener against Toledo is now less than four weeks away, so the long summer without football is quickly coming to a close -- I think that's something we can all agree is a good thing.
To get you caught up on some stories early in camp, here is a look at some links from around the Internet:
--Gators cornerback Jeremy Brown is the last man standing from UF's national championship team writes Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley.
--Backup quarterback Tyler Murphy is trying to make the most of his opportunity with starter Jeff Driskel sidelined writes Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post.
--Florida Today columnist John Torres writes about young defensive back Marcus Maye's culture shock his first season with the Gators.
--Gainesville Sun beat writer Robbie Andreu previews the Gators' special teams units.
--The viral infection that has Gators running back Matt Jones down at the start of camp came on fast and furious writes Antonya English of the Tampa Bay Times.
--A feature on former Gators running back Mike Gillislee by the AP via Jacksonville.com.
--Five position battles to watch during Florida's camp from Orlando Sentinel beat writer Edgar Thompson.
--Will Muschamp was at media day, he mentioned that woodpeckers don't get concussions due to an extra bone in their neck, there was a follow-up question and a sharp answer, and the story ends up all over the Internet, even for readers of the San Francisco Chronicle. The information age moves fast and far.
Senior receiver Solomon Patton is healthy after a season-ending broken arm a season ago.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- They want to know if freshman Demarcus Robinson is the missing piece of the puzzle. They ask if Quinton Dunbar is the guy. Everyone wonders if this is finally the year Andre Debose turns potential into production.
What about the four freshmen receivers other than Robinson? Can they make an immediate impact?
As the Gators open fall practice today, much of the focus is aimed at Florida's receiving corps. Everyone wants to know if the Gators have enough playmakers to make the passing game go.
One guy under the radar is senior Solomon Patton, who emerged as a useful threat that offered Brent Pease's pro-style offense a different look last season until he suffered a season-ending broken arm in the loss to Georgia.
"It was tough, watching and not being able to help my team,'' Patton said. "I had finally gotten my chance and actually show what I could do. The coaches had a lot of confidence and they were giving me the ball a lot, and then, boom, that happened."
Using Patton primarily on jet sweeps, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Patton -- he said Thursday he has added about 10 pounds of muscle since last season due to strenuous rehab in the weight room -- averaged 10 yards a rush (14 carries, 140 yards) prior to his injury.
His only catch was a 17-yard grab at Texas A&M, a game in which he also rushed for 31 yards as Florida opened SEC play with a comeback win over the Aggies.
Patton was forced to watch the final five games of last season from the sideline, his left arm restricted by a cast.
He revealed a big grin Thursday when asked about being healthy for his final season.
"I'm doing great. I will be right back out there. I've been waiting for this," Patton said. "I'm real excited to get back."
While Patton is not your prototypical go-to receiver, he can get open in the slot and is elusive in the open field.
"We continue to develop him in the passing game,'' Gators coach Will Muschamp said.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel wants to see Patton utilized more because of his versatility.
"I think he is going to have a great senior year,'' Driskel said. "He hit some big end-around stuff for us. I expect him to be more prevalent in the passing game this year.
"He is so quick and a lot of times he is matched up on linebackers since he plays inside, so he's a guy that can really get open and create big plays."
Patton arrived at UF and played as a freshman in 2010. Most of his production has come on the ground. Besides his rushing totals, Patton has averaged 25.7 yards on 17 kick returns in his career.
As a receiver, Patton has only eight catches for 79 yards, four of those grabs coming in a victory at Vanderbilt his freshman season.
With so many questions at receiver, Patton enters camp out to prove something.
"I feel pretty good with where I'm at,'' he said. "I'm going to work hard when camp starts and work my way as far as I can and make as many plays as I can. Hopefully when Aug. 31 comes I'll be out there a lot."
Driskel hopes so, too.
Running back Mack Brown moves up the depth chart in the absence of Matt Jones.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The door is open and Mack Brown is prepared to make a run for it -- literally and figuratively.
With sophomore Matt Jones out indefinitely due to a serious viral infection, Brown enters fall camp atop the depth chart at tailback.
A redshirt junior, Brown's career totals (40 carries, 167 yards) equal the output of a decent game by Adrian Peterson.
In this three seasons Brown has always found himself down the depth chart, first behind Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, and last season looking up at Mike Gillislee and Jones, who rushed for 275 yards as a true freshman and established himself as the starter in spring camp.
But with Jones' status uncertain entering camp, Brown is determined to make a difference in his absence.
"You've always got to have a guy who can fill in,'' Brown said Thursday. "I want to be productive, help my team out more. The last couple of years I felt like I could have made more plays, but I really didn't do as good as I should of."
Brown attributes his lack of production when given an opportunity to several factors, including a broken ankle he suffered two years ago in spring practice. Brown got depressed, fell out of shape in rehab, and then had to learn two different playbooks in two seasons.
When Jones earned the starting job in spring, Brown understood what that meant.
"This whole offseason I just looked at, 'there is not a better time to get myself better,' " he said. "If I would have made some plays in other games ... I just felt kind of useless the last couple of years so now I'm trying to get better."
A former standout at King High in Lithonia, Ga., Brown rushed for more than 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns in his final two seasons of high school. However, his best season for the Gators came last year when he rushed for 102 yards on 25 carries.
Gators coach Will Muschamp believes Brown can live up to the task.
"I have confidence in Mack Brown,'' Muschamp said. "You're not going to make it through the season with one back in our league. It's a huge opportunity for him to step in and to get more touches and more carries which, in that situation, you've got to be productive and I think he will."
Brown spent a large chunk of the offseason focused on increasing his speed. He said since his ankle injury his speed never fully returned.
He did running and agility drills over the summer to pick up the pace.
"I thought when I broke my ankle that it would just hurt and I would come back,'' Brown said. "I had to get my hips back, my flexibility and my speed. I have to play faster."
Brown will have an opportunity early in camp to prove he can carry the load for the Gators. If not, Muschamp has true freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane to turn to. Walk-on Mark Herndon also showed some flashes in spring practice that he can pick up yards when given an opportunity.
"I think we recruited well at that position,'' Muschamp said. "Those guys can step up."
Brown gets the first chance.
Updated: 5:34pm, July 30
Backup quarterbacks Tyler Murphy (10) and Skyler Mornhinweg will earn extra work early in camp.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jeff Driskel’s offseason has been an eventful one.
Besides attending classes and team workouts, Driskel was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in June’s amateur draft.
Driskel later signed as a 29th-round pick as a security blanket should football not pan out the way he envisions.
Driskel also attended the Manning Passing Academy camp earlier this month to serve as a counselor and went to SEC Football Media Days with Florida coach Will Muschamp and teammates Dominique Easley and Jon Halapio.
On Tuesday Driskel had to go to UF Health Shands Hospital for an event he would have soon skipped: appendectomy surgery.
“Jeff had acute appendicitis and fortunately the medical staff caught it very quickly,” said Muschamp. “His surgery went well and how long he is out will be determined by how his body responds, which could be two weeks.”
Firmly entrenched as the Gators’ starting quarterback, barring any setbacks, Driskel should be back in time to participate in fall camp and for Florida’s season opener Aug. 31 against Toledo. He will not be available when camp opens Friday.
The junior from Oviedo passed for 1,646 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions as a sophomore and expects to do more in the second year in offensive coordinator Brent Pease’s offense as the offense’s leader.
For now Driskel must recover, which raised the obvious question after Tuesday’s announcement: Who will be Florida’s quarterback in camp until Driskel returns?
Redshirt junior Tyler Murphy is listed No. 2 on the depth chart and redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg is third on the depth chart. To read more about the two backups, here is a story I wrote on Murphy and Mornhinweg during spring practice.
Meanwhile, another player the Gators added at quarterback since last season is 23-year-old Chris Wilkes.
Wilkes played at Dr. Phillips High in Orlando and has spent the past five years playing professional baseball as a 22nd-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres.
Wilkes turns 24 in September and signed with Ole Miss coming out of high school in 2008 before opting to pursue a professional baseball career.
In the meantime, the Gators give the other quarterbacks on the roster an opportunity to take snaps and wait on Driskel’s return.
Updated: 1:52pm, July 30
This video should get you ready for some football -- Gators football.
There is something about this time of year in Gainesville when you just feel it.
You instinctively know it’s almost that time of year.
The stores in the mall have the latest orange-and-blue fashion statements on display. University Avenue, after its normal summer break from constant foot and scooter traffic, starts to get more crowded by the day as students begin flowing back into town. And the August heat that can be unbearable has already stopped in for its stay.
Add ‘em all up, and you know what I’m talking about. Football season is near.
In fact, the Gators’ season opener against Toledo is only 32 days away.
The Gators report for camp later this week and hold their first practice Friday.
After a few days away to get ready for the season, glad to be back in a town that oozes football fever this time of year.
Also glad that it’s that time of year when more attention will be paid to college football games than which parties college football players were told to leave over the weekend.
Having said that, here are some recent links you may have missed that discuss Gators football:
--Gators to have four open practices during camp writes TampaBay.com’s Antonya English.
--A look at how CBSSports.com’s college football staff projects each conference and how the Gators stack up in the SEC East.
--ESPN.com blogger Chris Low writes about next step for Gators under third-year coach Will Muschamp.
--Muschamp recently received a raise via ESPN.com.
--Former Gators defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd might see some time on special teams as a rookie for Minnesota writes Ben Goessling of the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer-Press.
--Former Gators running back Mike Gillislee, a rookie with Miami, had a good scrimmage Monday night according to this story from the Palm Beach Post.
--Florida removed former tight end Aaron Hernandez’s brick outside The Swamp writes Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com.
--In another story that is not about football but that could impact the Gators early in the season, linebacker Antonio Morrison had recent charges dropped for an off-the-field incident writes David Jones of Florida Today.
--Gators senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley is ready for a fantastic finale writes ESPN.com UF beat writer Michael DiRocco.
--Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel recently sat down with the Orlando Sentinel and told his hometown paper he embraces greater expectations writes Sentinel reporter Edgar Thompson.
--Gators senior offensive lineman Jon Halapio knows how to finish blocks writes NFL.com writer Chase Goodbread.
Updated: 10:00am, July 13
Hey folks, there are several good Gator-related links out there for you to check out this weekend.
Let's start with a cool update on a former UF football player. Remember former Gators walk-on Gary Beemer?
If not, check out this link to read about his signature moment with the Gators.
And then watch the interview below to see what Beemer has to say as the new strength and conditioning coordinator at the University of Hawaii.
He looks a little different, too.
--Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel is at the Manning Passing Academy this week and the Houma (La.) Courier catches up with him.
--If you have access to Sports Illustrated's printer version online, a good update on former Gators basketball star Neal Walk, who remains a colorful figure.
--VIDEO: Gators senior Patric Young sits down with Gainesville TV reporter Julie Quittner for this interview and his Billy D impersonation.
--Former UF standout Chandler Parsons discusses Dwight Howard, Aaron Hernandez and has gained a reputation as quite the recruiter writes Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel.
--A pair of former UF baseball players went against each other last night as Cody Dent and Johnny Magliozzi faced off in the minor leagues. Click here for more from BrooklynCyclones.com.
--Former UF coach Urban Meyer is not to blame for Gators' transgressions writes David Neal of The Miami Herald.
--VIDEO: Former Gators standout Marreese Speights during his introductory press conference with the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
--Former Gator Joakim Noah is not only an All-Star with the Chicago Bulls. He can play soccer, too. Video below:
Updated: 9:01am, July 12
Dan Quinn returned to Seattle as a first-time NFL defensive coordinator after two seasons at UF.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Sometimes you never know what nugget you’ll find in the media guide.
The 2013 Florida football media guide is out and I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon flipping through its 196 pages.
As I glanced at a chart of former UF players and assistants on Page 171, suddenly I thought, “Hey, look, my former road roommate is now quality control coach with the Kansas City Chiefs.”
I immediately went to Kansas City’s website to make sure, and sure enough, former Gators quality control assistant Mark DeLeone is not only with the Chiefs, he worked for the Jets last season. DeLeone was at UF during the 2010 season, my first at UF writing for GatorZone.com, and left after the season to join Steve Addazio's inaugural staff at Temple.
I guess I should keep up with my former roommates better.
Truth be told, I didn’t get to know DeLeone that well. He was always in a staff meeting on the road while I was usually working on my laptop in the room.
My first road game in this position was Florida’s win at Tennessee in 2010. I was still in transition between Tampa and Gainesville and didn’t travel with the team to Knoxville. As a result, I didn’t arrive at the hotel until late Friday night.
When I went up to my room, there was already luggage and other items inside, so I assumed I had been given the wrong room. Nope, I had a roommate.
So, for the rest of that season I roomed with DeLeone, whose father George DeLeone is a longtime NFL assistant and current offensive coordinator at Connecticut.
What little time we did have to chat was always informative. DeLeone is a football junkie and obviously putting that knowledge to use while climbing the coaching ranks.
As for that chart I alluded to earlier, here is a list of former Gator players or coaches now coaching in the NFL:
Name UF position At UF Current NFL team Position
Teryl Austin Def. coordinator 2010 Baltimore Ravens Secondary coach
Mark DeLeone Quality control 2010 Kansas City Chiefs Quality control
George Edwards Grad assistant 1991 Miami Dolphins Linebackers coach
Jedd Fisch Grad assistant 1999-00 Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive coordinator
John Grieco Strength coach 1995-03 Oakland Raiders Strength coach
Ike Hilliard Player (WR) 1994-96 Buffalo Bills Receivers coach
Jon Hoke Def. coordinator 1995-01 Chicago Bears Defensive backs coach
Larry Kirksey Running backs 1984-88 Houston Texans Receivers coach
Marquand Manuel Player (DB) 1998-01 Seattle Seahawks Defensive assistant
Dan Quinn Def. coordinator 2011-12 Seattle Seahawks Def. coordinator
Bob Sanders Def. line/LBs 1990-00 Oakland Raiders Linebackers
Brian Schottenheimer Player (QB) 1995-96 St. Louis Rams Offensive coordinator
Mike Shanahan Off. coordinator 1980-83 Washington Redskins Head coach
Bob Slowik Assistant DBs 1980-82 Washington Redskins Linebackers
Cedric Smith Player (FB) 1986-89 Houston Texans Strength coach
Tyke Tolbert Tight ends 2002 Denver Broncos Wide receivers coach
Anthony Weaver Grad assistant 2010 Buffalo Bills Defensive line
Updated: 8:58am, July 12
Jason Latimer is new director of external communications for Florida's football program.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The newest member of the UF football staff has never called a fourth-and-1 play or devised a game plan for Florida State.
But Jason Latimer owns a unique distinction no one else on Gators coach Will Muschamp’s staff has: a World Series ring.
Latimer joined Florida’s football program this week after seven seasons as a media/player relations specialist with the New York Yankees. Latimer worked alongside Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and the rest of the Bronx Bombers when they won the 2009 World Series.
A 2002 Florida graduate and Tampa native, Latimer is the new director of external communications for the Florida football program. Latimer is in charge of leading the program’s branding efforts, managing the coaches’ website, developing the program’s social media strategy and various other duties as Florida football moves deeper into the 21st century.
“Technology has offered myriad new avenues in which to interact with fans, students, alumni, players, recruits, etc., and Coach Muschamp has the vision for the University of Florida football program to find innovative ways to be at the forefront of those communications,’’ Latimer said. “The thought of being a part of an initiative from the ground floor was very appealing, and is an exciting new challenge for me.”
Latimer began his career in the communications department of the Tampa Bay Rays after graduating from UF. He spent four years with the Rays before joining the Yankees in 2007.
The opportunity to return to his alma mater had special appeal following several years in New York.
“I maintain that one of the best sporting events I have ever witnessed in person was the 2001 game vs.Tennessee,’’ he said. “The Gators lost that back-and-forth game which had been rescheduled to the end of the season after the Sept. 11 attacks. As someone who has been to a Super Bowl and a World Series, I can honestly tell you I have never been in a louder venue with more excitement than that game.”
During his time in the Big Apple, Latimer stayed connected to UF football through the Gotham Gators that meet on weekends to watch games.
One of their former viewing partners is now much closer to the action.
“I'm proud to return to this great university and work for such a prestigious program,’’ he said.
Corey Brewer is set to return to Minnesota, where he started his NBA career (Photo: Denver Post).
A few Gator-related links for your perusal as lunchtime approaches:
--Former UF basketball standout Corey Brewer is heading back to Minnesota, where he started his NBA career in 2007 writes the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press.
--Meanwhile, another former UF hoopster, Marreese Speights, has agreed to a new contract with the Golden State Warriors writes USA Today.
--Gators defensive tackle Darious Cummings is ready to make his Florida debut after starting his career at Florida State writes David Jones of Florida Today.
--Florida’s defensive line should be one of the SEC’s best writes ESPN.com blogger Ed Aschoff.
--Remember that photo of Gators linebacker Darrin Kitchens standing alone as the UF band played following the Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville? Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun caught up with Kitchens recently to talk about the moment.
--Gators coach Billy Donovan awaits word on academic eligibility of top recruit Chris Walker writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.
--Here is a Gators basketball notebook from the Gainesville Sun’s John Boothe from Donovan’s media availability on Wednesday.
--The SEC seeks to boost basketball schedule strength writes Antonya English of the Tampa Bay Times.
Florida junior defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy wears an iconic jersey for the Gators.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – For 30 years the most famous jersey number in Gators football history was No. 11, quarterback Steve Spurrier’s number when he won the Heisman Trophy is 1966.
Two years after Spurrier returned to UF in 1990 as head coach, No. 11 returned to Florida Field draped over the shoulder pads of linebacker Ben Hanks.
Spurrier never liked the idea of retiring numbers and met with school officials to change the policy.
“There have been so many great players here that it’s not fair to pick one over the other,’’ Spurrier said then.
He also called former Gators linebacker Scot Brantley, the only other player at the time to have his jersey retired, to see if Brantley would mind if Spurrier unretired it.
Brantley said no problem, and Spurrier issued Brantley’s No. 55 to linebacker Jerome Evans.
Danny Wuerffel’s No. 7 jersey replaced No. 11 as Florida’s most iconic jersey in the eyes of many when Wuerffel won the Heisman and led the Gators to their first national championship in 1996.
And then came along Tim Tebow a decade later as No. 15.
Tebow helped the Gators win a national title in 2006, became the first player to win the Heisman as a sophomore in 2007, led Florida to another national title in 2008, and before leaving Gainesville, Tebow guided the Gators to a perfect regular season (second in school history) and 13-1 record as a senior in 2009.
In 2010, the first season of the post-Tebow era, no UF player wore No. 15.
However, when defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy showed up in 2011 as a true freshman from Pine Forest High in Pensacola, No. 15 was back in play.
“I actually walked in, looked at my locker, and saw No. 15 and I was like, ‘Oh, I know I’m going to hear it,’ ’’ Purifoy said.
Purifoy wore No. 5 in high school and is still not sure why he was issued No. 15. Still, he is reminded often of its meaning to Florida fans.
“How did you get that number?” they ask.
“When Fan Day rolls around, I get that a lot,’’ he said. “People say, ‘You’ve got some big shoes to fill.’ I have a response like, ‘we play two different positions or that was his era,’ something like that.”
Purifoy has been one of Gators coach Will Muschamp’s favorites since the junior defensive back stepped on campus.
Purifoy plays with a toughness and energy that prompted Muschamp to make Purifoy a two-way player in the spring, adding receiver to Purifoy’s duties at cornerback and as the team’s gunner on special teams.
Muschamp occasionally tosses praise Purifoy’s way when he sees fans in No. 15 Gators jerseys.
“You guys are sporting Loucheiz Purifoy jerseys out here,’’ he said at a recent charity golf tournament.
No other player on the roster has received as much offseason publicity as Purifoy, who is on the Bednarik Award watch list and is being talked about as a potential NFL first-rounder if he has a strong junior season.
Based on No. 15’s recent history, the jersey seems to fit.
“I took responsibility for it,’’ Purifoy said. “I’m not going to change it.”
Editor’s note: For a more in-depth story on Purifoy, check out GatorZone.com later this week.
Updated: 4:15pm, July 9
Freshman RB Kelvin Taylor's No. 21 is a number Florida fans know well thanks to his dad Fred.
I'm not a big uniform numbers guy. Never really have been.
Sure, I know Michael Jordan wore No. 23 for the Bulls. I know my favorite baseball player as a kid, former Braves center fielder Dale Murphy, wore No. 3.
Of course, I know Tim Tebow wore 15 for the Gators and Loucheiz Purifoy wears it now. But off the top of my head, I have no idea what number baseball star Miguel Cabrera wears for the Tigers or what number quarterback Joe Flacco is in Baltimore.
I just bumped into freshman receiver Marqui Hawkins at the Reitz Union and had no clue what his name was until I asked. If he had been wearing his No. 81, well, I must confess I still wouldn’t have known, at least not until a few days into camp when most of the numbers start sticking in my head.
I've learned that not everyone is like me. Players have been known to make trades for numbers. Some fans can recite the number of every player on their favorite team and the jersey numbers of their favorite team’s biggest rival.
They talk about numbers on message boards. They discuss them on Twitter. They care from 00 to 99.
So, for those who already know the three No. 4s on this year’s Gators team (WR Andre Debose, DL Damien Jacobs and P Kyle Christie), here are the digits for the newcomers fresh off the press in the Gators football media guide:
No., Player (Pos.)
5 – Ahmad Fulwood (WR)
9 – Matt Rolin (LB)
11 – Demarcus Robinson (WR)
12 – Max Staver (QB)
13 – Daniel McMillian (LB)
16 – Vernon Hargreaves III (DB)
17 – Jordan Sherit (DL)
19 – Johnny Townsend (P)
21 – Kelvin Taylor (RB)
22 – Adam Lane (RB)
22 – Nick Washington (DB)
26 – Marcell Harris (DB)
34 – Alex Anzalone (LB)
40 – Jarrad Davis (LB)
42 – Keanu Neal (DB)
45 – Antonio Riles (DL)
50 – Octavius Jackson (OL)
55 – Darious Cummings (DL)
55 – Roderick Johnson (OL)
57 – Caleb Brantley (DL)
71 – Cameron Dillard (OL)
73 – Tyler Moore (OL)
74 – Trenton Brown (OL)
80 – Trevon Young (TE)
81 – Marqui Hawkins (WR)
85 – Chris Thompson (WR)
89 – Alvin Bailey (WR)
91 – Joey Ivie (DL)
99 – Jay-nard Bostwick (DL)
NFL quarterback Peyton Manning at his annual summer camp. (Photo: Manning Passing Academy).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – When Peyton Manning was a junior at Tennessee in 1996 he came up with an idea to teach young quarterbacks more about playing the game’s most scrutinized position.
His father Archie, a former NFL All-Pro quarterback, and brothers Eli and Cooper helped out. On Thursday the 18th year of the Manning Passing Academy Offensive Skills Camp opens at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.
Gators junior quarterback Jeff Driskel is one of approximately 40 college quarterbacks from around the country scheduled to serve as camp counselors. Driskel participated in the camp after his sophomore season at Hagerty High in Oviedo to improve his skills.
“My mom found it on the Internet and it sounded good so we went out there and tried it out,’’ Driskel said Tuesday. “I had a good time so I’m lucky I get the chance to go back as a counselor this time.”
Driskel remembers he participated in drills that were run by Peyton Manning, entering his second season with the Denver Broncos, and New York Giants starting quarterback Eli Manning. But there wasn’t a lot of one-on-one time.
Driskel is looking forward to the opportunity to work more closely with the two NFL stars later this week.
The Manning brothers hold a private session with top college quarterbacks during the four-day event. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, Tulane’s Nick Montana, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, A.J. McCarron of Alabama and Aaron Murray of Georgia are some of the college quarterbacks schedule to attend this year’s camp as counselors.
“I’m excited to go back out there and meet the Mannings,’’ he said. “They obviously know the game probably more than anybody in the world. I’m really excited to be around them and all the other college quarterbacks to learn some stuff from each other.”
The camp opens Thursday and runs through Sunday. Meanwhile, here is a quick Q&A with Driskel about the Mannings and more?
Q: What do you remember last time you were at the camp?
A: I remember a bunch of good college quarterbacks being there and I remember Thibodaux, La., being the hottest place on earth.
Q: Are you a big Peyton or Eli fan?
A: It’s hard not to be. At this point in my career, it’s hard to be a fan of a team or anything like that, but growing up I was a Jacksonville Jaguars fan. But now I more like watch the game and study the quarterbacks and those are definitely two guys that when you are watching NFL film, they are going to show up on the highlights.
Q: What do expect your role as a counselor of young players to be like?
A: I’ve never really been a coach to younger kids or anything, so I’m just going to share with them what I know and do what I am asked to do. Whatever they ask me to do I’ll be happy to do. When they told me we were going to get to work out with the Mannings once or twice, I didn’t listen to the rest. I just said, ‘yeah, I’ll be there.’ It will be fun.
Q: What has your primary focus been this summer?
A: I said it last summer and I’ll say it again, the summer is about timing in the passing game. Myself, the receivers, the running backs, the tight ends, the running backs are really working together to know where to be and when to be there so we know we’re on the same page with either other. It’s helped out a lot. I’ve seen a lot of improvement from the skill positions, which will be huge for us this year.
Q: Freshman receiver Demarcus Robinson has fans excited. What have you seen from him?
A: He had a great spring. He picked it up relatively easily in the spring, but in the spring a lot of times there are coaches right behind you telling you what to do. When you don’t have that safety blanket, it’s a little bit different. But we’ve worked hard. We’ve put a lot of time in. He’s a guy who is going to have to make plays. We need to get him to know what he’s doing and he’s done a good job of getting there.
Updated: 1:48pm, July 4
Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel signed with the Red Sox, but don't worry, he's not running off to Boston.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators starting quarterback Jeff Driskel was a standout center fielder at Hagerty High in Oviedo and also the school's starting quarterback.
Driskel had two-sport options coming out of high school and he took a step toward ensuring options after college by signing with the Boston Red Sox late Wednesday.
However, before you cancel your Fourth of July cookout trying to figure out what this means for the Gators this season, you can relax and still plan on grilling those steaks later.
Driskel isn't going anywhere.
"Yes I signed with the Red Sox,'' Driskel tweeted Thursday morning. "Nothing changes. I am still a full-time student-athlete at UF, fully committed to playing football."
About an hour later, the UF football Twitter account tweeted more comments from Driskel.
"I plan on focusing on football and finishing my college career with the Gators,'' Driskel said. "After my college football career is over I want to pursue a professional career in the NFL.
"If I ever decide I want to play baseball, I want to play with the Boston Red Sox who drafted me in the recent draft."
In somewhat of a surprise move, the Red Sox selected Driskel in the 29th round of last month's MLB amateur draft.
And Driskel's signing on Wednesday was also a surprise.
However, it's also a wise move should Driskel's football career flame out and he decides to return to the diamond.
Driskel wasn't just your average baseball player.
In this story on Driskel last fall, his baseball coach at Hagerty, Jered Goodwin, marveled as some of the skills Driskel showed on Hagerty's team and the AAU summer team Goodwin coached.
Goodwin said scouts told him Driskel could have been a first-round pick in the baseball draft if he had not made it known he planned to play football for the Gators.
Goodwin shared a memorable story about Driskel from one of Hagerty's batting practice sessions.
"He started getting in a groove and he hit a ball in the middle of the softball field, which is probably 50 feet, 60 feet back of the baseball field,’’ Goodwin said. “And then there’s probably a 50-foot fence that he hit it over. We tape-measured it at 477 [feet], and he did that when he was 15 years old. We actually got the tape measure out and tracked to where it actually landed. That’s not a guess. It’s a pretty accurate reading.”
Florida baseball coach Kevin O'Sullivan understands why MLB teams showed such an interest in Driskel. He did, too.
"The same skill set you see on the football field is what he brought on the baseball field,’’ O’Sullivan said last fall. “He’s a special athlete in the sense that he’s a big, physical athlete that can run. You look out on the field and he sticks out. He’s a prototypical five-tool athlete in baseball. He’s got power, he can hit, he can run, he can throw. That’s basically him in nutshell.”
According to reports out of Boston, the Red Sox wanted to secure Driskel's rights just in case this football thing doesn't work out.
For longtime Gators fans, you may remember another prominent UF quarterback signing a pro baseball contract during his college years.
Doug Johnson was the second player ever picked in the MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, taken in the second round of the Rays' inaugural draft in 1996.
Johnson played professionally for two summers during college but stuck with football and spent time in the NFL.