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Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan, right, is entering his seventh season at UF.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The UF baseball team’s longer-than-normal offseason ends Friday when the Gators open camp. The season opener is Feb. 14 as Florida hosts Maryland to start a three-game series.
Instead of finishing their season in late June in Omaha, the Gators’ 2013 season came to a screeching halt at Bart Kaufman Field in Bloomington, Ind. Florida lost back-to-back one-run games to Austin Peay and Valparaiso in the Bloomington Regional.
UF’s string of three consecutive trips to the College World Series was over. Five consecutive losses to close the season dropped the Gators to 29-30, their first losing season under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. The power-challenged lineup hit only 28 home runs -- or 47 fewer than in 2012 when they led the nation.
While it was a subpar season compared to the high standards of recent seasons, O’Sullivan guided the Gators back to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive season, which ties the longest streak in school history.
Based on preseason projections, that record should fall in 2014.
In other words, the Gators are expected to be back. Maybe not all the way back to Omaha, but back in the mix as a real contender when the postseason starts.
The first major preseason poll to be released is from Collegiate Baseball. The Gators check in at No. 16, the only team ranked in the top 40 that didn’t finish with a winning record last season.
One reason the Gators will likely be ranked in the other major polls is because of this ranking: No. 1 recruiting class in 2013.
O’Sullivan boosted the roster with the addition of 17 newcomers, a signing class that PerfectGame.org also ranked No. 1 in the country.
Of course, the Gators must go out and do it on the field for the preseason pundits to be proved correct.
That task begins at McKethan Stadium three weeks from Friday when Florida baseball opens its 100th season.
Let’s take a look at five questions surrounding this year’s Gators:
--Which newcomer could make biggest impact? The biggest one – literally and figuratively. At 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, freshman A.J. Puk is an imposing figure on the mound or at the plate. Puk bats and throws left-handed and arrived at UF as one of the country’s top two-way prospects after a celebrated prep career at Washington High in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Puk’s fastball is clocked in the 90s and he is a versatile athlete, having played quarterback in high school prior to opting to play baseball full-time. Puk has a similar skill set to that of former Gators 1B/P Brian Johnson, who was a first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in the 2012 MLB Draft.
--Can Karsten Whitson anchor the starting rotation? The redshirt junior has been in the spotlight since he signed with the Gators after passing up a multi-million dollar signing bonus with the Padres coming out of high school. Whitson (photo, left) won eight games in 2011 and was named National Freshman Pitcher of the Year by Perfect Game. He owns a 12-1 career record with a 2.69 ERA. However, due to various injuries, Whitson has pitched only 33 1/3 innings the past two seasons. The good news is that Whitson is healthy and projected as the No. 1 starter.
--Who is the player the Gators need to stay healthy and in the lineup? Sophomore shortstop Richie Martin is expected to bat leadoff and tighten up the infield defense. Martin suffered a finger injury last season and could not play the field for 20 games. The Gators reeled off a season-high eight consecutive wins when Martin returned before faltering down the stretch. Martin’s baseball IQ and leadership qualities will be important to the club’s success.
--Who will supply the power? The Gators scored two or fewer runs in 15 of 59 games a season ago (25 percent). They were 0-15 in those games. While no one expects this group to match the power totals of the 2012 team that featured boppers Mike Zunino and Preston Tucker, the Gators will need more than 22 home runs from the eight position players returning. Catcher Taylor Gushue, third baseman Josh Tobias and outfielder Justin Shafer can hit for power and second baseman Casey Turgeon hit five home runs a season ago. Puk has home-run potential as well, which should increase as he develops physically.
--How is the bullpen depth? The bullpen was a key weapon for the three consecutive Florida teams to make the CWS. Injuries and performance derailed the relief corps last season. Fortunately for O’Sullivan, the return of right-hander Keenan Kish and lefty Corey Stump adds depth. Both missed the majority of last season to injuries. Right-hander Ryan Harris is slated to fill the void left by the departure of closer Johnny Magliozzi (4-2, 2.67, 12 SVs) and a talented pool of freshmen that includes right-handers Dane Dunning and Brett Morales could factor into the mix. The trio of Eric Hanhold, Jay Carmichael and Danny Young also figures prominently in the pitching plans. All three have started and relieved during their careers.
Bottom line: The Gators have plenty of familiar names from a year ago and another year of experience should only help the team’s core group. However, O’Sullivan has high hopes for the talented freshman class and how quickly they adjust to the college game will play a critical role in how the 2014 season plays out.
Tuesday January 21, 2014 Bills QB Lewis credits Gators offensive coordinator Roper with helping advance his career
Updated: 4:26pm, January 21
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The talent was there. That was never an issue for former Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.
Lewis produced from the start, first under Blue Devils offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien in 2006. Lewis passed for 2,134 yards as a freshman – fourth all-time among ACC freshmen – and when O’Brien left after the season to join Bill Belichick in New England, Lewis put together another good season in 2007.
That season Duke’s quarterbacks coach was Peter Vaas, who was at Notre Dame during Brady Quinn’s final two seasons.
Still, in his third season as Duke’s starting quarterback in 2008, Lewis (photo, left) took flight in a way he didn’t know was possible. He was a second-team All-ACC selection and began to understand the game in a much deeper way in long study sessions with Kurt Roper, Florida’s new offensive coordinator.
Roper arrived in 2008 when former Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe, Roper’s mentor, replaced Ted Roof as Duke’s head coach and began the process of turning the Blue Devils from ACC bottom feeder to a 10-win team in 2013.
“First of all, he’s a great teacher,’’ Lewis said. “He teaches them the game and that’s what a lot of quarterbacks don’t get at the college level, being taught defenses. Before you learn and implement his offense, you have to learn defenses. I didn’t understand that as a junior in college, but it paid dividends my senior year.”
Lewis had the best season of his college career in 2009, his second working with Roper. Lewis threw for 3,330 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. At 6-foot-2 he was considered undersized in the NFL scout’s bible.
Lewis went undrafted, signed as a free agent with the Rams, made stops in Cleveland and Detroit, and in his fourth season in the NFL, finally got to play in Buffalo this season. Lewis started five games after Bills starter EJ Manual was hurt.
Lewis showed off the high football IQ and strong arm that has kept him in the league.
“Thad’s really had to fight through some hurdles,’’ Roper said. “I told every NFL scout coming out, I said, ‘I don’t know if he’s anybody’s starter, but I know there’s not 60 quarterbacks in the country better than him.’ It’s taken a little bit.
“I think he is finding a home now because every time he goes out there and plays, he plays well. He’s an NFL quarterback.”
Lewis said Tuesday that prior to Roper's tutelage, he did not have the knowledge that it takes to play quarterback in the NFL. During their two seasons together that changed as Lewis’ recognition of defenses, his pocket presence and his overall game improved.
“He was very influential in allowing me to take it to the next level,’’ Lewis said. “He is a tough-nosed coach. He taught me the fundamentals of the game. One thing I want to say to the Gator quarterbacks, I hope they are ready to get coached hard. He coaches you hard because he wants the best out of you on the field on Saturdays.”
Lewis didn’t know Roper or his background when Cutcliffe took over the program after Lewis’ sophomore season. Soon they developed a connection in quarterback meetings that included Lewis’ backup, Atlanta Falcons rookie Sean Renfree, and newcomer Sean Schroeder, who did not play in three seasons at Duke before transferring and starting at Hawaii the past two seasons.
It was in those meetings that Lewis learned as much about defenses as he did about Roper’s offense.
“There was a change in outlook,’’ he said. “I was being taught a different aspect of the game. A lot of coaches don’t have the patience to teach young 18- and 19-year-olds defenses. If you know the defense against your offense, then you will know where to go with the ball. I didn’t quite understand why he was teaching us defense instead of our offense. I figured out why once we started playing.
“It made all the difference in the world. I saw every defense known to man. It was easy to transition onto the field. If it wasn’t for him, I’m not sure where I would have been in my career. Having him for two years and being on the same page helped a lot.”
In his first season at UF, Roper will try to inject life into an offense that is expected to be led by redshirt junior Jeff Driskel. Driskel led the Gators to an 11-2 record in 2012 but played in only three games last season due to a broken lower leg suffered in a win over Tennessee.
Lewis, a Florida native who played at Hialeah High in Miami Lakes, will keep a close eye on his former coach.
“Florida got a great offensive coordinator and a great quarterbacks coach,’’ Lewis said. “I’m excited to see him help those guys.”
A look at Lewis highlights from his college career at Duke:
Monday January 20, 2014 Gators keep rolling, Quinn back home for Super Bowl, Emmitt's transition, more tidbits
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Billy D's team stayed perfect in the SEC with a gritty road win at Auburn. The UF gymnastics team knocked off Auburn in its SEC road opener the night before.
Meanwhile, former Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, a New Jersey native, is going home after the Seahawks held on to defeat the 49ers Sunday night in the NFC Championship Game.
Quinn is going to need a lot of Super Bowl tickets when the Seahawks and Broncos meet at MetLife Stadium.
Let's take a look some fresh Gator-related links from around the Internet this Monday morning:
--Gators survive road test at Auburn writes Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun.
--The return of Casey Prather to the lineup boosted Florida's performance at Auburn.
--Florida gymnast Mackenzie Caquatto bounced back strong to help Gators win at Auburn writes Erica A. Hernandez of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Fouls doomed the Gators women's basketball team in Sunday's home loss to Georgia writes Gordon Streisand of the Alligator.
--Former UF defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and his vaunted Seahawks D are heading to the Super Bowl. An early preview of the Seattle-Denver matchup from USA Today.
--Meanwhile, Quinn remains a source of interest for the Cleveland Browns writes the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
--A good read on Gators head coach Will Muschamp's outlook heading into 2014 by Matt Hayes of The Sporting News.
--Former Gators running back Emmitt Smith tells SI.com about his move from field to boardroom.
--Former Gators standout Joakim Noah connected with Chicago fans after a popular teammate was traded writes The Chicago Tribune.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The standards are going to be high. So are the expectations.
That was a key message new Gators offensive line coach Mike Summers shared with his latest group of man movers.
Since he was hired 10 days ago by Gators coach Will Muschamp, the 57-year-old Summers hasn't had a lot of time to get to know the players he is now responsible for coaching and developing. But based on first impressions, Summers likes the building blocks the Gators have up front to help reverse the program's fortunes in 2014.
"The one thing that I know is that the players I've met on this football team are hungry to be successful,'' Summers said. "And they believe in Coach Muschamp. They believe in this program. And all of those feelings have come through to me just in the short time that I've been here.
"I believe I can make an impact in what's going on, on the offensive line. I feel extremely comfortable with the coaches we have on this offensive staff."
Summers quipped that he may lead the nation in head coaches in the past year. He was at Kentucky in 2012 on Gators receivers coach Joker Phillips' staff, briefly accepted a position on Bobby Petrino's staff at Western Kentucky before opting to move across country to join Lane Kiffin's USC staff.
When Kiffin was fired, Summers stayed aboard and helped the Trojans win 10 games under interim head coach Ed Orgeron. After USC parted ways with Orgeron, Summers was looking for his next stop.
He didn't have to wait long as Muschamp sought a replacement for Tim Davis.
Summers is well respected in coaching circles for his success during a 34-year coaching career highlighted by a successful tenure at Louisville with Petrino -- the Cardinals went 41-9 during Summers' four seasons there -- and featured one of the country's most explosive offenses.
"He has a diverse background,'' Muschamp said Monday at Summers' introductory press conference at UF. "He is a great addition to our staff. He's done a fantastic job. In the interview process, a fantastic teacher, a good teaching progression. Some young guys are going to need to be developed and developed very quickly."
The Gators lose starting center Jonotthan Harrison and right guard Jon Halapio, but an experienced group that includes D.J. Humphries, Chaz Green, Tyler Moore and Max Garcia return.
The mission for Summers is to make the offensive line a strength next season in first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's system.
"I'm encouraged that when we start into the offseason program that they've got that hunger that's burning to get themselves back to where they want to be,'' Summers said. "And because of that, and because of the passion of the coaching staff, I feel confident that we can do that."
To make it happen, Summers will employ the tactics he has honed during a coaching career that started in 1980 as a graduate assistant at Kentucky.
"The first thing we have to do is work on our fundamental foundation as an offensive line," he said. "So much of our success is dependent on our footwork, our landmarks, our hands and our eyes.
"Those technical developments have to be committed to muscle memory. It has to be trained so when we snap the football, those guys can execute with speed, power and with the kind of emotion that we need in our offense."
First, Summers must get settled and turn his focus to National Signing Day on Feb. 5 and then the start of spring practice in March.
Muschamp said Summers will primarily be responsible for recruiting the Panhandle area, a region he developed contacts during in stops at Kentucky, Louisville and Arkansas.
It's been a crazy year for Summers, but he is thankful for the way 2014 has started.
"There are jobs out there when you start out in coaching and look at and think, 'This is where I'd love to be someday,' " Summers said. "Florida has always been that for me. I grew up in Kentucky, grew up in SEC country and have always looked at Florida from the outside wishing I could be on the correct sideline.
"The reputation of this program is strong. I've been doing it long enough to know that every program has ebbs and flows to it. The things that I've seen in a short time that I've been here makes me encouraged that we're going to get right back to that point."
Tuesday January 14, 2014 Muschamp optimistic about 2014 recruiting class as 9 early enrollees arrive
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators will unveil their 2014 recruiting class Feb. 5 on National Signing Day.
However, the nine newest members of the Florida football team are already on campus and participating in offseason workouts that started Monday.
“Having nine guys in mid-year says a lot about these kids academically, being ready to go,’’ Gators coach Will Muschamp said.
As for Florida’s progress heading toward National Signing Day, Muschamp is pleased at the way the 2014 signing class is coming together.
“I feel like considering we didn’t have a great season, I feel very comfortable where we are recruiting-wise,’’ he said.
Of the nine early enrollees who will participate in spring practice, six of the players are on offense, three on defense.
For those of you who follow recruiting closely, you know their names. For those of you who don’t, here are links with stories on each from the various websites:
--Freshman quarterback Will Grier set all sorts of records during his career at Davidson (N.C.) Day School writes Ken Bradley of The Sporting News.
--Freshman tight end DeAndre Goolsby joins the Gators after a productive career at Derby (Kan.) High writes Derek Tyson of ESPN.com.
--Freshman offensive lineman Kavaris Harkless flipped to the Gators from Louisville writes Chris Hays of The Orlando Sentinel.
--Freshman offensive lineman Nolan Kelleher chose the Gators over Clemson writes Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army.
--Freshman running back Brandon Powell, from Deerfield Beach, flipped from Miami to Florida writes Zach Abolverdi of The Gainesville Sun.
--Junior-college transfer offensive lineman Drew Sarvary made impact in only season at Tyler (Texas) Junior College.
--Freshman defensive lineman Taven Bryan comes to Florida from Wyoming writes Adam Silverstein of OnlyGators.com.
--Freshman defensive back Duke Dawson grew up in Dixie County and chose Florida over FSU as The Gainesville Sun’s John Boothe goes A to Z with Dawson.
--Freshman defensive back Jalen Tabor of Friendship Collegiate in Washington, D.C., signed with the Gators over Arizona writes Roman Stubbs of The Washington Post.
For a look at Florida’s updated roster, click here.
As for the newcomers, GatorZone.com will be doing Q&As with the players leading up to National Signing Day.
Also, check out GatorZone.com on National Signing Day for exclusive content throughout the day.
Friday January 10, 2014 Hutzler Back at UF in Search of Familiar Results as Gators Special-Teams Coordinator
Updated: 11:14am, January 10
Coleman Hutzler returns to UF as special-teams coordinator after two seasons at New Mexico.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Coleman Hutzler spent a portion of Thursday flipping through pages and studying the recent history of Florida’s special teams.
The Gators have excelled on special teams under former coach Urban Meyer and current head coach Will Muschamp. The Gators have returned a kickoff or punt for a touchdown nine consecutive seasons, tied for the fourth-longest streak in the country. In Muschamp’s 38 games, Florida has blocked 13 kicks.
“There is a proud tradition,’’ Hutzler said. “Special teams have obviously been important here.”
While the Gators dropped to 4-8 in 2013, their special teams fared well in general other than the kicking game, which dropped off considerably following the loss of Caleb Sturgis. The Gators were one of only three teams in the SEC to return a kickoff for a touchdown, and finished second behind LSU at 24.8 yards per kickoff return. Florida’s 10.4-yard punt return average was third in the conference behind Alabama and Auburn.
However, there were fewer game-changing plays than in previous seasons.
It is now Hutzler’s turn to place his stamp on the Gators’ special teams. He returned to UF after two years at New Mexico. Hutzler replaces Jeff Choate, who resigned last month and later joined Chris Petersen’s staff at Washington.
As Florida’s new special-teams coordinator, Hutzler joins Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin – who coached Florida’s special teams prior to last season – for the third time in his career. The two first worked together at Stanford on Jim Harbaugh’s staff, and when Durkin came to Florida in 2010, Hutzler came along in a non-coaching role.
Hutzler left UF after the 2011 season for his first full-time coaching position when former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie took over at New Mexico and hired Hutzler as special-teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach.
Hutzler made an impact.
The Lobos improved from 112th nationally to 25th in net punting and their punt-return defense improved to No. 19 from 106th. Perhaps no one benefited from Hutzler’s work at New Mexico more than kick returner Carlos Wiggins, who ranked fifth in the FBS with an average of 29.6 yards per return. Wiggins was the only FBS player to return three kickoffs for touchdowns last season.
Hutzler wants special teams to continue to play a major role in Florida’s success.
“It’s exciting to be able to come back as special-teams coordinator at a place like this,’’ Hutzler said. “It was a great experience [at New Mexico]. I came into a place that it was really a rebuilding job. I was fortunate to get that opportunity and learned a ton defensively as a coach. We did some good things on special teams and were able to create some big plays.”
Hutzler expects his background with UF’s veteran players and his familiarity with what has worked at UF in recent years on special teams to help in the transition.
There won’t be many surprises for those who played for Durkin.
“We’ll talk a ton about technique and effort. Those two are the foundation of everything we do,’’ Hutzler said. “Obviously, Coach Muschamp puts the emphasis on it from freshman to senior, from starter to scholarship to walk-on to anybody – putting our best guys out there and playing with technique and great effort and making plays.”
Hutzler plans to stress the importance of how special teams need to make a positive impact every game, whether that’s a blocked kick, a big return or winning the field-position battle.
The 29-year-old Hutzler has a rich history in the game. He grew up in Las Vegas and played at Middlebury (Vt.) College from 2002-05. His father, Jeff, is a longtime athletic director and recently retired as head football coach at La Jolla (Calif.) Country Day School following a successful career.
Jeff Hutzler was his son’s coach for three years in high school and played an instrumental role in Coleman’s career path.
“It was probably around eighth-grade that I was drawing X’s and O’s when I probably should have been taking notes,’’ Hutzler said. “For a long time this is what I thought I wanted to do. I didn’t think I would do it on the college level. I thought I would be a high school AD and head coach like my dad. It’s exciting to get to this point.”
As Hutzler climbed the coaching ladder at Stanford, his personal life added a coach – actually, two of them.
Hutzler met his wife Cobey Shoji, the former director of volleyball operations at Stanford. During the couple’s first stop in Gainesville, she was named Class 3A Coach of the Year in 2011 for her work at P.K. Yonge High. Cobey played at UNLV and Michigan and is the daughter of Hawaii volleyball coach Dave Shoji.
Dave Shoji, who in September became the all-time wins leader in NCAA Division I volleyball history, recently announced he is coming back for his 40th season next year. If that is not enough volleyball for Hutzler, his two brother-in-laws – Kawika and Erik Shoji – led Stanford to the 2010 men’s volleyball national title and are candidates for the U.S. Olympic team in 2016.
“We’re half volleyball, half football,” Hutzler said. “We are a family of coaches and teachers.”
The Hutzlers have a 1-year-old son Micah. While much has changed since Hutzler was last at UF, some things remain the same.
“Seeing some of the older players who I had a connection with when they were freshmen has been good,’’ he said. “Not every face is a new face.”
VIDEO -- For an idea of Hutzler's coaching style, here is a YouTube clip from his time at New Mexico:
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – His new office remains a work in progress.
The same can be said of Florida’s 2014 recruiting class.
Drew Hughes is more concerned about National Signing Day right now than adding a personal touch to his unadorned workspace inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
“There are no hours,’’ Hughes said. “You go until the job is done.”
At 26, the fresh-faced Hughes joined Gators coach Will Muschamp’s staff last month as director of player personnel, replacing Jon Haskins. Since graduating from Alabama in 2011 with an education degree, Hughes has earned a master’s in football.
Actually, he began work on that master’s prior to starting his undergraduate work.
Hughes grew up in Montgomery, Ala., as the oldest of five siblings. He was a two-way player in football – receiver and safety – and a shooting guard once basketball season tipped off.
“Competition is something I grew up around,’’ Hughes said.
Once he finished high school, Hughes had some interest from smaller schools to continue his playing career. Instead, he opted to attend Alabama.
Hughes knew the only way he was going to be on the football field was as a member of the Crimson Tide’s support staff.
So the first chance he got, Hughes stopped by the football offices.
“I started literally from the bottom,’’ Hughes said. “I volunteered, I videoed practice, and then I started bugging the GAs [graduate assistants] to come in and help them break down tape. From there, I went into the recruiting office, and when I got into the recruiting office, it just clicked.”
Hughes had found his niche.
On-campus recruiting, evaluating players and watching film all added up to another science credit in Hughes’ view.
“I loved it,’’ he said. “To me the science of building a team is fascinating. And the blueprint is different. It was different at Central Florida. It was different at N.C. State, and it’s going to be different here.”
Hughes worked in the football office throughout his time at Alabama under former Crimson Tide director of player personnel Ed Marynowitz, who is now assistant director of pro scouting for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Hughes was working on his true master’s degree when UCF coach George O’Leary called at the suggestion of Marynowitz, who worked at UCF prior to Alabama.
O’Leary needed a director of player personnel and Hughes took the job. During Hughes’ time in Orlando, the Knights signed several of the players that led UCF to a 12-1 season and No. 10 ranking in the final AP Top 25 poll on Tuesday.
He left UCF last year for N.C. State, where he joined Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren’s staff as director of player personnel.
Hughes was young and his career on the fast track. He also had a vision.
While assisting Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama, Hughes got to know some mutual acquaintances of Muschamp's. He didn’t know Muschamp personally, but from afar, Hughes envisioned teaming with him one day.
“He’s a guy that I’ve always really wanted to see myself work with,’’ Hughes said. “I’m a competitor just like he is. And being able to learn from him and see how he runs an organization and the evaluation and building a team from a personnel standpoint, I was really fired up about it.”
Since his hiring on Dec. 20, Hughes has focused primarily on ways to help the coaching staff close out a strong recruiting class on National Signing Day Feb. 5.
He is also trying to learn as much as he can about Florida’s current roster to identify future needs.
He described his job this way: “Identifying the players that can come in and help us win championships, and [developing] the process of doing that, and relating it and being a right-hand man to every coach on staff – because ultimately that’s what I’m here to do, to help the coaches – if I can make their jobs easier from a recruiting standpoint, that’s what I’m here to do.”
Hughes said technology has made information gathering in recruiting easier than ever. You can learn so much about players simply by Googling them and watching video.
Still, he said there must be a personal connection built during what is viewed more and more as a technical process.
“Something I hope that doesn’t become a lost art is just getting to know them, spending time with them – not just them but their family,’’ he said. “Part of the process is bringing good kids into your program. That’s just as important as the football part.”
During his time at Alabama the Crimson Tide won a pair of national titles. The experience opened his eyes to the importance of attention to detail. Everybody had a specific job and specific role.
He is on a mission to fulfill his at Florida.
In the process, Hughes hopes to be able to help another young football junkie find his calling the way Marynowitz helped him.
“I want to be around football people doing football things all the time,’’ he said. “I’m getting in a position where I can start helping other people. There are always going to be younger guys coming through. Starting from the bottom and working my way up, I really appreciate the guys who do the grunt work so to speak.”
Tebow Time is returning to the SEC.
Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has agreed to a multiyear deal with ESPN to work as an analyst for the SEC Network.
According to ESPN.com, Tebow's main role will be as an analyst for SEC Nation, a traveling football pregame show that will originate from a different campus each week. The SEC Network is set to launch in August.
"I am so excited that ESPN has given me this incredible opportunity," Tebow said in a statement. "When I was 6 years old, I fell in love with the game of football, and while I continue to pursue my dream of playing quarterback in the NFL, this is an amazing opportunity to be part of the unparalleled passion of college football and the SEC."
Tebow is scheduled to make his ESPN debut Monday during the pregame coverage of the BCS National Championship between Florida State and Auburn.
"Tim is an SEC icon with a national fan base and broad appeal. He will be a significant contributor to the compelling content we will deliver with the SEC Network," Justin Connolly, ESPN senior vice president of programming/college networks told ESPN.com. "Tim brings a wealth of knowledge about the game, the conference and the passion among SEC fans."
Tebow, who was released by the Patriots in the preseason, was at UF's regular-season finale last month against FSU. He spoke to the Gators prior to the game.
Tebow won the 2007 Heisman Trophy and helped the Gators win two national titles (2006 and 2008) during his iconic career in Gaineville.
Safe to say, the first time Tebow returns with SEC Nation the pregame atmosphere at The Swamp will be lively.
Thursday December 26, 2013 Gators OC Kurt Roper and longtime mentor Cutcliffe discuss Roper's move to UF
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- New Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is in Atlanta preparing for Duke's game against Texas A&M on Tuesday in the Chick-Fil-A-Bowl.
Once the game is over, Roper will head to Gainesville and start the next chapter of a coaching career that began in 1996 as a graduate assistant at Tennessee.
Roper and Duke head coach David Cutcliffe were on a conference call earlier this afternoon to discuss Roper's move.
Roper has spent every season of his coaching career but one -- 2005 at Kentucky -- on the same staff as Cutcliffe, Tennessee's offensive coordinator during the Peyton Manning era, Ole Miss' head coach when Eli Manning starred for the Rebels, and the past six years at Duke.
The Blue Devils won a school-record 10 games this season.
Here are some highlights from the conference call in a Q-and-A format:
First, here is Cutcliffe, who praised Roper for his loyalty and hard work during their time together:
Q: Did you encourage Roper to take this job and do you feel he is ready for the pressure at Florida and the SEC?
A: I didn't encourage him. I certainly want our coaches to do where their heart leads them. Kurt had a job here and would have continued to have a job at Duke. I'm very pleased with what he has accomplished here as the offensive coordinator. But this is an opportunity for him somewhat to be out on his own. I think he is looking forward to that. As far as the pressures go, he is definitely ready for that. He has been in the Southeastern Conference at [three] institutions and understands the intensity level that is involved in that league in football. His work ethic -- that's what it's all about. They will be prepared. They will be prepared well. That just has to be personal preference at that point.
Q: What do you see as Roper's strengths as a coach?
A: The things we pride ourselves in, the detail in training quarterbacks, the attention to detail in preparing an offensive team for playing a game, practice habits. It's the total package. I think if you have a systematic approach, everything is covered. You try to take a group of players offensively, and that's what your job is as an offensive coordinator, and put them in every circumstance they can possibly be in in a game in practice and build confidence through great execution. Kurt will certainly [do that]. That will be one of their great strengths -- they will be extremely well prepared coming out of practice.
Q: What is Roper's personal coaching style in your opinion?
A: His style would be intensity, tempo, and quality of repetition. From the minute they hit the field, it's going to intense. I wouldn't call him a laid-back football coach by any stretch of the imagination. It's going to be what we call 'treat the ground like a hot stove.' If you hit the ground, you better get up running. By the time they get on the field until they get off, they are going to be moving and getting a bunch of quality reps. I would call it very intense.
Next up is Roper, who will become an offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the third time. He served in the same role at Duke and Ole Miss:
Q: What are your thoughts on this opportunity and what made this the right choice for you?
A: I thought obviously this is the right situation for me and my family at the right time. It's obviously a great university that has a great tradition. I look forward trying to add to that.
Q: What sold you on coming to Florida and how much of a challenge do you view it?
A: Coach Muschamp is really excited about the future there. He's excited about the talent level that he has there. He is excited about the opportunities that Florida has to compete for championships, so that obviously is something that I'm very interested in doing. And everywhere you go is a challenge. It doesn't matter where you're coaching, who you are coaching with; everything is a challenge. It's just the next challenge is the way I look at it. I don't have any limitations or preconceived thoughts going in. I'm going down there to try and coach to the best of my ability and try to win games and win championships.
Q: With your history in the SEC what are your thoughts on the level of expectations from a fan base like Florida's?
A: Obviously the expectations are high and they should be. They've won a lot of games at Florida and they've won a lot of championships. The expectations are going to be high anywhere in the SEC, but like I said, it's all going that way. We won 10 here at Duke this year. The expectations are great and I understand that going in. We're at the University of Florida that obviously has a great tradition and has met those expectations a lot in the past. I'm just looking forward to it.
Q: How familiar are you with Florida's personnel?
A: I'm obviously not very familiar at all right now; just been focused on this bowl game the next week or so and then I'll start trying to get myself familiar. I know that [Jeff] Driskel is the quarterback and don't know much beyond that.
Q: When do you think you will get involved with recruiting?
A: As soon as I can. I think obviously I've got a week here that I need to focus on and be my best for these guys one last time. And then when I can get everything situated and get down to Gainesville, then you start focusing on that.
Q: How much impact do you think you will have on the hiring of an offensive line coach?
A: I think obviously Coach Muschamp is the guy who is going to make hires for the program. I will obviously have discussions and things like that, but we're all going to be on the same page. It's not just Coach Muschamp and myself. It's going to be everybody that is involved on offense.
Q: What will it be like stepping out of Coach Cutcliffe's shadow?
A: I've been doing it too long [to be nervous]. I went to Ole Miss with him and after two years I was calling [the offense]. I did it four years there and then I've done it all six years here. I won't have any nerves.
Q: You worked with Gators receivers coach Joker Phillips for a year at Kentucky and what impact did he have on your connection with an up-tempo offense?
A: That was a great year working with Joker and [former Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks] and that whole staff. I learned a lot of football and created a lot of great relationships. But Joker, when he was offensive coordinator, wanted to install a no-huddle system so we could go in and out of huddle, no-huddle or whatnot. So really that was my first experience with it.
Q: And your thoughts on working with Phillips again?
A: Joker and I get along great. I think he is a heck of a football coach first, but we're really good friends. I think he is a good man, a great recruiter. He's a guy I will enjoy being around every day and I look forward to getting back with him.
Q: How difficult it is to adjust your system to the personnel you have, especially in that first year?
A: That's a good question. I think you've got plenty of time through spring practice and through fall practice to make those decisions. What we're going to do, what we've always done, is you determine what your quarterback is good at executing, you determine what your five linemen are good at executing, and then through practice, you determine who has earned the right to have the football and you try to make your decisions based on that. You get 15 opportunities in spring to make those decisions and you get 29 practice opportunities in the fall. Everything moves fast but you've got to figure those things out.
Q: What was it like to face off against Muschamp in the SEC when he was a defensive coordinator?
A: He is obviously been a great defensive coach for a long time and was hard to battle against. He was always multiple and caused problems in pressure and his guys were always physical and intense. I'm looking forward to obviously working with Coach Muschamp.
Q: What is your philosophy schematically?
A: The biggest thing is you've got to find out the strengths of your quarterback and the strengths of your offensive line. Once you find those strengths, then you can start putting together what you are going to hang your hat on offensively. Then the other five players, you've got to find out who can make something happen with the football. You try to find a way to get those guys the football and then you create your personnel and your formations based on that. I think there is reason for tempo in a game. It obviously causes some defenses problems, but we'll never sacrifice tempo over execution. We want to play fast but we still want to play smart and take care of the football. Our core philosophy will never change, and it's very simple, but it's the truth of the matter. Our whole philosophy is five points: we want to get 11 people on the field, we want to get them lined up, we want to get them set with motion, we want to snap the ball before the play clock runs out and we want the ball at the end of the play. Those things are what we'll coach. Coaching is not plays or formation. It's how to make decisions and how to play the game with effort and those type things. We've got to go in and find out who are the playmakers with the ball and what our players are capable of doing up front and what we're capable of doing at the quarterback position.
Wednesday December 18, 2013 Gators' OL signee Sarvary made impact in only season at Tyler (Texas) Junior College
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Danny Palmer had his concerns entering games this season, but the left side of his Tyler (Texas) Junior College offensive line was not one of them.
Starting left tackle Drew Sarvary and left guard Frank Kee took care of business each Saturday as the Apaches finished 9-2 and won the Football Capital of Kansas Bowl earlier this month.
“They were a good combo,’’ said Palmer, a veteran coach in his seventh season at Tyler.
Division I schools took notice, including the Gators, who signed Sarvary to their stable of offensive linemen on Wednesday. Palmer said Kee is headed to Texas Christian.
A 6-foot-5, 318-pound lineman from Tallahassee, Sarvary started his college career at Florida A&M. However, interested in signing with a Division I school, Sarvary transferred to Tyler last season and instantly earned a starting job.
He graduated this month and will enroll at Florida in January with two years of eligibility remaining.
“Drew Sarvary was the leader of the offensive line and he is a fierce competitor,’’ said Palmer, a former assistant at the University of Houston. “He’s an offensive lineman that can play in any program in any league. He will contribute to the University of Florida immediately.”
While the Gators’ offensive line is set to receive a boost from the return of injured players D.J. Humphries, Chaz Green and Tyler Moore next season, the recent departure of Ian Silberman prompted Gators head coach Will Muschamp to seek an experienced player to add to the roster.
Sarvary fit the bill perfectly. He started 10 games as a freshman at FAMU and was an All-Southwest Conference selection in his only season at Tyler.
Palmer said Texas Tech recruited Sarvary hard but that the Gators came on strong in the end. Palmer said Sarvary’s sister attends UF and that getting back to Florida was a strong pull for Sarvary.
Palmer said Sarvary is the third member of this year’s team to sign with an SEC school.
“He was good on the run as well as pass protection,’’ Palmer said. “He has great intensity and plays with a defensive lineman’s mentality. It’s a good situation. When you get a mid-term offensive lineman and you get him in there in spring training and you’ve got him in the summer, it’s a lot different than bringing a high school kid in.”
Tuesday December 17, 2013 Jimmy V Classic, Elam's big night, Beal's return, Bruno back in NY, more tidbits
Updated: 12:38pm, December 17
Former Gators and Bucs running back Earnest Graham on becoming a head coach.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – There’s a big game in the Big Apple tonight.
Actually, two of them at Madison Square Garden as part of the Jimmy V Classic doubleheader.
The first game matches Cincinnati against Pittsburgh, followed by the No. 16 Gators facing No. 15 Memphis in the nightcap.
For real-time updates during the Florida-Memphis game, you can follow @GatorZoneMBK and @GatorZoneChris on Twitter. The game is also live on ESPN.
For more on the Gators men’s basketball team and other Gator-related sports news, here are some fresh links from around the web:
--CBSSports.com writer Jeff Borzello offers a viewer’s guide for NYC showdown between Gators and Tigers.
--For more of what makes the Jimmy V Classic a meaningful event, here is a column by Dick Vitale of ESPN.com.
--Gators assistant coach Rashon Burno returns to where his journey began writes Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun.
--Florida head coach Billy Donovan told reporters Monday that he doesn’t expect Damontre Harris to suit up for Gators writes Rob Dauster of NBCSports.com.
--Will Florida’s 1-3-1 zone cause Memphis problems? That is the question ESPN.com asks.
--Former Gators safety Matt Elam capped his news-making week with a big game Monday night writes Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.
--Another former Gator, hoopster Bradley Beal, made a memorable return to the Wizards on Monday night at MSG.
--Former Gators offensive lineman Ian Silberman is transferring to Louisville writes Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.
--In light of recent transfers, ESPN.com’s Ed Aschoff writes Gators can absorb the departures.
--Film breakdown from Colts.com of Trent Richardson’s TD against Tennessee with former Gators offensive lineman Xavier Nixon helping out on play.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Head coach Will Muschamp said the Gators would enter spring practice with an open competition at quarterback at his press conference following the Florida State game.
That competition got less crowded on Sunday when redshirt junior Tyler Murphy left the program. Murphy graduated on Saturday and was expected to compete with Jeff Driskel in the spring.
Murphy started six games this season before missing the final three games with a shoulder injury. Murphy passed for 1,216 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions.
He took over as Florida's starting quarterback when Driskel suffered a season-ending broken leg against Tennessee. Murphy led the Gators to wins over Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas.
However, he suffered a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder in a 14-6 loss at LSU and his effectiveness dwindled. Redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg took over as the starter for the final three games.
Thursday December 12, 2013 Gators coach Will Muschamp announces transfers from program (Staver also departing)
Updated: 10:32am, December 13
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators coach Will Muschamp announced Thursday that several players are transferring out of the program.
Sophomore tight end Kent Taylor, redshirt freshmen Rhaheim Ledbetter and Quinteze Williams, and true freshman Trevon Young have decided to seek fresh starts elsewhere.
Also, redshirt junior offensive lineman Ian Silberman, who is graduating on Saturday, has informed Muschamp he plans to play his final season at another school.
“These young men felt it was in their best interest to look for an opportunity to play somewhere else,’’ Muschamp said. “We wish all of them the best of luck.”
Silberman is the most experienced of the group. Used primarily as a reserve, Silberman started seven games the past two seasons due to injuries. Taylor, a 6-foot-5, 223-pound tight end out of Land O’ Lakes (Fla.) High, caught two passes as a freshman but did not play as a sophomore.
Among the trio of freshmen, Ledbetter is the only one to appear in a game for the Gators. Ledbetter played on special teams in two games this season, against Toledo and Florida State.
He signed with UF as a defensive back out of Crest Senior High in Shelby, N.C., the same school that produced former Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes and current UF defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard, a teammate of Ledbetter’s in high school. He shifted to fullback prior to the season but did not record a carry.
Meanwhile, Williams is a 6-foot-4, 280-pound offensive lineman out of Sandy Creek High in Tyrone, Ga. He signed with the Gators in 2012 and redshirted.
Finally, the 6-foot-4, 272-pound Young signed with UF out of Braden River High in Bradenton. Also a basketball player in high school, Young was a late addition to the 2013 signing class.
***Update, Wednesday 6 p.m.***
Freshman quarterback Max Staver, who did not play in his only season on campus, plans to transfer.
Staver and Muschamp spoke Wednesday afternoon and Staver later announced his intentions on his Twitter account.
"Thank you to everyone for the experience down there and the support,'' tweeted Staver, from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy. "I will miss my teammates, friends and also the Gator fans. God bless."
Senior Chloe Mann turns to walk off the court Friday for the final time with the Gators. (Photo: Tim Casey).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – When you scribble about sports for a living, you come across all kinds of athletes.
Some impress you for no other reason than their athletic gifts. Others catch your attention more for their human qualities. There are some you enjoy mostly because they are colorful characters and a good quote.
On the flip side, there are those that you would rather chew on a bag of nails than have to talk to.
I don’t mind saying Barry Bonds was one of those for me when I covered baseball – and I’m sure I’m not the only member of that club. Three different times our paths crossed in one-on-one settings and none were particularly enjoyable, even the one at a feel-good event at a Tampa church.
And then there are those that seem to have the perfect blend of athletic competence, personality and human dignity.
Chloe Mann certainly fits into that category for me.
I know Mann only through covering the UF volleyball team the past four seasons. Every time I talked to her, I came away impressed.
As for what she can do on a volleyball court, well, her gifts in that arena left everyone impressed.
In her final match for the Gators on Friday night, Mann had a typical performance: 14 kills, a .448 hitting percentage and some key points in Florida’s five-set loss (15-25, 25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 9-15) to Florida State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The loss was a heartbreaking one for the Gators. Instead of a trip to the Sweet 16 for the ninth consecutive season, the Gators are done.
A few minutes after the match ended, Mann and Florida head coach Mary Wise quietly walked up to the podium and addressed the small throng of media.
Wise did most of the talking as Mann sat next to her with her eyes locked downward.
It didn’t take Wise long to share her thoughts on her senior leader.
“I’m so sorry for Chloe that her career would have to end like this,’’ Wise said. “Chloe is going to walk away with an incredible record over her four years. This one will hurt for a while, but she has certainly left her mark on Gator volleyball and there will be lots of opportunities to celebrate that.”
I say why wait.
Mann is a rarity during Wise’s 23-year tenure as Florida’s head coach, a Gainesville kid who decided to stay home and star for the local university. She certainly could have gone other places to play volleyball. She could have gone to other places to be a star student.
ESPNW.com highlighted Mann earlier this season in this story.
In an age when the term “student-athlete” takes its fair share of abuse, Mann is example of what that term really means.
Earlier this year her former high school, Gainesville’s Eastside High, held a ceremony to retire her jersey. That is an honor you might expect later in life for a college athlete, but that shows how much respect Mann has earned in her young lifetime.
The 2012 SEC Player of the Year, Mann has already earned her undergraduate degree and is currently working on a master’s. Perhaps she will play volleyball professionally, maybe not.
Regardless, it’s not difficult to imagine Mann’s success continuing long after her playing days are finished.
In Mann’s final match, the Gators lost because the Seminoles played better, avenging their 2010 NCAA Tournament loss in five sets to the Gators.
“They played with so much effort and intensity, made the plays tonight to deserve to win,’’ Wise said. “They had a sense of urgency and they made the plays we weren’t able to.”
After a few minutes at the postgame media session, Mann took her only question. She turned her moist eyes upward.
“They played really well,” she said. “We were both fighting for our lives and they played really tough. Our team was fighting until the end. I’m proud of our effort. It wasn’t enough tonight.”
Her final quote in a Gators uniform was standard fare for a sports scribbler. It won’t make the list of famous sports quotes that was shown on the O’Connell Center’s video screen throughout Friday’s match.
The pain and disappointment were too raw for deep reflection. However, in time she will smile when reflecting on her time with the Gators.
She had a great run, one that simply ended sooner than expected.
Monday December 2, 2013 Muschamp Makes Moves, Gators-Noles columns, more tidbits
Updated: 12:51pm, December 2
The Gators contained FSU QB Jameis Winston for a while Saturday until the Noles took off.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators ended the season Saturday with a 37-7 loss to Florida State.
With no bowl game, Florida’s coaching staff is busy recruiting and preparing for National Signing Day.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced Sunday that offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis would not return next season.
Here are some fresh links from around the Internet covering the Gators heading into the offseason:
--Pease and Davis let go by Gators writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.
--Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley remains committed to Muschamp writes Jesse Simonton of The Miami Herald.
--Despite looming questions, FSU quarterback Jameis Winston played with ease in win over Gators writes Gary Shelton of The Tampa Bay Times.
--One of Gators’ previous claims to fame now a position of uncertainty writes Gary Smits of The Florida Times-Union (via St. Augustine Record website).
--SI.com’s Andy Staples writes of two programs going in opposite directions in wake of Saturday’s game.
--Gators-Noles matchup Saturday offered a predictable outcome amidst unpredictable circumstances writes Martin Fennelly of The Tampa Tribune.
--Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley is glad season is over.
--The UF-FSU rivalry is a passionate one but the FSU fan and his machete is a bit too much in this story from The Independent Florida Alligator.
--Georgia Southern is celebrating its historic win over Florida with some gator for lunch writes Nick Bromberg of Yahoo.com.
--Tim Tebow pep talk can’t save Gators on Saturday against FSU writes Eric Adelson of Yahoo.com.
--CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler writes about gap between UF and FSU on display Saturday.
--Here is Fowler in his Coaching Changes Daily column, with item on Gators.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg is likely to made his third career start on Saturday.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In less than 72 hours Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be packed for the 58th meeting between Florida and Florida State.
The major storyline from the Florida perspective is whether the Gators can upset the No. 2-ranked Seminoles and spoil FSU’s national title hopes.
Saturday’s game will cap the Gators’ 2013 season, their first losing campaign since 1979. With no bowl game on the horizon for the first time since 1990, a victory over the Seminoles would do wonders for a fan base frustrated by six consecutive losses.
Meanwhile, in Tallahassee the buzz is centered on quarterback Jameis Winston and the program’s first potential national title in 14 years.
Winston is considered a top contender for the Heisman Trophy and has been one of college football’s top stories all season. However, Winston’s story took a twist two weeks ago when reports surfaced of his involvement in an alleged sexual battery case.
The details surrounding the investigation and whether Winston will face any criminal chargers remain fluid, though he is expected to play Saturday.
With the stage set, here are some of the latest headlines from around the Internet covering the Gators and Seminoles:
--Can the Gators’ struggling offense get untracked vs. FSU? That is the headline on a story by Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.
--Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease knows his future is murky writes Jesse Simonton of The Miami Herald.
--The guess here is that by now you have seen the play where Gators center Jon Harrison and receiver Quinton Dunbar locked horns on Saturday. If not, click on link above for story by Jeff Barlis of ESPN.com.
--What to watch in the SEC: Week 14 writes David Ching of ESPN.com.
--The Gators are down but Florida head coach Will Muschamp doesn’t expect that to last long writes Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post.
--Gators defensive back Jaylen Watkins, as have several of his teammates, expects the Gators to compete with FSU on Saturday writes Antonya English of The Tampa Bay Times.
--One guy the Gators are familiar with and must contain Saturday is FSU defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan writes Corey Clark of The Tallahassee Democrat.
--FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, a longtime friend of Muschamp, feels for his former colleague writes Corey Clark in this USA Today story.
--Here is an interesting tidbit on Muschamp’s past thoughts on scheduling Georgia Southern, which was unearthed by Adam Silverstein of OnlyGators.com.
--FSU tight end Nick O’Leary used to be known more as golf legend Jack Nicklaus’ grandson. Not so much anymore writes David Hale of ESPN.com.
Gators linebacker Michael Taylor will miss Saturday's game with a knee injury.
The Gators host No. 2-ranked Florida State on Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
In a fitting end to the season, Gators coach Will Muschamp announced that linebackers Michael Taylor (sprained MCL) and Alex Anzalone (shoulder) will miss the final game because of injuries suffered in the loss to Georgia Southern.
As for Taylor, the team’s second leading tackler to go down – fellow linebacker Antonio Morrison led the team in tackles when he underwent season-ending knee surgery after the Vanderbilt game – there is at least some good news.
“He’s got a Grade 2 MCL,’’ Muschamp said. “There’s no surgery needed.”
Anzalone, a true freshman who has played in nine games, is not as fortunate. Anzalone will need surgery after he dislocated his right shoulder Saturday.
Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy (shoulder) is listed as questionable – “Right now, medical staff has not cleared him,’’ Muschamp said – offensive lineman D.J. Humphries (knee) is doubtful, defensive end Jonathan Bullard (knee) is probable and cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) “will be ready to go.”
With the linebackers decimated by injury, Muschamp said walk-on David Campbell will see action. Campbell came in during the fourth quarter against Georgia Southern. Muschamp added that true freshman Daniel McMillian, who has played on special teams, has played sparingly at linebacker due to a thumb injury.
“It’s hard to play linebacker if you can’t take a guy on,’’ Muschamp said. “It’s nothing he’s missed any time with.”
Check back with GatorZone.com later for more on the Gators as they prepare to face Florida State.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg made his first career start for the Gators last week at South Carolina. He will make his first start at home today against Georgia Southern.
A redshirt freshman from Philadelphia, Mornhinweg completed 10 of 13 passes for 107 yards and one interception in Florida's 19-14 loss at South Carolina. He is starting in place of Tyler Murphy, who is out with a shoulder injury.
Meanwhile, Florida will be without starting defensive end Jonathan Bullard and freshman receiver Demarcus Robinson.
Bullard aggravated a previous injury during practice this week and will miss his first game of the season. Bullard has 28 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Robinson, who has five catches for 23 yards on the season, is suspended for the rest of the regular season for a violation of team rules.
Friday November 22, 2013 Comcast unable to offer Gators-Georgia Southern pay-per-view game in certain markets
Updated: 1:48pm, November 22
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators-Georgia Southern game on Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is available on pay-per-view around the state.
However, a technical issue at Comcast will prevent it from offering Florida's game against the Eagles to its customers in certain areas.
"We have been made aware that there are some cable providers in the state that are currently not offering the Florida-Georgia Southern pay-per-view football game,'' said Mike Hill, UF's executive associate athletics director for external affairs. "Sun Sports made the game available to all cable and satellite providers within the state of Florida.
"One of the larger providers, Comcast, has informed Sun Sports that it is not able to carry the broadcast due to technical issues that Comcast is experiencing, which is extremely unfortunate.”
For fans in Florida markets where Comcast is unable to broadcast the game, you can watch the game on AT&T U-Verse, as well as DirecTV or Dish Network, which are available at many restaurants and other establishments.
Outside of Florida, Saturday's game is available on ESPN GamePlan and the WatchESPN app but is blacked out on those outlets within the state.
Sun Sports made the game available to all cable distributors in the state. Comcast, a prominent cable provider in areas such as Jacksonville and South Florida, worked with Sun Sports this week to solve the technical issue without a resolution at this point.
This is the Gators' only pay-per-view game of the season and one of three on the SEC schedule this week.
While CBS and ESPN own broadcast rights to SEC football games, when they do not pick up the broadcast option, schools have the option to use pay-per-view services once a season.
The Alabama-Chattanooga and South Carolina-Coastal Carolina games are also on pay-per-view Saturday.
Once the SEC Network launches in August 2014, there will be no more pay-per-view games in the league.
For more information, here is a list of areas in Florida where Comcast offers service: http://www.comcast.com/Corporate/shop/Products/local/florida.cspx
Here is current broadcast information for Saturday's game posted on GatorZone.com.
Monday November 18, 2013 Muschamp Appreciates Public Show of Support from Foley and Machen
Updated: 9:28pm, November 18
Gators coach Will Muschamp remains confident program is headed in right direction despite struggles.
As the Gators' season turned south, third-year head coach Will Muschamp became the focal point for fans and media.
A year after being named SEC Coach of the Year, Muschamp has faced mounting criticism, especially in recent weeks.
The injury-riddled Gators have lost five consecutive games -- the program's longest losing streak since 1979 -- and unless they can win their final two regular-season games against Georgia Southern and Florida State, will miss a bowl game for the first time since 1990.
Those close to the program have not wavered in their support of Muschamp, starting at the top.
Last week Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and school president Bernie Machen stated their continued support of Muschamp publicly.
The show of support was not lost on Muschamp, who is 22-14 since taking over the program in 2011.
"It says a lot about Jeremy and Dr. Machen from a standpoint of seeing where we were three years ago and understanding,” Muschamp said Monday. “Making good decisions within our program and to see the day-to-day operation and understand the steps you made in year two and why we are where we are right now.
“And nobody's happy with that. Absolutely nobody. The expectation level here is to win championships, and we haven't done it."
The Gators finished 7-6 in Muschamp's first season as he worked to instill a more accountable culture. Several players left the program and Florida responded with a 11-1 regular season and Sugar Bowl berth in 2012.
Expectations were high entering Muschamp's third year despite the loss of seven starters on defense and leading rusher Mike Gillislee, the program's first 1,000-yard rusher in eight years.
Signs of trouble were apparent early when a rash of injuries hit during fall camp. The injuries have continued to pile up during the season, transforming the Gators into a shell of the team they were expected to be when the season opened.
Muschamp appreciates his boss' belief that the direction of the program is on the right path.
"I think it's seeing the big picture and understanding where we are with the program and feeling good, not necessarily where we are right now, but understanding why we are where we are and where it's headed,'' he said. "We've got a bunch of good young players in this program, a bunch of good kids in this program.
"We're recruiting extremely well. Things are heading in the right direction. It's just been a frustrating time for us this season."