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Will Grier

Freshman QB Will Grier is adjusting to the speed of the college game. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – One of the Gators’ worst fears came true a season ago when starting quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered a broken leg in the third game of the season.

Florida lacked experienced depth behind Driskel after Jacoby Brissett transferred to N.C. State. Tyler Murphy, who had never thrown a college pass, provided temporary relief. However, Murphy injured his shoulder at LSU and was never the same.

Redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg was thrown into the fire but unable to lead the Gators to a win. With Driskel once again healthy and Murphy now at Boston College, Mornhinweg is battling true freshmen Will Grier and Treon Harris for the back-up quarterback’s job.

Both Grier and Harris joined the program with impressive prep credentials. Grier was the Parade Magazine National Player of the Year after throwing for 4,989 yards and 77 touchdowns as a senior at Davidson (N.C.) Day School.

Meanwhile, Harris led Booker T. Washington High in Miami to back-to-back Class 4A state championships and threw for 2,113 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior.

Both are mobile quarterbacks who can make plays in the running game.

First-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is taking a close look at the newcomers this week in practice as the Gators try and find some separation behind Driskel.

“I see talent. I see guys that are working hard that want to be good, that right now are confused because it is a bunch on their plate, it is a different game,’’ Roper said. “It’s a brand new language. We do have a lot of routes, so it takes a little bit of time to pick up. But I see talented players."

Roper said he is emphasizing better timing to the younger quarterbacks early in camp. While he expects growing pains, what they are facing at practice is different than anything else they have done in their young careers.

Treon Harris

Grier and Harris (photo, left) took off their non-contact red jerseys and became live during Sunday’s scrimmage and at Monday’s early practice.

“These guys are trying to get back there and hurt them,” Roper said. “What ends up happening in high school, there's so much 7-on-7 that's played at a four-second pace. When you watch that … it really trains bad habits. Nobody is getting hit. Nobody is in front of them.

“They're blowing a horn at four seconds. That's not real world. When you have a guy like [Jadeveon] Clowney rushing you that is below three seconds. And then it's 270 pounds of pain.”

To avoid that pain Roper is working to develop quicker releases and defensive recognition.

One question about Grier is whether the competition he faced in high school – he played at the Class 2A level – would hinder his development.

Roper isn’t concerned about Grier’s physical ability. The mental game is where he is focused.

“Back when my dad was coaching, you’d go into 4A and 5A high schools and that’s where you stayed,’’ Roper said. “Now, you go anywhere to find talent. I think he’s got to understand the game is faster, and that’s a process. That doesn’t happen overnight. That’s what we have to work on.”

Saturday August 9, 2014 Practice observations: Jackson's speed, Wilson's physical style, more tidbits

Updated: 12:13am, August 9

Jarrad Davis

Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and linebacker Jarrad Davis at practice this week.

The Gators practiced under the lights Friday night and once again a few hundred fans turned out to watch Florida’s second open practice of fall camp.

It was the Gators’ first practice in full pads as the physicality continues to increase with each practice.

Following Thursday night’s scare when sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III went down with a bone bruise on his left knee, Friday night was much less dramatic.

You can bet that was perfectly OK with Gators coach Will Muschamp.

To me the most interesting part of the first week of camp is watching the newcomers. For the Gators to improve dramatically in 2013, they will need help from a freshman class that clearly has some talented players.

A few random observations from Friday night:

--On Thursday I mentioned freshman defensive back J.C. Jackson as a player that catches your eye immediately. Jackson is a physical specimen who is built more like a senior than a first-year college player. While Jackson must prove to coaches in camp that he is ready to contribute immediately, he has the attention of his teammates. During red-zone drills Friday, sixth-year senior Andre Debose, one of the fastest players on the team, tried to blow past Jackson on a fly pattern down the left sideline. Jackson hung with Debose step-for-step on the incompletion, prompting comments from other players about his speed.

--Quincy Wilson is another freshman defensive back who has been a physical presence early in camp. Listed at 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, Wilson held his own in contact drills against the receivers on Thursday and likes to get physical in coverage. Wilson has worked primarily at cornerback the first week of camp.

--Sophomore receiver Demarcus Robinson is undoubtedly one of the players fans watch closely during the open practices. Robinson has the talent to be a go-to receiver but failed to live up to expectations his first season. Robinson hauled in a pair of touchdown receptions Friday night, once leaping to catch a ball against Wilson in the corner of the end zone, and later grabbing a score during red-zone drills.

--Florida’s coaching staff has high hopes for sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis, who came on strong near the end of the last season to factor prominently into the plans for 2014. Davis blew through the middle of the line on one play Friday to force a whistle as he closed in on quarterback Treon Harris. Davis is listed at 6-2, 225 and looks in really good shape.

--Receiver Latroy Pittman and tight end Tevin Westbrook are no strangers to the program. However, they haven’t had much impact on offense. They did draw cheers when both made diving catches late in Friday’s practice. Both must have strong camps if they want to climb the depth chart and earn significant playing time.

--Freshman defensive tackle Gerald Willis (6-3, 255) was a big get for the Gators when he signed in February out of New Orleans. Willis looks the part. He played the part when he burst through the line to stop running back Brandon Powell for a loss. Sophomore Joey Ivie IV, another young defensive tackle looking to crack the rotation, was active Friday. Ivie is listed at 271 pounds and looks significantly stronger than his freshman season.

LEFTOVER NUGGETS

Sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor drew applause for a nice run that came near the end of practice. Taylor burst through a hole and then made a couple of nice cuts to get into the secondary … Junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. has been impressive in the two open practices. Fowler spoke recently of wanting to set a good example in camp and appears off to a good start … First-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper likes to keep it loose at practice and drew some razzing when he went out for a pass to show the receivers how to properly run a route he was trying to teach. Roper made the catch and then spiked the ball … Saturday morning’s practice is open to season-ticket holders only.

Vernon Hargreaves III

Sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is day-to-day with a bone bruise.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A crowd of approximately 700-plus showed up at the Don Dizney Lacrosse Stadium on Thursday night to watch the Gators during their first open practice of fall camp.

They watched a smooth and crisp practice for most of the evening. However, the tone changed when sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III suffered a lower-body injury.

Hargreaves was hurt after a scuffle between the defensive backs and receivers.

Soon, all eyes turned toward Hargreaves as he was helped from the field. Fortunately for the Gators, the injury isn't as serious as some of the ones they suffered last season.

"A MRI revealed that Vernon Hargreaves suffered a bone bruise and he is listed day-to-day,'' Gators coach Will Muschamp said following practice.

While Hargreaves' injury created a buzz on social media, there was much more for fans to see Thursday.

Here are some players/topics that caught my eye:

--It's easy to see why coaches and players have spoken highly of freshman running back Brandon Powell in his short time on campus. Powell displayed extremely quick feet on some runs. He also hits the holes fast and finds space to run. During special-teams drills, Powell also got some looks returning punts.

--Sophomore receiver Demarcus Robinson has been talked about a lot ever since he arrived last year. Robinson didn't have much success in 2013 but he could be a dangerous weapon in the up-tempo offense installed by Kurt Roper if he can produce. Robinson did haul in a nice touchdown catch on a fade route late in Thursday's practice.

--Freshman defensive lineman Khairi Clark drew the praise of defensive line coach Brad Lawing when he flushed second-team quarterback Will Grier from the pocket on a play that resulted in a throwaway. At 6-foot-2, 308 pounds Clark showed a quick burst on the play.

--Muschamp and Roper have mentioned junior running back Matt Jones as a potential difference maker in the passing game. Jones caught multiple passes Thursday out of the backfield and at slot receiver.

--A few other true freshmen were hard to miss. Tight end DeAndre Goolsby caught a touchdown pass from Jeff Driskel on the first drive of practice and later showed some physicality by bowling over a defender with a tough block. While he has not been cleared for contact drills, defensive back J.C. Jackson has the look of an elite athlete. Jackson (5-10, 196) has a strong lower body and is clearly advanced physically for a newcomer. Finally, 6-6, 336-pound offensive lineman David Sharpe is impossible to miss. Sharpe took a lot of snaps and looks like a potential contributor his first season.

--Redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson is a player Muschamp has spoken highly of entering camp. Johnson worked at right tackle some on the first team late in Thursday's practice and moves well for a player 6-5, 308 pounds.

Random Thoughts

Freshman C.J. Worton seems like a proficient route runner for a young receiver ... Grier can grow a pretty good beard for a true freshman ... Fifth-year senior Jake McGee, a transfer from Virginia, can get down the field quick for a guy listed 6-6, 255 pounds; McGee made a couple of nice catches Thursday ... Kickers Austin Hardin and Brooks Abbott, formerly of Jacksonville Bolles and Virginia Tech, worked together during drills with Drew Ferris snapping and Kyle Crofoot holding.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Most folks know James Bates as a former linebacker for the Gators, or as a TV personality who keeps busy during the season crisscrossing the country covering college football for FOX Sports.

But when the grind of the season ends and Bates has time to escape, he likes to retreat to a barn on his property to paint. Bates specializes in folk art and often uses football as his subject.

James Bates

"I've just always been drawn to art and design,'' Bates said. "I never really had any formal art classes."

Still, Bates is no slouch with the paintbrush. Others have noticed. Tonight at Five Bar Gainesville at 104 S. Main Street (5 to 9 p.m.), the James Bates Art Exhibit opens with a launch party.

For the next month Bates' work will be displayed in the restaurant. With football season about to begin, fans and art lovers will recognize many of the subjects portrayed in Bates' pieces.

"The lighter side of some of these football players and coaches,'' Bates said.

This isn't the first time Bates has had his art displayed publicly, but this will be his most extensive exhibit.

Bates sold some of his work after an art gallery in Santa Fe, N.M., held an exhibit.

He said Jerri Spurrier, wife of former Gators football coach Steve Spurrier, helped boost his confidence as an emerging artist during Bates' career with the Gators in the mid-1990s.

Bates would draw cartoons on the chalkboard in Florida's locker room during his playing days, poking fun at a player or coach to keep the team loose. Jerri Spurrier saw some of his work and asked him to design a T-shirt for the women's swim team.

Bates did. The team liked it, including Bates' future wife, Tina, who was on UF's team at the time.

Bates still has that shirt, plus many more paintings and designs since.

Check out some of his work to be displayed over the next month at Five Bar Gainesville:

Monday August 4, 2014 Most Important News on Day 1 for Gators: Everybody Practiced

Updated: 8:14am, August 5

Matt Jones

Running back Matt Jones participates in a drill at Monday's early-morning practice.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators started the trek toward what they hope is a turnaround season on Monday by opening fall camp.

The veteran players practiced early Monday morning while most of the freshmen and less-experienced players worked out in the afternoon.

The most important news of the day: everybody practiced. Gators coach Will Muschamp previously announced that freshman offensive lineman Nolan Kelleher (back surgery) is the only player not available. Kelleher will redshirt.

"Drastically different" was Muschamp's answer when asked to compare the first day of camp to last year. A year ago the Gators started camp without starting quarterback Jeff Driskel due to an appendectomy, and running back Matt Jones and offensive lineman Jon Halapio due to injuries.

That was just the start of what turned into an avalanche of injuries for the Gators throughout the season.

"It was a rough fall,'' Muschamp said. "But I think we've improved ourselves at the receiver position, at the running back position. When they are all healthy, that's a good group sitting out there."

The Gators will hold another split-squad practice on Tuesday and Muschamp said the entire team would practice in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) on Wednesday night. The first day in full pads is Friday.

Muschamp was pleased overall at the energy the team showed on the first day of camp.

"Everybody is fired up Day 1. Let's see how they are Day 12,'' he said. "That's kind of the way I look at it. We've seen a very inspired group throughout the summer."

SPEEDING ALONG

The Gators moved at a very brisk pace Monday, in part due to the up-tempo system first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper installed in the spring.

The no-huddle approach keeps receivers on the move during passing drills.

"I think we are in pretty good condition,'' Muschamp said. "Obviously a drastic difference between the young group and the older group as far as the tempo [and] the number of bodies. It was tougher on the older group too because we only have two units going."

KICKING IT

The kicking game played an important role in Florida's 11-2 record in 2012. On the way to a 4-8 record in 2013, the kickers were inconsistent.

Placekicker Austin Hardin made only 4 of 12 field goals and punter Kyle Christy was replaced by Johnny Townsend following an excellent 2012.

The unit showed signs of improvement in the spring. Muschamp seeks more of the same.

"You build confidence through having very positive reps,'' Muschamp said. "They had a lot of positive reps through spring. Based on what they've told me, they felt they had a very good summer. In the short time watching them today, I thought we punted the ball extremely well, both Johnny and Kyle. Austin kicked it extremely well."

QUOTE OF NOTE

"I didn't sleep a whole lot last night, excited about getting back on the field and coaching. That's what you get hired to do and that's what I enjoy doing." -- Muschamp on returning to practice. He said he woke up at 3:35 a.m. Monday after going to bed around midnight Sunday.

QUICK SLANTS

Muschamp liked what he saw from quarterback Driskel on Day 1. "I thought Jeff looked really good," he said. Skyler Mornhinweg, Will Grier and Treon Harris are competing to back up Driskel. "Just a work in progress,'' Muschamp added of that competition ... Freshman defensive back Quincy Wilson had an interception in his first collegiate practice. Muschamp said Wilson is working at cornerback.

Sunday August 3, 2014 10 questions as Gators prepare to open camp

Updated: 10:04am, August 3

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The wait is finally over.

In what will go down as one of the longest offseasons in Florida football history -- a 4-8 record has a way of doing that -- the Gators officially report to camp today.

Florida opens practice Monday to start head coach Will Muschamp's fourth season in charge of the program. But first, Muschamp and the Gators will tackle Media Day this afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Note: Watch a live stream of Muschamp's Media Day press conference.

Muschamp will speak to reporters for approximately 30 minutes and then dozens of players will make the rounds.

At SEC Football Media Days in Hoover, Ala., last month, Muschamp displayed strong confidence about his team. He clearly expects the Gators to put last season's dismal campaign quickly behind them with a turnaround season.

It appears many college coaches share some of Muschamp's confidence in the Gators.

While the Gators will open the season unranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll for the first time, they are knocking at the door at No. 27 with 122 points, four behind defending SEC East champion Missouri.

With Media Day later this afternoon, here are 10 questions that have me intrigued:

--Can quarterback Jeff Driskel stay healthy and fulfill his potential? Driskel has all the physical tools to be an elite college quarterback. If Driskel can stay healthy and cut down on some of the mental mistakes that have plagued him in the past, the Gators can be back quickly.

--Who will back up Driskel? The candidates are redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg and a pair of true freshmen in Will Grier and Treon Harris. The backup quarterback battle is going to be watched closely in fall camp.

--Can running back Matt Jones rebound after missing the second half of last season? Remember, Jones missed fall camp a year ago due to an illness and then got hurt in the sixth game and missed the rest of the season. If healthy and productive, he gives Florida a dangerous weapon on offense.

--Is receiver Demarcus Robinson as good as everyone said he was coming out of high school? The Gators are still waiting on the final answer. If Robinson's play says yes, that will be a huge boost for the offense.

--Will first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's no-huddle up-tempo system be the remedy that fixes UF's sputtering offense? Muschamp thinks so. So do the players. They seemed to pass the first test in spring practice by regaining some confidence.

--What can we expect from sixth-year receiver Andre Debose? Debose remains a special talent with the ball in his hands and open field around him. If he does nothing else than provide the Gators with a dangerous kickoff returner, that's a good start.

--Who are the real leaders on this team? Driskel, defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III, defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. and offensive lineman Max Garcia quickly come to mind. The Gators need a few more emerge in fall camp through their play and attitude.

--How good can the defense be? In Muschamp's tenure, a solid defense has been the one constant. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin enters his second season in search of more turnovers than a year ago. That means he will have his eye on potential playmakers during camp.

--What's the outlook in the kicking game? This is an area that cost the Gators at times a season ago. Austin Hardin had a strong spring to regain some confidence on field goals. Meanwhile, punters Kyle Christy and Johnny Townsend should have a good battle in fall camp.

--Which true freshman will shine early? As the Gators look to rebound from their first losing season in 34 years, they need some impact players from the freshman class. Harris, cornerback Jalen Tabor, defensive back Duke Dawson, defensive lineman Thomas Holley and running back Brandon Powell are among those that offer that potential.

Monday July 21, 2014 Muschamp to visit ESPN's 'Car Wash' on Tuesday

Updated: 12:18pm, July 21

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators head coach Will Muschamp and his SEC colleagues kicked off the preseason interview circuit at last week's SEC Football Media Days.

Muschamp

Muschamp resumes the talking tour on Tuesday when he visits ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn., for the network's mid-summer coaches' "car wash," where guests appear across multiple programs and platforms over one day.

SEC coaches visit today and Tuesday. Muschamp is scheduled to be at ESPN from 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. He has a live appearances scheduled on "SportsCenter" at approximately 1:40 p.m.

Muschamp will be joined by South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban of Alabama, Butch Jones of Tennessee, Arkansas' Bret Bielema, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin on Tuesday.

Here is a look at all the coaches visiting via a release from ESPN:

SEC - #ESPNSEC

Monday, July 21

Tuesday, July 22

Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss)

Bret Bielema (Arkansas)

Gus Malzahn (Auburn)

Butch Jones (Tennessee)

Derek Mason (Vanderbilt)

Dan Mullen (Mississippi State)

Les Miles (LSU)

Will Muschamp (Florida)

Gary Pinkel (Missouri)

Nick Saban (Alabama)

Mark Richt (Georgia)

Steve Spurrier (South Carolina)

Mark Stoops (Kentucky)

Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M)

 

Big 12 - #ESPNBIG12

Wednesday, July 23

Thursday, July 24

Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia)

Art Briles (Baylor)

Paul Rhoads (Iowa State)

Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech)

Bill Snyder (Kansas State)

Gary Patterson (TCU)

Bob Stoops (Oklahoma)

Charlie Weis (Kansas)

 

Charlie Strong (Texas)

 

Pac-12 - #ESPNPAC12

Friday, July 25

Sonny Dykes (California)

Todd Graham (Arizona State)

Mark Helfrich (Oregon)

Mike Leach (Washington State)

Mike MacIntyre (Colorado)

Jim Mora (UCLA)

Chris Petersen (Washington)

Mike Riley (Oregon State)

Rich Rodriguez (Arizona)

Steve Sarkisian (USC)

David Shaw (Stanford)

Kyle Whittingham (Utah)

 

ACC - #ESPNACC

Monday, July 28

Tuesday, July 29

Paul Chryst (Pittsburgh)

Steve Addazio (Boston College)

Larry Fedora (North Carolina)

Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech)

Jimbo Fisher (Florida State)

Dave Clawson (Wake Forest)

Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech)

David Cutcliffe (Duke)

Mike London (Virginia)

Dave Doeren (NC State)

Bobby Petrino (Louisville)

Al Golden (Miami)

Scott Shafer (Syracuse)

Dabo Swinney (Clemson)

 

Big Ten - #ESPNB1G

Wednesday, July 30

Thursday, July 31

Gary Andersen (Wisconsin)

Randy Edsall (Maryland)

Tim Beckman (Illinois)

Kirk Ferentz (Iowa)

Mark Dantonio (Michigan State)

Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern)

Kyle Flood (Rutgers)

Brady Hoke (Michigan)

James Franklin (Penn State)

Urban Meyer (Ohio State)

Darrell Hazell (Purdue)

Bo Pelini (Nebraska)

Jerry Kill (Minnesota)

Kevin Wilson (Indiana)

Donovan and Young

Former UF standout Patric Young will start NBA career with New Orleans Pelicans.

Good to see former Gators forward/center Patric Young fulfill his dream of earning a spot in the NBA.

Young tweeted Saturday that he has signed a contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. Undrafted to the surprise of many, Young was invited by the Pelicans to play on their summer-league team.

In five games Young averaged 7.4 points and 8 rebounds to earn a contract offer.

Here is more on Young and other Gator-related news via some fresh links:

--Pelicans extend Patric Young a contract writes John Reid of NOLA.com.

--On the flip side, some tough news for Young's former UF teammate, forward Devon Walker, who is out with a knee injury writes Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com.

--Will Muschamp, Jeff Driskel, Gators need to rise above happy noise writes Orlando Sentinel columnist George Diaz.

--A projected fall camp Gators depth chart via Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.com.

--Mariners ace Felix Hernandez became the first big-league pitcher since 1986 on Saturday to pitch seven or more innings and allow two runs or less in 12 consecutive starts. Former Gators catcher Mike Zunino discusses what it's like to catch Hernandez via The Seattle Times.

--If you didn't get enough of SEC Football Media Days or want to catch up, here is a good one-stop shopping link from SECSports.com.

--Former Gator Chris Richard is on a mission to make his hometown a safer place writes Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun.

--Playing to save coach? Former Gators TE Ben Troupe can relate writes David Jones of Florida Today.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Another SEC Football Media Days has come and gone. The Gators stopped in Monday on the first day of the four-day hypefest in Hoover, Ala.

Alabama coach Nick Saban closed the show on Thursday. In between, there was enough typing and tweeting among the assembled media (a record 1,267 credentials were issued) to make Tolstoy's "War and Peace" seem like a leaflet.

To save you some time, here are some notable stories on the Gators and SEC that came out of Hoover:

Will Muschamp

--SEC analysts agree eight wins should be enough for Florida coach Will Muschamp to get off hot seat writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.

--Muschamp needs to win to silence crazy talk writes Matt Hayes of The Sporting News.

--Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com writes how new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is overhauling the UF offense and quarterback Jeff Driskel.

--Gators gunning for total 180 on offense writes Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.com.

--SI.com's Andy Staples writes that after injury-shortened year, UF quarterback Jeff Driskel ready for spotlight.

--Saban breaks down NFL policy change geared toward underclassmen writes AL.com (with video).

--Freshman CB Jalen Tabor cited for marijuana possession in May writes The Orlando Sentinel.

--Muschamp eyes a turnaround for sixth-year receiver Andre Debose writes Ed Aschoff of ESPN.com.

--Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun writes there was no media day sizzle compared to most years.

--Former Gators/current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was in fine form as usual as SEC Media Days writes Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.

--SEC Commissioner Mike Slive reiterates need for NCAA change or else in regard to autonomy writes Antonya English of TampaBay.com.

--Alabama predicted to win and dominate All-SEC teams via USA Today.

Friday July 11, 2014 SEC Football Media Days has come long way since Skywriter's Tour ended

Updated: 2:13pm, July 11

SEC Media Days

More than 1,000 media members will descend on SEC Media Days starting Monday.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The first one was held at the Holiday Inn Medical Center in Birmingham. The year was 1985.

There was no Radio Row, and ESPN sure didn't broadcast the event live. What about a catchy hashtag? Ha, people would have thought you talked Russian if you asked about a Twitter hashtag.

The SEC Football Media Days that will be the epicenter of the college football world starting Monday in Hoover, Ala. -- a suburb of Birmingham -- resembles the inaugural version 29 years ago in very few ways.

Let's see. There were football coaches and players. There were reporters and notepads. Yep, that's about it.

"I remember it was run like a first one,'' longtime Gators SID/historian Norm Carlson said Thursday. "You had to do everything on your own to get guys with different media. It's gotten better and better."

Carlson returned to his alma mater in 1962 to work in UF's sports-information office after starting his career as a sports writer in Atlanta and then a stint in Auburn's athletic department.

He's been here ever since in some capacity and has seen the transformation up close and personal.

Before there was an SEC Football Media Days, there was the SEC Skywriter's Tour. Another longtime Florida storyteller, Buddy Martin of SouthernPigskin.com, recalled the Skywriter's Tour in this column on Thursday.

The conference loaded up some of the South's most notable sports writers and flew them around to each campus so they could talk to players and coaches before the season.

Sounds like a bunch of fun if you ask me. After reading Martin's column, sounds like they had a bunch of fun. Check out this Bear Bryant story I came across researching the Skywriter’s Tour.

The SEC fly-around ended in the mid-1980s and gave way to a centrally located event where everyone could catch up to kick off the season.

Still, the scene at that Holiday Inn in 1985 was nothing like what the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover will look like next week.

"I bet it wasn't 25 percent of what it is today,'' Carlson said. “Most of the media there was from Alabama. They could just drive over."

To help the Gators get some coverage back home, a few Sunshine State writers tagged along with the Florida contingent to the first event. They flew up on a twin-engine prop plane called the Blue Goose. The pilot was named Captain Jack.

Thankfully, they landed safely, everyone got their stories – those that could be told in a family newspaper – and the event took off from there.

At the '85 event, Galen Hall was entering his first full season as Florida's head coach. Punter Ray Criswell and running back Neal Anderson were Florida’s player representatives.

Carlson recalls coaching up Hall on dealing with media. While a well-respected coach, Hall was not especially media savvy at that stage of his career.

All went well. Once it was over, Captain Jack piloted the Blue Goose safely back to Gainesville.

On Monday Florida head coach Will Muschamp and players Jeff Driskel, Dante Fowler Jr. and Vernon Hargreaves III will fly to Hoover for the latest version of SEC Football Media Days.

Interest in the event is at an all-time high. The Birmingham News ran an online poll recently asking readers which Alabama players Nick Saban should bring along.

The league issued a record 1,239 media credentials to last year’s event. That’s more than double the total (500) from 2004.

Muschamp and Co. can expect another crowded hotel lobby on Monday afternoon when they arrive for their turn.

Times have changed. Captain Jack and the Blue Goose have long retired. Meanwhile, SEC Football Media Days continues to evolve, for better or worse.

*****

Thanks to the SEC office, here is a look at UF representatives at SEC Media Days:

Year       Coach                    Players

1985       Galen Hall              Ray Criswell, Neal Anderson

1986       Hall                         Kerwin Bell, Ricky Nattiel

1987       Hall                         K. Bell, Louis Oliver

1988       Hall                         Emmitt Smith, Jeff Roth

1989       Hall                         E. Smith, Richard Fain

1990       Steve Spurrier       Chris Bromley, Huey Richardson

1991       Spurrier                 Brad Culpepper, Shane Matthews

1992       Spurrier                 S. Matthews, Carlton Miles

1993       Spurrier                 Kevin Carter, Willie Jackson

1994       Spurrier                 Jack Jackson, Ellis Johnson

1995       Spurrier                 Mark Campbell, Jason Odom

1996       Spurrier                 Lawrence Wright, Danny Wuerffel

1997       Spurrier                 Ed Chester, Terry Jackson

1998       Spurrier                 T. Jackson, Jevon Kearse

1999       Spurrier                 Derrick Chambers, Travis Taylor

2000       Spurrier                 Alex Brown, Mike Pearson

2001       Spurrier                 Todd Johnson, Zac Zedalis

2002       Ron Zook               Rex Grossman, Ian Scott

2003       Zook                       Keiwan Ratliff, Max Starks

2004       Zook                       Mike Degory, Travis Harris

2005       Urban Meyer          M. Degory, Jarvis Herring

2006       Meyer                     Chris Leak, Marcus Thomas

2007       Meyer                     Andre Caldwell, Tony Joiner

2008       Meyer                     Tim Tebow, Phil Trautwein

2009       Meyer                     T. Tebow, Brandon Spikes

2010       Meyer                     Ahmad Black, Mike Pouncey, Justin Trattou

2011       Will Muschamp      John Brantley, Deonte Thompson, William Green

2012       Muschamp             Jon Bostic, Mike Gillislee, Lerentee McCray

2013       Muschamp             Jeff Driskel, Dominique Easley, Jon Halapio

2014       Muschamp             J. Driskel, Dante Fowler Jr., Vernon Hargreaves III

David Sharpe

Freshman offensive lineman David Sharpe unpacks in his new dorm room. (Photo: Tim Casey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Hope everyone is enjoying the July 4th weekend.

Not a lot happening in the Gators sports world right now, but we know that will change soon.

SEC Football Media Days is scheduled next week in Hoover, Ala. Florida coach Will Muschamp and players will make their appearance on Monday. The latest newcomers to the Florida football program attended orientation last week and moved into their dorms (photo above).

For now, here are some links of interest to Florida fans:

--The Gators open fall camp Aug. 3, but Gators equipment manager Jeff McGrew is already in camp mode writes David Jones of Florida Today.

--Gators QB Jeff Driskel is ready to prove he can lead Gators to success writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.

--Former Gators starter Karsten Whitson made his first professional start on Friday night for the Lowell (Mass.) Spinners.

--Seattle Times baseball columnist Larry Stone writes how the Mariners -- former Gators catcher Mike Zunino (.216, 12 HR, 33 RBI) has helped the cause -- are in a rare position at midseason: playoff contention.

--Former Gators sharpshooter Teddy Dupay is on comeback trail as a coach writes Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun.

--The Gators and Hurricanes announced a home-and-home men's basketball series last week; a little more info on Miami's team via The Miami Herald.

--Former Gators C Patric Young will start his pro career with the New Orleans Pelicans summer-league team with other well-known names writes Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune.

--Former Gators QB Jacoby Brissett is positioned at N.C. State's starter and ready to return to field via The Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun.

Monday June 30, 2014 Rest of Gators' 2014 signing class on campus and enrolled in classes

Updated: 11:27am, June 30

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators report to fall camp on Aug. 3 and the good news is that every member of the latest recruiting class is already on campus.

The final 14 signees from the 2014 recruiting class are enrolled in Summer B classes and participating in offseason workouts and conditioning drills.

Gators helmet

Defensive lineman Gerald Willis enrolled in Summer A and has been on campus for the last six weeks.

In addition, the Gators have added five preferred walk-ons in the latest batch of players to join the program.

The latest wave of players follows the early arrival in January of nine members of the 2014 signing class who enrolled in the spring semester.

Here is a look at the Gators' newest players and their jersey numbers and latest measurements:

Summer B enrollees

(54)--Khairi Clark, DT, 6-2, 308, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna

(52)--Travaris Dorsey, OL, 6-2, 333, Jacksonville Raines

(3)--Treon Harris, QB, 5-11, 178, Miami Booker T. Washington

(56)--Thomas Holley, DT, 6-3, 312, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln

(23)--J.C. Jackson, CB, 5-10, 196, Immokalee

(80)--C'yontai Lewis, TE, 6-4, 224, Alabaster (Ala.) Kingwood Christian

(77)--Andrew Mike, OL, 6-6, 276, Tucson (Ariz.) Sabino

(27)--Deiondre Porter, CB, 6-0, 165, Tampa Jefferson

(96)--Justus Reed, DE, 6-3, 213, Clearwater Central Catholic

(78)--David Sharpe, OL, 6-6, 336, Jacksonville Fletcher

(2)--Ryan Sousa, WR, 6-0, 189, Orlando Lake Nona

(82)--Moral Stephens, TE, 6-3, 247, Perry Taylor County

(12)--Quincy Wilson, DB, 6-1, 196, Fort Lauderdale University School

(14)--C.J. Worton, WR, 6-0, 183, Homestead South Dade

 

Summer B (preferred walk-ons)

(n/a)--Brooks Abbott, K, 6-1, 180, Jacksonville Bolles/Virginia Tech

(n/a)--Vincent Dimenna, OL, 6-1, 279, Madison County

(n/a)--Jorge Powell, K, 5-10, 150, Coral Gables Belen Jesuit Prep

(n/a)--R.J. Raymond, LB, 6-2, 215, Atlantic Beach Episcopal

(n/a)--Zachary Shinn, OL, 6-2, 283, Lakeland Kathleen

 

Summer A enrollee

(92)--Gerald Willis, DL, 6-3, 270, New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr

 

Spring enrollees

(93)--Taven Bryan, DL, 6-5, 260, Casper (Wyo.) Natrona County

(7)--Duke Dawson, CB, 5-10, 190, Cross City Dixie County

(30)--DeAndre Goolsby, TE, 6-4, 230, Derby (Kan.)

(7)--Will Grier, QB, 6-2, 190, Davidson (N.C.) Day

(53)--Kavaris Harkless, OL, 6-5, 275, Jacksonville Trinity Christian

(71)--Nolan Kelleher, OL, 6-6, 305, Mount Pleasant (S.C.) Wando

(20)--Brandon Powell, RB, 5-9, 175, Deerfield Beach

(72)--Drew Sarvary, OL, 6-6, 318, Tyler (Texas) JC

(5)--Jalen Tabor, CB, 6-1, 188, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy

VIDEO: Highlights from Gators coach Billy Donovan's USA U18 squad's win Wednesday.

Former Gators center Patric Young plans to be at home in Jacksonville on Thursday night to watch the NBA Draft. Young is expected to become the 12th UF player selected in the draft since 2007.

I'm scheduled to talk to Young later today for a story on what the past month has been like and his expectations for the draft. Check back with GatorZone.com later for the story.

For now, here are some fresh links from around the Internet of interest to Florida fans:

--Gators coach Billy Donovan had a good Wednesday night, leading the USA U18 national team to a 113-79 victory over Canada for the FIBA Americas Tournament title. Click here for a story and video from The Colorado Springs Gazette.

--For more on what Donovan and players had to say afterward, check out this link from USA Basketball.

--Speaking of Young, he has been doing a draft diary for OnlyGators.com. Click here to find out who he bumped into at the Boston airport earlier this week.

--Young's former teammate, point guard Scottie Wilbekin, worked out for the Orlando Magic this week writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.

--Former Gators center Mike Pouncey, entering his fourth season with Miami, is out indefinitely following hip surgery writes Josh Katzowitz of CBSSports.com.

--Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley offers up some thoughts on five players who need to come through for the Gators in the fall.

--You have seen some UF fan initiatives announced of late. Other schools across the country are also trying to connect more with fans in today's fast-paced world writes ESPN.com.

--ESPN.com's Florida beat writer Jeff Barlis examines the Gators' two-deep depth chart on special teams.

Billy Donovan

UF head coach Billy Donovan's U18 U.S. Team faces Canada tonight.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Been away for a few days and then spent Monday at jury duty. Glad to be back at the keyboard this morning. To get back in the flow, here are some fresh links covering topics of interest to Florida fans:

--Gators coach Billy Donovan has the USA U18 National Team rolling in the FIBA Americas U18 Tournament in Colorado Springs. It's USA vs. Canada for the title tonight.

--For more on Donovan's mission and drive with the USA U18 team, here is a story from the Colorado Springs Gazette.

--Dominique Easley agrees to a four-year, $7.3 million contract with New England, making all those rehab sessions worth it for the former UF standout.

--Former UF swimmer Conor Dwyer made a splash over the weekend at the Arena Grand Prix in Santa Clara, California, defeating Michael Phelps in the 200-meter IM, winning $20,000 and a one-year lease for a BMW. Watch Dwyer's win by clicking this link.

--In more swimming news, did you see that former UF star Elizabeth Beisel outdueled Olympic standout Missy Franklin over the weekend at same event Dwyer defeated Phelps.

--Former Gators DB Jaylen Watkins earning respect in Philadelphia for his football IQ writes Andy Jasner of ESPN.com.

--Gators tight end Colin Thompson is transferring and could be headed closer to his Pennsylvania home. Best of luck to Thompson, a personal favorite and fellow hockey fan.

Andre Debose

--A look at Florida's prospects in the NBA Draft from Jordan McPherson of the Independent Florida Alligator.

--Andre Debose (photo, left) is a player that could help the Gators this season if he is up to his old form at returning kickoffs. ESPN.com takes a look at the SEC's most dangerous kick returners.

--Tough night for former Gators pitcher Anthony DeSclafani and a rough homestand for the Marlins writes Andre Fernandez of The Miami Herald.

Thursday June 12, 2014 Florida, Georgia have no interest in taking a dip in their annual rivalry

Updated: 8:33pm, June 12

EverBank Field upgrades

An artist's rendering of the renovated north end zone at EverBank Field.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Fans attending the annual Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville on Nov. 1 will be treated to several upgrades at EverBank Field.

The home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars is currently undergoing a $63 million renovation, including the installation of the world’s two largest video boards above each end zone that are expected to be functional for the game.

However, there’s no need to bring your swimming trunks.

As part of the renovation, the Jaguars removed 9,500 chair-back seats and are installing two wading pools, 20 cabanas and other game-day features to gets fans into the stadium.

If the schools used the pools and cabanas, they would lose 7,180 seats already sold. The schools have no plans to reduce seating for the SEC rivalry.

“Our number one priority is to have the same number of tickets available to our fans and we don't have an interest in any scenario that reduces the number of tickets,” Gators Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said. “We do appreciate the commitment that both the city and the Jaguars are making to enhance the game-day experience for fans that don't limit seating capacity.”

Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity is on the same page.

“There’s no wiggle room for lowering the attendance or seating capacity,” McGarity told The Associated Press. “The most important thing for us is the number of seats.”

The seating capacity for the Florida-Georgia game is almost 85,000.

Friday June 6, 2014 Nine Gators named to Phil Steele's All-SEC Preseason Team

Updated: 8:52pm, June 6

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators enter the 2014 season seeking to rebound from a disappointing 2013 campaign. To do so, two players expected to lead the way are defensive end Dante Fowler and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

College football pundit Phil Steele, known for his in-depth analysis and thick preseason guides, considers Fowler and Hargreaves worthy of the challenge.

Steele named both players to his first-team All-SEC Defensive Team, released Friday.

Fowler and Hargreaves lead a contingent of nine UF players on Steele's All-SEC teams.

Kelvin Taylor

Quarterback Jeff Driskel and left tackle D.J. Humphries are on the third-team offense, and running back Kelvin Taylor (photo) and receiver Demarcus Robinson made the fourth team.

Meanwhile, linebacker Antonio Morrison is a fourth-team defensive selection.

Steele envisions strong comeback seasons for punter Kyle Christy and kick returner Andre Debose. He has both players on the All-SEC Special Teams second team.

A look at each team:

Phil Steele's 2014 Preseason All-SEC Team

OFFENSE

 

1st TEAM

2nd TEAM

3rd TEAM

4th TEAM

QB

Nick Marshall, Auburn

Bo Wallace, Ole Miss

Jeff Driskel, Florida

Dak Prescott, Mississippi St

RB

Todd Gurley, Georgia

Mike Davis, South Carolina

Derrick Henry, Alabama

Alex Collins, Arkansas

RB

TJ Yeldon, Alabama

Jonathan Williams, Arkansas

Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn

Kelvin Taylor, Florida

WR

Amari Cooper, Alabama

Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia

D’haquille Williams, Auburn

(RB) Leonard Fournette, LSU

WR

Sammie Coates, Auburn

Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss

Chris Conley, Georgia

Shaq Roland, South Carolina

WR

Jameon Lewis, Mississippi St

DeAndrew White, Alabama

Marquez North, Tennessee

Demarcus Robinson, Florida

TE

OJ Howard, Alabama

Hunter Henry, Arkansas

Malcolm Johnson, Miss St

Evan Engram, Ole Miss

C

Reese Dismukes, Auburn

Ryan Kelly, Alabama

David Andrews, Georgia

Evan Boehm, Missouri

OG

AJ Cann, South Carolina

Alex Kozan, Auburn

(OT) DJ Humphries, Florida

Chad Slade, Auburn

OG

Arie Kouandjio, Alabama

Vadal Alexander, LSU

(OT) Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M

Jarvis Harrison, Texas A&M

OT

La’el Collins, LSU

Brandon Shell, South Carolina

Austin Shepherd, Alabama

Brey Cook, Arkansas

OT

Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M

Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss

Corey Robinson, S Carolina

Darrian Miller, Kentucky

DEFENSE

 

1st TEAM

2nd TEAM

3rd TEAM

4th TEAM

DL

Dante Fowler, Florida

Alvin Dupree, Kentucky

Ray Drew, Georgia

CJ Johnson, Ole Miss

DL

Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

Gabe Wright, Auburn

Chris Jones, Mississippi St

Shane Ray, Missouri

DL

A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

Carl Lawson, Auburn

JT Surratt, South Carolina

Darius Philon, Arkansas

DL

Trey Flowers, Arkansas

Markus Golden, Missouri

Jermauria Rasco, LSU

Za’Darius Smith, Kentucky

LB

AJ Johnson, Tennessee

Jordan Jenkins, Georgia

Kyle Woestmann, Vanderbilt

Skai Moore, South Carolina

LB

Trey DePriest, Alabama

Serderius Bryant, Ole Miss

Amarlo Herrera, Georgia

Antonio Morrison, Florida

LB

Ramik Wilson, Georgia

Sharrod Golightly, South Carolina

Kwon Alexander, LSU

Denzel Devall, Alabama

LB

Leonard Floyd, Georgia

Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi St

Kentrell Brothers, Missouri

Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn

CB

Vernon Hargreaves, Florida

Damian Swann, Georgia

Tre’Davious White, LSU

Cameron Sutton, Tennessee

CB

Deshazor Everett, Texas A&M

Jonathon Mincy, Auburn

Jamerson Love, Miss St

(S) Braylon Webb, Missouri

S

Landon Collins, Alabama

Tony Conner, Ole Miss

Brian Randolph, Tennessee

Jermaine Whitehead, Auburn

S

Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

Robenson Therezie, Auburn

Jalen Mills, LSU

Brison Williams, S Carolina

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

1st TEAM

2nd TEAM

3rd TEAM

4th TEAM

K

Marshall Morgan, Georgia

Colby Delahoussaye, LSU

Elliott Fry, South Carolina

Andrew Baggett, Missouri

P

Drew Kaser, Texas A&M

Kyle Christy, Florida

Collin Barber, Georgia

Sam Irwin-Hill, Arkansas

KR

Christion Jones, Alabama

Andre Debose, Florida

Trey Williams, Texas A&M

Devrin Young, Tennessee

PR

Christion Jones, Alabama

Marcus Murphy, Missouri

Demarco Robinson, Kentucky

De’Vante Harris, Texas A&M

 

Wednesday June 4, 2014 National Champions: What they're writing about the Gators

Updated: 6:38pm, June 4

Jennifer Rocha

Gators assistant coach Jennifer Rocha soaks in moment following Florida's win Tuesday.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators softball team arrived home late this afternoon and just wrapped up a  welcome-home reception at Kate Seashole Pressly Stadium.

A nice crowd turned out and the event was live streamed on the Internet. Check back for a story on GatorZone.com later.

For now, let’s take a look at what others are writing about Florida’s first national championship in softball:

--Finally, Florida Finishes First writes Graham Hays of ESPNW.com.

--‘Making their coach look good’ is the headline on this story by Roger Moore of NCAA.com.

--Rogers That: Florida softball wins national title writes Jordan McPherson of the Independent Florida Alligator.

--‘Former Shocker coach Tim Walton wins national softball title with Florida’ is headline in The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle.

--Gators sweep Crimson Tide for first softball title writes Tommy Deas in The Gainesville Sun.

--Analysts, average fans and just about anyone with an eye on the Women’s College World Series thought Florida coach Tim Walton had lost his mind writes Scott Wright of The Oklahoman.

--For an Alabama perspective, here is a story from the Birmingham News.

Tuesday June 3, 2014 Wins and Losses: The Florida-Florida State Rivalry Reviewed

Updated: 3:43pm, June 3

Gators-Noles

The Florida-Florida State rivalry -- regardless of sport -- always stirs emotion.

I’ve never asked him why. I assume to settle a bet. That’s the logical reason that first popped into my head, so I’m sticking with it.

Gators fan Chad Gullett recently asked on Facebook what Florida’s overall record against Florida State is. Not just football. Not just basketball. He wanted to know the Gators’ head-to-head record against the Seminoles in every sport.

Not all sports qualify. The Gators have a women’s lacrosse team, FSU doesn’t. And while they compete in the same tournaments and meets, the schools don’t go head-to-head in golf, track and cross country.

However, the UF-FSU rivalry plays out in other sports annually, and thanks to Florida’s sports information staff, Chad got his answer.

You can have it too. Might come in handy the next time you are trying to settle a squabble between a Gator and Seminole: 

SPORT

RECORD vs. FSU

Football

34-22-2

Men’s basketball

43-22

Women’s basketball

41-29

Baseball

104-125-1

Softball

19-14

Men’s tennis

55-20

Women’s tennis

54-1

Soccer

11-10

Volleyball

36-18

Gymnastics

2-0*

Men’s swimming

53-23-1

Women’s swimming

40-3

Combined record

492-287-4 (.631)

*FSU had a gymnastics team in the early 1970s

Kevin O'Sullivan

Gators head coach Kevin O'Sullivan has led UF to a school-record seven straight NCAA Tournaments.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Following three consecutive trips to the College World Series, 2013 was a bummer for the Gators.

They advanced to the NCAA Tournament but had barely unpacked their bags at the Bloomington (Ind.) Regional before it was time to come home.

Florida was knocked from the tournament with back-to-back losses to Austin Peay and Valparaiso, two quality programs but not exactly considered royalty in college baseball.

That’s why this year’s turnaround has been even more pronounced.

Most expected the Gators to be improved after their 29-30 finish a year ago, but who had them as a No. 2 national seed? Go ahead, raise your hand.

Didn’t think so.

You can easily make a strong case for 2014 being the best coaching job of Kevin O’Sullivan’s seven seasons at Florida.

O’Sullivan has always been at his best when managing pitching staffs, and this season he mastered that part of the game. O’Sullivan used 12 different starting pitchers, constantly searched for – and found – the right combinations in the bullpen, and in the end led Florida to a 40-21 record entering tonight’s NCAA Tournament opener against College of Charleston (7 p.m., McKethan Stadium).

Florida’s turnaround didn’t go unnoticed. O’Sullivan was named SEC Coach of the Year earlier this week.

“I feel really good about this team,’’ O’Sullivan said Thursday. “This has been an extremely gratifying season for me personally. To bounce back from last year and have so many guys contribute, so many guys lend a hand in accomplishing the goal of winning the SEC. I feel as good about this team as any others we’ve had here.”

While last season was disappointing, advancing to the tournament was important to this year’s success in O’Sullivan’s view.

The Gators kept their streak of NCAA Tournament berths alive and gained valuable experience.

“We’re trying to build a program here,” O’Sullivan said. “We want to be one of those elite teams, and we want to be in the postseason every year. This is our seventh straight year in the postseason, which is a new standard at Florida. I want this program to be recognized as one of the better programs in the country. In order to do that, you have to have consistency.”

Wednesday May 28, 2014 Gainesville Regional Preview: A closer look at the visitors

Updated: 6:04pm, May 28

Gators baseball

The Gators face College of Charleston in the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Southeastern Conference regular-champion Gators open NCAA Tournament play on Friday night at 7 against College of Charleston.

Florida is the No. 1 seed in the Gainesville Regional and No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan and multiple players are scheduled to speak to the media on Thursday morning to preview this weekend’s tournament.

The Gators qualified for the tournament for the seventh consecutive season under O’Sullivan, a school record. This marks the fifth time the Gators have hosted a regional in the last seven years.

Check back with GatorZone.com on Friday for more coverage of Florida.

For now, here is a look at this weekend’s schedule and the rest of the field:

GAINESVILLE REGIONAL

McKethan Stadium

Friday, May 30
Game 1, 1 p.m. on ESPN3: No. 2 Long Beach State (32-24) vs. No. 3 North Carolina (34-25)
Game 2, 7 p.m. on ESPN3: No. 1 Florida (40-21) vs. No. 4 College Of Charleston (41-17)

Saturday, May 31
Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner

Sunday, June 1
Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser
Game 6: Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner

Monday, June 2
Game 7: Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser (if necessary)

 

NO. 2 LONG BEACH STATE

Long Beach State logo

Record: 32-24
Conference: Big West
NCAA Tournaments: 20
Last appearance: 2008
All-time postseason: 47-39
Nickname: Dirtbags
Notable: 14 players in major leagues in 2013, most of any school
Coach: Troy Buckley (fourth season)

Notes: Finished season with five-game win streak and nine wins in last 10 games … Opened season at home against Vanderbilt and got swept by Commodores … Dirtbags have a 2.91 team ERA and set a school record by pitching 10 shutouts … Senior RHP Josh Frye (8-0, 1.51 ERA) anchors staff … Freshman SS Garrett Hampson leads team with a .316 average, senior OF Michael Hill’s eight triples are tied for NCAA lead and senior OF Richard Prigatano has team-high 45 RBIs … Long Beach State has only six home runs in 61 games, fewest of any team in Gainesville Regional … In 2005 the Dirtbags’ lineup featured future big leaguers Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop and Evan Longoria at third base … Dirtbags assistant coach Jesse Zepeda is a former teammate of Gators softball coach Tim Walton at Oklahoma.

Quote of note: “I think we’re in great position. This team has been fighting for its life for the last six weeks so they’re in a good spot to just enjoy what’s in front of them.” – Long Beach State coach Troy Buckley on landing as a No. 2 seed in Gainesville Regional

A closer look: Preview story from JJ Fiddler of The Long Beach Press-Telegram

 

NO. 3 NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina Tar Heels logo

Record: 34-25
Conference: Atlantic Coast
NCAA Tournaments: 29
Last appearance: 2013
All-time postseason:
94-62
Nickname:
Tar Heels
Notable: Six trips to the College World Series in the past eight seasons
Coach: Mike Fox (16th season)

Notes: This is UNC’s 13th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament … First time since 2010 Tar Heels open regional play on road … North Carolina’s 49 NCAA Tournament wins since 2006 lead nation; UNC has won 14 consecutive NCAA Tournament openers … Tar Heels struggled offensively with a .273 team average, UNC’s worst since 1989 … 1B Alex Raburn gives Fox a versatile player who has started all four infield positions this season … DH Tom Zengel leads team with 33 RBIs … Sophomore RHP Reilly Hovis took over for injured closer Chris McCue and was outstanding, going 8-1 with six saves and a 2.10 ERA … SS Michael Russell (.345, 4 HRs, 32 RBIs) is the toughest out in the lineup and was named to the All-ACC second team.

Quote of note: “You know, we’ve been knocked down some, but I’ve never sensed that we did not have confidence.” – Tar Heels coach Mike Fox on team’s up-and-down season

A closer look: Preview story from Andrew Carter of The Raleigh News & Observer

 

NO. 4 COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON

College of Charleston logo

Record: 41-17
Conference: Colonial Athletic Association
NCAA Tournaments: 6
Last appearance: 2012
All-time postseason:
9-10
Nickname: Cougars
Notable: An RPI of 53, nearly 100 points better than average RPI (152) of rest of No. 4 seeds
Coach: Monte Lee (sixth season)

Notes: Won CAA Tournament in its first season in league; moved to CAA from Southern Conference … Cougars have hit 34 home runs, most of any team in Gainesville Regional … RHP Taylor Clarke (10-3, 2.65 ERA, 86 Ks) scheduled to face Gators on Friday; Clarke returned to form after missing all of 2013 season following Tommy John surgery … Freshman 6-foot-8 RHP Bailey Ober (9-2, 1.37 ERA) was named CAA Freshman of Year … 3B Carl Wise finished second in the CAA with 52 RBIs … LF Brandon Murray (.270, 6 HRs, 22 RBIs) is back after missing six weeks with a broken arm … Cougars a much better home team (28-7) than road team (11-10) … Only five active players remain from Cougars team that played in Gainesville Regional in 2012 (did not face the Gators)

Quote of note: “I feel like he can compete with anybody in the country. To be honest, it wasn’t something we had to think too hard about.’’ – Cougars coach Monte Lee on decision to start Clarke in Friday’s opener

A closer look: Preview story from Andrew Miller of The Charleston Post and Courier

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