Thursday October 15, 2015 Steve Spurrier: What they wrote about Head Ball Coach after he exited center stage
Updated: 3:41pm, October 15
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Updated: 3:41pm, October 15
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The resignation of Steve Spurrier as South Carolina's head coach closed the book -- at least for now -- on one of the most successful and colorful coaching careers in college football history.
Spurrier is a true original and took Gator fans on an amazing ride for 12 seasons when he returned to his alma mater in 1990 as head coach. The Gators won big and Spurrier talked a good game and backed it up on Saturdays.
Before the 70-year-old Spurrier moves onto whatever is next, I've collected links to some of the best retrospective stories on him since his announcement.
Hope you enjoy some of these reads, which feature varying views of the Head Ball Coach and his place in the sport's lore:
--Spurrier sat down for an exclusive interview in his office on Wednesday with Josh Kendall of The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reflecting on the past and future.
--Over the years Spurrier said a lot, but never anything he didn't mean writes Matt Hayes, a former Gators beat writer, of The Sporting News
--Spurrier was a college football coach you could dance to writes Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel.
--So long to Spurrier: A legend, an innovator and a quitter writes Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com.
--The legendary and transformative career of Spurrier from a former Gators walk-on offensive lineman, Sports Illustrated writer Andy Staples.
--Spurrier is one of last true originals writes Martin Fennelly of The Tampa Tribune.
--Spurrier's early exit is self-serving writes Tom Jones of The Tampa Bay Times.
--Spurrier's visor legacy, an exhaustive investigation from Dave Wilson of ESPN.com.
--It was time for Spurrier to step away writes Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun.
--No hesitation by Head Ball Coach, even in departing writes Gene Frenette of The Florida Times-Union.
--Spurrier's retirement shows the value of a life basking in the fun writes Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post.
--Spurrier stories are legion writes Tony Barnhart of GridironNow.com.
--Behind the smirk was often a likable Spurrier writes David Cloninger of The State (S.C.) newspaper.
--Saturdays won't be the same without Spurrier writes Chris Low of ESPN.com.
--Spurrier was the most important Gator of all ($) writes Gary Shelton, former longtime columnist of The St. Petersburg Times ($).
--Spurrier's Fun 'n' Gun brought football evolution to the SEC writes Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com.
--The 15 best trash-talk quotes from Spurrier via Nate Scott of USAToday.com.
--Spurrier, former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer found common ground writes David Climer of The Tennessean.
--Spurrier's exit means Saturdays won't be same writes Linda Robertson of The Miami Herald.
--Spurrier changed face of SEC, then walked out the back door writes Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
--What SEC coaches are saying about Spurrier writes Creg Stephenson of AL.com.
--So long, Head Ball Coach writes Michael Weinreb of Grantland.com.
--Spurrier knew better than other coaches not to linger writes Dan Wolken of USA Today.
--There will never be another ball coach quite like Spurrier writes Chuck Culpepper of The Washington Post.
Updated: 12:43pm, October 21
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The news Monday afternoon that Gators quarterback Will Grier was suspended indefinitely for the use of a substance banned by the NCAA sent shockwaves across Gator Nation and college football.
Grier has helped the No. 8-ranked Gators (6-0, 4-0 SEC) get off to a stunning start entering Saturday’s showdown at No. 6 LSU (5-0, 3-0). Sophomore Treon Harris will take over as Florida’s starting quarterback in Grier’s absence.
As is often the case in the fast-paced digital age, a lot of innuendo and misinformation erupted on social media in the wake of the Grier news.
Here is an attempt to clear up some of the misinformation and perhaps answer questions you have in regard to Grier’s suspension:
How long is Grier suspended?
The penalty for a positive NCAA-administered test for performance-enhancing drugs is the loss of one full year of competition.
Is the drug Grier tested positive for Ligandrol?
No. Despite various reports stating otherwise, Ligandrol, classified as a performance-enhancer by the NCAA, is not the banned substance Grier took.
Can Grier appeal the suspension?
Yes. Student-athletes can appeal the result and, if ruled in their favor, either have the sanction reduced or eliminated.
Can Grier practice with the team while suspended?
Yes. He can continue to practice with the team and participate in workouts, but Grier is ineligible to travel as part of the team.
Has Grier gained more than 40 pounds since he arrived at UF as reported widely on social media Monday?
No. When Grier enrolled at UF in January 2014 and took his first physical, his official height and weight was 6-foot-2, 183 pounds. In August 2015, Grier checked in at 6-2, 203 pounds.
How often does the NCAA drug test student-athletes?
The NCAA randomly drug tests student-athletes for performance-enhancing drugs usually once or twice a year. Per University Athletic Association policy, UF student-athletes are drug tested at least once each semester they are enrolled.
Editor's note: As information becomes available, we will add questions and answers that may be pertinent.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier, who returned to his alma mater in 1990 and led the Gators to their first national championship in 1996, is retiring according to several major media outlets.
Sports Illustrated broke the news Monday night.
The 1966 Heisman Trophy winner, Spurrier finished his 12-year run at UF with a 122-27-1 record. He remains the school’s all-time winningest coach.
Spurrier is in his 11th season as South Carolina’s head coach and is one of two active FBS coaches to be the all-time winningest coach at two schools. Gary Pinkel (Toledo and Missouri) is the other.
The Gamecocks are off to a 2-4 start, 0-4 in the Southeastern Conference after Saturday’s loss at LSU.
The 70-year-old Spurrier left Florida after the 2001 season and spent two seasons as head coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. After going 12-20 in Washington, Spurrier returned to college football at South Carolina in 2005.
The Gamecocks won their first SEC East championship in 2010, clinching the division crown with a 36-14 victory over the Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, which Spurrier nicknamed “The Swamp” in 1992.
First-year Gators head coach Jim McElwain got to know Spurrier during a trip to ESPN in July that I was fortunate enough to be on. Here is the story I wrote that day.
As news of Spurrier's retirement started to spread on social media Monday night, reaction was swift.
Danny Wuerffel, who will be linked forever with Spurrier as the Gators' starting quarterback when Florida vaulted to the top of the college football world, sent out the following tweet:
Thanks @SC_HBC Spurrier for all you've done for college football...and for me. Your impact on me changed the trajectory of my life.— Danny Wuerffel (@DannyWuerffel) October 13, 2015
Check out GatorZone.com on Tuesday for more coverage of Spurrier’s retirement and his place in Florida football history.
Updated: 6:47pm, October 12
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier, whose steady play has helped the No. 8-ranked Gators get off to a 6-0 start, has been suspended indefinitely for the use of an over-the-counter substance banned by the NCAA.
Grier made an appearance at head coach Jim McElwain's delayed Monday press conference and addressed the suspension.
"I really hope people can learn from this and learn from my mistake,'' an emotional Grier said. "I'm really sorry to everyone. Really sorry."
With Grier unavailable for Florida’s SEC showdown at No. 6-ranked LSU on Saturday, sophomore Treon Harris will start. Harris started the season opener against New Mexico State and finished 14 of 19 for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
Grier has emerged as Florida’s starter since making his first career start in a 31-24 victory over East Carolina on Sept. 12. He has completed 106 of 161 passes (65.8 percent) for 1,204 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Grier was 20 of 33 for 208 yards in Saturday’s 21-3 victory at Missouri.
Per NCAA rules, student-athletes who fail an NCAA-administered drug test are "withheld from competition for a full season." McElwain said the school plans to appeal. If Grier missed a full year, he would be eligible to return midseason 2016 and be classified as a redshirt sophomore.
"It’s something that he feels horrible about. It’s an honest mistake and yet can be prevented by just checking with our medical staff,'' McElwain said. "Want everybody to understand that this is a mistake we’ll learn from. We feel for him. We feel his pain.
"He had a chance to address the team and spoke from the heart. For this football team, it means next guy up."
As news broke of Grier’s suspension Monday afternoon, LSU coach Les Miles reacted during a press conference in Baton Rouge.
“We expect the core plays are the same,’’ Miles said. “Very capable running back. Would suggest passing be the same.”
Chad Grier, Will's father and his head coach at Davidson Day School in North Carolina, posted a tweet late Monday afternoon:
Thank you for the great support of Will and our Family! Honest mistake but a mistake nonetheless. Proud of him for owning it. Jeremiah 29:11— Chad Grier (@ChadGrier_) October 12, 2015
Check out GatorZone.com later today for more on this story.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators are back in the top 10.
Unranked three weeks ago, Florida entered the AP Top 25 at No. 25 after a dramatic 28-27 come-from-behind victory over Tennessee on Sept. 26. The Gators jumped a school-record 14 spots in the poll after their 38-10 victory over then-No. 3 Ole Miss the following week.
And after Saturday’s 21-3 victory at two-time defending SEC East champion Missouri, the Gators moved up three more spots (from No. 11 to No. 8) in this week’s AP Top 25.
The No. 8-ranked Gators (6-0, 4-0) play at No. 6 LSU (5-0, 3-0) on Saturday night.
This is the first time the Gators have been ranked in the top 10 since they were No. 3 heading into a loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 2013.
Florida is No. 11 in the latest Amway Coaches Poll.
WHAT THEY’RE WRITING
Here are some fresh links covering the Gators after Saturday’s road win at Missouri:
--Florida keeps surprising and rising up the ranks writes Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.
--Michigan, Florida are ahead of schedule writes Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com.
--The Big Leap: FCS graduate transfer Mason Halter thriving on Florida O-line writes Andy Staples of SportsIllustrated.com.
--Gators in SEC East driver’s seat after clinical win over Missouri writes Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel.
--Gators Beast of East writes Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.
--Florida’s defense locks down Missouri writes Nick De La Torre of GatorCountry.com.
--Never Satisfied: Gators want 6-0 start to be just the beginning writes Graham Hall of The Independent Florida Alligator.
Updated: 12:54pm, October 8
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Once his days as a player were over, Lindy Infante spent a year working toward an architecture degree. However, when an opportunity to coach was offered, Infante changed directions.
“Well, here is the fork in the road, what are you going to do?” Infante asked rhetorically in 2013 prior to his induction into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame. “I chose coaching.”
Infante died Thursday in St. Augustine after a long illness according to The Associated Press. He was 75. Infante played at Florida from 1960-62 and later returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach from 1968-71.
He was inducted into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame in 2013 in Jacksonville. Here is a Q&A I did with Infante for GatorZone.com.
RIP TO MY FORMER COACH LINDY INFANTE— leroy butler (@leap36) October 8, 2015
Infante served twice as an NFL head coach, first in Green Bay from 1988-91, and then with Indianapolis in 1996-97. He was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1989 after leading the Packers to their only 10-win season between 1973 and 1995.
The UAA released the following statement after confirming Infante's death: "Gator Nation has a heavy heart today after learning of the passing of Lindy Infante. Florida fans have great memories of Lindy as both a player and a coach, and he’ll forever be remembered for the countless lives he touched."
Thoughts, love & prayers to Stephanie & family on passing of coach & friend Lindy Infante. He was the consummate father, husband & coach.— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) October 8, 2015
We offer our condolences to Infante’s wife of 50 years, Stephanie, and his family and friends.
Updated: 10:33am, October 8
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- One of the more entertaining aspects of Gators head coach Jim McElwain is that you never really know where he is going to take a question.
Sometimes he answers with a metaphor or analogy. Sometimes he doesn't answer at all, and tosses it back to the enquiring mind. And sometimes he ventures so far off the beaten path that those waiting on an X's and O's answer are left befuddled.
This week alone McElwain has referenced the oldies band The Cyrcle, their most famous song, "Red Rubber Ball," U-Hauls, his old Pinto he drove as a kid, and belly rubs. He was known to do the same during three years at Colorado State.
McElwain delivered perhaps his best off-topic topic on Wednesday after practice in a very detailed breakdown of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
If she were still with us, Forrest Gump's mom might say, "A Jim McElwain press conference is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get."
A glimpse into why:
Updated: 9:02am, October 7
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Whenever former Gators star Emmitt Smith returns to campus it’s always a special event.
Smith rarely made it back to UF during his 15-year NFL career in which he finished as the league’s all-time leading rusher.
Smith was on the sideline Saturday during Florida’s 38-10 victory over Ole Miss and first-year Gators head coach Jim McElwain was thrilled.
The 53-year-old McElwain isn’t much older than Smith, 46, but he felt like a 10-year-old when he met Smith for the first time on Friday.
“Shoot, I was a little giddy,’’ McElwain said. “I had a chance to meet one of the best ever at his position. Never would have thought that would happen.”
Smith spoke to the team on Friday and hung out in the locker room prior to Florida’s upset of the then-No. 3 Rebels.
Florida safety Marcus Maye appreciated Smith coming to town to cheer on his alma mater. Smith played for Florida from 1987-89 and earned his degree in 1995 after his fifth season with the Dallas Cowboys.
“Having an NFL great and Gator great come back and share some knowledge and some of his experience with us, it was awesome because you don’t get that everywhere,’’ Maye said. “To have Emmitt on the sideline, having that performance in front of him, he was excited to see it.”
Former UF players Thaddeus Bullard, Matt Elam and Dominique Easley were also in attendance. Easley performed the role of Honorary Mr. Two Bits prior to the game.
McElwain hasn’t been around UF's program long, but he hopes more former Gators visit to link the program’s past to its present and future.
“I love the Gators coming back,” McElwain said. “Our guys got to understand they’re carrying on a legacy that’s bigger than them.”
Updated: 7:55pm, October 2
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Antonio Callaway arrived on campus over the summer to little fanfare compared to notable 2015 Florida signees such as CeCe Jefferson, Martez Ivey and Jordan Scarlett.
Callaway was a just a ragamuffin three-star recruit, the kind of guy who signs and then watches ESPN do live interviews with the nation’s top recruits.
Besides recruitniks and those who follow Miami-area prep football closely, Callaway was likely an unknown to many Gator fans until they saw him catch a fourth-down pass from Will Grier, turn up field and race to the end zone for a 63-yard game-winning touchdown in last week’s victory over Tennessee.
If Callaway never catches another pass, his place in Florida football lore is secure.
But talk to those who know Callaway best, and nothing about what he has done in his first four college games surprises them. Callaway has nine catches and is averaging 19.1 yards per reception. He caught five passes for 112 yards against Tennessee, becoming UF’s first true freshman receiver to eclipse 100 yards in a game since Reidel Anthony in 1994.
“Since he stepped on here man, I say he Amari Cooper in the making,’’ senior linebacker Antonio Morrison said. “Just watch that. Remember I said that. Amari Cooper from Bama, that’s him.”
Morrison’s praise perhaps borders on hyperbole at this early stage, but his words reveal how much Callaway’s teammates respect him.
A freshman receiver who played his senior season at Booker T. Washington High in Miami, first-year Florida receivers coach Kerry Dixon first crossed paths with Callaway during Callaway’s junior season at Homestead High.
“I’ve known Antonio for a while,” Dixon said. “I was actually his second offer when I was at FIU and he was at Homestead.”
As running backs coach at FIU last season, Dixon recruited heavily in South Florida and Callaway instantly jumped onto his wish-list.
Callaway instead signed with the Gators and shortly after National Signing Day in February, Dixon was Jim McElwain’s final hire to round out his coaching staff.
Dixon then turned into teacher as Callaway began to impress his new team.
“Everyone was surprised initially with his athletic ability and how well he plays the game,’’ Dixon said. “That was something I saw on his junior film. It’s starting to show up. Now that he’s starting to understand the game, starting to understand the importance of route running and how to get separation, it’s helping him to really grow and become what I saw from him as a [high school] junior.”
When Callaway joined the program and started to work out with the players over the summer, Florida sophomore cornerback Quincy Wilson knew exactly what to expect.
He told his teammates in Florida’s talented secondary to watch out.
“I played against him my senior year of high school when he was at Homestead,’’ Wilson said. “He had a long catch on us. Going against him in the summer, I knew he was going to be something special. I knew he could play.”
Callaway impressed his teammates with his serious approach. He looked like a freshman but didn’t play like one.
“He’s hungry,’’ Wilson said. “He looks to get open. He wants to catch the ball and get yards. He is really about business.”
Callaway has started all four games and has at least one catch in three of them. He has also flashed an ability to be a dangerous punt returner, including a 37-yarder at Kentucky.
Callaway’s locker is next to junior tailback Kelvin Taylor's. Unlike Wilson and Dixon, Taylor had never heard of Callaway before they became teammates.
Now he looks at him as a little brother.
“He is going to be great. He’s got all the intangibles the great receivers need,’’ Taylor said. “He’s a fast learner in how he processes stuff. And he’s fast. No one really gives him credit for his speed.”
Callaway studies a lot of film on his own and Taylor said in offensive meetings, Callaway usually has a notebook out jotting down reminders.
That’s when Taylor knew Callaway wasn’t your typical freshman.
“He is very mature. He don’t act his age at all,’’ Taylor said. “He’ll walk around the stadium and he’s like a grown man in everything about the way he prepares. He’s always focused when it’s time to focus and he can play around when it’s time to play around.
“I think that’s what makes great.”
Updated: 9:12pm, September 30
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Florida-Ole Miss matchup on Saturday features one of the most hyped receivers in college football. Ole Miss junior Laquon Treadwell is a preseason All-American and leads the Rebels with 22 catches for 332 yards.
Meanwhile, the perception is that Florida’s receiving corps is short on talent and has been for several seasons.
First-year Gators receivers coach Kerry Dixon has a different outlook.
“I had to hear that a lot. The lack of talent at the position,’’ Dixon said Wednesday. “When I look at it, it’s not a lack of talent, it’s a lack of consistency.”
Dixon is Florida’s seventh different receivers coach in seven seasons, a span that includes three head coaches and five offensive coordinators.
Dixon was head coach Jim McElwain's final hire as McElwain assembled his staff over the winter. Building stability with the position group was important.
"They needed someone that they knew was going to be there and teach them the details of all the things it takes to be successful to play the position,'' McElwain said. "A lot of that is understanding details. Kerry has done a great job in helping those guys."
In his brief time in charge of the receivers, Dixon has tried to develop relationships first.
“I was well aware of what I was getting myself into,’’ he said. “That inconsistency sometimes hurt you. In this game nowadays, [players] want to know how much you care before they listen at all. They don’t care how much you know. They want to know how much you care.”
Evidence is starting to surface that Dixon’s approach is working.
True freshman Antonio Callaway, whose 63-yard catch-and-run touchdown electrified The Swamp in Florida’s 28-27 win over Tennessee, has emerged as a playmaker. Sophomore Brandon Powell, who made the move from running back to receiver, has been a steady performer early in the season.
Powell is second on the team with 12 catches and is tied with tight end C’yontai Lewis for the team lead in touchdown receptions (two). Powell’s biggest play so far is his block on Callaway’s game-winning touchdown against the Vols.
“That’s the most important thing on that play,’’ Dixon said.
The Florida receiver most often critiqued by fans and the media is junior Demarcus Robinson, whose physical gifts are obvious. However, Robinson has a tendency to fade into the background during games and drop routine passes.
Still, Robinson leads the Gators with 20 receptions for 153 yards. Dixon meets with Robinson one-on-one weekly as part of his continued development.
He has also implemented some teaching methods that immediately caught on in the meeting room: a drop chart and production points scoreboard.
McElwain was not pleased at the number of drops early in camp and the Gators have worked at taking extra reps on the jugs machine.
“We chart every drop, whether it’s routes-on-air, in a drill, whether it’s in any team situation,’’ he said. “We chart every single one of them and we actually post it so they can see it. Everyone can see it. You see where you are. There are no call-outs because everybody already sees it. You know where you have to work. It’s accountability, so you have to own up to it and get better at it.”
The production chart tallies points for everything from catches to blocks to route-running assignments.
The competition between the receivers is now a part of their regular dialogue in meetings.
“They get points for that type of stuff and it encourages them to do it more often,’’ Dixon said. “One thing I know is that the first time I put the production chart up, they were really competing to see who got the most production points. That’s something they discuss. They say it’s like their report card. They come in and they want to see what type of grade they have.”
No different than the way McElwain calls the offense a “work in progress,” the receivers have a lot of room for improvement. Dixon is working to get junior Ahmad Fulwood, Florida’s biggest receiver at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, more involved.
Most of all, he is trying to build consistency within the group that the coaching carousel at the position prevented.
“Anytime you have that much turnover at one spot, then those guys are hearing so much different stuff,’’ he said. “They are being taught totally different things all the time. Once you get consistency in your life in anything you do, then the better it is. You can start to reach your full potential.”
Updated: 4:56pm, September 29
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Deiondre Porter was dressed for work.
Still, he probably got some strange looks from fans as he made his way into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday during Gator Walk.
Like his teammates, Porter wore the game-day attire implemented by first-year head coach Jim McElwain: boat shoes, tan khakis and a blue button-up Florida shirt.
However, Florida's redshirt freshman cornerback added a special accessory: a sombrero.
"It's a good-looking hat,'' McElwain said Monday.
That depends on your fashion sense. But for the Gators, the sombrero has special meaning.
"You know how each week there are certain guys, who knows how many plays they are going to play, but they need to show up,'' McElwain said. "They are wearing the sombrero."
Porter played an important role on special teams against Tennessee, which entered the game averaging nearly 40 yards per kickoff return.
The final stat sheet from Florida's 28-27 win shows Porter finished with one tackle, but according to McElwain, he lived up to the responsibility that comes with wearing the sombrero.
"This guy on special teams, when called on, did his job,'' McElwain said. "We're having guys understand from a selfish standpoint, it isn't about how many plays you play, it's about the quality in which you play.
"And [when you wear the sombrero] everybody on the team knows how important your role, your job, and how important you doing your job [is]. So it's symbolic. In this particular case, he had some huge roles for us in that game. I'm proud of him."
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's comeback win over Tennessee on Saturday night -- and its 4-0 start -- earned the Gators a return to the national rankings on Sunday.
Florida hosts No. 3-ranked Ole Miss (AP Top 25) on Saturday in another big early season test. The Rebels (4-0) defeated Vanderbilt 27-16 Saturday and already have a road win at Alabama.
Florida is off to its first 4-0 start in three years thanks to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Tennessee. The Gators trailed 27-14 in the fourth quarter before quarterback Will Grier led the Gators on a pair of touchdowns in the final 10 minutes.
Grier's 63-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Callaway with 1:26 put the Gators in front. Tennessee missed a potential game-winning field goal on the game's final play.
Florida's return to the national polls has been two years in the making. The Gators dropped out of the national rankings after a loss at Missouri in Week 7 of the 2013 season. Florida finished 4-8 during an injury-plagued season.
During a 7-5 season in 2014, the Gators never cracked the national rankings.
Updated: 10:57pm, September 24
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Will Grier’s grip on the Gators' quarterback job got tighter Wednesday.
At least for the Tennessee game.
Florida head coach Jim McElwain announced after practice that sophomore quarterback Treon Harris and sophomore defensive back Jalen Tabor will not play Saturday.
“They chose not to play in this ballgame,’’ McElwain said. “It's a choice. Each one of us have a choice, and they made a choice to do whatever. It hurts, because we've got a lot of guys that really care about this team, and we'll have to have some of the guys to step up and play.”
Harris and Tabor will serve one-game suspensions for undisclosed reasons and McElwain said “they will be back the following week.”
Harris led the Gators to a 10-9 comeback win over the Vols last season, replacing starter Jeff Driskel in the second half and directing the Gators on a pair of scoring drives.
Harris started the final six games of last season and the season opener against New Mexico State. He played much of the second half against East Carolina but did not play in last week’s 14-9 win at Kentucky as Grier went the distance.
Harris is 19 of 27 for 269 yards and two touchdowns. He also is fifth on the team with 55 rushing yards.
With Harris unavailable against the Vols, graduate transfer Josh Grady will serve as Grier’s backup on Saturday. Grady has rushed twice for 21 yards and thrown one pass for three yards in Florida’s first three games.
Grady opened preseason camp at quarterback but took most of his reps at receiver as camp progressed. Grady played quarterback and receiver at Vanderbilt prior to transferring to Florida for his final year of eligibility over the summer.
“Obviously that things you out at the quarterback position,’’ McElwain said of losing Harris. “But that’s why we make sure to work our Gator Tail stuff and have some packages for Josh to be ready to go in. Feel good about that.”
As for Grier, he is 39 of 57 for 442 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in his first three college games. He is second on the team with 114 yards rushing after leading the Gators with 61 yards on the ground at Kentucky.
This is an opportunity for Grier to distance himself from Harris in a quarterback battle that started in spring practice, continued in preseason camp and extended into the first two games.
“He’s going to have an opportunity to run the ship,’’ McElwain said.
McElwain confirmed Wednesday that former Oregon State quarterback Luke Del Rio, who transferred to UF over the summer, must sit out this season after not receiving a waiver from the NCAA.
The loss of Tabor means once again the Florida secondary will be without a primary contributor. Due to injuries and suspensions, Florida was absent at least one key member of the secondary until safety Keanu Neal made his season debut at Kentucky. Neal missed the first two games with a leg injury.
Still, sophomore cornerback Quincy Wilson and redshirt freshman Deiondre Porter can play opposite Vernon Hargreaves III. Tabor has 10 tackles, four pass break-ups and returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown in the victory over East Carolina.
“Defensively, we’ve got some guys,’’ McElwain said. “Really, where it’s going to hurt a lot is probably the depth on special teams. Deiondre Porter’s got to step up.
“Somebody else gets to play. That’s it. Disappointed? Yeah, but there again, we all have choices and decisions to make in everything we do. It wasn’t anything we did. The team didn’t do. I feel bad for the team is who I feel bad for.”
Updated: 9:32am, September 23
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – There was a lot of open field in front of Kentucky receiver Dorian Baker after he caught a fourth-and-3 pass from Patrick Towles on the Wildcats’ final drive Saturday night.
Baker gained 20 yards on the play, but if not for a shoestring tackle by Gators defensive back Marcus Maye, the damage could have been much worse.
Maye’s tackle dropped Baker at Kentucky’s 47-yard line, and from there the Wildcats moved backward in Florida’s 14-9 win.
“There were a lot of individual plays that stood out, but one of the things that really kind of maybe went unnoticed a bit was when [linebacker] Jeremi Powell went down, we got into a bunch more dime,’’ Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “Some of the formational things [Kentucky did] forced Marcus Maye to come in and play Mike linebacker based on formations.
“What he did in that game at that position was something that should be written about. He made some really good open-field tackles on plays that broke.”
A redshirt junior, Maye had eight tackles and a quarterback hurry in one of his best games. With Powell out because of a foot injury and linebacker Alex Anzalone sidelined due to a shoulder injury, Maye is expected to see additional reps at linebacker on Saturday when the Gators are in their dime package against Tennessee.
The 6-foot, 207-pound Maye is not intimidated by the opportunity to get more physical by playing closer to the line of scrimmage.
“I feel like, it’s closer to the ball, more action,’’ Maye said after Tuesday’s practice. “It just allows all the DBs to be on the field at one time covering. They started throwing the ball around a lot. Once I got out there I started to get used to the position, I got the hang of it.”
Cornerback Quincy Wilson made a game-clinching interception four plays after Maye’s tackle kept Baker from running full-speed ahead toward the end zone.
Maye’s performance did not surprise Wilson.
“We have confidence that he’ll get the job done,’’ Wilson said. “He can play anywhere on the field and we’re just going to put him in the right position to make plays that we need.”
Maye’s 13 tackles through three games rank third on the team behind linebackers Jarrad Davis (24) and Antonio Morrison (18).
The Gators are 1-4 in their last five SEC home games and are determined to make The Swamp one of the country’s most feared venues again.
The Gators opened the season with a pair of home victories against New Mexico State and East Carolina, but they know with Tennessee coming to town Saturday, the intensity turns up a notch.
Senior receiver Valdez Showers said Tuesday that McElwain urges the Gators to “restore the order.”
Maye remembers as a true freshman watching the Gators go 7-0 at home as he redshirted in 2012. When the Swamp is rocking, the Gators clearly have an advantage.
“You win more games, people want to come out and see you,’’ he said. “The more we win, the better we play, the more fans we get in the stands, just a better environment at home.”
Redshirt junior kicker Austin Hardin entered the season with as good a grip on job security as perhaps any player on the roster in McElwain’s first season.
He’s one of only two kickers on the roster and the backup, redshirt freshman walk-on Jorge Powell, has never appeared in a game.
Hardin is off to a shaky start, missing three of his first six attempts. Hardin had a 34-yard field goal blocked at Kentucky. On the previous snap, he made a kick from 29 yards but the play was wiped out due to a delay-of-game penalty. On the next play, Hardin’s low kick was blocked by Kentucky’s Cory Johnson.
Hardin also had an extra-point attempt blocked against New Mexico State.
“The missed field goals are something that are starting to become a concern,’’ McElwain said. “I’ll be straight up. The low trajectory, I mean, it’s not like there’s a block issue in there as far as the schematics of protecting. The delay-of-game penalty should have never happened.”
Hardin is now 14 of 28 in his career. The upside: 15 of Hardin’s 20 kickoffs have been touchbacks.
Hardin’s ability to kick the ball deep into the end zone could play an important role Saturday. Tennessee leads the SEC and ranks third in the country in kickoff return average (39.3 yards per return) … Florida’s 50 yards in sacks at Kentucky was its most since dropping Ohio State for 51 yards in the 2007 BCS National Championship game … The Gators are plus-14 in turnover ratio during their 10-game win streak over Tennessee.
Updated: 2:11pm, September 22
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Junior linebacker Jarrad Davis isn’t known as a headliner.
In his first two seasons, Davis started only twice and missed the final part of last season following knee surgery.
And with Florida’s talented secondary and deep defensive line garnering their share of attention, Davis can be overlooked.
I had the pleasure of joining former Florida standouts Max Starks and Ben Troupe on their new Gators podcast at huddlecasts.com on Sunday night to review Florida’s 14-9 victory at Kentucky.
Starks and Troupe update their top 11 Gators after each game and in our conversation, I suggested that if Davis wasn’t on their list, he should be added.
Davis has a team-leading 24 tackles through three games – matching his career-high set as a freshman in 2013 – and has been spectacular the past two games.
Florida head coach Jim McElwain is a big fan already.
“Isn’t he fun to watch? I mean, that play on the speed sweep … he came and shot out of a cannon on that son of a gun,’’ McElwain said Monday.
He was referring to a second-and-goal for the Wildcats on the final play of the third quarter. Kentucky trailed 14-3 and was threatening to trim the lead when Davis blew across the line of scrimmage and into the backfield to drop running back Jojo Kemp for a 3-yard loss.
Kentucky had to settle for a field goal.
With linebackers Alex Anzalone (shoulder) and Jeremi Powell (foot) out for Saturday's game against Tennessee, Davis and fellow linebacker Antonio Morrison will be tested even more, and McElwain praised safety Marcus Maye for his performance in filling the void in certain defensive packages at Kentucky after Powell went down.
Davis did draw attention for his play in the East Carolina victory, but more for his takedown of teammate Alex McCalister to preserve the victory than for his career-high 12 tackles.
When a similar situation unfolded on Saturday as cornerback Quincy Wilson intercepted a pass in the final minute, Wilson returned the interception 11 yards before hitting the deck.
“I made the interception and I’m looking for a touchdown,’’ Wilson said. “But I heard all the coaches and everyone saying, ‘get down.’ JD was on his way to get me.”
The way Davis has played the past two games, if you’re in his neighborhood, watch out.
He’ll likely tackle you.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier will make his second consecutive start when the Gators face Kentucky on Saturday night in their Southeastern Conference opener.
Grier completed 10 of 17 passes for 151 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in his first career start, a 31-24 victory over East Carolina last week. Sophomore Treon Harris started the opener, a 61-13 victory over New Mexico State.
In a quarterback battle that has extended into the regular season, Grier is 26-for-35 for 317 yards, four touchdowns and an interception after two games. Harris is 19-for-27 for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Harris has 55 yards rushing, and Grier, 53.
The Gators have a plan to play both quarterbacks Saturday.
The Florida-Kentucky game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the SEC Network.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – If you have followed the Gators closely on social media this week, you know one of the most popular questions has been how much will Kelvin Taylor play at Kentucky.
When Florida’s weekly depth chart was released Monday, Taylor was dropped to third behind true freshmen Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite at tailback.
This in the wake of Florida head coach Jim McElwain’s very public outburst at Taylor following his 15-yard penalty for a throat-slash in last weekend’s 31-24 victory over East Carolina.
If No. 21 is your favorite Gator, McElwain said you can rest easy until kickoff Saturday night against the Wildcats.
“There may be some other guys over the course of time that may be anointed as whatever they are, but there’s certain things that you just kind of send a message a little bit,’’ McElwain said. “But he’ll play a ton.”
Taylor has accounted for 48 percent of the carries from the backfield trio (24 of 50) with a team-high 109 yards and two touchdowns. Cronkrite has 71 yards on 14 carries and Scarlett 58 yards on 12 carries.
“Our rep count there at that position has been pretty good,’’ McElwain said. “We’re going to try and stay on that same thing and keep them all fresh. And there again, hopefully go with the hot hand.”
As for Taylor, McElwain voiced remorse this week at the way he handled delivering his message to the junior running back, son of former Gators All-American Fred Taylor.
Based on what he said Wednesday, Taylor has responded well and will be heavily involved in Saturday’s game plan against the Wildcats.
“He’s been good. I think the one thing that gets lost in all this is what a great person, what a great player, what a great teammate Kelvin Taylor is,’’ McElwain said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t miss anything. He’s always there early. It’s important to him. His teammates respect the heck out of him, and that’s what you want.
“He’s a wonderful guy to be around and it’s important to him. And another thing, the Gators mean a lot to him. A lot. That’s pretty cool.”
Updated: 6:39pm, September 16
Updated (6:30 p.m.)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In his last scheduled press conference prior to Saturday night's game at Kentucky, Gators head coach Jim McElwain delivered some good news on the injury front regarding freshman offensive lineman Martez Ivey.
"He's good to go. He practiced all week,'' McElwain said. "We haven't set the rotation there yet, but he'll play. We'll see how it feels in the morning obviously. This is really only two hard practices on it. He looks like he's ready to me, but that's obviously our trainers' and doctors' calls as well."
Meanwhile, tight end C'yontai Lewis has an injured hand that has put his availability in jeopardy for Saturday. McElwain said Lewis wore a "club" on the hand at Wednesday's practice. Finally, running back Case Harrison (thumb) is out due to an injured thumb, a loss that McElwain says will hurt on special teams.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida head coach Jim McElwain, on his regular appearance on the SEC media teleconference Wednesday, said junior linebacker Alex Anzalone is “doubtful” for Saturday’s game at Kentucky. He then ruled him out in addressing the media following Wednesday's practice.
Anzalone left the East Carolina game in the first half Saturday due to a shoulder injury. Anzalone has six tackles in the first two games and has emerged as one of the team’s defensive leaders.
“That’s a recurrence of a pre-existing injury that he’d had for a couple years,’’ McElwain said. "That's a big loss. That guy's a good player. We need to get him back. Obviously he won't be going this week. There is not a timeframe on it yet."
With Anzalone sidelined, linebackers Daniel McMillian, Jeremi Powell and Anthony Harrell could see more playing time. McElwain said earlier this week the Gators likely will play more dime and nickel packages if Anzalone is unable to play.
“It’s hard for us to replace a guy like that but we’ve just got to make sure that we play to the best of our ability,’’ Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis said. “It’s just going to take everybody’s best effort every time we step out there on the field or we’ll let games slip.”
Meanwhile, freshman offensive lineman Martez Ivey and junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III returned to practice this week.
Hargreaves missed the East Carolina game due to a leg injury but appears likely to play Saturday. As for Ivey, one of Florida’s top recruits recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and missed the first two games.
McElwain sounded optimistic Wednesday that Ivey is close to returning.
“Martez actually played very well [Tuesday] and this morning, the response on that particular injury showed very good," McElwain said. "In other words, there wasn't a lot of recap on that."
Updated: 6:52pm, September 16
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jim McElwain has seen what junior receiver Ahmad Fulwood can do when he runs around people. Fulwood scored an 86-yard touchdown when he took a quick screen pass in the Birmingham Bowl and outran East Carolina defenders to the end zone.
But in preseason camp, McElwain challenged the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Fulwood to show another side to his game. More specifically, the physical side.
The Gators had 14 players catch a pass in the season opener, but Fulwood, a junior from Jacksonville, was not one of them. In a rematch with East Carolina on Saturday, Fulwood showed up with two catches for 15 yards.
Those aren’t exactly eye-opening numbers from Florida’s 31-24 victory over the Pirates.
Still, Fulwood raised some eyebrows on one of the catches – and he lost a contact in the process.
On first-and-15 from East Carolina’s 28-yard line late in the second quarter, Fulwood took a screen pass from quarterback Treon Harris behind the line of scrimmage and charged ahead like a bull racing through the streets of Pamplona.
East Carolina defensive back Rocco Scarfone – all 5-8, 178 pounds of him – paid the price when he tried to tackle Fulwood.
“That was just some built up stuff,’’ Fulwood said Tuesday after practice. “No one has really seen that side of me. A lot of people were kind of blown back by it.”
After practice Wednesday, McElwain was asked if Fulwood has shown more confidence in this week in light of the praise he received for his aggressive play Saturday.
"He's doing good,'' McElwain said. "I just look at that one aggressive play, 'OK, now go up and command the ball.' He's a guy that plays all positions, very intelligent, knows the game plan. When his number is called ... go make the play."
Fulwood ran over Scarfone to pick up three additional yards on what turned into an 8-yard reception. Fulwood heard what McElwain said about the need for him to play bigger than he does.
“I took it to heart,’’ Fulwood said. “He wants every single weapon I have. You can’t coach effort.
“I should play that way every game, every down. I should be the most aggressive person on the field. Everyday I’m working at it. I really haven’t gotten many opportunities to show that side. I’m used to running around people. Now I’ve got the ability to run through people and I like it.”
Meanwhile, very doubtful Scarfone is a fan.
Ahmad Fulwood with the truck stick: https://t.co/yAwNSMCkFq— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) September 13, 2015
Updated: 3:05pm, September 10
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier will make his first career start on Saturday against East Carolina.
In his first appearance for the Gators, Grier split time with sophomore Treon Harris in Florida’s season-opening 61-13 victory over New Mexico State, finishing 16 of 18 for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Harris hit 14 of 19 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
Florida head coach Jim McElwain said following Wednesday’s practice that he and his staff planned to meet afterward to discuss which quarterback would start Saturday. Both will play against East Carolina.
Grier and Harris staged a quarterback battle throughout spring and resumed their competition during preseason camp.
Harris, who started six games a season ago, got the nod in the opener and led the Gators on two scoring drives before Grier entered and played the second and third quarters. Harris re-entered the game late in the third quarter as the Gators won their 26th consecutive season opener, the longest active streak in the nation.