Thursday December 4, 2014 Machen on McElwain: 'We look forward to his leadership and pursuit of excellence'
Updated: 5:55pm, December 4
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Updated: 5:55pm, December 4
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- University of Florida President Bernie Machen was just getting settled here when Florida hired Urban Meyer as head coach in late 2004.
A decade later Machen is set to retire at the end of the year as the Gators welcome another head coach from the Mountain West Conference to town.
The Gators officially announced the hiring of Colorado State coach Jim McElwain on Thursday to replace Will Muschamp. McElwain led the Rams to a 10-2 record this season and was 22-16 in his three seasons at CSU.
Machen released the following statement on McElwain's hiring:
"It is with great pride and excitement that we welcome Coach McElwain and his family to the University of Florida,” he said. "We look forward to his leadership in the pursuit of excellence, both on and off the field.”
Updated: 1:06pm, December 4
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jim McElwain has spent the majority of his 30-year coaching career outside the spotlight. A career assistant until his three-year stint as head coach at Colorado State, McElwain’s most visible role previously was four years as Alabama’s offensive coordinator under Nick Saban.
McElwain was muzzled working under Saban’s “one-voice” policy. However, McElwain’s offenses were not, helping the Crimson Tide win a pair of national titles in his four seasons in Tuscaloosa.
But don’t be fooled. McElwain has a personality to go along with his prolific career as an offensive coordinator. The 24th head coach of the Gators might not be a household name in Gator Nation, but he is well-respected and well-liked by those who know him.
That can be a tricky combination to pull off.
He also isn’t afraid to venture off the beaten path like so many coaches.
Fan interest at Colorado State had dwindled prior to McElwain’s arrival. The Rams were 9-27 in the previous three seasons.
Once the Rams started to win under McElwain, students and fans started to pay more attention.
In mid-October as Colorado State prepared for a key Mountain West Conference showdown with Utah State, McElwain broke away from the office to speak to a couple of classes: Fashion Merchandising and Music Appreciation.
He impressed the professor in the Music Appreciation class by referencing The Cyrkle, a band that charted with hits “Red Rubber Ball” and “Turn Down Day” in the late 1960s. The students had no clue.
It didn’t matter to McElwain. He had fun.
“There seemed to be a little bit of energy on campus and I thought that was pretty cool,’’ McElwain told The Denver Post.
As for his stop in the Fashion Merchandising class?
“I knew absolutely nothing about it and of course, they laughed at what I was wearing, which obviously meant my fashion was not very good,’’ he said.
The 52-year-old McElwain is headed to The Swamp. He’ll be in charge of the Gators soon.
Let’s take a closer look at the man who was born in Missoula, Mont., consumed episodes of “The Partridge Family” growing up, and whose perfect day is hanging out with his family on Montana’s Flathead Lake eating his those legendary barbecue ribs he is known for amongst family and friends:
McElwain started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Eastern Washington, where he played quarterback from 1980-83. While teaching a golf class, he met Karen, his future wife. The couple has three kids – daughters JoHanna, 23, and Elizabeth, 21, and 19-year-old son Jerret.
Growing up in Missoula, Mont., McElwain’s mother Marjorie and father Frank were educators. Marjorie McElwain was an English teacher who also worked at the University of Montana’s ticket office. Frank McElwain was a high school coach, official and principal who passed away in 2009. Jim developed into a talented quarterback at Sentinel (Mont.) High and is one of five siblings.
HIS LAST INTRO
If you don't know much about McElwain or have never heard him speak, here is a glimpse at his introductory press conference nearly three years ago at Colorado State:
CONNECTING WITH PLAYERS
McElwain’s players speak highly of his approach to the game. When Colorado State played at Alabama last season, McElwain’s return to Tuscaloosa was a big story. Several Alabama players shared McElwain stories with the media, including former Crimson Tide offensive lineman Kellen Williams.
“In camp two or three years ago, he brought in a picture of a dead fish and a picture of a Charlie Tuna,’’ Williams told The Anniston (Ala.) Star. “He said, ‘we have too many dead fish in here,’ and he put up the dead fish. Then he goes, ‘I want you to be like this guy,’ and he put up the picture of Charlie Tuna. Everybody broke out laughing.”
At a recent press conference to preview a big game at Colorado State, McElwain referenced such topics as Johnny Carson’s monologue, Randy Jackson’s role in Earth, Wind and Fire, and how the offense sometimes closes meetings with Winnie the Pooh references.
Hey, it seems to work.
“It kind of keeps us loose, but at the same time he expects us to be on point, doing what we’ve got to do to continue winning,’’ Rams linebacker Kevin Davis told the Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera. “Mac’s definitely making it fun, but he’s keeping us on point, keeping us focused.”
McElwain has changed his system over the years to fit his job. The Rams feature a balanced spread attack that includes quarterback (Garrett Grayson) with more than 3,700 yards passing and 32 touchdowns, a running back (Dee Hart) with more than 1,200 yards rushing and a receiver (Rashard Higgins) with more than 1,600 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns.
At Alabama McElwain relied more on pro-style offense that relied heavily on the run with 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. He was known to toss a wildcat package into the game plan on occasion. If there is a common theme, it’s that McElwain has produced results.
When Saban searched for an offensive coordinator after the 2007 season, he landed on McElwain after reviewing what McElwain did in his one season at Fresno State on Pat Hill’s staff. Saban and Hill had worked together under Bill Belichick with the Cleveland Browns.
The numbers: In McElwain’s season at Fresno State the Bulldogs averaged 419.5 yards a game and 32.9 points a game. The previous season Fresno State averaged 338.2 yards and 23 points.
FIRST GAME AS HEAD COACH
Colorado State opened McElwain’s tenure with a 22-17 win over Colorado in 2012. McElwain became the first Rams coach to win his debut since 1970.
Before each game McElwain writes the names of his three kids on three sticks of gum. He writes his father’s name on another piece of gum. He carries the gum in his pocket during every game and afterward hands the three sticks to his kids, the stick with his father’s name to Karen.
“All the hours you put in, all the time you put in, you realize what it’s for and what it’s about,’’ McElwain told The Denver Post. “It’s about my family.”
McElwain attended Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Missoula, Mont., and was a grade behind a famous classmate who has also done well in Colorado: former Broncos quarterback John Elway.
“Yeah, he put up with my cooking. It was unbelievable. He actually smiled and said he liked it. I don’t know if he really did or not.’’ – McElwain on having former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron over one year for Thanksgiving dinner
“The biggest thing about Coach Mac is I think he’s a teacher first. He’s a great teacher of the game. You can tell he really has a passion for that. And he’s extremely gifted at that, just the way he breaks down offenses and helps up understand it.’’ – Former Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones
“When you’re building a house, the most important part’s the foundation. Sometimes guys maybe want to take shortcuts to get instant results, but on the backend, your house falls down. That’s not what we’re about.” – McElwain on approach when he took over Colorado State program
“He was an unbelievable coach for me, not only as a player, but as a person. He just taught me a lot about life, hot to act, what to do, what not to do. He means the world to me.’’ – McCarron on McElwain’s influence
“From an offensive philosophy standpoint, in terms of what we want to accomplish – show balance, make explosive plays, be a good third-down team, make first downs in the red area, don’t turn the ball over – all of these things were very important philosophically to Jim.’’ – Saban on his interview with McElwain
Editor’s note: A variety of sources was used to compile this information, including The Denver Post, US Official Newswire, The Missoulian, The Anniston Star, The Decatur Daily, The Dothan Eagle, ESPN.com, SI.com, and Boulder Daily Camera.
Updated: 2:11pm, November 26
Gators quarterback Treon Harris committed to FSU prior to signing with Florida. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Jameis Winston is the quarterback most will be focused on Saturday during the Florida-Florida State game.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is a perfect 24-0 as FSU's starting quarterback and has thrown at least one touchdown pass in every one of those starts.
However, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher is very familiar with Gators quarterback Treon Harris. Harris verbally committed to FSU before changing his mind and signing with Florida.
Harris suffered a bruised knee in last week's win against Eastern Kentucky but is expected to start on Saturday in Tallahassee according to Gators coach Will Muschamp.
“Treon is one of those guys that I always say, 'be quick but don’t hurry.' When you watch him play, it’s like everyone around him is going 1,000 miles an hour and he’s going five miles an hour," Fisher told reporters this week. "But no one can catch him or touch him."
Since replacing Jeff Driskel as the starter, Harris has led Florida to three wins in four games. He would be undefeated if not for the late-game collapse against South Carolina when an apparent game-icing touchdown run by Harris was wiped out by a penalty.
Harris has thrown for 727 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. He has added 250 yards rushing, which ranks third on the team.
While his accuracy has suffered lately due to an injured fingernail -- Harris is 9 of 23 in the past two games -- he remains a threat in Fisher's view.
And despite Harris' switch from the Seminoles to the Gators, Fisher enjoyed the experience of getting to know Harris and his family.
"He’s fun to be around. I enjoyed being around him," Fisher said. "He’s a heck of a player. That’s why we recruited him.”
Fisher is also familiar with Driskel. He is the last quarterback to knock off the Seminoles.
As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Driskel completed 15 of 23 passes for 147 yards and one touchdown in Florida's 37-26 win at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Updated: 5:34pm, November 24
Gators coach Becky Burleigh, center, after Sunday's win over Texas Tech. (Photo: Jim Burgess)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Becky Burleigh planned to spend part of her Monday afternoon figuring out Thanksgiving plans.
Not that she minded one turkey leg.
In her 20th season in charge of the Gators women’s soccer program, Burleigh can’t think of a better place to spend this Thanksgiving than Palo Alto, Calif., home of Stanford University.
If the Gators had lost Sunday in the NCAA Sweet 16, they would have parted ways for Thanksgiving. Instead, they defeated Texas Tech, 3-2, to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in 11 years.
The victory came with a cross-country trip to Stanford, where Florida (17-4-1) will face No. 3-ranked Stanford (20-1-2) on Friday night for a Final Four berth.
“The fact we get to spend the holiday together as a group, I think that’s important to us,’’ Burleigh said Monday. “I don’t think our team minds that dynamic at all. They enjoy each other’s company.”
Since losing to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament on penalty kicks, Florida has responded with three consecutive wins in the NCAA Tournament, defeating Mercer, Cal and Texas Tech.
Next stop: Cagan Stadium, where the Cardinal knocked off the Gators 1-0 in September.
Stanford won its 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament game at home on Sunday with a 1-0 win over Washington. The game-winner was scored on a goal by senior Lo’eau LaBonta off a penalty.
LaBonta did the same in Stanford’s second-round win over Arkansas. And in the first meeting against Florida, it was LaBonta’s score in overtime that defeated Florida.
Needless to say the Gators defense will keep a close eye on LaBonta on Friday night.
For now Burleigh and Co. are searching for ways to extend their season to the College Cup – and working out details on how they will spend Thanksgiving.
Burleigh likes where her team is headed.
“I’m just really thankful to our team for winning so that we get to spend more time together because it’s been really fun with this group,’’ Burleigh said. “I think the best part about this team so far is that we still have not played our best soccer. For us, that’s really exciting because when we can do that, I think we’re really hard to beat.”
Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and his daughter after Saturday's win. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Now that the Gators are bowl eligible they have a bowl coach.
Following Saturday's 52-3 win over Eastern Kentucky to clinch bowl eligibility -- Florida improved to 6-4 in head coach Will Muschamp's final home game -- the Gators announced that defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin will serve as head coach for Florida's bowl game.
Durkin is in his second season as the Gators' defensive coordinator and fifth year on Florida's staff. He joined the program in 2010 as special teams coordinator and remained on staff when Muschamp replaced Urban Meyer after the 2010 season.
Durkin replaced Dan Quinn as the team's defensive coordinator when Quinn left after the 2012 season for the same position with the Seattle Seahawks.
Updated: 2:33pm, November 19
Dante Fowler Jr. greets fans during the Gator Walk prior to the South Carolina game. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – He’s not a senior, but defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. is prepared to play his final game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday.
One of the most gifted recruits the Gators landed under outgoing head coach Will Muschamp, Fowler announced via Twitter on Tuesday night that he will enter the NFL Draft rather than return for his senior season.
“I came in with champ. I'm leaving with Him. Simple as that,’’ Fowler tweeted.
A 6-foot-3, 261-pound speed rusher from St. Petersburg, Fowler is a highly-ranked prospect with first-round potential in April’s draft.
“Yes. There’s no question in my mind,’’ Muschamp said Wednesday when asked if Fowler was a first-rounder. “Somebody is going to be very lucky to have him.”
Fowler leads the Gators with 4 ½ sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries through nine games. He also has two forced fumbles and ranks third on the team with 49 tackles. While Fowler has amassed on 10 ½ career sacks, Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said not to be deceived by the stats.
The tape tells the truer story.
“He’s a very disruptive guy,’’ Durkin said. “He’s a guy who’s accounted for every single time he lines up by the opposition. They have a plan for him and he’s overcome that and been disruptive for us. He’s been great for us. He’s played hard, he’s play consistently. I’m very happy with how he’s play.
“I’m not an NFL expert but I think Dante is a really good player and will probably be drafted very high.”
Durkin said he has not spoken to Fowler about the decision and learned about it on Twitter like others. Muschamp’s stance has always been that if a player is a certain first-round NFL pick, then he should leave. If not, he should come back.
Based on what Muschamp and Durkin said Wednesday, sounds like Fowler made the right decision.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators host South Carolina today in a key SEC East showdown for Florida. The Gators must win to keep their hopes of a division title alive.
Only if they could play the South Carolina team that ran onto the field 50 years ago in this matchup. If so, the Gators would romp today at The Swamp.
Imagine some frat guys pulling a prank on Homecoming. Imagine the worst Gamecocks team to ever step onto the field. They didn't stay out there long that day at Florida Field, but they made an impression during their brief time in the spotlight.
Gators historian Norm Carlson wrote about A Great Gator Hoax in 2006 to celebrate 100 years of Florida football. Since this is the 50-year anniversary, enjoy another trip down Memory Lane.
Updated: 1:18pm, November 14
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- From top to bottom, from football to gymnastics to lacrosse, the University of Florida's athletic department is the most dominant college sports program in the country.
No, that's not some random opinion from a guy who writes for GatorZone.com, the UAA's official website.
Instead, the ranking comes from a poll released Thursday by BusinessInsider.com, which explained its ranking system in the following paragraph:
To create the ranking we used data compiled by Niche for its college rankings as well as athletic department revenues compiled by USA Today.
A number of factors go into the rankings with the most weight given to athletics revenue, Niche's NCAA championship score (with more weight given to bigger sports), average home football attendance, average home men's basketball attendance, as well as Niche's student survey responses.
Bottom line, not only do Gator fans think highly of UF's athletic department, so do many others.
The top five: 1. Florida; 2. Alabama; 3. North Carolina; 4. Texas; 5. LSU.
Updated: 4:39pm, November 11
Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel scores on a 1-yard plunge at Vanderbilt. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel has received more than his fair share of vile messages from anonymous critics on social media this season.
The fourth-year junior has stayed on the high road through what has been a disappointing season for Florida’s opening-day starter, which is not surprising to anyone who has been around Driskel during his UF career.
Driskel didn’t know it until Tuesday on Veterans Day, but he has a big fan in retired U.S. Navy Capt. E.R. Gilkison, whose letter to Driskel ended up on social media Tuesday.
Driskel is from a Navy family.
He was born in Jacksonville and lived there for the first few years of his life while his parents, Mary and Jerry Driskel, worked for the U.S. Navy. A Naval senior chief, Jerry was assigned to the U.S. Naval Base in Sasebo, Japan, when Driskel was 7.
Driskel had read the letter by Tuesday afternoon when he met with reporters.
"Before we get started here, I just want to say Happy Veterans Day to all the vets out there,'' Driskel said. "I'd also like to say thanks to Capt. Gilkison, who sent me a nice letter. I saw it on the Internet today and that was one of the most heart-warming things that I've ever gotten."
Updated: 11:53am, November 11
Steve Spurrier, center, and Will Muschamp, right, talk to ESPN's Joe Tessitore in July. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – They will meet as opposing head coaches for the fourth time on Saturday.
Steve Spurrier 2, Will Muschamp 1 is the current ledger.
Muschamp wants to even the score.
Spurrier, in his fifth trip back to The Swamp as South Carolina’s coach, wants to spoil the Gators’ day.
“I’m pulling for him to make it down there,’’ Spurrier said of Muschamp this week. “Of course, I’m pulling for us to beat him down there.”
One of the first people Muschamp talked to after taking over the Gators was Spurrier, who led the program for 12 years, won the program's first national title in 1996 and earned the 1966 Heisman Trophy as Florida’s quarterback.
Ever since the two have been friendly rivals on the field and friends off it.
Here is a column I wrote over the summer about their relationship.
In his 10th season at South Carolina, the Gamecocks are 4-5 and trying to avoid a losing season for the first time under Spurrier. Meanwhile, the Gators have some momentum after back-to-back wins and need a victory to keep any hope of an SEC East title alive.
Whatever happens at Florida Field on Saturday afternoon, you can be sure Spurrier and Muschamp will share a friendly story before the game -- perhaps about their July plane ride back from ESPN headquarters -- and a handshake afterward.
And at some point they will resume their friendship in the offseason.
“I've got great respect for Coach Spurrier and the job he's done as a coach, and more than anything, as a man," Muschamp said Monday. "He's a good guy. He's been great to me since I've been here at the University of Florida. Really look up to him in this profession. He does things the right way."
Ditto for Spurrier.
“I consider him a good friend in coaching,’’ he said of Muschamp. “He’s a good person and good coach. They’ve sort of come together these last couple of weeks since the Georgia game, it seems like.”
Jonathan Bullard knocks down Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason last week. (Photo: Tim Casey)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Defensive tackle Leon Orr will not play in tonight's game against Vanderbilt.
Orr expressed displeasure when he realized he would not be in the starting lineup for the fifth straight game. A fifth-year senior, Orr was scheduled to be heavily involved in a game plan featuring an eight-man rotation of defensive linemen like Florida normally uses.
Orr has played in 37 games during his career, starting 10. He has started two games this season.
After talking to head coach Will Muschamp, Orr (No. 8, photo left) opted to leave the team and return to Gainesville on a bus.
"He was more concerned with starting than being part of the team,'' Muschamp said.
Muschamp has said multiple times recently he is pleased with the way the defense has improved since the Tennessee game, which coincided with junior Jonathan Bullard moving to the interior line from defensive end.
Bullard, who has been starting at tackle, will continue to play on the interior line next to nose tackle Darius Cummings. Bullard has started every game this season and his 25 tackles rank second on the team among UF's defensive linemen.
Orr has 16 tackles in his five games.
Updated: 5:16pm, November 6
Antonio Morrison had a career-high 15 tackles against Georgia. (Photo: Jay Metz)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators linebacker Antonio Morrison remembers more than he would like about last year’s Vanderbilt game.
First, he remembers the Gators lost, snapping a 22-game win streak over the Commodores. As if that wasn’t painful enough, Morrison remembers it was the final game of his sophomore season.
“I got injured this game. I tore my meniscus and played the whole game,’’ Morrison said. “I’m ready to play these guys.”
Morrison was Florida’s leading tackler at the time of a knee injury that cost him the season’s final three games. He finished with 56 tackles but lacked the impact he made as a true freshman in 2012 when his hit on Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel and fumble recovery turned the momentum in the Gators’ 37-26 win in Tallahassee.
In Florida’s biggest win since that game – Saturday’s 38-20 victory over ninth-ranked Georgia – Morrison racked up a career-high 15 tackles. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Morrison ranks third in the SEC in tackles per game (9.6) and has 67 overall with at least four games remaining in the season.
Morrison’s blue-collar play of late has not gone unnoticed. Neither has his strong rebound from the injury and unspectacular sophomore season.
“His endurance is much better,” Gators coach Will Muschamp said. “He’s able to sustain and play longer periods of time at a high level, and I think a lot of that goes back to his conditioning.
“He’s a very instinctive, tough player. One of his better games was against LSU, a traditional two-back team. You saw him playing off blocks and making  tackles, which is hard to do. I think he’s had a good year for us.”
His teammates agree.
“He’s grown up so much,” sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III said. “He’s matured. He fell into his leader role and he takes it very serious. He’s playing well and I’m happy for him.”
Morrison played behind Jon Bostic as a freshman and then endured some off-the-field issues the summer after the season. Once he suffered the season-ending injury last season, Morrison refocused his commitment to the game and it’s now showing up on Saturdays.
Morrison has recorded 10 or more tackles in five games this season and has 27 more tackles than any other player on the roster – defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. is second with 40.
“I think he's playing his best football here this year since he's been here,’’ defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “He's really stepped up as a leader. He's not just out there making plays. He's been real effective in many ways for us.”
Morrison said there’s no secret to his success. He’s healthy. He’s committed. He’s playing hard every play.
“I just matured,’’ he said. “I go as hard as I can. I became a lot more mature for my age. I just worked all offseason. I didn’t want to have the same results personally and as a team.”
Updated: 10:08am, November 1
James Bates was inducted into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame on Friday. (Photo: Tim Casey)
JACKSONVILLE -- Former Gators linebacker James Bates told the story with his trademark sense of humor.
It was 1992 and Bates and teammate Anthony Ingrassia were both new to UF. Bates was a true freshman from Sevierville, Tenn. Ingrassia was a transfer from Boston University.
Both were being redshirted and didn't travel with the Gators to the annual Florida-Georgia game at the old Gator Bowl.
Instead, they were back in Gainesville watching the game on TV at Yon Hall. Once they saw the atmosphere and fanfare on the television, they knew they had to get to Jacksonville ASAP.
"How do we get there,'' Ingrassia asked.
"I don't know,'' replied Bates. "I know we go out toward the airport."
And then Bates dropped his punch line.
"So I pulled out my phone and said, Siri! Siri! How do we get to Jacksonville?"
"I made that part up,'' Bates confessed to the crowd at Friday's Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame induction ceremony. "We found our way to Jacksonville."
Georgia Bates as her dad shared a story about origin of her name on Friday. (Photo: Tim Casey)
They did, reveling in the game's unique place in college football.
Over the next four seasons Bates played in the game and never lost to Georgia.
He won't be at today's annual showdown due to his job as a college football analyst for FOX Sports, but his family -- and aptly named daughter Georgia -- will be.
"Georgia is taking my place,'' Bates said. "I don't think we would have named her Georgia if we had gone 0-4. It would have been Lucy or something else."
Bates joined former UF standout Louis Oliver, former Georgia linebacker Ben Zambiasi and Pat Dye, who played at Georgia and was head coach at Auburn, in the 2014 Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame class.
Oliver was unable to attend due to a last-minute conflict but Bates represented the Gators well like he did as a player.
He never imagined getting inducted into a Hall of Fame for his time as a player.
"I get goose bumps right now just thinking about it,'' Bates said. "My Gators right now aren't where they want to be, but it doesn't matter. It's Florida-Georgia. It is truly a thing of beauty and I cannot believe that I got to go and be a part of that and I can't believe I'm remembered to be a part of this Hall of Fame."
Dye and Bates took turns poking fun at their rival in the series. After Bates reminded everyone of Florida's success against Georgia during his playing days, Dye pointed out to everyone the tide has turned.
Georgia has won three in a row in the series and with a victory today can post their first four-game win streak over the Gators since a six-game streak from 1978-83.
"Nobody hates the Gators more than I do,'' Dye said. "But, I tell you it's not good for the conference when Florida is struggling. James, they might could use your ass out there."
Bates and Dye share a moment following Friday's induction ceremony. (Photo: Tim Casey)
Updated: 5:41pm, October 29
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators offensive lineman D.J. Humphries was a month from his fourth birthday when former UF offensive lineman Mo Collins played his final game at Florida Field in November 1997.
However, as Humphries grew into one of the nation’s top offensive line prospects at Mallard Creek High in Charlotte, N.C., Collins was nearby supporting his alma mater, West Charlotte High.
Collins was retired from the NFL and helping young players chase their dreams the way he dreamed two decades earlier. He purchased equipment for a new weight room at his old high school, where he became head coach earlier this year.
He also worked with Humphries (photo, left), who reflected on their relationship Wednesday. Collins died Sunday at 38.
“He pretty much taught me the craft, you know what I mean?" Humphries said. "He took me from being a left tackle with a right-handed stance and showed me all the stuff to become an All-American in high school. That was pretty tough when I found I lost him this week. That was a big deal.”
Humphries and others have shared their fondness for Collins, who stood 6-foot-5 and weighed 337 pounds as an NFL rookie in 1998.
Former UF coach Steve Spurrier called Collins “one of my favorite players” on Tuesday night while talking to South Carolina beat reporters.
Georgia running back Todd Gurley scored two touchdowns last year against Florida (Photo: AJC)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators got a pregame victory Wednesday morning against Georgia if there is such a thing.
Suspended Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley will not play against Florida on Saturday according to a ruling issued by the NCAA.
While Gurley has missed the last two games for accepting more than $3,000 in cash for autographed memorabilia over the past two years, Gators coach Will Muschamp said Monday that he “absolutely” expected Gurley back on Saturday.
However, the onetime Heisman hopeful must sit out a total of four games – 30 percent of the season – based on the NCAA’s ruling. Georgia plans to appeal the decision.
The case came to light three weeks ago and Georgia suspended Gurley as it launched an internal investigation into claims from an autograph broker.
In addition to missing four games, Gurley must repay a portion of the money received to a charity of his choice and complete 40 hours of community service.
Despite missing the last two games, Gurley still ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing yards (773) and leads the conference in yards per game (154.6). In Georgia’s 23-20 victory over the Gators last year in Jacksonville, Gurley rushed for a game-high 100 yards on 17 carries and led the Bulldogs with 87 yards receiving, including a 73-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter that put Georgia ahead 14-0.
With Gurley unavailable, the Bulldogs have turned to freshman Nick Chubb, who is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has 569 yards rushing on the season.
Updated: 7:01pm, October 28
Dante Fowler Jr., left, Leon Orr, center, and Neiron Ball against Georgia in 2013. (File photo)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The annual Florida-Georgia clash is four days away. Personally, this game has always been my favorite on the schedule.
The atmosphere in Jacksonville is unique with the stadium split down the middle – one side Orange and Blue, the other Red and Black.
This year’s game has a little twist we haven’t seen since 1970 – both teams will wear their home jerseys. Florida is technically the visitor this season and will be stationed on the East sideline across the field from the press box.
The SEC approved the home-jersey request during its annual spring meetings.
Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley told GatorZone.com in March the backstory of how the decision came to fruition.
“It's just something a little different. To be honest, a fan suggested it. He sent me a picture of what they used to do when Coach Spurrier was playing,’’ Foley said. “He had a blue jersey on and whoever was tackling him had a red jersey on. It's a unique rivalry and just a little different something to do. There is no particular reason. Georgia agreed and we agreed. At the end of the day, you've still got to win the ballgame no matter what color jersey you have on. I think it's just a little something that makes the game even more unique.”
The Gators (3-3, 2-3 in SEC) enter this year’s game a heavy underdog against the ninth-ranked Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1). While few seem to think the Gators have a chance, they are not looking at it that way as fans and media speculate about the future of head coach Will Muschamp.
Muschamp is 0-3 against Georgia, his alma mater.
“This game is huge,’’ Gators safety Keanu Neal said Tuesday. “We’ve got to bring Florida back.”
“It’s bigger than playing for the coaches,’’ linebacker Neiron Ball said. “We’re playing for the program. Our program is better than we’ve shown.”
The main storylines on the Florida side involve Muschamp and freshman quarterback Treon Harris, who will make his first career start Saturday. On the Georgia side, will Todd Gurley play or won’t he?
Gurley has missed the past two games while school officials investigate whether he broke NCAA rules by signing memorabilia for profit. The NCAA is expected to make a ruling on Georgia’s application for his reinstatement any day now.
The Gators have an idea of what the ruling will be.
“Absolutely. I would expect him to play,’’ Muschamp said Monday. “He’s an extremely talented running back. Todd Gurley’s one of the best players in college football.”
For more flavor early in the week leading up to Saturday’s game, here are some fresh links for your perusal:
--Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper told reporters Tuesday that less turnovers will equal more offense writes Antonya English of the Tampa Bay Times.
--Florida defensive end Dante Fowler has no plans to quit on the season and look toward the NFL writes David Jones of Florida Today.
--UF players confident ahead of Georgia game is lead topic in a notebook by Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.
--As a former Georgia captain, Muschamp’s future is of interest in Georgia as Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Steve Hummer chimes in with his thoughts.
--Georgia a heavy favorite, but wary of hungry Gators writes Marc Weiszer of The Athens Banner-Herald.
Updated: 9:41pm, October 22
For more photos from Monday's practice, click here for a gallery from UAA photographer Tim Casey.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida head coach Billy Donovan traveled to Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday with Michael Frazier II and Dorian Finney-Smith for SEC Tipoff '15.
The event is the men's basketball version of media days.
Here are some links and tweets from the event:
--Two-team conference? SEC coaches say league is deeper than Florida and Kentucky writes Martin Rickman of SI.com.
--A notebook from Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun leads with Frazier's spot on preseason team.
--A Q&A with Donovan on resiliency and reloading for 2014-15 via Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com.
--Gators picked to finish second, Frazier a preseason All-SEC first-team selection via FoxSportsFlorida.com.
--Calipari's Cats first unanimous pick since Pitino's 'Untouchables' writes Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
--Don't bet against Donovan, Florida writes Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com ($).
--Five Kentucky players on All-SEC team writes Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com.
--Back in SEC, Bruce Pearl faces rebuilding job at Auburn writes Brockway.
--Alabama head coach and former Donovan assistant Anthony Grant says his team faces extremely challenging nonconference schedule writes Wesley Sinor of AL.com.
--Donovan is better at spinning a basketball on his finger than you are writes Andre Holleran of CollegeSpun.com.
Updated: 9:18pm, October 17
Sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor has received limited carries of late. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Why isn't sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor getting more carries?
That's one of the most-asked questions I've gotten from Florida fans the past couple of weeks.
Taylor has seen limited action recently, including only two rushes in Saturday's loss to LSU. Taylor started in place of injured running back Matt Jones but gave way early to true freshman Brandon Powell.
Taylor missed a blocking assignment on a third-and-4 on Florida's first drive. As he tried to recover and pick up a blitzing linebacker, Taylor ran into quarterback Jeff Driskel, causing Driskel to throw a wobbly pass to the ground toward an open Latroy Pittman.
Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was asked this week about Taylor's lack of use and the third-down play.
“Kelvin has do a better job of recognizing the Sam [linebacker] is coming and get over there faster and manage that,” Roper said. “We feel like we had a chance to convert a third down right there.”
While a talented runner -- Taylor had rushed for 508 yards as a true freshman, including 12 carries for 74 yards against Missouri, which visits The Swamp on Saturday -- he has struggled as an all-around back.
As the son of former Gators/NFL star Fred Taylor and the state of Florida's all-time leading prep rusher, Taylor joined the Gators as one of those celebrated recruits fans expect to become an instant star.
It rarely works out that way. While Taylor is clearly talented, he is a much different type of running back than his father, who checked in at 6-foot-1 and around 225 pounds. Kelvin is listed at 5-10, 209 pounds.
Fred Taylor rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior in 1997 and then went on to become the Jacksonville Jaguars' all-time leading rusher. Kelvin Taylor is a college sophomore 17 games into his career.
Roper is confident Taylor can be a factor as the season progresses.
"He is really good with the ball in his hands," Roper said. "There's no doubt about that. He's a guy that when you hand it to him, does a good job. But you've got to be able to manage the rest of the package."
As for perhaps the most-asked question about Taylor this week -- why didn't he get the carry instead of the 5-9, 177-pound Powell on first-and-goal from LSU's 2 late in the game? -- Roper answered that, too.
"Brandon Powell is a little lighter, physical guy. Tough guy," Roper said. "Felt really good with the ball in his hands. Had been playing a lot of football and been in that series and made some plays. That was the decision that we made at that point to put it in his hands. We felt pretty confident we knew what we were going to get schematically, and it was what we felt our best thought was at that point.
"Then the next down, we did, we obviously put a lead blocker in there and tried to run the quarterback to get our numbers right and put a heavier guy in there on second down and do that. But what we had felt like is we could number up, is the best way I can say it, on the scheme right there."
Updated: 6:21pm, October 15
Billy Donovan is impressed by job Will Muschamp has done since taking over Gators. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – One is coming off a four-win season. The other off a trip to the Final Four.
So no surprise to anyone, Gators football coach Will Muschamp is not as popular as UF basketball coach Billy Donovan these days.
Donovan is in the prime of his career, set to enter his 19th season at UF fresh off a 36-win season, a fourth trip to the Final Four and a season that featured a school-record 30-game win streak.
Meanwhile, Muschamp is preparing the 3-2 Gators for Saturday’s Homecoming game against Missouri and in need of a win for the Gators to stay in the thick of the SEC East race.
Donovan gave a thoughtful answer when a reporter asked him what it’s like for his program to have more success than the football program in recent years.
“I don't really look at it that way,’’ Donovan said. “I think the one thing that Jeremy [Foley] has done here is that we're all in this together. It's not about [who has the most success]. I've got an enormous amount of respect for Will.
“Obviously for him, I look at things a little bit differently. Certainly he took over a situation that was really, really challenging, in my opinion. I thought he imposed his style of play on his team. The year before, I saw an unbelievable change inside of his team from a physical standpoint from year one to year two.
“The way they had to handle all the injuries last year was something, to me, that was just totally insurmountable to ever overcome. You can’t lose the level of players – and I respected the way Will handled it because he never used that as an excuse – but the truth is you can’t lose that many good players and be good. You just can’t. You just don’t plug guys in and guys step up.”
Donovan invited Muschamp to speak to his team over the summer about that same topic. In the case of his team, Donovan is searching for ways to replace seniors Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather.
“There were times last year where I watched and you saw them kind of – I think Will talked about this, ‘Woe is me,’ all that stuff – their team [this year] is not that way at all," Donovan said. "I think the guy has done an incredible job of changing the culture in terms of his team from one year to the next in a very positive way.
“From a coaching standpoint, where his team is at emotionally now, it's really impressive. I look at things a little bit differently. I know a lot of times people look just at results, but if you look at the transformation inside their team, to me watching them play this year compared to last year, it's night and day. I don't know anything about football, strategies and schemes. I'm just talking about how they play the game.”
Updated: 4:19pm, October 14
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive will retire in July after 13 years. (Photo: CBSSports.com file)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jeremy Foley had already been in charge of Florida’s athletic department for a decade by the time Mike Slive took over as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference in 2002.
A lot has happened for the Gators – and the SEC – since then.
While the Gators’ football program won two of the unprecedented seven consecutive national championships SEC schools won from 2006-12, the SEC grew into such a force in college athletics under Slive’s direction that it now has its own TV network, which launched in August.
The SEC announced Tuesday that Slive will retire in July.
As the conference’s longest-tenured AD, Foley is well aware of the impact Slive made when he took the job after serving as the first commissioner of Conference USA from 1995-2002.
“Mike possesses all of the qualities of a great leader – visionary, consensus builder, integrity, intuition and commitment, but more than anything he is a great friend to so many of us in this league,’’ Foley said. “He’s led this conference to historical milestones during his tenure and the impact he’s had on collegiate athletics management and structure will be felt for many years. I look forward to working with him during his final year and in his future role as a consultant to the league.”
According to the SEC’s announcement, Slive will serve in the role of consultant to the conference for four years following his retirement.