The State of the Swamp – 6/11/13

A look at the past week in the land of the Florida Gators.

The State of the Swamp is a day late and it looks like that was a good thing. Sometimes the star align and missing a (self-imposed) deadline works out. There is big news sweeping the sports world and Gator Nation and it focuses on no one other than Tim Tebow.

Tim Tebow - New England Patriots

Tebow has signed a two-year deal with the New England Patriots. The former Florida star will get another shot at the NFL, and with one of the league’s top franchises. Only one week after we were led to believe Tebow’s NFL career may have come to an end, it’s been given a jumpstart by Bill Belichick and the Pats. Tebow has a great chance to make the roster, though at what position remains to be seen. There is something about his drive and determination that made three NFL seasons seem like too few. Tebow may never make it as a full-time quarterback in the league, but Belichick and New England will give him the opportunity to play the game at the highest level again. There will be those in favor of this and, as always with Tebow, there will be detractors, but there will be no end to Tebowmania. (At least not anytime soon.)

J.C. Jackson makes the right choice, commits to Florida. After deciding that Florida State wasn’t the right fit, Jackson–a cornerback out of Immokalee, FL (Immokalee)–flipped to the Gators. ($) Florida was always on the top of Jackson’s list, but his train was derailed temporarily. He has now made the decision he was expected to make all along. The Gators’ pursuit of Jackson and the fact that Florida plays in the SEC were deciding factors for the CB. (And why wouldn’t they be?) He maintains that this latest commitment is solid, but we’ll rest easy come National Signing Day. Not that I’m no confident in his commitment, but…well…recruiting…

Add another to the list; Taven Bryan is the latest Gator. Florida went much farther than Immokalee to nab their latest commitment. On Tuesday, Bryan–an offensive tackle from Casper, WY (Natrona County)–was added to the 2014 class. At 6’5″, 250 lbs., Bryan has the height to play on the line at the next level, but needs to add a good deal of bulk. At 250, SEC defensive lines will eat him up. At 350, he could be a valuable asset in the nation’s top conference. Bryan has plenty of offers from out west, but decided to make the trek to Gainesville. And I can’t really blame him.

Keep an eye on Adoree’ Jackson. He won’t make his decision known until National Signing day, but keep an eye on one of the nation’s top athletes. Jackson is another cornerback very interested in the Gators’ football program ($) and also Florida’s recent men’s track and field outdoor championship. He would like to compete in both at the college level and Florida’s success with both programs is a plus. There are plenty of others hoping to land the star, but the Gators are among the few that stand a real chance. Jackson wants to visit Florida for the Gators’ final regular season game against Florida State.

Scottie Wilbekin suspended, again. The Gators’ point guard has violated team rules again and has subsequently been suspended again. Wilbekin missed the first three games of the 2012-13 season due to a suspension, meaning this one could see him out for more time. Billy Donovan can’t be happy with the PG and fans aren’t either, although many think this might mean a clearer path to playing time for super recruit Kasey Hill.

With the 20th pick in the 2013 MLB Draft the Detroit Tigers select junior pitcher Jonathon Crawford. Not expected to return for his senior season, Crawford’s fate was sealed when the Tigers drafted him in the first round. In other news, the Boston Red Sox drafted Gators’ starting quarterback Jeff Driskel in the 29th round. While Crawford is leaving, I’m guessing Driskel will remain in Gainesville for a while longer.

The men’s track and field squad wins the NCAA Outdoor Championship. Mentioned ever so briefly above, I have to give a round of applause to the men’s track team for bringing home the trophy for the second year in a row. Good job gentlemen. Go Gators!

The State of the Swamp – 6/3/13

A look at the past week in the land of the Florida Gators.

The coverage of the Florida Gators’ baseball team has been nothing better than nonexistent this season. Not from the many other sites out there that update you with a frequency that rivals the releases of new The Fast and the Furious movies, but from the staff here at The Bull Gator. We went hard one season ago when it came to baseball coverage, but couldn’t find our footing just one year later. The season wasn’t missed, it just wasn’t covered. So it’s sad to take a dive into orange and blue baseball at a time when the season is over.

Florida Gators Baseball Season Ends

On Saturday, the Gators were eliminated from the NCAA Regionals after a 5-4 loss to Valparaiso. Florida gave up a 4-1 lead and with it their season. With such roster turnover from last season to this (and a number of injuries), it was hard to imagine the Gators truly being in the hunt for the championship, but we like to dream. This isn’t how we wanted the dream to end, but one we must accept. Go Gators. Until next season.

Leron Black is one of the most sought after recruits in the 2014 basketball class, and the Gators want him. Black still has a number of teams on his list of possibilities, but Florida is among those pushing the hardest for him at the moment. Some think the recent commitment of point guard Chris Chiozza has given the Gators the edge, but that may not be the case. Black and Chiozza play together on the same AAU squad and Black only has good things to say about Chiozza, but his decision won’t be swayed. Black wants to take visits to his top choices and go wherever his heart and his faith lead him. If it is Gainesville, Black would fit into Billy Donovan’s system as a combo forward that likes to run.

I didn’t know you could be named a “Great Floridian,” but count Steve Spurrier among them. The former Gator great–as both a player and coach–was presented with the honor last week in The Swamp. To put myself even further out of touch, Tim Tebow, Derrick Brooks and Tony Dungy have all been named Great Floridians as well. In fact, Spurrier was the 71st individual to receive the designation. I suppose this is to be expected when I spend more time reading about Serie A than I do about my own area. Anyway, Spurrier is well deserving of the honor for all he accomplished during his various football-related times in the state.

Hey look, it’s Bam Hardmon. On Thursday, Hardmon joined the Idaho coaching staff, being named the Vandals’ defensive line coach. The former Gators’ linebacker is trying to make a name for himself among the coaching ranks. After spending three seasons under Ron Zook at Illinois, Hardmon moved on to Charleston Southern to coordinate special team and coach the outside linebackers. Hardmon and Idaho head coach Paul Petrino spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons at Illinois together. Best of luck to Hardmon as he continues to further his career in football.

I smiled when Jeff Demps was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, even if it meant the former Gators’ star would never suit up for my NFL team of choice. Demps continues to pursue his track career first and foremost, even with the Bucs hoping he’ll one day join the team. Tampa Bay is supportive of what Demps does on the track though and seems fine with the speedster pursuing that dream. We don’t know if we’ll ever see Demps in a Bucs’ uniform–or any other NFL uniform for that matter–but we should be seeing him in some of the world’s largest track events in the coming years. One way or another, news about Demps succeeding in one of the sports he excels at will keep coming.

And finally, the story I couldn’t leave off the list. The Tim Tebow train was kickstarted once again when this piece came out last week. There are those that believe Tebow’s NFL career has come to an end, those that won’t ever go as far as to speak such blasphemy, and those that honestly don’t care at this point. Take any side and you’re sure to find yourself in a debate with those that have taken the others. Regardless, one fact remains: Tebow is currently a free agent and there is more than one reason why. Among them is the belief among those inside the NFL coaching and scouting ranks that he can’t succeed as a quarterback at the professional level. Then there’s also the media storm that comes with Tebow wherever he goes. Tebow–through no fault of his own–was considered a distraction during the 2012 as a member of the New York Jets. Although I would argue the Jets as a whole were the distraction. There’s still a chance Tebow ends up somewhere. A team out there may invite him to camp and it’s hard to imagine he’s given up the dream just yet, but we are unlikely to see Tebow as a 16-game starter in the league. With each passing day, we may not even see him on a roster. Wherever Tebow ends up–in the NFL or not–we’ll always have the orange and blue days and moments like this to remember.

The State of the Swamp – 5/28/13

A look at the past week in the land of the Florida Gators.

I embark on a new mission. One which consists of scheduled articles that actually post when promised. As discussed many times in the past, these types of posts don’t make it very far here at The Bull Gator. Life has a way of wanting your attention just when you sit down to let you mind focus on the task at hand. Over the past 10 and a half months, life has been a blessing for me. I have spent that time with the most amazing son a man could ask for. Lil’ TBG is doing well and making me smile every day.

They say you make sacrifices when you enter the world of parenthood. For me, that sacrifice has been this website. That’s not a complaint; it’s actually a sacrifice I would make over and over and over again. I’m fine with that, even if that does mean less time with my outlet for all things Florida Gators. But time and time again, I come crawling back to the comfort of this now five-year-old blog. This is one of those times.

I hope to turn The State of the Swamp into a weekly column in which I take a look at recent orange and blue news and offer my opinion. I wouldn’t put money on it popping up every Monday if I were you, but I’m taking my shot. At the least, I can offer this one piece. At the best…well, we have yet to see what the best might be. With that, here’s the first of The State of the Swamp.

Dominique Easley - Florida Gators

Happy Memorial Day. I’m a day behind, hence the reason for this piece posting on a Tuesday and not a Monday. I hope you all had a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend. For those that made the ultimate sacrifice for this great country, our hats are off and are hearts are with you.

David Lee, All-NBA. I’ll move outside of The Swamp for the first bit of Gator news. (That’s something that’s not new here, but will continue. Men’s basketball right alongside football.) The Golden State Warriors forward made the All-NBA team for the first time in his career. Lee was named to the third team after averaging 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds. He also led the NBA with 56 double-doubles over the course of the regular season. Lee was the first Warrior named to the All-NBA team since the 1993-94 season and the first to lead the league in double-doubles since 1963-64. With Lee and others like Bradley Beal, Al Horford and Joakim Noah performing night in and night out in the NBA, the Gainesville to the pros pipeline looks alive and well. Kudos to Lee on a great season. One that saw the Warriors in the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.

Two decommitments in five days. Christian Miller and Ryeshene Bronson are no longer members of the Gators’ 2014 football recruiting class. In a span of five days, both decommitted from Florida. Miller’s decommitment stings the most because it could be considered a true decommitment. However, don’t count out Miller just yet. Florida is still in the picture along with Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee. Miller believes he reacted a little too soon and would like to take some more time to think about his final decision. Bronson, on the other hand, may have been a forced decommitment. There were concerns over the academic side of things with the wide receiver and many believe when new WR coach Joker Phillips recently visited Bronson it was to tell the recruit that he should look elsewhere. Expect the Gators to fight long and hard for Miller, but we’ve probably heard the last of Bronson being associated with the class.

Take two away, bring one in. While the Gators lost Miller and Bronson, they were hard at work adding a tight end to the class. C’Yontai Lewis–a TE from Tuscaloosa, AL–committed to Florida ($), becoming the eighth member of the 2014 class. 247Sports gives Lewis three stars while Rivals gives the TE two. While Lewis’s rankings may not impress, his 6’5″, 212-pound frame has Florida interested. He could be a climber and won’t be the only TE the Gators look to add to the class. It doesn’t hurt that Lewis’s cousin is Bo Scarbrough, one of the nation’s top athlete prospects. Scarbrough is committed to Alabama, but will visit Florida this summer. I’m not extremely confident we can pull him from the Crimson Tide, but Lewis’s commitment at least cracks open the door.

Jarran Reed isn’t coming to Gainesville. Yet. The junior college defensive tackle won’t be joining his classmates in Gainesville for the Summer B semester, but Reed plans on making his way to Florida eventually. Reed is 25 credit hours short from earning his AA. Those required hours will keep him at East Mississippi Community College through December, but he’s confident he will one day be a Gator. We should see the DT in orange and blue one day, but not as soon as we may have once thought.

It’s going to be a hot one. Those of you planning to make the trip to Miami to watch the Gators take on the Hurricanes on September 7 better be prepared for the heat. Due to a NASCAR event and another choice for the night game, ESPN has put Florida and Miami in the noon slot. It’s going to be a little toasty, so keep the water coming for this one. Although those of you attending the season opener in Gainesville against Toledo won’t have any sympathy for those making the drive south. Kickoff time hasn’t been announced for the opener, but there’s a good chance it will be an early game as well.

Urban Meyer doesn’t regret leaving Florida, but regrets the way he did so. Meyer’s departure will continue to come up as long as he’s still involved with college football. The Ohio State head coach recently said that the way it all happened wasn’t ideal, but it was time to move on. We just can’t quit you Urban Meyer. Or, actually, we can. And most of us have. I won’t bring up the Meyer debate yet again, but as we enter year three with Will Muschamp at the helm, we have other things to think about.

Fox Force Five: 2013 Recruiting Cycle Coming To An End For The Florida Gators

Florida Gators commentary in five parts, as in there’s one, two, three, four, five of them.

It all comes to an end on Wednesday. The Florida Gators will announce their 2013 football recruiting class and that will close to door on another hard-fought cycle. Commits came early and often and, as the class currently stands, things are looking up. The Gators are always a player in the world of recruiting and this year is no different. But coming off of a season when expectations were exceeded accelerates the future and has us looking for big things in 2013—on the field and off.

Jaynard Bostwick

Here are just a few of the stories still being written.

1. Mainland (Daytona Beach, FL) linebacker Quinton Powell was a Gator and then he wasn’t. In the weeks following his decommitment, he again became a possibility for the Gators. Then suddenly James Hearns was out of the picture and many thought Powell was a lock to choose the orange and blue again. That may have been the case as he was down to Florida and Southern Cal. Well, Powell is no more. Over the weekend, he was told by head coach Will Muschamp that the Gators don’t have a spot for him. Powell was disappointed, but also understands the business side of recruiting and college football. Florida has moved on and now Powell will too.

2. West Centennial (Port Saint Lucie, FL) defensive tackle Jaynard Bostwick will announce at 8:00am on National Signing Day. The DT will decide between Alabama, Florida and Miami. Bostwick’s high school coach has said that Bostwick thinks highly of all three and that nothing would surprise him. Considered an early Miami lean, some think the Gators now have the best shot. Bostwick would be a fine addition along the defensive line.

3. Also on the defensive line is Immaculata (Somerville, NJ) defensive end Tashawn Bower. Bower is committed to Auburn, but it’s considered to be a very, VERY soft verbal. He has received a Letter of Intent from the Gators and will announce a decision on Wednesday between Auburn and Florida. Behind the scenes, the Florida coaching staff if very confident they can get Bower to make the switch. Many believe he will end up in a different shade of orange and blue and come to Gainesville in the end. Don’t count out the Tigers just though as Bower never technically decommitted.

4. Might as well stick with the defensive line for one more. East Mississippi CC (Scooba, MS) JUCO defensive tackle Jarran Reed is down to Alabama and Florida. The Gators may hold the advantage and are hoping Reed will join his former teammate Darious Cummings in Gainesville. Reed isn’t a lock, but with the Gators pushing hard, the stars are aligning for Florida.

5. Also announcing on NSD will be New Smyrna Beach (New Smyrna Beach, FL) wide receiver James Clark. Clark is down to Clemson, Florida and Ohio State and will announce his decision at 9:00am. For a while, it seemed the Buckeyes posed the biggest challenge to the Gators, but that may now be the Tigers. Clark would make a great addition to an already impressive wide receiver class.

Fox Force Five: Florida Gators Look To Finish 2013 Recruiting Cycle In Grand Fashion

Florida Gators commentary in five parts, as in there’s one, two, three, four, five of them.

We’re at that critical point of the year. Critical in that National Signing Day is fast approaching and there are still some recruits on the table. From the desired to the impossible to the probable, they’re out there undecided about their next destination. The Florida Gators are still looking for a few bodies. With the class coming together nicely and nearly full, there are a few final pieces to put into the puzzle. The final set of prospects that may or may not join the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class.

Robert Nkemdiche

1. The odds that the nation’s top prospect—Grayson (Loganville, FL) defensive end Robert Nkemdiche—commits to Florida are slim-to-none. It would take the miracle of all miracles for the Gators’ coaching staff to pull it off. Because of that we have never really expected Nkemdiche to fully consider Florida an option. Yes, he recently visited Gainesville and does like the program and where it’s headed, but it’s long been thought to be a battle between LSU and Ole Miss with the Rebels holding the lead. Nkemdiche would be a VERY-nice-to-have that’s not going to happen.

2. New Smyrna Beach (New Smyrna Beach, FL) wide receiver James Clark will make one final visit before NSD and it will come on Saturday when he makes the trek to Gainesville. The 5’10”, 175-pound Clark recently visited Ohio State and only had great things to say about Columbus and the Buckeyes. He is still considering the Gators, but also mentions Clemson, Nebraska and Northwestern. Clark will announce on NSD. If he does choose the Buckeyes, take a couple of ibuprofen Florida fans and quickly move on. We can expect many more recruiting battles to come with that Urban Meyer guy and his merry band of coaches at Ohio State.

3. With Adam Lane and Kelvin Taylor headed to Florida, the Gators have done well in the running back department in the 2013 class. Despite the two already aboard, there are running backs that have Florida among their finalists. One of those is South Plantation (Plantation, FL) back Alex Collins. Collins recently visited Arkansas and enjoyed the trip, but still lists five among his finalists. He will make his decision on February 4, deciding between Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Miami and Wisconsin.

4. West Centennial (Port St. Lucie, FL) defensive tackle Jaynard Bostwick is coming to Gainesville over the final weekend of the recruiting cycle. The 6’4″, 291-pound DT is excited for the visit, but don’t expect commitment news–he will announce his decision on NSD. The four-star Bostwick is down to his final three–Alabama, Florida and Miami–and will make his decision known on February 6. Despite being listed at 291, Bostwick is closer to 315, making him a true defensive tackle. He has had good things to say about the Gators and has developed a good relationship with the defensive coaches over the course of his recruitment.

5. Lake Gibson (Lakeland, FL) fullback Kennard Swanson wants to be a Gator, but whether that happens or not is still up in the air. Florida is waiting to see if he’ll have the grades to qualify or if he’ll have to go the JUCO route. Swanson wants to be a Gator and Florida wants him as a part of the class. We should known more about his situation next week. Rumor has it that the Gators are holding a spot in the class for him and will make their final decision on NSD.

Florida Gators Rise To No. 14 In Both Polls; We Just Might Have Something Here

The Florida Gators have moved up to No. 14 in both major polls. The Gators can attribute the move to a second half against the Tennessee Volunteers that was a thing of beauty. Starting the season at No. 23, the Gators have showed enough improvement over the first three games to warrant a top-15 ranking by the voters. Is this rise a sign of things to come? Or simply a matter of an early schedule that doesn’t scare many?

This time around, let’s plant ourselves firmly in the glass-half-full camp. Over the first three games, the Florida Gators have shown the world enough to lead us to believe this train is headed in the right direction. Jeff Driskel’s passer efficiency rating is 30 points higher than John Brantley’s was last season. Mike Gillislee has lived up to his lofty goals. Jordan Reed is starting to look like he could be an NFL tight end. And the defense is playing the final 30 minutes of games like it’s the last time they’ll ever set foot on a field. Things aren’t perfect, otherwise we wouldn’t have to marvel at halftime adjustments, but they may just be better than we thought they would be two weeks ago.

Take Driskel for example. Heading into the season opener against Bowling Green, the Gators were a joke to many because they hadn’t chosen a starting quarterback. Driskel got the nod (sort of, there was that whole first play thing) in the first quarter and came out for the second half as the Gators’ quarterback. He was named the starter for game two and there are few out there now questioning that decision. We’ll play the numbers game quickly:

143.0 – 166.3 – 195.0

That’s the progression of Driskel’s efficiency rating over the first three games. Even that 143.0 against Bowling Green is higher than Brantley’s 2011 (140.8). Driskel currently settles in at 170.2 on the season. He’s completing 71.2% of his passes and has yet to throw an interception. Sure, he’s been sacked nine times, but one of those three games was against the team that lead the nation in sacks in 2011 – Texas A&M. Even in that aspect, he’s improving. Driskel appeared much more aware of the defense, the sidelines, of everything against Tennessee.

The Gators need more than a solid to good to great quarterback to lead them to more wins; they need an entire team. There are improvements to be made and penalties to disappear. There are coverages to improve and penalties to disappear. There are blocking schemes to get down to a science and penalties to disappear. There are crucial third downs to stop and penalties to disappear. And then there are the penalties that need to disappear.

It’s easy to get overly positive after a quick string of victories early in the season. Let’s not kid ourselves though, we aren’t thinking national championship or even SEC title at this point. We’re thinking of Kentucky and for a few days at least smiling about the future. There’s promise in this team and hope of renewed fire. The second half against Tennessee was one that allowed those of us fans to sit back and enjoy Florida football. The tile in front of my television thanked me as, for even just a few minutes, the pacing stopped. There’s plenty of season left, but, for now, there’s a little more excitement back in the air.

Florida Gators Video Of The Day: Ryan Lochte’s Gatorade Commercial

The Gators Video of the Day (GVOD) features, you guessed it, videos relating to the Florida Gators. They could be Gators athletes or homemade videos made by fans like ourselves. If you have any suggestions for GVOD, email me at evandagator@gmail.com or TBG at onegameback@gmail.com. We will try our best to live up to the “of the day” part of the title.

Whenever I ask Gators fans if they know who Ryan Lochte is, I’m always surprised by the results. They don’t know. Lochte is arguably the fastest swimmer in the world, a Gators grad, and still commonly unknown by the Gators fan base. Maybe because it’s swimming and most Gators fans only pay attention to major sports. For whatever reason, Lochte is making Gators, or those who know of him at least, proud.

Also in the video is another Gator of whom we should be proud. Gregg Troy has been the head of the University of Florida swim team since 1998. He is also the head coach for the United States swim team in the London Olympics this summer.

When Troy talks about the “burgers, fries, and goofing off,” he is referring to Lochte’s initial disinterest in swimming. Swimming was always a maturity process for him, and Lochte seems to be focused and ready now, thus the reason for his Win From Within Gatorade commercial.

Florida Gators (?) Win Little League Tournament Of Champions

I’m sure you did the same when you were a kid. You were on a team and the coach asked you and your teammates to come up with a team name. The name was either something typical like Warriors or Tigers (or my personal favorite among my soccer teams when I was little – Voltron), or it represented a sports team in your area, or, in the case of a Little League team from Trabuco Canyon in California, a team no where near your area.

The team in question is part of the Trabuco Canyon Little League Majors Division and, thanks to a victory last month, they are the winners of the District 68 Tournament of Champions. And, oh yeah, their team name is the Florida Gators.

Trabuco Canyon is nearly 2,400 miles from the University of Florida, but never mind that it would take you 37 hours by car to get there. These kids knew what they were doing when they picked the name Florida Gators and now they’re champions.

Congratulations to the Trabuco Canyon Florida Gators. Let’s hope the team name carries over into next season.

Florida Gators Video Of The Day: Stuff Gator Fans Say

The Gators Video of the Day (GVOD) features, you guessed it, videos relating to the Florida Gators. They could be Gators athletes or homemade videos made by fans like ourselves. If you have any suggestions for GVOD, email me at evandagator@gmail.com or TBG at onegameback@gmail.com. We will try our best to live up to the “of the day” part of the title.

Nearly a month ago, we had YouTube vlogger Scooter Magruder’s Why People Hate Tim Tebow on GVOD. Today he’s back with one of his original hits, Stuff Gator Fans Say.

Take out your notepads, Gators fans, and keep track of what he got right.

So, any objections? Suggestions? Total agreements?

Florida Gators Win Capital One Cup, Finish 2nd In Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup

Earlier this week, the Florida Gators received some pleasant news.* Florida won the men’s 2011-12 Capital One Cup and finished second in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings behind Stanford. The Cardinal have a stranglehold on the Learfield Cup having taken it home for 18 consecutive years now.

The Gator men put in a dominant performance of their own in winning the Capital One Cup. Florida took home the trophy with a 14-point lead over second place Arizona. The Gators were a full 22 points clear of third-place UCLA. The SEC as a whole had a good showing with five programs in the top eight.

The Learfield wasn’t as kind to the SEC despite Florida’s second-place finish. LSU was the next conference team, but came in at No. 13. The Pac-12 took home conference honors with four of the top eight.

Congratulations to the entire Florida athletics program for another great season.

*By pleasant we mean news that falls into the category of pure athletic domination, but that’s expected at this point.