Transfer News: Matt Patchan and De’Ante Saunders To Leave Florida Gators

We’re back from the holidays, but two (now former) Florida Gators won’t be. Redshirt junior offensive lineman Matt Patchan and sophomore safety De’Ante “Pop” Saunders are leaving the program.

Matt Patchan - Florida Gators

Patchan came to the Gators out of Tampa, FL (Armwood) in 2008. After being one of the nation’s most sought after recruits, he saw immediate playing time as a freshman. After spending time on the defensive line as a freshman, he moved to the offensive side of the ball. The future looked promising for Patchan, but then injuries took their toll. In 2009, he appeared in only four games and then missed the entire 2010 season. Patchan was able to appear in 12 games in 2011, but wasn’t healthy enough to play in 2012. He recently graduated and will look to move to a graduate program elsewhere so he can play immediately. Likely destinations are Boston College–where former Florida offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio is now the head coach–or Ohio State–where Urban Meyer will begin his second season as head coach in 2013.

Saunders was a bit of a fly-under-the-radar recruit coming out of Deland (Deland, FL). He was only considered a three-star recruit, but there was plenty of talk of his potential to become a big-time player. Saunders came on strong out of the gate as a true freshman, showing vast improvement over the course of his first season with the Gators. He played in 12 games in 2011 and started eight. Saunders was expected to be an important part of the Gators’ defense in 2012, but he only appeared in eight games after missing the first two and last two. There was talk of injury problems, but discipline also came into the discussions. Saunders has now been released from his scholarship. He has already mentioned Louisville as a possible destination.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp has yet to comment on either player’s departure.

Gators Complete SEC/ACC Challenge Sweep; Beat Tar Heels 3-0

The Active Ankle SEC/ACC Challenge is over and the no. 9 Florida volleyball team came out of it without a scratch. The Gators are challenge champions after sweeping UNC 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-14) on Saturday. Florida finished the challenge a perfect 2-0 and didn’t drop a single set.

The challenge MVP honor went to senior hitter Stephanie Ferrell. Ferrell led the Gators with seven kills on Friday against Boston College and then nearly doubled her output with 13 against UNC. Along with Ferrell, senior hitter Kristy Jaeckel (12 kills and 10 digs against the Tar Heels), senior setter Kelly Murphy (20 assists against UNC), and freshman libero Taylor Unroe (19 digs for the challenge) were named to the All-Tournament team.
File this under “Still Learning the Game,” but it sounds impressive: Florida ended the match with a 0.344 attacking efficiency, more than double that of UNC at 0.161. That’s a very good thing and led to the good guys…er…gals coming out on top.
The Gators seem to like their runs early in the 2011 season. Against UNC, Florida had runs of 4-0, 4-0, 5-0, and 9-3. At times when sets got close, a run usually pulled the Gators back into control. After six sets this season, the Gators have won five by at least eight points.
Next up for the Gators: Florida is back in Gainesville on Tuesday night against rival FSU. The Gators and Seminoles will play at 7:00. The match will be available live online on GatorVision.

Florida Volleyball Sweeps Season Opener Against Boston College

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know a lot about volleyball, but that won’t stop me from learning. It definitely doesn’t hurt to follow a great program.

Head coach Mary Wise was pleased with her team’s performance, but seemed happier she got to get so many players into the match: “…lots of people got playing time and lots of people with little experience got playing time, which was good.”
The kill (is there a better named statistic in sports?) leaders for the match were seniors Stephanie Ferrell and Kristy Jaeckel with seven each and senior Cassandra Anderson who added six. Senior Kelly Murphy and sophomore Chanel Brown led the way combining for 27 assists and freshman libero (is there a better named position in sports?) Taylor Unroe had nine digs.
The Gators took advantage of their superior talent on serves and totaled 14 aces in the match. Fast starts helped Florida finish off Boston College in each of the first two sets as the Gators got out to 8-2 and 7-1 leads early. The third set began tighter with the teams tied 5-5, but a 5-0 run by the Gators put them ahead for good.
Next up for the Gators: Florida meets UNC at 7:30 on Saturday. You can watch online on GatorVision.
Want to know more about the stars of the match? Of course you do…
Ferrell is a senior hitter from Los Angeles, CA. She joined the Gators in 2010 after spending her first two college seasons at Hawaii. In 2010 with Florida, Ferrell appeared in 26 matches and 44 sets. She is well on her way to besting her 2010 average of 0.84 kills per set.
A senior from Littleton, CO, Jaeckel is a three-time All-SEC team selection making the first-team once, the second-team once, and the all-freshmen team once. Heading into 2011, she has appeared in 92 matches and 322 sets. In 2010, Jaeckel ranked third on the team with 2.51 kills per set, a number she rose to 2.61 in SEC play.
Another senior, Anderson came to the Gators from Bakersfield, CA. The middle blocker has appeared in 87 matches and 287 set during her Florida career. In 2010, Anderson led the SEC in blocks per set with 1.27 (she finished second in 2009 with 1.23). Like Jaeckel, she was better in SEC play and averaged 1.32 blocks in those sets.
A senior from Wilmington, IL, Murphy was a First-Team AVCA All-American in 2010. It was the third season she has been named to an All-American team. Murphy was also the 2010 SEC Player of the Year and a First-Team All-SEC selection. She has an amazingly long list of accomplishments and highlights, so I suggest you just go here and read up.
A 2010 SEC All-Freshman Team selection, Brown came to Florida from Tempe, AZ. A sophomore, she appeared in 31 matches and 111 sets during her freshman season in 2010. Brown led the Gators with 5.59 assists per set last season, which was good for Florida’s fifth-best freshman season ever.
From Muncie, IN, Unroe came to Florida in 2010, but used a medical redshirt and sat out the entire season. Her high school team – Burris – won four state championships during her time on the squad and went undefeated her senior year.

Florida Gators Athletics Schedule: August 22-28, 2011

Since discontinuing USF coverage, one of the Bulls’ sites we visit most frequently is SB Nation’s Voodoo Five. They do a lot of things right, but one of those is something we’re going to borrow for the now-in-progress athletic season. Each Monday, Voodoo Five posts the USF athletic schedule for the week. Great idea and one any good fan site should have.

The Florida athletic season kicked off (literally) last week with the women’s soccer team earning victories against Miami and FIU. While we still aren’t in full swing, there are sporting events this week as well. Take a few days off, but as the weekend approaches, Gator athletics get going.
Friday, August 26
Soccer – Texas A&M (First Tennessee Lady Vol Classic) – Knoxville, TN – Sportsradio 850 – 5:30pm
Volleyball – Boston College (Active Ankle Challenge) – Gainesville, FL – 103.7 The Gator – 7:30pm
Saturday, August 27
Volleyball – UNC (Active Ankle Challenge) – Gainesville, FL – Sportsradio 850 – 7:30pm
Sunday, August 28
Soccer – UCLA (First Tennessee Lady Vol Classic) – Knoxville, TN – Sportsradio 850 – 1:30pm

Alligator Army Recruit Report: Colin Thompson, TE, Archbishop Wood Catholic

The latest recruit profile is up at Alligator Army. Today’s profile covers the latest Florida commit, tight end Colin Thompson. Thompson comes to the Gators from Archbishop Wood Catholic (Warminster, PA). He is a load of a TE measuring in at 6’5″, 255. Many will describe Thompson as a blocking TE, and they would be right. But that should not take away from his catching skills and his precise route running. Both of which are definite strengths.

Thompson chose the Gators over Boston College and Wisconsin. Those will still fight for his services, but he is pretty close to being a lock. He is excited to bring a collection of skills to the TE position that Florida has not seen in recent years. Thompson is a player to like and to cheer for. His business-like demeanor on the field show extreme focus to his game and his team. Head over to Alligator Army to read more.
For those of you not into recruiting as much as the rest of us, do not fret. More posts covering other aspects of Gator sports are on the way.

Morning Reading: Now Utah Really Can Become National Power

The non-BCS program everyone loves to cheer for has a real chance to do some national damage.  When Utah was going undefeated and winning BCS bowl games, the story was nice, but in the end it was just that, a story.
It didn’t really mean too much other than that a smaller conference team could compete with the big boys.  It could hold its own against the bigger programs and get through a season unscathed.
Each time the Utes put together a perfect season, the talk intensified.  Why didn’t they get a realistic shot at the national title?  Why were they (and Boise State) getting left out of the biggest game of them all?
It mostly came down to scheduling.  Utah performed well against some of the tougher teams on their slate, but overall the schedule just wasn’t good enough.  You couldn’t seriously justify selecting the Utes for the title game over a Big 12 or SEC team even if it did have one loss.
Utah will finally get its chance and it may make more of it than any of the other schools that recently switched conferences.  Since joining the ACC, Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech haven’t competed for a title.  The same can be said for the teams that replaced them in the Big East.  But in 2011, when the Utes join the Pac-10, they become a contender immediately.  They have a chance to get more out of expansion that any other team in recent memory.

The Long Snapper (1/25/10)

Back and ready to propel you through the offseason with the force of a thousand perfectly executed long snaps.
Tim Tebow has vowed to be himself during Senior Bowl week.  A guy who hopes to play NFL quarterback one day.  Everything about Tebow will be under the microscope this week.  From his mechanics to his upcoming Super Bowl commercial.  Many think this week could make or break Tebow’s draft prospects, but that probably only has an ounce of truth to it.  In reality, someone will take him higher than most think due to his raw talent and leadership abilities.  If he can refine some of his mechanics to turn himself into the type of QB the NFL wants, then even better.  Just don’t expect a freefall even if this week doesn’t go ideally for Tebow.
Florida commit Michael McFarland had agreed to grayshirt for the upcoming season.  Basically that means McFarland won’t arrive in Gainesville until January 2011 and won’t count until next year’s recruiting class.  Although a tough pill to swallow for most prospects, this is a good move for McFarland.  The tight end position in wide open in 2010, but McFarland may have been the odd man out.  By spending another year working out and getting in the exact shape Gator coaches want, he’ll be in a much better position to compete in 2011.  McFarland will stay in Tampa and most likely take a class or two at Hillsborough Community College during the fall.
Expect James Wilder Jr. to be one of the top ranked players in the nation once releases its first Rivals100 for the 2011 recruiting class.  Wilder is listed as an athlete and has already picked up 40 some offers.  He is being recruited as both a running back and linebacker and Florida is definitely near the top of schools he’s considering.  Wilder seems confident he can play RB at the next level although he is growing into a nearly perfect LB prospect.  He will visit the Gators at some point and will likely make the trek to USC as well.  That much we know.  As for who else is near the top of his list, it’s anyone’s guess.  It’ll be a nationwide battle to sign the Plant (Tampa, FL) star.
After going 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten in 2008, Bret Bielema was the talk of many a firing discussion.  His 12-1 (7-1) season in 2006 was thought of as a fluke because he was playing with a stacked deck of players brought to Wisconsin by Barry Alvarez.  But Bielema turned things around in 2009 and got the Badgers to finish at 10-3 (5-3) with a win over Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl (a game no one thought Wisconsin would come out on top of).  With two of those three losses coming to teams that ended up winning BCS bowl games – Iowa and Ohio State – it turned out to be a fairly successful season for the Badgers.  And Bielema has been rewarded.  The head coach has had his contract extended to 2015, meaning he’ll get to lead the Badgers to the occasional sniff of a Big Ten title for the foreseeable future.
And for your feel good story, Boston College welcomed Mark Herzlich back to practice on Thursday.  After being declared cancer-free in October, the defensive star was determined to make a comeback and this is just the first step.  Herzlich admits he’s a little out of sorts being away from the game for a full season, but also will do everything he can to get back on the field by the 2010 season opener.

Joe Haden Will Leave Florida and Enter the NFL Draft

That heading should be of no surprise to anyone.  Florida All-American cornerback Joe Haden will forego his senior season and enter the 2010 NFL Draft.  Haden’s world-class speed and physical play has him regarded by many as the top corner among draft prospects.  A lock to go in the first round, Haden could even go as high as the top 10.  Possibly top 5 if you believe the draft “experts.”  But do that at your own risk.
Haden will always be known of as the first true freshman to ever start at cornerback for the Gators (a feat that would be matched the following year by Janoris Jenkins).  All the more impressive considering he was one of the nation’s best quarterbacks in high school.  Haden set records as a passer in Maryland and was regarded as one of the top athletes in the 2007 recruiting class.  No one was completely sure where Haden would end up when he arrived at Florida – on offense or defense – but he quickly took to corner and never looked back.
Haden leaves the Gators with career statistics of 218 tackles and eight interceptions and a number too high to count when it comes to hits and tackles a typical corner doesn’t make.  They used to say no one ever threw to Deion Sanders’ side of the field, but if they did complete a pass on him, he’d have trouble bringing the receiver down.  That’s not the case at all when it comes to Haden.  Over his three years in orange and blue, he was one of the team’s surest tacklers.
If Haden had one weakness early in his career it was deep man coverage, but that was one of his stronger points as his final season went on, easily seen by the way he closed to break up a trick play attempt by Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl.  The receiver had broken open deep, but Haden caught up and knocked the pass down.
The floodgates may have been opened with Haden’s announcement as a number of other juniors are also expected to declare for the draft in the next couple of weeks.  Although he will be gone, Haden left a great legacy behind him and one that may keep going with the growing interest his family has in Florida.  Brother Josh is transferring from Boston College and considering the Gators among others and brother Jordan is committed as part of the 2010 recruiting class.

Morning Reading: A Look at the Past Few Years of Florida/Vanderbilt

I like to think every SEC fan has a soft spot for Vanderbilt.  They’re the little team that could.  Sort of the little brother that is never quite as good as you at sports, but once in a while will surprise you and push you to the limits or maybe even get a win you weren’t expecting.  In the end, he’s a formidable opponent that you root for when not cheering for yourself.  And although he doesn’t have the athletic accolades you might possess, he’s got more brains than you and your other 10 friends put together.
2008 was a great year for the Commodores.  They finished 7-6 with a win over Boston College in the Music City Bowl.  A 4-4 record in the SEC was good for 3rd place in the East.  Things were looking up for Vandy before they smacked the ground in a return to earth in 2009.  The Commodores enter Saturday’s contest against #1 Florida at 2-7 with a 0-5 record in the SEC.  In those 5 SEC games, Vandy has scored only 39 total points.  It’s not looking up for the little team that could this season as they appear headed for a date with last place in the division.
Although many may think Vandy a pushover of the nth degree, since Bobby Johnson took control, they have had some great contests against the Gators.  In fact, Florida has beaten Vandy by an average of 15.3 points over the 7 years Johnson has coached the Commodores.  Seems like a good margin of victory, but I would venture a guess that the Gators were favored by more than that in most, if not all, of those matchups.  Florida has actually only beaten Vanderbilt by 20 or more points twice in those 7 games (the last 2 seasons).
Although the Commodores may seem like the cellar dweller pushover, they fight hard and battle until the end.  Just look at 2005 when the game went into double overtime before the Gators pulled out a victory.  Or Florida’s 2006 national championship season when Vandy scored 13 in the fourth to pull within 6 late and make it interesting.
So take that 35-point line with a grain of salt.  The Gators might just win by that much, but they haven’t done so in any of the last 7 seasons.  Florida fans will want to see 50+ on the board, but down season or not, the Commodores will do their best to prevent it.

What to Watch – Week 6

This will be a semi-road trip for me. Not to the Florida/LSU game, but to a different city to watch the game with friends. My television watching may be limited for the first half of the day, but that doesn’t mean yours should be. There’s plenty of football to be had on Saturday so pony up and get your game face ready.

Here are the games you should be watching on Saturday:

Boston College @ Virginia Tech – 12:00 – Virginia Tech is on its way to ruining any hope Boise State had of actually getting considered for the title game. The Hokies have one loss, but passed the Broncos in the rankings. If they keep winning, there’s virtually no chance Boise State can overtake them.

Auburn @ Arkansas – 12:00 – Nobody expects much from Auburn this season and that might just be helping them. Last time we checked, the Tigers are 5-0 (2-0) and climbing the polls. Say what you want about Gene Chizik, but for now, he has Auburn headed in the right direction.

Georgia @ Tennessee – 12:21 – Here’s an honest question: if the Vols start 2-6 (0-5), do we start to hear rumblings about Lane Kiffin already? If you don’t think 2-6 can happen, go take a look at their schedule.

Kentucky @ South Carolina – 12:30 – With every win but the Gamecocks, the Florida/South Carolina game becomes more intriguing.

Alabama @ Ole Miss – 3:30 – I’ve been on the side of the fence that believes Ole Miss was overrated to start the year. Now I’m starting to wonder if Jevan Snead was as well. Alabama, on the other hand, has been pretty much what was advertised and that’s without Julio Jones performing up to the standards we expected him to. One of these games, he’s going to go off. It could be this one.

Wisconsin @ Ohio State – 3:30 – Seems like an easy pick and it might be, but don’t sleep on the Badgers. They have a big, bruising running back (John Clay) who has no problem carrying the ball 30+ times a game and just grinding down the clock.

Oregon @ UCLA – 3:30 – After a rough start, the Ducks are showing they’re for real. A Pac-10 title isn’t completely out of the questions.

Florida @ LSU – 8:00 – There’s nothing else I need to tell you about this game to get you to watch it.

Georgia Tech @ FSU – 8:00 – FSU needs a win. Probably more than any other team in the country this week, the Seminoles need a win. Not for national title implications. Or really even conference titles implications. But for Bobby Bowden’s sake (and this is a Gator fan saying this), FSU needs a win. His situation is being handled horribly and although I think it’s time for him to step down as much as the next guy and agree with what Jim Smith had to say, it should’ve been said to Bowden behind closed doors.

Michigan @ Iowa – 8:05 – Very tough game to predict, but we could see another undefeated fall. The Wolverines are still in rebuilding mode, but have to be reeling about last week’s loss. The Hawkeyes need to be ready on defense because Michigan is going to come right at them.