Florida Gators Recruiting: Quarterback Treon Harris Flips from Florida State

Florida pulled off one of the biggest gets of National Signing Day, flipping quarterback Treon Harris from Florida State to the Gators.

Treon Harris, Florida Gators

Once hired as Florida’s new offensive coordinator, Kurt Roper made Harris one of his top targets. Despite being committed to FSU, Harris was open to listening to what Roper had to offer. The quarterback seems to fit well into the offense Roper hopes to run and brings a different skill set to the position than early enrollee Will Grier.

Jeff Driskel will be the starter, but the junior has a history with injuries and, at times, inconsistent play. While many fans hoped Grier could come in and win the job immediately, the best course of action for the Gators was always to bring in two quarterbacks. Two transferred out; two are coming in.

Harris could actually be the one to relieve Driskel during the 2014 season as he may fit the offense better from day one. That’s not to say Grier is now on the outside looking in, but the best course of action for him may be to redshirt while the offense evolves. There are worse things than three quarterbacks all learning during the transition season to be ready for 2015.

Fans will instantly think back to John Brantley and Cam Newton and then to Driskel and Jacoby Brissett. Keep hope that this time around, the two quarterbacks will have bright futures for the Gators.

Maurkice Pouncey Named Pro Bowl Starter; Tim Tebow, Cam Newton Selected As Alternates

When our favorite Florida Gators go off to the NFL, we dream of glorious professional careers for them. Careers filled with many moments of success, maybe a Super Bowl and an induction into the Hall of Fame when all is said and done. Along the way, we want to see them become Pro Bowlers and be selected as All-Pros. We hope their success as Gators translates easily to Sundays. More often than not, it doesn’t. Take one look at my Twitter profile picture and you’ll see perhaps my biggest hope. We’re not alone, it happens to every fan base. The next level doesn’t always go as planned. But for a select few it does.

Among those few is Pittsburgh Steelers’ center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey is about to close out his second season in the NFL and for the second straight year, he will end it with a Pro Bowl nod. Only 22 years of age, the slightly older of the Pouncey twins has already made a name for himself among the league’s elite offensive linemen. He has started 29 of 31 possible regular season games and during a year in which the Steelers’ line has struggled, he’s been the rock.

The Pro Bowl selection for Pouncey is well deserved as will be the many more to come. The former Florida All-American has made the transition seem easy even though it’s anything but. Although for a player with his ability and intensity, maybe it is. This won’t be the last time we hear Pouncey’s name associated with an all-star selection of sorts this season. After his rookie season, he was also named an All-Pro. There could very well be another of those on the way as well.

While Pouncey was the only former Florida player to be named, there were two former Gators selected as alternates – one a star in orange and blue and one that ultimately found glory elsewhere. Tim Tebow was named the second alternate at quarterback for the AFC; while Cam Newton was selected as the NFC’s first alternate. The original six QBs selected each year rarely all make appearances at the annual event, so there’s a chance Tebow or Newton could be pulled into Pro Bowl duty.

Could Chris Martin Be The Next Cam Newton?

The easy and correct answer would be no, but that won’t stop Florida fans from thinking it every time a player who was all-everything in high school comes to the Gators with all the potential in the world only to transfer to a junior college.

Cam Newton did it and we all saw what happened. The only possible things making Florida fans feel better about the entire situation was the fact that Newton never beat the Gators and he was constantly under criticism for how he ended up where he did – Auburn – and where he didn’t – Mississippi State.
Now it’s Chris Martin’s turn. We don’t know where Martin will ultimately end up, but we know where he’ll play out the 2011 season. Martin will surface at Navarro College, which just happens to be the defending NJCAA champion. Again think of Newton who went on to win a title at Blinn College before going to the Tigers and winning the big boy title. There was also that Heisman Trophy and then the NFL Draft.
Martin won’t win a Heisman and he might never end up as the no. 1 overall pick in the draft, but we’ll keep asking the question. We – that’s Gator fans – saw it happen once and dread it happening again. Newton didn’t contribute much at Florida, but he did so much elsewhere. What Martin does anywhere remains to be seen, but we all might be a little sick to our stomachs if we one day see him hoisting the crystal ball. Sure we wish luck to anyone who looks for a different situation somewhere else, but the fan in fanatical in us doesn’t wish too much.

Mike Blakely Will Transfer to Auburn

There was talk of a restricted transfer with the rest of the SEC, FSU, and Miami being ruled out. That did not happen. There was talk of a move closer to home to USF. That did not happen. There was even talk of a transfer to a junior college then back to the SEC after a season. That also did not happen. Mike Blakely was granted the ability to transfer from Florida and land wherever he wished. That wish was Auburn and that is where Blakely will head to continue his college football career not longer after it sort of, kind of started.

The Gators know this story all too well. I am not sure how many of you are familiar with the story of Cameron Newton. It is one of legend that happened many moons ago. Newton came to Florida with the potential to be great. He was learning the system behind a star named Tim Tebow and many anticipated a transition to be near seamless. Instead, Newton found himself in trouble with the local authorities and when Sir Timothy decided to return to Florida for his senior year, Newton transferred. The rest is, as we say, history. Newton won a junior college National Championship. Then surfaced at Auburn. A BCS National Championship would come, but not before he also claimed a Heisman Trophy.
I hope you can recognize the sarcastic tone scattered throughout that last paragraph. When Newton left Florida, few were displeased. The Gators were never entirely sure what they had in the quarterback and were mostly behind Newton’s classmate John Brantley. Regardless of what you now think of Newton, he had one of the truly great college football seasons in 2010 and capped it off by becoming the top pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
The odds of that happening with Blakely are slim. That is not to discount his ability, but he is a running back and will have less of an impact than Newton did. He may be a star for the Tigers though and that is the fear of a Gators fan. It is the unknown. What happens if Florida faces Auburn in the future and Blakely is the star performer in the game? What if he is the one that knocks the Gators out of SEC Championship, or worse National Championship, contention? Unlikely? Of course. But it could happen. Had Florida actually won the SEC East in 2010, it would have been Newton in the way of a conference trophy. It could be Blakely in the future.
While we would like to wish those who transfer out well (in most cases), it is hard when they end up playing for a team your team faces or could face. Go to USF. Head out to Oregon. Go the FCS route. Do not go somewhere we are very familiar with. Do not go somewhere that could come back to haunt us.
The flip side of that is the “we will show him what he is going to miss” argument. A good one and definitely a good feeling for the rivalry revenge angle. Let us just hope that side pans out. This is not necessarily animosity toward the player leaving; it is just support of your program. It is how we should feel to be honest. Process the transfer and simply say “good luck with that, but enjoy losing to use in a few seasons.” However, we can push our feelings this way as much as we want, but we still will not forget about that Cameron Newton guy.
(Brock Berlin not mentioned in depth on purpose. Try your best to forget about that game.)

Picking a Quarterback by the Numbers

Our sports society values statistics over anything else.  It may not always be right, but we place a high emphasis on the numbers.  In reality, only two numbers matter – wins and losses – but good numbers in other areas get you more of the former and less of the latter.  You want a great quarterback because you likelihood of victory may be higher than if you had an average one.  One player does not make a team, but one player can certainly help.

At this point in the season you probably have one of three possible feelings about your team’s quarterback: “he’s great,” “he’s…well…he’s there,” or “good lord save us!”  You don’t have a choice.  This isn’t a video game.  You can’t have the QB pulled for someone else because frankly the head coach doesn’t give a damn what you think.  But you can imagine what it might be like with a different player taking snaps.  Even if it is really just an exercise in fun.
So which quarterback would you take?
Quarterback A: 20-for-33, 60.6%, 322 yards, 9.8 yards per attempt, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception, 186.51 rating, 33 carries, 241 yards, 7.3 yards per carry, 2 touchdowns, 2-0 record, 14.5 margin of victory, 1 conference road win
Quarterback B: 35-for-56, 62.5%, 285 yards, 5.1 yards per attempt, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 128.82 rating, 5 carries, -25 yards, -5.0 yards per carry, 2-0 record, 23.0 margin of victory
Based on the above numbers, you would take Quarterback A.  You would.  There aren’t many reasons why you would pick Quarterback B.  Sure B hasn’t thrown an interception yet, but it isn’t as if A is constantly connecting with the other team.  He has a single pick.  B does have a higher completion percentage, but the difference is minimal.  And finally, the margin of victory is greater for B – even more so if you consider that both of B’s wins were by over 20 points.  QB A had one big win and one three-point victory, but A’s conference road win may actually make him more desirable.  The only thing you know about who these two and their wins is that A has that conference win in a hostile environment.
Looking at the positives for A over B, he has more passing yards in 23 less attempts.  The attempts are key.  Quarterback A has a yards per attempt average nearly double that of Quarterback B.  His rating is substantially higher and he is a threat on the ground while B doesn’t appear to do anything with his feet.  So your choice is Quarterback A.
By now, you know who these quarterbacks are.  They were part of the same recruiting class in 2007.  They were two of the better prospects in the nation that year – ranked #28 and #47 overall by Rivals.com.  They both ended up signing with the same school and, at the time, the school and its fans were ecstatic to have them.  They both spent time learning the college game under the same superstar quarterback.  They both are now starters for SEC teams.  And they both wear orange and blue.
They are, of course, Cameron Newton (Quarterback A) and John Brantley (Quarterback B).
If you’re a Florida fan, knowing what you know, you are scoffing at the idea that anyone would want Newton over Brantley.  Especially the Gators.  The circumstances surrounding Newton leaving the program soured him in your mind and it doesn’t hurt that Brantley is a legacy and has been the consummate professional waiting in line for his turn.  Florida fans love Brantley and probably want him to excel more than any other player.  But that doesn’t change the numbers.
When Newton left the Gators you were probably angry and disappointed.  Angry because of the situation.  Disappointed because you knew how good he could be.  Brantley softened the blow.  There were many in Brantley’s corner from the beginning, but it’s hard to know if he would really be the starter today if Newton was still around.  If Newton was still with the program, would Brantley be the one starting at a different school?  Would Florida employ a two-headed monster at quarterback destroying all defenses in its way?  What would have happened?
We’ll never know obviously, but we do know there’s a quarterback at Auburn that looks good.  Very good.  They’ve both had their awe-inspiring moments: Newton has outstanding speed for someone his size and Brantley is a gun-slinger.  And they’ve both had their growing pains: Newton struggled at times in his second start while Brantley has yet to have a breakout game through the air.
Gator fans are spoiled because they hoped for numbers similar to this after two games:
31-for-42, 73.8%, 536 yards, 12.8 yards per attempt, 6 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 228.2 rating, 25 carries, 131 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, 3 touchdowns, 2-0 record, 37.0 margin of victory
You would take that quarterback over both Newton and Brantley.  In the next week, that QB would pass for two more scores and rush for another two in a 39-point victory over a conference rival.  He would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and then follow up that campaign with back-to-back 13-1 seasons.  Oh yeah, it’s Tim Tebow.  The guy Newton and Brantley backed up.
Tebow is gone though and Brantley is the starter.  You shouldn’t wish for Newton to still be a Gator.  He’s not and you love Brantley.  It’s a learning process and Brantley will get better.  So will Newton.  He was hardly washed up when he left Florida and definitely isn’t now that he’s at Auburn.  Brantley will improve as the season continues and with every game will gain more confidence in his abilities.  But you better believe Gator fans will be keeping an eye on the Tigers’ QB.

The Long Snapper (6/2/10)

Slightly retooled (because what fun would anything around here be if I didn’t constantly change things for no apparent reason) to college football only for your reading pleasure.
We can no longer call it the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, but we may be able to call it the Jim Beam Florida/Georgia Battle.  As part of the contract being worked out with the city of Jacksonville, the schools would be given control of all marketing and merchandising.  If they wish, that could include corporate sponsorship; although it’s highly unlikely it would ever come to that.  Under the new contract, the game will remaining in Jacksonville annually through 2016 and the city will have the first opportunity to negotiate with the schools for future games.  The Bulldogs will also reap a few benefits from having to travel farther than the Gators.  Georgia will be reimbursed by the city for their flight costs.  Apparently that’s Jacksonville’s attempt the level the playing field despite the Gator-heavy location.
Jim Leavitt and attorneys are fighting to…uh…well…get about every last cent they can from USF. Actually this time it’s to make the records of USF’s investigation into the former head coach public.  A hearing will occur on June 9 that will hopefully clear up the deal with the records.  Leavitt and team hope that by revealing the accounts of the entire investigation, their side of the truth will come to light.  Whatever that truth may be.  A number of USF officials have been subpoenaed to appear at the hearing.  Yet another hearing – this time regarding Leavitt’s lawsuit – will occur toward the end of July.  Consider this the firing that never ended.  We should take bets now to predict if we’ll still be talking about this into the 2010 season.  Or better yet, that the issue still won’t be settled.
Go ahead and give the SEC Newcomer of the Year Award to Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton.  Could a player have a better situation set up for him in 2010?  It’s highly unlikely.  Newton was one of the top high school quarterbacks in the nation when he signed with Florida, but his Gator career ended before he ever got a chance to fight for a starting job (you all remember what happened, no need to reiterate it here).  After tearing up the junior college ranks, Newton decided Auburn was the best fit for his huge frame and rocket arm.  He digested Gus Malzahn’s offense in the spring, was named the Tigers’ starting quarterback and the rest will, soon enough, be history.  A team on the rise and a passer (who can run) with all the talents to succeed.  If Auburn makes strides forward in 2010, Newton will be a big reason.  Literally.  Welcome the Tigers back to the top half of the SEC.
Two Big Ten giants and a national hero are among those that make up the latest class to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.  Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard was a star at Michigan before bouncing around the NFL.  Barry Alvarez is the face of the Wisconsin football program.  And Arizona State’s Pat Tillman, well, there’s nothing to really add to what’s been said about him over the years.  The three, along with 11 others – including former Alabama head coach Gene Stallings) – will be inducted into the Hall in December.

The Long Snapper (5/21/10)

Expansion could happen later rather than sooner.  Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney says the conference in no hurry to expand and will do so when completely ready.  The Big Ten has a lot of research to conduct over the next few months to determine, first, if they should expand, and then, who they should invite to be a part of the conference.  There are a number of factors that go into each, so don’t expect invites to be extended soon.  It sounds like we may be still discussing the possibility of expansion this time next year.  And if the Big Ten decides it’s best to not expand, well then, they won’t.  Just don’t think they’re near a decision yet.  If they are, they’re not telling anyone.
One day, invitations will be extended and one day, Notre Dame will probably turn theirs down again.  But if they do, don’t expect Big Ten teams to stop scheduling the Fighting Irish.  Michigan, for instance, plans to keep their rivalry with Notre Dame going regardless of what happens with the conference situation.  Although no deal has been signed, the Wolverines and Irish have both expressed a desire to play each other for the foreseeable future.  Maybe there’s something to this independence thing after all.  Notre Dame can schedule whoever they want and keep some historical rivalries going.  Then again, if the Irish were to decline the Big Ten’s advances again, would the conference put pressure on the Wolverines to stop scheduling the game?
If a school were to leave the WAC – let’s say Boise State, for instance – they would have to notify the conference by July 1.  Scared the Broncos might be a target for larger conference, the WAC upped the deadline from September 1.  They want to have as much notice as possible.  Even if Boise State did leave though, it wouldn’t happen for another year.  The Broncos are playing in the WAC in 2010 regardless of any decision they may make.
Tyrik Rollison was a big get for Auburn as part of their 2009 recruiting class.  He was expected to be the next big thing at quarterback for the Tigers.  And then the troubles began.  Rollison was suspended for Auburn’s bowl game and didn’t take part in spring practices.  And then former Florida QB Cameron Newton took control of the starting position.  Rollison announced his intentions to transfer a few months ago, and now he’s received Auburn’s permission to do so.  Don’t expect Rollison to show up at another FBS program.  He seems ready to return home and possibly attend Sam Houston State.  If he were to expand his search though, I’d imagine other large schools would come calling.
The Friday Fifth: BYU is one of those weird schools with an honor code.  You know, like don’t cheat or something like that.  Something most of us would know nothing about.  Harvey Unga – the Cougars’ all-time leading rusher – withdrew himself from the school in the spring because he had violated said code, but now he wants back in.  And he’s in, but not until January.  Unga wanted to be admitted for the fall so he could play his final season, but that won’t happen now.
The List: The weekend’s watch schedule.
1. San Jose Sharks @ Chicago Blackhawks – Game 3 (Blackhawks lead 2-0) – Friday, 8:00
2. Philadelphia Flyers @ Montreal Canadiens – Game 4 (Flyers lead 2-1) – Saturday, 3:00
3. Orlando Magic @ Boston Celtics – Game 3 (Celtics lead 2-0) – Saturday, 8:30
4. San Jose Sharks @ Chicago Blackhawks – Game 4 – Sunday, 3:00
5. Los Angeles Lakers @ Phoenix Suns – Game 3 (Lakers lead 2-0) – Friday, 8:30
The Sixth Man: Thoughts are with Mike and Nikki Oyedeji and the Texas A&M basketball program.  Mike and Nikki’s son, Tobi Oyedeji, died as the result of a car accident this past weekend.  Oyedeji was on his way home from prom when he was involved in a head-on collision.  The 18-year-old forward was expected to contribute immediately for the Aggies.

The Long Snapper (4/30/10)

Ah the co-starter designation.  USF currently has two positions that have that designation.  Middle linebacker and weakside linebacker.  It obviously won’t be that way forever – unless the NCAA instituted a new rule in which you can play 13 players on defense.  I’m not up on all the new rules, but I don’t think that one made the cut.  The co-starters are listed because neither has taken full control of the position so far.  Sometimes that’s a bad thing, but in this case it sounds like it’s actually a good thing.  Both players have been performing well and either could start.  Fingers crossed.  The battle at middle linebacker is between Sam Barrington (a TBG favorite) and Mike Lanaris.  The edge would seem to go to Barrington and is probably the fan pick, but Lanaris stepped it up during practices when Barrington couldn’t participate in due to injury.  I’ll give the edge to Barrington, but having Lanaris push him benefits both players.  At weakside linebacker, Sabbath Joseph is fighting with DeDe Lattimore for the starting position.  Joseph has the edge in terms of experience, but don’t be surprised if Lattimore is on the field a lot during the fall.  Good battles going on.  Much better than those you get when neither player is worthy of a starting spot.
Florida defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is the only assistant coach without an assigned recruiting area in the state.  The reason is simple.  Austin is new to this.  Well, not new to it – he does have college coaching experience – but getting adjusted to it again.  Due to that, Austin won’t manage a section of Florida this year, but may in the future.  What he will recruit is the ever important Atlanta area as well as western Pennsylvania.  Hopefully Austin takes to recruiting better than former (can we really call him that?) defensive coordinator George Edwards.  Rumors were Edwards really never wanted a part of it.  Austin’s recent NFL experience should help him throughout the process.  Being able to talk NFL to kids who have the pro league as an ultimate dream never hurts.
Speaking of recruits from Atlanta, Cameron Newton has been named Auburn’s starting quarterback.  For now.  The former Gator has claimed the top spot following the spring and should be able to hold on to it through the fall.  Newton will have some competition for the job, but being named the top guy now speaks volumes to how the depth chart will end up.  Be afraid those of you on the Tigers’ schedule.  Although many Gator fans won’t admit it, Newton is a premier talent.  His ability to pass and run at his size makes him a threat to any defense.  Auburn is a team on the rise and Newton could push them to the next level in 2010.
Finish the regular season with a losing record, go bowling!  Why not?  The more bowls, the more money.  Why not allow losing teams into the “postseason?”  Because it’s one of the stupidest ideas ever.  With the number of bowls recently being increased to 35, we could end up rewarding losers.  A team that lost more games than it won could sneak into a bowl game.  Meaning a team could actually win their bowl game and still end up with a losing record.  My head hurts just thinking about that.  The NCAA is truly all about money and not the competitive nature of sports.  5-7 teams shouldn’t be rewarded.  In my opinion, 6-6 teams shouldn’t be rewarded either.  If I had any say, I would declare you have to win at least 75% of your games to go bowling.  8-4 sounds good enough to me.  But forcing teams to win twice as many games as they lose, severely limits the number of bowl games.  Many fans probably think that’s okay.  The NCAA does not.  So we’ll continue to get matchups of 6-6 teams and a loser may even be thrown in there from time to time.  Stupidity at its best.
The Friday Fifth (because The Long Snapper needs more sections that start with “The”): Lane Kiffin is cleaning up USC.  I have no jokes or anything to go along with that.  That one sentence is humorous enough.  At least I can agree with Tennessee fans on one thing now; they hate the guy as much as (or more than) the rest of us do.
The List: Sporting type things you should be watching this weekend.  In neat and tidy chronological order.
1. Montreal Canadiens @ Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 1 – Friday, 7:00
2. Los Angeles Lakers @ Oklahoma City Thunder – Game 6 (Lakers lead 3-2) – Friday, 9:30
3. Philadelphia Flyers @ Boston Bruins – Game 1 – Saturday, 12:30
4. The Kentucky Derby – Saturday, 6:24
5. Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers – Game 1 – Saturday, 8:00
6. Montreal Canadiens @ Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 2 – Sunday, 2:00
The Sixth Man: Florida has added Ohio State to its schedule for the next two years.  On November 16, the two teams will play in Gainesville and then in Columbus during the 2011-2012 season.  The Gators’ schedule is shaping up to be a good one next year with Xavier on the slate as well as the Buckeyes.  Maybe one of these years, the football team can take note.

The Long Snapper (2/26/10)

Mike Ford no more.  The former blue-chip recruit running back who gave Bulls’ fans high hopes for the 2010 season after his dominant performance in the International Bowl has been dismissed from the USF football team for a violation of team rules.  Rumors are rampant concerning the reason for his dismissal, but regardless of what occurred, he is gone (there is even some talk about the NCAA being involved).  Ford was the highest-rated talent to ever commit to the Bulls, ranked as a five-star prospect coming out of Hargrave Military Academy.  Big things were expected of Ford.  With USF only being a year removed from back-to-back 1,300-yard seasons from Andre Hall, the Bulls thought they had found their next star back.  Ford had his moments, but never fully lived up to the promise, in part because he had trouble getting himself on the field consistently.  But occasionally he would come back and show some of that talent that got him so highly rated in the first place.  His last game was one of those moments.  In the 2010 International Bowl – a 27-3 win over Northern Illinois – Ford carried the ball 20 times for 207 yards.  It was a career-high that nearly doubled his season total.  Good things were expected from Ford in Skip Holtz’s system.  A system that while in place at ECU produced Chris Johnson.  Unfortunately we’ll never get to see it.  Ford is gone.  His last game as a Bull has been played.  Ford is handling the situation as best he can.  He has apologized for his mistake and taken responsibility for his actions.  He hopes to continue classes at USF and then be able to play his final year elsewhere.
Wide receiver Donald Bowens is a few months away from graduating from NC State, after which he may finish his college career at USF. Bowens has one year of eligibility left and could spend it with the Bulls.  After a productive season in 2007 (41 catches, 598 yards, three touchdowns), Bowens missed all of 2008 and parts of 2009 due to injuries.  With one season left, it appears as if he wants to be a Bull: “I want to play at USF. I’d love to be at home for my final college season.” Bowens is a St. Petersburg High alum who was recruited by the Bulls out of high school.  Adding him to the receiving corps can only be a plus for a team whose leading returning receiver only had 26 catches in 2009.  Any addition to the depth at WR is a plus.  If I’m counting correctly (which I far from guarantee), Bowens has more career catches than any current Bull receiver.  Nothing bad about bringing him in for his final year.
Former Florida quarterback John Brantley, father of current Florida quarterback John Brantley, is battling prostate cancer, however, it is being reported he has an extremely treatable form of the cancer and a very high rate of recovery based on the surgery he will have in March.  For the elder Brantley, the diagnosis came at a time he had been waiting for.  A time when his son was ready to take the practice field as the starting quarterback at the University of Florida.  Something the entire family had been patiently waiting for.  Best wishes to Brantley and his entire family with his recovery.  And continuing to look forward to seeing the younger Brantley on the field.
A look at the Premier Showcase of New Jersey where some of the area’s top juniors get a chance to show their stuff.  And one where Florida signee Sharrif Floyd picked up top lineman honors last year.  Scroll down until you get to Damiere Byrd.  Byrd had the fastest 40 time of any junior at the U.S. Army National Combine earlier this year and could be one of the quickest prospects in the country.  While he hasn’t received offers from some of the nation’s top programs just yet, he is hearing a lot from them, including Florida which used the magic words.  Byrd has said the Gators want to put him in the Percy Harvin position (a position I still wonder why Florida is trying so hard to fill…adapt people!).  He can play wide receiver or defensive back at the next level, but Byrd would like to focus on the offensive side of the ball.
One year after being the jewel of Auburn’s 2009 recruiting class, Tyrik Rollison is leaving the Tigers, and in a roundabout way, the Gators could have had something to do with his desire to transfer.  Rollison redshirted in 2009 and was expected to make a push for the starting job at quarterback.  Then Auburn brought in a transfer familiar to Florida fans.  A transfer – Cameron Newton – who is expected to assume the starting role.  Rollison might have still had a chance to earn serious playing time, but will instead transfer to Sam Houston State, close to his home of Sulphur Springs, Texas.  He could have garnered interest from a number of top programs, but Rollison didn’t want to go another year without seeing the field.  At Sam Houston State, he will be eligible immediately and could hold the starting job for several years.

The Long Snapper (2/9/10)

USF will have more former players at the NFL Combine than any other Big East team.  Pretty impressive for a program still trying to establish itself as an NFL player provider.  The Bulls will send wide receiver Carlton Mitchell (an early entry), defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul (also an early entry) and George Selvie, linebacker Kion Wilson, cornerback Jerome Murphy, and safety Nate Allen to the pre-draft event.  Pierre-Paul has a very real chance of being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in April.  A strong showing at the combine will solidify his status.
Skip Holtz will drop the puck at Thursday night’s Tampa Bay Lightning game.  Of course it’s ceremonial and doesn’t really mean the game begins with the drop.  Sports would be a lot more interesting if it did though.  Throwing out the first pitch should mean you’re really throwing out the first pitch.  None of this for fun crap anymore.  Let’s see Holtz drop the puck then attempt to get out of the way before being run over by angry Canadians.
ESPN.com’s Chris Low has made a list of the top five SEC players he believes will be the toughest to replace.  A top that list is of course former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.  Not necessarily because the highly-touted John Brantley can’t do it, but because of everything Tebow brought to the Gators.  Play on the field, leadership, attitude, etc.  Tebow was much more than another football player.  The offense will change under Brantley and he seems destined to be a great player in his own right, but it’s everything else people are wondering if he’ll bring.  Can he be the emotional leader Tebow was?  Those will be the shoes Brantley is expected to fill.  He’ll be able to win games, but can he get the rest of the team to rise up during the situations they need a leader most?
Low also has a top five list of the SEC newcomers to watch.  The top two on that list have Florida connections.  #1 is new Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton – someone Gator fans surely remember.  Newton is back in the SEC and has the tools to be a very good quarterback for the Tigers.  Look for him to help push Auburn closer to the top of the SEC West.  #2 on the list is Florida redshirt freshman do-it-all athlete Andre Debose.  Debose was one of the top players coming out of high school a year ago, but his hamstring wouldn’t let him get on the field in 2009.  He’ll suit up for the Gators for the first time in 2010 and could end up being one of Florida’s most dangerous offensive weapons.
Chris Leak made a statement before he ever suited up for the Gators.  Something about winning 3-4 National Championships and 2-3 Heisman Trophies.  Not to take away from Leak’s bravado (I was actually quite the Leak supporter during his time at Florida), but many wondered if he should have been so bold.  Leak did leave with a title, and two short years after he was gone the Gators won another, but didn’t reach the level he predicted.  This time around it’s defensive end Lynden Trail.  Trail has been very vocal in his support of Florida and his overwhelming desire to be a Gator (something I, for one, am very happy about) and recently said he believes Florida will win 2-3 National Championships during his time there*.  When Leak said it, it had been years since the Gators won their first title.  When Trail said it, Florida was only just over a year removed from hoisting the trophy and just came off a 13-1 season.  Although some may wish players weren’t so boisterous before stepping on the field, Trail’s prediction has a much better chance of coming true than Leak’s did.
* For your own good, avoid reading the comments left on most Swamp Things articles.