Florida Gators 37 – Florida State Seminoles 26; Gators Finish Regular Season In Spectacular Fashion

It’s funny how things work out. Not 30 minutes before the Florida Gators rivalry matchup with the Florida State Seminoles kicked off, I posted a clip of Fred Taylor dominating the FSU defense. In that clip, the announcers mention the ‘Noles elite run defense only to watch Taylor finish off a long touchdown run at that very moment. This Saturday would end in a very similar fashion.

Mike Gillislee - Florida Gators

FSU entered the game with the nation’s best defense statistically. It left with a 37-26 loss in which is gave up 394 yards (244 on the ground) to a team that…well, let’s just say struggled…has struggled on offense for much of the season. 140 of those rushing yards came from senior running back Mike Gillislee who would not only pass 1,000 yards for the season, but also 1,100. You would think it had been decades since the Gators had had a 1,000-yard rusher, but in reality it was only since 2004. Regardless, it’s a great accomplishment for a deserving player that has worked just as hard as anyone this season. Happy to see Gillislee end the regular season on a high note and think about this for just a moment–he rushed for 140 or more yards three times this season with two of those occurrences coming against LSU and FSU. Not too shabby for the senior.

Then there was the true freshman—Matt Jones. When Gillislee went down in the fourth, head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease decided the best thing to do was to keep him on the sideline as the game looked to be in the bag anyway. They turned to Jones to close it out for the Gators, and close it out he did. Jones responded with a season-high 81 rushing yards. Yes, it was against a very tired Florida State defense (a good defense all the same), but the Gators truly put the game away with Jones’s hard running. The freshman finished the regular season with a modest 259 yards, but the future looks bright for Jones and the Gators’ run game.

This game was about so much more than what the Gators were able to do on the ground (and we didn’t even mention the offensive line; applause gentlemen!). It was about beating FSU in Tallahassee and an offense that was better than expected. There were still noticeable improvements to be made, but the end result of the game erased much of that from our minds. Our Florida Gators beat the Florida State Seminoles on the road to finish the regular season 11-1. Yes, really.

There’s a wow factor with that 11-1 record. The Florida Gators weren’t an 11-1 team heading into the 2012 college football season. They were a team coming off a 7-6 season that should have been improved. We could definitely see a one-win improvement. Two was even a possibility. Running through the schedule and looking at individual matchups, there was also a 10-win feel in the air. 11-1 with wins over four of the current top 13 and a loss only to No. 3, well, here comes that maniacal laughter again.

It all came to a glorious end on Saturday night when the Gators beat the ‘Noles. There are wins and then there are near perfect endings. 24 points in the fourth quarter after giving up a 13-0 lead that should have been bigger. Entering the final frame, FSU was up 20-13. Florida would win by 11, which really was 17. It made for a joyous end to a truly odd regular season. But if odd regular seasons produce 11-1 Gators’ teams, keep coming at us with the weirdness.

It’s been a few days since the victory and I’ve had some time to come down off of my cloud. That doesn’t mean the taste of beating a hated rival is gone, but things have calmed. I now await the future and a BCS bowl. I wanted the Gators to win 10 games this season—that was my goal. Florida is now staring down 12. There is no trip to Atlanta and no chance to play for the National Championship, but this season was a pleasant surprise in the “just win” arena. As hard as things were to watch at times, they were equally wonderful at others. It went by at the breakneck speed of a quick three-and-out, but we still stand here at 11-1 wondering what the 2013 season will bring and how things could get even better.

2013 Football Recruiting Report: Kelvin Taylor – Running Back – Belle Glade, FL

He’s the recruit everyone had their eye on, for a while now. Being the son of a former Florida Gators’ great is one thing; breaking the career state rushing record of another is one more. There are many things that turned Kelvin Taylor into one of the nation’s most sought after running backs; his connections to Fred Taylor and Emmitt Smith are just a couple. The 2013 RB more than lives up to the comparisons and the hype and on February 18, he made Gator Nation extremely happy.

The Rundown

Name: Kelvin Taylor
Position: Running Back
Height: 5’11″
Weight: 215
Hometown: Belle Glade, FL
High School: Glades Day
Class: 2013
Rankings: 247Sports – 5 stars, No. 1 RB, No. 13 Overall | ESPN – 4 stars, No. 1 RB, No. 21 Overall | Scout – 4 stars, No. 9 RB, No. 58 Overall | Rivals – 4 stars, No. 9 RB, No. 92 Overall
Status: Committed to Florida

The Report

It came down to two schools for Taylor: Florida – where his father played – and Alabama – the defending national champions and the program that recently produced Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. A tough decision for Taylor seemed like a no-brainer for Gators’ fans. The decision came early when Taylor committed to Florida, and although there’s plenty of time for him to change his mind, not many see that happening.

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2013 Football Recruiting: Kelvin Taylor Commits To Florida; Gators Add Top 2013 Running Back

Belle Glade, FL (Glades Day) running back Kelvin Taylor has committed to play football for the Florida Gators. The Florida legacy – scheduled to attend Florida’s Junior Day on Saturday – has made his decision public. Taylor – son of Gators’ great Fred Taylor – chose Florida over the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Taylor is regarded as one of the nation’s top running backs. The state’s high school career rushing leader will take his talents to Gainesville where his father was a star in the 1990s. The younger Taylor ends speculation early in the process and was one recruit that definitely made Florida fans nervous over the last few months. While he has always been extremely pro-Gator, Taylor has also been positive toward the Tide via his Twitter account.

Florida now has two running backs already committed as part of the 2013 recruiting class. Taylor joins Winter Haven’s Adam Lane and the duo may eventually become a trio. There has been plenty of talk about the Gators taking three backs as part of the class after landing only Matt Jones in 2012.

The fast start to the 2013 cycle is a welcome occurrence for fans that weren’t entirely satisfied with the 2012 class. It’s hard to be down on a class ranked as highly as the Gators’ was, but minimal offensive playmakers at key positions such as wide receiver and, of course, running back had many looking forward to 2013. Taylor joins a class that is already turning out to be a very good one more than 11 months before National Signing Day.

2013 Football Recruiting: Kelvin Taylor Set To Announce Decision; Will Attend Florida’s Junior Day On Saturday

Kelvin Taylor – son of Florida Gators’ great Fred Taylor – is set to announce his college decision this weekend. The Belle Glade, FL (Glades Day) running back will attend Florida’s junior day on Saturday and make his commitment publicly known around 9:00 AM. Taylor’s list has been narrowed down to the Gators and the Alabama Crimson Tide for quite some time and many believe an orange and blue decision is coming.

Taylor – the state’s high school career rushing leader – has been somewhat of a phenom since his eighth-grade season. He is a four-star recruit and ranked No. 111 overall according to Rivals.com. 247 sports puts Taylor higher up their list; the running back is No. 5 at his position and No. 34 overall. Regardless of his ranking, Taylor is expected to be a dynamic addition to whichever program he chooses. Lately that program seems to be Florida.

While he has been openly positive toward both programs on his Twitter account, the combination of his father and Florida’s Junior Day has led many to believe he will commit to the Gators on Saturday morning. There’s not much longer to wait before we find out if Florida adds a fifth member to their 2013 recruiting class.

The Greatest Florida Gators Jersey Numbers

There are a number of “best Florida players at a certain jersey number” lists out there.  I did one a while ago and GatorBait.net is doing a series.  That’s typically the way we look at jersey numbers: who’s the best at each number?  But this time around, One Eyed Willy and I decided to take a different approach: what are the greatest numbers?

We looked at the all-time roster (at least what’s available of it) and each put together a list of our top numbers.  We tried to each have a balance between quality and quantity, but it wasn’t always easy.  Each of us picked what we considered to be the best 15, scored those based on the standard reverse method (1 gets 15 points, 2 gets 14 points, etc.) and from it came this top 10 list.  Enjoy and debate if you must.  I’m sure Gator fans from different eras have very different opinions.
1. #7 (29 pts., 1 first-place vote – Willy) – To many Florida fans, Tebow may have taken the top spot in their hearts, but there’s a collection of us that have Danny Wuerffel slightly higher.  Wuerffel was the Gators second Heisman Trophy recipient, but its first national championship quarterback.  He will always be the first player that comes to mind when you think of the #7 jersey.  John Reaves was a great quarterback in his day as well and Lorenzo Hampton, Jesse Palmer, and Cornelius Ingram also had their moments with the number.  Looking ahead: #7 could strengthen its hold of the top spot if incoming freshman Ronald Powell becomes even half the player he’s expected to be.
2. #1 (28 pts., 1 first-place vote – TBG) – I have a soft spot for both Percy Harvin and Reggie Nelson so they may have swayed my vote, but they aren’t the only players that represented #1 well.  Keiwan Ratliff was one of the nation’s top shutdown cornerbacks throughout his career (he holds the Florida single-season record for interceptions) and Tony George was a feared defensive back.  Don’t forget about Jack Jackson who was the leading receiver and kick returner during two SEC championship seasons.  Looking ahead: Janoris Jenkins has a chance to put his mark on the number with two more years of eligibility.  He already has one good season under his belt with the number, although some may argue his season wearing #29 was his better as a Gator.
3. #22 (26 pts.) – You always have to start the discussion about #22 with Emmitt Smith.  Without him, this number may still make the list, but wouldn’t be considered a top three candidate.  Smith was one of the greatest to ever play at Florida.  Along with Smith, a series of Jacksons wore the number with pride.  Terry Jackson won a national title with the Gators while Willie Jackson Sr. and Willie Jackson Jr. both sported #22.  John L. Williams and Steve Tannen also must be mentioned.  Looking ahead: Matt Elam could give #22 a boost.  A high-rated recruit, Elam has a chance to push the number into the top two with a good career.
T4. #15 (23 pts.) – #15 can thank Tim Tebow for getting the number to the top five.  Without him, it’s highly unlikely it would make the list.  Of course, Tebow’s not the only star to wear the number.  Reidel Anthony was part of three SEC title teams and won a national championship wearing #15.  He also set the SEC receiving touchdowns mark.  Don’t forget about Dee Webb who improved as a cornerback over the course of his career.  Looking ahead: good luck.  It could be a while before Urban Meyer lets someone else touch #15.
T4. #21 (23 pts.)Fred Taylor and Cris Collinsworth are the biggest names to wear #21.  They alone would get the number on the list.  And if we were looking at NFL accomplishments, neither would hurt their cause.  Dexter McNabb and DeShawn Wynn contribute to the number’s solid history of running backs.  The latest defensive player to wear it – Major Wright – definitely served it well.  Looking ahead: we’re all hoping another Taylor – Fred’s son Kelvin Taylor – wears #21 for Florida in the future.  For now, Emmanuel Moody has one last chance to truly make a name for himself.
T6. #5 (16 pts.) – A three-year starting cornerback, the Gators all-time leader in receptions, and an All-American receiver push #5 this high up the list.  Joe Haden was the latest to wear it and you can’t say he didn’t wear it well.  Andre Caldwell set the record for most career catches while wearing #5 throughout his entire career.  Jacquez Green only wore #5 for his final two seasons, but they were his best.  Another good #5 – Earnest Graham – became only the fifth Gator running back to ever rush for more than 3,000 career yards.  Looking ahead: surprisingly enough Joe’s little brother – Jordan Haden – won’t start his career with his brother’s old number.  Also surprising, either will Chris Dunkley.  Dunkley was rumored to be wearing #5, but is listed at #27.  If either switches to #5, they could help the number’s legacy.
T6. #33 (16 pts.) – Call #33 the running back club.  Errict Rhett is Florida’s all-time leader in career attempts and yards and is third in rushing touchdowns.  For good measure, Rhett also ranks fourth in receptions.  Kestahn Moore, Ran Carthon, Tony Green, Tommy Durrance, and Larry Smith also wore #33.  Only the defensive side of the ball, Teako Brown had good years with the number.  Looking ahead: True freshman Mack Brown hopes to add to the number of running backs that have excelled in the #33 jersey.
8. #74 (15 pts.) – Yes, a number typically reserved for linemen makes the list.  One player can be thanked for that – Jack Youngblood.  Youngblood earned All-American honors during his final year at Florida and would go on to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.  Jason Odom was also an All-American #74 and was a member of the All-SEC team twice.  Before Odom, was two-time first-team All-American offensive lineman Jeff ZimmermanLooking ahead: Maurice Hurt currently wears #74 and has a chance to earn a starting spot in 2010.
9. #88 (14 pts.) – Similar to #74 above, #88 can thank one player for pushing it into the list.  Wilber Marshall will forever be linked to Youngblood as one of the two greatest defensive Gators of all-time.  At Florida, Marshall was a two-time Lombardi Award finalist and was named the National Defensive Player of the Year during his final season.  Erron Kinney and Kirk Kirkpatrick both made their marks at #88 as starting tight ends.  Back in the 1960s, Jim Yarbrough wore the number during his great Gator career.  Looking ahead: Reserve tight end Michael McFarland wears the number now, but has some work to do to climb the depth chart.
10. #9 (13 pts.)Shane Matthews will always be one of my favorite Gators because he’s one of the first I truly remember watching live.  Matthews had quite the career and left Florida holding many of the school’s passing records.  Louis Murphy and Darrell Jackson were both among the team’s top wide receivers during their stints with #9.  Two defensive backs of recent history – Guss Scott and Anthone Lott – also served the number well.  Looking ahead: Carl Moore has the number in 2010, but will only have one year left to do anything with it.
Those also receiving votes: #11 (9 pts.), #8 (8), #61 (6), #3 (4), #12 (4), #55 (4), #51 (1), #89 (1)

A Look at Florida Gators Selected in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft

Last year, Derrick Harvey became the first Florida player since 2001 to be taken in the first 10 picks of the NFL Draft. His rookie year was far from spectacular, but Harvey did show promise and improved as the season went on. The jury is obviously still out on Harvey’s NFL career, but all of the other Gators selected within the top 10 have had plenty of time to make their mark. So, let’s take a look back at their careers and you can decide if they were worth the high selection or not.

Paul Duhart – HB – 1945 – #2 (The highest a Gator has ever been drafted.) – Pittsburgh Steelers – Duhart didn’t last long in the league, playing 14 games for three different teams. His best year was actually in 1944 – the year before he was drafted – with the Green Bay Packers. In that year, Duhart rushed for 183 yards on 51 carries and scored twice while also playing and totaling four interceptions. So how did he get drafted in 1945? I’m glad you asked. At the time, a player wasn’t allowed to sign until his college class graduated. However, Duhart was allowed to sign with the Packers because Florida didn’t field a team in 1944 (what would’ve been his senior year) due to the war. He was subsequently put back into the draft in 1945. After being drafted by the Steelers, Duhart would only last one more year in the league. Notable Pick: Hall of Famer Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsh was selected by the Cleveland Rams only three picks later.

Chuck Hunsinger – HB – 1950 – #3 – Chicago Bears – Hunsinger played for the Bears for three seasons before heading to the CFL. For his NFL career, he totaled 843 rushing yards and scored eight touchdowns (five rushing and three receiving). Hunsinger is part of CFL lore. During the 1954 Grey Cup while playing for the Montreal Alouettes, he fumbled on the 10-yard line as Montreal – who led by five – tried to run out the clock. Edmonton Eskimo Jackie Parker picked up the ball and rumbled 90 yards for the winning score. Notable Pick: Bud Grant, who played in the NBA and NFL and was elected to the Hall of Fame for his coaching accomplishments, was taken fourteenth by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Steve Spurrier – QB – 1967 – #3 – San Francisco 49ers – Spurrier lasted 10 seasons in the NFL as not much more than a below average quarterback. For his career, he threw 40 touchdowns to 60 interceptions and had a rating of 60.1. Although thought of for coaching more so than playing, he will always be remembered as the signal caller during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first season in which they went 0-14. Notable Pick: The Miami Dolphins selected Hall of Famer Bob Griese with the very next pick.

Larry Smith – RB – 1969 – #8 – Los Angeles Rams – Smith rushed for 2,057 yards and 11 touchdowns over his six seasons in the NFL. After having 212 combined rushes and receptions during his rookie season, Smith wouldn’t have more than 122 total in any other season. Notable Pick: One-Eyed Willy pal, O.J. Simpson, went first overall to the Buffalo Bills.

Wes Chandler – WR – 1978 – #3 – New Orleans Saints – Chandler was the first Gator selected in the top 10 to have what could be regarded as a successful career. During 12 seasons in the NFL, he was selected to four Pro Bowls, named an All-Pro twice, had seven seasons in which he caught more than 50 balls, and three in which he totaled more than 1,000 yards. At the time of his retirement, Chandler ranked thirteenth in NFL history in receptions and twelfth in receiving yards. Notable Pick: Fellow Florida receiver Derrick Gaffney was taken in the eighth round. Gaffney’s son – Jabar Gaffney – and Chandler’s nephew – Dallas Baker – would both go on to play receiver for the Gators as well.

Lomas Brown – T – 1985 – #6 – Detroit Lions – Brown was selected to seven Pro Bowls and named to seven All-Pro teams during his 18-year NFL career. One of the most consistent offensive linemen over the course of his career, Brown won a Super Bowl ring with the Buccaneers during his final season. Notable Pick: Gator Lorenzo Hampton would go 27th to the Dolphins. The following year, another Florida running back would go 27th – Neal Anderson – this time to the Bears. With John L. Williams going 15th that year, the Gators would deliver three running backs to the NFL via the first round in only two years.

Kevin Carter – DE – 1995 – #6 – St. Louis Rams – Carter has had a quiet but remarkable NFL career. In 14 seasons, he has never missed a game (currently 224), has totaled 104.5 sacks, was selected to two Pro Bowls, and won a Super Bowl with the Rams. Carter’s best season came during that championship year, in which he sacked opposing quarterbacks 17 times. Notable Pick: The Eagles traded up to seventh to select one of the biggest busts in recent draft history – Mike Mamula. The team they traded with – the Buccaneers – selected future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp with their pick.

Ike Hilliard – WR – 1997 – #7 – New York Giants – Hilliard has been a consistent sure-handed receiver during his 12-year NFL career. In 2007 (his 11th in the league) – while playing for the Buccaneers – Hilliard had the second most receptions and third most receiving yards of his career. Notable Picks: Florida, FSU, and Miami would account for nine of the first 18 picks in the 1997 NFL Draft.

Fred Taylor – RB – 1998 – #9 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Over his career, Taylor has become the most notable player in Jaguars’ history. He enters 2009 sixteenth on the league’s all-time rushing list. Despite being only one of 29 players to ever rush for more than 10,000 yards, Taylor has only appeared in one Pro Bowl. After signing a two-year deal with the New England Patriots in the offseason, Taylor has a shot at moving into the top 10 all-time in rushing yards. Notable Pick: Considered by many to be the biggest bust ever, Ryan Leaf went second overall to the San Diego Chargers.

Gerard Warren – DT – 2001 – #3 – Cleveland Browns – While Warren’s career has definitely not warranted a number three overall selection, he has been a solid player over his eight years in the league. “Big Money” has mostly become a run stuffer during his time in the NFL. He started all 16 games for the Oakland Raiders in 2008. Notable Picks: 15 of the 31 players taken in the first round have been selected to at least one Pro Bowl.

And finally…

Derrick Harvey – DE – 2008 – #8 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Harvey became the fifth Florida defensive lineman drafted in the past two years when the Jaguars took him. Harvey started his career slowly, but improved as his rookie year went on. He finished strong with a season-high seven tackles and two sacks in the final game of the regular season. Notable Pick: Gator receiver Andre Caldwell went in the third round, giving Florida only two picks in the entire draft. This would mark their lowest total since 1993.

Former Gator Fred Taylor Agrees to Deal with New England Patriots

The sixteenth-leading rusher in NFL history has joined the past decade’s most dominant franchise. Former Florida Gator Fred Taylor has agreed to a deal with the New England Patriots.

Although I’m not a Pats’ fan by any means, I’m happy for Taylor and glad it looks like he’ll get a chance to finish his career with a team that has a real shot to get him a ring…or two. Taylor had a down year in 2008, but he’s still got some gas in him and should be able to contribute in New England.