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.

Preview: Florida Gators Vs. LSU Tigers; The Cross-Divisional Rivalry Hath Cometh

On Saturday, the Florida Gators play host to the cross-divisional rival LSU Tigers. Only three schools have won BCS National Championships and these are two of them.1 But that’s not the story line for tomorrow. No, the story line is a match-up of top-10 teams and the arrival of October. This month doesn’t present much of a scare for that team from Louisiana, but for the Gators, it’s frightening.

Florida Gators - LSU Tigers

Frightening because of last season and what October brought to the Gators. 0-4 one year ago put Florida at 4-4 on the season and an even worse 2-4 in the SEC. But this time around it feels different. I’m generally positive (to a fault) heading into most games, but it seems many more others are as well. October will once again be a battle, but a battle the Gators are ready for, not one we fear.

It starts with LSU this October. The Gators have a quarterback; one that is still learning and growing, but a quarterback all the same. One year ago, no one really knew what Florida had at the position. John Brantley had been knocked out of action against Alabama. For a few moments at least, it felt like the Gators were in the game. When Brantley went down, Jeff Driskel came in and only attempted six passes. Fast forward one week and it was Jacoby Brissett under center against LSU. The game was effectively out of reach by the half.

But 2012 should be different (even if the results could be the same). The Gators have more confidence on offense and Brent Pease has parts he has yet to unveil. The Tigers on the other hand appear to have taken a step back in recent weeks. This is a game that has an NFL feel to it. The likelihood of a college-style shootout seems rare. Instead, clock control, smart defensive play, and a steady running attack may win it. And realistically, that could be either side.

LSU is ranked higher, but it doesn’t feel like it did one season ago. There wasn’t much hope in the land of the Gators in 2011. While we all know hope can be a dangerous thing, it appears to be back. We’re roughly five hours until kickoff, giving us plenty of time for that hope to grow. There is a win out there that both teams need for different reasons, but for the Gators, that reason could be a return to prominence.

1First, yay for footnotes! Second, the other team is the Alabama Crimson Tide, but you knew that because you’re a Southeastern Conference fan and, well, SEC, SEC, SEC!

Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Kentucky Wildcats; Gators Look To Replicate Magic Of Seasons Past

The Florida Gators play host to the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday afternoon in an SEC game that has had a very familiar outcome of the years. For the last 25 seasons, the Gators have won this contest and the last four haven’t been close.

2008 marked the second-straight season during which the teams would meet in October instead of September. It confused those of us that don’t do well with change, but the result wouldn’t deviate from what we were used to. The Gators scored 63 points on only 446 yards of offense. Not that 446 yards is a small number, but 63 points is usually accompanied by much more. The first half was good to the Gators. Florida was up 28-0 at the end of the first 15 and headed to the locker room with a 42-3 advantage. A redshirt freshman quarterback that went by the name John Brantley even got into the action, finding David Nelson for a 38-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

The game would return to September in 2009 and the Gators would get out of the gate on fire yet again. 31-0 after the first quarter had us believing we could see records set on that day. Urban Meyer called off the dogs though and Florida would only add 10 more throughout the final 45 minutes to win 41-7. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow would only attempt 10 passes during the game, but would rush for 123 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Gators to victory. Brantley, now a redshirt sophomore, would come in late once again and add another fourth quarter touchdown pass, this time to Riley Cooper. This was the famous Tebow concussion game. For many long minutes, as Tebow lay motionless on the field, we thought the season and even his Florida career may be over. We all know now, it wasn’t.

Before the game in 2010, Florida and Kentucky came to an agreement that touchdowns would only count if scored by players wearing the number eight. 60 minutes and nine touchdowns later, both teams had lived up to the bargain. Fortunately for the Gators, their No. 8s were just a tad better. Freshman Trey Burton was introduced to the nation, scoring six times. Burton ran for five touchdowns and caught another (from Brantley; for those keeping track at home, that’s touchdown passes in three consecutive Kentucky games for the quarterback). Jeremy Brown – wearing No. 8 on defense – even got into the action with a 52-yard interception return for a score. The Wildcats had a solid No. 8 of their own – Chris Matthews – but could only get him into the end zone twice as the Gators prevailed 48-14.

2011 would be the game to rival all rushing games. The Gators would put up 405 yards on the ground in the 48-10 victory. Jeff Demps would lead the way with 157 rushing yards. He was followed by Chris Rainey who also went over 100 with 105. The current starter – Mike Gillislee – came close to joining the club with 84. Overall, seven non-quarterbacks would get carries. Brantley would only need to attempt 14 passes, but he would again get his one touchdown, a first quarter toss to Gerald Christian.

This time around should be no different. I hate saying “should be” because that generally means it will be different. The Gators need a victory and seem poised to delivery one. The Wildcats aren’t expected to make much noise this season and shouldn’t pose much of a threat; however, we’ve all seen games before where Florida has won, but in far from spectacular fashion. This is that game where spectacular fashion would go oh so far. Bye week ahead followed by LSU. A big win will carry momentum into the coming weeks.

We’ve seen a team improving right before our eyes and are excited for the future. Today isn’t about the future, it’s about the Kentucky Wildcats. Another Saturday, another win on the horizon. Go Gators!

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.

It’s August 21, Do You Know Who Your Starting Quarterback Is?

The Florida Gators don’t. Or if they do, they’re not telling us.

Speculation has reached new levels as everyone eagerly awaits the announcement of the starting quarterback. For years, it has been a clean handoff. From Chris Leak to Tim Tebow to John Brantley, it was obvious (painfully at times) who the next starter would be. That appeared to be the case when Jeff Driskel originally committed to Florida; one day the job would be his. Then Jacoby Brissett committed as well, opening up a flood of questions for when the time came.

That time has come and, if you’re like me and subscribe to far too many Google Alerts, your inbox is full with speculation. Until Will Muschamp announces his choice (or Brent Pease’s choice, depending on what you want to believe) we’ll have to answer the question ourselves.

So who’s your guy? Which one do you want to see take the first snap? The majority of snaps? Who you got?

Who do you have starting at QB for the Gators?

    Jeff Driskel (42%, 48 Votes)

    Jacoby Brissett (31%, 35 Votes)

    Tim Tebow (12%, 14 Votes)

    The Combo with Fries and a Coke (12%, 13 Votes)

    Just Run the Ball (2%, 2 Votes)

    A Player to be Named (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 113

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John Brantley, Deonte Thompson And William Green Sign NFL Free Agent Deals

Two former Florida Gators were expected to be selected in the 2012 NFL draft and exactly two were. Defensive lineman Jaye Howard went to the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round and running back Chris Rainey joined former teammates Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert after he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round. No other Gator heard his name called during the NFL’s three-day event (Janoris Jenkins aside). There is hope though; more than a few undrafted players have become key contributors and even stars in the NFL.

Once the draft ends – and even before it comes to its conclusion – phones are ringing and teams are talking to those players they hope to give an opportunity to (or, more realistically, take another look at). Players are signed as undrafted free agents, while others are invited to various camps. Four such individuals have been given a chance to continue their football careers beyond their time with the Gators.

The Baltimore Ravens signed both quarterback John Brantley and wide receiver Deonte Thompson. The two have already spent a lot of time together as Gators and former classmates as a part of Florida’s 2007 recruiting class. While neither would claim their orange and blue careers went as planned, it is nice to see them get at least a look at the next level. There is plenty both can improve, but the opportunity is there. Brantley isn’t being brought aboard to unseat Joe Flacco, but Thompson comes to a team with little depth at wide receiver.

Defensive end William Green was signed to the team that at one point in NFL history became the team that signed Brantley and Thompson. Still with me? Green is now a member of the Cleveland Browns and will go to camp fighting for a roster spot.

Former Florida and Notre Dame offensive lineman Dan Wenger also received interest from several NFL teams, but wasn’t offered a deal. He was invited to participate in the New York Jets mini-camp though.

Florida Gators Vs. Ohio State Buckeyes: Gator Bowl Preview

We’ve arrived at the end of the Florida Gators’ season. Before it all started, we had an idea it would be rough. What we didn’t know is exactly how many bumps we’d hit in the road along the way. This may seems excessive and (cue violins) it was all difficult to stomach as a fan coming off of the 2006-2009 era. Cry me a river, right? Well, we will. Facing the prospect of a losing season can do that to you. It coming down to a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes can ruin you even further.

The Facts

Opponent: Ohio State Buckeyes
When: Monday, January 2, 2012 – 1:00 PM
Where: Gator Bowl – Jacksonville, FL
Television/Radio: ESPN2, Gator Sports Network, Sirius 91, XM 91
Records: Florida: 6-6 (3-1 Non-Conference), Ohio State: 6-6 (3-1 Non-Conference)
Rankings: Florida: NR, Ohio State: NR
Point Spread: Florida -2
Over/Under: 44
Calculated Score: Florida 23-21
Points Scored: Florida: 25.6, Ohio State: 25.1
Points Allowed: Florida: 20.6, Ohio State: 20.8

The Preview

Someone in Las Vegas really isn’t trying, but then again how can you really blame them? The over/under of 44 is only slightly lower than the averages each team scores and allows. A statistical over/under for Florida would be 46.2 and that number for Ohio State would come in at 45.9. Oddsmakers took about two points off those averages to come up with an over/under both teams may be thrilled to reach.

To say this season was a disappointment for both squads would be like saying any of you reading this enjoy the game of football. It’s an obvious statement that is repeated ad nauseam. To begin, let’s go with coaching situations for $200 Alex…

Urban Meyer out. Will Muschamp in. Jim Tressel out. Luke Fickell in. Luke Fickell out. Urban Meyer in. Will Muschamp out? Not to worry, I’m not on the fire Muschamp bandwagon that seemed so popular even before the season started. The man was going to get a head coaching gig somewhere soon anyway. I will say that doesn’t comfort me completely, but if the Gators were going the assistant route, he had to be at the top of the list. What happens in 2012 (or 2013) remains to be seen, but I’ll still be behind him for the time being. It’s always been my opinion that a coach needs three years. With what Muschamp was left with, year one could have been predicted even if it’s incredibly hard to swallow.

We’re sure to hear about it today, but this game actually isn’t about Meyer. I know that’s a surprise to some, but read a bit further. Meyer doesn’t coach Florida and hasn’t since the conclusion of the 2010 season. He also doesn’t coach Ohio State and won’t until the conclusion of the 2011 season. This game resides comfortably in the confines of the 2011 season. See how that works? I’m, of course, not just talking to fans of either team or college football in general, but the announcers as well.

Instead of the coaches, can we make this game about someone else? How about John Brantley? The much criticized Gators’ senior quarterback? As fans, we are typically only given one side of Brantley. With Tim Tebow, we saw on-the-field Tebow and plenty of off-the-field Tebow as well. We fell in love (or hated depending on your cheering preferences or general outlook on life) with both. With Brantley, it’s an entirely different story. We see what we see for 60 minutes each Saturday. Plenty of us may not like what we see. Some of those plenty have been extremely vocal about it. What is lost in all of this is that this is a kid (and I use that term loosely; I understand his age indicates he is not one, but all of us definitely were still “kids” in college) just trying to do his best.

You may not be satisfied with his best. You may even be upset that he never lived up to his potential or the hype given to him by, well, all of us. But through the criticisms, injuries, coaching changes and down seasons, Brantley keeps coming back. He wasn’t what was expected, but he stuck with it. Five years as a Gator with one final game remaining. If you don’t wish him well for 60 more minutes, that’s your choice. It’s not one I’ll take. For his sake, I want him to go out on a positive note. Yes, I believe he deserves it. He’s had to put up with everything we’ve given him for the last two seasons. Outwardly, he seems to do that well. Inwardly, who knows? Maybe I’m naïve in that I generally wish the best for people (especially those donning the orange and blue). Maybe I just need Brantley to perform so Florida can avoid 6-7. Maybe I just hope he gets his one shining moment.

This preview quickly went from coaches to the end of John Brantley’s college career. For the liking of many, there’s probably too little about the game. That could be true, but you can get previews anywhere. There are plenty out there already. You know the teams by this point and you have your predicted outcome in your head. You don’t need me to tell you how Florida got here or where the Ohio State season went wrong. You already know that. What I hope is to just be able to enjoy the final game of the season. One last chance for the Gators to show us something.

The Gator Bowl: Confidence Is…

I awoke this morning from my holiday coma and realized I really don’t know what to think about the Gator Bowl. I know John Brantley’s final game as the Florida Gators’ quarterback won’t reach the must-see levels of Tim Tebow’s. I know the Jeff Demps/Chris Rainey Acceleration Hour is about to air its final episode. I know Urban Meyer isn’t yet the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Basically, I know the facts. But I don’t know what to think about Florida’s chances to finish the 2011 season with a winning record. Just as equally, I have no idea whether Ohio State will be able to do the same.

The holiday season has treated me well so far. I hope it has done the same for the Gators. There was no offensive coordinator under the Christmas tree, which leads us down the continued path of patience. We already know to wait until after the Gator Bowl before the identity of the new play caller will be revealed. Names thrown out there have been less than impressive with many fans hoping to see Brian White remain in the position he is temporarily holding. Others hope Kerwin Bell can find his way back to Gainesville. Both seem like viable candidates and worthy choices, but are we hyping those because we’ve heard the others? Mike Shula? Greg Davis?
One present that was delivered and placed nicely on the doorstep was Jeff Dillman. Dillman comes by way of IMG’s Performance Institute and before that Appalachian State and LSU. He’ll replace Mickey Marotti as the new strength and conditioning coach. For those concerned or merely wondering whether Dillman can cut it, I’ve heard good things about his intensity and focus. He’s liked and respected among the lifting-heavy-things community and should be a good addition. We’ll see his impact in the fourth quarter of games when players would typically start to gasp for breaths of air. Rainey, for instance, did many great things in a Gators’ uniform, but “winded” could have been an accurate description at many times.
As for the Gator Bowl, my confidence is non-existent. Not in the way that I can’t foresee any possible chance of a Florida victory, but in the way that I need to spend the next few days and really, truly think about the game ahead. Florida is favored by two, which means about as much as me declaring the odds of a Gators’ receiver catching a touchdown pass at five-to-one. Without Charlie Weis, we don’t know what we’ll see from the offense. With him, we didn’t either. Will Muschamp surely doesn’t want to be the first coach since Charley Pell went 0-10-1 the year yours truly came into the world to have a losing record, but no one can guarantee 7-6.
We’ll watch the game and at times we’ll cheer and at times we’ll yell. Regardless of the outcome, we’ll still be Florida fans when we wake up on January 3. For now, I’ll be comforted in the fact that there’s plenty of college football to still be played even though the offseason is fast approaching. One more chance to see the seniors and an opportunity to beat a rapidly growing rival.

Florida State Seminoles 21 – Florida Gators 7: Offenses Need Not Apply

On Saturday night, we witnessed one of the worst offensive performances of the college football weekend, and that team won by 14 points. The Florida State Seminoles laid claim to the 2011 state title by defeating the Florida Gators 21-7 in The Swamp. In a season in which Florida’s big three are a combined 20-16, that’s not a title to brag about. Then there’s the way FSU claimed it, in Saturday’s debacle of a game.

I’m not sure what we were to expect from Saturday night. It is THE rivalry game of the season every year for these two programs. There are never conference standings impacted and national title hopes were dashed for both the Gators and Seminoles before the season even began, but it was still supposed to be the rivalry we were used to. Then Dustin Hopkins kicked off at approximately 7:00 PM ET and we were all subjected to whatever version of football that was.

FSU’s offense was abysmal as the numbers clearly dictate: seven first downs, 2-for-15 on third-down conversions, 65 yards passing and 30 rushing for 95 total yards, 0.7 yards per rush and nine penalties for 85 yards. Yes, the ‘Noles lost almost as many yards due to penalties as they gained on offense. Despite all of that, only one number mattered: 21, or better yet 14 if we’re only talking about the FSU offense. The ‘Noles were the beneficiaries of a pick six that would give them the 21, but the 14 would have been enough on its own. That number and one other very important one made it possible for FSU to turn an easily forgettable offensive performance into a double-digit win over their instate rivals.

That other number would be four. Four as in four interceptions thrown by Florida quarterbacks. John Brantley would throw three himself before going out with injury. Anyone with the ability to feel even the slightest bit of sympathy would want to keep the Brantley bashing to a minimum. I’ll do so because there’s not much else to be said and I’m sure he’s ready to move on from his roller coaster career as much as we all are, but I will bring up the interceptions. The reason is simple really and all revolves around a question: what did he see during those plays? Analysts are always quick to point out plays where a quarterback’s vantage point may not have allowed him to see a defender. Fair enough. It’s hard to imagine that is what occurred on the first interception by Greg Reid and it’s difficult to believe Brantley didn’t see the four defenders in the area of his throw when Mike Harris intercepted him. The problem is that there have been too many throws that have brought up similar questions and concerns. Drives have ended too abruptly too many times over the last two seasons. Reasons are plentiful and Brantley can’t shoulder all of the blame, but only a few days after I wrote about his “career” day, the senior had another one he would gladly erase from history.

The Gators only managed 184 yards of offense themselves, much of it actually generated by Brantley before he went down. Once he did, any offensive hope died. Jacoby Brissett didn’t fare much better as the true freshman weathered through more growing pains. To say he led Florida to its lone touchdown drive is extremely generous. The drive covered 21 yards, 15 of which can be attributed to an FSU penalty. Much more couldn’t be expected from Brissett or fellow true freshman Jeff Driskel if he had been playing; the offensive issues go way beyond how either did or would perform.

For one side of the ball, it was an admirable performance. Jelani Jenkins totaled 11 tackles, the Gators forced four fumbles, but only recovered one, and Florida tallied four sacks. FSU’s two offensive touchdowns came after drives totaling 24 yards. TOTALING 24 YARDS!!! Sorry, but that’s not a defensive problem. Give the opposing team the ball on the 20 and then the four and points will be scored one way or another. You could argue that the defense could have held the ‘Noles to field goals on both possessions and that’s a possibility, but then what? Then the Gators lose 13-7 instead of 21-7 and we don’t feel any better.

The regular season is over and Florida is 6-6. If ever a break was needed this is it. The Gators will be invited to a bowl, but we have weeks before we need to worry about game plans and personnel and coaching. Those things are in the back of the mind at the moment. Or at least that’s where we’re trying to put them. It’s hard to forget what happened on Saturday night and for much of the season. You can say 6-6 doesn’t happen at the University of Florida. Well, it just did.

John Brantley’s "Career" Day

It was bound to happen. We didn’t know when or what it would all mean, but eventually Florida Gators’ quarterback John Brantley would have his “career” day. It was the 11th game of his second season as the starter, but for one game it came together and gave us all hope there was enough fuel in no. 12’s tank for just two more.

Here’s the line Brantley put up against the Furman Paladins: 16-for-28, 329 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions

It’s not a great stat line and not even close to the best you’ve seen this season. Take a look at the Oklahoma State Cowboys for instance. Brandon Weeden has had four or more touchdowns three times in 2011 and has only had three games in which he passed for less than Brantley’s 329 yards. But that’s not the point.

And the point in this particular case isn’t the opponent either. It’s what we witnessed and what Brantley did. One touchdown covered 64 yards, another 80. There was one point in the second quarter when Brantley completed five-straight passes totaling 159 yards. The last two of those completions went for scores. His completion percentage wasn’t that of an All-American, the game as a whole may be forgotten in a few years, but for one game, we caught a glimpse of what Brantley could do in the type of offense he was made for.

Part of us wishes this has happened weeks ago, months ago, or even more than a year ago. Instead, we never quite knew what we had in Brantley. We were aware of the hype and had heard of the potential, but little was consistent. A lot contributed to that though, much of which was beyond Brantley’s control. He can’t shoulder the blame for the gigantic offensive question mark the Gators have carried with them for the past two seasons. Regardless, we wanted him to eventually shine through.

If it was just the one time, to witness it may have been anticlimactic, but it was oddly comforting. If it carries over to an aerial display against the Florida State Seminoles and into the bowl game, it will give us at least one positive note on the end of the 2011 season. You may not be a John Brantley fan, but for one day he made a number of us proud. Brantley will get off the roller coaster soon after one of the rougher rides we can remember. He was a good kid that powered through the dips while rarely experiencing the peaks. Saturday was a peak and one he should look back on fondly.