2013 NFL Draft Good to Former Florida Gators; Floyd, Elam Selected in First Round

The 2013 NFL Draft was good to the Florida Gators. Good to the tune of eight former Gators selected in the first six rounds. And Florida wasn’t the only school celebrating its draft accomplishments. The SEC set a new record with 63 total players selected. Those of us that consider ourselves fans of the conference still chuckle when outsiders question the SEC’s dominance.

Sharrif Floyd - Minnesota Vikings

Kicking things off for the Gators–albeit later than expected–was defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd. Floyd–an early entrant–was once considered one of the few with a legitimate shot at being selected first overall. He wasn’t that high on every team’s board though and fell into the welcoming lap of the Minnesota Vikings at No. 23. A similar situation occurred just three years ago when Percy Harvin fell to the Vikings. Harvin was recently traded to the Seattle Seahawks, but had enjoyed a successful stint in Minnesota up to that point.

Sneaking into the first round with Floyd was another early entrant, safety Matt Elam. Elam couldn’t have fallen into a better situation; the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens selected him at No. 32. A first round talent, Elam could have been selected anywhere between picks No. 20 and No. 40 and no one would have been entirely surprised. As it stands, the Ravens feel they have found the perfect fit to fill the void left by Ed Reed who signed with the Houston Texans this offseason.

In the second round, the Chicago Bears selected linebacker Jon Bostic with the 50th overall pick. Bostic upped his game during his final season and pushed himself into a position where the Bears thought he was worthy of a second-round pick. With an NFL-ready body and superb on-the-field speed, Bostic could be the heir-apparent to former Chicago middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Those are large shoes to fill, but the Bears will give him every opportunity.

The third round saw the selection of another early entrant. With the No. 85 pick, the Washington Redskins selected tight end Jordan Reed. There was some debate over Reed. While some thought he could improve his stock with another season at Florida, others believe he was selected where he would have been regardless of it being this year or next. Reed may be looked to early to bail out Robert Griffin III when the dynamic quarterback is pushed out of the pocket.

The Miami Dolphins made quite the splash beginning in the fourth round. The new-look Phins may have become many an orange and blue fan’s favorite team after they selected three former Florida Gators. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins was selected by Miami in the fourth round and was followed by running back Mike Gillislee and kicker Caleb Sturgis in the fifth.

The Gators’s run would come to an end in the sixth round when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected safety Josh Evans No. 169 overall. Evans ended a run of three Gators selected in six slots from picks 164 to 169.

Having eight players selected is nothing new for the Gators–just as recently as 2007 and 2010, Florida saw nine players picked–but it’s a great accomplishment all the same. Consistently putting players in the NFL–or at least preparing them to be drafted into the league–is something recruits notice. Not that Will Muschamp and the Gators need help in the recruiting department, but this is just one of many things that leads to top classes.

With the draft coming to an end, we closed the book on another season for the Florida Gators. The overall picture proves it to be a successful one. We can think of two very clear down moments that resulted in the ‘2’ in the 11-2 record, but the past season was one to build on. With that, we wish the newest NFL employees luck and remind them that once a Gator, always a Gator.

Jelani Jenkins Declares For NFL Draft; LB Becomes Fourth To Leave Florida Gators Early

In a somewhat surprising move, Florida Gators’ redshirt junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins has declared his intention to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Jenkins joins fellow early draft entrants safety Matt Elam, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and tight end Jordan Reed.

Jelani Jenkins - Florida Gators

Though not lacking in potential or talent, Jenkins’ announcement is a bit of a shock because he could be deemed as the one of the four that would most benefit from another season with the Gators. Jenkins career wasn’t derailed by injuries, but they did slow his development at times. He came to the Gators as an all-world recruit, considered one of the better high school defensive players in the nation, but leaves with some feeling of “what if.” What if there hadn’t been a coaching change during his Florida career? What if he had been 100% healthy? What if he had played from day one? And what if he came back for one more season?

Jenkins is likely a mid-round pick as many teams might not believe they’ve seen enough to take him in the early rounds. He could be a sleeper if still available in the later rounds.

We’ll most remember Jenkins for one glorious moment that bailed the Gators out of possible disaster when he returned a block punt against Louisiana-Lafayette, sealing a Florida victory.

Jordan Reed To Forgo Senior Season; Florida Gators Tight End Will Enter NFL Draft

Florida Gators’ tight end Jordan Reed has joined safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd in declaring his intentions to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Reed–the Gators’ leading pass catcher in 2012–will forgo his senior season for a chance to play at the next level.

Jordan Reed - Florida Gators

Reed led the Gators with 45 catches for 559 yards and 3 touchdowns during his junior season. Despite being the most reliable receiver on the roster, his orange and blue career ended with a quiet 7 yards on 1 reception in the Sugar Bowl loss to the Louisville Cardinals.

Looking back on Reed’s career will always be enjoyable to say the least. He came to Florida as a quarterback and–though minimal–got his chance to play the position during the 2010 season. Reed’s most memorable performance as a QB came that season in a 55-14 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores. Reed was 11-for-19 for 120 yards, 1 passing touchdown and 1 interception while also rushing 16 times for 84 yards and another score.

Reed would only attempt one more pass after the 2010 season as the Florida coaches converted him to tight end full time in 2011. Over his final two seasons, he developed into a dangerous weapon with good speed and surprising power. Reed turned himself into an All-SEC TE and a possible future professional at the position. We should see Reed go in the first half of the 2013 NFL Draft.

The Gators have been building depth at tight end, but will miss Reed in 2013. This team has struggled to find go-to receivers in recent years and Reed clearly would have been the top choice next season.

Georgia Bulldogs 17 – Florida Gators 9; Jordan Reed, Hold Your Head Up

Jordan Reed came to the Florida Gators in 2009 out of New London, CT. He was recruited as a quarterback and was considered one of the better dual-threat QBs in the nation. There weren’t many out there that expected him to stay at the position, but he would…at first.

Jordan Reed - Will Muschamp - Florida Gators

Reed redshirted in 2009–his first season on campus. In 2010–as the Gators would look nearly everywhere for a serviceable quarterback–he got the chance to play his high school position at the college level. Reed was efficient, but not overly so. Still, he put together a passer efficiency rating of just under 120 and had some memorable moments. Against Vanderbilt that season, Reed went 11-for-19 through the air for 130 yards and ran for another 84. He would pass for one touchdown and score another on the ground. There were flashes, but nothing spectacular. Ultimately, it was fairly obvious he would have more success at another position–tight end.

Having played some tight end in 2010, Reed went to the position full-time for the 2011 season. There were some growing pains as a TE, but Reed turned himself into a solid player with great promise as a pass catcher and a big target. Reed was putting together a good 2012 despite Florida struggling to find it’s way as a passing team. There were already whispers of where he might go in the NFL Draft in a year or two. On Saturday–while down 17-9 to the Georgia Bulldogs–the Gators went to their reliable (and now possibly even “star” tight end). As Reed sprinted toward the end-zone looking to get the Gators closer to a possible eighth victory, he fumbled. The air was let out of every orange and blue balloon at the same exact moment.

It could have happened to anyone, but it didn’t. It happened to Jordan Reed. It happened to a hard worker that switched positions and became one of the most reliable and productive players on the Florida roster. It happened to the player Jeff Driskel was looking for when the Gators were nearing the end-zone.

It’s not Reed’s fault the Gators lost. He obviously took it hard–anyone would–but the Gators turned over the ball five other times. Florida gave Georgia the ball in great position to score and while the defense held as tight as they could for most of the night, they couldn’t do it on every play. Reed plays one position and will be remember for one unfortunate play. He was chased from behind by one of college football’s best players–Jarvis Jones–and fumbled the ball into the end-zone where the Bulldogs recovered. There’s no blame to be put on Jordan Reed. Far from it. He should hold his head high, as hard as it will be to do that. Much more than that contributed to Florida’s loss. This has been a particularly odd season as it is and a six turnover game almost seems par for the course. Reed didn’t fumble that game away, something else entirely did.

Monday Morning Driskel: Florida Gators Thoughts After Win Over The LSU Tigers

Another win, another new Florida Gators feature at The Bull Gator. The name is inspired by our quarterback Jeff Driskel and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, which discusses a plethora of topics concerning the week’s NFL games. We hope to do something similar, but on a minor, more pertinent-to-us level. Don’t worry, it won’t be nearly as long.

And another happy week in Gatorland.

Apologies for the fact that its Tuesday. Pink eye is the culprit.

If I were to tell you that six weeks into the season, Florida would be sitting undefeated at 5-0, AND Florida State would already have one loss despite beating Clemson, I doubt you would believe me.

But that’s just where we are. It’s almost funny. The Florida Gators, whose fans thought the Gators were facing a sure-loss against LSU and could be sporting a losing-record right now, is undefeated. The Florida State Seminoles, whose fans seriously thought of the year as “Championship or bust,” has suffered another tremendous setback in its loss to North Carolina State.

Oh, and as a pleasant bonus on the side, Georgia was blown out by a South Carolina team that looks increasingly-ferocious every week. Of course we have to play the Gamecocks, but we’ll enjoy the Georgia loss for the moment.

Back to our game. Many may have thought the game was ugly–and it would have been three years ago in the Urban Meyer-era–but Florida’s win Saturday over the then No. 4 LSU Tigers was a thing of beauty. It was a testament to the new era, one of down-hill running and stifling defense that Will Muschamp is bringing about as the new style of Gators Football.

What Happened

The defense gave us the chance to win the game: Enough credit cannot be given to the defense this week, as they truly and completely man-handled an LSU offense that is usually not one to laugh at. The defense made the Tigers’ offense look so bad that it looked like what the opening game’s Bowling Green’s offense should have looked like. The Tigers only had 200 yards of total offense, and the Gators made one of the most-feared running backs, Spencer Ware, look pedestrian, as they held him to only 21 yards. Florida wouldn’t have had a chance to win this game without the defense performing the way it did.

Mike Gillislee is a work-horse running back: Gillislee, who carried a career-high 34 times and added 146 yards, showed us something that perhaps we didn’t know before: Gillislee can carry the Florida offense by himself. And that’s just what he did. He scored the only two touchdowns of the game for either team.

Florida proved that it is a much better team than we thought: I doubt most of us thought Florida would be this successful to this point in the season. It’s actually a very refreshing surprise. It’s almost like Auburn and the magic of Cam Newton.

The game was taken from LSU: After trailing 6-0 at halftime, the Gators continued their trend of comebacks that are looking more and more impressive every week.

The receivers didn’t do much: But they didn’t need to. Jordan Reed led the Gators with 30 yards, which pretty much sums up that the Gators didn’t do much passing on Saturday. Luckily, they didn’t need to. The running attack led the charge.

The offensive line continued to show that it’s much better than last year: The O-line gave up a lot of sacks in the first half, but they recovered nicely. The line had their way with an injury-depleted Tigers’ line in the second half, and were responsible for Florida’s success on the ground. Also new was the new formation, “God’s play”.

Jeff Driskel’s participation: Driskel didn’t do much to win the game, but he did have a first down-earning play to allow the Gators to run out a good portion of the clock. Driskel was responsible for a few of his sacks in the first half and showed some qualities of a first-year starter, but he didn’t lose the game for the Gators. And that is something that I think we can live with, knowing that Driskel is continuing to improve.

Offensive Most Valuable Player

Running back Mike Gillislee: Gillislee couldn’t have been much better. He dominated the game and none of his carries resulted in a loss.

Defensive Most Valuable Player

Safety Matt Elam: Elam showed proved his case as the best safety in the NCAA. He led the Gators with seven tackles and looked like the strongest player on the field, despite the fact that he is an undersized safety.

Special Teams Most Valuable Player:

Punter Kyle Christy: Christy’s booming punts were the main reason the Gators won the field-position battle.

Play Of The Day

Matt Elam tackles anything in sight: Louichez Purifoy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Monday Morning Driskel: Florida Gators Thoughts After Win Over The Kentucky Wildcats

Another win, another new Florida Gators feature at The Bull Gator. The name is inspired by our quarterback Jeff Driskel and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, which discusses a plethora of topics concerning the week’s NFL games. We hope to do something similar, but on a minor, more pertinent-to-us level. Don’t worry, it won’t be nearly as long.

And another happy week in Gatorland.

This week, the Florida Gators continued their football domination of the Kentucky Wildcats, shutting them out. Will Muschamp’s squad rose to No. 11/12 in the AP and Coaches Polls. The big story was the extension of the Gators’ 26-and-counting win streak over the Wildcats, a probable reason for the Kentucky fans to continue to revert their focus back to the basketball season, which is quite a while from now.

What Happened

Jeff Driskel continued his balling: Sir Driskel could eventually be one of the best Gators to play at Florida by the time he graduates. As a true sophomore, JD looks better in Brent Pease’s system than Brantley looked in Charlie Weis’. Part of that has to be because of Driskel’s mobility. His ability to avoid the pass-rush and make plays deep down the field thus far has been Roethlisberger-esque, and right now, he is leading our football team.

The defense was, for the most part, dominant: Led by a surprise Jaylen Watkins pick six, the Gators’ defense forced three turnovers, all interceptions. All could pretty much be attributed to Morgan Newton’s erratic inaccuracy, which was really terrible, but we’ll still claim those turnovers. On a similar note, there were a lot of open Wildcats that Newton completely missed, which needs to be worked on. Other than that and some success for Kentucky in the run game, Florida’s defense did indeed look pretty dominant.

Kentucky as, same-old Kentucky: There’s a reason none of the players on Kentucky have been alive since the last Wildcat win over the Gators. Kentucky is back this year with their usual football mediocrity, and their cause wasn’t helped much by starting quarterback Maxwell Smith’s unavailability.

The game was secured early: The Gators led 24-0 at the half, and Jeff Driskel and other key starters started their rests in the fourth quarter. Mike Gillislee got his rest early, not playing after the first series in the second half.

Receivers are getting open: This can be largely attributed to Driskel’s ability to extend the play and give the receivers more time to get open, but there’s no doubt that this team is better than last year’s in the receiving corps. Sure, no player is averaging 100 yards-per-game, but a good number of the Florida receivers are chipping in with a few catches in each game. With 10 players targeted in Saturday’s game, speedster Andre Debose, who was largely nonexistent in all areas of the game, was the notable exception.

The defense is great in the fourth quarter: I put this up last week, and nothing changed this week, so I figured I’d put this up again.

More raving for Jeff Driskel: Driskel threw his first interception of the year on a terrible throw up into double-coverage in the end-zone, but give him loads of credit. He followed up his mistake with another game that showed his improvement. Another game note: his accuracy is amazing.

Ouch Video Of The Day

• Tight end Jordan Reed sandwiched: I really don’t know how Reed got up after this play, let alone held onto the ball. He came out of the play with a shoulder injury, but he appears to be fine.

This is also the play of the game, simply because I can’t find video of Jaylen Watkins’ interception and touchdown return.

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.

Football Recap: Florida Gators 20 – Texas A&M Aggies 17

We here at The Bull Gator propose the Florida Gators, their coaches, and their many fans adopt what has become our motto of sorts around here the last few seasons: just win. As we said last week, style points be damned; the current state of the program is one of which winning is of the utmost importance. It may not be pretty. It may not even rank as ugly at times. It may be downright rotten, but a win is a win is a win. It’s not the best way to think, but it has become what we lean toward. Florida Gators Football – Just Win! I think t-shirts are in order.

The first quarter wasn’t bad. Not really at all. Maybe that’s a positive, glass-half-full outlook that’s a little too optimistic than realistic, but I’ll go with it. The defense played tentative and looked like it had trouble figuring out exactly what the Texas A&M Aggies were going to do on offense, but it wasn’t time to sound the alarm. The offense put together a good drive during which Jeff Driskel looked improved and Mike Gillislee was Mike Gillislee. Yes, I’m basing that quote off of one game, but now we can put another game into it. Gillislee scored both of the Gators touchdowns in the 20-17 win and was again the offensive star.

Let’s just skip right over the second quarter. This was the tweet at the time: “FDALJFKDAFUINCEPAEPEUAHFENEUPHCIPEJAI…beer.” I stand by that comment. Just a whole big bucket of yuck.

The defense looked better during the second half. Better to the point that they didn’t allow a single point and allowed the offense the chance to get back into the game. The Aggies got their yards, but the Gators’ defense didn’t let them get their points. There are the same concerns – tackling, tentative play, allowing the run game to thrive in the middle of the field (especially on quarterback draws) – but right now for a number of reasons including beer (mentioned above) let’s go ahead and take zero points allowed over the final 30 minutes.

The offense wasn’t perfect in the second half. 10 points pretty much indicates that. But it did enough. Enough that helped get the win and push the Gators to 2-0 (1-0 SEC). That 1-0 SEC is enormously important. I’m not remotely thinking ahead to Atlanta – that would be crazy – but I will take comfort in 1-0 in conference play for now. I have an entire week before I have to start worrying about my poor heart again.

And finally there are the thanks that need to be given. I thank fake field goals, Jordan Reed, Caleb Sturgis’s foot, Jeff Driskel’s pass to Omarius Hines and, of course, Mike Gillislee. I thank the Florida Gators for pulling out a win that didn’t look like it was going to be a win. It didn’t resemble anything close to it at points. I won’t thank Will Muschamp though; that’s going to take a lot more. But I thank the rest and I move forward with my weekend with a deep sigh of relief. Go Gators! Just Win!

Injury Report: Freshman Tight End Colin Thompson Out 2 Months After Second Surgery

Florida Gators freshman tight end Colin Thompson will miss at least two months after having a second surgery to repair a fractured bone in his right foot. The time missed may lead to a redshirt season for the incoming TE. Missing that much time early in your first season puts you behind the learning curve and Thompson will miss plenty of practice experience during those two months. If not needed, he may be held out throughout 2012, leaving us waiting until 2013 to see him on the field.

Thompson’s absense leaves the Gators with three healthy tight ends currently participating in practice – Clay Burton, Kent Taylor and Tevin Westbrook. This may actually give fellow freshman Taylor a chance to earn more reps and put himself in a good position to see the field this fall. Both Burton and Westbrook were converted from the defensive side of the ball and starter Jordan Reed is being held out with an MCL spain. This is Taylor’s chance to prove his worth as the nation’s top high school tight end a year ago.

Thompson will undergo surgery on Wednesday during which a screw will be inserted in order to stabilize his foot. Because it’s the second surgery, recovery time could be more than the typical six weeks.

Will Muschamp to the Wide Receivers: "You Got to Get Open."

The Florida wide receivers have been a topic of discussion all season long. After 10 games, the Gators’ leading pass catchers are a running back – Chris Rainey with 335 yards – and tight end – Jordan Reed with 24 receptions. To make matters worse, the leaders at the wide receiver position are Andre Debose with 272 yards and Deonte Thompson with 17 receptions. 10 games have passed; you can do the quick math to figure out the somewhat pitiful averages.

Blame has been placed everywhere at this point. We’ve discussed the offensive line at length throughout the season and we’ve also mentioned the quarterbacks’ inability to get the ball to the receivers. But what about those wide receivers themselves? What can they do to become part of the offensive attack? Will Muschamp thinks the answer is right in front of them: they have to get open.

During Wednesday’s SEC press conference, Muschamp mentioned the receivers and a need for consistency from the unit. He also keyed in on two points: getting open and making catches. Muschamp discussed the need for the receivers to get seperation from man-to-man coverage and put themselves in a position to make plays. He said drops have hurt the Gators and he went back to the one word that could end up defining Florida’s season – inconsistency.

Maybe Muschamp is right; he is the head coach after all. The offensive line does need to hold up and the quarterbacks do need to get the ball out quicker, but without the wide receivers putting themselves in the position to make plays, it’s all for naught. Youth is not an excuse. Thompson, Frankie Hammond, Omarius Hines and even Debose have been around for long enough regardless of a new system. Quinton Dunbar is the youth, but much more was expected from the redshirt freshman. Inexperience can’t be blamed. It’s past the time for the receivers to step up; that was months ago. It’s now time for them to make a quick leap and a big one. With two games left – and possibly a third – eight wins can’t even be whispered in passing without this unit making plays. Seven may even be a stretch.