Florida Gators Recruiting: Offensive Tackle Kavaris Harkless Switches from Louisville to Florida

Kavaris Harkless pulled off a last-minute switch on Sunday. The offensive tackle was in Kentucky ready to officially enroll early at Louisville when a certain event changed his mind, leading Harkless to instead commit to Florida.

Kavaris Harkless, Florida Gators

When Charlie Strong eventually left Louisville, Gators’ fans hoped it meant good news for Florida. It did, just not the news they were looking for. With Strong headed to Texas to become the Longhorns’ new head coach, Harkless changed his mind on becoming a Cardinal. Without Strong, Harkless decided Florida would be his new home. He will enroll early.

The 6’5″, 273-pound offensive tackle is a three-star prospect according to most of the major recruiting services (ESPN gives him four stars). The 247 Composite has Harkless as the nation’s No. 76 OT. His key development point will be to add bulk. With the exception of D.J. Humphries, the offensive lineman on the Gators’ roster that have seen significant playing time all weigh in at 300 pounds or more.

Harkless’s commitment comes at a critical time for Florida. In desperate need of depth across the offensive line, the Gators are looking for bodies wherever they can find them. Harkless becomes to sixth linemen to join the 2014 recruiting class.

College Basketball and the Final Four Moves On, With or Without the Florida Gators

The hangover has ended. The college basketball world has moved on from the Florida Gators’ loss and so must we. We may not want to completely, but it has to happen eventually, so we might as well pull off the band-aid and realize that for the third-consecutive season, the Gators fell just one game short of the Final Four.

2013 Final Four

Without the Gators to spark our interest over the final few days of the 2012-13 college basketball season, we might as well turn our attention to those remaining in the field for an NCAA March Madness update.

Michigan – We’ll start with the Wolverines for no other reason than they were the team that took down our beloved Florida. It was an ugly game during which the Gators never seemed to have any chance of pulling out a victory. Now Michigan moves on with Trey Burke – the Wooden Award winner – and a roster full of big names. There’s a part of me that wants the Wolverines to win it all; sort of that you-beat-us-now-you-might-as-well-keep-winning feeling. Take note, that feeling doesn’t apply to a handful of schools we’d classify as rivals, and as always Ohio State.

Wichita State – Then there’s the underdog. It’s hard not to cheer for the little guy that wasn’t supposed to be here. Ultimately though, the little guy exits without the trophy. Butler came close not once, but twice, but we haven’t had that true Cinderella finish the story with a happy ending. So with the Shockers comes that part of me that hopes they knock off the big bad schools and “shock the world.” It doesn’t seem likely, but don’t you want to see it happen just once?

Louisville – We move on to the Cardinals and the team that knocked the Gators out of the NCAA Tournament just one year ago. We don’t have a burning desire to want Louisville to win. After all, we still feel the sting of last season and the Sugar Bowl just a few months ago. And there has to be some rule written somewhere about being a Florida fan and not cheering for Rick Pitino, even if he did help Billy Donovan become the coach he is today. In the end though, would we be all that disappointed if they won it for Kevin Ware? Probably not.

Syracuse – And finally we get to the Orange. Hmm. No real reason to cheer for Syracuse from the mindset of a Gators’ fan. Florida last played the Orange on December 2, 2011 and lost. There is no lingering pain from another sport, but also no feel-good story we have a real reason to gravitate to. They are the Orange; we like the color orange. Nope. Not enough. They don’t get a cheering section from this Florida fan and I can’t imagine they do from many others.

Many have made their picks; now it’s your turn. There are three games left. Make your selection.

Who will win the 2013 NCAA Tournament?

    Louisville (80%, 4 Votes)

    Michigan (20%, 1 Votes)

    Syracuse (0%, 0 Votes)

    Wichita State (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 5

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Guess The Ranking: After A 1-1 Week, Where Will The Florida Gators End Up In The Polls?

With Saturday’s 64-52 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Florida Gators finished their second consecutive 1-1 week. The Gators entered the previous 1-1 week at No. 5 in the AP Poll and No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. One win and one loss later and Florida fell to No. 8 and No. 6. This week was similar–unranked loss, followed by an unranked win. Will the Gators suffer the same fate and drop further in the polls? It’s not always that simple as there are other factors and those factors are the teams ranked around them.

Billy Donovan - Florida Gators

How the top 10 fared:

    • No. 1 Indiana – 1-1 – Unranked Loss, Unranked Win
    • No. 2 Gonzaga – 2-0 – Unranked Win, Unranked Win
    • No. 3 Duke – 1-1 – Unranked Loss, No. 5/7 Win
    • No. 4 Michigan – 1-0 – Unranked Win*
    • No. 5/7 Miami – 1-1 – Unranked Win, No. 3 Loss
    • No. 6/5 Kansas – 2-0 – Unranked Win, Unranked Win
    • No. 7/8 Georgetown – 2-0 – Unranked Win, Unranked Win
    • No. 8/6 Florida – 1-1 – Unranked Loss, Unranked Win
    • No. 9/10 Michigan State – 0-1 – No. 16/15 Loss*
    • No. 10/9 Louisville – 2-0 – Unranked Win, No. 12 Win

* No. 4 Michigan hosts No. 9/10 Michigan State on Sunday, March 3.

To the rundown:

    • Despite Indiana’s loss to an unranked opponent–Minnesota–Florida has a similar loss, so the Gators will not pass the Hoosiers.
    • With a perfect week and the least amount of losses on the season–two–among the top-10 teams, Gonzaga made a strong case that it should be the nation’s No. 1 team.
    • Duke’s loss to Virginia hurt, but the entire country watched the Blue Devils win a great one over the Hurricanes. After the Duke win, there’s no chance Florida passes or even catches them in the polls.
    • If Michigan beats Michigan State, the Wolverines stay in the top four and possibly move into the top three. Even if they lose to the No. 9/10 Spartans, the Wolverines still stay ahead of the Gators due to Florida’s loss to Tennessee.
    • Miami’s 1-1 record over the week is better than Florida’s. The loss to the Blue Devils doesn’t hurt the Canes at all, especially when you consider the big win Miami had over Duke earlier in the season. The Canes stay higher in the AP Poll, as they are now, and possibly jump the Gators in the Coaches Poll.
    • Kansas was ranked higher than Florida in both polls and thanks to a 2-0 week stays that way.
    • Georgetown will stay ahead of Florida in the AP Poll and probably jump the Gators in the Coaches Poll thanks to a 2-0 week.
    • Michigan State’s loss isn’t an awful one, but they could be 0-2 on the week after Sunday’s game against Michigan. Those would be two quality losses, but losses all the same. However, if the Spartans upset the Wolverines, there’s a chance they jump the Gators.
    • Louisville’s 2-0 week with an impressive win over Syracuse gives the Cardinals the ammo to jump the Gators in the AP Poll. They have a higher climb in the Coaches Poll, but it’s not out of the question.
    • There’s no real danger of the Gators falling behind a team outside of the top 10. Both No. 11 Arizona and No. 12 Syracuse went 0-2 this week and No. 13 Kansas State has too far to climb.

Looking at all of that, there’s a real chance that Florida could find itself at No. 10 in both polls if Michigan State can defeat Michigan. That’s tough to stomach, but there were five teams ranked higher than the Gators in both polls–Indiana, Gonzaga, Duke, Michigan and Kansas. None of those five will fall below Florida even if Michigan loses to Michigan State. Miami and Georgetown were ahead of Florida in one poll and behind the Gators in another. Both had good enough weeks to claim they should be higher than Florida in both polls. It’s hard to argue with that. Even Louisville has a chance to jump Florida thanks to their 2-0 week. And finally, there’s Michigan State–the wild card if you will. If they lose on Sunday, the Gators are safely in the top nine (and possibly higher) of both polls. If they win, well, see the first sentence of this paragraph.

I, like all of you, was excited by Saturday’s impressive comeback and double-digit win over Alabama. But looking at the polls realistically, it’s hard to imagine Florida moving up in either. Of course, polls mean little in college basketball and this really is just an exercise in guessing and pride (I suppose). It all comes down to NCAA Tournament seedings, but we can have fun in the meantime. So in that spirit, what do you think?

Where do you rank the Florida Gators?

    No. 9 (40%, 4 Votes)

    No. 8 (20%, 2 Votes)

    No. 10 (20%, 2 Votes)

    Top 5 (10%, 1 Votes)

    No. 6 (10%, 1 Votes)

    No. 7 (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 10

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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.

Darrin Kitchens, Gator Nation Salutes You

The picture to the right is of Florida Gators’ linebacker Darrin Kitchens. But that’s not the picture of Kitchens you want to see. The picture of Kitchens you should be looking at is here. Go ahead and click that link; you won’t regret it.

Darrin Kitchens - Florida Gators

On Wednesday night, after the Gators suffered a shocking and embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals, Kitchens stood alone. The reserve LB stood and sung the alma mater with the Florida band. He didn’t have to–it’s usually a celebratory moment after victories–but he did anyway.

So today, one day after we watched 60 minutes of ugly, we salute something wonderful. Something profoundly orange and blue. And something–I’ve been told–Kitchens has done before.

There was a lot not to like about the final Gators’ game of the 2012 college football season, but I’ll choose to enjoy this for a long time. It’s hard to find anything wrong with that image and we shouldn’t be trying to. Darrin Kitchens, Gator Nation salutes you.

Louisville Cardinals 33 – Florida Gators 23: Gators Out-Coached, Out-Classed In Sugar Bowl

It ended 33-23, but that score doesn’t indicate what really happened on Wednesday night in the Sugar Bowl. Closing the door on the 2012 season, the Florida Gators were out-coached and out-classed by the Louisville Cardinals. A few years ago, Gator Nation laid claim to the Ohio State Buckeyes after both football and basketball national championships. Now, it’s the Cardinals that own the Gators. First, the elite eight victory and now the Sugar Bowl.

Charlie Strong - Louisville Cardinals

There aren’t many worse ways a game can start than they way the Sugar Bowl did for the Florida Gators. For a moment, you might think “okay good, receiving the kick, let’s just get the offense out there and get the jitters out of the way, we don’t need a score on the first drive, but at least get them on the field.” Then a few seconds later, you find yourself banging your head against the wall wondering how what just happened really did happened. If you blinked you would have missed it and suddenly it was 7-0 Louisville.

It did get worse though. The offense sputtered, but we almost expected that much. This Gators’ team didn’t get where it was this season due to an explosive offense. It got to the Sugar Bowl thanks to an elite defense and an offense that came on when it needed to. It was still very much a work in progress. Unfortunately, the defense looked like it was only at that point too on Wednesday night. To say the Gators got out-coached would be a massive understatement. It looked like the Cardinals coaching staff had spent 24 hours a day every day studying the Florida defense and finding every possible way to exploit it. And exploit it they did.

Leading up to the game, several Gators commented that Teddy Bridgewater was the best quarterback they would face all season. That looked to be true. Not only did Bridgewater look like a legitimate future Heisman candidate, the plays called for him were nearly flawless. He picked apart the Gators’ defense even when facing pressure from the defensive line. Bridgewater was a model quarterback in the victory. His stats won’t jump off off the page at you–20-of-32, 266 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception–but there was an efficiency to his play that almost had you believing early that there was no way the Cardinals would lose. 9-of-14 on third down didn’t hurt their chances either.

In the end, this wasn’t a 33-23 game. It looked more like a 33-10 game–the score was exactly that after Louisville kicked a field goal with 7:54 remaining. Florida did what it does and scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to edge closer, but it never appeared to be that close at all. One team didn’t convert on third downs; one team did. One team was plagued by stupid penalties and even an ejection; the other team wasn’t. One team looked lost and confused early; the other team appeared to be as prepared as you could possibly be. One team is 11-2 even though, at the moment, it doesn’t feel as such; the other team is 11-2 and feels as if they are on top of the world.

There will be more highs and lows for the Gators under Will Muschamp. 11-2 is something to celebrate, but the sting of this final, flat, disappointing loss makes any record good or bad tough to swallow. On the other sideline, we saw an elated and deserving victorious Charlie Strong and for a second we smiled (or smirked, or grinned, or even laughed). Two up-and-coming head coaches faced off and one flat out defeated the other.

Florida Gators Vs. Louisville Cardinals: Five Final Sugary Thoughts

In less than five hours, the Florida Gators will hit the field one final time to close out the 2012 season. Their opponent–the Louisville Cardinals–is an unfamiliar one, and the place–the Sugar Bowl–hasn’t been as known to the Gators as one would have hoped in recent years. The two teams face off with that pride thing on the line, but also much more. For the Gators, it’s a chance at an unlikely 12-1 season and a BCS bowl game victory one season before many thought it was possible.

Jeff Driskel - Florida Gators

As we head into tonight’s game and the Time That Forgot College Football beyond it, here are five final thoughts on the Sugar Bowl.

1. Charlie Strong being a former Florida Gators’ assistant coach does not give Louisville an advantage. Okay, so having Strong as a head coach period might–the man is very good at what he does–but he didn’t leave Gainesville a year ago. He left long before the current staff and system was in place. This is his third season with the Cardinals. Do the math. Will Muschamp is in his second with the Gators and it feels like offensive coordinator Brent Pease only just got here. Strong gives his team many advantages, but familiarity with what the Gators do today isn’t one of them. Sure, he’s familiar with some of the older players and even had a large part in bringing some of them to the University of Florida, but that is vastly different than someone that may have left just one season ago.

2. Yes, Teddy Bridgewater is that good. In only his sophomore season, Bridgewater is already one of the better quarterbacks in the country. He ranked seventh in the nation is passer rating–161.6–and sixth in completion percentage–60.0%. The sophomore is constantly improving. Even in Louisville’s two losses, Bridgewater’s touchdown-to-interception ratio was 5-to-2. The Gators’ secondary will be on alert. This kid can throw the ball.

3. The Gators’ sophomore quarterback–Jeff Driskel–hasn’t climbed as high as Bridgewater as quickly, but he has rather efficiently led Florida to an 11-1 record. Driskel may not wow you for 59 minutes, but then suddenly he does. He wasn’t asked to throw nearly as much as Bridgewater–216 to 387–but he showed signs of improvement over time. The passing yards aren’t there, but neither are the interceptions; Driskel only threw three all season. As the offense evolves, so does Driskel. He may never be a 3,000-yard passer, but in 11 starts in 2012 (come on, let’s just go ahead and give him the start for the Bowling Green game), he went 10-1. I’ll take it.

4. On that note, many of you will say “well, it was the defense, not the offense.” For the most part I won’t argue with you and because of that I’ll give a shout of to that side of the ball right here. Jon Bostic, gone. Sharrif Floyd, probably gone. Omar Hunter, gone. Matt Elam, probably gone. Those are just a few names. Just a few of the standouts on this year’s defense. Some of the stars will return, but others won’t. For some, this is it. This is their final game in a Gators’ uniform. Play for whatever you want to play for tonight, but make it count. Do it one final time and prove to the nation again just how good you can be.

5. And finally, enjoy it all. This isn’t just to the players, but also to us–the fans. This isn’t the Outback Bowl or Capital One Bowl or Gator Bowl. This is the Sugar Bowl. It’s one of the big ones. It’s one of the ones many Florida fans feel the Gators belong in. We want this every year, so don’t look over it when it comes as a surprise. This is what we want to see from our Gators. We want 10+ wins, we want to beat Florida State, we want to be in the top five and we want bowl games. When a national championship isn’t in the picture, this is what we want. Enjoy tonight, because tomorrow starts the long, cold, dead period.

Florida Gators Vs. Louisville Cardinals: Surprise Sugar Bowl Appearance Couldn’t Be Sweeter

Ah, the familiar feel of the Sugar Bowl. Wednesday night will mark the Florida Gators ninth appearance in the New Orleans-based bowl game. Their record in it is far from spectacular, but it doesn’t make another appearance any less sweet.

Will Muschamp - Florida Gators

During the 1990s and the rise of now legendary head coach Steve Spurrier, the Gators and the Sugar Bowl practically went hand-in-hand. From 1992 to 1997, Florida went to New Orleans four times, compiling a record of 2-2. None of those appearances was as sweet as the 1997 edition, which resulted in the Gators’ first national championship. It didn’t hurt that it came after a thrashing of the rival Florida State Seminoles.

Since that wonderfully amazing day in 1997, Florida only made two more appearances in the Sugar Bowl. The Ron Zook years and some struggling times at the end of the Urban Meyer era and the beginning of the Will Muschamp one contributed to that. In 2001, it was a loss to the Miami Hurricanes in New Orleans that put an end to the season. In 2010, it was a beat down of the Cincinnati Bearcats and the end of Tim Tebow’s Florida career. Just three seasons later, the Gators are back and surprisingly so.

The 11-1 Gators will face an unfamiliar foe–the 10-2 Louisville Cardinals–with a familiar head coach–former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. Strong has done exactly what Louisville hired him to–win. After back-to-back 7-6 seasons, he led the Cardinals to the Big East title and a BCS bowl game appearance in his third year. Strong will coach the Cardinals in their first-ever Sugar Bowl appearance not long after turning down a job opportunity with the Tennessee Volunteers to stay at Louisville and continue to build on the success he is now realizing.

Muschamp has also done exactly what his employer hired him to do. After a disappointing 7-6 season in 2011 during which Muschamp was given an incomplete roster and not a lot to work with, he has risen the Gators back to prominence in the SEC and across the country. The fact that Florida is playing in the Sugar Bowl in only his second season is a testament to that. He’s led the Gators there despite a new offensive coordinator–Brent Pease–and struggles on that side of the ball. Much of the thanks can go to what is becoming an elite defense and a team with more endurance than any of its opponents.

On Wednesday, two fairly inexperienced, but quickly successful head coaches face off in one of the biggest games of the bowl season. One has a chance to win its 11th game of the season, while the other has a legitimate shot at finishing as the nation’s No. 2 team. Not surprising for one, but downright shocking for the other. We’re over most of that shock now. After all, we’ve been through 12 games with this Florida Gators’ team. We’ve seen the highs and the lows. We’ve experienced the good and the bad. With one game remaining, we hope for the glory of a Sugar Bowl victory and a 12th win.

Wednesday night marks the end to the 2012 season of the Gators. After the final second ticks away, we go into hibernation for the long haul, so cheer loud, get behind the orange and blue and, as always, Go Gators!

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

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

Matt Patchan - Florida Gators

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

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

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

2014 Football Recruiting: Travonte Valentine Becomes 2nd Commit For 2014; DT Chooses Gators

Ryeshene Bronson is no longer alone. On Sunday, defensive tackle Travonte Valentine joined him as a member of the 2014 recruiting class. The 6’3″, 283-pound DT from Palm Bay, FL (Bayside) recently decommitted from Louisville before pulling the trigger and committing to Florida. He keeps the trend of recent defensive line commits alive.

Valentine attended Friday Night Lights and upon returning home from the event realized where he wanted to be. He contacted head coach Will Muschamp and told him the good news. Muschamp, of course, welcomed Valentine with open arms.

The standout defensive tackle claims that his recruitment is over. He won’t take any additional visits and says he’s solid to Florida. It’s a very long time until the 2014 class signs, so we’ll take those statements for what they’re worth, but Valentine seems to be comfortable with his decision.