Gators Welcome Back Mike Peterson; Former Florida, NFL Linebacker Joins Staff

Former Florida linebacker Mike Peterson has joined the Gators’ staff in a full-time role. Peterson will be joining the weight room staff as of February 24.

Mike Peterson, Florida Gators

Peterson was with the Gators during the 2013 football season as he had returned to the University of Florida to finish his degree. Upon the completion of his degree, head coach Will Muschamp looked to bring him on full time. Peterson will start in the weight room with hopes of making a career out of coaching in some capacity.

With the Gators from 1995 to 1998, Peterson appeared in 42 games, starting 24. He was a member of the 1996 national championship team and was named an All-American as a senior in 1998.

Peterson was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He played in the NFL for 13 seasons with the Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Atlanta Falcons. Peterson’s best season came in 2005 with the Jaguars when he was named a second-team All-Pro.

Former Florida Gators’ Star Percy Harvin Wins Super Bowl with Seattle Seahawks

Percy Harvin didn’t return kickoffs during his time with the Florida Gators. The do-everything weapon was reserved to doing almost everything but returning kicks. Then Harvin went to the NFL.

Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks

In four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Harvin returned four kickoffs for touchdowns and twice led the league in kickoff return average. His 2012 average of 35.9 yards per return ranks third all-time; not in team history, in NFL history.

Traded to the Seattle Seahawks before the start of the 2013 season, big things were expected from the dynamic Harvin, but we would see him only touch the ball twice during the regular season. Of course, one of those touches was a 58-yard kickoff return. Even hobbled, Harvin is better than most at the football.

The playoffs came and Harvin was healthy once again, giving the Seahawks a threat barely seen during the regular season. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t return a kick during Seattle’s first game against the New Orleans Saints and would be held out of the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers due to a concussion.

Then came the Super Bowl and a ready-to-go playmaker. Harvin only caught one pass and ran the ball just twice, but oh that kick return. Up 22-0 over the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks hoped to put more points on the board during their first drive of the second half. They wouldn’t have to wait long as Harvin would go 87 yards for the score. It was the fifth touchdown return of his career and by far the biggest of them all.

My obsession with Percy Harvin is no secret. As much talent as there was on the 2006 and 2008 Gators’ national title teams, Harvin was over-the-top special. We may never see such a pure athlete in orange and blue again. There are other names I could mention here that contributed greatly to one or both of those teams, but when Harvin got the ball, you made sure you were watching. Something jaw-dropping was about to happen.

On Sunday night, the oft-injured star made his mark again, this time on football’s biggest stage. Plenty of former Florida players have won the Super Bowl, but last night was Harvin’s moment. Congrats Percy. Go Gators!

The Super Bowl Giveth, The Super Bowl Taketh Away

Tomorrow, the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will compete in the Super Bowl. Once the game is over, so will be football.

Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks

For some of us, that may be a good thing. The Florida Gators posted a record of 4-8 during the 2013 regular season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won as many games despite having four more chance to add to their victory total. That’s eight combined wins for the teams I consider myself a fan of. Eight total wins and 20 losses. The end of the current football season can’t come soon enough for me.

I will miss it of course. I’m not completely dead inside. I will miss the victories, though few and far between recently. I will miss the anticipation and hope. I will miss those that stuck together in all kinds of weather. But there is plenty I won’t miss.

I won’t miss poor offensive play, and poor is a nice way to put it. I won’t miss injuries. I won’t miss coaching hot seats. I won’t miss the fan 20 years my senior that hates Jeff Driskel with a passion reserved for, well, I can’t really imagine where you find that kind of hate within you. I won’t miss losing two or three times as many games as you win.

Luckily, football never really comes to an end. Mere days after the Super Bowl is National Signing Day–a recruiting fan’s dream date. Following NSD, we gear up for the NFL Draft. During the summer, we talk recruiting and anticipation and hope begins to build again. All along, if you’re so inclined, you can bet on the upcoming season (find the latest odds online with Betfair). The games may end, but football doesn’t.

Tomorrow, the final game of the 2013 season is played. For us Gators, we have Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell and Jeremy Mincey to cheer for. One team will be wearing orange and blue, even if their quarterback could never beat Florida. We have 60 minutes of game time left. 60 minutes before the offseason truly begins and hope returns.

Ronald Powell the Latest to Declare for 2014 NFL Draft; DE/LB to Leave Florida Early

Ronald Powell has become the latest underclassman to declare his intentions to leave Florida early and enter the 2014 NFL Draft. The hybrid defensive end/linebacker had one season of eligibility remaining.

Ronald Powell, Florida Gators

The top recruit in the nation coming out of high school, much was expected of Powell before he ever stepped foot on campus. He was the second top prospect to sign with the Gators under former head coach Urban Meyer and if his impact were to even be close to that of the first–Percy Harvin–Florida fans were in for a treat.

Powell struggled early, but mostly due to those high expectations. It’s not that he underperformed during his freshman season; it’s that so much more was expected out of him. Will Muschamp’s arrival as the new Florida head coach may have been a good thing for Powell in the long run. While it did take him some time to get used to his role as a “buck” linebacker, Powell started to come on strong during the season half of the 2011 season. Seven of his nine tackles for loss and four of his six sacks came in the final six games of the season.

Powell wouldn’t get a chance to build on his strong end to the 2011 season as his 2012 season was over before it began. He tore his ACL during the Orange & Blue Debut, putting him on the shelf for all of 2012.

When the 2013 season came around, Powell was ready to contribute again. While he was back to full strength, he also greatly benefited by the play of defensive lineman Dominique Easley and fellow buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. The emergence of Fowler allowed Powell to move between buck and more of a traditional linebacker role throughout the season.

Powell played well enough throughout the season that this announcement isn’t much of a surprise, but it’s also widely believed he would benefit greatly from one final year of development. However, after suffering the type of injury he did, it’s understandable that he would leave now and not risk getting hurt at the college level again. Early predictions have Powell falling somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft.

While I wish Powell all the luck in the world, the one thing I would have really wished for him during his time at Florida was more wins. Due to the injury forcing him to miss the 11-2 2012 season, Powell played for the Gators during seasons in which they finished 8-5, 7-6 and 4-8.

Marcus Roberson to Declare for 2014 NFL Draft; Cornerback to Leave Gators

According to Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun, Gators’ junior cornerback Marcus Roberson will leave Florida early and declare himself eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft. Roberson only appeared in seven games for the Gators in 2013, missing time due to injuries and suspension, but he is still projected to be selected in the first or second round of April’s draft.

Marcus Roberson, Florida Gators

Despite playing in just more than half of the Gators’ games in 2013, Roberson’s draft stock isn’t expected to be impacted. His coverage skills have been one of his greatest strengths during his entire Florida career and many believe he will only get better with time.

Roberson’s play does present some concerns as he is a frequent offender when it comes to pass interference calls. He has always played the game physically and it has haunted him at times. However, he is still a relatively young player and discipline could come with time and coaching.

Roberson becomes the second Florida cornerback to leave the Gators early for the NFL Draft. He joins fellow junior Loucheiz Purifoy who declared his intentions to bolt to the NFL almost immediately following the conclusion of the 2013 regular season.

While Florida still has talent at cornerback, it is largely young talent that split time with veterans such as Roberson, Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins. The Gators need to reload immediately and will be sure to look at any available prospects during the final month of recruiting. Florida appears to be in good shape with Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson and Quincy Wilson currently committed, but Jackson is wavering and all three will need time to develop.

Tim Tebow Joins ESPN, SEC Network as College Football Analyst

Tim Tebow is back, sort of. The former Florida quarterback has joined ESPN and will be a college football analyst for the SEC Network. Tebow will appear as a member of a new pregame show–SEC Nation–that premieres on August 28, 2014.

Tim Tebow, Florida Gators

Tebow won’t be restricted to appearing only on SEC Nation. As a member of the ESPN team, Tebow will also appear on the main network itself and also contribute to ESPN Radio and various other college football-related platforms. He won’t have to wait until August 28 as he’ll make his first appearance on January 6 as part of ESPN’s coverage of the national championship.

The former Gators’ star expressed his excitement over the opportunity while mentioning he still has a certain goal he hopes to accomplish again.

“When I was 6 years old, I fell in love with the game of football, and while I continue to pursue my dream of playing quarterback in the NFL, this is an amazing opportunity to be a part of the unparalleled passion of college football and the SEC,” said Tebow.

The biggest question surrounding Tebow as an analyst will be how critical he can be. Always known as a leader during his time as a football player, Tebow also defines the nice guy persona. Whether he can be critical of teams, coaches, and even players remains to be seen. For instance, what does he say if the Gators’ offense struggles as it has in recent years? The guess is a fair analysis, but we’ll need to see it for ourselves to determine if this is a career for Tebow or just a short-term gig.

In case you’re wondering if we’ll ever see Tebow in the NFL again, well, that’s up in the air, but his contract with ESPN allows him to pursue the opportunity if it arises.

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.

Defensive Line Coach Bryant Young Resigns, Cites Family

If it feels like we’ve heard this before, it may be because we have. But this time it feels different, so let’s go ahead and give Bryant Young the benefit of the doubt. Young resigned from his position as the Florida Gators’ defensive line coach earlier this week, citing wanting to spend more time with his family.

Bryant Young - Florida Gators

Young, who has six kids, feels it’s time for him to spend more time with his children and enjoy family life. The now former assistant coach has been coaching in the college ranks since 2009. Before that, Young spent 14 years in the NFL as an All-Pro defensive lineman with the San Francisco 49ers.

Gators’ head coach Will Muschamp praised Young and only had good things to say about his time with Florida. He noted that he respected Young’s decision and will support both him and his family. At the moment, there seems to be no other reason for Young’s departure than a man that wanted to spend more time with his family. And we’ll choose to believe that despite whatever past experiences we as Florida fans may have had.

Sharrif Floyd Tops Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board; Could The Former Florida Gators DL Go No. 1?

Near the top of most lists for all of this year’s NFL Draft season, former Florida Gators defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd has become the No. 1 player on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board. Floyd has already established himself as a top-five pick in next month’s draft, but as he continues to impress, the chances of him being selected first improve.

Sharrif Floyd - Florida Gators

Fans love to hate Kiper. If he doesn’t believe a player from your school is worthy of a top pick, you can’t stand the man and don’t believe he knows anything about, well, anything. If he does have your favorites among his top players, then it’s no better because that’s his job and he’s just regurgitating what you already knew. Basically, he can’t win.

Regardless, of how you feel about the man and his methods for ‘guessing’ the outcome of the NFL Draft, he does his homework and evaluates each year’s prospects to a level of detail few others do. And, of course, as Florida fans, we can now praise the man for his unmatched expertise and intelligence. There’s a player atop his board with a Gators logo next to his name.

Being atop Kiper’s Big Board doesn’t guarantee that Floyd will be selected No. 1 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. First of all, the Chiefs are thought by many to be leaning toward an offensive lineman (but they could take the best overall player regardless of position, which they should probably do). Second, this is a year without a definitive top choice. But Floyd does have a chance to be the highest Gator ever selected in the draft and that’s something for us to applaud.

Florida has had three former players go No. 3 overall, but never been able to jump into the top two. Those three are extremely recognizable.

    • 1967 – Steve Spurrier – QB
    • 1978 – Wes Chandler – WR
    • 2001 – Gerard Warren – DT

Floyd could join those three at No. 3, or make a name for himself all alone as the only Florida player to ever be selected in the top two. And—orange and blue glasses aside—he’s worthy. He has the size, speed and overall talent to succeed in the NFL in either 4-3 or 3-4 systems. Throughout his Gators career, Floyd was moved from defensive tackle to 4-3 defensive end to nose tackle to end in the 3-4. His versatility and ability to excel wherever he lined up has made him one of the better players available. Whenever he goes, we won’t be waiting long to hear his name.

Oddly enough, the baseball program’s highest drafted player also went No. 3—Mike Zunino one year ago. The men’s basketball program bests both football and baseball by one spot. Neal Walk went No. 2 overall in 1969.

Pittsburgh Steelers Release Chris Rainey After The Former Florida Star’s Arrest

The Pittsburgh Steelers have released running back Chris Rainey, only hours after his recent arrest. The former Florida Gators’ star was arrested on a simple battery account earlier on Thursday.

Chris Rainey Mugshot

Witnesses saw Rainey pull his girlfriend from a vehicle and then slap her. She ran away, but Rainey chased her to retrieve his cell phone. Upon catching up with her, both were knocked to the ground. According to police, Rainey admitted to attempting to get his phone back, but denied hitting his girlfriend. He went on to say she fell out of the car when he reached for her purse which contained his phone. Witnesses had a different account of the situation.

Rainey was mostly used as a kick returner during his rookie season in the NFL. The Steelers were quick to act, stating that Rainey’s actions were disappointing and he was no longer a member of their organization.