Dear Alabama, We Know The Feeling

On Saturday, the Alabama Crimson Tide experienced something the Florida Gators football program is very familiar with. While in the Mal Moore Athletic Facility, a player’s father got his foot caught on a rug causing the crystal football on the top of Alabama’s most recent national championship trophy to fall to the floor and shatter.

The crystal football sits atop the trophy held in place by three small supports. In reality, it just sits there and isn’t connected to the trophy in any way. Florida found this out the hard way in 2008 when Orson Charles – then a recruit – bumped into a table holding one of the Gators trophies. The football fell to the floor experiencing he same fate as Alabama’s.

The trophy is handmade and valued at approximately $30,000. Its breaking wasn’t enough to get Charles to become a Gator; he would go on to commit to Georgia and play for the Bulldogs. No word on exactly which player’s father knocked over Bama’s trophy.

Week 15 BlogPoll Top 25: The Rematch Is Real

The last one of these for a while as the regular season came to a close. Bowl season is now upon us and that means no more weekly updates. I know, I know. It’s a sad time. You crave weekly polls to justify your belief that some team should be ranked No. 16 and not No. 17. Well I’m sorry, but it’s over. That ship has sailed and we move forward toward bowls aplenty and a rematch for the national championship.

My thoughts are in tune with that of the BCS Standings. The LSU Tigers will face the Alabama Crimson Tide for all the candy and that crystal football. You may not agree with rematches and you may believe the Oklahoma State Cowboys made their case for No. 2 with a huge win over their biggest rivals, but Bama has the better loss (only in sports do we talk about “better losses”). My question is who gets the title if the Tide pull out a 9-6 overtime win? Maybe Orson Charles can split the football in equal pieces for both teams.

The big winners of the week were the Clemson Tigers, a team that was given little or no chance to win the ACC Championship. The Tigers proved beating a team twice in one season may not be so hard after all.

The biggest losers were the previously undefeated Houston Cougars. Drop your undefeated season in the fashion they did and you’re sure to plummet.

There it is, the last poll of 2011. Miss it. You know you will.

Andre Debose And Matt Patchan Cleared To Play

File this under News We Already Know. Doing some cleanup after a quick vacation and an ongoing bug that is doing it’s best to destroy any enjoyment I might have in life.
There you have it. You can go ahead and wipe the sweat off of your brow and let out a sigh of relief. Andre Debose and Matt Patchan have been cleared to play. To read the full quote from the University of Florida, check out Alligator Army, but here’s the basic idea: there are no eligibility issues with either player. Both can play, so says the NCAA (hey, it’s Friday, I don’t apologize for a rhyme here and there).
This is great news for Florida, but continues to be bad news for Miami. The NCAA was quick to inform Florida, Georgia, and Kansas State of the eligibility of Debose, Patchan, Orson Charles, and Bryce Brown. What does that mean for the Hurricanes? It means they’re the focus of the investigation and will be the program on the NCAA’s radar for now.
Be happy the two Gators mentioned have been cleared, but continue to be amazed with the state of college football.

The Plant Pipeline

Those of you that live in Tampa know about Plant.  Chances are those of you that follow college football recruiting do too.  One of the better public high schools in the area, Plant has had its fair share of big names in the football world and continues to produce multiple FBS-caliber athletes every year.
You probably remember Mike Williams as the USC star that attempted to leave the Trojans after two years only to be denied entrance into the draft by the NFL.  Before dominating defensive backs in college and then unfortunately not doing the same in the professional ranks, Williams was a stud wide receiver at Plant.  One that Florida wanted as a tight end (insert head smack).
Robert Marve will be suiting up for Purdue this fall.  You’ll recall Marve being touted as the next star signal caller at Miami.  Ultimately, things didn’t go his way with the Hurricanes and he transferred, but before all of that, Marve was a record-setting QB at Plant.
After Marve came quarterback Aaron Murray and one of his favorite targets tight end Orson Charles.  Florida wanted both, but the duo ended up together at Georgia.  Murray’s choice was a surprise to some and Charles earned notoriety for breaking one of the Gators’ national championship trophies.  Both stared at Plant before becoming Bulldogs.
Plant has produced plenty of talent over the years, but among the bigger names you’ll notice a common theme.  None of them were or are Gators.  Williams may have been a recruiting gaff on Florida’s part, but his size makes it at least somewhat understandable as to why a school might want him to play TE.  Marve would have had to sit behind Tim Tebow just as long as John Brantley did and then compete with Brantley for the starting job.  A competition he would have lost.  In the end, Murray made the right decision.  He wanted to play as soon as possible.  Entering his redshirt freshman year, he’s the Georgia starter.  And Charles may be the one that really got away.  A player with his abilities and talents would have fit into the Florida offense nicely and he would have seen playing time quickly.  The Gators were in it with all of them, but ended up striking out each time.
Now comes along the biggest name of them all.  James Wilder Jr. is a running back/defensive end/linebacker hybrid who Rivals.com ranks as the third-best prospect in the entire nation.  Most players listed as athletes have either played multiple positions well but none great or have excelled at one but may project to another in college.  Wilder isn’t like that.  He would be in the top 10 (and possibly top five) of any of the three positions he could play at the next level.
Wilder has made it known that he wants to play running back or at the very least get a shot at the position.  He could end up at linebacker – the position most think he is best suited for in the long run – eventually, but he wants a shot at carrying the ball wherever he goes.  Initially, Miami was mentioned as his top school if he played offense and Florida came in at number one if he ended up on defense.  That may now be blurred.
This past week, Wilder took in both Florida and FSU.  He visited the Gators and Seminoles along with his head coach and several teammates.  Wilder hoped to learn even more about two of the programs high on his list.  With only a few weeks until he makes his decision (Wilder is rumored to be announcing his selection in July), the star athlete wanted to get another look at two schools he’s extremely familiar with.
Wilder liked both, but that’s no surprise.  What is, though, is that the Gators recently picked up a commitment from a Tampa fullback.  Tampa Catholic’s Hunter Joyer may be an indication that Florida is looking to beef up its running game.  If so, they could be doing it in part for a player with Wilder’s talents.  A capable blocking back coming in with one of the top rushers in the nation.
And what about those teammates that accompanied Wilder?  Well, both are on Florida’s radar screen.  Quarterback Phillip Ely (like the past few Plant QBs) already has offers from more than 20 schools.  There’s no guarantee he’ll receive one from the Gators since they aren’t sure if they’ll go after another passer, but if they do, Ely could be near or at the top of their list.  The other was offensive lineman Tony Posada who also has numerous offers at this point.  Florida isn’t among them, but could be in time.  A prospect of Wilder’s talent will end up wherever he wants, but having teammates onboard as well never hurts.
If this is the year Florida finally pulls in a big name from Plant, Wilder’s is big enough to make the Gators forget all those of the past.  Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until signing day to find out his decision and if the Plant pipeline will add a stop at Florida.

Aaron Hernandez Joins Joe Haden, Will Enter 2010 NFL Draft

“A little rough around the edges.”  “Needs to watch the ball in and secure it before making his next move.”  “A project that will take some time to develop.”  We heard a lot about Aaron Hernandez possibly not living up to the hype after his first few practices with the Gators.  Many were worried he would fall into the category of the highly overrated high school star the college game left behind.  Then he got on the field and opinions were completely changed.
Three years later, Hernandez leaves Florida has the school’s all-time leader among tight ends in catches (111) and catches in a single season (68).  He was a first-team All-American, became the first SEC player to ever win the Mackey Award (given annually to the nation’s top TE), and may have been the Gators’ most dangerous offensive weapon in 2009 not named Tim Tebow.  Hernandez leaves on a high note, setting a career-high with nine catches in the Sugar Bowl.  It was also the second 100-yard game of his career and he took one into the end zone.
The departure of the All-American tight end may hurt the Gators more than any other mostly because it leaves the position as a gigantic question mark.  Desmond Parks came to Florida as part of the 2009 recruiting class.  Rivals.com rated him at the 16th-best tight end in the class and early reports were that he was very raw and although had some potential could take longer to develop.  The 2010 class brings with it Michael McFarland (the 24th-best at the position) and one of the jewels of the group, Gerald Christian.
Christian (from Dwyer in West Palm Beach, FL) is rated at the nation’s 2nd-best tight end and #48 prospect overall.  Gators fans who wanted a certain TE from Tampa last year will like what Rivals has to say about Christian: “a bigger version of Georgia’s Orson Charles.”  The hope, of course, is that Christian comes in and takes over the position.  While tight end may be one of those position you don’t necessarily want a true freshman starting at, Florida may not have much of a choice.  Although, if Christian lives up to the hype, the Gators may not have anything to worry about.
More should be coming out soon regarding Florida’s other early draft entrant candidates.  Hopefully it’s nothing more than news of them returning for another year.
 

Questions with the Enemy: Florida Gators vs. Georgia Bulldogs

We have an extra special “enemy” joining us this week in the form of former Georgia kicker Rex Robinson.  Rex was a three-time All-SEC first-teamer and an All-American in 1980.  He runs Roughing the Kicker and was nice enough to answer our questions.
In eight and a half season at Georgia, Mark Richt is an impressive 86-25 (43-20).  Yes, 4-3 (2-2) so far in 2009 isn’t what fans expected, but why in the world are some calling for his head?  What better option do they think there is?  I don’t think there is a better option, and some fans just don’t think period.  There is no doubt that some changes might be in order with the staff, but I hope Mark Richt stays forever.
Joe Cox is playing fairly well in wins, but looks like a different player in losses.  What are the Bulldogs chances this weekend if he doesn’t have his A game from the start?  Not very good…Joe Cox is a slightly above average player who has had to try and be more than that.  Georgia’s lack of a running game has forced him to try and win games versus manage them.  He did win the Arkansas game.  He had the LSU game won but then A.J. Green was penalized for an excessive celebration (bogus) and the rest is history.  If we can’t run just a little, Georgia is in trouble.
Georgia has arguably the best receiver in the nation in A.J. Green.  Florida has two of the more talented cornerbacks in Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins.  How do they cover Green?  Is safety help the only way to contain him?  Those corners are great, but A.J. Green continues to surprise Dawg fans each and every week and in new ways.  I expect this to be a major key in the game, with Haden winning a few and A.J. a few.  We actually need our other receivers, including TE’s to show up to have a chance.
After Green, the Dawgs have an up-and-down receiving corps (sounds a lot like like Florida!).  Who else do the Gators have to look out for?  Michael Moore (82) has had some solid games.  Tavares King (12) is a sophomore that has contributed lately.  TE’s Aron White (81) and Tampa native Orson Charles (7), a true freshman, will both need to contribute as well.  
Rennie Currian is the undisputed leader of the defense.  How do offenses game plan for a player with virtually no weaknesses in his game?  While Rennie is a great linebacker, he is undersized.  With Florida’s O-line I’m not sure they truly game plan for him specifically.  Tim Tebow is bigger than Rennie and Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey are faster, so he’s got a tough assignment.  And whoever tries to cover Aaron Hernandez is in deep kimchee.
Tim Tebow and Herschel Walker will be forever linked in SEC lore.  For a long time many have said Walker could have been the greatest to ever play the game.  Recently people are saying the same about Tebow.  Comparing guys that play different positions is tough, but bias aside, who is “greater?”  I’ve already written about this on my blog and I’ve already got Gators chomping on me.  Something new I will add…who is greater, Wilt Chamberlain or Michael Jordan?  It’s crazy because they played different positions and in different eras.  Even so, they are both in the top 4 scorers in NBA history and truly great in their own ways.
And finally…
Why Georgia?  Were you always a Bulldog?  What made you choose to play college ball in Athens?  I did not grow up a Georgia fan actually.  The way TV was in the 60’s and 70’s the “local” teams, Georgia and Georgia Tech were not on TV that often.  We watched Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, USC, Notre Dame, blah blah blah.  I was fortunate to be recruited by a few schools that had kickers graduating.  Georgia, Georgia Tech and what was then called Memphis State offered scholarships.  Alabama wanted me to walk on and Notre Dame got in the picture late in the game.  But I had already committed to Georgia.  No, Florida did not recruit me, Berj Yepremian was already on campus and he did pretty well.  Here’s a little known factoid…If my dad had taken a job in Titusville when I was about 10 years old, I would have played high school football with Chris Collinsworth and then, who knows?
 

The Long Snapper: John Brown, Carl Johnson, Bobby Bowden, Alabama, and Orson Charles

The saga of John Brown has apparently come to an end. The defensive tackle – a member of the Lakeland class of 2007 – will transfer from Florida without ever seeing the field (well, I’m sure he saw it, he just didn’t step foot on it with the intent to play). Brown had plenty of promise, but a poor academic history. When all seemed in order, he broke his wrist and couldn’t contribute during the 2008 season. No word on where Brown may end up. (H/T: KP)

Charges have been dropped against Florida offensive lineman Carl Johnson. Johnson was originally charged with violating a restraining order against an ex-girlfriend, but it has been ruled he didn’t do so willfully – meaning he got on the bus and she just happened to be on it already. The ex-girlfriend has also decided not to pursue charges against Johnson based on her allegations of date rape. Hmmm. (And another H/T to KP.)

FSU’s troubles could lead to football victories being taken away. That always seemed weird to me considering the games were already played. In reality, who cares if something that already happened is deemed to not have actually happened? Why not do something like ban the Seminoles for a bowl game or two in the future? That would actually be a punishment. But anyway, Bobby Bowden – who currently sits second on the all-time win list – could find himself further than the one victory he is behind Penn State legend Joe Paterno. And thus, I have more questions. What about the games Bowden won as the head coach at Howard? Why do those count? And if they do and we’re talking all-time wins and not just Division 1-A wins, then aren’t they both still chasing John Gagliardi? Whatever the case, with the careers of both men winding down, it appears Paterno will go out on top.

Alabama is in some trouble over textbooks. What’s wrong with that sentence? That’s right. Two words that should never go together: Alabama and textbooks. ZING!

Orson Charles has finally chosen his collegiate destination and it’s Georgia. I never like seeing quality athletes leave the state, but it hits close to home when those players are…well…close to my home. Charles follows one-time TBG man-crush Aaron Murray to Athens. Although not happy where Charles ended up, any place is better than Tennessee.

Orson Charles Drops Florida

Consider Florida’s 2009 recruiting class officially set. Plant (Tampa, FL) tight end/wide receiver Orson Charles has dropped the Gators from consideration. Charles has narrowed his choices to Georgia, Tennessee, and USC. Now that he won’t be attending Florida, expect him to receive a bill for the championship trophy he broke.