Florida Gators Recruiting: The Ups and Downs of National Signing Day

As seems to be the case every year, there were ups and downs for the Florida Gators on National Signing Day. At final count, the Gators added two (three if you count Andrew Mike the night before, and I do), reaffirmed one, saw two choose other schools, lost no one already committed, and had a current player announce his intention to transfer.

Treon Harris, Florida Gators

That’s not a bad day by any means. Actually, it’s a quite good one. No Florida commit flipped, while the Gators got a Florida State commit to do just that. When you gain two (or three) and lose no one, you’re ahead. Unfortunately, the last announcement that really meant something for Florida didn’t go the Gators’ way. Adoree’ Jackson signed with Southern Cal and in doing so proved to one side of the Florida fanbase that head coach Will Muschamp has no idea what he’s doing.

That’s the side that refused to acknowledge anything good that happened leading up to NSD or on the day itself and only focused on one player that got away and how it must be Muschamp’s fault. I’m sure I’ll be called a Muschamp supporter for even bringing it up, but so be it I guess. Maybe one day those fans will be able to find a silver lining in, well, anything. For now, I’m not a Muschamp supporter, but I’m not running him out of town either. He’s the coach whether any of us like it or not. Instead, I’m focusing on where the Gators’ 2014 recruiting class ended up, and all things considered it was a good one.

1. Florida lost no one. The Gators didn’t lose Adoree’ Jackson because they never had him. Florida also didn’t lose Derrick Kelly Jr. because, again, they didn’t have him. Both players would have been welcome additions to the class, but both signed elsewhere—Jackson to USC and Kelly Jr. to FSU. Jackson’s loss was a big one as the dynamic playmaker could have made an immediate impact and Kelly Jr. would have provided depth along the offensive line. Both went elsewhere; move on.

2. The Gators started a day early, getting offensive lineman Andrew Mike to flip to Florida from Vanderbilt. Mike needs to add a great deal of bulk, but bringing aboard a sixth offensive line commit was crucial. Depth across the line is one of the Gators’ biggest needs.

3. Of course Quincy Wilson was the first to fax in his signed Letter of Intent. Has there been a commit more positive about all things Florida during the recruiting process? No, there hasn’t.

4. For the last few weeks, many considered J.C. Jackson to be a goner. FSU and Miami pushed the defensive back up until the last minute. In the end, Florida won out and Jackson stuck with his commitment. This may have been as big of a get for the Gators as anyone on NSD.

5. When C.J. Worton decommitted from FSU most expected him to sign with Florida. He did. Go Gators!

6. The flip of the day, at least where the state of Florida is concerned. Treon Harris had been rumored to be seriously considering making the switch from the Seminoles to the Gators on NSD. He pulled the trigger and he, Florida, the staff, and fans couldn’t be happier. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper got his man.

7. Not exactly recruiting news, Cody Riggs will transfer. It relates in that it frees up a roster spot, but for who? Riggs wanted to player cornerback; coaches wanted him to play safety. He will search for a program where he can play at his position of choice.

The 2014 recruiting cycle was a busy one like all of the others. It had its ups and its downs and we won’t know how good this class truly is for years. In the meantime, on to 2015 recruiting!

Florida Gators Recruiting: Offensive Lineman Andrew Mike Flips from Vanderbilt

Florida was hard at work on the eve of National Signing Day. The Gators added a sixth offensive lineman as part of the 2014 recruiting class in the form of Andrew Mike who flipped his commitment from Vanderbilt.

Andrew Mike, Florida Gators

Mike was not a member of the Commodores’ recruiting class for long, having committed to Vandy on Monday after an official visit to the school over the weekend. Then Florida came calling. The Gators reached out to Mike on Monday night, further expressing their interest in having him join their class. It didn’t take long for the offensive lineman to change his mind and on Tuesday night he committed to Florida.

The 6’7″, 270-pound Mike projects to offensive tackle at the college level. The height is there, but the weight needs to come. He is a three-star prospect across the board, ranking as the nation’s No. 60 offensive tackle according to Rivals and No. 61 according to 247. ESPN and Scout are a little higher on Mike than the others, putting him at No. 32 and No. 44 respectively at his position.

Despite having six offensive lineman as a part of the class, the Gators may not be done. Florida has a strong chance of adding four-star offensive tackle Derrick Kelly Jr. on National Signing Day.

Florida vs. Vandy, Bowl Eligibility, and Awkward Hashtags

Twitter could be one of the worst things to happen to our society, or one of the best; there is no in-between. It allows us to find out at a moment’s notice that the Florida Gators are no stranger to injury, while also bringing trash talk to a new level. It also accounts for more moments of awkwardness than possibly any other medium, because as a not-so-famous (at the time) actress once said in a movie about another social network “the internet is written in pen, not pencil.” (That may have been paraphrased for reasons having to do with me being too lazy to look it up.)

What did Twitter bring us today? It brought us Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin. Franklin is the motivation type as many coaches are when it comes to Twitter. You won’t find much real talk when it comes to such figures. Instead, it’s all inspirational quotes, motivational sayings, or battle calls to rally the troops. But occasionally awkwardness rears its ugly (and humorous) head.

Put it this way, if you need a disclaimer every time you say something, you should think about saying it in a different way. When “opportunity is now here” quickly becomes “opportunity is nowhere,” it’s time for a new hashtag, even if it is oddly appropriate for the game about to take place this Saturday.

The opportunity for the Gators to secure a bowl berth is now here. That much is true; painfully so. When you’re nine games into the season and need a win against a Vandy team that beat a Georgia team that beat you in hopes of going bowling nowhere better describes things than now here. And that is exactly when we give out yet another large sigh and ugh ourselves into the fetal position. “Opportunity is nowhere, but hey look my vat of beer is now here!”

Opportunity is nowhere because the Gators are 4-4. It’s nowhere because a bowl isn’t a guarantee. It has been too many years since Florida last missed bowl season and too many to even think of a losing record. Opportunity passed us over and moved on to the next man standing. (With Oregon’s loss to Stanford just one night ago, that man may be Florida State. Say it with me again without vomiting just a little in your mouth—“UGH.”)

(more…)

Florida Gators 66 – Vanderbilt Commodores 40: Gators Win SEC Title, Finish Unbeaten At Home

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team claimed the program’s fourth outright SEC title on Wednesday night with a 66-40 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores. A conference title was the ultimate goal, but the Gators also capped off an undefeated home record with the win. The last Florida team to do that–2006-07–just happened to win a national championship.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators put the game out of reach early, jumping out to a nine-point lead midway through the first half. The outcome was never truly in question after it took the Commodores nearly 16 minutes of game time to reach the double-digit mark in points. Florida would go on to lead by 10 at the half and extend that lead in the second frame.

In addition to the SEC title and undefeated home record, Florida claimed the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament. The Gators still travel to Kentucky to close out the regular season against the Wildcats, but their place in the SEC tourney is already known.

The three Florida seniors went out on a high note. Guard Kenny Boynton led all Gators scorers with 15 points while forward Erik Murphy added 10 and guard Mike Rosario had five. It surely was a great feeling for all three to get a big victory and win a regular season conference title in their last game in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Florida still has that final hurdle–the regular season finale at Kentucky–to get over before thinking too much about the tournaments ahead, but they will both be here soon enough. This is the time of season to stay focused and build on wins like Wednesday night’s.

Congrats to the Gators and the senior class on an impressive victory.

Plenty On the Line In The Florida Gators Final Home Game

The No. 11/9 Florida Gators men’s basketball team will play its final home game of the 2012-13 regular season on Wednesday. The Gators will host the Vanderbilt Commodores in a matchup with a number of storylines.

Erik Murphy - Florida Gators

First and foremost, Florida can secure the program’s fourth outright SEC title with a victory over Vandy. Not only will it be the fourth for the program, it will be the second for the current seniors. If the Gators get the win, the seniors will be the first class to ever win two outright conference titles.

Not far behind, but less meaningful if we’re being honest, is a chance to go undefeated at home during the regular season for the first time since 2006-07. Not losing at home doesn’t mean much toward the Gators chances at a national championship, but the last Florida team to do so just happened to take home the trophy. Being unbeatable in your own building is a matter of pride though. It’s not something Florida will want to slip out of their hands in their final game. And more wins never hurt.

Finally, it’s senior night for two that have been there since the beginning—guard Kenny Boynton and forward Erik Murphy—and one that has raised his level of playing during his final season—guard Mike Rosario. While Boynton won’t do it in this game, he still has an outside shot at becoming the Gators all-time leading scorer. Not bad for a player many expected to be long gone at this point.

For Boynton, it’s a chance to go out on a high note; to play his final game in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and leave the building with another victory. With 150 points to go and a career-low scoring average of 12.5 points per game, it seems unlikely Boynton will break the record, but he’s playing for more. Boynton joined the Gators following the back-to-back NIT seasons (ugh) and hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament since. Two Elite Eight appearances is nothing to scoff at, but he’ll want more this final season.

Murphy has developed into a threat from anywhere on the court. After nearly ruining his college basketball career, Murphy was allowed to remain in the program by head coach Billy Donovan and became the player he is today. Vital to Florida’s success, Murphy has career highs across the board this season—minutes, field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, scoring average, you name it.

Then there’s Rosario. A transfer from Rutgers, Rosario was expected to bring his heightened scoring ability to the Gators. After a rocky first two seasons (he sat out after transferring), Rosario seems to have brought it together. He hasn’t reached the scoring numbers he put up while with the Scarlet Knights, but Rosario is the Gators leading scorer and a danger to opposing defenses when he has the ball.

Wednesday won’t mark the end of the 2012-13 season, but it does mean more than just another game to the Gators. Florida wants that SEC title. The Gators want to hold on to that unblemished home record. And the seniors want to walk out of the O’Connell Center victorious.

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.

Florida Gators 31 – Vanderbilt Commodores 17; Gators Avoid Trap In A Very Vandy-Like Game

The Florida Gators escaped the trap, defeating the Vanderbilt Commodores 31-17. It was an extremely Vandy-like game in that you never really felt like Florida would lose, but it was an uncomfortably close experience. That’s what happens when the Gators face the Commodores more often than not. There are your blowouts, sure, but there are also a lot of those times that you’d rather be hitting your head against the wall. The score at times made this one of those times, but it’s a win and the last thing we’re doing is worrying about style points these days. We have 2010 and 2011 to remind us that all that matters is winning.

Will Muschamp - Florida Gators

With the win, the Florida Gators moved to 6-0 (5-0 SEC). Those six wins make the Gators bowl eligible. That’s not something we Florida fans celebrate necessarily, but it’s always good to check something off of the list. Last season, bowl eligibility came much later in the season and at times we weren’t even sure we wanted to see the Gators in a bowl. This time around, it came as quick as it possibly could and we’re overly excited for the second half of the season. Not every team has six wins yet and not every team is undefeated. The Gators are one of the few and that’s something to celebrate for now.

The 5-0 SEC record is also something to smile about. In other seasons, 6-0 wouldn’t have meant five SEC wins. That change in the schedule to welcome Texas A&M to their new home gave the Gators that extra conference win. With six games to go, Florida only has three SEC games remaining. They will be battles for sure, but it’s nice heading into them with an unblemished record. Half of the regular season down, half to go. Hard to believe the season is going by that fast, but it’s good to get out of it unscathed.

We still have to teach Jeff Driskel that it’s okay to throw the ball away, or better yet, he has to learn it. The quarterback still has improvements to make as a passer. But, well, what do you say? He can run and he can win. A performance like that is going to bring up comparisons. That much is inevitable. All I know is that Driskel is too big to be that fast, but I watched him outrace a defense for his third touchdown of the evening. He didn’t beat Vandy with his arm, but he sure did with his feet.

On the other side of the ball, the defense finally gave up points in the fourth quarter. It was bound to happen – those streaks never last forever – but it was a fun ride. Fortunately for the Gators’ defense, the offense didn’t stop scoring when the game entered the final frame. When it needed to be, the defense was good enough. It wasn’t their best performance of the season, but it wasn’t a horrible one either. As with every other aspect of the game, there will be a lot to practice this week.

And then there were special teams. I’ll take the easy way out and simply say that they were special. From fakes, to returns, to blocked kicks. Game changers galore. Whatever the Gators can do to keep that up, do it. Please. More and more. We all thank you in advance.

Another week, another victory. It’s a streak I suppose, but it’s hard to get to caught up in that when it comes to college football. Each week feels like a new season and one wrong step can ruin it all. That didn’t happen this Saturday, so it’s immediately time to move on to the next. One more in the win column and now intently watching the next opponent.

Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Vanderbilt Commodores; This Is A Trap Game, So What?

The Florida Gators travel to Nashville, TN to face a familiar SEC East foe – the Vanderbilt Commodores – in what many are calling a “trap game.” Let’s talk about trap games for a minute…

Jay Cutler - Vanderbilt Commodores

A trap game is a game before a more important one. Team A is clearly better than Team B, but may be looking ahead to Team C because that game means more. Why it means more could have a variety of reasons so large we won’t get into that, but there are a lot of them. Because of Team C looming ahead on the schedule, Team A doesn’t come out and play its best against Team B. Suddenly, what was supposed to become a win has become a loss and the game against Team C isn’t as important because Team A has a bad loss on their record.

Trap games are real. They are any game you can fit into the description above. They are also real in that from time to time the outcome is a loss for Team A. The problem is that we’ve almost romanticized the small percentage of times when Team B has pulled off the upset, so much so that we now believe it can happen on any given Saturday. But more often than not, it doesn’t. Or if it did, Team A was able to rebound and end the season on a high note.

Why don’t we look at our favorite team – those Florida Gators – for a few examples. In 2006, the Gators won the national championship with a record of 13-1. Their one loss came to the Auburn Tigers one week after beating the LSU Tigers and two weeks before facing the rival Georgia Bulldogs. Trap game? Actually no, it wasn’t. The Tigers were 5-1 at that point in the season and would finish 2006 at 11-2. That’s not a trap game. Auburn was good, meaning the game fit the normal definition of what most SEC games are.

Some may point to 2008 and say “OLE MISS, THERE’S YOUR TRAP GAME!” No, sorry. Again, it doesn’t fit. The Gators had just come off of a win over the Tennnessee Volunteers, but it was the Arkansas Razorbacks on the schedule after Ole Miss. The same Razorbacks that would finish the season 5-7. Apologies to any Arkansas fans out there, but before facing Florida at that point in the season, they had beaten Western Illinois (by 4 points) and Louisiana-Lafayette (by 1 point) and were 2-2. The Gators weren’t looking ahead to the Razorbacks. They just lost to the Rebels. No other way to put that. It wasn’t a trap game during which they fell victim to looking ahead. They just lost. A few months later, they would win another national championship after winning possible trap games against Kentucky and at Vanderbilt (by a combined 86 points).

In 2009, another 13-1 finish and more wins in anything resembling trap games. You could call the Kentucky and Mississippi State games by that label, but – as seen before – Florida won them both. In the end, the loss came to the team that would win the national title – the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Sure, this game fits the criteria for becoming a trap game, but the Gators would need to lose for it to actually be one. Possible, I guess. Unlikely, definitely. Vanderbilt isn’t a bad team and many think James Franklin can make some noise with the program. That’s all good and well, but there’s a certain intensity about this Gators team that should prevail. This isn’t the same team of the last two seasons. This is one with a defense living up to its hype, talent, and ability. It’s a team that still has a long way to go, but one that looks like it will win the games it’s supposed to win. Today is one of those games.

Believe in the power of the trap game all you want – I’m not saying it never happens – but just realize it’s far from guaranteed. Florida is favored for a reason and in a few hours they’ll have every opportunity to prove why. If all else fails and this does become the dreaded trap, then just be comforted in remembering that Jay Cutler never smiles and that makes all of us happy. Enjoy your Saturday and, as always Go Gators!

Predicting The 2012 SEC Football Season Game By Game (If Each Team Played 1,200 Games)

I guess it’s not that weird, but it is different. We here at The Bull Gator started this last season and figured we might as well continue. (We’re still not sure where our inspiration came from, but we’ve seen similar things done elsewhere, so thanks to anyone that may be doing something like this.) This is our way of predicting the 2012 SEC football season. It’s more than just win vs. loss. Instead, it’s how many times a particular team might beat another. Averages, if you will.

Instead of picking Team A over Team B, we tried to determine how many times we thought Team A would beat Team B if they played each other 100 times. While Team A may be heavily favored over Team B, there’s always that chance of an upset and we try to take that into account. Need an example? Here you go:

If the Florida Gators and Bowling Green Falcons played 100 times, you think the Gators would win 75 of those games. You feel the same way for each of the remaining 11 games on Florida’s schedule. That’s 12 matchups and 75 wins per game. 12 multiplied by 75 is 900; 900 divided by 100 (because in reality, the Gators don’t play each team 100 times; they play each team once) is 9. Therefore, based on your win number for each game, you believe Florida will end up with 9 victories in 2012 for a record of 9-3. Yes, you have technically predicted the Gators to win every game, but a 75% chance of winning each time out is far from perfect.

We set two rules for this exercise. One rule is obvious: A single game must have consistent results. If you believe Florida would beat Texas A&M 75 times, then you also believe Texas A&M would beat Florida 25 times. The other was set to force each of us to pick an overall winner: No matchup can be 50-50. You have to go one way or another even if your chosen mark is 51-49. Ultimately, we’re attempting to predict outcomes and there are no longer ties in college football.

Now that the lengthy (although much shorter than last year’s) explanation is over, here are the results. Discuss, agree with, argue against below.

A few notes:

• The highlighted numbers under the SEC East standings are there to show the only place in the entire standings where we disagreed with each other. Although Vanderbilt ends up fourth overall, individually Willy had them fifth behind Missouri.

• The highlighted schools under the SEC West standings are for the two national title contenders. We both ended up with Alabama ahead of LSU in the SEC West standings; however, if you look at just our picks, that’s not necessarily true. I give the edge to Bama in every game they play, while Willy has LSU beating Bama 55-45. The reason the Tide still come out on top for him is because of greater average confidence in their 11 wins than the Tigers’ 12.

• Finally, the highlighted numbers in the individual team schedules show the games we disagreed on from a win-loss standpoint. Last year, we didn’t disagree on a single game! That’s right, not one. This year there were six, four of which involved Tennessee. I’m not proud to say that in all four of those, I have the Vols coming out on top, but that doesn’t change the fact that we both think their probably a 6-6 team.

There you have it, our long-winded way of predicting the SEC in 2012.

Baseball Recap: Florida 15 – Georgia Tech 3; Gators Advance To NCAA Super Regional

The top-seeded Florida Gators beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 5-3 on Sunday to win the NCAA Gainesville Regional and advance to the NCAA Super Regional for the sixth time in school history. 2012 marks the fourth-straight season the Gators have advanced to the Super Regional.

Florida (45-18) used a little bit of everything to beat Georgia Tech (38-26). Senior center fielder Daniel Pigott and junior catcher Mike Zunino both drove in four runs and three different Gators crossed the plate three times each. Six pitchers combined to shut down the Yellow Jackets in the win, led by junior Brian Johnson who allowed just one run in five innings of work. Johnson improved to 8-4 on the season with the victory.

Florida doesn’t know its Super Regional opponent just yet, but the Gators do know they will host either Vanderbilt (35-27) or North Carolina State (42-18) in a three-game series next weekend. Florida swept Vandy in the regular season only to lose twice to the Commodores in the SEC Tournament. The Gators haven’t faced NC State this season.

Baseball recaps are sponsored by Ben Versnik and Advocare – a world-class nutrition company specializing in health and wellness, weight management, vibrant energy and sports performance.