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.

Matt Jones Undergoes Surgery; Running Back Out for Spring

On Wednesday, Florida running back Matt Jones underwent another surgery on his left knee. While Jones is actually ahead of the recovery timetable, the surgery will keep him out of Spring practice.

Matt Jones, Florida Gators

Jones was in the midst of a promising, although frustrating, sophomore campaign when he went down with the injury. He only appeared in five games during the 2013 season, with his yards per carry average going up and down.

The duo of Jones and freshman Kelvin Taylor was expected to be a good one, but we only saw the two carry the ball in the same game twice. There was no two-headed monster, much to the dismay of Gators’ fans.

In Wednesday’s press conference, head coach Will Muschamp mentioned that Jones’s knee was 90 percent healed. Jones is progressing nicely and should be ready to go in time for Fall practice.

Also missing the Spring sessions are linebackers sophomore Alex Anzalone, redshirt sophomore Jeremi Powell, and redshirt freshman Matt Rolin.

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!

Hoping to Play Cornerback, Cody Riggs Will Transfer from Florida

Later today, Florida head coach Will Muschamp will announce the transfer of Cody Riggs. Riggs started 12 games at safety, but hopes to return to his natural position of cornerback.

Cody Riggs, Florida Gators

Riggs spent his first three seasons at Florida at cornerback. He played in 26 games, starting 13, over the course of the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Riggs was improving and looking forward to a successful 2012 campaign when he injured his foot and took a redshirt. He was moved to safety for the 2013 and started all 12 games, finishing with 51 tackles

Riggs will have one season of eligibility remaining. There is no word on where he will transfer, but immediately playing time at cornerback will be the determining factor. Riggs ends his Florida career having appeared in 40 games, starting 26.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Athlete Deiondre Porter Commits to Florida

Jefferson has been good to Florida. The Tampa, FL high school gave the Gators the Caldwell brothers and has now given Florida it’s latest star, Deiondre Porter. Porter committed to the Gators on Monday night over Central Florida, Miami, and South Florida. If Porter turns out to be anything like Reche Caldwell–another Jefferson quarterback turned Gators’ wide receiver–we’ll be looking back fondly at his career one day.

Deiondre Porter, Florida Gators

What position Porter does play at Florida remains to be seen, but wide receiver is as good of a guess as any other. However, there are also many who believe Porter will end up playing defensive back as his raw athletic ability could turn him into a better-than-average cornerback. The Gators have some experience with one of those as well. Joe Haden came to Florida as a quarterback-turned-athlete. He turned into one of college football’s better cornerbacks. All Haden has done since is be selected to the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl while making his first All-Pro team as a second team selection. Porter has two great former Gators to model himself after, depending on which side of the ball he ends up on.

As for where he wants to play, Porter said during his announcement that he’ll play wherever Florida coaches feel he’ll help the team the most. It’s a good guess that Will Muschamp and staff will evaluate further once he gets to Gainesville to find the best place for him and the team.

A one-time USF commit, Porter reopened his recruitment upon receiving offers from the Gators and Hurricanes. When he visit went well this past weekend, it was a good indication he would commit to Florida. Porter becomes the 22nd member of the Gators’ 2014 recruiting class.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Athlete Deiondre Porter to Announce Monday Night

Tampa, FL (Jefferson) athlete Deiondre Porter is ready to commit. The former South Florida commit, will make his announcement on Monday night at 6:00pm and will be deciding between Central Florida, Florida, Miami, and South Florida. For those of you in the greater Tampa Bay area, the announcement will be shown live on Bright House Sports Network.

Deiondre Porter

Receiving offers from the Gators and the Hurricanes was a turning point for Porter. Previously committed to the Bulls, he decided to take another look around when the state’s bigger programs came calling. Porter scheduled an official visit to Florida almost immediately and decided he was ready to announce shortly after. The timing of the visit to Gainesville and his upcoming announcement Monday night has led many to believe he will be committing to the Gators.

Porter’s visit went well, very well. He gave Florida high marks and stressed the opportunity the coaching staff mentioned he will be given. With all going about as well as it could, the Gators may find themselves with another commit come Monday night.

While playing a lot of quarterback at Jefferson, Porter is listed as an athlete and that’s exactly what the Gators want him to be. Will Muschamp and the staff feel he has the versatility to play a variety of positions and they would want to get him on campus and in practice before deciding where to ultimately put him.

Porter receives three stars from each of the major recruiting services. In addition to athlete, 247 lists him as a dual-threat quarterback while ESPN has him listed as a pocket passer. While he did pass for 3,199 yards during his senior season, he also rushed for 1,499, giving 247 the edge when it comes to evaluating Porter as a quarterback. Scout believes he could also play safety and ranks him as the nation’s No. 30 prospect at the position. The 247 Composite ranks Porter at the No. 124 athlete and No. 1,353 prospect overall.

While some of those rankings may seem lower than the average fan’s liking, Porter’s raw athletic ability is what has the Gators interested. Florida feels he can grow at the next level and, once given a permanent position, excel.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Defensive Tackle Thomas Holley Flips from Penn State

The latest flip is in and it’s a big one; nearly 300 pounds big. Brooklyn, NY (Abraham Lincoln) defensive tackle Thomas Holley has decommitted from Penn State and committed to Florida. While not an overwhelming surprise, it is a pleasant gift all the same.

Thomas Holley, Florida Gators

Holley originally committed to the Nittany Lions due to the relationship he had built with then Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien and defensive line coach Larry Johnson. When O’Brien left for the NFL’s Houston Texans and Johnson departed for Ohio State, Holley rethought the decision. Penn State’s loss suddenly became Florida’s gain.

Rather than completely reopen his recruitment, Holley went with his long-time number two—the Gators. The defensive tackle mentioned his relationship with Florida head coach Will Muschamp and the Gators’ staff as the main reason for his switch. Holley didn’t want to have to develop new relationships with new coaches when all along he could have seen himself comfortable coming to Gainesville.

While there is still time remaining in the 2014 recruiting cycle, Holley has said he is done. He has shut down his recruitment and will remain committed to Florida. As is always the case with recruiting, that sentiment can change, but it’s good to hear all the same.

Holley is widely considered to be one of the top defensive tackles in the 2014 class. 247, ESPN and Rivals all have him within the top three in the nation at the position; 247 even gives Holley five stars. He is joined on Florida’s 2014 commitment list by defensive linemen Taven Bryan (already enrolled), Khairi Clark, Justus Reed, and Gerald Willis III.

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.

Florida Gators Recruiting: Dalvin Cook Officially Decommits; RB Heading to FSU

Dalvin Cook made it official on Tuesday when he announced he would be heading to Florida State. The five-star running back had long been rumored to eventually choose the Seminoles, decommitting from Florida in the process. He, or actually ESPNU, made it official on New Year’s Eve when the network posted a graphic indicating he would commit to FSU.

Dalvin Cook, Florida State Seminoles

While the loss off a recruit of Cook’s caliber stings, his actual decommitment is far from surprising. For months, few believed he would end up at Florida despite Cook himself stating he was 80% or 100% committed at various times during his recruitment. This was a smokescreen of sorts that led him to FSU, a choice that was also not a surprise in any way. For months now, it was widely believed he would play for the ‘Noles and because of that Gators’ fans had already attempted to move on.

The issue that arises about it now being official is what will come next. Five-star wide receiver Ermon Lane is currently considered a Florida commit; however, he has made it clear several times that he wants to play college football with Cook. Cook has said the same about playing with Lane. With Cook committed to FSU now, many think Lane won’t be far behind. The Gators have already felt the sting, losing 2015 wide receiver and Cook high school teammate Da’Vante Phillips last week.

Florida has recently turned its attention to other 2014 running backs–perhaps an indication that Will Muschamp and the staff knew what was coming with Cook. While he has been committed to Oregon for more than three months, the Gators have not stopped their pursuit of Tony James. Florida also recently extended a scholarship offer to Jeff Jones. Jones is committed to Minnesota, but will officially visit the Gators on January 24, 2014.

Florida Names Kurt Roper Offensive Coordinator; Former Duke Assistant Hired to Lead Gators’ Offense

The Gators have found their man. Florida has announced the hiring of Kurt Roper as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Roper–a finalist for the 2013 Frank Broyles Award presented to the nation’s top assistant–comes to the Gators from Duke where he was part of this season’s 10-win, ACC runner-up Blue Devils team.

Kurt Roper, Florida Gators

While the news leaked earlier in the weak, the official announcement came from Florida head coach Will Muschamp on Thursday. Muschamp mentioned tempo and ability to adapt to talent as two of the key reasons he brought Roper to the Gators.

“He has a diverse, up-tempo background on offense and does a good job of adapting to what the players do best. The most important thing though is he has always remained balanced,” said Muschamp.

Roper has spent nearly his entire coaching career under the tutelage of David Cutcliffe. He began his coaching career at Tennessee in 1996 as a graduate assistant before moving to Ole Miss with Cutcliffe. At Ole Miss, he coached quarterbacks from 1998 to 2004. In 2005, Roper and Cutcliffe parted ways as Roper went to coach quarterbacks at Kentucky (under then Wildcats’ offensive coordinator Joker Phillips). The two would reunite at Tennessee for two seasons before heading to Duke in 2008. They have spent the last six seasons together building the Blue Devils into a team that is about to make its second-straight bowl appearance. The program had never previously been bowling in back-to-back seasons.

If you’re into big names, Roper was Eli Manning’s position coach at Ole Miss and Arian Foster’s at Tennessee. Many will point to much of his success being a direct result of working with Cutcliffe, who just happened to be Peyton Manning’s position coach at Tennessee. While true, there are worse people to learn the ins and outs of coaching an offense from than David Cutcliffe. Everyone learned their trade from someone and Cutcliffe had some successes in big conference football.

While Roper may not have been the first choice of fans or even Muschamp, he presents a different background than that of former offensive coordinator Brent Pease. Pease spent five years as an assistant at BCS schools, while Roper has spent his entire career on the staffs of larger programs. That is sure to bring at least a smirk to the faces of those that aren’t fond of Florida hiring from the lower ranks.

For Roper, it all comes down to the 2014 season. That may not exactly be fair to the newly hired offensive coordinator, but those are the cards he’s been dealt and the ones he’s chosen to play with. He gets one season to prove himself because Muschamp may only have one more to save himself. 2014 is not just a defining season for both men, it has everything to do with whether they’ll still be on the Florida sidelines in 2015.