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.

Coleman Hutzler Returns to Florida; Gators Hire Special Teams Coordinator

Florida has hired a new assistant football coach. Coleman Hutzler will return to the Gators as the special teams coordinator. Hutzler was previously on the Florida staff during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, working with current defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin.

Coleman Hutzler, Florida Gators

Hutzler’s hiring comes after special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach Jeff Choate resigned to pursue other football opportunites. Choate leaves Florida after only one season with the program.

Hutzler spent the past two seasons at New Mexico where he led special teams and coached outside linebackers. The Lobos kickoff return unit featured Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year Carlos Wiggins. Wiggins was the only player in the nation to return three kickoffs for touchdowns during the 2013 season.

Prior to his first stint at Florida, Hutzler was on John Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford.

Will Muschamp is one step closer to filling his staff for the 2014 season, although there’s still a big position to fill we’re all impatiently waiting for.

Florida to Kick Off 2017 Football Season Against Michigan in Arlington, TX

A common question asked: when, if ever, will Florida play a non-conference, regular season game outside of the state of Florida? You now have your answer. The Gators will open the 2017 season against Michigan in the 2017 Cowboys Classic in Arlington, TX.

Florida Gators vs. Michigan Wolverines

Florida will technically play the role of the home team in this matchup, although there will nothing homey about it. Mark September 2, 2017 on your calendar, fans (if you are proactive enough to already have a 2017 calendar), as that could be the date the future of all Gators non-conference scheduling changes forever. Although there are many times we’d like to live in our SEC bubble while at the same time stay inside the boundaries of Florida for our non-conference games, this represents an item many fans have been waiting to check off of their wish lists.

We, as Gators fans, understand the schedule we face on an annual basis that comes with being a part of the SEC, but we also wonder what it would be like to play in one of those big, early season games. Florida now has its chance to experience something they haven’t in quite some time. But don’t expect this to become a common occurrence. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has already said this could be a rarity.

“It will be very much the exception, not the rule, but to sit here and totally close the door on these opportunities just doesn’t make sense.”

Foley went on to say that the trip will be a great one for fans. While he likes the idea of seven homes games, he also thought this was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.

For the Gators, this game could go down in history as one of the program’s great moments, but the big question of who will be coaching Florida at that time remains. Will Muschamp will return for the 2014 season, but unless a turnaround occurs, 2017 is too far in the future to believe he’ll still be coaching the Gators at that time. If he is still employed by the University of Florida, he will be entering his seventh year at that point. That actually might be great news for Florida fans as it means he will have done something (actually, many things) very right in 2014 and beyond.

For now, we can concentrate on the game more than the man who will be leading the Gators to it. Florida plays Michigan at a larger-than-life neutral site and I, for one, will do everything in my power to be there.

First Half Lead Evaporates as the Florida Gators Lose 5th Consecutive Game

The Florida Gators won the first half on Saturday against the South Carolina Gamecocks 14-6. Two weeks ago, they won the second half against the Georgia Bulldogs 17-0. The real story, however, lies in the other halves of each of those games. For the second time in the last three games, the Gators couldn’t put together 60 minutes of football and as a result now sit at 4-6 after a fifth-straight loss.

Skyler Mornhinweg - Florida Gators

There was hope in this one. It wasn’t the hope of coming from behind for a change. No, this time around, there was hope because of the lead the Gators had put together. Florida’s offense looked like it had pulled all of the pages out of Navy’s playbook. There was motion everywhere and handoffs left and right to backs going in every possible direction. And for a few moments it actually seemed to work.

Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor had a season-high 21 carries, a season-high 96 yards, and (you guessed it) a season-high two touchdowns. He looked, as he has for most of the season even when running behind a pieced-together offensive line, every bit the star he was projected to be. In a season where good feelings have become a thing of the past, Taylor is a bright light guiding us to a promising future. He was fun to watch when he was in high school and he’s fun to watch in orange and blue.

But all good things must come to an end and Taylor’s productive first half gave way to a second half during which South Carolina’s defense tightened. Not having to worry much about the Gators’ passing game, the Gamecocks could key on slowing the running game. That defense did its job, shutting out Florida for the final 30 minutes. In reality, the Gators last score came with 10:51 remaining in the second quarter. 19:09 – 14 points; 40:51 – 0 points. The seemingly hot start cooled rapidly.

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Year Four of Will Muschamp is a Certainty, But First the Gamecocks

Will Muschamp was given a vote of confidence this week—he will be the head coach of the Florida Gators in 2014. Both athletic director Jeremy Foley and University of Florida president Bernie Machen have come out in support on Muschamp; Foley going as far as to say he is 1,000% convinced Muschamp is the right man for the job. Debates will rage on, but are now as pointless as are those regarding possible future coaches. Will Muschamp will return, as far as we know.

Will Muschamp - Florida Gators

With the votes of confidence from Foley and Machen, Muschamp can focus on what is sure to be a tough run of final games. The regular season, and in all likelihood the entire season, comes to an end on November 30 with a visit from the currently undefeated Florida State Seminoles. One week before that, the Gators host Georgia Southern in what at one time was thought to be an easy victory. Easy victories have become a thing of the distant past. Prior to both of those games, there is Saturday’s trip to Columbia, South Carolina to face an old friend and another ranked opponent.

I will always have a feeling of admiration for Steve Spurrier, and maybe that makes me a different sort of Florida fan. There are those, and they still seem many in numbers, that despise the man that once led the Gators to glorious moment after glorious moment. After all, he left the Gators and that is the sin of all sins. You don’t win and win plenty at the University of Florida and then leave for a new opportunity or because the pressure was too much. The Gators have had two national championship winning head coaches do so, and many fans are not pleased about it and never will be.

There are some of us, though, that have moved on. I don’t blame Spurrier for leaving; I praise him for what he built. You can argue that the Florida Gators were destined for greatness regardless of the man that led them there. The school is large enough and the state in which it resides is plentiful of star high school prospects. While the 1970s had low points, the 1980s had high ones before Spurrier arrived. In 1990, things changed though. Spurrier returned to Gainesville and took the Gators to new heights. No one can predict what would have happened if he hadn’t, but I like to think those 12 seasons and 122 wins helped pave the way for SEC titles and national championships after Spurrier had long left the orange and blue.

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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.”)

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[INSERT TITLE THAT HAS TO DO WITH THE FLORIDA GATORS STRUGGLING OFFENSE, AGAIN]

My calm is my 15-month-old son. No, his name isn’t Tim or Percy or Danny or Reggie, but he’s awesome all the same. He’s at the perfect age where he loves the Florida Gators, but also doesn’t know they exist. I can say “Where’s chomp chomp?” and he’ll run to his playroom, find his football with the Florida Gators logo, run back to me, and point at the logo. He does so smiling the entire time as if nothing could make him happier. When the games start, he points at the television, cheers and sometimes even claps (he does the same for Chugginton and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse). The key, though, is that he has no idea what’s really happening. He doesn’t know they are playing football and has no idea who wins or loses. Not only does he not know the outcome, he doesn’t care. He likes chomp chomp, but has no concern over silly things like scores. The game ends and it just means it’s time to play with Daddy. That makes him happy and it makes me happy. He is my calm and the reason I haven’t seriously thought about seeing how far I can launch my Gators garden gnome into the conservation area behind our house.

Tyler Murphy Florida Gators

This season has given us all many reasons to not be calm. There is an offense ranked in the 100s, where it has been during Will Muschamp’s entire tenure. Even without injuries to its starting quarterback and running back, the offense was far from productive. It was a case of “let’s hope this works, but not get too risky in the process.” You know, because taking chances is highly overrated. It has essentially become the opposite of exciting. And there’s nothing we can do about it, but watch, shrug and laugh (painfully).

We have to make it through four more games. I won’t say five because there’s a serious concern that the Gators won’t become bowl eligible. You’re looking at Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern and wondering how that could be possible. I’m looking at the Commodores win over Georgia and last season’s miracle victory over Louisiana-Lafayette and not penciling in game number 13 just yet. It’s so far from guaranteed, we barely want to mention a bowl. That’s not how Florida football should be, at all.

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To Heck with You Georgia, to Heck and Beyond

As a fan of the Florida Gators, you’re afforded many rights this week. Among those is the right to tell Georgia exactly where you think it should go, or be banished to. You can also ask them if they’d like to bite something in particular. The options are really endless for it is Florida-Georgia week and the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has arrived. (We’re not supposed to call it that, but our goal should be to ensure the moniker lives on with future generations.)

Florida Georgia Football

Your mind will be emblazoned with images of Brandon Spikes playing the role of Top Piece of Bread in the Spikes-Knowshon Moreno-ground sandwich, and it should be. There are moments that live with us forever and that is one of them. Another is the one of those damn dancing Dawgs in what we are required by University of Florida law to call a classless and utterly inappropriate display of arrogance. To take us back to positive images, I must quickly mention that Mohamed Massaquoi is still afraid of Reggie Nelson (REGGIE F’ING NELSON!).

Saturday is a date with destiny that isn’t. More was expected of both the Gators and the Bulldogs, but less has occurred for a variety of reasons. Injuries can be blamed and are the easy way out. Blaming injuries gives us comfort because it means our team doesn’t have offensive issues, wasn’t overrated to begin the season, and doesn’t have questions at various coaching positions. It means that a few very unfortunate circumstances led to 4-3 and the losses can be blamed on the absence of a key player or two or three or seven.

Quick side-note relating to records and not injuries: six of the seven teams in the SEC East are currently on losing streaks (including first-place Missouri). Look across the standings and you will see that six of the seven SEC West teams are currently on winning streaks. The lone West team on a losing streak is last-place Arkansas. Hey, the Gators beat them! YAY!

Moving past the injuries, we get to the issue of offense. No, we don’t. Let’s move right past that because we’ve talked about it all before here, here, and here. I don’t know how much more of it I can stomach and I can only imagine that you all are in the same boat. We need offense. We don’t need it next season. We don’t even need it next week. We need it now, or else the Bulldogs of Georgia will chew us up, spit us out, and end zone dance to an easy victory.

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With a Week Off Before Georgia, The Florida Gators Need an Offensive Rebirth

The Florida Gators don’t play this Saturday. Some of you may actually be breathing a sigh of relief knowing that. I am with you. I need a break, and I’m just a fan. I’m not a player and I’m definitely not the head coach or offensive coordinator. The players need a week off, Will Muschamp and Brent Pease need an extra week to determine the direction they’re going to head, and fans need a nice, relaxing Saturday with nothing on the line.

Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs

I will be perusing college football betting at TopBet, looking for games I can watch in a calm environment that doesn’t include me pacing in front of my television. Surprisingly, this season has been a calming one for me when experiencing our losses. I know that sounds, well, off and not right at all, but here’s the scenario: the losses to Miami and Missouri had me at home alone with my one-year-old son and the loss to LSU saw me in Minneapolis for a wedding. The losses stung like they always do, but I had plenty to distract me immediately following their conclusion. I didn’t have the opportunity to stew in the pain of defeat; I had to move on quickly. If another L works its way on to the Gators’ record, I hope I can find something else to take my mind away.

During the bye week, I’ll be relaxing (actually, I’ll be taking a redeye back from San Francisco only to return home to a pile of housework). The Gators, however, will not be. They will be wondering what happened to the defense against Missouri, but—most important—they will continue the hunt for offense. Are we at the point where tweaks are no longer the answer? Does the entire offense need to be re-imagined and reborn? The answer to both is yes. Muschamp, Pease and the Gators need to try something new. Slogging through the rest of the season with the current offense will see a team with talent crash and burn several more times.

We could make a list of aspects of the offense to look at. Actually, let’s go ahead and do it:

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