Transfer News: Robert Clark And Gerald Christian To Leave Gators

Two Dwyer-ites down, two to…hopefully stay forever and ever and ever.

On Tuesday it came to light that wide receiver/returner Robert Clark and tight end Gerald Christian will transfer from Florida. The two came to Gainesville as part of the 2010 recruiting class with fellow high school teammate safety Matt Elam, but neither was able to experience his success and more importantly his minutes on the field. Both Clark and Christian announced they would be leaving the Gators in seek of more playing time.

Clark wasn’t able to earn much of an opportunity as a receiver and will unfortunately be remembered for fumbling a punt in Florida’s recent loss to Auburn. Down eight in the fourth quarter, the Gators defense forced the Tigers to punt only to have the ball return to Auburn after Clark’s fumble. Not necessarily they way you want to go out, but Clark looks to make better memories elsewhere.

Christian’s memorable moment from the 2011 season was a positive one when he caught a touchdown pass from John Brantley in the Gators’ win over Kentucky. The tight end’s development was a rocky road as he was moved from TE to linebacker and back again several times early in his career. Due to injuries, it appeared that he would settle into the offensive position and after his catch against the Wildcats, many were excited for his future. The highlights would end there though and Christian’s Florida career comes to a close with four total catches to his name.

The two sophomores move on now, leaving the Gators’ offense with less depth than it can really work with. Neither were major contributors, but in an up and down season, contributions can come from anywhere at any time. Good luck to the two as they look to continue their careers elsewhere. More luck wished to the Florida offense as it moves forward.

Florida Gators Football Jersey Numbers Are In For 2011

I have mentioned my unhealthy obsession with jersey numbers before. I have a love of jerseys and jersey-related news. Jersey numbers are much too important to me and I do not have a good explanation as to why, but with the release of the 2011 Florida media guide, the Gators numbers for the upcoming season are out and I am very excited (it also means my NCAA Football ’12 roster will be as accurate as accurate can be; this is very important for yet another reason I cannot put my finger on).

I will not cover every jersey number here (you can find them in the aforementioned media guide), but will go over some the changes and incoming players.
1 – Chris Rainey, RB – Rainey has become the Gators version of Chris Simms. With his third number, it will be hard for historians to verify pictures of Rainey years into the future. The no. 1 jersey has developed its own unofficial tradition in recent years of being acquired by players already in the program. Reggie Nelson wore no. 32 before settling into the no. 1 jersey. Percy Harvin started with no. 8 – much like Rainey. And Janoris Jenkins was originally no. 29.
2 – Dominique Easley, DT/4 – Sharrif Floyd, DT – The big boys decided to go small; very small. I chuckled a little the first time I saw Carlos Dunlap sporting the no. 8 jersey. I snickered when Jaye Howard went with no. 6. It is not making fun of these defensive linemen so much as it is just that they are huge and their numbers are oh so small. Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army has his own thoughts regarding the switch. I just think the equipment manager might have to double the size of their jersey numbers.
3 – Jelani Jenkins, LB – While Jenkins is not small, the single digits definitely look better on linebackers than they do on linemen. This is a good move for Jenkins. He wore no. 3 in high school. Hopefully it will be a boost for him and turn him into the field general/monster he was projected to be.
5 – Marcus Roberson, CB – I feel like people are forgetting about Roberson already. Clearly one of the most talented of the newcomers, Roberson could have a big impact very early on. Giving him the no. 5 will immediately have fans thinking of the last great defensive back to wear the number – Joe Haden. Roberson has that potential. Please try not to forget about him.
7 – Robert Clark, WR – Not necessarily news regarding the change (this one was known before the media guide came out), but still a change. This is almost a reverse of the big man situation already discussed. Clark will look good with a single digit.
9 – Josh Shaw, S – Shaw becomes the second defensive back in recent years to walk away from the no. 29 jersey. I almost want (or need) someone great to come along, take no. 29 as a freshman, and put together an All-SEC career with it.
15 – Loucheiz Purifoy, CBUrban Meyer is gone and the no. 15 has been given out. It remains to be seen if Meyer would have eventually presented someone else with Tim Tebow’s jersey number, but odds are he would have help out for a while. Purifoy becomes to first to wear it after the great one. Luckily, he is not a quarterback. The pressure should be minimal.
16 – Jeff Driskel, QB/17 – Jacoby Brissett, QB – The new quarterbacks do have their numbers though and they sit right above where Tebow once resided.
33 – Mack Brown, RB/33 – Chris Johnson, S/33 – Minch Minchin, LB – We have seen plenty of jersey numbers occupied by two individuals. One is usually an offensive player and one typically on defense. Occasionally, you will get two on the same side of the ball because one of those two is never going to see the field. This is the first time I remember seeing three and I have to give it up for Minchin and whatever he contributes during practice because I hate to say it, but I do not think we will be seeing him during games. But that does not mean we do not still love him as we do all Gators. And of course there is his oh so easy to remember name.
35 – Chris Martin, DE/LB – Martin transferred, but the media guide was already printed. It is probably not worth noting that Martin was listed at no. 23 last year so this is technically a change. Funnier, well to me, is that Martin’s profile on page 41 of the guide does not include a picture, but instead the Gators logo.
55 – Graham Stewart, LB – As One Eyed Willy said to me when we were discussing the new jersey numbers: “is there a better number, especially for a linebacker, than 55?” No, there is not.
63 – Trip Thurman, G/65 – Tommy Jordan, G – The new big uglies have their numbers and while they are not exciting, we love offensive linemen around these parts. Good luck to both Trip and Tommy in their orange and blue duds.
80 – Ja’Juan Story, WR – We all hope Story is given the chance to do as many interviews as possible during his Gators career. He is interview gold. No platinum. NO TITANIUM!!!
97 – Tevin Westbrook, DE – I have this feeling that Westbrook is a diamond in the rough. I cannot explain it, but I feel there is an underrated possibility here.

FSU Seminoles 31 – Florida Gators 7

TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 27: Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer talks with players during a timeout during a game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)The streak is over. It had to come to an end eventually. These things don’t go on forever. In a rivalry of this magnitude eventually the tide will shift. With two programs of relatively equal talent one team can’t dominate for that long. There are cycles, ups and down. We all had to know that one day Florida would lose to FSU. Those of us Gator fans didn’t want to see it end. We hoped it could keep going and going and going. We definitely didn’t want it to end the way it did.

A close game turned into a blowout in one quarter. In the first quarter, neither team looked great on the offensive side of the ball, but both looked good enough. The struggles we expected to see were present in both cases, but the teams were moving the ball. The game looked like it would be a hard fought battle as the Gators took a 7-3 lead into the second quarter. And then it all turned. The Seminoles scored touchdowns on three straight drives to take a 24-7 lead into the locker room. Florida’s offense started to stall and turnovers helped FSU pull away.

The fake punt call was questionable, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad decision at that point in the game. What was tough to swallow was that it was called to the short side of the field. Chas Henry really didn’t stand a chance of getting the first down as several Noles had sniffed it out. The interception? Well, that’s another story.

John Brantley was the quarterback for the Gators’ first third down of the game. He hit Robert Clark for a 20-yard touchdown. The second third down was a six-yard completion from Brantley to Trey Burton to give Florida a first down. The next two were Gator first downs via a personal foul and a long Jeff Demps’ run. Then the second quarter happened. Here’s the result of the third downs: Brantley hits Chris Rainey (who fumbled) for one yard on third and three, Brantley incomplete to Frankie Hammond, Brantley incomplete. On to the third quarter and more third downs: Brantley sacked, Jordan Reed converts on the ground, Brantley sacked and called for intentional grounding, Brantley hits Rainey for a first down. Fourth quarter: Rainey runs for a first, a pass interference call gives Florida another first, Brantley incomplete. So let’s sum up Brantley on third down:

One touchdown, two completions for first downs, a completion that didn’t result in a first down, three incompletions, and two sacks.

That’s 33%. One third of the third downs in which Brantley attempted a pass or dropped back to pass did something positive come out of it. For the game the Gators went six for 12. That means Florida converted all three of the third downs in which Brantley wasn’t asked to use his arm.

Look, Brantley is the most experienced quarterback on the roster and overall he may have the most talent. What Brantley doesn’t have is “it.” He doesn’t wow and after 12 games has yet to make you stop and say “what a play!” Even on some long completions over the course of the season, Brantley threw the ball short and it was the receiver who made the adjustment to make the play. I’m sure he’s a great individual. To be able to handle all of this as well as he has is remarkable. That aside, he isn’t the answer at quarterback for the Florida Gators.

There was a point in the game where it appeared as if FSU was going to run away with it. That point was when the Noles were up 24-7. It was also a point where Brantley had been given his chance. The offense was starting to sputter and it was time for the Gators to go a different direction. And they did, momentarily. Reed 11 yards. Rainey 13 yards. Reed incomplete. Reed 16. Rainey 18. Reed 2. The Gators had moved the ball very quickly all the way to the FSU 20-yard line. Then Brantley was put in and threw an interception.

I don’t mean to make this all about Brantley. The loss was hardly his fault and shouldn’t be put on his shoulders, but he has struggled all season to fit into the system (whatever that might be) and just as a quarterback in general. It has been far from the ideal situation for #12. In the 12th game of the regular season with a 7-4 record and down 24-7 to your instate rival, he shouldn’t have been in the game. Florida needed a spark and unfortunately for Brantley and for all of us all year who have hoped he would finally have that great game (yes, I’m among those), he wasn’t going to provide it. And now the questions have already begun about Brantley and his role in the offense in 2011. It’s probably been a rougher year for Brantley than for anyone else. On Saturday, it didn’t get any easier.

Despite being down big early, the Gators only attempted six passes in the second half. Only two in the final quarter. 16 pass attempts for the game. The Florida run game – fumbles aside – ran the ball well, but well enough to only put the ball in the air 16 times? No, not that well.

There are a number of things wrong with this offense and you can bet we’ll see numerous changes in 2011. The pass game needs to be completely overhauled. From protections and blocking to route running and who will be throwing the ball. In four of the five Gator losses (including this one), Florida’s offense put up seven points or less. That’s 27 TOTAL offensive points in four games. The passing game had a lot to do with that. It needs to be the first thing addressed in the offseason. But not the last.

Now the Gators stumble toward a bowl game. There are still fans. Plenty of them. Still lots of us who want to see Florida go out on a high note. We criticize because we can’t stand to lose and we HATE to lose in that way. We aren’t “haters” or “bandwagon jumpers.” We are passionate college football fans who just want better for our team.

Florida Gators 38 – USF Bulls 14

The big day has come and gone.  Florida and USF in The Swamp.  The game I’ve been waiting for since the two schools announced they would be playing each other.  It was pretty much as expected I would think and now we have five seasons to wait until the Gators and Bulls meet up again.

I’m putting this piece together while I watch Breakfast with the Gators, naturally.  Mrs. TBG loves college football, but she still doesn’t quite understand watching games twice.  Luckily the Sunday paper is bigger than usual and gives her something to do while I occupy the television.
For nearly two and a half quarters on Saturday, the games was exactly what USF wanted and might just have been Florida’s worst nightmare.  The Bulls were in the game a lot longer than the final score would indicate.  Up 7-0 deep into the first half.  Tied 7-7 halfway through the third quarter.  It was what the Bulls wanted.  To stay in the game against a top-10 team in one of the harshest environments in the nation.
For the Gators, it was the exact opposite.  An up-and-down offense and a defense that couldn’t do much against the run.  Luckily for Florida, the pass defense was stellar and continued to force USF’s B.J. Daniels into making a number of bad decisions.
At the 7:24 mark of the third quarter, the tide shifted as the Bulls would experience four minutes and 52 seconds of hell.  At that moment, Jeff Demps crossed the goal line after a spectacular 62-yard run that proved once again that he’s faster, shiftier, and better than anyone you know.  It would end with 2:32 left in the third when Justin Trattou reached the end zone, rumbling 35 yards after intercepting Daniels.  In the middle, Mike Gillislee punched in a touchdown from four yards out.  Four minutes and 52 seconds.  21 points for the Gators.  What was a tie quickly became a three-touchdown lead for Florida.
USF would score just over two minutes after the Trattou touchdown, but that was it for the Bulls.  Florida would add 10 more points in the final frame to finish off USF 38-14.
Before getting into the Florida-side of the game, let’s look at some of USF’s positives.  Yes, there were some.  First of all, the Bulls ran the ball well.  After the first game of the season, the Gators run defense looked like it would be a strength in 2010.  It may still be, but USF did a number of good things on the ground throughout the game.  The Bulls finished with 244 yards and ran for 6.3 yards per carry.  They say if you control the run game, you have a great chance to come away with the victory.  Early in the game, that was the case.  The problem was that second half.  Despite the Bulls great day on the ground, the Gators were better.  251 yards, 6.8 yards per carry.
Still, USF looked good on the ground against a team with a heavy rotation of defensive linemen and linebackers.  They came into The Swamp and ran well.  But they also may have done something Skip Holtz has not wanted to do since he became the head coach.  Daniels ran the ball 17 times for 107 yards.  That’s a good day.  A great day for a quarterback (well, unless you’re comparing it to Michigan’s Denard Robinson, then it’s only a mediocre day), but Holtz wants Daniels to be more of a passer and in that area, he had a day to forget.  Five completions to his teammates, four to the Gators.  84 yards passing, 51 of which came on one play.  I’m sure Daniels is more than ready for the bye week.
The other positive for the Bulls was the play of the defensive line, at least early.  When you give up 251 yards on the ground, you don’t want to think of your defensive line play as a positive, but USF got plenty of pressure on Gator quarterback John Brantley early and was able to slow the Florida offense.  Turnovers ended up being the problem and the heat didn’t help.  Having to be on the field as much as they did during the second half was tough and as the Gators got rolling, things got difficult for the entire USF defense.
Now for the Gators.  This Florida running back had a career-high 139 rushing yards and 255 total yards on the day.  Who is Jeff Demps?  Demps has now played in two games on the season.  Two games in which he averaged over 12 yards per carry in each.  Think about that for a second.  12 yards per carry (he actually averages 12.5).  There are plenty of receivers that don’t average that per catch.  In fact, Brantley is averaging only 8.1 per completion.  We expect high per carry averages for Demps – he averaged 7.8 as a true freshman and 7.5 as a sophomore – but over 12 is ridiculous.  Even if you remove his 62-yard run against USF and his 72-yard run against Miami (OH), you still get a back averaging over six yards per carry.  Can you say weapon?
Other than Demps, Florida has plenty of positives to build on as they head into SEC play.  The pass defense was once against its ball-hawking self.  That’s now two games and eight interceptions already.  Ahmad Black and Janoris Jenkins have accounted for five of those.  That’s now nine for Black in his Gator career, one away from jumping into a tie for tenth all-time in school history.  Not bad for a “recruiting mistake.”  Jenkins has stepped up and has clearly become one of the leaders on defense.  The young cornerbacks on the roster have a great player to learn from over the course of the season.
And the young players overall for that matter.  Those young players that stepped up and had good performances on Saturday.  Stephen Alli, Robert Clark, and Andre Debose all saw plenty of time on the field against USF.  While they only totaled one catch for 15 yards (the reception was Clark), they’re all learning and experience is key.  On the defensive side of the field, both Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins made great plays in coverage.  Depth in the secondary is a concern of many because of the youth at both cornerback and safety, but if the youngsters keep playing like they have been, it shouldn’t be much of a worry.
Good game for Florida and something to build on for USF.  The Gators don’t get a rest as they travel to Tennessee in a few short days.  The Bulls get a chance to rest after the loss before three straight home games.  Saw some good things from both teams and some areas where there can be improvement.  If the second half is indicative of how Florida will play from here on out, the Gators can and will have a very good season.  For USF, it’s not something to get too discouraged about.  This was definitely not a team to be ashamed to lose to.  Learn from it and move forward.

Breaking Down the Florida Gators’ 2010 Recruiting Class – Part 1

Now that we know who has signed with Florida, we can start to analyze them with a fine-toothed comb throughout the spring and summer and project what they will do once they suit up for the Gators.  In four neat parts, I’ll give my early thoughts about each of the signees and how they may contribute in 2010.
Gideon Ajagbe
LB – 6’2″, 197 lbs. – Coconut Grove, FL – Ransom Everglades
Ajagbe is fairly small for a linebacker in terms of bulk, but so was a former Gator by the name of Earl Everett when he came to Gainesville.  His athletic ability is what drew Florida to him.  The coaching staff wants him to get up in the 230-pound range and hopes he won’t lose any speed in doing so.  Expect Ajagbe to redshirt while he gets accustomed to Florida’s conditioning regimen.
Neiron Ball
DE – 6’4″, 210 lbs. – Jackson, GA – Jackson
Ball is in much of the same boat as Ajagbe in that his speed and overall ability led the Gators to him, but he will need to put on some weight to play his position at the next level.  Due to Ball’s acceleration, he can end up being a pass-rush specialist for the Gators, but may also do well as a blitzing outside linebacker.  He’s another good candidate to redshirt although being enrolled early may have helped him get an edge.
Mack Brown
RB – 5’11”, 185 lbs. – Lithonia, GA – Martin Luther King
Brown was one of the one’s Florida fans were most worried about when Signing Day came around.  Many weren’t sure if he’d actually end up a Gator.  In the end, he was true to what he had been saying throughout most of his recruitment and signed with Florida.  Brown could be considered a speed back, but he seems to love contact as well.  With some added bulk, Brown could do some damage between the tackles.  Looking at the depth chart at running back, you would think he’s in line for a redshirt, but Brown may be too talented to keep off the field in 2010.
Trey Burton
QB – 6’2″, 203 lbs. – Venice, FL – Venice
Burton may win the award for best recruiter of the class.  The minute he pledged to attend Florida, he became one of the most vocal members of the 2010 recruiting class.  Burton is a dual-threat quarterback who will fit in well to an offense which allows the QB to run a good amount of the time.  With Jordan Reed moving to tight end (whether it’s just part time or not), expect Burton to be right in the mix to back up starting quarterback John Brantley.
Gerald Christian
TE – 6’3″, 220 lbs. – West Palm Beach, FL – Dwyer
Ladies and gentlemen, the Florida Gators’ 2010 starting tight end.  Okay that’s probably a little premature to declare, but don’t be surprised.  Tight end is the thinnest position on the team right now and there’s no reason to think Christian won’t be given a chance to claim the top spot.  He enrolled early, has good speed for someone his size, and comes in as one of the nation’s best high school tight ends.  Expect Christian to see the field a lot during the upcoming season.
Robert Clark
ATH – 5’9″, 170 lbs. – West Palm Beach, FL – Dwyer
Clark could be in line to be the next Brandon James.  He can play on either side of the ball – although we heard a lot about cornerback toward the end of the recruiting cycle – but Clark’s strongest point is in the return game.  After seeing the impact James had on the Florida program over his four years as a Gator, prospects may no longer shy away from being recruited as returners first.  Clark could realistically be the fastest member of the 2010 class.  If he is as dynamic in the return game as expected, he should see the field immediately.
Adrian Coxson
WR – 6’2″, 194 lbs. – Baltimore, MD – City College High
Coxson was one of the last recruits to join the class, but his commitment wasn’t much of a surprise.  Some see him as a throw-in at the end of the cycle, but that’s not the case at all.  He’s a very talented receiver with the size to make an immediately impact.  With the entire receiving corps getting an overhaul in 2010, the freshmen will be given an opportunity to fight for playing time.  However, Coxson is one of four true receivers in the class (not to mention some athletes who could become full-time receivers) so he may be in line for a redshirt.  Fall practice will determine which ones play immediately and which ones we’ll have to wait until 2011 to see.
Come back tomorrow for the next part.

What We Now Know About the Urban Meyer Situation

In a word (or two to be accurate): not much.  That is so because we have no idea what tomorrow or the next day or the day after that will bring.  We’ve run the gamut of emotions.  From shock to sympathetic to empathetic to angry to accepting to shocked again to calm to calmer to calmest to where we are at the moment worrying about two things and two things only – Urban Meyer’s health and the effect of all this on recruiting.  Sorry, but that’s the reality of it.  First and foremost, Meyer to get healthy, but you can’t help but think of the football side.
After all was said and done we got to this: Meyer will remain the head coach at Florida.  He will not resign, but will instead take a leave of absence.  The leave will begin after the Sugar Bowl and continue for as long as it takes Meyer to get his health in proper, working order.  First speculation was a year, but then the coach himself said he anticipates being back for the 2010 season opener.  So what we really have is Meyer stepping back a little and taking it easier during the spring and summer in order to make sure he can keep up physically with the stress and pressure of being a head coach of one of the most successful football programs in recent memory.
The announcement comes with an interim head coach as well.  Steve Addazio.  We’re not completely sure what Addazio will be doing, but we’re guessing responsibilities include signing off on the other coaches’ time sheets, getting the big office for a few months, and an improved parking space.  Gator fans may not like the choice after seeing the Addazio-coordinated offense sputter on more than one occasion in 2009, but the players are excited.  Applause totaled a mind-blowing three or four minutes when the “promotion” was announced to the team.
As Florida moves into Meyer’s leave of absence period, one thing needs to be shored up quickly: the recruits.  Several had concerns when it was a resignation and many of those have been calmed since that’s no longer the case.  However, there is that one recruit everyone wants to know about.  Matt Elam.  Elam was set to enroll early with Dwyer teammates Gerald Christian and Robert Clark.  With the recent news, that doesn’t seem like it will happen.  While other recruits have remained solid, Elam wants to take some time and see how the situation will unfold.  Although Florida still has a great chance of landing the star recruit, we may not fully know his intentions until signing day.
Now we can move on to that game in a few short days.  Regardless of the news or the predictions of the future, there’s the Sugar Bowl to think of.  On to actual football.

Add Another to the List; WR Robert Clark Commits to Florida

Want even more affirmation stud recruit Matt Elam will stick with his pledge to attend Florida?  You may have just gotten it.  Another one of Elam’s high school teammates and closest friends has pulled the switch and is now a Gator.
Dwyer (West Palm Beach, FL) wide receiver Robert Clark was the only member of the Dwyer trio (him, Elam, and Gerald Christian) not committed to Florida.  Clark had actually gone a different route completely and had committed to West Virginia.  But recently, Clark waivered as his main recruiter – former Florida assistant Doc Holliday – was mentioned as a candidate for the Marshall head coaching vacancy (Holliday will be announced later today).
After the Gators looked closer at Clark and presented him with a committable offer, he made the switch.  The 5’9”, 170 lb. Clark is a speed receiver who also plays quite a bit in the defensive backfield.  He’s actually been recruited as a cornerback by a number of schools and could end up at either position.  Expect to see Clark in orange and blue quickly.  His goal is to graduate early and enroll in time for the spring semester at Florida.