Final(ly) Four

There are certain numbers that have significance to the Florida Gators and their fans. 7, 15, 22, to name a few.

But in 2013-2014, the number 4 holds a special place for us.

Hang with me here if you can…

This was Billy Donovan’s 4th try to make his 4th Final Four as the Gators coach. The team is led by four, four year seniors who have all been a part of those teams who fell just short… Including center Patric Young, who wears… number 4.

And so they’ve done it. The Gators will go to the Final Four for the first time since 2007 when they were led by 4 junior players that you may know as the “Oh Fours“.


I have plenty to say about this class of players, and even more about their coach. Lots of people have written lots of words about them, my favorite being Alligator Army’s piece, posted right around Senior Day.

I don’t want to sound like I’m writing their obituary, or make it seem like the mission is accomplished at this point by making the Final Four. It’s a big deal… It’s a new banner in the O’Dome… It’s another weekend of exposure for the University of Florida… And it’s one last week (no matter what) to practice, travel, hang out with, and spend time on this magnificent journey with some of the best friends you’ll ever have.

Once college is over, you won’t likely get to see or speak to your best friends every day. I can also bet that most of us don’t have a set of best friends who have had a lead in their Elite 8 games in closing minutes, only to see that lead vanish and our dreams crushed. These guys have been through so much together, on and off the court.

It is genuinely great to see them climb this mountain and get this monkey off their back. This team does ALL the little things that we’ve never quite done in past years. Pat Young’s rebound at Tennessee. Saving balls going out of bounds. The offensive rebounds late in the Dayton game. Making free throws down the stretch (I can only remember one game where we were inadequate at this- SECCG).

I am proud and beside myself with joy at what they’ve accomplished. I love Billy’s attitude of enjoying the journey. Cutting down the nets for going 18-0 in the SEC… seemed weird to me at the time, but he wants them to enjoy EVERY accomplishment and savor it. You don’t hear much, “That was nice, but we’ve got lots of work to do”. While there is truth to that, he lets himself and his players live in the moment.

I can’t say if he’s always been like that, but I think this attitude and approach is something he may have developed from things he learned from both Joakim Noah and Urban Meyer, of all people. Urban was notoriously always looking forward to the next “thing” to be conquered. It wore on his players and it wore on him. Sometimes when you play well, it’s OK to say, “We played well”. It makes you more credible when you actually do play poorly (Albany game).


Rumor has it that Joakim Noah was miserable most of the 2006-2007 season. After winning the National Title and forgoing the opportunity to likely be the #1 pick in the draft, his constant pursuit of perfection that season made the journey less enjoyable (Think 2009 Florida Football regular season).

There goes Billy adapting again.

Mostly, I’m happy because this team, and more specifically, these seniors, are the winning-est class in Florida Basketball history. They had made three straight Elite 8′s, which wasn’t that common before, but certainly not in this era of college basketball where double digit seeds and “mid major” schools are regulars in the Elite 8 annually. I desperately hoped, for them, that there would be some tangible representation of their collective greatness. Another Elite 8 departure from the tournament would be how they were defined… likely as guys who couldn’t get it done. Parenthetically, it would probably be said that they didn’t “have a pro” in the group (Time will tell on that one, but I rebuke it on it’s face for now. Also, Chandler Parson, Erik Murphy, and Bradley Beal were on some of those other “so close” teams…).


I think every year the past 4 years, we’ve said, “This could be Billy’s best coaching job”

Now they’ll have a banner, Florida’s 5th and Billy’s 4th. Now they have a story. they will now live on in Gators history, possibly adored in the same way guys like Dan Cross and Dimitri Hill are.  Maybe a different stratosphere if they can cut down one last set of nets.

So tonight was for those 4 seniors, but it was also for Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus, and Chandler Parsons. Tonight, we have love for Kenny Boynton, Brad Beal, and Mike Rosario. Tonight, was for you, my overachieving friend who left it all on the floor ever single game, Erving Walker. You are all with us in Dallas. Thank you for bullying these boys around when they were skinny youngsters and teaching them how to stick with it.

I love these guys. I love this team. And it really is Great to be a Florida Gator.

Photo credit to Denver Parler/@GatorZoneMBK

Congratulations boys. See you in Dallas.

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Gator Spring Football in Full Swing

Your focus may be on the Florida Gator Men’s Basketball team this time of year, but that’s not the only thing happening in Gator athletics. Gator football began spring practice last week, and they will have their first full scrimmage this Saturday the 29th. The team you watched put together a miserable 4-8 season is trying to put all of that behind them. That starts by getting back to work during spring ball.

I’ve been to all of the open spring practices so far. Here’s everything you need to know about Florida Football this spring.

The biggest change coming in 2014 is the new spread offensive scheme, which is being implemented by new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. The offense will be much more suited to redshirt junior Jeff Driskel’s skillset under center.

PHOTO: UF Media Relations

PHOTO: UF Media Relations

2014 is Driskel’s year. Roper’s system is a much better fit for him than Brent Pease’s was. Head coach Will Muschamp even scheduled the start date of spring football around when Driskel would be 100% fully recovered from his broken fibula he suffered against Tennessee last year. This could be his chance to have a true breakout season at quarterback.

His numbers in 2012 although impressive, didn’t reflect how little he threw the ball. That season had a ground and pound offense led by senior tailback Mike Gillislee, who racked up 1,152 yards on the year. The second leading rusher in 2012 was Driskel with 408 yards.

Roper in a press conference on Thursday said he’s impressed with what he’s seen from Driskel so far.

“He’s talented, folks. I mean we’re sitting here talking about a guy that’s really, really gifted. And his experience shows whenever we have conversations. He understands football. It’s not his first rodeo. ” Roper said.

A lot of hype has surrounded early enrollee quarterback Will Grier from the moment he stepped on campus in January. Some fans have even speculated that Grier may beat out Driskel for the starting spot.

Make no mistake, Grier’s high school numbers were very impressive—and he was deserving of the No. 2 ranking among quarterbacks in this year’s recruiting class. But Grier is 6-2 and only 190 pounds. Running a spread offense means he’ll likely need some time in the weight room and a redshirt before getting the opportunity to start. Muschamp stated Tuesday that Driskel has clearly set himself apart from backups Grier and redshirt sophomore Skyler Morhinweg.

“Right now I think those guys will continue to split reps, and Jeff has certainly distanced himself at this point. But those guys have done some nice things at times. Jeff’s been through change before, so I think the more times you go through that stuff you kind of can handle it and move forward, the maturity takes over.” Muschamp said.

If you watched any game from last season, it was clear that Florida was in desperate need of playmakers at wide receiver. Solomon Patton, the leading receiver, has graduated and entered in this year’s NFL Draft. The offense finished the year ranked 116th in passing yards per completion. Driskel’s breakout year can’t happen without receivers to throw to.

Redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar has been the most impressive of the group so far, and has caught some nice balls when matched up with corner no. 1 Vernon Hargreaves III. Valdez Showers, Ahmad Fulwood and Latroy Pittman have been consistent too. Sophomore Chris Thompson has held his own and made plays catching the ball in space. Senior Andre Debose was cleared for non-contact on Thursday. Roper addressed what he likes from the group so far.

(Thomas Goldkamp/

(Thomas Goldkamp/

“Obviously we play a lot of three-wide-receiver sets, so that’s fun to watch. But I think we’ve got some talent there, some experience there, some speed there, and it just has to keep growing. We’ve got guys at just about every position that have played a lot of football here, been in a lot of tough battles on the field.” Roper said.

The tight ends are being utilized a lot more in Roper’s system. Seniors Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook and early enrollee DeAndre Goolsby are getting a lot of reps. The TE position has been virtually nonexistent at Florida for the past few seasons—Westbrook and Burton combined for just four catches…all season last year. Production at tight end means more options for Driskel this fall.

The running backs this spring include sophomore Kelvin Taylor, redshirt senior Mack Brown and junior Mark Herndon. Junior Matt Jones is out for spring still recovering from his torn meniscus he had last season. Roper says the group is adapting well to the new offense.

“The footwork takes time. What we call the mesh or the exchange between the quarterbacks and the running backs takes time and working out all the little fundamentals. In most exchanges of offense, you see the quarterback looking at the pocket of the running back and putting the ball on his belly. But in this run game, there’s a lot.” Roper said.

The first team offensive line is coming together under new offensive line coach Mike Summers. Redshirt senior Max Garcia is repping at center, senior D.J. Humphries at left tackle, Trip Thurman at left guard, Tyler Moore at right guard and Chaz Green at right tackle. Roper says there are a few guys that are stepping into leadership roles this season.

“I think Chaz is a guy that, he’s every day. He’s really impressive to me, but the whole group, that first five, they’re working. I think you’ve got guys with experience in Chaz and Max and Hump, to a degree that they are taking to what coach Summers is asking them to do, effort, intensity and physical play and all that. It’s fun to watch.” Roper said.

On the defensive side of things, the Gators are looking to fill big voids in the secondary, specifically at cornerback and safety. The corner spot opposite sophomore Vernon Hargreaves III is open, and the two safety spots aren’t set in stone yet.

Competing for the open corner spot is junior Brian Poole and early enrollees Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson. Poole has the upper hand simply due to experience, but Tabor and Dawson are responding to coaches in practice well. Muschamp talked about how both Tabor and Dawson’s coach-ability makes them better players.

(Thomas Goldkamp/

(Thomas Goldkamp/

“Now, the great thing about both of them is they’re very coachable. They’re listeners and they listen extremely well. They take it from the meeting room to the fields extremely well. They adjust very well on the run, which we have to a lot on our defense and what we’re trying to do. But I’ve been very pleased with both players.” Muschamp said.

At safety, there are a few key guys repping at the position. Senior Jabari Gorman, Keanu Neal, Marcus Maye and Marcell Harris could all compete for a starting role. Maye saw action at the position early last season, but inconsistencies caused him to be replaced by Jaylen Watkins. Harris redshirted last year due to a knee injury from high school. If Neal can stay healthy, he could surprise some people this season.

 It was announced Friday that redshirt freshman Marqui Hawkins would be moving from receiver to safety, having played defensive back in high school.

Muschamp addressed Gorman’s senior leadership role this spring. He had seven pass breakups and an interception last season.

“Jabari’s very smart; he’s a guy that gets it. He understands and learns well. He’s seen the game; it’s slowed down tremendously for him over the years. He’s played a lot of football for us, played well for us last year.” Muschamp said.

Vernon Hargreaves has been his usual one of the best cornerbacks in the country self this spring. He’s a true lockdown corner, and has added more of a leadership aspect to his game. Muschamp highlighted this as something he needs to do a lot of this season.

“He’s got great respect in the locker room because of his playmaking ability, but also the way he is as a person, the way he leads his life off the field. He’s a great example of what’s good about college football, and god has blessed him with a lot of ability, but he has certainly taken advantage of his blessings.” Muschamp said.

Along the defensive line, there are several guys that can play both inside and outside. Redshirt sophomore Bryan Cox Jr. looks better at defensive end for now, while junior Jonathan Bullard can play at tackle and end. Redshirt senior Leon Orr will be back this fall, likely at defensive tackle.

The tackle spot hasn’t been consistent ever since it lost Dominique Easley to a torn ACL last season. Redshirt freshman Jay-Nard Bostwick is more of an inside guy and sophomore Joey Ivie can play end and tackle. Junior Dante Fowler Jr. leads the pass rush at the BUCK position—a hybrid linebacker/defensive end.

Muschamp addressed how critical having a pass rush is for a defense. While Florida has had elite defenses during all three of his seasons, there hasn’t been a truly consistent pass rusher. Fowler could be that guy.

(UF Communications)

(UF Communications)

“It’s the best pass defense in America if you can rush the passer. Well, I think we have a special rusher in Dante. There’s no doubt about that. So you build off that. You find different ways to create some situations for him.” Muschamp said.

The surefire way to move on from a 4-8 season? Simple: get back to work on the football field. And that’s exactly what Florida Football is doing this spring.

Morgan Moriarty is a third year Telecommunications major at the University of Florida. She has been an OTB contributor since 2012. She covers college football and recruiting for Florida Sports Talk Radio/NBC Sports. She is the lead recruiting reporter for The Alligator. She is also on the University of Florida Women’s Club Water Polo Team. Follow her on Twitter @Morgan_Moriarty 

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ELITE 8 Preview – Florida versus Dayton (Video)

Our friends at Campus Insiders have put together an awesome Florida versus Dayton Elite 8 match up preview. “What it is!?!?!?!” Enjoy….

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This Will Be Toughest UCLA Matchup Yet

Living in Los Angeles certainly has its advantages. Great weather. Close proximity to beaches and mountains. Top flight restaurants and bars. Lots of entertainment options year round. And one more for me over the past decade: watching the Gators beat UCLA in the NCAA Tournament.

I moved here 14 years ago and figured I had said goodbye to the days of seeing the Gators in person. Then a funny thing happened. One of the teams I covered for a living, UCLA, made a run to the Final Four in 2006. And so did Florida. The same thing happened again in 2007. The Gators beat the Bruins for the title the first time and beat them to advance to the championship game the second time. For two straight Aprils, I was standing on a court watching the Gators cut down the nets while “One Shining Moment” filled the air.

It was a surreal experience. I was working so each game, I sat in the press box with our on-air talent outlining the key storylines we’d cover after the game, all the while living and dying on the inside with every make and miss, never once cheering, yelling, screaming or showing any emotion. There was plenty of standing and pacing in the back of the room. There was lots of teeth grinding. When the games ended, the rush of emotion within me had to be buried deep inside while I did my job – covering the dejection and sadness in the UCLA locker room and breaking down why they lost. The dichotomy of emotions inside and out was always striking. But the time our show was over and I met up with some of the other members of the Our Two Bits clan, I was exhausted.

I’ve since moved on from producing those shows and no longer travel as much. So by the time the Gators and Bruins met up in the Tournament for a third time three years ago, I didn’t make the trip to Tampa. And this year unfortunately, I won’t be in Memphis. But I’ll never forget those two Final Four experiences and the luck of UCLA and Florida matching up in back-to-back years.

Florida’s fourth matchup with the Bruins in the past nine seasons figures to be its toughest. The Gators were not only the superior team in each of the first three matchups, but they also had the most talent on the floor. This time around, the Bruins may have the two most talented players in the game in Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams. Norman Powell might arguably be third on the list. The Gators will have their hands full with UCLA’s talent and athleticism.

By now, you know that UCLA’s offense is prolific, ranking fourth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency. One of the biggest keys to that efficiency is the transition game. The Bruins led the Pac-12 in turnover differential and Adams was among the country’s steals leaders. When they force turnovers, the get out and run for easy layups and also have the trailing shooters to make you pay for open looks at the three-point line. The fact that Anderson is such a good defensive rebounder means they can run off misses too with him pushing the tempo. In the half-court, the Bruins aren’t as deadly but can still be very dangerous. Anderson’s length and vision allow him to get the ball to teammates in good spots. He’s crafty on drives and with his midrange game as well. As a team, UCLA shoots the three-ball at a clip that ranks among the top 20 in the nation. They have so many ways to beat you.

The one knock against UCLA all season has been their defense. For a good part of the year, they seemed disinterested in working hard on that end of the floor, content to merely outscore opponents. But over the second half of the season, and especially in the postseason, they’ve bought into Steve Alford’s zone and have at minimum become competent on that end of the floor. In the NCAA Tournament, they’ve rotated well and forced their two overmatched opponents into contested shots. They’ve had some spotty moments but for the most part they’ve looked very good.

We’ve seen Florida struggle at various times this year against zones, especially when fronted by the length UCLA’s guards will present. Florida will have to aggressively attack the interior of the zone with Patric Young, Casey Prather and Dorian Finney-Smith. The Bruins don’t have the post defenders to matchup. Tony Parker is very good off their bench but he fouls a lot and generally won’t see a ton of minutes. UCLA’s game plan will be to pack it in and help around the paint and force Florida to beat them from the outside. The Gators cannot be content to launch three-pointers all night. If they are, I have no doubt the Bruins will win.

Perhaps an even bigger factor in the game will be possessions. Florida needs to crash the offensive glass to gain extra possessions and prevent UCLA from getting out and running. Florida is a good offensive rebounding team and they have to come up big on Thursday. More importantly, the Gators have to protect the ball. Florida has a very poor turnover rate for the season and costly mistakes by the likes of Kasey Hill, Prather and Finney-Smith will spell doom.

Once the bracket came out, I knew this matchup was coming and spoke to former Bruin All-American Don MacLean, a colleague of mine and the former radio analyst in Westwood. A week ago, he told me that Florida was the worst nightmare for UCLA because he didn’t think the Bruins were tough enough and that Florida would physically abuse them. Yesterday, he had softened on that stance because of the Bruins’ increased tenacity on the defensive end. I asked him if he thought Donovan might opt for defending Anderson with a bigger body than Wilbekin, maybe throwing Doe Doe on him occasionally. He said Florida would do better locking down Adams and Powell and letting Anderson roam. The Bruins have only lost once since Anderson and Adams returned from a one-game suspension but in that loss, Anderson scored 19 while the rest of the starters combined for 20. A similar storyline was present in other Bruins’ losses this year. There is no doubt Billy and his staff are aware of this.

There are these and so many more storylines. How about the fact that Anderson chose UCLA over Florida and Donovan? What about both coaches leading their teams to the Final Four as players in 1987? Both also have sons on their respective rosters. And then way down the list is me and all the other Gators who live here in Southern California and have had the pleasure of lording a 3-0 mark in the Tournament against the school that Coach Wooden built. We trust in Billy, these seniors and this TEAM to make it four straight against the Bruins and four straight Elite Eight trips.

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Our Two Bits SEC Tournament Picks


The fine folks at Our Two Bits decided to each fill out our own brackets for the SEC Tournament, which starts tonight at 7pm. And are you surprised that not one of us picked Florida to be upset and not win it all? You probably shouldn’t be.

Florida being the number one seed is the clear favorite to win the tourney, as they did just make SEC history on Saturday by becoming the first team ever to finish with an unblemished record in conference play. But in case the alcohol you consumed trying to drown the pain of a 4-8 football season made you forget about last year’s SEC tournament, I’ll go ahead and remind you.

Florida came in already with the SEC regular season title, and was the number one seed. They were a favorite behind the two seed Kentucky, who beat the Gators by four in Rupp Arena less than a week earlier. But with Kentucky being upset by Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals, it looked like the tourney would be Florida’s.

Associated Press/Phil Sandlin

Associated Press/Phil Sandlin


But Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss had different plans in the championship game. Florida missed two opportunities to force overtime at the end of the 2nd half. Down three with 4.2 seconds to go, Scottie Wilbekin missed both free throws, and Kenny Boynton’s last second three pointer attempt on the offensive rebound was no good. Ole Miss would get the upset victory 66-63.

Of course the argument is there that this is a much more consistent and balanced team than last season’s, and that is valid. But remember that this team hasn’t lost since the beginning of December, (a one point loss to then #12 Connecticut) so perhaps a loss would do them some good before the NCAA tournament starts next week. The OTB crew doesn’t see that happening however, as every one of us picked Florida to win out.

Florida gets the first and second round bye, which means their first game will be Friday at 1pm against Missouri or Texas A&M. The first and second round games will be available on Watch ESPN, and the quarterfinals on Watch ESPN and ESPNU. Semifinal games can be found on ABC with the championship game set for 3:15 on ESPN.

Without further ado, here’s a look at Our Two Bit’s 2014 SEC Tournament bracket picks.

Dustin Davis’ Picks (@Dustin6263)



Paul Sjoberg’s Picks (@PaulSjoberg)



William Heilman’s Picks


Morgan Moriarty’s Picks (@Morgan_Moriarty)



Chris Weather’s Picks



Scott Francis’ Picks (@ScottEFranchise)



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My Love/Hate relationship with Senior Days


I figured out why I get a little choked up at every Senior Day I attend.

That day and that moment, is the culmination of years and years of sacrifice and hard work to be the best that you could be at your game. Now, especially at large DI schools, you and your family become a part of that larger University community. Every game you play, people come out to cheer for you, some even pay a lot of money to do so.

4 years flys by fast. Along the way, you make a lot of people very happy.

4 years flys by fast. Along the way, you make a lot of people very happy.

While there is typically a post-season, etc… Many athletes may never play that game again in their life, at least not at the level they are accustomed to. And that is a bittersweet truth.

I get so choked up because I am a failed college baseball player. I am a career .167 hitter (3 for 18 in two seasons). I LOVE the game of baseball. I couldn’t get enough of it as a child and I played my ass off when I got on the field. What I lacked in talent, I eventually made up for with hustle, effort and knowledge of the game. But I get choked up because I never got a Senior Day in college.

My “Senior Day” was a sophomore day. It happened in a cold, dark gymnasium at about 6:15am one Spring (Winter) morning. There were no cheers. No banners or fatheads. No jersey encased in glass. And I was not escorted by my family.

I had a coach pull me aside and while I don’t remember the exact words any more, his message was, “You’re done here son”. He was absolutely right. I held on for about 2 years longer than I should have been able to, but my time was up. I left the gym and haven’t hit a baseball thrown overhand since then.

Everything is better with your teammates

Everything is better with your teammates

So, Senior Day is always, to me, a way to celebrate the ability to keep it together for 4 years and properly say goodbye to friends and fans and send you on to the next chapter of your life where you will likely never be as fit, as popular, or have as amazing a set of friends that you get to see every day.

Congratulations Lily Svete, Jaterra Bonds, Lauren Rose, Alaina Johnson, Mackenzie Caquatto, Casey, Will, Scottie, and Patric. Thank you for being great role models for tons of kids (and quite a few adults) out there. Thanks for giving everything you had to entertain us. Thanks for being pretty darn good students. But most of all, thank you for being Gators. Thank you to your families for letting us take care of you while you were here and a very special thank you for seemingly loving us, as much as we love you.

Best of luck. We hope your postseasons are as long as they can be.

Go Gators!

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3rd Annual Gators in the NFL rankings

As I documented last year in my 2012 rankings, it was a down year for former Gators in the NFL. But in hindsight, that was nothing compared to the offseason. No point reliving it here but there is no doubt that the bad mojo from the professional ranks infected Gainesville and contributed to a lost season on the gridiron.

So with expectations low and big names lacking, the 2013 season didn’t look promising. However a deep rookie class bolstered the ranks and gave Florida perhaps its deepest talent pool in the NFL ever. There are a handful of special talents, but I don’t think any would qualify as elite superstars just yet. But the potential is there and the base will only continue to grow.

If you were making a starting lineup of only former Gators in the NFL, it would look like this:

QB – Rex Grossman
RB – Mike Gillislee
WR – Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, David Nelson, Andre Caldwell
TE – Jordan Reed
OL – Mike Pouncey, Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, Xavier Nixon, Max Starks
K – Caleb Sturgis
DE – Carlos Dunlap, Jeremy Mincey
DT – Ray McDonald, Sharrif Floyd
LB – Brandon Spikes, Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins
CB – Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins
S – Reggie Nelson, Major Wright, Matt Elam

You could win some games with that defense, offensive line and receiving corps. Now on to this year’s rankings.


Justin Trattou (2 games, 4 tackles)
Last Year: Headed Out of the League
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Trattou has played in eight games in three seasons since leaving Gainesville. He was cut by the Giants, the team that signed him as an undrafted free agent, and picked up for one game by the Vikings. He’s now made this list two years straight and it is unlikely he’ll make it again next year.

Maurice Hurt
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Hurt never made it off the PUP list this season for the Redskins. In three seasons, he has missed more games than he’s played in.

Jaye Howard (6 tackles)
Last Year: Invisible
This Year: Headed Out of the League
The Seahawks cut Howard right before the season began and the Chiefs claimed him. He didn’t see much action until the end of the season when the Chiefs were resting their regulars and recorded all six of his tackles in the finale. He did play in the playoffs, too, recording two tackles. Howard is a longshot to stick around with Kansas City though.

Chris Rainey (6 kick returns, 21.8 avg, 4 punt returns, 7.3 avg)
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Rainey earned a second shot at making it in the league after the Steelers released him after an offseason arrest. He played in two games with the Colts before breaking his leg and ending up on Injured Reserve. His speed always gives him a chance at impressing and making someone’s team but the injury and the off field problems are going to make it very tough on him.

Jeff Demps (3 rec, 21 yards, 1 rush, 14 yards, 4 kick returns, 23.3 avg)
Last Year: Gotta Stay Healthy
This Year: Headed Out of the League
The time has come for Jeff Demps to make a choice between seriously pursuing an NFL career or giving his sprinting career a final chance. After the past two NFL seasons in which he played only two games and ended both on injured reserve, teams are not going to be patient with the speedster anymore. Speed alone isn’t enough to succeed in the NFL and Demps will need to put in the work both on the field and in the film room if he hopes to play again.

Jermaine Cunningham
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Cunningham was signed and released by the 49ers without ever seeing the field. Then he was picked up mid-season by the Jets but only played in one game. Still, the Jets liked him enough to resign him this offseason to a one-year deal. Of course, that is no guarantee Cunningham will make their roster next season. Three teams in less than a year means Cunningham will have his work cut out for him to remain in the league.

Ahmad Black (4 games, 12 tackles)
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Black quickly fell out of favor with the Bucs last year and was cut after week 4. An unrestricted free agent, Black will have a tough time finding a home in 2014. Of course for the undersized safety who was never supposed to make much of an impact in college, who was never supposed to make the NFL, beating long odds would be nothing new.

Ahmad Black’s Hit on Jimmy Graham Earned Him a Fine and Might Be One of His Last Plays in the NFL

Louis Murphy (6 rec, 37 yards, 1 TD)
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Headed Out of the League
2013 was a total bust for Murphy. He signed with Giants and was expected to provide depth to their receiving corps as either the 3rd or 4th receiver alongside Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. But he never made an impression, rarely saw the field, and when he did, accomplished nothing. Murphy will likely once again be looking for a new team and after an awful season, he might not find one.


Maurkice Pouncey
Last Year: 2
This Year: Gotta Stay Healthy
Less than one quarter of one game into the 2013 season, Maurkice Pouncey tore his ACL. Pouncey had made the Pro Bowl in his first two professional seasons and was already among the best offensive lineman in the league. His rehab has gone well and by all accounts, he’ll be back in time for Steelers training camp.

Percy Harvin (1 game, 1 rec, 17 yards, 1 kick return, 58 yards)
Last Year: 5
This Year: Gotta Stay Healthy
Fred Taylor was once the bain of NFL fantasy league managers everywhere because of his inability to stay healthy. Harvin appears to have inherited Taylor’s injury luck and has earned the unfortunate reputation as fragile. The Seahawks gave up a first round pick to land him and received one regular season game and part of a one playoff game out of him so far. But don’t think it won’t have been worth it if he can salvage a lost season with a return in the Super Bowl, a big play or two and a ring.


Rex Grossman
Last Year: Lifetime Achievement Award
This Year: Lifetime Achievement Award
Rex will continue to get the LAA as long as he keeps holding a clipboard and collecting a paycheck in the NFL, but this may have been his final season. In our hearts, the legend will always live on, especially if you follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter (which you really should be doing).

Sexy Rexy probably tipped his cap for the final time this year. We salute the Rex Cannon for going deep as much as possible.

Max Starks
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Lifetime Achievement Award
I prematurely bestowed this honor on Starks a couple of years ago but after finishing his 10th season in the league, Starks now deserves it. Granted year 10 was a complete bust as Starks saw only eight snaps with the Rams before being cut. It looks like the end of the road for the big tackle, but it was a road that led to two Super Bowl rings and 96 career starts, placing him in the top 30 for Gators all-time in the NFL. Hopefully Starks can land a job with a team in 2014 and break that 100-start mark.


Xavier Nixon
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
Nixon was a surefire NFL prospect when he arrived in Gainesville as a freshman in 2009. But by his senior year, Nixon’s inconsistent play dropped him off the draft radar meaning he had to fight and claw his way into the league. He signed first with Washington but didn’t make the active roster. The Colts picked him up midseason and by the end of the year, he earned some playing time and played well enough to have a shot at making the team in 2014.

Deonte Thompson (10 rec, 96 yards, 7 kick returns, 28.7 avg)
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Role Player
Thompson not only made the Ravens as an undrafted rookie, he stuck around for a second year and was actually expected to make an impact. However, once he was given a chance to contribute, he failed to do much. He only played 155 offensive snaps and just wasn’t able to be productive enough to show he has a future in the NFL. He might be able to stick around another year or two as a kick returner but it also wouldn’t be surprising if this was his final professional season.

Jelani Jenkins (17 tackles)
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
Jenkins made most of his contributions on special teams for the Dolphins. With Miami seemingly set at linebacker for the next few years, Jenkins will have to continue in that role and hope to make more of an impact when he does see the field on defense.

Mike Gillislee (6 rush, 21 yards)
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
I thought when Gillislee was drafted by Miami that he might get a shot to crack the rotation given the Dolphins lack of talent in the backfield. And then everything about Miami’s rushing attack was a disaster this season and yet his number was rarely called. #FreeGilly

Sharrif Floyd (19 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
I was as sure of Sharrif Floyd’s success in the NFL as I’ve ever been of any Gator, but his rookie season was a mild disappointment. He struggled mightily early on before becoming a somewhat solid backup later in the season. Let’s face it, he’ll most be remembered for his Fat Guy Fumble kickoff return. Floyd needs a big leap next year to live up to his lofty expectations. Mike Zimmer’s arrival as head coach in Minnesota could be huge for Floyd’s development given what Zimmer did for Geno Atkins in Cincinnati.

Jeremy Mincey (17 tackles, 2 sacks)
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Role Player
Few players in the NFL experience the ride Jeremy Mincey has been on this year. Mincey was waived by one of the worst teams in the league, Jacksonville, and days later signed by the Super Bowl bound Broncos. It was hard to see Mincey being much use to Denver after his production had fallen with the Jaguars from 8 sacks in 2011 to 3 in 2012 and then 2 in 2013. But Mincey has fit into a nice rotation and has a chance to earn a ring on Sunday.

Marcus Gilbert (16 starts)
Last Year: Gotta Stay Healthy
This Year: Role Player
Gilbert was Pittsburgh’s starting right tackle all season, his first season in which he didn’t miss a game due to injury. He has to improve in pass protection where he allowed 11 sacks but has established himself as a decent run blocker. A potential move to guard at some point might work for him.

Andre Caldwell (16 rec, 200 yards, 3 TD)
Last Year: Headed Out of the League
This Year: Role Player
Credit Caldwell with fighting and holding onto the Broncos’ fourth receiver slot after a lost season in 2012. He caught a TD from Peyton Manning on opening night and then memorably had a 2-TD performance filling in for an injured Wes Welker on another Thursday night game. In fact, Caldwell may have lead the league in Thursday night TDs. Now he’ll line up occasionally in the slot in the Super Bowl with a chance to win a ring. A great comeback story.

Josh Evans (58 tackles)
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
Josh Evans was clearly the surprise of the Gators NFL rookie class. A sixth round pick by the Jaguars, he was supposed to be a special teams player at best. But Evans ended up starting 11 games for a Jacksonville defense that improved throughout the season. He’ll need to get better in coverage and stay hungry but if he can build on his rookie campaign, he’ll play for a while in the NFL.

Caleb Sturgis (26/34 FG, 76.5%)
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
Sturgis had a decent rookie campaign with the Dolphins that started strong, went through a very rough four-game stretch and then recovered at the end. His field goal conversion percentage was one of the worst in the league but when looking at his attempts inside of 50, he is middle of the pack in percentage. The Dolphins offense was terrible for a good stretch of the season and Sturgis was often put in long kick situations (no one attempted more than his 7 50+ kicks). As we saw at Florida, he has 50+ yard range. With an improved Dolphins offense next year, Sturgis should improve as well and get his field goal percentage closer to the 90 percent mark that defines the NFL’s top kickers.

Jonathan Bostic (57 tackles, 1 INT, 1 sack)
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
Bostic found his way into the starting lineup because of injuries and flashed the same hard-hitting, hard-tackling abilities he showed at Florida. Unfortunately, he also displayed the same inconsistencies and inability sometimes to plug the right holes and get off blocks. A full offseason to work within the Bears scheme and get better should give Bostic a very good chance to be part of the defensive rebuilding in Chicago, especially with more hits like the one below.

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David Nelson (36 rec, 423 yards, 2 TD)
Last Year: Gotta Stay Healthy
This Year: Role Player
Nelson’s return from a torn ACL was a success, despite not joining the New York Jets until October. By the end of the season, Nelson was the Jets best and most consistent receiver (not saying much I know) and he again established himself as a sure-handed, reliable target. He signed a two-year contract extension with the Jets and will give them a great possession threat in the middle of the field.

Matt Elam (77 tackles, 1 INT, 2 fumble recoveries)
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
Elam was one of the only players from the 2013 draft class to start all season but he played out of position at free safety and struggled to make many plays. He should slide inside to strong safety next year and take off as a playmaker in the league, becoming a mainstay of our annual top 10 rankings. He’s already one of the better former Gator trash talkers as evidenced by his notorious call out of Calvin Johnson. With Elam and Josh Evans joining vets Reggie Nelson and Major Wright, the Gators now have four starting safeties in the league.

TOP 10

Major Wright (101 tackles, 2 INT, 1 TD return, 2 forced fumbles)
Last Year: 8
This Year: 10
Started every game he was healthy for and the Bears horrible defense meant he posted a career high in tackles. He’s an unrestricted free agent and the Bears are sure to make changes so Wright may be looking for a new home. After the season, Bears GM Phil Emery spoke of his disappointment in Wright’s lack of big plays.

Janoris Jenkins (60 tackles, 1 INT, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery)
Last Year: 4
This Year: 9
The proverbial sophomore slump really tripped up Jenkins this year. He went from a ball hawking playmaker to a risk-taker who gave up big plays and didn’t come up with any. Jenkins’ issues in man-to-man coverage were hidden last year by his ability to force turnovers. This year, those flaws were on full display. He still has the potential to be very good corner but this is a big offseason for his development.

Janoris’ Instagram account is a must follow but he needs to spend more time studying film and less getting ready for the strip club.

Jordan Reed (45 rec, 499 yards, 3 TD)
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: 8
Jordan Reed was headed for one of the best rookie seasons by a Gator ever before a concussion ended it early. Despite not cracking the starting lineup until week 7, Reed developed a chemistry with Robert Griffin III and become one of the QB’s go-to receivers. Reed’s combination of size and speed that made him so deadly at Florida translated well to the NFL and he is poised to have a long career with the possibility of becoming one of the game’s best tight ends.

Brandon Spikes (86 tackles, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery)
Last Year: 6
This Year: 7
Spikes has established himself as one of the best run-stuffing linebackers in the NFL. According to advanced metrics, Spikes was second in the league among inside linebackers in tackle percentage on run plays. But it appears his time with the Patriots is over after Bill Belichick put him on injured reserve before the first playoff game allegedly because Spikes was late to a practice. He is a free agent who will be sought after because of his ability to play the run and be an emotional leader on a defense.

Riley Cooper (47 rec, 835 yards, 8 TD)
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: 6
Other than the former tight end who shall not be named, Riley Cooper had the worst offseason imaginable. There was pretty strong sentiment to cut the receiver who hadn’t done much in his first three seasons. But the Eagles are glad they didn’t because Cooper turned his career around with a breakout season that saw him tied for 16th in the NFL in TD catches and third in the entire league in yards per reception. His 47 catches were one more than he had in those first three seasons. The Eagles explosive offense is the right fit for Cooper’s speed and big frame but he’s a free agent. And despite his production on the field, the off-field baggage from Cooper’s idiotic slur may still doom him.

Reggie Nelson (69 tackles, 2 INT, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 sack)
Last Year: 7
This Year: 5
Expectations were probably unrealistically high for Nelson after his monster final year in Gainesville. A slow start in the NFL branded Nelson with a bust label unfairly. Yet now after four seasons in Cincinnati, Nelson is the backbone of a great defense and one of the most consistent deep defenders in the NFL.

Carlos Dunlap (62 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles)
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: 4
Though Dunlap had more sacks in his rookie campaign, this was easily his best all-around campaign. He started 15 of 16 games and notched a career-high 62 tackles. After getting a big contract from the Bengals last offseason and just now entering his prime, Dunlap seems like a big part of the core of what is a very good Cincinnati defense.

Mike Pouncey (14 starts, Pro Bowl)
Last Year: 3
This Year: 3
It was only a matter of time and this year (perhaps because of his brother’s injury), Mike Pouncey is a Pro Bowler. Pouncey missed two games but after three seasons, he’s started every game he’s been healthy for, 46 of a possible 48. Pro Football Focus rated Pouncey as the best pass protecting center in the game, which is truly amazing considering the Dolphins gave up the most sacks in the league and in franchise history. Pouncey is a better run blocker than he showed this year, perhaps hurt by the rest of the Dolphins’ offensive line issues. He has established himself as one of the game’s best centers after just three seasons and will be playing football for a long time.

Ray McDonald (50 tackles, 3.5 sacks)
Last Year: 1
This Year: 2
For the second or third consecutive season, Ray McDonald deserves a place on the NFL’s most underrated team. McDonald once again helped anchor a stout Niners’ defense despite playing most of the season with a torn biceps tendon!!! that will require surgery this offseason. Not only did he play through the pain, he put up a career high in tackles. Not many would have picked McDonald to have the most successful pro career off that dominant Gators 2006 national championship defense. But at this point, I’d say McDonald or Reggie Nelson hold that title and both have a few more years left to claim the crown.

Joe Haden (54 tackles, 4 INT, 1 TD)
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: 1
For the third straight season doing these rankings, we have a new number one. After a disappointing 2012 that featured a drug suspension, Joe Haden vowed to get his game and his life back on track. Well that’s just what he did in 2013 and he has arrived as one of the elite corners in the NFL. He made his first Pro Bowl after picking off four passes and placing third in the league in passes defended. And perhaps even more impressive is Haden’s presence in the Cleveland community, including great fan interaction like this story. Haden might be the best former Gator corner to ever play in the NFL and has a chance to be one of the best defensive players if he puts together a few more seasons like this past one.

Haden capped the season with a pick in the Pro Bowl. Here’s to many more for Joe.

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Gators fans Rock The Vote!

Gator athletic teams are doing quite well right now. The Men’s basketball team is #6 in the nation and has a chance to go to 8 straight elite eights. The seniors have a good chance to break the all time wins record for a class. The Men’s and Women’s swimming and diving teams are both ranked in the top 10. The Gymnastics team is currently #3 in the nation as they defend the national championship. These are all great things that I would love to hear about.

You know what I don’t want to hear about right now? The 2013 Gator football team, especially their loss to Georgia Southern, and ESPECIALLY Quinton Dunbar and Jonotthan Harrison blocking each other on a play where the Gators scored a touchdown! We scored a touchdown, I don’t care if they did an Irish jig at midfield.

That play occurred November 23rd. That is just over 2 months ago and yet I have to be reminded of that play and that season every Friday on SportsCenter when they show their Not Top Ten of the week. Every week the Gators “epic fail” gets voted the Worst of the Worst. It has been 9 consecutive weeks now and I am sick and tired of hearing about it.

So here is what we need to do Gator Nation. This upcoming Friday we rock the vote. We get Harrison and Dunbar off of SportsCenter. We allow the reporters to stop making stupid Muschamp references every week when they show the clip. We vote for whatever idiotic thing that happens this week to save face for Gators everywhere.

Take to facebook, take to twitter, take to myspace if you have to. #FreeDunbar @QuintonDunbar1 #FreeHarrison #FreeMuschamp @CoachWMuschamp #GatorsRockTheVote at this upcoming Friday. Spread the word!

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Jon Halapio’s interview with the Cleveland Browns

Former Florida offensive lineman Jon Halapio is spending the week preparing for the Senior Bowl this weekend. And while there, he was asked by the Cleveland Browns to list all the things he would do with a brick according to this tweet by South Florida Sun Sentinel columnist, Omar Kelly. Now, I know every NFL team asks draft prospects these kind of off-the-wall questions to get them to think a little and keep them on their toes, but when you’ve been at the bottom of the league for quite some time and you’re having trouble finding a head coach, it’s not a good look. But since they asked, I would like to give them my answers because I can think of a butt load of things I can do with a brick. I fully expect to be their first round draft pick come April after they read this. The first few answers on this list I tweeted earlier.

-Give it a headset and name it your coach.

-Trade it for a football and score a touchdown. Something your fans haven’t seen much of.

-Hit Ben Roethlisberger with it. Is that the answer you were looking for?

-Put a Brandon Weeden jersey on it. Stand them side by side and see if anyone can tell the difference.

-Hold your city hostage with it until my demands are met to get me out of your city.

-Hand it off to Earnest Byner and watch him fumble it.

-Eat it.

-Have sex with it?

-Break it up into smaller pieces to share with my teammates because that’s the kind of guy I am.

-Tie it to the gas pedal of my car and drive it into a lake to fake my death rather than play for your organization.

-Plant it in the ground so that future generations can have a brick tree of their own.

-Smash ants.

-Trade it to the Colts for more draft picks.

-Hurl it through a store window.

-Co-star in a buddy cop movie.

-Teach it to hate LeBron James.

-Hit myself in the head with it until I’m dead, you know, because I’m in Cleveland and all.

-Glue a pair of googly eyes on it and sell it for a million dollars.

-Use it as a fetch toy for some of your Dawg Pound fans.

-Pretend it’s an old ‘80s cell phone for a few good laughs.

-Hold the brick behind me and squat down and drop the brick so it looks like I’m literally shitting bricks for a few good laughs.

-Use it as a babysitter.

-Give it to Jim Brown and watch him punch it to dust.

-Use it as a loofah.

-Develop an unhealthy emotional connection to it that makes people uncomfortable. Alienate and cry out that those people are just jealous of what brick and I have. Go through a nasty, very public, falling out with the brick. Make amends with everyone you shunned.

-Encourage it to be a Bengals fan. On second thought, encourage it to avoid Ohio football.

-Move it to Baltimore.


Post by Blake Edwards (formerly known as The Unsportsmanlike Gentleman). He’s famous for the Muschamp Intensity Meter.

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So Long 2013: Gator Apocalypse

It was probably after the Vanderbilt game when I first googled “how to remove a curse” and began looking for answers to what was obviously some sort of voodoo placed on the Gators. In hindsight, I should have begun my research on January 2 when a clearly distracted and unfocused Florida football team was blitzed by Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. I guess at least we had one day in 2013 when we could hold our heads high. What followed was one of the most amazing runs of bad mojo I’ve ever seen, and it didn’t take a genius to see Gator Nation was in trouble.

The 2013 calendar year will be long remembered by Gator Nation as one of the most depressing, disheartening years ever. But the reality is a little bit different. The University of Florida took home two national championships, both in dramatic fashion. The men’s outdoor track and field team captured its second title in a row, and the women’s gymnastics team won its first ever crown. In addition, there were SEC titles for men’s swimming and diving, women’s tennis, softball and soccer and the aforementioned gymnastics squad. And Florida finished second overall in the Director’s Cup standings for the 2012-2013 athletic season.

In the current 2013-2014 athletic season, though, Florida sits 21st, and is in very real danger of finishing outside the top 9 for the first time in history. Which brings us back to the fact that despite those many triumphs that most athletic programs would kill for, 2013 can go right to hell. Here are the lowlights, ranked by how painful they were to take:

6. Baseball
After three straight College World Series trips, it was inevitable that Florida was due for a backslide. Too much talent had departed and there just wasn’t enough on the roster to compete in the loaded SEC and against the nation’s toughest schedule. Florida did manage to make the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight season but was swept out of the postseason and finished under .500 for the first time in Kevin O’Sullivan’s tenure.

5. Volleyball
Mary Wise has built one of the most surefire regular season juggernauts in the NCAA. The Gators once again rolled through the regular season, losing only three times and were the fifth seed in the NCAA Tournament. But then about a week after the football team was blasted by Florida State, the Seminoles came into the O’Dome and ended Florida’s run of eight straight Regional Finals. This was an absolute nightmare ending for the Gators.

4. Softball
Like Wise, softball coach Tim Walton has built the Gators into a perennial contender that just can‘t seem to win it all. Florida made its fifth trip to the Women’s College World Series since 2008. The Gators entered Oklahoma City as the #2 overall seed with really good odds of making the Finals. But like every other trip to the WCWS, the Gators were out without a title, despite an epic 15-inning win that was one for the ages.

3. Men’s Hoops
I actually consider the ending to the men’s hoops run this year an upgrade from the previous two years, at yet it still was a kidney punch to Gator Nation. The Gators followed up two straight crushing losses in the Elite Eight with yet another opportunity to reach the Final Four. But unlike the previous years in which Florida led late in the second half, the Gators were never close in this one, getting blown off the court by Michigan.

2. Women’s Soccer
Like the others coaches on this list, Becky Burleigh’s reign at Florida has seen a lot of success. Since the Gators shocked the soccer world and won the 1998 NCAA championship, Burleigh’s teams have remained among the nation’s best but haven’t been able to make much noise in the NCAA Tournament. This year, Florida had arguably its best team since the national title bunch. But in the span of 30 minutes or so, everything changed. Florida was headed toward another SEC Tournament title and a high seed in the NCAAs when junior captain and all-SEC performer Havana Solaun tore her ACL. The Gators blew the lead in the second half and lost the SEC crown. They then lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Given how wide open the field was this year, there is a decent chance the ACL injury cost Florida a shot at the national title.

1. Football
Of course, if you want to talk injuries in 2013, nothing compares to the insanity the football team experienced. The Gators suffered more injuries than any other college football team this season and it is probably safe to say than any other Gators squad ever. 21 23 scholarship players missed at least one game. When you are losing players before the season, that’s rough. But when you lose your quarterback and best defensive player in back-to-back weeks early in the season, you begin to wonder what you did to deserve this. Those losses were still only the beginning for Florida. I still contend that if Tyler Murphy wasn’t seriously injured against LSU, Florida could have salvaged its season and finished with 6-7 wins. Murphy was a shell of himself in the next three games before pulling the chute on the season. Other injuries along the offensive line and throughout the defense mounted and Florida finished the year with a team that might not have won an intramural flag football championship.

Subnote: The curse of 2013 even infected the professional ranks as it saw the end to Tim Tebow’s NFL career and serious injuries to Maurkice Pouncey, Jordan Reed and Al Horford. Not even going to mention Riley Cooper’s incident and definitely not going to mention the tight end accused of murder.

So Gator Nation will ring in the New Year tonight with a lot of disappointment but also with more hope than we’ve had in a long time. That’s because there is no where to go but up. Most importantly, the football team will be better. A new offensive coordinator, a few more playmakers (including possibly a freshman quarterback), lots of underclassman with lots of experience should at minimum get us back to 7-8 wins and a bowl game. The other sports are in even better shape. This looks like Billy Donovan’s best team since the 04s. Gymnastics has four All-American returners is the preseason #1. Baseball is adding the nation’s best freshman class. Soccer returns Savannah Jordan, the most dynamic scorer since Abby Wambach, and should have Solaun back as well. The rest of the athletic program is great shape as well.

As for those curse remedies I was researching, no matter how bright 2014 looks, you can never be too safe. Let’s leave nothing to chance. Leaving out any animal or virgin sacrifices, I say we settle on two remedies. The first is the idea of placing mirrors facing out all around the Swamp and the practice field to deflect spirits and curses back upon their senders. Additionally, it can’t hurt to smudge Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with some lit sage.

Be gone demons of 2013. Happy New Year!

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