Glad to be a part of Our Two Bits!

Just a passionate, well versed Florida alumnus trying to make it in this world. That was just a quick sentence to describe myself.

I consider myself well versed in Gator athletics and Gator academics. I never really cared for the food at Gator Dining but I love Satchel’s Pizza. I am old enough to remember The Purple Porpoise and when Bennigan’s was the best Happy Hour spot in town. I play in a softball league in my spare time, enjoy fine craft beer, and love all things Atlanta sports (yes, I was a Hawks fan before they became good and now I am a sad Braves fan).

Thanks to the Our Two Bits staff for allowing me the opportunity to be a contributor for the artist formerly known as Bourbon Meyer.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

4th Annual Gators in the NFL Rankings

Every year, I put together this completely subjective account of all the former Gators in the National Football League. I spend the two weeks between the conference championships and the Super Bowl researching and writing this thing, but despite the time it takes, it is the most fun I have writing something all year. If you are a Gators fan but not a huge NFL person, it is a fun stroll down memory lane catching up with old friends. And even if you are a big NFL fan like I am, it is still enlightening to see the numbers of former Gators compared.

It’s not a news flash that the quality of football in Gainesville has been on the downslide for four or five years. And given the dearth of success in the Swamp, it shouldn’t be surprising the NFL has seen a downtick in former Gators success too. I’ve been doing this column for four years now (2013, 2012, 2011), long enough to remember when we actually wrote things for this website rather than just spamming up your twitter feed begging for retweets and hocking t-shirts. Back in 2011, there were 52 former Gators in the league. This year, there were 43.

2014 was a tough year for former Gators. Many that looked like they might find a way back on the field didn’t even make it on a roster. Rex Grossman was a final roster cut by the Browns. They invited him back to start the final game of the season after losing Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel but Sexy Rexy appears to have holstered his gun for good. Max Starks also called it quits, officially retiring after the Cardinals cut him in camp. Maurice Hurt was one of the final roster cuts by Washington in the preseason. Ahmad Black never even made it to training camp.

Even sadder are the Gators who have disappointed so much off the field that it is hard to see any NFL team asking for their services again. We’ll get to those guys in a minute.

Last year was the first year I took a look at what an all-Gators starting lineup would look like. It was decent.. If I had done it, it would have looked better in 2012 and even better still in 2011. This year is easily the worst looking bunch.

QB – None
RB – Trey Burton (I guess?)
WR – Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, Louis Murphy
TE – Jordan Reed
OL – Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, Jonatthan Harrison, Xavier Nixon
DL – Carlos Dunlap, Jeremy Mincey, Jaye Howard, Shariff Floyd
LB – Jelani Jenkins, Brandon Spikes, Jon Bostic
CB – Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins
S – Will Hill, Matt Elam
K – Caleb Sturgis
P – None
KR – Frankie Hammond Jr.

That defense isn’t bad but the offense… who boy!

Now, on to the rankings…


Ray McDonald
Stats: 39 tackles, 3 sacks
Last Year: 2
This Year: Done
Despite being only 30 and one of the most consistent and productive members of the 49ers defense over the past few years, McDonald’s career is over due to off-the-field issues. The charges in the first case were dropped and no arrest or charges have been made in the second incident as of yet. Still, the fact that McDonald put himself in any sort of situation that might warrant this kind of attention is disturbing. It is hard to imagine a NFL team risking the public relations nightmare that would come from signing him.

Chris Rainey
Last Year: Headed Out of the League
This Year: Done
According to a report in August, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano liked what he saw from Rainey and was ready to utilitze the former Gators speedster as a kick returner. But during the first week of training camp, the Colts cut Rainey after an undisclosed incident in which Rainey tweeted he messed around with a fire extinguisher. The Colts backfield was a mess all year and the guy Rainey was fighting in camp for a roster spot, Boom Herron, made a name for himself in the postseason. Rainey’s last chance was his best and he blew it. The Cardinals signed him to their practice squad but cut him soon after. Rainey’s past domestic violence issues mean he won’t ever play in the league again.

Jermaine Cunningham
Last Year: Headed Out of the League
This Year: Done
Cunningham tore his ACL in a scrimmage before the preseason slate even began. He has now been on more rosters (3) than fields for actual games (2) in the past two seasons. A few weeks ago, he was arrested and now after some very disturbing charges, the former second-round pick is headed out of the league as a bust. And he might be headed to jail.


Deonte Thompson
Stats: 1 G
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Thompson appeared to have secured a role with Ravens after scoring touchdowns in three straight preseason games. But he could never get over the hump, was inactive for two games and then cut. The Ravens still saw something because they re-signed him to the practice squad at a payrate higher than usual. Late in the season, the Bills signed him to their active roster and he finally was active for a game but delivered no stats. Given how erratic Thompson was at Florida, the fact that he stayed in the NFL this long is a miracle. His run might be over though.

Xavier Nixon
Stats: 4 G, 1 start
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Nixon was an undrafted free agent facing long odds in 2013. Despite that, he found a way to impress the Colts, earn some playing time and an invite for the 2014 training camp. The Colts had many issues along the offensive line but Nixon wasn’t the solution. He’s still young and will have one more chance to make an impression and find a place in the league.

Jeff Demps
Last Year: Headed Out of the League
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Demps has been tantalizing football coaches with his blazing speed since Pop Warner. After an offseason enticing new Bucs coach Lovie Smith, Demps ultimately was one of the Bucs’ last cuts before the regular season. He spent half the season on the Colts practice squad but was never called up to the 53-man. The Colts have signed him to a futures contract meaning they still see potential but you have to imagine this is the last offseason Demps will have a chance to figure it out and make a NFL career.

Jon Halapio
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Halapio did not make the Patriots roster as a sixth round pick. Perseverance paid off in December when the Broncos signed him to their practice squad. Given that he didn’t play a snap this year, it is tough to rank him anywhere but here. That said, you can’t doubt someone with the toughness and grit of Halapio. He‘ll have a chance to make a team next year.

Justin Trattou
Stats: 4 G, 2 tackles, 2 kick returns, 19 yards
Last Year: Headed Out of the League
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Trattou had more of an opportunity this year with the Vikings than he has ever had in the NFL. He played some on special teams and had a late crack as a rotational defensive end. The Vikings seem to think he has the ability to be a full-time backup and will give him that chance this offseason.

Loucheiz Purifoy
Stats: 11 G, 5 tackles
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Purifoy’s decision to leave Florida early has not paid off. He went undrafted, had an uphill battle to make the Colts and then after showing flashes of promise was cut by them after a reported string of off-field incidents. The Seahawks attempted to sign him but he failed his physical. So instead of potentially playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl, Purifoy is looking for a team to give him yet another chance.

David Nelson
Stats: 6 G, 8 rec, 65 yds
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Headed Out of the League
Nelson began the year as a starter and ended it without a job. Such is life in the NFL. Nelson’s first two seasons in the league resulted in 92 catches for over a thousand yards and eight touchdowns. But since tearing his ACL in 2012, Nelson hasn’t been able to sustain any success. He was cut after six games when the Jets traded for Percy Harvin. Gator on Gator crime has never hurt that bad. But regardless of whether Nelson can find his way back to the league next year, he’s a star with his off-the-field work supporting orphans in Haiti.


Dominique Easley
Stats: 11 G, 2 starts, 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Gotta Stay Healthy
Easley has the natural ability to be one of the best defensive linemen in football. The question is will his knees allow him to reach that vast potential. We all remember the torn ACL he suffered in practice in 2013. He tore the ACL in his other knee two years earlier. Given the history, it wasn’t surprising the Patriots shut him down early this year after constant knee soreness. They invested a first-round pick and want to make sure that investment pays off. It goes without saying that next year is huge for Easley. He’ll be two years removed from the most recent surgery and hopefully the pain will go away.

Mike Gillislee
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Gotta Stay Healthy
Gillislee was hurt in the preseason and landed on injured reserve, missing the entire season. It was a bad break as the Dolphins had some injuries in the backfield and he may have had a chance to backup Lamar Miller. Gillislee is a long shot at this point to make a roster next year, let alone to ever make an impact in the league.


Jaylen Watkins
Stats: 4 G, 3 tackles, 1 pass defended
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
After making his mark as a corner at Florida, Watkins future in the NFL might be at safety. His only action on defense was in the Eagles finale after they were eliminated from playoff contention so he has an important offseason ahead if he has hopes of becoming a regular.

Ronald Powell
Stats: 14 G, 2 tackles
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
Powell was a key contributor on special teams but played only four snaps on defense all year. The Saints will give him a chance to see if he can ever regain the explosiveness we saw pre-ACL injury.

Marcus Roberson
Stats: 10 tackles, 1 INT
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
Just making a roster as an undrafted free agent is an accomplishment. Roberson did that and then played mostly special teams for nine games. He finally received an opportunity in the season finale to play defense and delivered with four tackles and a pick for the Rams. He’ll have a chance heading into training camp to prove his worth.

Solomon Patton
Stats: 10 punt returns, 11.2 avg, 18 kick returns, 23.1 avg, 1 rush, 19 yards
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
An undrafted free agent, Patton surprisingly made the Buccaneers roster to start the season and did a good job returning kicks. Despite that, he was cut midway through the season, joined the Cardinals’ practice squad for a while, before ending up back with the Bucs. After the ups and downs of his rookie campaign, Solo will be have a chance to stick somewhere as a returner next year.

Frankie Hammond Jr.
Stats: 3 starts, 4 rec, 45 yds, 15 punt returns, 13.3 avg, 2 kickoff returns, 37.0 avg
Last Year: Headed Out of the League
This Year: Role Player
So “Hot Light” Hammond and Deonte Thompson can return kicks in the NFL but Brandon James couldn’t? Baffling. Hammond tied for first in punt return average among players with at least 15 returns and in limited duty flashed potential on kickoffs too. He even started three games at receiver for the team with the worst wideout corps in the league.

Bubba Caldwell
Stats: 5 rec, 47 yards, 12 kickoff returns, 23.2 avg
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Role Player
Caldwell is at a crossroads this offseason. He just finished his seventh season in the league and turns 30. The Broncos have a new coach and may have a new quarterback. Caldwell was the Broncos fourth receiver and one of its kick returners, but you have to wonder if he’s part of their plans for 2015.

Lerentee McCray
Stats: 13 G, 8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
Last Year: Gotta Stay Healthy
This Year: Role Player
McCray was an undrafted free agent who was hurt before the 2013 season and did not play a down. The odds of him making the Broncos roster this season were long. But he made the team as Von Miller’s backup and played on special teams. In the Broncos playoff loss, he had two tackles. McCray will have to continue to work hard to stick but he’s shown he’s capable of surprising.

Caleb Sturgis
Stats: FG 29/37, 78.4%, 128 points
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Role Player
We miss him dearly in Gainesville but as a Dolphins fan, I can honestly say that Sturgis makes me nervous. Inside of 40 yards, he is one of the best kickers in football. Simply automatic. But on kicks over 40, Sturgis is not NFL-caliber. The Dolphins will certainly bring in a kicker to challenge him in training camp, and he simply must improve from long range.

Jonathan Bostic
Stats: 83 tackles
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Role Player
Bostic only played in 13 games, starting eight, but still improved his tackle numbers from his rookie campaign, finishing second on the team. At the same time, he still struggles at the point of attack, something crucial for a middle linebacker. New coach John Fox may move to a 3-4 alignment, which could help Bostic but he’ll have to improve his consistency.

Josh Evans
Stats: 90 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Role Player
Evans racked up a lot of tackles for the Jaguars this year but should have had more – he led the team with 19 missed tackles. For a safety who doesn’t force turnovers, missed tackles can’t happen. The Jags will be looking to upgrade their secondary and Evans’ playing time next season is in jeopardy.

Major Wright
Stats: 51 tackles
Last Year: 10
This Year: Role Player
Wright only played in 12 games with the Bucs before ending the season on injured reserve. He isn’t much of a playmaker as he didn’t force a turnover and had only one pass defended. But he is a hard hitting safety that should still find a way to play in the league for a few more years.

Jonotthan Harrison
Stats: 15 G, 10 starts
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
An undrafted rookie, Harrison started 10 games and played in 15 on a line charged with protecting one of the NFL’s superstars in Andrew Luck. Yes Harrison struggled, and yes he was benched at the end of the year, but he showed enough potential to warrant consideration as a backup offensive lineman for years to come.

Riley Cooper
Stats: 55 rec, 577 yards, 3 TD
Last Year: 6
This Year: Role Player
Cooper’s emergence in 2013 was a bit of fool’s gold inflated by a five-game stretch where he and Nick Foles just clicked. That led to a five-year contract extension with the Eagles and even higher expectations for 2014. Well, Cooper caught more balls this past season but his other numbers were down substantially. In reality, he wasn’t very good, ranking near the bottom of wide receivers by Pro Football Focus. Lots of drops, including a crucial one in a loss to the 49ers, really hurt his team. Cooper’s days as a #2 are done but he’ll probably hang on in the league for a few more seasons as a third and fourth receiver.

Matt Elam
Stats: 52 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 forced fumble
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Role Player
During the Ravens-Patriots game, I tweeted that never in a million years would I have thought Will Hill would be a better pro than Elam. But that’s what happened this year. Elam lost his starting spot to Hill and when you watched the Ravens, it was Hill who impressed you. Elam was such a tremendous tackler at Florida that it was shocking to see him miss a tackle in that Patriots game on Danny Amendola. A move back to Elam’s natural free safety position this year didn’t help and he finished the season as a nickel guy. Reggie Nelson looked lost in his first few years in the league, too, so there’s hope that Elam can turn this thing around and become the type of player we all thought he would be.

Will Hill
Stats: 8 starts, 47 tackles, 1 INT, 1 TD return
Last Year: Unranked
This Year: Role Player
OK folks, are you paying attention? Because nobody called me on my Will Hill omission last season even though he played well for the Giants at times. I’ll blame my editor. Anyway, this season Hill moved to the Ravens and ended up starting eight of the 10 games he played after serving a six-game suspension for a failed drug test. It was perhaps Hill’s best stretch of football since high school, given the ups and downs we saw in Gainesville and the erratic play so far in the NFL. Unfortunately as has been the case Hill’s entire career, success is fleeting. He was arrested this offseason and all the good work he put in becoming a solid presence with Baltimore is in jeopardy once again. Despite his legal troubles, Hill’s play in the regular season and in the postseason when he had six tackles and two passes defended to solidify a shaky Ravens secondary should mean he’ll have a role with them once again next season.

Jaye Howard
Stats: 10 starts, 36 tackles, 1 sack
Last Year: Headed Out of the League
This Year: Role Player
Who can make sense of the NFL? Howard seemed like a decent prospect coming out of Florida, ended up on a team with his collegiate defensive coordinator and did nothing. He moved to the Chiefs in 2013 and was similarly ineffective. Then all of sudden, the light went on and 2014 was a nice surprise for the defensive tackle. The Chiefs have an excellent defense and Howard was an important piece.

Marcus Gilbert
Stats: 12 games, 12 starts
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Role Player
The Steelers believe in Gilbert. He signed a six-year contract extension before the season began, and then after a slow start in which he gave up two sacks in each of the first two games, he rewarded their faith with a pretty good season. He’s an anchor at right tackle on a line that leads the way for one of the best young backs in the game (LeVeon Bell) and a 4,000-yard passer (Roethlisberger). He has to be more consistent and durable, having played all 16 only once so far in his four-year career.

Trey Burton
Stats: 7 tackles, blocked punt, TD
Last Year: Gainesville
This Year: Role Player
Just like in Gainesville, Trey Burton wasted little time showing the Eagles his versatility. The undrafted free agent earned instant playing time on special teams where he made a huge impact. He blocked a punt that a teammate scooped and scored on. Later in the season, he picked up a blocked punt and returned it for a TD. Pro Football Focus named him a first team All-NFL special teamer and the Pro Football Writers’ Association named him to its All-Rookie team. Burton only played 15 snaps on offense but if he remains a force on special teams, he’ll have a place in the league for a long time.

Louis Murphy
Stats: 11 G, 31 rec, 380 yards, 2 TD
Last Year: Headed Out of the League
This Year: Role Player
A nice rebound season for Murphy almost didn’t happen. He was cut by the Bucs right before the season started but got a call a few weeks later and didn’t let the opportunity pass. In his first game with Tampa, Murphy went wild with six catches for 99 yards in a huge upset of the Steelers. He found a role as a third receiver and rewarded the Bucs for sticking with him. They in turn rewarded him with a three-year contract extension in December.

Sharrif Floyd
Stats: 14 G, 11 starts, 42 tackles, 4.5 sacks
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: Role Player
Floyd had a very good sophomore campaign under the tutelage of defensive wizard Mike Zimmer, the Vikings head boss this season. Floyd really hit a stride in the middle of the season and was becoming one of the best young defensive tackles in football before hurting his knee in practice. After returning, he eventually regained his midseason form and finished the season strong. We know how talented he is and it will be surprising if he doesn’t develop into a Pro Bowl caliber presence on the Vikings line.

Mike Pouncey
Stats: 12 starts
Last Year: 3
This Year: Role Player
Mike Pouncey’s season is hard to dissect. He had hip surgery that delayed the start of it and then moved to guard so the Dolphins could put their five best linemen on the field at the same time. He helped the Dolphins rushing attack to the second best yards per rush mark in the league. At the same time, the line struggled in pass protection. Pouncey was up and down, ranking 69th among all guards by Pro Football Focus. On the flip side, he was named to the Pro Bowl. Still it was a down year by his standards and that’s why I rated him just outside the top 10. A move back to center and a healthy offseason will be big for his 2015 prospects.

TOP 10

Jordan Reed
Stats: 50 rec, 465 yds
Last Year: 8
This Year: 10
After an injury-plagued rookie campaign, Reed once again missed significant time, only playing in 11 games this year. In two seasons, he’s mimicked his infamous quarterback in Washington with an inability to stay healthy. Still, Reed has shown the ability to be a matchup nightmare and can become one of the premier tight ends in the game. His future is bright but he needs a full season in 2015 to prove it.

Brandon Spikes
Stats: 54 tackles, 1 sack, 3 passes defended, 1 forced fumble
Last Year: 7
This Year: 9
At this point in his career, Spikes is what he is. A stout, run-stopping inside linebacker who will be exposed in pass coverage. He played less than 50% of the snaps in Buffalo this past season because of that but still racked up impressive tackle totals and helped make the Bills one of the toughest defenses in the league. He’s a free agent and will have plenty of suitors including Rex Ryan, the Bills new coach. He fits the mode of a tough, physical presence that Ryan’s defenses are known. He is already in the top 15 for former Gators in tackles and should have quite a few years left to climb those rankings.

Percy Harvin
Stats: 13 G, 51 rec, 483 yds, 1 TD, 11 rush, 92 yds, 1 TD, 32 KO returns, 24.3 avg
Last Year: Gotta Stay Healthy
This Year: 8
Hours after this column came out last year, Harvin took a kickoff back for a touchdown and sealed the Seahawks Super Bowl victory. He also was the Seahawks leading rusher in the game and caught a pass. In a game with contributions across the board, Harvin was a viable contender for MVP honors. It will be interesting to see if they miss him this Sunday (they will, they don‘t have any playmakers at receiver and their return game isn‘t good). Did you know that Harvin has played in three championships dating back to 2007’s Florida-Ohio State game and is 3-0? He scored a touchdown in each game with a combined 189 rushing yards and an average of 130 all-purpose yards per game. On the flip side, he has now played for three NFL teams in three years. He is ninth all-time in NFL history in kickoff return average and one of the most electric players in the game but also someone that has struggled to find his place and to stay healthy.

Jeremy Mincey
Stats: 46 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: 7
Few players were bigger surprises in the NFL this year than Jeremy Mincey. The Cowboys defense was predicted to be one of the worst entering the season with big questions rushing the passer. But they found a gem in Mincey, who turned in arguably his finest season in year seven. As good as he was in the regular season, Mincey was a man possessed in the postseason. He racked up nine tackles in two games and had a sack in both as well. Pro Football Focus called him the best defensive end in the playoffs. He quickly became a locker room leader in Dallas and figures to have found a home after playing with three teams in two seasons.

Carlos Dunlap
Stats: 66 tackles, 8 sacks, 5 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles
Last Year: 4
This Year: 6
Dunlap’s production is nice but it continues to fall short of his immense potential. You watch him at times and it seems like a 15+ sack season is easily within reach. And yet in some games, he’s a complete non factor. Perhaps he’ll find that extra gear one of these years. He already has 35.5 sacks in his career, 9th all-time among former Gators.

Janoris Jenkins
Stats: 59 tackles, 2 INT, 2 TD (99-yard return), 5 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles
Last Year: 9
This Year: 5
Plain and simple, Jenkins is a pick-six machine. Two more this year, five now in his three-year career. Throw in a fumble return TD and he’s scored six defensive TDs in three seasons. That’s more than any player in the NFL over that span. At the same time, Jenkins gives up just as many big plays with lapses that kill the Rams. He’s feast or famine on a grand scale. He was a Pro Bowl alternate this year but didn’t make the team in the end. He was also part of the troll moment of year when Jeff Fisher sent all the Rams acquired in the RGIII trade out as captains against Washington.

Jelani Jenkins
Stats: 15 G, 110 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Last Year: Role Player
This Year: 4
Mincey was probably the biggest surprise among former Gators this season but Jenkins was a close second. He started the season as a backup in Miami but injuries struck, he was thrust into the starting role and he tackled everything in sight. He finished with 110 tackles in 15 games, 93 more than he logged in his rookie campaign. You have to take advantage of opportunities when presented. Jenkins did that and now he’s looking at establishing himself as a longtime starter in the NFL.

Reggie Nelson
Stats: 99 tackles, 4 INT, 1.5 sacks, 12 passes defended
Last Year: 5
This Year: 3
“Reggie ‘F-ing’ Nelson”. “The Eraser”. I don’t know why I don’t put Nelson at the top of these rankings every year because frankly he’s the former Gator I love watching the most. He is the dean of the Bengals defense and has been the best player on it for four seasons running now. The fact that Nelson has yet to make a Pro Bowl is ridiculous. His 22 career picks is fifth all-time among Gators and he’s within striking distance of the top spot if he can play 3-4 more years.

Joe Haden
Stats: 73 tackles, 3 INT, 20 passes defended
Last Year: 1
This Year: 2
Remember when Joe Haden arrived on campus in Gainesville? If you don’t, that’s OK. The class was headlined by Gatorade National Player of the Year John Brantley (LOL) and the ‘Lakeland 7’. Haden was a great high school quarterback and one of the best athletes in the country but had never really played cornerback. Yet he became the first true freshman to start at corner in the season opener in Florida football history. The legend was born and has grown beyond all realistic expectations. The seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft, Haden is one of the best corners in the NFL. As impressive as Haden’s performance on the field was this year (he finished second in the league with 20 passes defended), he was even more impressive off it, becoming the first NFL player ever to be a global ambassador for the Special Olympics. Haden has to rank near the top of any list of former Gators that make Gator Nation proud.

Maurkice Pouncey
Stats: 16 starts
Last Year: Gotta Stay Healthy
This Year: 1
Hard to argue with All-Pro status. Maurkice is the only current Gator to earn that and has now done it twice in four years,. He’s also made four Pro Bowls in all four seasons in which he has played more than nine snaps. He is the pre-eminent center in the NFL and one of the most respected offensive linemen in the game today. This was his finest season and the fact that he is getting better is incredible. Who would have pegged him as the most likely to succeed off those loaded Gators teams?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is This Billy Donovan’s Worst Team Since 1998?

1998 was a long time ago. Steve Spurrier was still coaching football in Gainesville. AOL was how a lot of people were accessing the internet. I was still a student, working in the SID’s office with the women’s soccer team (sadly, RIP 2014 Florida soccer). Tuition was still somewhat affordable. And Billy Donovan was still an unknown.

The hype with which Billy Ball arrived at UF was starting to fade a little after a 14-15 mark in 1997-1998 that saw his two-year record with the Gators hit 27-32. Luckily for us, Florida was a basketball afterthought back then. The fan base, if they paid attention at all, had zero expectations and were OK with letting a young coach learn and grow on the job for a few years despite embarrassing results. Of course, that season was the last one in which the Gators did not win at least 20 games. They’ve made the NCAA Tournament 14 out of 16 seasons since with eight Sweet Sixteens and four Final Fours.

But even in those first two years or the two post ’04 years, the Gators weren’t as painful to watch as they have been to start this season. It isn’t because of effort that the 2014-15 season has a chance to be Florida’s worst since 1998. Through six games, these Gators battle hard. But hard work can’t overcome lack of skill on the big stage. Florida’s offense is a train wreck. It seems they are often playing 2 or 3 vs 5 on the offensive end. The only player on the team who can create his own shot is Kasey Hill, and while he has come a long way and showed huge strides in the Bahamas, he’s still a very weak go-to-guy. And Hill is likely never going to be good enough to carry an offense by consistently hitting mid-range jumpers or getting layups at the rim. Michael Frazier’s early-season shooting slump will end but he’s not much more than a spot-up shooter (albeit perhaps the best one in Gators history) and will always be subject to streakiness and tough lockdown defense. Dorian Finney-Smith is a nice complimentary piece in a well-balanced offense, but in this offense, he’s a bad jump shooter with little space to attack the paint.

If you look back to 1998, the Gators featured a decent offensive attack led by Greg Stolt and Kenyan Weaks and the occasional explosiveness of Jason Williams (until he was booted from the team for good). In the down years of 2007-2008, Nick Calathes could win games almost by himself and certainly had occasional contributions from Mo Speights, Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Erving Walker. In fact, Donovan was notorious for an above-average offense that was usually let down by a suspect defense. This year, if Florida can’t find a way to score inside, they don’t have enough perimeter shooting to threaten 70 points (which they haven’t scored to date). It is shocking to see a Billy Donovan offense as bad as this one appears to be. If MFII isn’t on fire, the Gators frankly have no chance of matching buckets with a good team. I’ve mentioned Hill, Frazier and Doe-Doe. Jon Horford plays too far from the basket. Chris Walker has developed no offensive skills. Devin Robinson is as lost as any freshman under Donovan ever. Jacob Kurtz is a hustle guy with no discernible offensive skills.

This isn’t to knock this team. No one expected greatness, especially early, after losing the best senior class in school history of Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete. There is no doubt they were overrated in preseason polls based on past successes. They’ll play hard and they’ll get better as the season progresses. But as bad as the SEC is, you have to wonder what their resume is going to look like even when they turn things around and improve. At this point in the season, those of us looking forward to basketball season to ease the pain of the football season might be in trouble. The NIT isn’t likely to salve Gator Nation’s wounds this year. And be prepared, this might be one of Billy’s worst teams ever if he can’t develop an offensive identity beyond jacking up long-range perimeter shots. The dark cloud over Gainesville continues and might be expanding.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Riding The Darkhorse

First off, I sincerely wish Will Muschamp the best. He’s a good guy and a good coach and he’ll get another opportunity somewhere to be a head coach and succeed. I always liked Will and was ecstatic when he was hired, but he never fit at Florida and had more bad luck than I’ve ever seen a coach have. His brand of football was never fun to watch. Even 2012 felt like watching a gruesome fight between two hobos out by the railroad tracks before ol’ Stinkeye Pete grabbed a sledgehammer and caved Boxcar Joe’s skull in with a few desperate swings. It wasn’t pretty, but I stood up for him even through last season. I gave him a mulligan for all the injuries. Then the Alabama game happened this September and it completely broke my spirit. I couldn’t defend him any longer. He had to go.


So, where does Florida go now? Jeremy Foley’s tendency across all sports has been to hire young, up-and-coming coaches: Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp, Billy Donovan, Kevin O’ Sullivan, etc. However, there are no Urban Meyers out there. There are no young coaches at mid-major programs who have dominated like Meyer did at Utah.

And I don’t feel like Foley can afford to hire another great, young coordinator without head coaching experience, like Chad Morris at Clemson or Pat Narduzzi at Michigan State. It’s Will Muschamp all over again. There are a lot of good candidates for the job, but there isn’t one guy that we can all point to and say, “He’s the guy.” If you asked a hundred Gators fans who Foley should hire, you would probably get a hundred different answers and goddammit, who said Greg Schiano without any irony? SHOW YOURSELF SO WE CAN POSITION YOU IN FRONT OF THE FIRING SQUAD!

When the news broke that Muschamp had been fired yesterday, I immediately sat down and started knocking out my list of candidates. I came up with four names and three of them were names you’ve all seen: Dan Mullen, Rich Rodriguez, and Mike Gundy. The reason for those three is because if I’m Jeremy Foley, I’m looking for someone who is a current college head coach who has been successful and is a bright offensive mind. All three fit that bill. But as I thought about it, I had a strong feeling that Rodriguez and Mullen would not be considered. This was confirmed this morning by ESPN’s Brett McMurphy who tweeted such. Rodriguez had a few run-ins with the NCAA at Michigan and there have been rumors that Foley just doesn’t like Mullen as a person.

As for Gundy, he was my first choice at the beginning of the season, but I’ve backed off on him a tad bit since then. Oklahoma State hasn’t had a great year and the offense has been pitiful by recent OSU standards. A lot of that has to do with their starter, JW Walsh, going down with an injury early in the season and they’ve had to roll with their backup, Daxx Garman. Seriously, that’s his name. Also, there was the Sports Illustrated article last year that brought negative attention to the OSU program. Foley may consider Gundy, but I think ultimately, that article may be enough to scare him away. Plus, OSU is Gundy’s alma mater and they can match any dollar amount Florida throws out there with super booster, T. Boone Pickens.

One name that was not on my original list was Gary Patterson because he’s a defensive guy, but after thinking about it a lot in the last 24 hours, I think he might be the best man for the job, especially if he brings his co-offensive coordinators, Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie with him. Patterson sacrificed some defense for offense this season and so far, it has paid off. It is my hope that whoever is hired, they will keep Brad Lawing, DJ Durkin, and Travaris Robinson on staff. So, would Patterson want to bring his guys or would he assimilate with the current staff? Regardless, I’m just not sure Patterson leaves TCU. So, this brings me back to the fourth candidate on my original list from yesterday.

I won’t name him yet. I will give you his credentials for the job and let you decide if this sounds like someone who would be a good hire. He’s a very under the radar hire. I’ve only seen him mentioned on a couple of candidate lists, so far. AND IT’S NOT KERWIN BELL! STOP SAYING HIS NAME!

He’s 46 years old and in his fourth season at his current FBS school and has posted a 9-4 record in each of his first three years with three bowl wins and is on his way to much of the same this year, sitting at 7-3. Prior to his current job, he was the receivers coach and passing game coordinator for two years at an SEC school. Prior to that, he was the head coach at a Division II school where he tallied a 66-21 record with two conference titles in seven seasons.

He’s an offensive guy who runs a version of the spread and is pretty balanced. His offenses have averaged between 30-35 ppg the last four years. Last season they averaged 204.5 rushing and 212.2 passing yards per game. This season they are running the ball a little more, averaging 231 yards rushing on 421 attempts and 196 yards passing on 286 attempts.

Any ideas who this is? If you said Louisiana-Lafayette head man, Mark Hudspeth, YOU’RE A WINNER!

If you need your memory refreshed as to who he is, you should remember his Ragin’ Cajuns nearly beating Florida two years ago in “The Swamp” and woulda gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling kids blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown to end the game.

I like Hudspeth. In his fifteen losses at ULL, eight have been to schools from power conferences and he’s nearly pulled off a couple of upsets. He’s been very successful at two small schools with limited resources and not only has he been successful, he’s maintained that success over the duration of his tenure. Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn were both coaching high school football not too long ago and each spent a year at Arkansas State before becoming head coaches in the SEC. So making the jump from a small school to the SEC can be done.

If Hudspeth were hired, a lot of people that don’t know a damn about college football will laugh and point and say, “LOL, Florida couldn’t get a big name. No one wants to coach at Florida!” And my arm would fly off from making the handwanking gesture, but this would be a solid hire. I think he would do fine at Florida. That’s why I’m going all in for Hudspeth. Sure, I’d love to have Patterson, Gundy, Hugh Freeze, or several others, but if I have to choose one, I’m going to ride with the guy no one’s talking about. And if he is hired, then I’ll look like a genius and I can rub it in my parents’ faces! SCREW YOU MOM AND DAD! I MAY NOT KNOW HOW TO BUDGET MY MONEY OR PROPERLY INVEST FOR RETIREMENT OR HAVE A GIRLFRIEND OR HAVE A JOB I LOVE OR GENERALLY POSSESS ANY LIFE SKILLS, BUT I GOT FLORIDA’S COACH CORRECT! BOOM! IN YOUR FACE!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Fear Finally Does Muschamp In

When Florida got up comfortably against Vanderbilt last week, I foolishly started wondering if Kurt Roper would be allowed to open up the playbook a little and give Treon Harris some much needed reps throwing the football. The Gators were up 17-7 with a second and goal at the 7-yard-line as the fourth quarter began. Harris had a wide open Clay Burton on the play action call and with a little touch on the ball, it was a TD. But Harris missed Burton. Harris ran it in the next play but the missed pass is what stuck with me. A kid making his second career start doesn’t have the experience to know how to make a throw like that. So why not use some of his time on the field in a game that was in hand to develop a rhythm in the passing attack?

As the fourth quarter progressed, Vanderbilt clearly had no chance at a comeback and Will Muschamp being Will Muschamp, the Gators were going to run the ball and clock it. Harris attempted only one more pass after the Burton mis-throw, a sharp connection to Demarcus Robinson on a third and five. Gator Nation celebrated the blowout win and a two-game winning streak. A lot of the postgame chatter turned to the thought that Muschamp might save his job with a win against South Carolina. But I knew better. The missed opportunity of letting Harris run more of the offense in the safe environment of a big 4th quarter lead foreshadowed what we say today.

In 2012, the Gators won week in and week out with a vanilla attack that never really gave Jeff Driskel a chance to learn how to play quarterback. He wasn’t asked to make throws, let alone make reads. But the Gators were winning, unbelievably going 11-1 without any shred of a reliable passing attack. When they finally found themselves down and in need of throwing to make a game of it in the Sugar Bowl, they failed miserably. Muschamp never invested the time on offense to help Driskel get better. He never threw more than 27 passes in a game or for more than 219 yards. In the South Carolina laugher in which Florida was up huge in the 3rd quarter, Driskel only threw it 16 times for 93 yards. That lack of development doomed Driskel as a quarterback and doomed Muschamp as a head coach. And even though he made the quarterback change this year, Muschamp’s fear on offense wasn’t going to give Harris the opportunity he needed to develop and ironically save Muschamp’s own job.

If we’ve learned anything over these four agonizing seasons of Will Muschamp football it is that his formula for wins is tough defense and an offense that eats clock and doesn’t turn it over. That’s a really low bar to set for your offense and it puts an enormous strain on the rest of the team. Muschamp reeks of fear every time the Gators are on offense. That stench has to be demoralizing not only for the offensive players but for the entire team. Then if you aren’t mostly perfect in the other phases of the game, you have a good chance to lose. Never did that come to mind-numbing fruition like it did today against South Carolina.

You could spend a lifetime never seeing as dumb of a performance as the Gators turned in today. South Carolina is not a good football team. Neither is Florida. But Florida was in control of the game, with a win percentage that must have been close to 95 percent at two or three different times in the fourth quarter. The Gators had the ball in Gamecocks territory three times in the 4th quarter. Treon Harris fumbled once, Florida punted once and had a field goal blocked. Harris ran the ball eight times and attempted one pass in the fourth quarter. Muschamp was in clock-kill mode and fear paralyzed the team.

Florida could have ended the game twice. After a penalty, Florida had first and seven at the 16-yard-line. A touchdown would have effectively ended the game. But instead of anything remotely aggressive, Florida ran it three times including on third and nine and settled for a 32-yard field goal. In fairness, that kick would have sealed the game too. But how often do you see missed field goals after ultra-conservative play calling? Why wasn’t Harris given an opportunity to win the game with his arm? Fear and the fact that he doesn’t have enough experience.

The second time Florida could have ended the game was on their next possession. It is hard to fault running the ball three times in that situation with the clock and timeout situation what it was. What isn’t hard to fault is Florida taking a delay of game penalty when they had a timeout, giving up five yards of field possession for no reason at all. Most egregiously, though, was not having max protect on when basically the only way you could lose was on a blocked punt.

Will Muschamp is not a smart head coach and his Gators are not a smart football team. But despite so much stupid in today’s game, it was the stupid from last week (and that traces all the way back to 2012) that I think really sunk the Gators. Treon Harris and the offense deserve better. There are playmakers on this team. But because Harris wasn’t given a chance earlier in the season, wasn’t given a chance late against Vanderbilt, he wasn’t going to be given a chance today. And so instead of sealing a big win at home against the man who built the Florida program, the Gators gave the game and season away. It was poetic that the final nail in Will Muschamp’s head coaching career coffin was driven in by his own fear.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Tenn Straight



Freshman QB Treon Harris (Gainesville Sun/Matt Stamey)

In 2013, we saw a backup quarterback donning the number “3” come in for Jeff Driskel and help engineer a victory over the Tennessee Volunteers. On Saturday, we saw a backup quarterback donning the number “3” come in for Jeff Driskel and help engineer a victory over the Tennessee Volunteers. Was it pretty? Most certainly not. There are still many areas of this team that need to be addressed; but the most important thing Will Muschamp can take away from Neyland Stadium is a big ol’ W. As I saw it described on Twitter, this game was a “fight to the death with spoons.” The Gators and Vols combined for just 465 yards and six turnovers. However, at the end of a beautiful day in Knoxville, the good guys had ten points and the bad guys had nine. Florida had defeated Tennessee for the tenth consecutive time.

The Gators offense was horrendously stagnant until the freshman Treon Harris entered the game late in the third quarter. Florida scored their first and only touchdown on his first drive behind center, and the entire team seemed to have new life. Not that the defense really needed it anyways. Bryan Cox Jr., playing in remembrance of his late grandfather, registered three of the six Florida sacks. UF also forced three turnovers from UT quarterback Justin Worley. Both interceptions came at critical times in the game — Vernon Hargreaves made a diving pick in the end zone to keep the Vols out of checkerboard, and Keanu Neal ended Tennessee’s final drive (and the game) with his third INT of the season. The performance of the defense was very refreshing to watch, especially after their debacle two weeks ago at Alabama.

However, the big storyline of the afternoon was the Florida quarterback situation. Jeff Driskel seemingly made zero progress from his horrid game in Tuscaloosa. He went 11 for 23 for just 59 yards and three interceptions against the Vols. There was virtually no hope for the offense until Muschamp finally decided to pull the plug on Driskel. After Jalen Tabor’s strip sack/fumble recovery, Florida was in business at the UT 30 yard line. No better time to put in Harris, who made a few nice plays before Matt Jones punched it in from a couple yards out.

Just a short time later, kicker Austin Hardin drilled the biggest field goal of his career — a 49 yarder from the right hash — to give Florida the lead for good. Honestly, most Gator fans had as much faith in Hardin making that FG as they did in FIVE top-10 teams losing this weekend. Both of those things happened, and both were great to watch.

Will Muschamp said post-game that they will evaluate the quarterback situation this week to see who will start against LSU (7:30pm on SEC Network). The best thing Muschamp said on Saturday? In reference to the 100,000+ Tennessee fans, “It’s great to see all these people out here getting disappointed. I love it.” We loved it too, Coach Boom.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Streak in Danger? – Chomp Chat Episode 6


Tennessee v Florida

Photo by Getty Images/Al Messerschmidt

OTB contributors Lucas Dolengowski, Morgan Moriarty and Alligator Army’s Andy Hutchins break down Florida’s chances of defeating Tennessee for the 10th straight year, and also take a peek at the huge weekend for teams in the SEC West. Send your emails for next week’s program to!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Gator Nation Headquarters in Knoxville


Traveling to Knoxville? Join the brand new Knoxville Gator Club® on Saturday, October 4, 2014 as the Gators take on the Tennessee Volunteers!

Gator Headquarters, will be at the Church Street United Methodist Church parking lot located at 900 Henley Street, just south from the Knoxville Convention Center from 8:00-11:00 am EST.

Enjoy some fellowship in a Gator friendly gathering place less than a mile from Neyland Stadium and meet the new Knoxville Gator Club. Limited food and drinks will be available. You’re best to BYOB (Beer, Bourbon, etc…).

I’ve been to a bunch of away games and ended up wandering around aimlessly. This is meant to be a nice place to spend a little time with more BLUE than Orange that day.

No tickets for the game? No problem. Join the Knoxville Gator Club® for their viewing party at the Blackhorse Pub and Brewery (4429 Kingston Pike Knoxville, TN 37919), in Western Plaza.

If you are arriving early and staying in Knoxville, come join the Gators at Calhoun’s On the River (400 Neyland Dr. Knoxville, TN 37902) on Friday night.

Hope to see you there! Wear Blue! Go Gators!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Meet Gators 2015 QB Commit Sheriron Jones

In Southern California this year, a historic quarterback class is the story of the high school football season. Three of the top four quarterbacks and five of the top 10 in Scout’s 2015 national rankings play in the CIF Southern Section. In total, eight seniors are committed to power conference programs (Alabama, Oregon, USC and UCLA to name a few) and a few more may join them. As Bruce Feldman wrote back in May, the potential for future success on Saturdays and Sundays means we may look back on this as one of the most loaded position classes in one region ever.

As we at FOX Sports West began preparations for coverage of the high school football season, I wanted to focus on these quarterbacks and come up with something special celebrating them. My idea was to do a series of features highlighting the quarterbacks, spending time with them on the field, in the film room and talking to them and their coaches. And now that we are a few features in, I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve done putting together our “Year of the Quarterback” series.

This past Friday, we debuted our piece on Sheriron Jones, a four-star QB out of Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley (CA), the same high school Ronald Powell attended. If you don’t know, Jones is committed to Florida, and assuming he keeps that commitment (maybe a longshot given Will Muschamp’s uncertain future?), he adds to the Gators growing depth at QB and could contend for the starting job as early as 2016. He is a really bright kid, with a great head on his shoulders, great knowledge of the game, excellent instincts and great fundamentals. Here’s our Prep Zone analyst and Scout’s Director of Scouting Greg Biggins’ take on Jones:

Jones is a dual threat QB in that he’s very athletic but is more polished and a better pure passer in the pocket than given credit for. He shows poise in the pocket, is a natural leader and can get the ball down the field. He can scramble for yardage or buy time in the pocket and then make a throw when a play breaks down. He needs to tighten his release just a bit but is overall, solid mechanically and has some definite upside to him.

Check out our piece at the link below. He throws a very pretty ball and I love his take on being an athletic QB that prefers to stay in the pocket. I guarantee this will get you excited for his possible arrival in Gainesville.

Year of the Quarterback Profile: Sheriron Jones

sheriron jones

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bye Week Blues – Chomp Chat Episode 5


Photo courtesy of The Gainesville Sun/Doug Finger

It was a disappointing result for the Orange and Blue on Saturday against Alabama. The offense struggled (to put it mildly) and the defense gave up the most yards ever by Florida team. But the bye week has come at a perfect time, as Will Muschamp and his staff have an extra week to prepare for Tennessee and re-evaluate the state of his program.

The usual Chomp Chat crew of Lucas Dolengowski, Morgan Moriarty, Scott Francis and Andy Hutchins reflect on Florida’s beatdown in Tuscaloosa and discuss the near future of Gator football. Listen to this week’s episode below, and send in your emails (we know you all have PLENTY of opinions) for next week’s program at


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment