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The Rich Get Richer: Walker Cleared To Join Gator Hoops Squad

Screen-Shot-2013-12-14-at-11.48.25-AMNext Tuesday, the Florida Gators will add Chris Walker — a top 10 signee last season — to Billy Donovan’s arsenal.  Academics cost him his first semester at Florida.  He’s been sitting out the second semester due while the NCAA dug into his eligibility status.

Finally, the NCAA has stated that Walker received improper benefits from two agents and three other people.  If the kid can get around like that on the hardwood, Florida just got a whole lot tougher.

The NCAA cleared Walker to play yesterday.  He will have to donate $270 to charity — that’s what he made from the agents — and he’ll also have to serve 80 hours of community service.

He has been practicing with UF while waiting for the NCAA’s verdict.

The Gators are currently tops in the SEC, unbeaten in league play, riding an 11-game win streak this season and a 26-game win streak at home dating back to last year.  At 17-2 they’re a consensus top 10 team and are trying to overcome a poor conference RPI in order to nab a #1 or #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

And now they’re adding a 6-10, blue-chip power forward in Walker.  The rich get richer.

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Gators Give Preferred Walk-On Status To One-Handed Hoopster

Zach Hodskins has spent his basketball career dribbling and shooting with just one arm.  Now the young man will have an opportunity to test his skills at the college level at one of America’s premier programs.

Born without the lower half of his left arm, Hodskins has excelled as a high school and AAU player.  Enough so that Billy Donovan is giving him preferred walk-on status with the Florida Gators.

“At Florida, I’m going to have every opportunity to get on the floor and play,” Hodskins said of his choice to attend UF.  “The situation was different at Kentucky.”  The Lexington  native had discussions about UK with Wildcats coach John Calipari.

If anyone thinks this is some sort of play for headlines or heart strings, check the video clips below.  The kid can play:


One-handed Zach Hodskins is the most amazing basketball player you'll ever see!


There might not be a classier, nicer basketball coach in the SEC than Florida’s Donovan.  So it’s not surprising that he would be the man to promise Hodskins a real chance.  “If I work hard, Coach Donovan told me I’ll have a chance to play.”

Good for both of them.

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Mark Stoops: “A Real Challenge Ahead Of Us This Week”

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops meets the media ahead of this weekend’s matchup with the Florida Gators.


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SEC Headlines 7/23/2013

headlines-tueSEC Football

1. Is Jay-Z targeting Jadeveon Clowney as a client? The South Carolina defensive end posts the story on his Instagram account. ”You kno (sic) we about to turn up. Dream coming true.” Apparently, the Instagram was quickly deleted.

2. Toughest September in the country? In a four-week span,  Georgia will face Clemson, South Carolina and LSU,  Couple of Bulldogs signees are academic casualties.

3. Former Georgia trainer’s email about concussions is released as part of broader document investigation.  He says he wasn’t talking about the Bulldogs.

4. SEC player survey on the new targeting rule.  12 of them favor it – eight oppose it. We call it the most controversial rule change in ages.

5. LSU coach Les Miles likes his offense. “I think you’ll look forward to us throwing the football.”

6. Kevin Sumlin on Johnny Manziel: “The best thing I think that happened was us bringing him to SEC Media Days…”

7. A 10-2 season for Texas A&M? That’s the pick of five of six people at Athlon Sports – including MrSEC’s Josh Ward.

8. The same crew sees everything from 9-3 to 11-1 for the Florida Gators.

9. Tennessee tweaks its uniforms to include a state of Tennessee patch.

10. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema on sophomore quarterback Brandon Allen: “I know this: his last two weeks of spring ball were off the charts.” Analyzing the fighting side of the Arkansas coach.

11. South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson spent the weekend working with quarterback guru George Whitfield, Jr.

12. The night before a big SEC game, it’s easier for players to be on the road vs. home, according to Nick Saban. “Players are sequestered. Things are quieter for them. When we play at home, it’s pretty ravenous, it’s a lot for them.”

13. Phil Steele likes the Crimson Tide’s defense. “Clearly, Alabama has a better defense than last year. ” Thinks Alabama will beat Texas A&M “by double digits.”

14. Pat Dooley: “I think the loser of the Vandy-Ole Miss game is going to have a hard time recovering and won’t end up in a bowl game.”

15. Practice at Ole Miss starts August 3 with coach Hugh Freeze admitting he’s expecting incoming freshmen to contribute immediately.

16. The message to Auburn’s wide receivers:  ”We’ve got to have somebody step up and be the go-to guy.”

17. Auburn fullback Jay Prosch  ”is proof that the demise of the blocking back has been greatly exaggerated.”

18. With injuries to James Franklin, Corbin Berkstresser logged a lot of quarterback time at Missouri last year.  He’s now No. 3 on the depth chart.  ”It was a little reality check.”

19. Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel on wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham: “He’s a lot different player than he was coming straight out of high school.”

20. SEC Media Days last week.  “The wannabes get to share the spotlight this week.”

SEC Basketball

21. Why would conferences like the SEC not cut ties completely to the NCAA?  ”Basketball is the main reason…”

22. Memphis transfer Antonio Barton looks to graduate in August and be eligible immediately at Tennessee.


23. Could former LSU football player Tyrann Mathieu played basketball for the Tigers?

24. Classy move. Kid names his cancer “Michigan”.  Wolverines coach Brady Hoke invites him to Ohio State-Michigan game.

25. Michigan with the most hardcore football fans in the country? Five of top 10 from the SEC.

26. New logo for the Big 12 conference and the league is adding an 8th official.

27. Will Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers tweet anything this time around about Ryan Braun?

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Is Third Time Charm For The Florida Gators?

march-madness-schedule-tv-logoFor the third straight year, the Florida Gators are playing in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament.  The last two years, this is where the Gators’ season ended.  First to Butler, then to Louisville – two losses by a combined seven points.  Today, they are matched up against a  Michigan team with an identical record, 29-7.  Today’s game on CBS is scheduled for 2:10 Eastern Time.

1. Since the NCAA expanded the tournament beyond 16 teams, there has never been a team that’s lost three straight regional finals.

2. Florida is the more experienced team.  Gators start three seniors, Wolverines start three freshmen.

3. The Gators’ senior class is 9-4 in NCAA Tournament games.

4. Florida coach Billy Donovan on a Michigan team that averages 75.4 points per game. “Clearly from an offensive efficiency standpoint, they may be the best in the country.”

5. Top offense against a great defense.  Florida center Patric Young on Michigan guard Trey Burke - who scored 23 points in the second half and overtime against Kansas. “I consider myself one of the top pick-and-roll defenders in the country. We’ll have to be even better because Trey Burke is extraordinary.”

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Wow Morning Headlines 9/5/2012

Taunting billboard aimed at Florida Gators fans comes down in Gainesville
Caught mouthing obscenities on camera, Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease apologizes for “potty mouth”
Injury to Connor Shaw puts South Carolina’s quarterback status in doubt this weekend
Tyrann Mathieu officially enrolls at LSU – football future uncertain
Washington Huskies prepare for LSU with caged, live tiger
Auburn center Reese Dismukes returns from suspension to play against Mississippi State
Georgia mum on status of safety Baccari Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree  - Bulldogs face Mizzou Saturday night
Forbes says Nick Saban is still the most powerful coach in all of sports
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SEC Headlines 8/28/2012

SEC West Football

1. LSU running back Michael Ford could miss a game or the entire season due to academic issues.

2. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger is ready for his close-up: ”I’m definitely excited to finally be the guy.” Tigers depth chart released.

3. Redshirt freshman quarterback Dak Prescott will see playing time Saturday for Mississippi State.  Coach Dan Mullen also sees big things for starting quarterback Tyler Russell.  ”He’s ready to have a great year.”

4. Alabama’s defense only allowed one team’s quarterback to rush for more than 40 yards a year ago - but Michigan’s Denard Robinson presents unique challenges.

5. Nick Saban on the 2012 Crimson Tide: “I can tell you . . . if this team is not successful, it’s not because of the character and attitude of the team.”

6. Arkansas depth charts released.  Not a surprise -Knile Davis will start at running back.  “Knile is still Knile.”

7. Former Razorback quarterback Brandon Mitchell will start at wide receiver.

8. A “hero’s journey” is when a hero thrives after the mentor is gone.  Does that describe this year’s Razorbacks? Exactly how long will John L. Smith stay?

9. A decision on the starting quarterback at Ole Miss could come Wednesday.

10. Auburn’s defense won’t have to face Sammy Watkins, but Clemson has other playmakers. Defensive tackle Gabe Wright: “I feel like we’re better prepared this year.”

11. With Reese Dismukes indefinitely suspended, Tunde Fariyike becomes the center of attention.

SEC East Football

12. Once the season starts, the ever-quotable Steve Spurrier changes.  ”During the regular season, I try not to be very funny about anything.”

13. Spurrier won’t limit Marcus Lattimore’s carries: “Marcus could carry 30 or 40 (times) I think if we needed to.”

14. Spurrier on quarterback Connor Shaw: “ He does what you would like quarterbacks to do on the field, off the field and so forth.”

15. Having spent time coaching football at Duke, Spurrier admires what James Franklin has done. “They have done a super job (at Vanderbilt).”

16. What has new offensive coordinator Brent Pease meant to the Florida Gators? Quarterback Jeff Driskol:  ”Coach [Charlie] Weis was kind of an old-school guy and [Pease] he’s brought in new energy and new life.”

17. What does this year mean for Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray? “He could solidify himself as one of the game’s top quarterbacks and a bona fide pro prospect.”

18. Vols tight end Mychal Rivera - an indispensable player?

19. John Adams on Derek Dooley: “I wouldn’t be shocked if Dooley were named SEC coach of the year at the end of the season.”

20. Georgia’s offensive line is not the question mark it used to be. Bulldogs depth chart analyzed.

21. “Georgia is remaining tight-lipped about possible suspensions for safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree.”

22. Finally official but not a surprise – running back Henry Josey, recovering from a knee injury,  won’t play at Mizzou this year. New depth chart for the Tigers – offensive lineman Jack Meiners out at least a few weeks.

23. Kentucky coach Joker Phillips: “We’re as healthy as we’ve ever been.”

24. The players you’ll hear likely hear the most about this year for Kentucky.

SEC/College News

25. SEC championship game prediction: Georgia 28- LSU 26.

26. Ron Higgins on those anyone but the SEC picks: “The SEC is becoming so hated, it seems, that most of this year’s preseason predictions to pick a national title game matchup are touting USC vs. Florida State or Oklahoma.”

27. SI’s Stewart Mandel predicts LSU-Oregon in the championship game.

28. What to make of four SEC “stars” being booted from their teams?  Pat Dooley:  ”I believe this is another indication of the entitlement issues we are seeing more and more in college football.”

29. Former Auburn running back Michael Dyer is now at Arkansas Baptist – as a student, not a football player.

30. A big reason for the shuffle in college sports?  The Longhorn Network.

31. The Little League team that won the U.S. title will be honored at Thursday night’s South Carolina -Vanderbilt game. 

32. Football Writers Association Poll – Five of the top 11 are in the SEC.

SEC Basketball

33. Georgia coach Mark Fox says his team’s European trip was a valuable experience: “Our freshman, they realized how hard and how fast you have to play.”


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Florida Media, Fans Glad Weis Is Gone… But They May Be Jumping The Gun

It didn’t take long for the knives to come out.  Less than 24 hours after Kansas announced it had hired Charlie Weis, the ex-Gator offensive coordinator is being skewered for his one year of less than stellar work in Gainesville.

Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel writes:


“Charlie Weis leaving the Florida Gators is the best news UF fans have had since Charlie Weis came to the Florida Gators.  Merry Christmas, Gators.”


Meanwhile, Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun was more harsh.  Check out this excerpt from his latest column:


“Surprised?  Sure.  

But Weis using Florida as a springboard will be greeted today with a collective, ‘Whatever.’

There are a lot of you out there wondering if this is good news or bad news.  Florida used Weis and his connection to the NFL as a lure to land recruits.  That’s gone.   On the other hand, Gators fans don’t have to watch the dumpster fire that was Florida’s offense this year.”


The assumption seems to be that Weis was to blame for trying to run a pro-style offense without pro-style personnel.  Fair enough, if that was his call and not Will Muschamp’s.  Also, it appears that Bianchi and Dooley and numerous UF fans on messageboards are certain of the fact that Weis’ offense would be no better in the future.  Apparently what we saw in Year One was a solid enough sample to conclude that Weis would always fail in Gainesville.

But there’s a problem with judging someone on one year’s worth of work and I can use a current rumor to help reveal it.  During the 2010 football season, one of the questions we at were emailed most often came from irate Tennessee fans.  The basic gist was as follows: “Where did Derek Dooley find this clown, Justin Wilcox!”  Toss in an obscenity here and there and you’ll get the general feel.

Fast forward to this week — with Wilcox now a rumored candidate for the head coaching job at Arizona State — and the fan response from the Volunteer State has changed.  Now there’s worry that the man who put together a Top 30 defense with little experience and little depth might leave Knoxville.

Funny how things change.

Todd Grantham of Georgia is another example.  The Bulldogs made strides defensively in 2010, but not enough to prevent a losing season and thousands of calls for the entire coaching staff to be scrapped.  Fast forward a year and Dawg fans seem to be as concerned about  getting Grantham an extension as they are Mark Richt.

In many cases, it’s the second year that provides the bounce for new offensive and defensive systems.  The first year is about learning the terminology and developing a sense of what to do next instinctively, without having to think too much.  In the second year of a system, players tend to do more playing and less thinking.  And that’s a good thing.

So this idea that Florida will be better off on offense in 2012 simply because Weis is gone?  Well, that might just be wishful thinking.

The Sunshine State media is already strongly pushing ex-Gator and current Jacksonville head coach Kerwin Bell for the offensive coordinator position.  Former Muschamp co-workers Al Borges and Major Applewhite are also getting some mentions.

Whoever is hired, he’ll still have to implement his system and his terminology.  Players — many of them young — will be asked to learn new concepts all over again.  From Auburn’s Tony Franklin to Tennessee’s Dave Clawson to Ole Miss’ David Lee to Florida’s Weis, first years can be awfully rough on coordinators.  Second years tend to be better.

Because he skedaddled so quickly — in spite of a lot of talk suggesting he had no interest in doing so — we’ll never know how Weis’ second season might have turned out.  And for that reason, anyone celebrating his departure at this point might be jumping the proverbial gun.  Who says next season will be better just because a new coordinator is coming in?

Florida fans and columnists shouldn’t have to be reminded of that.  It was less than a year ago that they believed anyone would be a big improvement over Steve Addazio.

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Florida Commit Davis Plans To Visit Other Schools

Running back Mike Davis is still committed to Florida despite his decision to visit other schools this fall.

Davis told the Atlanta Journal Constitution he plans to take visits with his teammates at Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga.

“There’s nothing there with me committing to another school,” Davis told the AJC. “It’s just me going to have fun with my teammates while they are having fun. I want to enjoy the time with them because I know this might be my last time with them. Of course I’m committed to the Florida Gators. I’m not trying to go anywhere else.”

Davis said he doesn’t know which schools he will visit this fall. He had considered Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Penn State before he committed to Florida in February.

Davis said he showed his loyalty to Florida last Friday during a 14-3 win over Parkview High School. It came at the end of a 71-yard touchdown run.

“I did the Gator Chomp in the end zone after I scored,” Davis said. “I had everybody doing it in the stands.”

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Florida’s Basketball Team Not Ready For Primetime Yet

This was supposed to be the year the Florida Gators finally became a basketball power again.  Instead, this year is starting to look a lot like the last few seasons in Gainesville.

The Gators were ranked #11 in the preseason coaches poll.  They were favored to win the SEC.  Things have not gone to according to plan.  Yet. 

After a season-opening win over UNC-Wilmington, Billy Donovan’s squad was throttled at home by 5th-ranked Ohio State 93-75 in mid-November.  Since then the Gators have had close calls in wins over Morehead State and Florida State.

Last night, things got worse.  Former Donovan assistant Donnie Jones and his UCF Golden Knights toppled the Gators 55-51 in Orlando.  (CORRECTION — I initially listed this as being played in Gainesville.  My mistake.  Rushed error.  Apologies.)

“There’s no question our offensive chemistry right now is not very good,” Donovan said after the game.  “We have guys right now that are way wrapped up with their offense and how many shots they are getting up.  We’re not very cohesive. … What I think they are doing is they are not playing together, they are not utilizing each other’s individual talents.  The disappointing part is these guys all have played together.”

While these kinds of losses hurt in the polls and in the RPI, it’s a long way to March.  There’s still plenty of time for Donovan’s team to start living up to expectations.  But so far… they have not.

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