As an alumni of the University of Florida, I have incredible memories watching the Florida Gators. In this slideshow I talk about the home stadium of the Gators and the rich history behind it. Please feel free to comment with your favorite Gator memory, or share it with friends!
As a consistent powerhouse football team in college football’s most competitive conference, the Florida Gators have time and time again demonstrated efficiency, excellence, and exceptional dedication. In no part of the prestigious school’s history is this more prevalent than in its development of numerous Heisman winning quarterbacks.
Steve Spurrier, now a tremendously successful coach, exhibited an awareness that was simply unheard of during his time as a player. His precise play calling and 6’2”, 203 lb stature led to a 2,012 yard passing season and 16 touchdowns to land the Gators an 8-2 record in 1966 (see here). He went on to be drafted by the 49’ers after deservedly receiving the Heisman. The first Gator to be awarded this honor, this future coach established the University of Florida’s precedent for superb success. However, Spurrier is only one example of Florida’s deft training and keen eye for talent.
Now hired as Florida’s coach, Spurrier actually discovered and developed UF’s next college superstar and protege, Danny Wuerffel. Red-shirted his first season, Wuerffel took the necessary time to train and refine the skills that would lead to his Heisman victory in 1996. Throwing for an astounding 3,625 yards and 39 touchdowns (for reference), Wuerffel led the Gators to their first national title. By the end of his college career, Wuerffel broke the SEC record for both passing yards and touchdown completions. The only other Florida quarterback to approach these numbers, of course, is none other than Tim Tebow.
Distinguishing himself early, Tim Tebow became the first sophomore in NCAA history to receive college football’s most respected award in 2007. Rushing and passing for 51 touchdowns in addition to throwing for 3,286 yards (as seen here), Tebow established his Florida legacy with vigor. Tebow went on to be drafted by the Broncos and to lead them in a spectacular playoff win over previous Super Bowl champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Known for his palpable energy, incredible physique, and agile running ability, Tim Tebow was one of the best Division I football players to ever play the game. Not soon to be forgotten, Tebow’s likeness was constructed as a statue alongside Heisman peers Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel.
These legendary NCAA players are testament to the University of Florida’s legacy as one of college football’s most admired programs. Thriving year after year for over two decades, the Gators hold a special place in history, as well as a special place in the proud hearts of its alumni.
As the Florida Gators enter the new year, it’s time to look forward to the new recruiting class. With a roller coaster year for the team, Coach Jim McElwain has stated that he is bringing in 25 to 30 new players for the 2016 season. The Gators started out strong when the new head coach first arrived this year. Winning the first six games, they were on par with No 3 Ole Miss. However, things didn’t take a turn for the better for the rest of the year.
The Gators saw the suspension of quarterback Will Grier in the early fall, lost the final three games of their season, and then got crushed by the Michigan Wolverines in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. They lost to the Wolverines 41 to 7; one of the worst performances the team has ever had in their history. Needless to say, the Gators went home with the taste of disappointment in their mouths and their tails between their legs. McElwain seemed to be chipper after the game though.
He stated to reporters during his postgame press conference that; “Maybe that’s my fault about being upbeat. Yeah, I’m disappointed. We’re all disappointed. But you also got to learn from disappointment, and we will.”
As four upperclassmen declared for the NFL Draft, McElwain shifted his focus on the players that will shape the years to come for the Gators. Seeing them as leaders, the coach will depend on them to help guide the newcomers over the year. As a result of this new responsibility for returning team members, the excitement for next season seems to be returning. A crop of fresh and talented newcomers are set to start early in order to be eligible for the fall season. Ten out of the twelve of them have arrived already for spring classes and received a warm welcome from the head coach.
In addition to these new team members, Austin Appleby has announced that he will be transferring to the University of Florida as a graduate student. Currently, Appleby is the head quarterback at Purdue University. The addition of the older player will add an interesting contender for who might the starting QB next year. As I already wrote about in a previous blog post, there are four other contenders for the starting position. However, Austin is the only one that already seems to fit what the head coach looks for in a starter. He is the same height as all of the other QB’s who played under McElwain’s other teams, can take care of the ball well and has the experience of playing under pressure already.
Whatever the outcome of the transfer window, the Gators seem to be taking the steps towards laying down a solid foundation for the team. It’s an exciting time for both fans and teammates as everyone looks forward to a successful 2016 season.
2015 was a year of success and heartbreak for the Florida Gator’s sport teams. For every moment that there were thrills and laughs, there were others filled with tears and regret. One thing rings true though, fans of the Gators will stand behind their teams regardless of what happens. Here are some of the best and heartbreaking moments in Gator sports in the 2015 season.
With a football program that seemed to be crumbling, the arrival of Coach Jim McElwain change everything. McElwain was brought in to help improve the Gator’s record, similar to the way that he improved Colorado State’s record in the three years he coached their team. Hired in 2012, Coach Jim brought the CSU team from a 4-8 record to a 10-2 record by 2014. He broke down the different cliques within the team and refocused their energy on playing as a team rather then playing for themselves. As a result of these coaching techniques, the team improved as the years passed.
Florida saw the potential of what he could bring out of a team and bought out his $7.5 million contract with CSU. At first his arrival generated a tepid reaction out of fans as they saw him as a snooze fest. However, he quickly changed their minds with an impressive 6 – 0 record in the beginning of the season. Seizing the opportunity to make changes within the program, McElwain executed everything that he could to push them forward. He devoted a space in the football complex so NFL scouts could sit in comfort, he scolded players when they needed it and banned swag on the field. Despite the changes though, the suspension of the quarterback and some lackluster performances, the Gators struggle to keep up their winning streak.
The suspension of Will Grier broke the hearts of many Gators fan this year. Will took an over the counter supplement without checking with the staff’s medical team first to see if it was okay to use. As a result of this oversight, the Gators quarterback tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and was suspended for a year. In a press conference soon after the announcement he had been suspended from playing, Grier stated that “I really hope that people can learn from this, learn from my mistake. I’m really sorry to everyone, just really sorry.” Since that time, Grier has decided to transfer from the University of Florida in a move that surprised many.
The football team wasn’t the only team that saw success in the 2015 season though. The Gators baseball team had their return to the College World Series in Omaha this year. The team, which is ranked 4th in their division, celebrated this milestone after they beat the Florida State Seminoles 11 – 4. This is the first time since 2012 that the Gators have made it to the College World Series, and the fourth time under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. Ultimately the Gators were eliminated by Virginia Cavaliers, but the team will continue to strive for greatness in the next baseball season.
Finally, many of the non-revenue sports managed to claim a variety of titles as well. The women’s gymnastic team claimed their third National Title in a row. Freshman Alex McMurtry brought her team to victory after scoring a nearly perfect routine as the final competitor on the bars. They weren’t the only successful women’s team for Florida either. Combined with the various wins from both their men’s and women’s team the University of Florida was award the SEC All-Sports Trophy once again. It’s the 25th time the school has won it.
With such an impact on college sports, the Gators have a lot to live up to in the 2016 school year.
As the new year lingers on the horizon, many Gator fans are asking themselves – who will be the 2016 starting quarterback? As I said in my last blog, Will Grier looked like the next big thing for Gator’s football. This changed when Will, the current starting quarterback, decided to transfer from Florida leaving the spot open to new prospects. However, as Grier has been suspended, he would have missed the first six games of the new year if he had stayed with the Gators anyways. It leaves the open ended question of who is going to take over the starting spot.
With so many other questions lingering, I’ve broken down the current starting options for 2016. There are four different players that could fill the role, each having a variety of strengths and weaknesses.
- Treon Harris – This might be the clear answers for most people. As he will be a junior in 2016, it leaves Harris with plenty of time to grow with the Gators. After Gier was suspended, Treon was appointed to take over the quarter back role as well. However with a poor start to the year, it looks doubtful that he will continue in the new year. He has only completed 49% of his passes, managed five interceptions and seven touchdowns since he took over in October. His specific skill set doesn’t fit in with coach’s Jim McElwain’s style of play either which has caused friction in the Gator’s world.
- Kyle Trask – As a freshman in 2016, Trask will be enrolling early at Florida. This will help him gain experience and boost his development as a college player. It’s his inexperience at a higher level of the game that will probably hold him back from the starting position though. His height and weight make him an interesting prospect for the role, but most people think he won’t be ready for the starting role in his first year.
- Feleipe Franks – Franks is the clear cut winner amongst the Gator fans. With a massive arm and weight behind him, his style is the most similar to a pro-style game. As the third best quarterback in the 2016 class, Franks holds an impressive record for a high school senior. Enrolling early, Franks will be a freshman in 2016 but like Trask, will lack the experience of a higher level of play. Many feel that exposing him to the game from the sideline will be more beneficial to the younger player then throwing him into the game right away. Due to the lack of prospects though, he will having the potential to become a starter right away.
- Luke Del Rio – As the son of Oakland Raider head coach, Jack Del Rio, Luke has been impressing Gator’s coaches over the summer. As a transfer from Oregon State, Luke was not allowed to play in the current NCAA season due to transfer rules. As a walk on to the Alabama football team, Luke later transfer to Oregon before making his final move to Florida. His pro-style makes him a good fit with the coaches training techniques, but also a good fit with the offensive team. However, it doesn’t mean it would be a long lasting thing. If he does get the starting job, it could just be temporary as the Gators groom the younger players.
As the NFL draft draws closer and closer, it’s no surprise that there will be several Florida Gator football team members interested in declaring for it. Set to occur on April 28th until April 30th in Chicago, the draft is an annual event where coaches from all the National Football League teams pick from a pool of eligible college players. It’s the most common and well known source of player recruitments. There have been many Florida Gators in the past who have been selected for the draft including Reggie Nelson, Elliott Smith, Max Starks and Tim Tebow – just to name a few. With such a rich history of providing pro level football players, many team members declare during their undergraduate years.
This year, junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III announced his intentions to declare for the draft after SEC Championship Game this year. The Gators had faced Alabama for the ninth time in this Championship, and lost the game 15-29. His declaration surprised no one.
“This guy’s got a long future ahead of him,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said to Fox Sports. “We’re excited for him.”
Hargreaves has been projected as a possible first-round pick since his sophomore season with the Gators. He has proven his abilities to talent evaluators of the NFL time and time again. Whether he lands in the first round or early in the second one will remain unclear until draft day, but Vernon has the chance to go on and succeed in a sport he loves so much.
Hargreaves isn’t the first Gator to experience this situation though. A year ago, Dante Fowler Jr was Florida’s number one draft prospect. He left school a year early and was the third overall pick in the 2015 draft pick. As a result of his draft pick and a knee injury, Fowler decided to forgo his final season with the Gators.
Many other Gators are coming to the reality though: do they finish school or leave? More than five players from the current rosters have had interested in them and received feedback from the Draft advisory board. These players are Keanu Neal, Marcus Maye, Kevlin Taylor, Demarcus Robinson, Bryan Cox Jr, and Alex McCalister. While there are benefits to leaving, some may stay as it helps to raise their draft potentials and possibly have the best seasons of their academic careers.
January 18th, 2016 is the deadline for underclassmen to apply for the Draft.