Steve Spurrier named ambassador and consultant for Florida athletics

FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2000, file photo, Florida head coach Steve Spurrier is carried off the field after the Gators downed Auburn 28-6 in the SEC Championship at the Georgia Done in Atlanta. Players from left are  by Mike Pearson (71), Kenyatta Walker (78) and Gerard Warren (61).  Spurrier already has a statue outside of the football stadium and the field named after him. Next he'll serve as ambassador and consultant for the school's entire athletic department. Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley made the announcement on Friday, July 29, 2016. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
In this Dec. 2, 2000, file photo, Florida head coach Steve Spurrier is carried off the field after the Gators downed Auburn 28-6 in the SEC Championship at the Georgia Done in Atlanta. Players from left are by Mike Pearson (71), Kenyatta Walker (78) and Gerard Warren (61). Spurrier already has a statue outside of the football stadium and the field named after him. Next he’ll serve as ambassador and consultant for the school’s entire athletic department. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Former Florida quarterback and head coach Steve Spurrier is coming home.

The Head Ball Coach has been named Ambassador and Consultant for the Florida Gators Athletic Department, Gators athletics director Jeremy Foley announced on Friday.

“It’s a great day for the Gator Nation to be able to welcome Coach Spurrier back home,” Foley said, according to a release from the university. “He has served as a tremendous ambassador to the University and the athletic department for 50-plus years and it’s only fitting that at this point in his career, he is back in Gainesville. Being a Gator has always meant so much to Coach Spurrier, but it means just as much to us have him come home.”

Spurrier, who won the 1996 national championship has the Gators head coach and 1966 Heisman Trophy as the Florida quarterback, released the following statement in the Gators release on Friday:

“My wife, Jerri, and I are extremely thrilled to be returning home to our alma mater, and to Gainesville where we met on campus over 50 years ago,” Spurrier said. “I’m very appreciative to Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, Head Coach Jim McElwain and Phil Pharr of Gator Boosters for their role in making this happen.

“I also want to say thanks to the University of South Carolina for allowing me to be their coach from 2005 to 2015. Also a special thanks to all of the Gamecock players, coaches and fans that allowed our teams to set so many school records. I will now pull for South Carolina to win every game but one, just as I did when I pulled for Florida to win every game but one as the Gamecock coach. I will try my best to promote and assist in any way I can to help the Gators to continue to be one of the very best athletic programs in America. I admire what Coach McElwain and his staff accomplished last year. I’m anxious to watch the Gator football team as they strive to be the best in the SEC and the nation in the years ahead.”

After Spurrier spent the last decade involved with South Carolina athletics, second-year Gators football coach Jim McElwain welcomed the Hall of Famer back into the Gators football family, indicating that he’s ready to use the 71 year old’s experience to his advantage.

“I look forward to visiting with him on a lot of occasions and picking his brain on a number of issues,” McElwain said. “It’s a credit to Jeremy to get him back home where he belongs. More than anything I look forward to actually talking to him and being around him rather than just saying hello to his statue on my way to work every day.”

Spurrier led Florida to six SEC championships and was named the conference’s coach of the year five times while with the Gators. He retired midway through the 2015 season, finishing his career with a record of 228-89-2 as a collegiate head coach.

In early June, the Gators announced that Florida Field was to be renamed Steve-Spurrier-Florida Field in his honor, with the unveiling of his namesake set for the season opener against UMass on Sept. 3.

QB Jake Allen thriving as bond, chemistry with Gators coaches grows

Jake Allen, a 4-star quarterback from Fort Lauderdale. (Special to the AJC)
Jake Allen, a 4-star quarterback from Fort Lauderdale. (Special to the AJC)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s important for a quarterback and his position coach to be on the same page.

Florida commit Jake Allen has developed that kind of rapport with Gators offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier over the past year. Allen, who pledged to UF last summer, worked with Nussmeier and Florida coach Jim McElwain at this past weekend’s Friday Night Lights event.

“The more time I have around Coach Nuss and Coach Mac, the better I get,” said Allen, a product of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“I was just throwing for them and having a good time. It was fun.”

The chemistry between Allen and Nussmeier is evident when they work together, and that relationship exists off the field, as well.

“He’s an awesome guy,” Allen said. “I love hanging around him. I’m comfortable. I don’t have to put on a different persona. I can just be myself.

“He can relate to the quarterback. He used to play it and he knows the position. It’s good to have a coach like that.”

Nussmeier photobombed Allen at the conclusion of Friday Night Lights, and their fun began as soon as the camp started.

“Nuss was talking some trash to me,” Allen said. “We were doing the first drill when you have to throw it through the net, and he told me I couldn’t do it. He goes, ‘Jake, don’t throw it to the ground.’ It was funny. But of course I made it.”

The nation’s No. 10 pro-style quarterback also recruited some offensive skill players during his trip, such as 4-star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and 4-star running back Adarius Lemons, who committed to Florida on Monday. Allen threw a long touchdown pass to Jeudy after he shook a cornerback to the ground on a juke move that went viral.

“You have to find little niches in their recruitment,” Allen said when asked how he approaches other prospects. “Everyone has something that they want to hear and they want to have in a college. So you have to find that out and keep stressing it.

“It’s not easy going to random guys and talking to them. But I like doing that and I enjoy it.”

Unless otherwise indicated, ratings and rankings come from the 247Sports Composite. 

Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Florida football hype video will get you ready for training camp

The Florida Gators just released a new hype video. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
The Florida Gators just released a new hype video. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

It has been a long offseason, but Florida will have its fans ready to win the day.

The Florida football program just released a new hype video called “Brotherhood,” which features players going through offseason strength drills in preparation for the upcoming season.

But more important than just lifting weights, the video features Florida teammates supporting each other and hyping the others up to reach their goals.

“A house divided cannot withstand the winds of the process,” the narrator says in the background. “As a family, we embrace the process, which only brings us closer.”

If this level of teamwork continues on the field, Florida is in for a great season.

Tim Tebow won’t say he’s retired, might be coach or politician in time

Former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is seen on the sidelines prior to the start of the game during the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is seen on the sidelines prior to the start of the game during the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow refused to say he considers himself retired from football in an interview with the Associated Press, but he did talk about a possible future in coaching or politics.

Tebow was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2010 and traded to the New York Jets in 2012 after leading Denver to a playoff victory the previous season. He hasn’t played in the NFL since 2012, aside from preseason stints with New England in 2013 and Philadelphia in 2015. He will be 29 when the NFL season begins in September.

“I love what coaching is,” Tebow told Ralph Russo from the AP. “I love the fact that coaching is teaching and it’s helping and it’s mentoring and it’s loving and it’s being a father figure. That is something that has always intrigued me.”

Tebow is scheduled to work as analyst for the SEC Network again this season and was rumored to be a speaker at the Republican National Convention last week, but that never materialized. He did not rule out a future in politics in the interview with AP.

“My goal has always been able to make the biggest impact that I possible could in people’s lives,” Tebow told the AP. “If I thought this is the right avenue, this would work, then I would be totally up for going down that path. Do I feel like that’s right now? No, not necessarily,” he said. “Could it happen in the future? Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t right that off.”

Florida has lost last six starting QBs to transfers

Quarterback Treon Harris #3 of the Florida Gators warms up prior to the start of the game against the New Mexico State Aggies at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Quarterback Treon Harris #3 of the Florida Gators warms up prior to the start of the game against the New Mexico State Aggies at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Florida QB Treon Harris is transferring, the program confirmed Monday, carrying on an odd trend for the Gators.

As Sports Insights points out, Florida has lost six former starting quarterbacks in a row to transfers: Harris, Will Grier, Skyler Morninwheg, Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy and Jacoby Brissett.

Gator head coach Jim McElwain announced last week that Harris would be moving to receiver, so Florida would have started this season with a new starting quarterback anyway.

However, this continues a bizarre trend for Florida. The last Florida starting quarterback to finish his college career with the Gators was John Brantley in 2011. Brantley was also the last quarterback to start every game in a season for Florida. He did so in 2010, Urban Meyer’s final season as Florida’s head coach.

Every quarterback to start a game for Florida since Brantley has moved on to play elsewhere.

Grier was suspended for a year by the NCAA in October 2015 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. He transferred to West Virginia in the spring. The Mountaineers hope that he will be eligible to play in 2017.

In January 2015, Driskel elected to leave Florida for Louisiana Tech to play his final collegiate season as a graduate transfer. The Bulldogs went 9-4 last season with Driskel directing their offense. In May 2015, Morninwegh transferred to Columbia as the Gators flirted with Notre Dame graduate transfer Everett Golson.

Murphy transferred to Boston College in January 2014. He started for the Eagles as a graduate transfer, helping to lead them to a 7-6 record.

Brissett was the one who started the trend, transferring to NC State in January 2013. He started the last two seasons for the Wolfpack, going 15-11 as a starter.

The Gators have yet to pick their starter for 2016. Luke Del Rio is a transfer from Oregon State who sat out last season due to transfer rules. Austin Appleby is a graduate transfer from Purdue. Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask are highly regarded freshmen. Whomever McElwain picks, he will hope that player brings some stability to the position.

Former Florida starting QB Treon Harris to transfer

Treon Harris #3 of the Florida Gators scrambles for yardage during the game against the East Carolina Pirates at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Treon Harris #3 of the Florida Gators scrambles for yardage during the game against the East Carolina Pirates at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Former Florida starting QB Treon Harris will transfer.

The decision comes less than a week after Florida coach Jim McElwain confirmed that Harris would be playing wide receiver for the Gators.

Harris appeared in 12 games at quarterback during his sophomore season in 2015. He threw for 1,676 yards and nine touchdowns, but completed just 119-of-235 pass attempts.

The former four-star prospect’s signature moment as a Gator likely will be guiding Florida’s comeback win against Tennessee in Neyland Stadium in 2014.

Harris’ new destination is not immediately known. He would be eligible to play immediately at the FCS level, but likely would have to sit out the 2016 season if he decides to transfer to a FBS school.

Could Florida be one of college football’s biggest sleepers?

Florida Gators players celebrate after the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. By winning this game, the Gators clinch the SEC East and will head to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta for this first time since 2009. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Florida Gators players celebrate after the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

The talk throughout the SEC East this offseason has been a sort of coronation of Tennessee.

The Volunteers are the team of destiny to get over the top finally and reach the SEC Championship Game, break the streak against their hated rivals and become players on the national championship picture. It all seems pre-ordained.

Florida has been a bit salty about it. The Gators after all have won 12 straight games against the Volunteers. They know who runs the conference.

And the Gators are extremely talented. They are the defending SEC East champions. With plenty of questions, sure, but also the expectations of champions. And no one is talking about them.

Beware the Gators.

In his weekly list for college football this offseason, Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports named Florida one of his sleeper teams in college football. And they are not only a team capable of winning the SEC East, but also winning the conference outright.

“Well, even if we don’t know who Florida’s QB will be in 2016 — my money is on Luke Del Rio — Jim McElwain has had plenty of success with his QBs in his coaching career,” Fornelli writes. “Then there’s Florida defense, which is really good. It was good last season until the end of the year when it just gave out after having to support a team with absolutely no offense. Seriously, the loss of Will Grier completely derailed Florida’s season, even if it wasn’t immediately obvious.”

The Gators offense was derailed when Grier went out. Florida trounced Ole Miss in Gainesville before the Grier suspension. This was a team threatening the top of the SEC. And obviously had enough to win the SEC East even after that loss.

Indeed, no one is talking about Florida right now. The conference has pretty much been handed to Tennessee by overwhelming margins.

That narrative will change if Florida tops Tennessee on Sept. 24 in Knoxville. Then no one will be sleeping on the Gators anymore.

Jim McElwain has Miami WR Mark Pope dreaming about Florida

Mark Pope, a 4-star wide receiver from Southridge High School in Miami. (Zach Abolverdi/AJC)
Mark Pope, a 4-star wide receiver from Southridge High School in Miami. (Zach Abolverdi/AJC)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Jim McElwain delivered quite a recruiting pitch to Mark Pope at Friday Night Lights.

The 2018 receiver from Miami was a standout performer during the camp’s one-on-one drills, and afterward he met with McElwain in his office.

“He told me to dream about the Gators,” Pope said. “He goes, ‘When you’re about to go to sleep, close your eyes and picture yourself in an orange and blue jersey.’ I just kept smiling.

“Then he told me to walk outside the stadium, stand in front of it and picture how many touchdowns I’m going to score in The Swamp. I’m going to definitely dream about it.”

Pope scored a handful touchdowns Friday in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, and one of those catches was the highlight of his night.

“The bomb I caught,” Pope said smiling. “The coaches went crazy when I caught it, especially the receivers coach.”

That would be Kerry Dixon II, Pope’s primary recruiter. The two have developed a close relationship since he received an offer from the Gators on Feb. 28.

“He’s just a cool guy,” Pope said of Dixon. “He’s honest. I just see something different about him. I’m comfortable around him and the head coach.”

The 6-foot, 165-pound prospect planned to choose this summer between Alabama and Florida, but he’s holding off after visiting UF. The Crimson Tide were expected to land his commitment.

“I wanted to (decide), but I thought about it and I’m just going to open up my recruiting process,” said Pope, who also lists Miami as a top school. “I want to see what everybody else has to offer.”

Pope visited Florida twice this summer and will be back soon with his teammate, Gators tight end commit Kemore Gamble.

“I really want to come for a game,” Pope said. “Kemore Gamble will go to some this season, so I’m going to come up with him.”

Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Recruiting: Gators land Florida’s No. 1 RB, Adarius Lemons

Adarius Lemons, a 4-star running back from Clearwater, Fla. (Zach Abolverdi/AJC)
Adarius Lemons, a 4-star running back from Clearwater, Fla. (Zach Abolverdi/AJC)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s recruiting momentum continued Sunday with another verbal commitment for the Gators.

Adarius Lemons, a 4-star running back from Clearwater, Fla., flipped from North Carolina to UF. He attended Friday Night Lights and told SEC Country the Gators were pushing for his No. 1 spot.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound prospect is ranked the No. 1 running back in the state of Florida, according to the 247Sports Composite.

Florida now has 12 members in its 2017 class following the additions of Lemons and linebacker James Houston this weekend.

Gators commits and fans got #Lemons2TheSwamp trending on Twitter Sunday, and the UF coaching staff celebrated the news with lemon tweets.

Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Florida linebacker Cristian Garcia credited with stopping sexual assault

A Florida football player is a local hero after stopping a sexual assault in Gainesville. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
A Florida football player is a local hero after stopping a sexual assault in Gainesville. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

There has been a lot of consternation and focus on the dark side of college athletics this offseason. Especially when it comes to culture surrounding sexual assault on college campuses.

These are serious issues that have come to light and entered the public discussion in a serious way. They are hard conversation we have to have.

But there is good. As men come to recognize the culture on their campuses and learn how to step up and protect those who are being victimized. It is this kind of story that gives hope that the nasty headlines are coming to a close and things are getting better.

The Gainesville Police Department commended Florida walk-on linebacker Cristian Garcia and another man for helping stop a sexual assault at a bar in Gainesville.

“I was taking out the garbage, and I saw the man pressing the woman up against the Dumpster,” Garcia told the Gainesville Sun. “At first the guy said she was his girlfriend, but about five seconds later I realized the girl was unconscious. I turned around and pulled the guy by the shoulder and said ‘get off.’ That pretty much ended the situation then. He was intoxicated and attempted to throw some punches, but he slipped and busted his face on the wall.”

Police said Garcia and another person witnessed a man sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman against a dumpster behind the bar early Thursday morning. They stepped in and intervened. Police arrested the man later and Garcia identified the man in a photo lineup.