‘Twas The Night Before Christmas In Gator Nation

  ‘Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the Swamp

Not a creature was stirring

And nary a chomp.

Orange and blue stockings

Hung on the chimney chute

In hopes that St. Mac 

Would bring some recruits.

There’s Haskins and Eubanks

To pitch and to catch

There’s Tatum and Pridgeon

Stud blockers to fetch.

Nate Craig and Bin Victor

And Tre Nixon’s speed

To upgrade an offense

In desperate need.

Need Jayvaughn Myers to return 

And need Kris Fulton too…

To restock the backfield

That’s called DBU. 

On Shavar , Mac Wilson

Don’t forget Brian Burns.

There’s passers to rush 

And ball carriers to spurn.     

Mac changed Gator fortune

With mirrors and smoke

But now it’s time for an upgrade    

With more talented blokes.

Odell Kickem he got

And a quarterback (or two)

Would three be too greedy?

Or is two one to few?

The Gators lose AMac, 

DRob and KT…

The beast called Jon Bullard

And the GOAT VHIII

So new blood is important 

Recruit daily or die 

Is McElwain’s motto 

Great words to live by

And as you lay down  

On this warm winter’s night

With visions of five star 

Recruits in our sight

Just remember one thing 

As the class comes together

Gator Nation we are 

In all kinds of weather

And from the ends of the earth

To the thrill of the Swamp

Merry Christmas to all 

And to all a good chomp.

    

            

    

    

        

 

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Gone Grier? We Hardly Knew Ye… What’s Next?

  
Rumors have been floating around Florida Gator message boards for over a month now concerning suspended quarterback Will Grier’s future in Gainesville. 

Those rumors only escalated when head coach Jim McElwain stated he would meet with Grier last Friday to discuss that future.   

While coach Mac downplayed the meeting as merely getting together to go over the offseason program, nervous fans felt there might be more to that story than what they were being told.

Today those message board rumors, barroom fodder, and seemingly every Gator fans worst nightmare has been confirmed by Scout.com’s Bob Redmon: Grier has requested a transfer.

Shortly after the story broke on Scout and Twitter, it was further confirmed by Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times.

And shortly after that the Gators issued a statement from Coach Mac as reported by Nick De La Torre of Gatorcountry.com.

“Will came to me about exploring his options to transfer. We will support him and help him in anyway we can. This has been very difficult on him and obviously he is looking for a fresh start. We will always be there for him as will all Gators.”

The redshirt freshman and former Parade national player of the year had shown much promise through the first six games of this season ( 106-161, 65.8%, 1204 yards, 10 td’s, 3 int’s) before being suspended by the NCAA for a full calendar year for use of performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). 

The Grier family hired a top notch attorney firm to handle an appeal hoping to shorten the length of the suspension which keeps him sidelined until game 7 of next season. 

That appeal was not successful and in the aftermath the rumors began to swirl that he might not return to Gainesville.

Now that we know that Grier does in fact intend to transfer from UF Gator fans are left with three main questions: why transfer, what does this mean for Grier, and what does it mean for the Gators?

Why transfer?

There have been all kinds of rumors swirling about from hints of substance abuse problems and a rehab stay to a rift between staff and the Grier family due to the staff feeling misled and the family feeling unsupported by the school.

While I can neither confirm or deny the substance abuse rumors, I do believe there may be some smoke there.

On the supposed rift, I believe there is even more smoke. 

Will’s dad Chad Grier is a high school football coach and former college quarterback who has put things out there on social media which were less than flattering to UF staff. 

There has been an undercurrent of rumors that the Grier camp has had issues with this staff since before the season in how they handled the QB competition, issues which became magnified in the wake of this suspension.

Rayford Gibson, a contributor to @OurTwoBits which is a well known website catering to Gator athletics, summed it up.

As such, the decision could very well be mutual.

Rivals national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell stated as much.

Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun reiterated the feeling that this was a mutual decision.

Personally I believe he’s simply looking for a new start. Maybe he feels like the suspension will hang over him throughout his career and moving on is best for himself and the team.

One former Gator and SEC network analyst thinks as much.

Regardless, what does the future hold for Grier?

The six game suspension must be served regardless of where he chooses to go. 

If he transfers to another FBS program he will sit one year due to NCAA transfer rules. He would then sit another six games as the suspension can’t be served concurrent with the transfer season.

If he transfers to a JUCO he would be able to play next season rather than sit out but he would still be required to serve the six game suspension as soon as he rejoins an NCAA school. 

If he transfers to an FCS school he would be in the same shoes as he is at Florida. He would not have to sit out the season but he would have to sit for the first six games.

It will be interesting to see which route he takes.

What does the Grier transfer mean for the Gators?

Not nearly as much as many fans think.

With Grier having to sit out the first half of the season, the Gators would have to get one of four players ready to play: Treon Harris, who started in Grier’s absence this season but is the least likely at this point, transfer Luke Del Rio who sat out this season due to transfer rules, or one of the two true freshmen Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask. 

Having Grier back midseason would not have helped much as he was likely to get little more than scout team reps in practice as they would need to get the young guys every rep possible, meaning it’s likely he would be little more than a backup the rest of the season.

In Del Rio, the staff has a guy that has some maturity and is more physically gifted than Harris and is the odds on favorite at this point to be the opening day starter.

In Franks, the staff has their quarterback of the future. 

Forget about the staff’s last minute pursuit of Jacob Eason, that fell into their lap and you pursue a recruit like that when the opportunity presents itself.

Make no mistake, Franks is the guy Mac and Nuss want to run their offense.

He has the physical size and skills needed to operate in the pocket. Franks is upwards of 6-6 and 220 with a rocket arm. 

He reportedly threw the ball 80 yards in an informal competition between Elite 11 quarterbacks at the Opening farther than any of the quarterbacks in attendance.

Additionally, Franks is raw. He’s had little in the way of direct quarterback tutoring unlike many of his counterparts at the Elite 11 competition. 

He’s almost a blank slate so to speak. 

He’s also a good learner. If you watched his junior film and his senior film you see a big jump in accuracy, touch, and delivery. You can tell he soaked up the tutoring he received at the opening and put it in use his senior season.

While raw, he’s much further along now than he was his junior year and can be expected to put up a good fight for the opening day starting spot, especially with him coming in as an early enrollee able to go through spring practice.

So fans can come down from the ledge.

Grier will certainly be missed, but his transfer could actually be good for the program long term.

Expectedly, in the wake of the news of Grier’s transfer, Twitter exploded.

Perhaps even more interesting has been the response from Gator commits to the news. Several have taken to Twitter to push Maryland QB commit Dwayne Haskins, who has flirted with the Gators  throughout this recruiting cycle, to take another look at UF.

Gator CB commit Chauncey Gardner to Haskins.

Gator WR commit Dre Massey

Gator RB commit Mark Thompson

Stay tuned.

Florida Gators Pick Up Another Commitment

  
The Florida Gators continue to reap the benefits of their hard work on the recruiting trail.

Four years ago the Gators stole a gem out of the Midwest when linebacker Antonio Morrison gave them a verbal pledge. 

Today they likely picked up another, his replacement, when David Reese (Farmington, MI) gave his verbal pledge to the Gators.

“I’m going to be committing to the University of Florida,” Reese said in an announcement ceremony at his high school broadcast by Bleacher Report. 

“Go Gators!”

Like Morrison, Reese is considered a high 3 star recruit by most recruiting services but has college ready size (6-1, 235) and is a big hitter. 

He is an instinctive player with a good understanding of the game to go along with his impressive physical skills. 

“Physical kid who has been consistently productive throughout his high school career. Likes contact, plays physically and takes on blocks with good leverage and uses his hands to shed. Understands timing and how to shoot gaps. Good on the blitz. Has improved speed and agility, but can continue to work in those areas. Has improved greatly in pass coverage as well. – Allen Trieu Scout.com”

He chose the Gators over Nebraska, Texas, and TCU as well as the home state Michigan Wolverines to whom he was previously committed but backed off because they could not fit him in as an early enrollee.

Why Gators?

“My relationship with coach Shannon,” Reese said. “He’s a great guy, he coached many guys before me, even at Miami. He’s been a great mentor.”

 The strong defensive tradition at Florida factored in as well.

“Best defense in the nation right now. Even when they lost close games the defense still played lights out. It’s a great time at the Swamp.”

With the impending loss of Morrison further depleting the Gators poor depth at the position, Reese will be expected to come in and contribute immediately.

An early enrollee, the Gators 12th this cycle, he will be able to participate in spring practice and get an early jump on the Gators strength and conditioning program.

Reese is the Gators 25th commitment for this cycle in a class that should push upwards of 30. 

After announcing his commitment Reese had one message for eager Gator fans,

“Chomp, chomp!”

http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1528769/highlights/280722399/v2

Watch his commitment ceremony here

Florida Gators, Coach Mac Get Their Kicker

  

“We’ll get a kicker. That’s our responsibility and we’ll get one. And we’ll get a good one.”

Florida head coach Jim McElwain 

To say the Florida Gators kicking game was an adventure this season would be an understatement.  

Hopefully, that won’t be a problem for the Gators moving forward after the commitment Tuesday evening by the nation’s top ranked kicker Eddie Piniero.

The Gators beat out Alabama the team he had been committed to for months for the talented kicker from Miami. 

He became a social media superstar with vines showing him kicking 70+ yard field goals.

The Gators were a close second when he originally committed to Alabama but after it became apparent the Gators were in dire need of a kicker, coach Mac turned up the heat on Piniero.

The tide appeared to turn when they got him on campus for an official visit for the FSU game.

After watching Austin Hardin miss a couple chip shot field goals, the need for a good kicker was apparent. Coach Mac then spent the following day wooing Piniero.

The Tide put up a fight getting him on campus this past weekend for an official visit to Tuscaloosa.

It wasn’t enough, however, as Piniero decommitted Monday evening before announcing for the Gators on Tuesday.

The excitement leading up to his announcement had Twitter on fire. It also led to some interesting nicknames including “Latin Jesus”, a nod to his Cuban ancestry, “Odell Kickem”, a knock-off of Odell Beckham one of the best receivers in the NFL, and this,

All jokes aside, as a mid year JUCO transfer he’ll enroll in January and participate in spring practice.

Perhaps the best part for Gator Nation is Piniero has four years of eligibility as he went to JUCO on a soccer scholarship and didn’t participate in football meaning his eligibility clock has yet to start. 

Fisher Mac: Florida Gators Hope To Reel In Two Big Fish On Tuesday

  
On a day that very well could go down as one of the biggest in Florida football recruiting history, the Gators have a shot at landing the nation’s top quarterback AND top kicker on Tuesday.

Eddie Piniero, whose vines are plastered all over social media showing him kicking 70+ yard field goals off a tee, had been committed to Alabama for a while. 

Despite this, head coach Jim McElwain continued to recruit him as the Gators kicking game woes continued to mount. 

After a tough 27-2 loss to rival Florida State, McElwain made finding a kicker a top priority.

“We’ll get a kicker,” McElwain announced. “That’s our responsibility and we’ll get one. And we’ll get a good one.”

That weekend the Gators hosted one of the largest recruiting contingents in their history which included Piniero who got an up-close look at the Gators kicking issues.

On Sunday, Piniero tweeted a picture of him and coach Mac riding around Gainesville.

He appeared to really enjoy his official visit mixing it up with students and prospective recruits.

McElwain continued to press with an in-home visit last week.

However, despite all the love and attention from Gator Nation, Piniero remained committed to Alabama. 

He took his final visit this past weekend, the last before the recruiting dead period begins, to Tuscaloosa to visit the Crimson Tide.

As expected, he appeared to enjoy this visit as well.

He came out of that visit apparently torn between the school he had been committed to for some time and the home state school that treats him like a rock star.

He told SEC Country’s Zach Abolverdi,

“Not doing interviews… It’s a stressful time.” 

By Monday evening, however, he decided to decommit from the Crimson Tide.

With him choosing between the Tide and the Gators, it’s unlikely he’ll flip back to Alabama, but in recruiting anything and everything is possible.

With the JUCO signing period beginning on Wednesday, it’s likely Piniero makes his decision and announcement on Tuesday, but he could take longer.

Piniero is a mid-year JUCO graduate academic-wise so he’ll enroll in January, but he did not play football and as such he will have his full four years still to play.

Another top rated player down to the Gators and a close rival is quarterback Jacob Eason from Lake Stevens (WA). 

Eason has been committed to the Georgia Bulldogs since July of 2014. He remained committed despite the loss of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo who took over at Colorado State after McElwain left for Florida.

However, as rumors of head coach Mark Richt being on the hot seat began to spread, Florida reached out to him and Eason responded.

Gators offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who had built a relationship with Eason while coaching at Michigan, began following him on Twitter and Eason obliged him through DM’s. 

The contact was blown over as merely Florida grasping at straws seeking answers to their quarterbacking woes after Will Grier was suspended for a calendar year.

And as the season wore on it appeared that Richt might survive the talk of his firing.

It wasn’t, and he didn’t.

Richt was fired shortly after the season ended and a shocked Eason immediately made contact with Florida. 

He took a hastily arranged official visit during the week of the SEC championship game.

By all accounts it was a good visit where he was able to witness the team during game preparation and get a good feel for what it’s like as a player.

With Georgia having a new head coach Eason hadn’t yet met and no offensive coordinator, it appeared the Gators had gained the upper hand in his recruitment.

Many were calling coach Mac the quarterback whisperer and considering coach Nuss’s tight relationship with Jacob and his family it appeared to be a no-brainer that Eason would flip.

He didn’t, however, and remains committed to Georgia to this day.

After getting in-home visits from Mac and Nuss as well as Kirby Smart, Eason took his official visit to Georgia this past weekend where he got to meet new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney who came to Athens after one year with Pitt.

As has been the case throughout, the family has been somewhat tight lipped about where he might be leaning but said they would meet as a family and come to a decision.

On Monday evening Eason tweeted that he would be announcing his final choice on Tuesday.

Eason is an early entry candidate as a mid-year graduate and will enroll at the school of his choice in January.

Stay tuned!

Musical Commitments: Florida Gators Add One, Lose One

  
On the last day before the recruiting dead period begins, the Florida Gators received good news and bad news.

The good news? 

Defensive end Jordan Smith (6-5.5 220) gave his verbal pledge to the Gators. 

The Lithionia (GA) native, who previously was committed to South Carolina, took an official visit to Florida this weekend and decided to pull the trigger. 

He’s a rangy pass rusher with long arms and a great frame to add bulk. Built in a similar mold to Alex McCalister, the staff is hoping to get similar product in from him. 

The bad news?

Wide receiver Isaiah Johnson decommitted via Twitter on Sunday as well. 

 https://twitter.com/zaylive21/status/676117202303631360

It had long been rumored that he might not make it in this class and those rumors were heightened after taking a trip out to Washington State.

Johnson (6-3 212) is a big play making receiver that was one of the more underrated commits in this class. 

The Gators were the third team he had been committed to after Louisville and Miami.

He’s still expected to be an early enrollee but where he eventually lands is anybody’s guess.

The Florida Gators 2016 recruiting class stands at 25 commitments with several big fish left on their board and its the 7th ranked class nationally according to 247sports. 

This class could eventually push to 30+ by signing day.