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Gator Report

Antonya English

Gators' softball success leads to Florida's growing new facilities needs

The Florida softball team is about to partitipcate in its seventh Women's College World Series in the past eight years, and that unprecedented success has led to a need for upgraded facliities.

Gators AD Jeremy Foley said Wednesday that upgrades for the softball facility are part of $100 million worth of projects under consideration at UF.

"Rght now we have a really good softball team – No. 1 in the country, going to Oklahoma City seven of the last eight years," Foley said. "I don’t know if you’ve been to their facility lately, it’s too small. We got people hanging from trees, press box too small, we got national coverage all over the place, dugouts are too small. It’s time to do something with that one. That’s on the drawing board too."

Foley balked at the national perception that his athletic administration isn't concerned about upgrading facilities and keeping up with other SEC programs. …

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Gators' Lauren Haeger named National Player of the Year

Florida pitcher Lauren Haeger has been named the 2015 USA Softball National Player of the Year, becoming Florida's first player to ever receive the honor in Division I women's softball.

Haeger won the award from a group of three finalists that also included Oregon’s Cheridan Hawkins and Michigan’s Sierra Romero.

“I was shocked, honestly,” Haeger said. “I didn’t expect it at all. I think it could’ve gone to any one of us, and it would’ve been a great reward for anybody. It was a really cool feeling – my heart was beating so fast before [the presenter] said the name. I was looking at Bailey [Castro] like ‘feel my pulse, my heart’s pounding!’ It’s so cool and such a relief. I still couldn’t breathe because it was crazy to think of how big of an award that is. It blows my mind.”

The 2015 SEC Pitcher of the Year, Haeger has played in more games (255) than any other active Division I softball player and is the first player ever to hit 60+ home runs and win 60+ games in a career. …

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Nick Saban confident in Jim McElwain's ability to lead Gators

Alabama's Nick Saban discusses his team's spring practice at a March news conference in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

[Associated Press]

Alabama's Nick Saban discusses his team's spring practice at a March news conference in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

During his time as Alabama offensive coordinator from 2008-11, Jim McElwain more than proved his worth for the Crimson Tide.

That's one of the reasons Alabama coach Nick Saban believes Florida first-year coach McElwain will turn out to be a very good coach for the Gators.

“Jim did a fantastic job for us," Saban said. "First of all he’s a real quality person. Players really respect him and like him. He’s a really good teacher. He’s innovative in terms of things that he does that create problems. And I think he really has the best interest of the player in mind, and the game. But he did a fabulous job for us. He did a great job of managing the players that we had and putting them in positions to give them a chance to win. And we won a couple of championships with him. He made a great contribution to those.”

Saban said he's hopeful McElwain learned some things from the Alabama staff during his tenure, but he's certain he learned some thhings from McElwain. …

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OL Trip Thurman, other injured Gators making progess toward returning

Florida OL Trip Thurman is making progress toward a posisble return in the fall.

Thurman, who started 10 games at guard this past season, was expected to be the Gators' starter at center this year, but a chronic shoulder injury kept him out of spring practice and has put his future in question.

Florida coach Jim McElwain said prior to spring practice that the medical staff hoped that giving Thurman eight months off might help facilitate healing and allow him to play.

Thurman had offseason surgery in 2013 on the same shoulder.

McElwwain said at the SEC spring meetings Tuesday that Thurman is making progress.

“He’s back lifting, doing all that stuff," he said. "Greatly needed for us at that standpoint. Really felt that the spring off on his shoulders . . . he’s kind of a one-hit away guy. Taking what we can off has allowed him to get it strengthened and we’ll do the same thing this summer.”

McElwain said LB Antonio Morrison (knee) and DL Bryan Cox  (shoulder) are also progressing. …

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Keeping recruits, team intact key for Gators coach Michael White

At his press conference where he was announced as the new Florida head men's basketball coach, Michael White said he had reached out to all of Florida's four incoming freshman, but had no intention of begging them to stay committed to the Gators.

But on Tuesday prior to the start of the SEC spring meetings, White acknowledged that keeping three of the Gators' four incoming recruits - and all but one of the current players - is huge for the team.

KeVaughn Allen, forward Kevarrius Hayes, and Keith Stone will all join the Gators this fall.

“We did our best to expediate and catch up with a relationship-building process with all the guys on the current roster and the four signees," White said. "Unfortunately, we lost one signee, but we went 3-for-4 which we feel pretty good about. We have three former Billy Donovan signees that they’re excited to continue their trek to the University of Florida, they’re excited to be Gators and we’re excited to have them. …

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Ex-Armwood QB Josh Grady transferring to Florida

Former Armwood QB Josh Grady, who recently graduated from Vanderbilt after getting limited action in four seasons with the Commodores, confirmed Friday he's transferring to Florida for his final season.

Grady, who with former Gators RB Matt Jones and current Florida WR Alvin Bailey led the Hawks to the Class 4A state finals in 2010, also had considered USF and Maryland. He said in January that Vandy had given him clearance to transfer to any of the three.

He said he'll compete for the starting quarterback job after playing both behind center and at receiver for Vandy.

"Mentally, I was dead set on USF for a while," Grady, who has an economics degree, said in a text message Friday to the Tampa Bay Times.

"But once Vanderbilt compliance gave me permission to communicate with USF, the USF staff didn't really seem to have a mutual feeling, while the whole University of Florida organization seemed very intent on having myself as part of their program."

A member of the SEC's Academic Honor Roll in 2012 and '13, Grady totaled seven receptions in three seasons at Vandy. He switched to quarterback for the '13 season, and went 3-for-6 for 27 yards and two interceptions in limited duty before being sidelined by an injury.

Grady threw for nearly 7,000 yards in his final three prep seasons, his last two at Armwood. The Times' co-Suncoast Player of the Year as a senior, he totaled more 3,000 yards and 26 TDs for the 14-1 Hawks, tossing only five picks.

"From the moment I was granted permission to contact (Florida), I knew that UF was the place for me," Grady said. "They have shown nothing but professionalism throughout this whole process, and I am blessed to be a part of such a prestigious and successful university, as well as their football program."

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Michael White embracing the challenge of replacing Billy Donovan

Michael White, 38, made his first appearance as Florida's new head men's basketball coach today, saying it is his duty to continue the legacy former coach Billy Donovan established.

AP photo

Michael White, 38, made his first appearance as Florida's new head men's basketball coach today, saying it is his duty to continue the legacy former coach Billy Donovan established.

Michael White was born in Dunedin, but never spent more than two weeks there.

On Monday, he returned to the state where his life began to take on the biggest challenge of his young coaching career.

White, 38, made his first appearance as Florida's new head men's basketball coach saying it is his duty to continue the legacy former coach Billy Donovan established.

"It's an absolute honor of mine to replace Billy Donovan, one of the best coaches in the history of this game," White said. "I have tremendous respect and admiration for the legacy that he leaves, and it's my charge to continue the momentum that he's maintained for an amazing 19 years."

White joins the Gators after spending four seasons as head coach at Louisiana Tech where he compiled a 101-40 record.

He opened Monday's press conference by thanking the administrators at Louisiana Tech for providing him the opportunity to become a head coach. Then he talked about his desire to help continue to build on Donovan's legacy. …

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Video: Gators introduce new basketball coach Michael White

Head coach Michael White gestures during a Lousiana Tech game against Utah State in Ruston, La.

[Associated Press (2013)]

Head coach Michael White gestures during a Lousiana Tech game against Utah State in Ruston, La.

The University of Florida introduced new head men's basketball coach Michael White at a news conference this morning, streamed live both on SEC Network+ and on YouTube.

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Dante Fowler injured in first Jaguars camp

Former Florida DL and new member of the Jacksonville Jaguars Dante Fowler, Jr. suffered a knee injury during his first workout with the Jags today at the team's rookie camp.

Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said:  "He's being evaluated. We'll know more tonight," according to the team's official website.

Fowler, as St. Petersburg native, was the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft this past week, becoming the highest drafted player ever out of Pinellas County.

According to the Florida Times-Union, Fowler was injured in 11-on-11 drills and had to be assisted off the field, and later needed a cart.

Here is video shot of the injury by Chad Weeks.

 

 

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Florida hires Louisiana Tech coach Michael White to replace Billy Donovan

On Monday Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said he planned to take his time to find the right person to replace longtime coach Billy Donovan.

It took him three days.

The Gators have hired Louisiana Tech coach Michael White as the Gators' new men's head basketball coach.

White has agreed in principle to a six-year deal at an average of $2 million per year.

“Michael White is someone who came to the top of our list very quickly and he checks all of the boxes we were looking for,” Foley said. “He is a winner who has a high level of integrity, plays an up-tempo style of play and has the respect of his peers and the basketball community. He has experience in coaching, recruiting and playing in the Southeastern Conference and has a strong pedigree. He has a certain authenticity with people and is not afraid of challenges.”

White, the 2014-15 Conference USA Coach of the Year, will join the Florid staff after leading Louisiana Tech to a 101-40 record (.716) over the past four seasons, including three straight conference championships. …

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Tampa native and former Gator Preston Tucker called up to majors for Houston Astros

Preston Tucker, a 24-year-old outfielder, was a seventh round pick for the Astros in 2012.

AP photo

Preston Tucker, a 24-year-old outfielder, was a seventh round pick for the Astros in 2012.

Former Gator and Tampa Plant alum Preston Tucker has been called up to the majors for the Houston Astros.

Tucker was called up from Class AAA Fresno to replace George Springer and will meet the team in Anaheim where the Astros are scheduled to start a four-game series with the Angels tonight.

Springer was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list Wednesday after he crashed, face-first, into the right field wall Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.

This will be the first time Tucker, a forrmer All-SEC player with the Gators, has been to the majors.

On Wednesday, he posted this on his Twitter account: "Today, I got the best news of my life, and I've never been more humbled. Go Astros"

Tucker, a 24-year-old outfielder, was a seventh round pick for the Astros in 2012. With Fresno this season he's hit .320 with a .378 on-base percentage, .650 slugging percentage and 10 home runs.

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Reports: Louisiana Tech coach Michael White leading candidate to replace Billy Donovan

According to reports, Louisiana Tech coach Michael White has emerged as a leading candidate to replace former Florida coach Billy Donovan.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, citing sources, said White could meet with Florida athletic officials as early as today.

White, 38, has led Louisiana Tech to a 101-40 record in four seasons.

Donovan, 49, resigned last week after 19 seasons with the Gators to become the head coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

More on White and his ties to Florida.

 

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Former Gator David Eckstein is Florida's SEC Legend for 2015

Former Gator standout David Eckstein is among four players to be honored as SEC Legends for the Class of 2015, the league announced today.

Eckstein joins Andy Phillips Alabama); Mark Johnson Texas A&M) and Larry Schmittou (Vanderbilt). Four legends are recognized each year, with representatives from Arkansas, Georgia, Auburn and Kentucky set to be honored in 2016.

The SEC Legends will be honored at the 2015 SEC Baseball Tournament May 19-24 at the Hoover Met in Hoover, Ala. Each legend will be recognized individually throughout the two quarterfinal matchups on Friday and will have on-field recognition and an awards presentation by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive on Saturday, May 23, during the semifinals of the SEC Tournament.

Eckstein was a key member of the 1996 Florida team that won the SEC's Eastern Division and regular-season titles on its way to the NCAA East Regional championship and a berth at the NCAA College World Series, where the Gators finished third. …

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Billy Donovan's departure may cost Gators a top recruit

Billy Donovan said he had talked with all four of the incoming recruits.

AP photo

Billy Donovan said he had talked with all four of the incoming recruits.

At his farewell press conference on Monday, former Florida coach Billy Donovan said he believed the four incoming recruits for the 2015 Gators basketball class would need time to process his decision to leave after 19 years.

Now it appears Donovan's departure for a job with the Oklahoma City Thunder has at least one rethinking his decision to attend Florida.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette is reporting that shooting guard KeVaughn Allen plans to ask out of his Letter of Intent.

Allen's stepfather, John Curry, called into a sports talk show in Little Rock said Allen is planning to asked to be released from his LOI. According to Curry, Allen was coming to Florida because of Donovan.

A two-time Arkansas basketball prep player of the year, Allen was ranked 54th in the nation in ESPN.com's latest rankings, and is the highest-rated in UF's 2015 class.

On Monday, Donovan said he had talked with all four of the incoming recruits. …

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Gators Kelsey Stewart and Lauren Haeger earn SEC Player and Pitcher of the Year honors

Florida's Kelsey Stewart was named SEC Player of the Year and teammate Lauren Haeger was named SEC Pitcher of the Year, the league anounced today.

Junior Kirsti Merritt joins Haeger and Stewart as First Team All-SEC selections, while infielder Nicole DeWitt and utility player Aleshia Ocasio earned spots on the Freshman All-SEC team. Florida is the top fielding team in the country according to the latest NCAA statistics, and Stewart and Kathlyn Medina were selected to the SEC All-Defensive team.

Stewart is the fifth Gator to be named SEC Player of the Year, and the first since Michelle Moultrie in 2012. She has been chosen to an All-SEC Team in each of her three years (2014 – First Team, All-Defensive; 2013 – Second Team, Freshman All-SEC).

Haeger earned UF's third SEC Pitcher of the Year award, and the first since Stacey Nelson won the honor for the second consecutive season in 2009. The right-hander earns her third career All-SEC selection (2013 – First Team; 2012 – Freshman All-SEC). In coach Tim Walton’s 10 seasons, the Gators have earned four conference Player of the Year selections and three Pitcher of the Year honors. …

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