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Gator Report

Antonya English

Dante Fowler buys newspaper ad to thank Florida Gators fans

Dante Fowler, Jr., thanked Florida fans in a half-page ad in The Gainesville Sun.

Gainesville Sun

Dante Fowler, Jr., thanked Florida fans in a half-page ad in The Gainesville Sun.

In the final weeks of his Florida Gators career, Dante Fowler, Jr. insisted he had no regrets about choosing to attend Florida.

"I feel like I’ve accomplished and done everything I could on and off the field," Fowler told the Times in late Decembber. "I met a lot of great people, I got to learn some things.  These were the best three years of my life I can honestly say. . .  Being humble and the guy that I am, I cherish all my opportunities and I’m always thankful and blessed for everything that I get and in everything that I do. So I won’t leave with any regrets. It was a great decision to come here."

On Friday, he expressed a similar sentiment to Florida fans in a half-page ad in The Gainesville Sun.

Complete with photos of his Gator career, Fowler simply said: “Thank you Gator nation for all the support and love the past three years. We’ve got the best fans in the land. I’ll forever bleed Orange & Blue.”

A Lakewood alum and All-SEC DE,  Fowler had 60 tackles, including 15 for losses and 8.5 sacks in his junior season this past year.

He is expected to be first round NFL Draft Selection in April.

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Gators will have to wait until National Signing Day for Byron Cowart's decision

Gators fans eager to know where Armwood DE Byron Cowart will attend college will have to wait until Naitonal Signing Day to find out for sure.

Cowart, the nation's No. 1 recruit, will be among 17 high school football players who will announce their decisions live on ESPNU's National Signing Day Special.

Cowart has narrowed his choices to Auburn and Florida and will announce his decision at 9 a.m.

Florida is also on the final list, along with Auburn, for Apopka OT Martez Ivey, the nation's No. 5 recruit. Ivey will also announce on ESPNU during the 11 a.m. segment.

All 17 players who will make their announcements live are in the ESPN 300, six in the top 10, and five ranked No. 1 at their position.

ESPN will broadcast 11 hours of recruiting on National Signing Day on ESPNU, and including segments on SportsCenter.

 

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Gators' Mike Holloway to be inducted into the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame

Florida track and field coach Mike Holloway is one of six Ohio natives who will be inducted into the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame tonight.

Holloway has helped lead the Gators to five national championships since 2010 and seven SEC titles as head coach of the Gators track and field program.

He was also a member of the Team USA staff at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

Holloway has been named the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Men’s Indoor Head Coach of the Year three times (2010, 2011, 2012), has twice been the USTFCCCA Outdoor Head Coach of the Year (2012, 2013) and has won  seven SEC Coach of the Year honors.

Because the No. 1 Gators will be competing at an indoor competition in Fayetteville this weekend, Holloway’s mother, Nelvina, will accept the Hall of Fame honor on his behalf at tonight's banquet.

 

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Billy Donovan sees growth and improvement in Chris Walker

When Chris Walker arrived in Gainesville as a highly-touted recruit last fall, expectations were extremely high for the 6-foot-10 McDonald's All American from Bonifay.

Despite pleas by coach Billy Donovan to keep the hype in check, Walker was heralded as a star in the making who was going to provide instant help for the Gators.

But after sitting out due to NCAA sanctions for improper benefits before he arrived in Gainesville, Walker played just 18 games as a freshman and struggled to make a significant impact - averaing 1.9 points and 1.7 rebounds. 

He began the 2014 season still struggling to adjust.

But Donovan said there has been growth this season and he's seeing signs that Walker is continuing to mature and improve. He's played in 18 games, with six starts, and averages 5.7 points per game. Yet, he remains a work in progress.

Listen to Donovan explain

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Billy Donovan encouraging Gators to play "desperate"

When Florida junior guard Michael Frazier described the Gators as "desperate"  for a victory earlier this week, many assumed he meant the Gators were badly in need of a win to stop a three-game losing streak.

And in some ways, he was.

But Florida coach Billy Donovan said too many took Frazier's words in a negative connotation. Donovan doesn't see anything negative about it.

"I think what (Michael) was saying is I think that our team last year played that way," Donovan said. "He's referencing that we played desperate for every game and I think that you need to play the game desperate."

In fact, it's precisely Donovan is encouraging.

Florida (11-9, 4-3) SEC will host Arkansas (16-4, 5-2) Saturday afternoon at the O'Connell Center - and Donovan expects the Gators to be desperate again. In his mind, a desperate team is a hungry, aggressive unit and that's exactly what he believes the Gators need to be right now. …

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Gators Eli Carter on his injured nose, the starting lineup and friendship with Kyrie Irving

Florida guard Eli Carter had a nice conversation with a friend shortly after a major accomplishment Wednesday night.

Carter had a FaceTime conversation with Kyrie Irving after the Cleveland Cavaliers point guard scored a career-high 55 points in a win over Portland Wednesday.

Irving and Carter are childhood friends.

“He was really trying to be nonchalant, like it was nothing," Carter said. "But he was pretty happy.”

Carter, who onced scored 55 in an AAU game, said he talks with Irving often, but mostly it's the kind of conversations any two friends would have - and basketball isn't the center of attention.

“When we talk, we don’t really talk about basketball," he said. "We had a relationship before basketball so we don’t really talk about that as much. But when we do, he just continues to tell me to try to stay focused and continue to work hard.”

Now part of the Gators' starting lineup, Carter is finally starting to feel he's helping to contribute after more than a year of battling injuries.

Listen as he talks about his recent nose injury (vs. Alabama Tuesday night) and preparing for Saturday's game against Arkansas.

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Gators women's basketball team seeking first victory over Missouri tonight

Coming off an emotional 72-58 win over Arkansas, the Florida women's basketball team is hoping to build on that momentum when it hosts Missouri tonight at the O'Connell Center.

The game will be televised on the SEC Network, and tipoff is at 7 p.m.

The Gators' victory on Sunday ended a four-game losing streak.

"Our kids just worked so, so, very hard in practice it was great to see it carry over into the game and to see them get that they deserved," coach Amanda Butler said.

While the victory was critical for the Gators' overall record (10-10, 2-5 SEC), what Butler is hoping most is that it also serves as a catalyst for improvement in her team's mentality as well.

"I think it's always important when you win games for various reasons, obviously your record and your positioning and all that sort of thing," Butler said. "But I think it is a little more subtle, and if you've ever been a competitor you understand that. You can work really, really hard but at the end of it all, getting the win and experiencing success in that black and white objective column is sometimes more powerful than some of those other ideas that we try to make important. I think it was really, really important for our team. I think they knew they deserved the win, but I think they knew they were going to have to perform to get the win."

"I think it puts us in a great place mentally for another great battle, a team we've already faced and didn't play very well against at their place," Butler added. "What's going on between your ears is so much more important than the physical aspects of the game."

Missouri is one of only two SEC teams Florida has yet to defeat (joining Texas A&M). The two programs had never met prior to the Tigers joining the SEC in the 2013-14 season, but Missouri was won all three meetings between the two schools.

The two last met on Jan. 11, with Mizzou earning a 66-47 victory. Florida hed the Tigers to just 2-of-12 from 3-point range and had a 24-22 first half lead. But Missouri opened the second half with 3-pointers on its first six buckets – and seven of its first eight – to take a lead Florida couldn't overcome.

It was the only time this season the Gators have lost a game after leading at halftime.

Defending the 3-point line will be critical tonight. In the three previous games, the Tigers have shot 28-of-70 (40 percent) from beyond the arc.

"They are a team that really challenges you defensively to make plays from the perimeter," Butler said. "They really, really pack it in. They also challenge you defensively to defend the 3-point line consistently - the 3-point line and beyond. And they really, really make you pay if you don't do that consistently."



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Gators get one class among Scout's Top 10 since 2001

In recognizing its 13 years of recruiting coverage, Scout.com decided to rank the Top 10 classes in its history.

It might come as surprise, but the 2006 class headlined by Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin didn't make the cut.

According to Jamie Newberg, Scout.com National Recruiting Analyst, two other Florida teams were ranked higher.

So which Gators team made the list, and where?

Check out the full story and breakdown of of the Top 10 recruiting classes in Scout.com's history.

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Gators softball preparing to open season as defending national champs and preseason No. 1

The Gators' defending national champion softball team will begin the 2015 season ranked No. 1 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25. Florida earned 15 of 20 first-place votes in the preseason rankings.

The Gators also are ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Preseason poll.

None of this comes as a surprise to coach Tim Walton. Now entering his 10th season, Walton has elevated the program to the level where lofty expectations and title runs are the norm.

And that No. 1 ranking? It's not even a factor right now.

"We're very excited about our team, really looking forward to it (season)," Walton said. "Obviously we have the No. 1 ranking going into the season, which preseason No. 1 ranking means about absolutely nothing. You don't know what you have, you don't know what other people have. So we'll have an opportunity to go out and compete and get a chance to see not only what all of our returners can bring to the team, but also our new players as well."

As usual, the Gators are preparing to face stiff competition. Eleven of the teams ranked in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 preseason poll this year are on the Gators' schedule. …

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Former FAMU coach sues, citing Will Muschamp's contract as example

Former Florida A&M football coach Earl Holmes is suing the university for wrongful termination.

Holmes is asking to be paid the remainder of the money owed on his contract — $400,000 over two years — plus other damages.

And he's using former Florida coach Will Muschamp's contract as proof he should be paid.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Tallahassee attorney Tim Jansen said Holmes had a four-year contract to coach FAMU football and that former athletic director Kellen Winslow — who resigned on Dec. 15 — chose not to "comply with the terms of the contract."

"They have the right to do that," Jansen told The Democrat. "They also have right to pay (Holmes) for the terms of his contract, just like with Will Muschamp down at the University of Florida. When he was terminated, they paid his contract. Coach Holmes deserves the same; we expect the same."

Although Muschamp has been hired as the defensive coordinator at Auburn, Florida is paying him the remaining $6 million on his contract in five installments over the next four years.

The full story from the Tallahassee Democrat on Holmes' suit.

 

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ESPN to provide live coverage from Gainesville on National Signing Day

Florida is ranked dead last in recruiting among SEC schools, but that won't stop ESPN from including the Gators in their live coverage from 14 campuses on National Signing Day.

The network announced today that it will broadcast live from 14 schools on Feb. 3, including Florida. The others are: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Southern California, Tennessee, Texas and Texas A&M.

This is part of ESPNU's 11 hours of National Signing Day coverage. There will also be regular updates on SportsCenter, and across other ESPN platforms.

More than 15 top recruits are scheduled to make their college announcements on the ESPNU National Signing Day Special.

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Gators announce date for Orange and Blue spring football game

The first spring football game under the new regime of Jim McElwain will be played on April 11.

The UAA announced today it will have more details later, but the date has been set.

McElwain was hired in December after coach Will Muschamp was fired in late November.

There have been no details released about spring football practice dates, and it remains to be seen if any of those practices will be open to the public.

 

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Gators get commitment from 4-star DE

Florida has received an oral commitment from Marietta (Ga.) Sprayberry defensive end Jabari Zuniga.

Zuniga orally committed to N.C. State in November, but apparently changed his mind after a visit on Monday night with Florida's staff including head coach Jim McElwain and defensive line coach Terrell Williams.

Zuniga is 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds.

According to 247Sports, Zuniga is a 247Sports four-star prospect.

The Gators now have 10 members of their 2015 class, still last in the SEC.

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'Desperate' Gators to take on Alabama, try to stop three game skid

“We definitely need this win," said guard Michael Frazier,  who had a season-high 27 points against Ole Miss. "We go into every game needing it. We’re desperate, so we gotta do what we gotta do to win the game. Period."

AP photo

“We definitely need this win," said guard Michael Frazier, who had a season-high 27 points against Ole Miss. "We go into every game needing it. We’re desperate, so we gotta do what we gotta do to win the game. Period."

The Florida baasketball team shot 48 percent from the floor and 60 percent from 3-pont range this past Saturday at Ole Miss.

Yet the Gators still lost the game.

It's been that kind of season for Billy Donovan's team.

The Gators return to action tonight at Alabama, and Florida junior guard Michael Frazier wasn't afraid to call it like it is as the team preapred to leave on Monday.

Florida is on a three-game losing streak and this is a team that's "desperate" for a win.

“We definitely need this win," said Frazier,  who had a season-high 27 points against Ole Miss. "We go into every game needing it. We’re desperate, so we gotta do what we gotta do to win the game. Period."

Alabama is among 10 SEC teams that are hanging around packed togehter trying to stay in contention in league play - behind undefeated and the nation's No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats. Those 10 teams are either 4-2, 3-3 or 2-4 in SEC games.

The road hasn't been kind to the Gators, who are 1-4 this season in true road games, 1-2 in SEC play away from the O'Connell Center.

Frazier said one of the drills the Gators continue to focus on in practice deals specifically with getting defensive stops - on the road. …

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Billy Donovan sticking with guard Kasey Hill

Despite his up and down play this season, Florida coach Billy Donovan said today he has no plans to bench sophomore PG Kasey Hill.

Hill is averaging 7.7 points and 4.5 assists per game. He has started 18 of the Gators' 19 games. But his consistency from game-to-game has been an issue.

He had 25 assists vs. 4 turnovers (6.25 ratio) over one three-game stretch (Kansas, Yale, Texas Southern). He had his first career 20-point game vs. North Carolina, including a 10-for-12 night from the free throw line. And he had a 10-assist, zero-turnover game vs. Yale, with 4-for-4 shooting.

But he has also had games like vs. South Carolina where he had six turnovers and one assist. Donovan said despite his up and down play, it's in the Gators' best interest right now to stick with him. …

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