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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Will Muschamp likes the way his Gators have approached the Sugar Bowl

It may be New Year's Eve to the rest of the world, but for the Florida Gators today is just the equivalent of another Thursday during a normal game week, and that's the way the Gators are approaching it.

"It's not New Year's Eve, it's Thursday practice,'' Muschamp said following the Gators' workout Monday at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. "It's a normal game week. We had a good day today, we'll have walkthrough (Tuesday) and we're ready to go.

No. 4 Florida (11-1) will play No. 22 Louisville (10-2) Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in the Sugar Bowl.

Muschamp said his Gators have prepared and behaved themselves well during the trip to New Orleans.

"Very well,'' he said when asked how the team has fared in a city known for its parties and celebrations. "They've been on time to everything, everybody's been at everything they're suppsed to be at. I've been very pleased with them. They've acted like a mature football team, which they are."

Muschamp said the Gators will not ring in the New Year with any kind of celebration.

"We'll be asleep,'' he said.

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Gators OL Jon Halapio says Sugar Bowl not a letdown

If things had gone just a little differently in the regular season, Florida might be playing for a national championship next week, but Florida OL Jon Halapio said that doesn't mean the Gators are disappointed about being in the Sugar Bowl.

Quite the opposite. Halapio, a St. Petersburg Catholic alum, said the Gators are excited about playing Louisville on Wednesday and the game does have importance for Florida.

More from Halapio on bowl preparations, Louisville's defense and visiting New Orleans.


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Louisville defensive coordinator Vance Bedford a believer in Florida's offense

Florida's offense may still have its share of skeptics, but Louisville defensive coordinator Vance Bedford isn't among them.

The Gators are ranked No. 101 nationally in total offense (338.42 yards per game), but Bedford said today he believes Florida has a talented offense that's playing like a team that's sure of itself. 

"They play with a lot of confidence,'' said Bedford, a former UF assistant under former coach Urban Meyer. "You look at those guys, I know a lot of those guys, by the way. The offensive line is big and athletic. I think right now the quarterback position, they're playing better.  You could see the confidence building every single game. The receivers are starting to step up. They're making plays and did an outstanding job versus the Florida State University.  And (Mike) Gillislee is playing lights out. We knew when we recruited him several years ago, coach (Kenny) Carter, our running backs coach recruited him, he's playing extremely well.  So we're very concerned about that running game."


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Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater latest mobile quarterback the Gators will face

Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater is the latest in a long list of mobile quarterbacks the Gators have faced this season, including Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said the key to the Gators' succcess this year vs. mobile QB's is discipline. …

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Louisville expects tough challenge from Gators defense

When Florida and Louisville meet Jan. 2 in the Sugar Bowl, the Cardinals will be facing a Florida defense that has been outstanding all season.

Florida is allowing just 12.9 points per game, the fewest in school history since 1964 (9.8).

Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said today one thing jumps out when watching the Gator defense on film: talent.

"They have great talent, all across the board, and they have depth besides talent,'' Watson said. "That tends to lead to success, because what they do schematically is very good. They've got excellent players really in every level of the defense, first, second and third level. They can really rush four guys.  They don't have to put a lot of pressure on you, because they're so good up front. They have lockdown people in the back end. Their safeties are good coverage players. Their linebackers can cover. They have every piece defensively you could ever want."

Louisville junior WR Damian Copeland said facing a defense like the Gators makes the Cardinals put more emphasis on eliminating mistakes. …

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Gators intent on making Sugar Bowl a business trip

New Orleans may be known for it's loose fun and parties, but the Florida Gators insist their trip to New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl is all about business and there won't be any trouble.

"Our guys have been smart all year,'' senior LB Jon Bostic said. "We work together to have each other's back and stay out of trouble. We all make sure that we are always going in the right direction."

Florida coach Will Muschamp, who said he has fond memories of the Sugar Bowl and New Orleans because of LSU's national championship win there while he was defensive coordinator, said keeping players on the right path is a year-long effort, one he takes seriously.

"It's a continual education and stressing to the players everyday about making good choices,'' Muschamp said. "Everyone makes bad decisions here and there, but these are good kids. It's also about recruiting the right kind of guys and understanding the standard of excellence at the University of Florida on and off the field."


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Florida Gators OL Matt Patchan, safety De'Ante Saunders to transfer

Matt Patchan's tumultuous Florida football career has come to an end.

Florida coach Will Muschamp said Patchan, an Armwood alum, has decided to transfer.

When reached on his cell phone Thursday, Patchan declined to commen further. 

His career has been marred by injuries. He began his tenure at UF as a DT in 2008, but did not finish the season due to a leg injury. In 2009, he moved back to OL but played just four games before being sidelined the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.

He missed all of 2010 due to injuries, then played seven games last season before a pectoral injury forced him to sit out the Gator Bowl

He said during the preseason he felt the best he's been in a long time, but a few days later strained a pectoral muscle and did not see action at all this season.

Patchan reportedly is hoping to transfer to Ohio State to reunite with his former coach Urban Meyer or to play for Steve Addazio, his former postion coach who is now head coach at Boston College.

Sophomore safety De'Ante "Pop" Saunders is also transferring, Muschamp confirmed. …

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Florida RB Mike Gillislee to participate in the Senior Bowl

Florida senior RB Mike Gillislee has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl.  He joins Oregon RB Kenjon Barner and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin among the running backs who have accepted invitations.

This seaosn, Gillislee became the first Florida player to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season since Ciatrick Fason in 2004 (1,267). He also is the  eighth Gator all-time to reach the 1,000-yard mark. He had five 100-yard rushing games this season.

Gillislee is among five players from Florida schools who are scheduled to play in the all-star game joining: QB EJ Manuel (FSU); DT Corey Grisson (USF); DT Everett Dawkins (FSU)( and K Dustin Hopkins (FSU).

The Senior Bowl will be held on Jan. 26 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, AL. The game will be televised at 4 p.m. on the NFL Network.


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Gators Kenny Boynton, Scottie Wilbekin named to Bob Cousy Watch List

Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton and junior guard Scottie Wilbekin are among 85 candidates that have been named to the 2013 Bob Cousy Watch List, the award presented to the college point guard of the year.

Boynton is second on the team in scoring and assists, averaging 12.6 points per game and 2.8 assists per contest. Boynton is fifth on UF’s all-time scoring list and fourth in 3-pointers made. In Florida's win over Southeastern Louisiana Wednesday night, he became the fifth Gator to eclipse the 1,700-point mark.

Wilbekin is the team’s leader in assists, averaging 4.1 assists per game. The junior guard is currently fifth in the SEC in assists per game. He is also scoring 8.3 points per game, which is up nearly six points from his first two years’ average. 

The watch list will be narrowed down to 20 candidates, with five finalists selected in March. The winner will be presented at the NCAA Final Four in Atlanta.


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12:30: Chat live with Tom Jones

Want to talk about college football or basketball? The disappointing turn the Bucs' season has taken? The Rays' offseason moves? The NHL lockout? Sports on TV/radio? Whatever's on your mind, join Times sports personality Tom Jones for a live chat today, starting at 12:30 p.m. Can't make it? Leave a question in advance in the "Comments'' area below, then check back afterward to replay the chat. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Billy Donovan says shooting slump may ultimately be good for senior guard Kenny Boynton

Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton is in the midst of a serious shooting slump, but Florida coach Billy Donovan said it's not necessarily as bad a situation as it might appear.

In fact, Donovan said, it may actually be good for Boynton - and the Gators - in the long run.

Boynton has shot just 30.6 percent from 3-point range this season as he adjusts to his new role at point guard.

"This is great for him,,'' Donovan said following Florida's win over Southeastern Louisiana Wednesday night. "And not that I want him going through a difficult time, but he's got to fight through this. And I think anytime anything comes easy for you, and you don't have to work for it,  and struggle for it, and battle, and grind, I think you lose the sense of how hard it is to make shots and be a good player. Obviously for him shooting the basketball the last three games he's really, really struggled shooting the ball. And I thhk that this is going to enable him to succeed, persevere, fight, take on the struggle and take on the challenge and just try to really work through this."

Hear more from Donovan on how he views Boynton's struggle, and whether it's a mechanical problem.

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Gators Mike Rosario leads Florida to 82-43 victory over Southeastern Louisiana

His tenure with the Florida Gators since arriving as a transfer from Rutgers has sometimes been rocky, but through it all Mike Rosario has never wavered in his belief that when he’s playing his best, he’s pretty good.

Rosario spent the preseason working hard to improve his work ethic and the result was on full display against Southeastern Louisiana Wednesday night.

The fifth-year senior scored 17 of his game-high 20 points in the first half and a season-high six rebounds to lead No. 8 Florida to an 82-43 victory over Southeastern Louisiana (1-8) in front of 8,057 at the O’Connell Center. It was the sixth time this season the Gators held an opponent to fewer than 50 points.

Over the past three games, Rosario is 19-of-31 and has scored 50 points, and said it’s just a byproduct of putting together everything Florida coach Billy Donovan has been  emphasizing to him the past two years. …

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Clearwater's Tyler Moore among three transfers to sign with Florida today

Former Clearwater Countryside standout Tyler Moore is among three junior college transfers to sign with the Gators today. Also signing national letters of intent were OL Trenton Brown and DL Darious Cummings. All three are scheduled to enroll in January and will be eligible to play in 2013.

"We are very excited to announce the addition of Trenton, Darious and Tyler to our football program," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "I've said a number of times that the Southeastern Conference is a line of scrimmage league and all three of these players will help us with our depth on the line of scrimmage."

Moore, a 6-foot-5, 312-pound redshirt freshman offensive lineman joins the Gators after transferring from Nebraska. Moore was at Nebraska in the fall of 2011 before leaving and attending St. Petersburg Community College this past fall. While at Nebraska, he started the first four games of the 2011 season and played in nine games overall. …

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Gators get commitment from standout QB Will Grier

Will Grier, the North Carolina high school QB who threw for a national record 837 yards and had 10 TD passes in a 104-80 North Carolina state playoff win last month, has orally committed to Florida. 

Grier who is 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, is a junior who would be in the Class of 2014.

Chad Grier, Will's father and Davidson Day football coach, told the AP on Wednesday his son ''feels so strong about it that he is ready to commit now so he can focus on his schoolwork, improving his game and helping his team prepare for a third consecutive state championship.''

He chose the Gators over North Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina State and Oregon.

A 2012 AP All-State selection, Grier threw for 3,785 yards and 49 touchdowns with 12 interceptions this season. He also carried 97 times for 925 yards and 11 TDs.

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Florida Gators QB Jeff Driskel healthy, ready for Sugar Bowl

Florida QB Jeff Driskel said the time off between the end of the regular season and bowl practices has helped in the healing of his sprained right ankle and he's ready to go for the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl.

Driskel said the Gators have used the early bowl practices to concentrate on improving themselves and cited the Florida receivers as the unit that's made the most improvement during bowl workouts.

More from Driskel here:

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