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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Gators DT Dominique Easley will not seek to return for extra season

Senior DT Dominique Easley has decided to move on to the NFL after this season, Florida coach will Muschamp said. Easley suffered a torn ACL in this past Tuesday’s practice and is out for the season.

He will not seek a medical redshirt.

"He's a guy that's had two ACL’s” Muschamp said. “I think that's the best move for him right now and going to prepare himself for April and get ready for that. He and I talked briefly about it and that's what he wants to do and I support it 100 percent.

Muschamp said he doesn’t believe coming off a severe injury will negatively affect Easley’s NFL prospects. Several analyst had him as a first-round pick before the injury; last season he was projected in the fourth.

“He'll have plenty of interest,” Muschamp said. “He'll be a productive guy on the next level. He's a really good football player. He's extremely intelligent. He gets the game. His tape speaks for itself and how he plays the game and approaches the game. He'll be fine. There will be a lot of organizations that want him in their organization."

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Gators guard Eli Carter granted NCAA waiver to play

Florida transfer guard Eli Carter has been granted a waiver by the NCAA waiver that will allow him to play this season for the Gators.

Carter transferred from Rutgers amidst the fallout from the scandal that led to the firing of former coach Mike Rice, who was accused of mentally and physically abusing his players. Rice was fired after his videotaped behavior became public.

Had the NCAA not granted Carter's waiver, he would have been required to sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.

“We are happy to have Eli available to play this season,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. 

Carter averaged 14.3 points in two seasons at Rutgers. He had 94 career 3-pointers and played in 56 games with 46 starts.

Carter adds depth to a backcourt that was hit hard by graduation and the indefinite suspension of senior guard Scottie Wilbekin.

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Gators CB Vernon Hargreaves III named SEC Freshman of the Week

Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III has been named the SEC Freshman of the Week, the league office announced today.

Hargreaves, a Wharton alum, was honored for his performance in this past Saturday's 24-7 win over Kentucky.

Hargreaves had a an interception on a pass by UK quarterback Maxwell Smith in the end zone in the third quarter in Saturday's game, negating a potential touchdown for the Wildcats.

It was his third interception in four games this season - the most by an SEC freshman and the third-most nationally among freshmen.

He also leads the Gators in interceptions.

Georgia QB Aaron Murray, a former Plant standout, was also honored by the SEC on Monday. For his outstanding performance against LSU, Murray was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week and the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week.

Murray was 20-of-34 for 298 yards and four touchdowns, and also ran for his third touchdown of the year against #6 LSU. It was his second win over an SEC top-10 team in the last three games and he has helped generate 494 yards of total offense on the Tigers defense. …

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A few nerves aside, Gators Tyler Murphy comfortable in first start

In his first collegiate start, Florida QB Tyler Murphy emerged victorious.

Murphy, who had never thrown a collegiate pass when he took over for Driskel in last week’s game against Tennessee, was 15-of-18 for 156 yards, two touchdowns (one rushing, one passing) and one interception. He was 11-of-11 in the first half for 120 yards. Murphy started the game with 13 completions in a row.

He opened the game with 13-play, 93 yard touchdown scoring drive.

Hear Murphy talk about his performance in his own words.

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Gators earn 23-7 victory over Kentucky

During a week in which the Florida Gators lost their starting quarterback Jeff Driskel and DT Dominique Easley to season-ending injuries, the Gators went on the road to face a Kentucky team hoping to end a two-decade losing streak.

In his first collegiate start, redshirt junior Tyler Murphy led the Gators on a 13-play, 93 yard drive that set the tone for a 24-7 victory over Kentucky.

It was the 27th consecutive victory for the Gators (3-1, 2-0 SEC) over Kentucky (1-3, 0-1), extending the nation’s longest winning streak over a major opponent in an annual series, and the longest streak by one SEC team over another in an uninterrupted series.

Here is coach Will Muschamp in his postgame comments:

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Video: Florida-Kentucky preview

The Times' Antonya English previews Florida's game Saturday at 7 p.m. at Kentucky in this video report.

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Gators Tyler Murphy to make starting debut on the road in critical SEC road game

After entering the game early in the first quarter against Tennessee this past Saturday and helping to lead Florida to a victory, redshirt junior QB Tyler Murphy will make his starting debut Saturday night.

On the road. At Kentucky. In the Gators' first SEC road game of the season.

Florida has a 26-game winning streak over the Wildcats, but Murphy's ability to handle a hostile environment is a big unknown. The Gators are without both starting QB Jeff Driskel and DT Dominique Easley - both out for the season with injuries

Check out a preview of the game here:

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Kentucky's last victory over Gators etched in longtime sports analyst Larry Vettel's memory

Where were you in 1986?

Too far back to remember?

Not for Larry Vettel, afternoon show host on ESPN-850 (WRUF) and longtime Sun Sports/Fox Sports Florida play-by-play analyst.

That was the last time Kentucky defeated the Florida Gators in football and Vettel remembers that game very well.

He was there.

"In 1986 Florida went up to Lexington and they had just beaten Auburn and Georgia back-to-back," Vettel remembered. "It was a weird year because they got off to such a bad start, and then they go off to Lexington. On Friday, it was beautiful - it was like 59 degrees and it was gorgeous. And then they get up in the morning, it was cold and rainy. Now I'm the sideline guy for the radio broadcast and I radioed up to the booth and said 'Guys, they're in trouble.' These guys are moaning and groaning about the weather the whole time during warmups, and then they played like it. They lost a 10-3 ballgame that I'm sure was scintilating television."

Vettel said he could just sense that the Gators players weren't going to have it that day. …

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Gators D.J. Durkin believes Florida equipped to move on without Dominique Easley

The loss of senior DT Dominique Easley to an ACL injury will have a profound effect on the Gators both on and off the field, but Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said the Gators are prepared to move on.


"I think at every position on our defense, we have a pretty healthy rotation to where obviously it's (injuries) part of the game," Durkin said. "It's nothing you want to happen to anyone or at any position, but we plan for that everywhere. That's why we play a lot of guys."


While the Gators may be focused on regrouping and moving on, that doesn't mean Easley won't be seriously missed, Durkin and his teammates said.


"Dominique is a guy that has a great motor, great enthusiasm as you can see on the field," Durkin said. "I think that's a contagious thing. I think he's been very disruptive to many teams in the backfield. He plays the game the way we want guys to play on defense. With all that being said, he's a part of a whole team of guys that I think are playing well and doing things. So that's the way we want to play on defnese, and I think he epitomizes that. But I think there are other guys that do that as well." 

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Ronald Powell, Solomon Patton have strong empathy for injured teammates

Within a span of three days the Florida Gators have lost two starters and emotional leaders on their football team.

Florida QB Jeff Driskel underwent surgery on Wednesday to repair the fibula in his right leg, which he injured in this past Saturday's game against Tennessee.

And on Wednesday, Florida announced that senior DT Dominique Easley will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL suffered in Tuesday night's practice. 

Florida has now lost five players for the season to injuries since August.

For players like Solomon Patton and Ronald Powell, the injuries hit close to home. Patton was lost for the season in the 2012 Georgia game when he broke his leg. And Powell has suffered two ACL injuries in his career - missing all of last season.

He said his advice to his injured teammates will be to face it head on.

"Like I said for everybody, just embrace it," Powell said. "It's done already. Whatever you've got ahead of you is ahead of you. It's ahead of you, just take it on."

Patton said he would wait several days before trying to talk to the injured players, because he remembers how tough it was in the early days after his injury. …

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Gators DT Dominique Easley out for the season with knee injury: Jeff Driskel has successful surgery

Florida DT Dominique Easley suffered a torn ACL during a non-contact drill in practice on Tuesday and will miss the remainder of the season.

Easley, a senior, was projected by several NFL analysts as a first-round NFL Draft pick.

“As I said earlier today on the SEC Conference call, Dominique injured his right knee in practice late Tuesday nigh in a non-contact situation," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "Test results have revealed that he suffered a tear of both his ACL and medial meniscus, which will require season-ending surgery."

Earlier today, Muschamp said Easley had "tweaked" his knee, but also said he was awaiting further test results. Muschamp said Easley was planting to run on a screen when the injury occurred.

Easley has played in all three games this season, registering five tackles - two for loss. But just as importantly, he's one of the veteran leaders on a Florida defense that is currently ranked among the nation's best.

Easley posted this message to his Twitter account: "Gatornation thank you for all of 4 yrs sticking with me, but god has something else planned & have no worries." …

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Kentucky game to be emotional return for Florida Gators coach Joker Phillips

Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips will return to Lexington this week when the Gators play at Kentucky, less than one year after he was fired as the Wildcats' head coach.

Phillips spent more than two decades with the Wildcats as a player, assistant coach and head coach. Florida coach Will Muschamp said this week most likely will be emotional for Phillips.

“Anytime you spend a lot of time at a place, you have some great memories," Muschamp said. "I know as a player and coach there, no question it’s going to be emotional about that. Anytime you spend as much time as we spend, hours in the office, working hard for the university, there’s no question that’s part of it.”

Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who also is a former OC at Kentucky, said Phillips most likely will be a little anxious about returning, but believes he'll handle it just fine …

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Jon Halapio's toughness impresses Gators coaches, teammates

Florida RG Jon Halapio has had his struggles with injuries that past two months, but his toughness and ability to fight through has impressed his coaches and teammates.

Halapio missed all of preseason camp and the first two games of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Then in Saturday's game against Tennessee - his first game this season - Halapio was accidentally stuck in the eye and had to leave the game for awhile. He did later return.

"Jon got poked in the eye pretty good," UF coach Will Muschamp ssaid. "He’s got three stitches in his eye but he’s going to be fine this week. But I’ll tell you what a tough young man he is to be able to play through that."

Muschamp said when he went out onto the field after Halapio's eye injury, he saw blood coming from the eye.

Gators OL Max Garcia said he was in awe that Halapio was able to return to the game. …

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Brent Pease wants Tyler Murphy to just be himself

Florida junior Tyler Murphy will make his first collegiate start Saturday night at Kentucky.


Florida junior Tyler Murphy will make his first collegiate start Saturday night at Kentucky.

Florida junior Tyler Murphy will make his first collegiate start Saturday night at Kentucky.

It will be just his second collegiate game, after coming in on the second series against Tennessee last week in relief of injured starter Jeff Driskel.

Undoubtedly, things have changed for Murphy, who just last year was running with the scout team. But Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease had some simple words of advice for Murphy this week: be yourself. …

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Will Muschamp, Gators prepare for Kentucky and season without Jeff Driskel

As Florida QB Jeff Driskel prepares for surgery on his right fibula and the long, ardous task of 4-6 months of recovery, the Gators are preparing to move on.

The Gators will play at Kentucky on Saturday, hoping to extend a 26-game winning streak over the Wildcats.

Florida coach Will Muschamp addressed Driskel and thoughts on Kentucky today:


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