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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Gators open season at No. 10 in AP men's basketball poll with three suspended players

For the second consecutive year, the Florida men's basketball team will open the season ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press preseason rankings, but the season will open with more turmoil.

Florida coach Billy Donovan announced today that Damontre Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith are both suspended for the preseason opener Friday night, and will also miss at least one regular season game. Along with senior guard Scottie Wilbekin, who was suspended throughout the spring and summer, that brings to three the number of suspended players for Donovan.

Donovan termed the suspensions "indefinite" for a violation of team rules.

Harris is a junior F/C transfer from South Carolina. Finney-Smith is a sophomore F transfer from Virginia Tech who was a member of the All-ACC Freshman team. At South Carolina in 2011-12, Harris averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds and was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team.

Meanwhile, the Gators are one of two SEC teams ranked in the Top 10 of the AP poll.

Kentucky, which ended last season with an opening round NIT loss, is the preseason No. 1, followed by Michigan State. …

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Gators get commitment from top basketball recruit Devin Robinson

Devin Robinson, the No. 28 prospect in the Class of 2014 and a member of the ESPN 100 on Wednesday orally committed to play for the Gators.

Robinson is a 6-foot-8 forward from Chesterfield, Va.

He chose Florida over Indiana, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State.

Last season as a junior, Robinson led Christchurch (Va.) to a VISAA Division II championship and was named the VISAA Division II player of the year.

Robinson is the third ESPN 100 prospect to commit to the Gators, including: Brandone Francis (Jacksonville Arlington Country Day), the No. 8 shooting guard and No. 27 overall prospect, and Chris Chiozza (Memphis White Station), the No. 9 point guard and No. 42 overall prospect.

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Gators lose another player to injury

Injuries continue to plague the Florida Gators, and heading into one of the biggest games of the season, another player will be out.

Gators OT D.J. Humphries suffered a sprained MCL during practice on Monday and will miss 2-4 weeks, Florida coach Will Muschamp said.

"He’s a quick recovery guy," Muschamp said. "It’s his other knee that he had sprained from earlier in the season, so we’re hoping just two weeks on it and get him back out there."

With Humphries injured, the offensive line will undergo yet more changes.

"Tyler Moore will start at left tackle, and Trenton Brown will start at right tackle," Muschamp said.

Jon Harrison will remain at center, Jon Halapio will be at RG and Max Garcia will play LG.

Since fall camp began, the Gators have lost their starting QB, RB, and WR/KR to season-ending injuries. Eight Gators, including five starters, have sufferfed season-ending injuries.

While Humphries is out, LB Ronald Powell practiceed on Tuesday and is expected to play in the Georgia game. …

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Georgia game has special feel for Gators Solomon Patton

For Florida senior WR Solomon Patton, Saturday's game against Georgia will have a little more significance than just taking on an arch rival.

It's a chance to get past a hauting memory.

It was in last season's game against Georgia that Patton suffered a season-ending injury when he broke his arm on a sweep play.

"Oh yeah, I've definitely been waiting on this game," Patton said. "I had it circled since last year. This is like the main game that I've been waiting on all year."

Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease said what made Patton's injury so difficult for him last season was that he was just starting to come into his own.

“I’ll tell you, that hurt me because, I mean, he was just starting to come on and that particular play, I mean, it was kind of such a weird hit that he didn’t get hit directly," Pease said. "He didn’t fall on his arm. And that was kind of a play we put in figuring he could get around the edge and we kind of had for him. And I mean, I felt bad about it because he meant a lot to us of what we could do at that time. So, you know, that’s, obviously he’s come through it full circle, and the season he’s having now, good for him, because we need him.” …

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Gators' guard Michael Frazier diagnosed with mononucleosis

Less than one week after Gators guard Michael Frazier thought he had dodge mononucleosis, it turns out he does in fact have the viral illness.

Florida announced today that Frazier, a sophomore from Tampa, will miss at least Friday night's exhibition game against Florida Southern after being diagnosed with mono.

Team trainer Duke Werner said it's possible Frazier could miss more games.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said two weeks ago that Frazier was exhibiting mono-like symptoms and had missed practice time, but the orignial tests came back negative.

Last week, Frazier described what he'd been going through lately, saying: "They said I had a virus. I had body aches, bad headaches, sore throat, everything.”

Last season Frazier averaged 5.6 points per game and hit 44.6 percent from the 3-point line. He was expected to be a part of the Gators' starting backcourt beginning Friday night.

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Georgia star TB Todd Gurley to return for game against Gators

While Florida will be using a freshman to replace its starting RB on Saturday, Georgia is getting its best TB back just in time for the Gators.

Georgia's Todd Gurley, who has been out with an ankle injury since Sept. 28, is expected to play when Florida and Georgia meet in their annual rivalry on Saturday afternoon at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.

"After (Monday), I'm convinced (that he's going to play against Florida)." Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "He's a great player. He's a guy that usually if you block for zero yards, he gets about two or three. If you block for three or four, he gets about seven or eight. If you block it just right, anything can happen. He's a very good pass protector, and he's improved a lot on route running and ball catching. He's a complete back, and he's a dynamic player really. Hopefully he's 100 percent and we can get him some space to see what he can do."

Gurley will return at a time when the Gators' defense is trying to bounce back from a game against Missouri in which it gave up 500 total yards - 205 on the ground.

Georgia WR Michael Bennett (meniscus) and S Tray Matthews (hamstring strain) are also expected to return. …

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Gators Tyler Murphy returns to practice

Florida junior QB Tyler Murphy returned to practice on Monday after missing nearly two weeks nursing a sprained shoulder.

"He threw," Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "He threw and he was — it’s really been about two weeks where he hasn’t done (anything). He’s thrown about 30 balls up until (Monday). So you know his arm — his accuracy was off a little bit and just kind of getting back into the rhythm and the timing of everything and still kind of having to zip. I mean, he’s fine that way that he can throw, it’s just kind of getting back into that flow after you haven’t done anything for 14 days."

In its most recent games against LSU and Missouri, Murphy has been sacked 10 times and the Gators have gained just 170 rushing yards – 59 vs. Missouri. The Gators have a combined 221 passing yards in those games. Asked if it's critical for the offense to play well to help regain its confidence this week against Georgia, Pease replied: "No doubt." …

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Gators TE Kent Taylor may be headed for a redshirt

After seeing action in six games as a freshman last season, including a 5-yard TD reception against Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, expectations were high for Florida TE Kent Taylor.

But Taylor, a former Land 'O Lakes standout, has battled injuries and failed to emerge as a viable option for the Gators' struggling offense. On Tuesday, Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease said the reasons are varied, and hinted the Gators may try to redshirt Taylor.

"You know we said this was going to be more of a time where we were going to use him as a redshirt," Pease said, adding that Taylor still hasn't proven he's totally ready to step into the role. "It's still,        you're still going against scout team and we still have reps whether they're taking plays and repetitions against our defense. You've got to be able to block in that position, and run routes, and you gotta see that you can perform and your performance has got to show up. But I don't know if his development is totally there." …

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Will Muschamp previews the Georgia game

After spending the past bye week working on self-improvement Florida now turns its full attention to preparing for its annual showdown with Georgia.

Although this is only the second time the two teams enter the game both unranked, there's still a lot at stake, mainly remaining in contention for the SEC East title.

On Monday, coach Will Muschamp talked about what the Gators did during the bye week and what he sees in the Bulldogs.

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For Gators' Cody Riggs, targeting rule ejection was tough to deal with

It was supposed to be a unique opportunity to play in front of family that may not otherwise get to see him in person, but the trip to Missouri turned out to be something much different for Gators S Cody Riggs.

Riggs was ejected on the first play of the game in Florida's Oct. 19 game at Missouri for violating the NCAA's new targeting rule, and was forced to sit out the remainder of the game.

While Riggs may not be a huge fan of the rule, he said the replay showed he was in violation.

"I was shocked at first, but I saw the replay - I did launch myself," Rigss said Monday. "I didn't think I did on the field, but if you watch it, I guess I did launch myself. I had no intention of hurting the guy. I thought Vernon was going to pick it and when he didn't, I tried to dive into him to see if I can get the ball off, but that's launching. They made the right call. I just have to play smart next time."

Riggs said his mom, who traveled with family from Fort Lauderdale to see the game, was extremely disappointed. He said the toughest part of the penalty is being forced to leave the game. …

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Gators LB Ronald Powell questionable for Georgia game

Florida LB Ronald Powell's sprained ankle continues to be an issue and Florida coach Will Muschamp said as of today, he's questionable for Saturday's game against Georgia in Jacksonville. LB Darrin Kitchenn (shoulder) is doubtful for the Georgia game along with TE Colin Thompson (foot).

"Ronald Powell ran pretty good last week, did some change of direction (Sunday) and will not practice today," Muschamp said. "I want to get him back on the field (Tuesday) hopefully, and definitely by Wednesday. If you were playing the game, it's still kind of up in the air whether or not that'll happen or not."

Gators QB Tyler Murphy did not throw any during practice last week (the Gators' bye week), but is expected to have a light day of practice today and be "full speed" on Tuesday.

DT Damien Jacbos (head injury) is also expected to return on Tuesday.

LB Jeremi Powell (Pinellas Park) tore his ACL in the Missouri game and is out for the season, but may undergo surgery soon.

"We're hopeful to get his surgery done next week," Muschamp said. "He still has some swelling on his knee so hopefully we can get that done."


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Gators Vernon Hargreaves III named Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist

Wharton alum and Florida freshman standout CB Vernon Hargreaves III has been named one of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award.

The award is presented annually to the nation's top defensive back, and Hargreaves is the only freshman among the semifinalists.

Hargreaves has played in all seven games for the Gators, with five starts. He leads Florida and is tied for second in the SEC with three interceptions, including a touchdown-saving grab agaisnt Kentucky.

Hargreaves also leads the SEC in passes defended (10) and has made 19 tackles this season.

The three Thorpe Award finalists will be announced on Nov. 25, and the winner will be announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Dec. 12 on ESPN.

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Gators Michael Frazier finally healthy again

Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier has returned to practice after missing several days due to a virus.

“I’ve been feeling a lot bette," Frazier said. "I’m 100 percent so I’ve practicing. I’ve been trying to get my wind back. I’d probably say that’s the thing I’m trying to work on now, is get back in shape.”

Frazier, of Tampa,became ill last week, and at one point Florida coach Billy Donovan said he would be tested for mononucleosis. The test was negative.

"It was scary," Frazier said. "I was praying that I didn’t have it. Luckily, I didn’t have it.  They said I had a virus. I had body aches, bad headaches, sore throat, everything. I was in bed for most of the day.”

Frazier averaged 5.6 points per game as a freshman last season, and played in 36 seasons.


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Gators Will Muschamp stands behind his staff

Despite the Gators' current problems, Florida coach Will Muchamp stood firmly behind his staff on Wednesday.

For now, Muschamp’s standing behind his staff, particularly offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

Asked about Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease, Muschamp reminded everyone of the staff's accomplishments last season.

“This is the same staff that came a game away from playing for a national championship, okay?,” Muschamp said. “Obviously we’re not where we want to be right now, and nobody knows that more than our staff. So we need to go back and re-evaluate what we’re doing and continue to improve our football over the next five weeks.”

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Gators spending off week intensely searching for ways to improve

Florida coach Will Muschamp said he and his staff are spending an extensive amount of time this week evaluating every aspect of the Gators in an effort to improve during this bye week.

Florida is currently 4-3 and on a two-game losing streak.

The offense has gained just 391 yards in the past two games and scored one offensive touchdown.

Florida is last in the SEC in total offense (336.9), last in yards per rush (3.7), and 12th in rushing offense.

The defense gave up 500 yards to Missouri this past Saturday, and gave up 200 yards in the first half of both the LSU and Missouri games.

Muschamp said the Gators have several basic goals for the next 10 days leading up to the Nov. 2 showdown with rival Georgia. …

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