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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Gators QB Will Grier named Parade's Player of the Year

Florida freshman quarterback Will Grier has added another prestigious award to his already long list of accolades.

Grier has been named the 2014 Parade Player of the Year by Parade Magazine.

He is among 57 players named to the Parade team — 13 on offense, 13 on defense and 31 honorable mention selections.

Grier had 4,989 yards with a nation's-best 77 touchdowns in his senior year. He also rushed for 1,251 yards with 13 touchdowns in 2013.

In his career, he totaled 14,565 yards and had a state-record 195 touchdown passes… His 14,565 passing yards are second in North Carolina state history behind former UF quarterback Chris Leak. Grier also had 2,955 career rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns.

Grier, a graduate of North Carolina Davidson Day School Prep, has already enrolled at Florida and is eligible to participate in spring practice.

Although the Gators return starting QB Jeff Driskel, Florida coach Will Muschamp has said every job is open this spring.


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Former Gator Marquand Manuel is Seattle's lone tie to first Super Bowl

Former Gator Marquand Manuel is going back to the Super Bowl with Seattle.

But this time it's in a much different role than the last time Manuel was part of a Super Bowl team.

Eight years ago, Manuel went to the Super Bowl as a player. This time he's an assistant defensive coach - one of two coaches on the Seahawks' staff with Super Bowl playing experience and the only tie to Seattle's last appearance in the Super Bowl.

Check out the full story here.

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Billy Donovan says Gators facing a much-improved Mississippi State team tonight

No. 3 Florida will try and remain undefeated in SEC play when the Gators play at Mississippi State tonight.

The game will be televised at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

Florida (17-2, 6-0 SEC) is on an 11-game winning streak and carrying their highest ranking since Feb. 2013.

Florida senior C Patric Young will play in his 131st game as a Gator, which will move him into 10th place for most games played – tied with former Gator Matt Bonner.

The Gators lost four of five to the Bulldogs from 2008-11, but enter tonight’s game having won three consecutive in this series. In the two meetings last season, the Gators outscored the Bulldogs by an average of 30 points including a35-point win in Starkville.

But Florida coach Billy Donovan said this is a much improved team, something he saw coming. He explains here:

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Florida's Chris Walker granted eligibility by NCAA


Nearly two months after he was admitted to the University of Florida, Gators F Chris Walker has been cleared to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

His first game in which he is eligible to play is Feb. 4 - a 9 p.m., nationally-televised, home game vs. Misouri.

But the NCAA made it clear Walker violated NCAA rules before he was admitted, which led to him being forced to miss playing time.

According to a statement from the NCAA: "Men’s basketball student-athlete Chris Walker will be eligible to play for the University of Florida on Feb. 4 after sitting a total of 12 games, or 40 percent of the 2013-14 basketball season. Walker received preferential treatment from five people, including two agents."

The statement went on to say: "According to the facts of the case, which were agreed upon by the university and NCAA staff, when Walker was a prospect, he accepted free cell phones and service, airfare, lodging, meals and apparel. Additionally, individuals close to Walker received free airfare and lodging for nine different trips, including eight associated with Walker's non-scholastic basketball team competitions." …

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For Gators' Michael Frazier, great shooting is product of hard work

VIDEO BELOW: Check out Michael Frazier talking about life as the son of a minister

Earlier this week, Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier was named SEC Player of the Week for his performance for the Gators last week.

Frazier is averaging 12.3 points per game, but has become the go-to 3-point shooter for Florida. He's currently hiiting 45.6 percent from beyond the arc.

But it's not something that just comes easily. Frazier works extremely hard on his shooting. Take for instance his pregame ritual.

“Usually I try and get roughly 300 base (shots) after shoot around," Frazier said. "And then before the game, I might make 100 or so. So, I mean, on typical game day, 350, 400 shots I try to make just so that I have a good rhythm going into the game.”

Frazier said that work ethic dates back to high school, but it also resembles that of his favorite NBA player. …

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Gators QB Will Grier among Sporting News top 2014 prospects

Florida freshman QB Will Grier is among The Sporting News top prospects in the Class of 2014.

Grier, the North Carolina Player of the Year, is already enrolled at UF having begun classes for the spring semester.

He will be eligible to participate in spring practice, and Sporting News writer Ken Bradley believes he's one of the top recruits who'll be able to contribute right away.

More on Grier and other top prospects who could make an early impact.

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Damontre Harris has returned to Gators, but no chance he plays this season

About a month after Damontre Harris left school intent on transferring and restarting his college basketball career elsewhere, Harris is back with the Gators and making solid progress toward redemption in coach Billy Donovan's mind.

Harris, a transfer from South Carolina, was expected to be an integral part of the Gators' squad this season. But personal issues led him to withdraw from team activities - and ultimately to his dismissal from the team in December.

But then Harris, who wasn't practicing in the fall, but did attend classes and remained in good academic standing, asked to return to the team.

Donovan granted his request under one condition: he can practice, but he will not play this season. And so far, that agreement is working out. …

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College football players start a union movement

A group of Northwestern football players has taken formal steps to begin the process of being recognized as employees - in a move to unionize players.

According to ESPN's "Outside the Lines", Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.

The group is backed by the United Steelworkers Union.

The full story here.

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Gators move up three spots to No. 3 in AP Poll

Florida has moved into the Top 5 in both national polls, released today.

The Gators moved up three spots to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll. Florida is No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

This is the highest ranking for the Gators since they were ranked No. 2 entering the Arkansaas game on Feb. 4, 2013.

Here is the full AP poll for this week:


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Gators guard Michael Frazier II named SEC Player of the Week

Florida guard Michael Frazier II has been named SEC Player of the Week for his performances in two games this past week, the league office announced today.

The sophomore from Tampa averaged 17.5 points, three rebounds and 2.5 assists in wins at Alabama and against Tennessee.

Frazier hit 48 percent from the floor and 42 percent from 3-point range and had five three-pointers against Alabama for the fifth time this season, more than any UF player had last year. He also matched a career-best three assists in the game. He was perfect from the free throw line in both games.

“It's a great honor," Frazier said. "But it just shows that hard work pays off. Continue to strive to get better each and every day. Continue to focus on the team.”


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Billy Donovan: extended road trip, short turnaround no excuse for No. 6 Gators facing Tennessee today

Despite the fact that things didn't to exactly as planned when the Gators traveled to Alabama earlier this week, Florida coach Billy Donovan said he expects the Gators to be focused and ready to play when they host Tennessee this afternoon.

The Gators and Vols will tipoff at 4 p.m. at the O'Connell Center. The game will be televised on ESPN. Florida currently has a 25-game home winning streak.

Florida is coming off a win over Alabama, but the Gators played less than 48 hours ago. Then mechanical trouble with the plane forced Florida to stay an extra night in Tuscaloosa.

But Donovan said he, his staff and the team adjusted as well as they could and he doesn't think there will be any lingering effects when the Gators take the court today.

Listen to Donovan talk about what happened after the Alabama game and how they adjusted.

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Gators, St. Petersburg Catholic alum Jon Halapio to start at RG in Senior Bowl

Formr Gators OL Jon Halapio will be the starting right guard in the Senior Bowl.

Halapio, a St. Petersburg Catholic alum, was announced as the starter today.

The Senior Bowl dates back to Jan. 7, 1950 and has been a showcase for prospective NFL talent. More than 500 active players in the NFL have participated in the Senior Bowl - 21 made the 2013 Pro Bowl roster.

The game will be played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., and will be televised Saturday at 4 p.m. on the NFL Network.


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It's still early, but Gators currently in good shape for NCAA Tournament

I know, I know it's not even February yet and a lot can happen between now and March Madness.

But that hasn't stopped the NCAA Bracketologists from starting to put out early predictions, so that won't stop me from sharing them with you. Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm currently has the Gators as the No. 2 seed in Orlando in the second round of the tournament facing Vermont.

Like I said, I know it's early. But here's a look at the rest of Palm's bracket - for now.

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Former Gator Jaylen Watkins makes his mark at Senior Bowl practices

Former Florida DB Jaylen Watkins was often overshadowed during his Gator career by other more high-profile players.

But in his final season this past year, Watkins was a solid leader both on and off the field. And apparently he got a chance to show what he's capable of this past week during practices for the Senior Bowl.

According to Brent Sobleski of USA Today Sports, Watkins was among the big winners during the week in Mobile, Alabama.

Sobleski said: "Watkins was often considered the fourth-best cornerback on Florida’s roster this past season. It came to the point where Watkins primarily played safety. There he led Florida with 21 broken up passes and finished third with 52 tackles. Watkins then came to the Senior Bowl and proved he can be an NFL cornerback. At points, Watkins broke on routes faster than the wide receivers he was covering, and his ball skills were among the best in attendance.  A cornerback like Watkins holds plenty of value for NFL teams."

More on the big winners and those whose NFL Draft status may have been hurt by their performances.

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Gators try to remain undefeated in SEC play vs. Alabama tonight

The SEC’s only undefeated team in league play will try to keep that winning streak going tonight when Florida plays at Alabama.

The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.

The Gators are on a nine-game winning streak, but despite Alabama’s record this is a team that could pose some problems – specifically with its guard play. In SEC games, the Tide’s backcourt is averaging a combined 41.3 points per game – led by senior guard Trevor Releford’s 17.8 points per game. Florida coach Billy Donovan calls Releford “clearly one of the best point guards in the league since he’s come in here.”

While Alabama’s overall record isn’t pretty, the Tide is 8-2 at home this season and 2-0 in SEC play. Donovan said it would be a serious mistake for the Gators to take Alabama lightly based on its record.

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