Florida Gators Football: News & Notes on the Upcoming 2011 Season
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The slow time is almost done, and Wednesday will mark one month until the day the Gators kick off their 2011 season against visiting Florida Atlantic.
The team's media day is scheduled for this Friday, so we'll provide material for you from that. Until then, here are a few leftover summer notes.
*The fourth-annual Gator Football Charity Challenge took place last Friday night in The Swamp.
The event featured six teams of Florida football players taking on one another in the tug-of-war, the sled push and the torpedo hold with the major reward being the 650 pounds of canned food that was collected for the Salvation Army of Alachua County.
The winning team was the Go Gettas, which was captained by Trey Burton, Frankie Hammond, Jon Harrison, Jaye Howard and Jelani Jenkins.
With a first-place showing in the sled push, a second in the torpedo hold and a fourth in the tug-of-war, the Go Gettas scored 14 points to outpace torpedo-hold-winner Against All Odds by two.
However, outside of the food collected for the Salvation Army, the biggest story of the night was turned in by 5'7", 175-pound walk-on fullback Jesse Schmidt, who outlasted Jeremy Brown and Chris Rainey in the final of the pushup competition.
A junior, Schmidt attempted to make the team as a freshman, but was cut. He tried again last spring and was awarded a roster spot.
At what position would Gerald Christian provide the most value for the Gators in the 2011 season?
Schmidt plans on joining the Marines when he is done with school and credited that training, plus his lack of weight to have to push up and down, for him being able to win the competition.
He said his next goal is to be wearing an orange-and-blue uniform for the FAU game.
*UF has upgraded its video towers to be safer this offseason, according to gatorzone.com.
This was in direct response to the events of Oct. 27, 2010 that saw 20-year-old Notre Dame student/team videographer Declan Sullivan killed after powerful winds knocked over the 50-foot tower he was working from during a Fighting Irish practice.
Florida has added six, permanent 35-foot towers that are held down by three-foot thick concrete pads that are approximately 20-by-20.
*Perhaps the player with the most roles for the Gators this fall will be Gerald Christian.
He is listed as a tight end, he played linebacker (well) in the spring and also is expected to see some time at fullback when UF goes to I-formations.
*UF has welcomed a walk-on quarterback with a familiar last name.
Ryan McGriff's father, Mark, was a Gator, as is his grandfather, Perry. Ryan's cousin, Travis, also was a Florida wide receiver in the 1990s.
A Gainesville High School product, McGriff threw for more than 6,000 yards in high school. According to his former coach with the Hurricanes, Ryan Smith, McGriff's ultimate goal is to become a coach and he believed working under new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis gave him the best opportunity to live that dream.
South Carolina and Mississippi expressed interest in McGriff, and he received scholarship offers from Ohio, Elon, Murray State and Wofford out of high school.
Also, two of McGriff's former prep teammates who once had UF's attention have transferred away from the University of Miami.
Linebacker Kevin Nelson, who turned down a scholarship offer from Urban Meyer to attend UM, is now at Florida A&M. Meanwhile, defensive back Devont'a Davis has transferred to Youngstown State, according to Smith.
UF really liked the 6'1" Davis coming out of high school, but got the big cornerback it needed when Californian Josh Shaw committed. So Davis, a lifelong Gator fan who didn't get the scholarship offer he desired, followed Nelson, a lifelong Hurricanes' fan, to UM.
A relative of Davis contacted the UF coaching staff in January, looking to see if the Gators would take the former all-state corner, but the Gators did not have a scholarship available.
Another player UF also looked closely at offering a scholarship out of high school, running back Rodney Scott, has transferred from Mississippi to Bethune-Cookman due to concerns about playing time.
Scott performed well at Florida's annual "Friday Night Lights" event a few summers back, but the Gators coaching staff was set on trying to sign Pensacola High School's Trent Richardson (who also participated that evening). However, UF was unable to sway Richardson away from Alabama, and Scott, a product of Cross City Dixie County High School (the alma mater of Green Bay Packers' safety Nick Collins) wound up a Rebel.
While at Mississippi, Scott received national acclaim for laying still after being tackled by Auburn safety Zac Etheridge after noticing Etheridge wasn't moving after the hit. Scott's actions may have saved his opponent from permanent paralysis.
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