Florida Gators: Utah State Aggies

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp has decided to go with a special teams coordinator after all.

Muschamp announced the hiring of UTEP defensive coordinator Jeff Choate on Wednesday morning as the Gators’ special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach. He replaces Bryant Young, who resigned last week for personal reasons.

"He is a high-energy coach, an outstanding recruiter and evaluator, and has a reputation as one of the top special-teams coaches in the nation," Muschamp said in a statement. "He sees the big picture and will be a great addition to our staff.

"I got to know Jeff several years ago when I as at Texas and he was at Boise State. He visited Austin and we spent a lot of time talking defensive and special teams schemes. He also visited us in Gainesville last spring, and we are very much on the same page philosophically."

The Gators split up special teams duties in the spring because D.J. Durkin was promoted from linebackers coach/special teams coordinator to defensive coordinator after Dan Quinn resigned to become the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. Young’s resignation, however, gave him an opportunity to bring the units under one person’s control.

Choate, who joined the UTEP staff after spending the 2012 season as the linebackers coach at Washington State, has been a special teams coordinator for nine seasons at Utah State (2003-05), Eastern Illinois (2005) and Boise State (2006-2011). Choate also coached running backs, linebackers and nickel backs at Boise State.

"I’m excited about the opportunity to join the Gator staff and have the chance to compete at the highest level," Choate said in a statement. "I’ve gotten to know Coach Muschamp over the past couple of years and have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a coach and a person. I’m looking forward to continuing the great special teams tradition that has been established here and can’t wait to get to work."
ESPN's GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. Over the next 30 weekdays, we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

Jeff Driskel, Jacoby Brissett
Icon SMI, Getty ImagesWith true freshmen QBs Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett forced onto the field, Florida struggled to convert third downs in 2011.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Offense is what kept Florida from being a better team in 2011.

The Gators had one of the nation’s better defenses last season. UF ranked in the top 10 nationally in third-down defense (second, 27.3 percent), pass defense (seventh, 166.8 yards per game) and total defense (eighth, 299.5 yards per game). But that couldn’t overcome an offense that scored just 27 points in losses to Alabama, LSU and Auburn, and scored 12 or less points in five of its six losses.

The biggest reason for the offensive struggles -- other than the injury to quarterback John Brantley -- was the Gators’ ineffectiveness on third down. UF converted just 32.1 percent of its third downs (51-of-159), which ranked 111th nationally (out of 120 teams) and was the second-worst percentage in school history. Only the 1979 team (26.1 percent) was worse.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida had just two players drafted over the past three days: defensive tackle Jaye Howard (fourth round, Seattle) and running back Chris Rainey (fifth round, Pittsburgh). Here are some numbers and stats to put that into perspective:

The Gators have had fewer than three players drafted in one year just five times since 1980: 2012, 2008, 1993, 1982 and 1980.

UF has had at least one player drafted in the first three rounds for the past 18 seasons. The last time UF didn’t have at least one player taken in the top three rounds was 1993 (Lawrence Hatch was a sixth-round pick by New England, and Will White was a seventh-round pick by Phoenix).

Florida’s streak of consecutive years with at least one first-round selection ends at five. Entering the draft, it was the longest active streak in the nation.

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Dawgs enter mix for All-American juco OL 

February, 9, 2012
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Signing day was more than a week ago, but the Georgia Bulldogs are still hoping for a couple of additions to the 2012 class. The graduation of three starters at offensive line, the decision by offensive lineman Avery Young (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Palm Beach Gardens) to sign with Auburn, and the loss of commit Chester Brown (Hinesville, Ga./Bradwell Institute) due to apparent citizenship status issues have put the Bulldogs in need of some serious help along the line. After watching film, the Georgia staff this week targeted one of the top juco offensive linemen in the country.

“UGA contacted us two days ago and said they had just received film on Fehoko Fanaika (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo) and that they really liked him,” College of San Mateo assistant head coach Tim Tulloch said. “He said they lost three starters to the draft and lost a few guys to injury, and they needed someone to come in physically ready and experienced like 'Hoko. They wanted to know more about his work ethic and character, and after I walked them through that they said they wanted him.”

Coach Will Friend made sure to let Fanaika know he is needed in Athens and is hoping for the chance to tell him in person soon.

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