Florida Gators: Shaq Wiggins

Five things: Georgia-Florida

November, 2, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Unranked Florida and Georgia (both 4-3 overall and 3-2 in SEC play) meet today in Jacksonville in an SEC East race elimination game. Let's look at five key factors in today's game with some help from ESPN's Stats and Information group.

Making Murphy throw: Without question, Georgia's defensive game plan will center around slowing down running backs Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor enough to force the Gators to put the ball in the air. LSU and Missouri were largely successful in that regard, with the Gators rushing for 111 and 59 yards in the last two games, respectively. The Gators are averaging an SEC-low 4.4 yards per carry this season on designed runs, down a full yard from last season, when their 5.5-ypc average on designed runs ranked fourth in the SEC. If Georgia can make Florida's offense one-dimensional, it would appear to be a big advantage even against the Bulldogs' mediocre secondary. Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy has been subpar in the last two games, including a 3.0 Total QBR in the Missouri game -- the lowest QBR by a Florida starting quarterback in the last decade. His QBR has declined in each game he has played this season.

The Gurley factor: All-SEC tailback Todd Gurley -- who rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown last season against Florida -- returns to Georgia's lineup today after missing the last three games with an ankle injury. The Bulldogs' offense fell into a major slump without Gurley and the assortment of other offensive weapons who have missed time lately with injuries. He's the most important piece, however, so his return is one of the most positive developments for the Bulldogs' offense in weeks. Georgia averaged 554 yards of total offense in the four games in which Gurley played this season. Without him in the lineup, Georgia averaged 370 yards.

Three is the magic number: Winners of the last two in the series, the Bulldogs have the chance to build their first three-game winning streak against Florida since 1987-89 -- with 1989 representing the final season before Steve Spurrier returned to Gainesville as head coach and launched Florida's two decades of dominance in Jacksonville. Georgia has six winning streaks of at least three games against Florida, but the Gators had won 18 of the last 21 meetings before Georgia launched its current winning streak with a 24-20 victory in 2011.

Turnover troubles: Georgia's last two wins in this series were punctuated by the eight turnovers the Bulldogs generated -- six last season and two in 2011. All-American Jarvis Jones was the driving force behind that turnover trend, but he's now in the NFL and the Bulldogs have struggled mightily at generating takeaways in his absence. With seven turnovers, Georgia is tied with Kentucky for last in the SEC, and only Arkansas (minus-six) has a worse turnover margin than Georgia's minus-five. The lone positive sign in this category for Georgia is that it posted its first multiple-takeaway game in its last outing, when both Shaq Wiggins and Corey Moore intercepted Vanderbilt passes and Wiggins returned his for a touchdown.

Florida's blitz: With some impressive edge rushers at its disposal and tenacious cornerbacks known for playing tight coverage, Florida's defense has been largely successful when it utilized the blitz this season. The Gators have sent five or more rushers on 25 percent of their opponents' dropback passes, with opponents completing just 38 percent of those passes and averaging 3.0 yards per play. Both numbers rank in the nation's top three among defenses from AQ conferences.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 8

October, 20, 2013
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Saturday was full of upsets, injuries and last-second finishes -- just another day in the SEC. Here are five things we learned from action in Week 8.

Nobody's safe: Five SEC teams in the Top 25 lost Saturday, and only one (Florida) was an underdog coming in. Georgia and South Carolina still were considered among the favorites to win the East, but both teams tripped up on the road to unranked opponents. Vanderbilt scored a touchdown in the final minutes to knock off the Bulldogs, and Tennessee kicked a field goal as time expired to spoil Steve Spurrier's latest trip to Knoxville. No. 7 Texas A&M was a heavy favorite at home against Auburn, but the Aggies' defense let them down again. Auburn rushed for 379 yards and scored late to pull off a 45-41 upset. In the nightcap, a short-handed Ole Miss team jumped out to a 17-0 lead and held off No. 6 LSU at home.

[+] EnlargeL'Damian Washington
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesAfter dominating Florida, Missouri (yes, Missouri) is on a collision course with Alabama to face off in the SEC title game.
Collision course: The only two teams that didn't slip up Saturday were the two unbeatens in the SEC: Alabama and Missouri. Now, the Crimson Tide and Tigers are on a collision course headed for Atlanta and the SEC championship game. It shouldn't come as any surprise that the two-time defending national champions are in this position, but who would've guessed Missouri would still be perfect this late in the season? The Tigers dominated Florida on Saturday, putting up 500 yards of offense to the Gators' 151. Quarterback Maty Mauk didn't miss a beat in his first start in place of James Franklin. The redshirt freshman threw for 295 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed for 15 yards and a score.

Auburn is for real: You can make excuses, particularly this one: If Johnny Manziel hadn't hurt his shoulder late in the game, Texas A&M would've won. But the fact of the matter is Auburn went to Kyle Field, put up 45 points, gained 615 yards and beat a top-10 team. Quarterback Nick Marshall looked very impressive after missing last week's game. He threw for 236 yards, rushed for 100 yards and scored four touchdowns. Even the defense, much maligned throughout the game, made the stop when it mattered -- with Manziel in the game. It comes back to first-year head coach Gus Malzahn. He has changed the culture around the Auburn program, and the Tigers are now 6-1 and the biggest threat to Alabama in the West.

Signature win for Butch: Tennessee came oh so close to pulling the upset against Georgia two weeks ago. It would've been the win to take the Volunteers to the next level, and show recruits that what coach Butch Jones is doing is real. But they came up short. Instead of dwelling on the loss, Tennessee bounced back after a week off and beat a Top 25 team at home. It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win. And how about that catch from Marquez North late in the game to put the Vols in range for the game-winning field goal? That was a grown-man catch. Tennessee isn't likely to go into Tuscaloosa and upset the No. 1 team in the nation, but it's obvious that Jones is turning around the program. The Vols took another step with Saturday's win over South Carolina.

Freshman impact: North's catch was spectacular, but he wasn't the only true freshman who had a big game on Saturday. Georgia's Shaq Wiggins returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown. Florida running back Kelvin Taylor scored the Gators' only offensive touchdown on a 20-yard run in the third quarter. And for Alabama, tight end O.J. Howard caught his first touchdown pass from 17 yards out, and running back Derrick Henry showed why he was such a heralded recruit with an 80-yard touchdown run late in the game. It just goes to show how important recruiting has become in the SEC, and it doesn't matter if it's the worst team in the conference or the best team -- freshmen will still play a role.

Florida weekend recruiting preview 

January, 18, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Though Florida has met a majority of its recruiting needs, the Gators are still hosting a group of important prospects this weekend.


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Sunday, ESPN 150 cornerback Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) returned from an official visit to South Carolina. Later that evening he received a call from Mark Richt. The Georgia head coach asked if he should be worried about Wiggins changing his commitment from Georgia to the Gamecocks. Wiggins told Richt no, but that he still planned to take visits to Florida and Texas A&M.


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Richt checks on his top commit 

January, 15, 2013
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ESPN 150 cornerback Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) spent Sunday morning eating breakfast with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, then ended that night on the phone with Georgia coach Mark Richt.


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ESPN 150 cornerback Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) was in Columbia, S.C., to take a closer look at South Carolina during his official visit. Wiggins said during practice for the Under Armour All-America game last week that the Gamecocks had the best chance at getting him to switch his commitment from the University of Georgia.

“I am still committed to Georgia, but I just need to take these last few visits and I will have a better idea of what my final decision will be,” Wiggins said.


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Hackenberg, Olsen earn UA Game starts

January, 3, 2013
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Black Team offense

Quarterback: Christian Hackenberg (Penn State)

Running back: Alvin Kamara

Receiver: Alvin Bailey (Florida), Robert Foster (Alabama), Damore'ea Stringfellow (Washington)

Tight end: O.J. Howard (Alabama)

Offensive tackle: Darius James (Texas), Denver Kirkland

Offensive guard: Grant Hill (Alabama), Joas Aguilar (Texas A&M)

Center: Hunter Bivin (Notre Dame)

Captains: Kelvin Taylor, Hunter Bivin, Robert Nkemdiche, Ben Boulware

Black Team defense

Defensive end: Robert Nkemdiche, Elijah Daniel

Defensive tackle: Greg Gilgmore (LSU), Kennedy Tulimasealii (Hawaii)

Inside linebacker: Ben Boulware (Clemson)

Outside linebacker: Alex Anzalone (Notre Dame), Matthew Thomas

Safety: Keanu Neal (Florida), Leon McQuay III

Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida), Tarean Folston (Notre Dame)

Black Team special teams

Long snapper: Tyler Kluver (Iowa)

Kicker/punter: Sean Covington (UCLA)

(Read full post)

Gamecocks make push for CB Wiggins 

January, 3, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- ESPN 150 cornerback Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) has been committed to the University of Georgia for more than 10 months, but when asked this week at Under Armour All-America Game practice about his future, Wiggins did not sound so certain about his plans.

“I am still committed to UGA, but there is a very good chance that if I don’t go to Georgia, that I go to South Carolina,” Wiggins said. “After that it is Ole Miss, then Florida, then Texas A&M.”

The Gamecocks have emerged as a true threat to steal Wiggins, the No. 5 cornerback prospect in the country, from the Bulldogs.

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#UAGame practice: Day 1 notebook 

December, 31, 2012
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -– Team Nitro and Team Highlight took to the fields at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports on Monday for Day 1 of practice for Friday’s Under Armour All-America Game (5 p.m. ET, ESPN). Two powerhouse programs in the Southeastern Conference look to battle it out for one of the standout running backs, and one of the top uncommitted offensive linemen is out with an injury.

Tide and Dawgs at top for RB Kamara

The Under Armour All-America Game boasts a bevy of talented running backs, and after the first practice ESPN 150 prospect Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) drew comparisons to one of the best.

[+] EnlargeAlvin Kamara
Miller Safrit/ESPN.comESPN 150 RB Alvin Kamara says Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon have been key to his recruiting process.
“They say I play like Percy Harvin,” Kamara said.

The 5-foot-10, 192-pound tailback has made a name for himself as a home-run threat out of the backfield or lined up in the slot, which makes it no surprise that programs across the country are pining for his commitment. Two from the SEC are in the lead.

“Alabama and Georgia are the front-runners, but I am still looking at Oregon -- and Tennessee too, with Butch Jones being there now,” Kamara said.

The nation's No. 4 running back has yet to set any official visits, but plans to do so after he gets home from the UA Game. A decision will likely come after his visits.

“This is not going to be a busy month so much as it is just something I need to buckle down and do,” Kamara said. “I am going to take these visits and base my decision off of that.”

One factor in his decision will be the relationship he has with the coaches recruiting him. The Tide could have a slight advantage because they made first contact with Kamara.

“Kirby Smart and I are really close,” Kamara said. “He was the first coach to ever talk to me. He snuck me his card after practice and I could not believe it. For a coach of his stature to be the first coach to talk to me is great. We have been in contact ever since, and we have a great relationship.”

Georgia might counter that with their running backs coach being Kamara’s recruiter of record.

“Coach [Bryan] McClendon and I have a great relationship too,” Kamara said. “With him being my position coach, I could see myself playing for him. We are on a friend level and we do not even talk about football most of the time.”

The in-state Bulldogs also have a few people in Kamara’s ear this week, though he admits they have been putting the pressure on him for quite some time.

“Even when we are not in a big event like this, guys like Shaq Wiggins, Brice Ramsey, even Reuben [Foster], even though he is not committed, are always asking where I am going,” Kamara said. “They are joking, but they are on me pretty hard sometimes.”

Newsworthy: OL Crowder deals with injury, sets officials

ESPN 150 offensive lineman Tyrone Crowder (Rockingham, N.C./Richmond) will be unable to play in Friday's UA Game after aggravating a hand injury he sustained a few weeks ago at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. While he is disappointed, Crowder said today he is looking forward to the home stretch of his recruitment and choosing from one of two programs.

“It is Clemson No. 1 and Georgia No. 2, and I will decide on signing day,” said Crowder, ranked the No. 2 OG in the country.

The Tigers have been after the 6-foot-1, 330-pound offensive lineman for more than three years now, and they have location and familiarity working in their favor.

“Clemson has been recruiting me since I was in ninth grade,” Crowder said. “I like what they have going on and I have built a strong relationship with them. It is close to home and I have some family close to Clemson. I will take my official there Jan. 11.”

Crowder has not been to Athens for six months, but he has fond memories of his visit.

“Georgia is a great powerhouse team in the SEC,” Crowder said. “When I went down there during the summer I really liked the campus and enjoyed meeting the coaches. I spoke to them two weeks ago and set an official visit Jan. 18.”

Trending

It was only the first day of practice, but Team Highlight (Black team) quarterbacks got off to an impressive start.


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GatorNation: Recruiting Mailbag 

December, 28, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It’s time to dip into the GatorNation recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the amount of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them today -- but we encourage you to post your questions on our Insider fan forum, The Chompions Club.

FLAGTR239: Of all the commits, from what you've seen, who do you feel will make an impact next season?

A: With the No. 1-ranked class in the country right now, there are several Florida commitments who I feel will have some sort of impact. Kelvin Taylor will have an impact on the offense. Running back Matt Jones displayed what he's capable of in the win over Florida State, but he'll only be a sophomore. Taylor, who's enrolling in January, will have a chance to learn the offense in the spring and compete for playing time early on. I still believe Jones will start, but Taylor should see plenty of carries. Defensively, Vernon Hargreaves III will be an All-American by the time he leaves Florida. He's an intelligent and physically gifted defensive back. Hargreaves has excelled at every event -- whether 7-on-7s or actual games -- I've seen him play in. Florida has depth at corner, but Hargreaves is just too talented to keep off the field early on.

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Florida preview: Under Armour game 

December, 27, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Gators will be well represented at the Under Armour All-America game in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Jan. 4. The game, which will be televised on ESPN at 5 p.m. ET, will feature the top players in the country.

Florida leads all teams with seven players selected to play in the prestigous game. Florida commit Kelvin Taylor, the No. 1-ranked running back in the country, said he has dreamed about playing in this game since he was in the eighth grade.

"Ever since my eighth grade year, in the summertime, I have worked my butt off to get to this point," Taylor said when he was introduced with his Under Armour game jersey. "I feel like if I don't work hard every day, then someone else is going to get better than me. I've been working out so much, even after football practice, I'll come home and work out some more. I'll work at little details just to get better, because that's what it's going to take to get me to the next level. It's the little things you do. I'm just proud of what I've done and God has really blessed me."

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GatorNation recruiting mailbag 

December, 20, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It’s time to dip into the GatorNation recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the amount of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them today -- but we encourage you to post your questions on our Insider fan forum, The Chompions Club.

Scot5013: How seriously is top RB [Alex] Collins considering UF?

A: Very seriously. He had a great visit to Florida over the weekend and the Gators are at or near the top of his list. He still has an official visit to Miami to keep an eye on. Florida is also very tight on scholarships, so to me the question is will Florida have enough room to take three running backs? They would hate to miss out on one of the top running backs in the country, but they still need to add a defensive end, a receiver and possibly a corner. A lot will depend on if there is any more attrition.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It’s time to dip into the GatorNation recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the amount of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them today -- but we encourage you to post your questions on our Insider fan forum, The Chompions Club.

Chancez321: How, if at all, does this loss affect recruiting?

A: I'm a big believer that a single loss will not affect recruiting in the long run. If Georgia would have blown out Florida then maybe it would have had an impact, but it was a close game. Let's say Florida wins the rest of its regular-season games and finishes 11-1. Do you think recruits will hold against them a tough, hard-fought loss to a rival? Probably not. Guys like Laremy Tunsil, Trenton Brown and Shaq Wiggins are considering both schools, but they're smart enough to make decisions based on what is the right fit for their future, not solely based on one game.

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GatorNation's Derek Tyson and DawgNation's Kipp Adams look at five key recruiting battles remaining between Florida and Georgia for the Class of 2013.

OL Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia)

CONSIDERING: Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Florida State

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Dawson, Tunsil among UF visitors 

October, 19, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With their second top 10 matchup in three weeks, the Florida Gators will once again be bringing in several top prospects for Saturday's game against the No. 7-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks. The list is heavy on prospects who are verbally committed to other schools, but there will be at least two big uncommitted prospects in attendance.

Four-star offensive guard David Dawson (No. 87 in ESPN 300; Detroit/Cass Tech) decommitted from Michigan just last week, and the Gators appear to be in the driver's seat for his services. Dawson, who will be taking his official visit to UF, said he is looking forward to spending time with other Florida commits on his visit to Gainesville.

"I'm just looking forward to seeing the campus, getting to chill with some of the other Florida commits again," Dawson said. "I'm also looking forward to seeing the facilities and all the Nike gear they have."

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Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
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