Jim McElwain

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Four-star WR James Robinson heading to Florida in major turn of events

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Just when you thought you have seen it all on National Signing Day, think again. Four-star wide receiver James Robinson has landed with the Florida Gators after what has been quite the sequence of events over the past couple of days.

Robinson was arrested for a pot possession offense during an official visit to Ohio State over the weekend. As a result of his arrest, Florida reportedly was set to prevent Gators head coach Jim McElwain from adding Robinson to their recruiting class. So much for that, because McElwain tweeted some interesting new son his Twitter account to announce the addition of Robinson to Florida’s Class of 2017.

Rivals ranks Robinson as the 16th best wide receiver in the nation and the 19th best overall recruit from Florida. Robinson tweeted earlier this week he would not be announcing his decision on National Signing Day after the weekend arrest threw a curveball in the recruiting process. You just never know what will happen on National Signing Day.

No. 17 Florida defense dominates Iowa in Outback Bowl blowout, 30-3

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Austin Appleby may not have been able to beat Iowa (8-5) while he was at Purdue, but he was able to do that on Monday in the Outback Bowl with the No. 17 Florida Gators (9-4). Appleby had early mistakes with a pair of turnovers on the first two drives of the game, but Appleby ended his day with 222 yards and two touchdowns to help the Gators pull away from the Hawkeyes in Tampa in a 30-3 victory.

The story of the game was Florida’s defense, which came up with three interceptions of Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard and held the Iowa offense to just 55 passing yards. Iowa was limited to just 226 yards of offense and went 4-of-16 on third down. Even a 100-yard day from Akrum Wadley (115 yards) was not enough to keep the Hawkeyes within reach once the game snowballed out of control.

Florida scored the first touchdown of the game on an 85-yard pass play to Mark Thompson with multiple missed tackles along the way. Chauncey Gardner padded a comfortable 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter with a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown, and the Gators tacked on two more field goals from there to pile on in the 27-point victory. Considering how Florida was embarrassed last season by a Big Ten team in the bowl season (Michigan), this must have been a little extra sweet to do the same to another Big Ten team.

The loss by the Hawkeyes clinches a losing bowl record this season for the Big Ten. At 3-6 and just one game remaining to play (Penn State in the Rose Bowl), the Big Ten had a rough postseason that included two New Years Six bowl losses by Michigan and Ohio State (in the College Football Playoff). A Penn State win would at least give the Big Ten a split in NY6 bowl games if it can beat USC in the Rose Bowl. The SEC is now 6-5 in the bowl season with two more games to play. Auburn faces Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl later tonight and Alabama will face Clemson in the nationla championship game next week.

Iowa has now been outscored 172-75 in its last five bowl games, which has culminated in a five-game bowl losing streak for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. Florida head coach Jim McElwain picked up his first bowl victory of his career.

Iowa’s 2017 season will get underway on September 2 at home against Wyoming from the Mountain West Conference. Iowa will play key division game son the road against Wisconsin and Nebraska next fall, as well as on the road against Big Ten East opponent Michigan State (who can’t possibly be as bad in 2017 as they were in 2016, right). The Hawkeyes also host Ohio State in early November next fall.

Florida’s 2017 season will start in Arlington, Texas against the Michigan Wolverines on September 2 in the Cowboys Kickoff. Other non-conference games will include home games against UAB (the Blazers are back in 2017!) and rival Florida State. In conference play, the Gators host Tennessee as well as LSU and Texas A&M.

As a reminder, the Florida victory means you get a free bloomin’ onion at your local Outback Steakhouse tomorrow, January 3.

QB Luke Del Rio “highly doubtful” for Florida’s next game

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The Florida Gators do not appear to be optimistic about quarterback Luke Del Rio being available for their next game against Vanderbilt this weekend. Florida announced Del Rio is “highly doubtful” for this weekend’s game after missing this past weekend’s game at Tennessee.

Del Rio suffered a left knee injury two weeks ago against North Texas, forcing him to miss last weekend’s game against the Vols. Florida expects to be able to work Del Rio back into the practice routine starting Tuesday and will continue to monitor his progress as they make sure he is good to go before testing him in a game.

“I would say he’d be highly doubtful for this week,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said Monday. “But I’m still not going to count him out.”

Austin Appleby stepped in to get his first start at Florida since transferring from Purdue when he took the field on Saturday at Tennessee. It is expected Appleby will once again get the start against Vanderbilt. Del Rio visited with the team and was in a uniform last weekend, more so he could communicate and help Appleby out as best he possibly could from the sideline.

Luke Del Rio makes case to be starting QB in Florida spring game

Matt Stamey(/The Gainesville Sun via AP
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Jim McElwain and the Florida Gators have been looking to solve the quarterback situation since the midseason suspension of Will Grier last fall. As the spring practices went on the big question was who would be Florida’s best fit running the offense with two main options from which to choose. On Friday night, it appeared there was a pretty definitive leader in the clubhouse with Luke Del Rio leading his team to a decisive victory in the spring game Friday night.

Del Rio completed 10 of 11 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Both of his touchdown passes came within the red zone, with one to DeAndre Goolsby and the other to Dre Massey. Del Rio’s main competition came from Purdue transfer Austin Appleby, who played for both teams in the spring game. Appleby completed eight of his 11 pass attempts for 80 yards.

“I was pressing a little bit [early in the spring], not letting the offense work for me,” Del Rio said after the game. “They do a great job of installing plays, putting guys open for us. I just kind of let the offensive line do what they do, let the receivers do what they do and I just went through the progressions. It’s easier that way. The coaches are right. Run the offense, it works.”

Despite the impressive spring performance from the former Alabama and Oregon State quarterback, McElwain did not feel ready to name Del Rio his starting quarterback for the 2016 season and will instead allow the competition to continue over the summer.

“Early in the spring, he was trying to press and I thought was somewhat out of character of how he has to play to be successful,” McElwain said after the game of Del Rio. “[He] did a good job of sliding in the pocket and taking his eyes where he needed to with the pressure. I thought he was pretty good.”

Considering how decisive the victory for Del Rio’s team was, McElwain made note that something clearly needs to be addressed on the other side of the football. With that being the case, it is wise to take some time to go back and review the film and see what went well and what needs work and how much that influences the stats put up by Del Rio (and any other player for that matter).

Regardless, Del Rio exits the spring with the right kind of momentum needed to make a push for the starting nod when Florida opens the 2016 season at home against UMass on September 3.

Jim McElwain offers rare praise for Jim Harbaugh’s Florida-based spring practices

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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh created quite a stir with his recent trip south with his football program to open spring football practices. The move drew criticism throughout the south, but Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher applauded Harbaugh’s outside the box line of thinking. It seems Fisher is not alone in offering up some praise from the sunshine state. Florida head coach Jim McElwain served up some extremely rare complimentary remarks for Harbaugh this week. McElwain praised Harbaugh for “pushing the envelope” with the spring football practice spring break trip.

“I kind of look it as more power to him,” McElwain said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. “It’s totally legal. He’s not doing anything that’s illegal. He’s pressing the envelopes. He’s putting their name in the paper every day. And, you know, that’s cool. I mean, I’d come to Florida, too.”

McElwain noted Harbaugh’s spring break trip was perfectly legal, which it is under the current construction of the NCAA policies. The sEC requested the NCAA take a look at closing down the option of holding spring football practices over a school’s spring break. ACC commissioner John Swofford echoed some of those concerns as well as NCAA president Mark Emmert. This led to a war of words between Harbaugh and others in the south.

“There are great players here, right? There’s a reason every school in the country comes here and recruits. So I think for them it’s trying to gain an edge and give them an opportunity to practice in great weather. I don’t plan on taking ours to Michigan. I’m all for what he’s doing.”