Déjà Vu all over again for Vols; Gators’ win streak vs. Tennessee goes to 11

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For the second time in three weeks, Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) let a double-digit lead in the second half waste away, leading to a heartbreaking loss. Down 27-14 in the fourth quarter, Florida (4-0, 2-0 SEC) rallied for a thrilling 28-27 win against the division rival Vols. Gators quarterback Will Grier threw two touchdowns in the comeback that saw the Gators keep their perfect record in play and extended the school’s winning streak over Tennessee to 11. Grier’s 4th and 14 pass to Antonio Callaway went for 63 yards and the winning touchdown with 1:26 left in the game. Tennessee missed a 55-yard field goal as the clock expired.

Florida got a number of breaks to get the win, but they earned them. The Gators were a perfect five-for-five on fourth downs, making up for a 3-for-15 third down success rate. Tennessee even had the advantage in total offensive yards (419-392) and the Vols rushed for more than twice as many yards on the ground (254-109). Tennessee also had the slight edge in time of possession. Talk about a bit of a gutsy win for the Gators.

Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs led all players with 136 yards and Jalen Hurd added 102 yards and two touchdowns for the Vols. Florida’s Grier overcame some tough moments earlier in the game to shine in the clutch. He ended the game with 283 passing yards and two touchdowns. Kelvin Taylor had 102 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and Callaway ended his day with 112 yards.

Florida head coach Jim McElwain nearly cost his team a win when he chose to freeze Tennessee kicker Aaron Medley on the final play of the game. Hedley was setting up for a 55-yard field goal and missed his first attempt wide right by a good margin, but McElwain called a timeout (probably because college kickers have such a great track record with long field goals, I guess). After the timeout, Medley got a second chance and nearly made McElwain pay for the timeout tactic. Medley’s kick certainly had the distance but once again flew by the goalpost wide right, by an extremely narrow margin.

McElwain escaped his over-coaching moment, but Butch Jones left some scratching their heads over a decision not to go for a two-point conversion. In the fourth quarter, Tennessee took a 26-14 lead on a Hurd touchdown. Rather than attempt the two-point conversion to make it 28-14, Jones kicked the extra point. To say that may have cost Tennessee a win would be an understatement.

So for Tennessee, it is one more year of waiting before snapping the long losing streak to the hated Gators. It has been 11 years since the last time Tennessee defeated the Gators, which means nearly three full recruiting classes have come and gone in Knoxville wihtout celebrating a win over Florida.

Florida is now sitting in first place in the SEC East with a 2-0 conference mark. Tennessee, despite another year of promise and potential, is off to a start of 0-1 in conference play.

Two hires complete Tom Allen’s Indiana coaching staff

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Once again, the Indiana Hoosiers football coaching staff is whole.

Sunday afternoon, the Hoosiers announced the additions of two assistant coaches for Tom Allen. Jason Jones will serve as safeties coach, while Kevin Wright will coach tight ends.

Allen and Jones have a prior working relationship, having served on the same coaching staff at Ole Miss.

“I have so much respect for Jason,” the Indiana Hoosiers football head coach said in a statement. “I was fortunate to work with him for two seasons at Ole Miss. He has worked in the SEC and the Big 12, and he was a part of one of the top defenses in the country last year. Jason’s a great football coach and is the kind of husband, father and man I want in this program.”

Last year, Jones was the cornerbacks coach at Florida Atlantic.

“I am so thankful to Coach Allen for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this great staff,” Jones said. “IU impressed me so much last season, and I can’t wait to contribute to even more success. I am excited and ready to get to work.”

Wright is a 20-year coaching veteran, with 13 of those years in the state of Indiana and the last five at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

“I’ve known Kevin for many, many years” Allen said. “He’s been one of the most successful high school coaches in the country and has done a tremendous job working with some of the top talent in the country at IMG. Kevin allows us to expand our recruiting base and continue our success in the state of Florida. He’s a great fit for our program in so many ways, and we are excited to welcome Kevin and his family to IU.”

These hirings came a month after a new seven-year deal for Allen was announced.

North Carolina new home for All-American FCS kicker

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The North Carolina football program is the latest to dip into the FCS ranks for some talent. Placekicker talent, but still.

Sunday afternoon, the North Carolina football program announced that Grayson Atkins is transferring to the Tar Heels. Atkins spent the past three seasons at Furman.

According to UNC, Atkins will graduate from the FCS school in the spring.  He’ll then join the North Carolina football program in the summer.

As a graduate transfer, Atkins will have one season of eligibility remaining.

Below are Atkins’ particulars, as relayed by UNC’s release:

An Inman, S.C. native, Atkins converted on 33-of-41 field goal attempts and 132-of-138 PAT attempts during his three seasons at Furman. He earned first-team All-America honors as a junior and second-team honors as a sophomore. Atkins was also named All-Southern Conference twice. His 231 career points rank 10th on Furman’s career scoring list and fifth on the kick scoring list. Combining the end of his junior season and the beginning of his senior season, Atkins made 18 consecutive field goals, which is a Furman and Southern Conference record.

As a junior in 2019, Atkins earned first-team AFCA FCS Coaches’ All-America honors to go along with All-America honors form the Associated Press and STATS FCS. He converted on 13-of-15 field goal attempts and 48-of-50 PATs. Atkins made all six field-goal attempts under 40 yards and went 7-of-9 on attempts from 40 or more yards including a 55-yarder. In addition to his first-team All-SoCon honors as a placekicker, Atkins earned second-team accolades as a punter after averaging 43.5 yards per punt.

This past season, sophomore Noah Ruggles made all 45 of his extra-point attempts for the Tar Heels.  He also hit on just 19 of his 27 field-goal attempts.

Florida transfer Chris Bleich moves on to Syracuse

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This development involving a now-former Florida Gators football player flew under our radar last week, so we’ll rectify that with an early-morning post to start this work week.

Chris Bleich started eight of the first nine games at right guard for Florida this past season, with the lone start he missed being due to blisters on his foot. However, the redshirt freshman had begun to lose playing time due to performance even as he maintained the starting job in name.

With his grip on the position loosening, though, Bleich decided to take his leave of the Gators in early November.  Florida Gators football head coach Dan Mullen subsequently confirmed the departure.  Mullen also confirmed that unspecified family issues at home triggered the decision.

In the latest Bleich development, Syracuse announced late this past week that the lineman has been added to the Orange’s roster. In its release, the football program stated that “Bleich must sit out the 2020 season due to NCAA transfer regulations unless granted immediate eligibility.”

It’s expected that Bleich will seek a waiver from the NCAA that would allow him to play this coming season.

Bleich was a three-star member of Florida’s 2018 recruiting class, rated as the No. 13 player at any position in the state of Pennsylvania. The 6-6, 330-pound lineman played in just four games as a true freshman, and was able to preserve a year of eligibility by taking a redshirt that season.

If Bleich is granted a waiver, he’ll have three seasons to play three years.  If not, he’ll sit out 2020 and then have two years of eligibility starting in 2021.

Oregon State adds second Power Five transfer WR, this one from Florida State

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A personnel loss for Florida State will apparently be a gain for the Oregon State football program.

Last month, Tre'Shaun Harrison placed his name into the NCAA transfer database. This past week, it was reported that Harrison has been added to the OSU student directory.

According to Oregon Live, “Harrison and his mom took a visit to Corvallis from January 3-5 and the trip left him encouraged about a future with the Beavers.”

As of yet, the Oregon State football program has not addressed any roster development involving Harrison. Barring the unexpected, the receiver will have to sit out the 2020 season. That would then leave him with two years of eligibility starting in 2021.

A four-star 2018 signee, Harrison was rated as the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Washington. Harrison was originally committed to Oregon before flipping and following Willie Taggart to FSU.

In 2019, Harrison caught 27 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns.  He was third on the Seminoles in both catches and yards.

Harrison is the second Power Five wide receiver transfer added by the Oregon State football program this month. After opting to leave Washington, Trey Lowe ultimately moved on and transferred to OSU. Like Harrison, Lowe will have to sit out the upcoming season.