Oct 10, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; LSU Tigers tight end Arik Gilbert (2) runs against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

TE Arik Gilbert decommits from Florida, enters transfer portal again

Feb 7, 2020; Tampa, FL, USA;  General view of the NFL Shield logo on the field before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end Arik Gilbert said he is heading to the transfer portal again instead of the University of Florida after telling the school on Jan. 31 he was going to be Gator.

“I have decided to decommit from the university of Florida and re-enter the portal,” Gilbert tweeted. “I will not be announcing my final decision until I am enrolled into school and on campus.”

The 6-foot-5, 249-pound Gilbert, who was one of the most sought-after recruits in the 2020 cycle, played for LSU last season. But he decided to opt out of the season on Dec. 9 after posting 368 yards and two touchdowns on 35 receptions in eight games.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron said he hoped Gilbert would return to the team. Instead, he never played another down for the Tigers and ultimately entered the transfer portal, reopening his recruiting.

Gilbert, a five-star recruit ranked No. 5 nationally according to 247Sports in 2020, was expected to replace Kyle Pitts in Gainesville. The Gators’ standout tight end, who led the team in receiving touchdowns (12) last season, is expected to be among the first players taken in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Gators signed tight ends Gage Wilcox (four star) and Nick Elksnis (three star) in their 2021 recruiting class and also return Kemore Gamble, Keon Zipperer and Jonathan Odom from last year’s squad.

–Field Level Media

Oct 10, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; LSU Tigers tight end Arik Gilbert (2) runs against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Former LSU TE Arik Gilbert transfers to SEC rival Florida

Former LSU tight end Arik Gilbert announced Sunday that he intends to transfer to Florida.

Gilbert will join a vaunted rival in the Southeastern Conference after spending one season with the Tigers. He had 35 catches for 368 yards and two touchdowns in eight games before opting out of the remainder of the season in early December.

At Florida, Gilbert could help replace tight end Kyle Pitts, who will enter the NFL draft. Pitts had 770 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns last season in the Gators’ highly touted offense.

The Gators have been busy this offseason, adding former Clemson running back Demarkcus Bowman via the transfer portal earlier in January.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive tackle Antonio Shelton (55) dances for teammates prior to the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Florida adds ex-Penn State DT Antonio Shelton

Former Penn State defensive tackle Antonio Shelton will finish his career at Florida as a graduate transfer.

“Different animal, same beast,” he posted Wednesday on Twitter with an image of himself in a Gators uniform.

The 6-foot-3, 327-pound redshirt senior announced his intention to transfer last month after tallying 3.5 sacks and 14 tackles in nine games for the Nittany Lions in 2020.

Shelton’s career totals at Penn State included six sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, 51 tackles and one forced fumble in 40 games.

The Columbus, Ohio, native earned a degree in broadcast journalism in December 2019.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2020; Gainesville, FL, USA;   Florida Gators kicker Evan McPherson (19) attempts and misses a field goal that would have tied the game during a game against the LSU Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. Dec. 12, 2020. Florida lost 37-34 to the Tigers. Mandatory Credit: Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK

Florida K McPherson declares for NFL draft

Florida kicker Evan McPherson on Tuesday announced his decision to forgo his senior season and enter the 2021 NFL Draft.

McPherson posted the announcement on Twitter.

“My family and I have put much time, thought and prayer into this decision over the past few weeks,” he wrote on Twitter. “It has been a lifelong dream of mine to play football at the highest level in the NFL. I have decided to forego my senior year at Florida and enter the 2021 NFL Draft. Go Gators!”

McPherson, a third-year kicker from Fort Payne, Alabama, leaves as the third most accurate kicker in Gators’ history.

He connected on 17 of 19 field goals in 2018 and 2019 for an 89.5-percent conversion rate, which was a pace to set the school record at Florida. McPherson missed five FG attempts this past season (17 for 22), dropping his career rate to 85 percent, good for No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference (since 1956).

McPherson converted 149 of his 150 point-after attempts in his three years.

–Field Level Media

Dec 30, 2020; Arlington, TX, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask (11) throws a pass against the Oklahoma Sooners in the second quarter at ATT Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Florida record-setting QB Trask declares for NFL draft

Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask announced Thursday that he is entering the NFL draft.

Trask made his announcement in a video posted to various social media sites.

“I feel that it’s best to chase my dreams of playing in the NFL,” Trask said. “I’ve had dreams of playing in the NFL ever since I was a kid. Just to have this opportunity to play at the next level, it’s crazy and I’m going to try and go and make the most of it.”

Trask enjoyed a stellar 2020 season in which he set school records of 4,283 passing yards and 43 touchdowns passes. He topped 400 yards five times and twice threw six scoring passes.

Trask was intercepted eight times, three of them coming in a 55-20 loss to Oklahoma in Wednesday’s Cotton Bowl. He passed for a season-low 158 yards.

But the poor showing against the Sooners wasn’t diminishing Trask’s enthusiasm about his time with the Gators. He grew up near Houston and never imagined that playing in the Sunshine State would be such a life-changing experience.

“I will definitely always remember the memories we made and the big-time wins we had over the past couple years,” Trask said. “I will always be a Gator. I will always bleed Orange and Blue.”

Trask wasn’t a big-time recruit — his first start didn’t occur until Game 3 of the 2019 season — nor was he considered a high NFL draft pick prior to the season.

But the strong campaign improved his stock. He now rates as a one of the top half-dozen available quarterbacks and his name will surely be called within the first two rounds.

Gators coach Dan Mullen has enjoyed watching Trask’s rise.

“I couldn’t be prouder of him and the season that he had with our team this year. A special, special year for him,” Mullen said. “I’m really happy for him. I mean, you’re talking about a young guy that came in, I think only played a couple plays in his career before he even graduated college. Didn’t play much in high school. And now he’s a Heisman Trophy finalist and he’s going to be an NFL draft pick. So that says a lot about him.”

Trask said he has always drawn motivation from the doubters.

“When I think about it, just being counted out so many times,” Trask said of his career. “When people doubt me, it’s nothing new to me. It doesn’t hold me down. I don’t dwell on it. I just try to prove them wrong. I think that’s ultimately what’s gotten me here today.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA;  Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) throws  during the first half against the Iowa State Cyclones at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Passers in spotlight as OU, UF collide in Cotton Bowl

The only other time Florida and Oklahoma have played, in the BCS Championship following the 2008 season, the focus was largely on the quarterbacks.

This time around, with the Gators’ Kyle Trask and Sooners’ Spencer Rattler, the position is once again front and center when the teams meet in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 30 in Arlington, Texas.

That first meeting featured a pair of Heisman winners in Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford.

While Rattler isn’t a Heisman contender, yet at least, and Trask’s chances to win the award probably disappeared with Florida’s recent two-game winning streak, both have been critical in their team’s success.

They’ve also taken wildly different routes to stardom.

Rattler was a five-star phenom in the Phoenix area who had his pick of schools before choosing to sign with Oklahoma.

He was among the Heisman favorites by oddsmakers entering this season even though he had never started in college.

The redshirt freshman put together a strong season, throwing for nearly 280 yards per game, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 68.0 percent of his passes.

“(Rattler) can run around, extend plays, scramble, and make things happen with his feet as well as having a really live arm,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said.

Trask had none of the hype.

He wasn’t even the starting quarterback at his high school, instead serving as the backup to D’Eriq King, now Miami’s quarterback.

But Trask stuck with the team and eventually drew the attention of Florida coaches, who offered him a scholarship.

Trask, now a senior, didn’t get a serious opportunity to start for the Gators until last year when Feleipe Franks suffered a season-ending injury.

Trask’s numbers last season during his eight games as a starter are nearly identical to Rattler’s – 277.5 passing yards per game, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Their team’s 8-2 records in those games are even identical.

But Trask has emerged as a star this season, throwing for 4,125 yards and 43 touchdowns – 11 more than any other FBS quarterback – with just five interceptions.

“He’s done a really good job of using the weapons,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “They’ve got a tremendous scheme that really features what he does well. But you can see, having watched him a little bit more last year, you can see obviously the improvement he’s made.”

Trask will be without one of his top targets for the game. Tight end Kyle Pitts, the favorite for the Mackey Award as the top tight end in college football, announced he was opting out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft.

While Oklahoma’s offense has garnered plenty of attention since Riley arrived, the Sooners (8-2) have their best defense in recent years. The defense is keyed by their front, which is averaging 3.8 sacks per game, sixth-best in FBS, while allowing just 90.6 yards per game on the ground, No. 3 nationally.

Florida (8-3) has struggled defensively in spots this season, including recently, allowing an average of 511.5 yards and 44.5 points per game in losses to LSU and Alabama.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Gainesville, FL, USA;   Florida Gators players including Kyle Trask (11) and Kyle Pitts (84) celebrate with teammates after the Gators beat the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. Nov. 28, 2020.   Mandatory Credit: Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK

No. 6 Florida looks to clinch SEC East vs. Tennessee

No. 6 Florida and Tennessee are set to square off for the 50th time in a series usually simply called the “Third Saturday in September,” and the Southeastern Conference rivals are trending in opposite directions.

On Saturday afternoon at legendary Neyland Stadium, the visiting Gators (7-1, 7-1 SEC) — winners of five straight since losing to Texas A&M — can clinch the SEC East with a victory against the Volunteers or a Georgia loss against winless Vanderbilt.

A division title would be the Gators’ first since 2016, which would send them to Atlanta on Dec. 19 for the SEC Championship Game, likely against undefeated and top-ranked Alabama.

Meanwhile, the Volunteers (2-5, 2-5 SEC) — who have dropped 14 of their last 15 contests against Florida — are mired in the division’s basement below three-win Kentucky but ahead of South Carolina (2-7, 2-7 SEC) and Vanderbilt (0-8, 0-8 SEC).

That could spell a big advantage for the Gators, who hold a 29-20 edge in the rivalry.

The news for coach Dan Mullen’s team became even better when Kyle Pitts returned and made major contributions in Saturday’s 34-10 home win over Kentucky.

Kyle Trask’s go-to target during the quarterback’s 34-touchdown campaign so far, Pitts responded by hauling in three touchdown passes from Trask in a game Florida trailed 10-7 late in the first half.

Pitts caught five passes for a game-high 99 yards and increased his touchdown total to 11 on 29 receptions (513 yards, 17.7 yards per catch) after missing previous games against Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

“I was real jittery,” said Pitts, the leading candidate for the Mackey Award as the game’s top tight end. “Because, not playing for two weeks, my chest kind of got hot and my heart beat fast so … I was a little nervous at first.”

Things aren’t so good on Rocky Top, where a nasty, five-game losing streak has criticism reaching a peak as high as the nearby Smoky Mountains.

Tennessee’s biggest hurdle continues to be at quarterback, where Jarrett Guarantano (103-for-166 passing, 1,112 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INTs) has been wildly inconsistent. The team also has been outscored 108-14 in the second halves of the last five games.

Against Auburn, Guarantano led the Vols to a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter, but the senior signal-caller was largely ineffective the rest of the way in the 30-17 loss. He made matters worse when he tossed a 100-yard pick-six to the Tigers’ Smoke Monday.

Highly regarded freshman Harrison Bailey replaced Guarantano and went 7-for-10 passing for 86 yards and led the Vols to their final touchdown.

Coach Jeremy Pruitt said Monday that two players are COVID-19 positive from the Nov. 17 game in Auburn, and contact tracing has put up to 16 players in quarantine — including one quarterback that remained unnamed by the third-year coach.

That means either Guarantano, Bailey, J.T. Shrout or Brian Maurer will likely be unavailable Saturday.

With Tennessee’s season spinning toward its end, the time could be right for Bailey, a four-star prospect from Marietta, Ga., to make his first career start in place of the senior Guarantano.

In fact, starting wide receiver Josh Palmer may have provided a hint in Tuesday’s media session.

“He’s calm and cool and collected,” Palmer said of the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Bailey. “I feel like we have a really good game plan for him.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Gainesville, FL, USA;   Florida Gators receiver Kadarius Toney (1) runs a punt return back for a touchdown during a football game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. Nov. 28, 2020.   Mandatory Credit: Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK

Trask, Pitts lead No. 6 Florida over Kentucky, 34-10

Kyle Trask threw three touchdown passes to favorite target Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney scored on a trick play and No. 6 Florida toppled Kentucky 34-10 on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Fla.

Trask found Pitts for TDs of 56, 2 and 7 yards to extend the quarterback’s NCAA-leading touchdown total to 34. Pitts’ three tallies give him 11 on the season.

The junior tight end returned to action after being injured by Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine on a targeting hit in the teams’ annual meeting in Jacksonville – a 44-28 Florida victory on Nov. 7.

The Gators (7-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) inched closer to the SEC East title behind Trask’s outing of 21 of 27 passing for 256 yards and three scores. Pitts caught five passes for a game-high 99 yards.

Mohamoud Diabate, Shawn Davis and Tre’Vez Johnson snared interceptions for the Florida.

The Wildcats (3-6, 3-6) had a time of possession advantage (33:19-26:41), especially big in the first half, but were outgained 418-221 in total yards and couldn’t finish their series with points.

Florida appeared to be headed for a three-and-out on its first series, but a fake punt resulted in a 15-yard run for a first down by running back Dameon Pierce, who was set up as an upback, and Trask found Pitts two plays later for the first TD.

On the first play of the second quarter, Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter’s fumble was recovered by linebacker Deandre Square, and Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson tossed a 4-yard TD pass to tight end Keaton Upshaw six plays later.

The Wildcats put together a drive of 7:24 in the second quarter — 87 yards in 14 plays — before Matt Ruffolo nailed a 22-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead with 2:13 left in the half.

But Florida took a 14-10 lead going to the locker room with some trickery in the final minute.

With the Wildcats punting from their own 10, returner Xzavier Henderson moved outside the right hash and acted as if her were fielding the kick — drawing six members of the UK punt coverage his way — but the ball was fielded near the other sideline by Toney, who cruised 50 yards for the score.

Evan McPherson kicked field goals of 34 and 40 yards in the second half, and Trask and Pitts connected twice as the Gators cruised to the win.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Gainesville, FL, USA;  Florida head coach Dan Mullen, far right, is held back by coaches and law enforcement after a fight broke out at the end of the first half during a game against the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK

Fracas costs Florida’s Mullen $25K

Florida head coach Dan Mullen was fined $25,000 and multiple players were disciplined by the Southeastern Conference on Monday for the fight between the Gators and Missouri Tigers on Saturday.

According to NCAA Football Playing Rule 9.5.1.b., player ejections for fighting carry an automatic half-game suspension for the next game.

Mullen will not be suspended, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced, but Florida defensive lineman Zach Carter and linebacker Antwuan Powell are forced to sit for the first half of this week’s game against No. 4 Georgia.

“There is no place in college football for the kind of incident that took place at halftime of the Missouri at Florida game Saturday night,” Sankey said. “Everyone involved is responsible for meeting sportsmanship standards throughout each game. Running on the field to confront a game official, the gathering of teams in an on-field confrontation and student-athletes throwing punches are all disappointing at any time, but even more so as we work to support healthy competition during a pandemic.”

Sparked by a late hit absorbed by Gators quarterback Kyle Trask, a fracas broke out involving multiple players on each team. Mullen left the sideline and was captured by TV cameras shouting at Missouri players.

Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey, offensive lineman Dylan Spencer and defensive lineman Markell Utsey will all miss the first half Missouri’s next game, Nov. 14 against Georgia.

The Gators defeated the Tigers 41-17.

–Field Level Media

Sep 22, 2018; Knoxville, TN, USA; Florida Gators helmets sitting on the sideline at a game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. The Gators won 47-21. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Three ejected in Missouri-Florida fight at halftime

Missouri and No. 10 Florida fought on the field before heading to their locker rooms at halftime of Saturday night’s game in Gainesville, Fla.

The skirmish started after the final play of the half, when Missouri’s Trajan Jeffcoat hit quarterback Kyle Trask well after releasing the ball, which fell to the ground incomplete.

Several players on each team were seen throwing punches. Three players — Florida junior defensive lineman Zachary Carter, Florida freshman linebacker Antwaun Powell and Missouri senior linebacker Tre Williams — were ejected from the game for fighting. Carter and Williams started Saturday’s game.

On-field officials gave every player on both teams an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. A second such penalty results in an ejection.

Gators coach Dan Mullen and Tigers coach Eliah Drinkwitz spoke with referee David Smith before leaving the field. After initially entering the stadium runway, Mullen returned to the field and waved his arms in an attempt to fire up fans at The Swamp.

Florida led 20-7 at halftime.

–Field Level Media