Nov 18, 2023; Columbia, Missouri, USA; A general view of a Florida Gators helmet against the Missouri Tigers  prior to a game at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Florida lands Ivy League DPOY Joey Slackman from Penn

Penn defensive tackle Joey Slackman announced Sunday night he is transferring to Florida.

It’s a big get for the Gators’ defense, as Slackman won the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2023. Slackman tallied 50 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, four sacks, four hurries and a blocked field goal over just nine games.

Slackman has one more year of NCAA eligibility.

“It was the place where I felt like every aspect of myself as a player and a person could be developed,” Slackman said in a statement to ESPN. “Getting to the draft next year is a goal of mine — obviously winning comes first — and Florida is a place where I feel like I can get everything out of a place and give everything I have to a place in a year.”

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, Slackman had 115 tackles (25 for loss) and 11 sacks in 28 games over the past three seasons with the Quakers.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA;  Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive end Deonte Anderson (91) hits the arm of Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) during the second half by at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mississippi State won 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas to test streamlined offense against Florida

Arkansas’ offensive adjustment will be on display Saturday when the Razorbacks face Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

After offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Enos was fired Oct. 22 following Arkansas’ 7-3 home loss to Mississippi State, head coach Sam Pittman promoted wide receivers coach Kenny Guiton to be the new OC.

Pittman felt changes were in order after the Razorbacks (2-6, 0-5 Southeastern) lost their sixth straight game, managing only a field goal from strong-legged kicker Cam Little.

Guiton is in his third season in Fayetteville after being brought in by former OC Kendal Briles, who worked with the former Ohio State quarterback at Houston in 2017-18. Enos was hired in January to replace Briles, who left for the same position at TCU. Enos also served in the same roles at Arkansas from 2015-17.

“We’re trying to eliminate some of the volume we have offensively,” Pittman said. “Nothing ever came easy for us this year. We’ve got to do some things differently, and one of them is to cut down on volume.”

Guiton will be quarterback KJ Jefferson’s third OC in less than a year and will be leading an offense that has been extremely porous in pass protection.

“You know when you’re doing a large volume, you’re not practicing the fundamentals as much as you should,” Pittman said. “I don’t know that we can sit back in the pocket like we did for 29 plays (against Mississippi State) and expect … I mean the plays are good, but if you can’t protect it, they’re not.”

Coming off a 43-20 trouncing by top-ranked Georgia, the Gators (5-3, 3-2) are likely circling Saturday as the season’s marquee matchup when it comes to becoming bowl eligible.

After Arkansas, Florida will end the regular season with three straight against teams that are currently ranked — road games at LSU and Missouri, then home for its annual matchup with resurgent ACC power Florida State.

“I do think Arkansas, although their record doesn’t reflect it, they’ve been in every football game,” said coach Billy Napier, whose squad will wear black uniforms for the first time in school history. “(They’ve) lost a lot of close games. I do think that they’ve played really good defense for the most part. … I do think they’re a lot closer than their record indicates.”

In a series dating back to the 1982 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston, the Gators lead 10-2 all-time against Arkansas.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators quarterback Graham Mertz (15) and Florida Gators wide receiver Kahleil Jackson (22) celebrate after a touchdown during the second half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, October 7, 2023. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

QB Graham Mertz, Florida set for close-up with No. 1 Georgia

Graham Mertz and Florida will find out if they’ve hit their stride Saturday when the Gators and No. 1 Georgia square off in Jacksonville, Fla.

Mertz has the attention of the Bulldogs after posting huge numbers in each of the past two games to climb to third in the nation in completion percentage at 76.2 percent.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart said no quarterback in the country is playing better than Mertz over the past two games. He’s had extra time to prep for Florida, and the Gators, also coming off a bye last week, largely know what they’re getting with the two-time defending champions.

“They’re physical up front. They’re fast. You see that on tape. They fly around, make plays,” Mertz said. “Across the board, they play a brand of football on defense that you can see when you’re watching film.”

Mertz makes his 40th career start Saturday but first in the rivalry after joining Florida as a transfer from Wisconsin. With the Badgers, Mertz played in annual rivalry games and said there’s always a special element to the dates on the schedule that mean the most to the fanbase.

“I think that’s one thing that once you spend some time in college, you have an appreciation for ‘em,” Mertz said. “I think anytime you go into a game that’s a rivalry game, you have to appreciate that, enjoy that process, whether it’s the whole week of seeing all the stuff on the TVs or all that. I mean, there’s countless different things you do during a rivalry week. We’re excited for it.”

Georgia has a 24-game winning streak and a quarterback making his first start in the ballyhooed rivalry. But Carson Beck has the luxury of playing a de facto home game. The Jacksonville native returns to Florida in a huge spot with a queue of “big games” stacked behind, including next week against No. 16 Missouri.

“Welcome to the SEC,” Smart said. “Every game is gonna be a rivalry game in the SEC. They’re all tough games. This one is unique because of where it’s played. It’ll be a new experience for some of our guys. I think you forget about that after the whistle blows and you kick it off and you get out there and go play.”

Beck and the Bulldogs are operating without All-American tight end Brock Bowers. He had ankle surgery and might return in November. Without him, Georgia is absent its top playmaker and leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns this season.

Smart said Georgia counts on Oscar Delp, who learned under Darnell Washington and Bowers, rising to the occasion.

“His growth has been good. I don’t know that if he didn’t have those two he would be where he is, because those two demanded that he do things right in order to get on the field,” Smart said. “He had to earn the right to play. He has earned that by how he’s practiced and played.”

Mertz and Florida have been slowed when they allow pressure to impact the pocket. But Georgia has been atypically below-average generating a pass rush with just 12 sacks this season.

Smart knows the Florida scheme well. He served as an assistant at Alabama on the same coaching staff as Gators coach Billy Napier for four seasons.

And Smart said without pressure, Mertz has been able to consistently make the right decisions and avoid self-inflicted wounds.

“He does a great job within Billy’s system of knowing when to take the shot, the check down, when to put him in the right play,” Smart said. “If you’re just in the right play more often, you tend to have more success. He’s done a really good job of that for them.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2023; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Graham Mertz (15) throws a pass against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Graham Mertz, Florida rally late, beat South Carolina

Graham Mertz threw for a career-high 423 yards with three touchdowns, including two with less than five minutes remaining, in Florida’s 41-39 comeback win Saturday over South Carolina at Columbia, S.C.

Florida (5-2, 3-1 SEC) won its first road game after losing the previous two against Utah and Kentucky.

Mertz’s passing helped Florida convert on fourth-and-11 and fourth-and-1 plays in a drive that resulted in his 4-yard touchdown pass to Arlis Boardingham with 4:40 left, cutting South Carolina’s lead to 37-34.

Mertz completed 30 of 48 passes without throwing an interception.

South Carolina (2-4, 1-3) was forced to punt after Mertz’s scoring connection with Boardingham.

Florida started the possession following the South Carolina punt at its 25-yard line with 2:43 remaining.

After three straight incompletions, Mertz completed a 26-yard pass to Ricky Pearsall on the fourth-and-10 play.

Montrell Johnson Jr. rushed for 11 yards before Mertz connected with Eugene Wilson III for 22 yards, taking the ball to the South Carolina 16.

After Johnson was stuffed for a 5-yard loss, Mertz completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Pearsall with 47 seconds left, putting the Gators ahead 41-37.

Pearsall had 10 receptions for 166 yards.

South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler, who completed 23 of 30 pass attempts for 313 yards with four touchdowns, threw his first interception in the next possession.

Miguel Mitchell’s interception occurred at the Florida 31 with 20 seconds left.

South Carolina used its three timeouts afterward, forcing the Gators to take a safety with four seconds remaining.

A lateral attempt by South Carolina’s Dakereon Joyner on the punt attempt was fumbled and recovered by Florida’s Aaron Gates as time expired.

Florida’s Trey Smack made four field goals, the last from 54 yards, putting the Gators ahead 27-24 with 7:24 left in the third quarter.

Rattler’s 3-yard scoring strike to McDowell on the first play of the fourth quarter put the Gamecocks ahead 31-27.

Rattler’s 24-yard pass to O’Mega Blake set up his 33-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Simon with 9:11 remaining to give South Carolina a 37-27 lead.

–Field Level Media

The helmet of Florida Gators wide receiver Ja'Quavion Fraziars (0) before the game against the Eastern Washington Eagles at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Sunday, October 2, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs Eastern Washington Eagles

Three Florida players, one Tennessee player suspended over fight

The Southeastern Conference suspended four players for one half of their upcoming games over their roles in a scuffle at the end of Florida’s 29-16 win over then-No. 11 Tennessee last Saturday.

The SEC released a statement Monday saying Florida offensive linemen Damieon George Jr. and Micah Mazzccua and tight end Dante Zanders were suspended for the first half of Florida’s home game against Charlotte this Saturday. Tennessee defensive lineman Omarr Norman-Lott will sit the first half of the Volunteers’ home game against UTSA.

The four players were being punished for “flagrant unsportsmanlike actions,” according to the conference.

“The suspensions were determined after video review and consultation between the Southeastern Conference Office, the University of Florida and the University of Tennessee,” the SEC’s statement said.

Florida was in the process of sealing its win over the visiting Vols when quarterback Graham Mertz scrambled and took a knee in the final seconds. Tennessee’s Omari Thomas ran into Mertz, inciting a benches-clearing fracas in which Mazzccua threw a punch.

George and Mazzccua were Florida’s starting right tackle and right guard, respectively, to begin the season. Zanders is a backup tight end, while Norman-Lott started each of Tennessee’s past two games.

Thomas was penalized for targeting, but the officials overturned their call after review, meaning he will not be suspended for the first half of Tennessee’s game against UTSA.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators running back Cam Carroll (27) rushes past Florida Gators defensive lineman Jamari Lyons (95) during the second half during the Florida Gators Orange and Blue Spring Game at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Thursday, April 13, 2023. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Ncaa Football Florida Gators Orange Blue Spring Game

Florida loses RB Cam Carroll to season-ending knee injury

Florida running back Cam Carroll injured his knee on the final day of fall camp and will miss the entire 2023 season, Gators coach Billy Napier said Saturday.

Carroll, who transferred in from Tulane after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 1 of 2022, was injured during a team scrimmage on Friday.

“One of the more challenging things as a coach and, I would tell you, for our team is injuries,” Napier said. “It kind of just hits you right in the gut.

“Cam will respond, he will get the full support of our team and organization, he’ll be back,” Napier added.

Carroll was projecting to be a third-string running back for the Gators.

Carroll rushed for 1,638 yards in 37 career games for Tulane.

Florida opens the season at No. 14 Utah on Aug. 31.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators quarterback Jack Miller III (10) hands off to Florida Gators running back Montrell Johnson (2) in the first quarter. The Florida Gators scrimmaged in the first quarter during the annual Orange and Blue spring game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, Thursday afternoon, April 14, 2022. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]2022

Oca Orangeandbluegame

Behind first-time starter at QB, Florida tackles No. 14 Oregon State

Florida coach Billy Napier was playing quarterback roulette even before his team arrived in Nevada for the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Gators (6-6 overall) opted to give third-year sophomore Jack Miller III his first collegiate start when they face No. 14 Oregon State (9-3) on Saturday.

Miller will get the nod after starter Anthony Richardson, who threw for 2,549 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, left school last week to begin preparing for the NFL draft. Backup Jalen Kitna was kicked off the team in connection with his arrest on child pornography charges.

Miller, who transferred from Ohio State, played sparingly behind Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud for the Buckeyes, completing 7 of 14 passes for 101 yards.

He was going to be Richardson’s backup until suffering a right thumb injury in August that required surgery.

“He has been participating in practice for a number of weeks,” Napier said. “He’s perfectly healthy. … While he was rehabbing, we were very intentional about keeping those guys engaged. He’s traveled with us. He’s went through the process of prepping each week, watching the cut-ups, all those things at the end of the week from a test and tips standpoint.

“So he’s been through the prep for a game. Obviously, the volume of work will be a little bit different for him. That’ll be the biggest challenge.”

A strong performance in the Las Vegas Bowl could make Miller the favorite for the starting job next fall, though Napier said the Gators will keep an eye on the transfer portal.

“I think we all would agree that this game, the quarterback position’s effect on your team with not only the production part but the leadership part, it’s critical,” Napier said. “We’ll be working hard to address some of the issues at that position.”

In addition to Richardson, the Gators had three other players opt out of the bowl: All-Southeastern Conference guard O’Cyrus Torrence, linebacker Ventrell Miller and receiver Justin Shorter.

The Beavers, meanwhile, seek only their third 10-win season.

“Our players are excited about the opponent,” said Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith, the Pacific-12 Conference’s co-coach of the year. “Our players are excited to go to Las Vegas. A big-time stadium on the West Coast. I couldn’t be looking forward to it more.”

The Beavers also will start a backup quarterback, but for different reasons. Ben Gulbranson took over after Chance Nolan suffered a season-ending neck injury Oct. 1 against Utah and has won six of seven starts.

Oregon State is led by running back Damien Martinez, the Pac-12’s co-freshman of the year, who has six consecutive 100-yard rushing games, including 103 in a come-from-behind, 38-34 victory against rival Oregon on Nov. 26.

Smith, who quarterbacked the Beavers to their first 10-win season in 2001, was rewarded for the program’s first back-to-back winning seasons since 2012-13 with a six-year, $30.6 million contract extension.

“Coach Smith has taken the Oregon State football program to new heights, and we knew it was important to reward him and his staff to keep the momentum moving forward,” athletic director Scott Barnes said in a news release this week.

–Field Level Media

Eastern Washington Eagles linebacker Elijah Rodriguez (52) gets a hand on Florida Gators quarterback Jalen Kitna (11) in the second half at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Sunday, October 2, 2022. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs Eastern Washington Eagles

Gators backup QB Jalen Kitna arrested on child porn charges

Florida Gators backup quarterback Jalen Kitna, son of former NFL QB Jon Kitna, was arrested Wednesday on five counts of possessing and distributing child pornography.

Kitna, 19, was booked into the Alachua County Jail on Wednesday afternoon and immediately suspended indefinitely from the team.

“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the news involving Jalen Kitna,” the university said in a statement. “These are extremely serious charges and the University of Florida and the UAA have zero tolerance for such behavior.”

According to the Gainesville Police Department (GPD), police executed a search warrant on Kitna’s residence after receiving a tip that a Discord user at the address had shared an image of child sexual abuse through its platform. Kitna told police he remembered sharing two images but believed them to be legal since he found them online.

In a news release, the GPD said, “Kitna advised that he realized he should not have shared those two images, based on the reaction from the other Discord user that he shared them with.”

GPD said they confiscated Kitna’s electronic devices and found an additional three images.

He was then arrested on two counts of distribution of child exploitation material and three counts of possessing child pornography.

Kitna appeared in four games this season, throwing for 181 yards and a touchdown behind starting QB Anthony Richardson.

Jon Kitna played in the NFL for 14 seasons (1997-2011) for four teams. He is currently head coach and athletic coordinator at Burleson High School in Burleson, Texas.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier looks on against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Recruit Jaden Rashada flips from Miami to Florida

Four-star quarterback prospect Jaden Rashada called an audible over social media on Friday morning by agreeing to join Florida, four-plus months after committing to Miami.

Rashada is listed by 247Sports’ composite rankings as the No. 7-rated quarterback in the 2023 class. He initially selected the Hurricanes over the Gators as well as LSU, Mississippi and Texas A&M in June.

“After a lot of prayer, conversations with my family and those close to me, I have decided to change my commitment and play for the University of Florida,” Rashada wrote early Friday morning on Twitter.

“I have tremendous respect for Miami and what they are going to accomplish there, but I have watched this season and Coach (Billy) Napier and his team are building something very special in The Swamp and I want to be a part of it.”

Per Sports Illustrated, Rashada has thrown for 4,883 yards and 63 touchdowns and added 420 yards and five scores during his four-year high school career at Pittsburg (Calif.) High School.

The addition of Rashada gives Florida the No. 8 overall recruiting class for 2023, per the 247Sports rankings.

–Field Level Media

The Florida Gators went into the half trailing the Georgia Bulldogs 24 to 0. The Florida Gators were the home team for this year's annual Florida vs Georgia college football rivalry game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida Saturday, October 30, 2021.

Jki 103021 Bsfloridageorgia 15

Georgia, Florida to discuss rivalry game’s location next year

Georgia and Florida released a joint statement Monday addressing the future of their annual college football rivalry game, saying they will discuss whether to continue holding the game in Jacksonville, Fla., next year.

The contract between the universities to play the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” in Jacksonville ends in 2023, though there are options for 2024 and 2025.

“The annual game between our two universities is an important tradition,” the statement said. “At this time, both programs are focused on our current seasons. Typically both schools begin conversations regarding future games in the series as the last contracted game nears. We anticipate following that timeline.

“When those discussions take place, we will consider a multitude of factors including tradition, finances, future SEC scheduling models with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma, and what is best for both schools’ football programs overall.”

Jacksonville has been the site of the Georgia-Florida game since 1933. In the nearly 90 years since then, the schools only played on one another’s campuses one time apiece — 1994 in Gainesville, 1995 in Athens — before returning to Jacksonville.

But Georgia coach Kirby Smart recently said he “firmly believe(s) that we’ll be able to sign better players by having it as a home-and-home because we’ll have more opportunities to get them to campus.” He also allowed that having the game in Jacksonville is a moneymaker for both schools.

No. 1 Georgia and Florida will meet at TIAA Bank Field, home of the NFL’s Jaguars, this Saturday. The Bulldogs lead the Gators 53-44-2 in the all-time series.

–Field Level Media