MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week Orange & Blue News will keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Gators gymnastics turned in a top-notch performance during Senior Night and its home finale on Friday, posting the nation's season-high team score at 198.325 as part of a rout of West Virginia (194.925). Junior Kytra Hunter registered her fifth 10.0 of the season - third on floor exercise - and senior Alaina Johnson won three event titles in the vault (9.95), uneven bars (9.975) and all-around (39.825). Florida will wrap up regular-season competition on Friday with a road meet at Missouri.
Another ACL injury sidelined Gators redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose last season, putting a damper on all the praise he received from his teammates and coaching staff heading into the 2013 campaign. For the first time since getting injured, Debose was made available for an interview and described to The Gainesville Sun how devastating it was to get hurt again before what was supposed to be his last season. "I went through a little slump," he said. "It was pretty tough. It was definitely hard to deal with. And it was very hard to watch last season and know you can't do anything to help. Just sit back and watch. It was a shock." Debose also said he knew how serious the injury was as soon as it happened. "I was competing at a high level. I was doing everything the coaches were asking me to do. I was buying into the program all the way," he said. "It was a freak accident. I knew right away something bad happened. There is no doubt in your mind when that happens that you've done something very wrong." Debose will be returning to UF for his final season after receiving a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA in the offseason.
The 2014 SEC Basketball Awards will be released on Tuesday and the Gators could potentially sweep the individual awards with the exception of freshman of the year.
SEC Coach of the Year: Billy Donovan - No one has been better than Donovan this season and no coach comes close to deserving the award after his team completed the first 18-0 season in league history.
SEC Player of the Year: Scottie Wilbekin - No one has been more important to his team's success than Wilbekin. Florida is undefeated on the season when Wilbekin has finished games, and he took over to lead the Gators once Casey Prather's injuries started catching up with him.
SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Patric Young - A two-time winner, Young could certainly capture it a third-straight year though his academic information is not available as of press time.
SEC Freshman of the Year: Julius Randle (Kentucky) - The best player on what was supposed to be the best team still deserves credit for being absolutely dominant at times this season. Randle averaged 15.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game for the Wildcats.
SEC Sixth-Man of the Year: Dorian Finney-Smith - Averaging 9.4 points and 6.9 rebounds off the bench for Florida, Finney-Smith plays starters minutes (25.5) and has managed to be a huge part of the team despite going through a multiple-game slump in the middle of his redshirt sophomore campaign.
SEC Defensive Player of the Year: Patric Young - The Gators have the best on-ball defender (Wilbekin) and post defender (Young) in the league, so one of two should take home the award. With Wilbekin capturing Player of the Year honors, Young should be awarded for his defensive skills.
On the eve of NFL free agency, two big-time contributors to Florida's 2008 national title will be looking for work come Tuesday. Neither New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes nor Chicago Bears safety Major Wright is expected to be retained by his respective club but each should garner serious interest on the open market. Spikes is seen as a premier run stopper and tackler but lacks the coverage skills that many teams demand out of a middle linebacker these days. Wright has proven to be a playmaker throughout his career but is also not as good in coverage as scouts would like. One team in need of both a linebacker and safety, as it turns out, is the Miami Dolphins, which play in the stadium where Spikes and Wright participated in the biggest college game of their careers. Miami would likely be more interested in Wright than Spikes after overpaying for underperforming linebackers last offseason.
Rough as it might have been, No. 1 Florida softball dropped its first game of the season on Friday, falling 2-0 at home to Ole Miss, but recovered in a major way over the weekend with back-to-back wins (10-3, 2-0) to grab the series victory. Now standing at 24-1 (2-1 SEC), the Gators are still undefeated when freshman left-hander Delaine Gurley is on the hill (9-0). Gurley picked up both weekend victories, striking out three batters in 10.0 scoreless innings.