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Former Gators National Title safety Joiner charged with murder

Florida Football Insiders

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Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

A former starter, defensive captain and member of Florida’s 2006 National Championship team has been arrested three years after his wife was murdered in Fort Myers. Tony Joiner, who played four years with the Gators from 2004 – 2007, was taken into custody in Polk County Saturday afternoon. He is facing a murder charge involving the death of his wife Heyzel Obando, who was found dead in her apartment in February of 2016.

The Fort Myers News-Press had the story Saturday:

Joiner and Obando had two small children together at the time of her death. They are now ages 3 and 6 and currently being raised by her mother, who’s gained custody and has been living in Miami. She told the paper that Ft. Myers police detectives informed her Friday afternoon that Joiner was finally being charged and they were in the process of arresting him.

Joiner was taken into custody in Lake Wales Saturday.

“As a mother, I understand the pain his mother (Joiner) is going through,” Martinez told the News-Press. “But as a mother, no one is going to take my pain away. Now that he is arrested, I hope he feels the weight of the law.”

The 33 year old Joiner was originally recruited by Ron Zook and his coaching staff out of Haines City High School, as one of the top defensive backs in the southeast 2004. He went on to start every game of Florida’s BCS National Championship season in 2006, including making two tackles in the title game against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Joiner also started his entire senior season of 2007 recording the most tackles of his career, 64, and also having two interceptions. He never hooked on with a professional football team after that.

Joiner is expected to be extradited to Lee County to face the murder charge. Police have very carefully protected and never released the cause of death of Obando in 2016. And, they released few details in the last three years, while they have investigated the case. He will apparently be charged with second degree murder.

This arrest is the latest in a string of infamy for Meyer’s coaching tenure in Gainesville. That includes former Gator tight end and later New England Patriots Super Bowl winner Aaron Hernandez having been questioned but never charged in the shooting another student in Gainesville. Hernandez was later charged and convicted in 2015 of murdering friend Odin Llyod, while playing for the Patriots in New England. Hernandez killed himself in 2017 in prison, while waiting trial for two other murder charges in a separate incident that occurred before Lloyd’s death.

Last year, Meyer was embroiled in another controversy at Ohio State. That’s when it came to light that his  receivers coach for the Buckeyes, whom he originally hired when he came to Gainesville, Zach Smith, had been accused of repeatedly physically and emotionally abusing his wife.

As we wrote last August, it’s alleged that Meyer knew of the abuse and was attempting to cover it up to protect Smith and his employment in Gainesville then, and through last year in Columbus.

Smith was subsequently fired by Ohio State last summer and Meyer was suspended for his inaction for the first three games of last season. Meyer eventually retired from the Buckeyes at the end of the year after wining the Rose Bowl.

Back to Joiner. He also has two previous arrests for domestic violence involving Obando. And, Ft. Myers police will obviously detail more in the coming days of why they have waited so long to charge him with her murder.

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Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday

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Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.

The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:

A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.

With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.

As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.

Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.

It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.

Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.

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Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.

The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of  former DB C.J. Henderson.

Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.

The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.

Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?

Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.

The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.

Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.

Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.

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