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Gameday: Gators take on Iowa in Outback Bowl

Florida Football Insiders



Photo by Icon Sportswire

A day after the New Year was rung in, the Florida Gators will battle the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Outback Bowl in Tampa. This is a game that pits two good defenses, against (let’s be kind starting 2017) “less than stellar” offenses. Here are three things to watch:

Points at a premium

Neither of these teams will be mistaken for offensive juggernaut and both have had their struggles with throwing the ball and keeping skill player healthy. Combine that with the fact that both Florida and Iowa play well on defense, this game might legitimately be: “first team to 13 points wins.”

The Gators come in ranked 6th nationally in yards allowed and 9th in points allowed per game. Plus, led by star defensive back Teez Tabor, Florida potentially has three and maybe as many as five, NFL caliber players on D.

Meanwhile, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has always been know as a defensive mind, and his Hawkeyes limited and shocked Michigan in a late season upset and held down Nebraska in their finale’.  This looks like a low scoring affair.

Who QBs for the Gators?

It’s been a month since Florida was drummed by Alabama in the SEC Title Game, and that time has allowed former starting QB Luke Del Rio’s shoulder injured in November to heal up. Del Rio has been also hampered by a knee sprain that kept him out earlier in the season for a couple of games. Meanwhile, Austin Appleby has been adequate as the fill in, but Florida has clearly struggled on offense all season. Head Coach Jim McElwain has stated Appleby will start, in part, because he quarterbacked at Purdue and played against Iowa (and Ferentz’s defense) a year ago before transferring to Gainesville. Appleby also started this season in the losses at Knoxville, and Tallahassee, but was also at the helm in the low scoring win at LSU.

McElwain has been coy about whether Del Rio, who is clearly better throwing when he’s healthy, will play, how much or how soon. We’ll see, especially if Appleby is struggling early, how that part plays out.

Finally, what kind of crowd does Florida bring being 75 miles away?

It’s one of the main reasons bowl games, especially in Florida (where there a numerous ones each December and then, January) want local/regional draws. The Outback is no different. And especially this year with their game falling on Monday January 2nd, where a lot of people in West Central and North Florida are headed back to work today, schools are getting back into session, etc., being able to drive to the game and get back home easily is a big deal.

The Tampa Bay area has over 150,000 households with Gator alumni. Don’t think for a second that doesn’t play a role in helping determine who plays where. Also Gainesville, is a little over an hour or so up I-75 from Tampa. So look for a large contingent of Gator Blue and Orange coming South this a.m. and heading back North on the interstate about 5 p.m.

A source told F.F.I. that tickets sold coming into New Year’s weekend were around 40,000 in the 65,000 seat Raymond James Stadium. But, bowl organizers and ESPN, who runs most of the scheduling and televising of college football, are obviously hopeful, that there are thousands who are showing up to buy tickets today. We shall see.

We know the Hawkeyes brought 12-15 thousand out of the cold of the Midwest. Now, let’s see if Gator fans overwhelm them or not.

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Florida Gators

Latest Browns controversy? Antonio Callaway played too much?

Florida Football Insiders



Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A rookie who played too much in a preseason game? The Browns always seem to have some kind of negative or controversy going on and now, it involves rookie Antonio Callaway and the amount of playing time he had in the preseason opener.

And it’s not that the former controversial Gators WR didn’t get to play or didn’t get to play enough. Rather, the questions being thrown the way of head coach Hue Jackson have to do with: him playing too much.

Too much?

You read that correctly.

Callaway played into the fourth quarter of the Browns 20-10 preseason victory over the Giants, including a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown from rookie #1 overall pick Baker Mayfield in the fourth quarter.

But, it’s what Jackson said after the game that is got Browns fans, Cleveland sports radio, and the internet buzzing.

When asked if Jackson had played Callaway an extended amount of time because of his off-the-field troubles, including recently being cited for marijuana possession in a Cleveland suburb, Jackson immediately agreed:

“Absolutely,” Jackson said regarding whether the extensive playing time was discipline related. “That was the plan. It was. I was trying to make him play the whole game if we could. I did not want him to come out. . . . That was part of the consequence of what he has been through, and he knows it. That is what it was. Either you sit him or make him play. I thought it was better to make him play. Make him play as long as he could. There were a couple of times he kept waving to come out, and we said, ‘No, stay in.’”

And while there are former players who are now speaking out against that kind of tactic, it is not uncommon for younger players to play most of preseason games for a variety of reasons. Most of it is related to: they haven’t been in live contact for an extended period of time in an NFL game.

Of course Callaway hadn’t been involved in any kind of an organized game dating back to his brief career at the University of Florida. After all, he was suspended for the entire 2017 season due to a credit card investigation.

That and his diluted sample drug test at the NFL scouting combine caused his stock to drop. And, he has first-round Talent ended up being still available in the fourth round for Cleveland to take him.

We wrote last week about Calloway’s traffic citation with the drugs being the latest controversy now that he’s a member of the Browns.

In the end, last Thursday night Callaway finished with five receptions, 87 yards and a touchdown and played a total of 57 snaps.

It’s also interesting that this came on the heels of new Browns free agent pro bowler Jarvis Landry lighting into his fellow wide receivers about not wanting to practice hard or when nicked up by injury. Calloway was sitting in the receivers room when HBO and NFL Films “Hard Knocks” cameras caught the tirade.

The Browns had also traded wide receiver Corey Coleman to the Buffalo Bills at the beginning of training camp, and from a football standpoint, are trying to determine, if Callaway can help them immediately.

You have to believe that all of this will be part of the latest airing of Hard Knocks Tuesday night on HBO.

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Florida Gators

Appears former Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro is leading for Raiders job

Florida Football Insiders



Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We knew that the Raiders were high on former Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro when they drafted him back in April. And that became more apparent when they released their successful 2017 kicker, rookie Giorgio Tavechhio, last week.

Now, after last night’s preseason debut in Oakland, it appears it’s Pineiro’s job to lose.

First, Pineiro was perfect with 3-3 in field goals and 1-1 in extra points in the Raiders 16-10 victory over the Lions. And, that included a lengthy make of 48 yards at the end of the first half.

Second, even though Oakland has brought in 13 year veteran Mike Nugent, it appears from what they are saying and what they just demonstrated in game one, Pineiro has the bigger leg for kickoffs, etc.

As for getting rid of a left footed kicker, Tavecchio, who was reliable at 16-21 on field goals and 33-34 on point after kicks, new Raiders coach Jon Gruden explained it at the time to the media that they were simply being too hard on punter/holder Johnny Townsend. They were asking him to repeatedly switch from a left footed to a right footed “hold mechanics” and then, back, again.

Meanwhile, Nugent who has kicked previously for the Jets, Bucs, Bengals and others is right footed. So, that does make it easier on the holder throughout the work they are doing in camp.

As for Pineiro, he is a state product (Miami native), and he had a good college career at Florida. He made 17-18 FG’s during the Gators miserable season last year. And combined with his 21-25 year in 2016, he totaled an 88% field goal career mark.

We did take a humorous look at his leg strength prior to the 2017 season, when Pineiro’s practice video of him kicking an 81 yard field goal went viral on Youtube.

And, as the photo above shows, the Raiders are the last team still playing in a multi-purpose football/baseball stadium-still sharing it with the Oakland A’s.

And Gruden mentioned postgame that they wanted to get Pineiro a kick or two off the surface in a game, because the Raiders will have that infield dirt in their first couple of September early season games.

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Former Gators WR Antonio Callaway’s already in trouble in Cleveland

Florida Football Insiders



Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

At some point Antonio Callaway is going to be out of chances. The former Gators wide receiver who missed all of 2017, while suspended in a credit card fraud investigation is back in the news with his new team for the wrong reasons.

This, after Callaway was stopped by police early Sunday morning in Strongsville, OH for a traffic violation that became much more than that.

The investigating officers found marijuana, which Callaway, the Browns fourth round pick in April, claimed was not his. However, he claimed it belonged to whomever had been using the car before it was shipped to him in Cleveland, recently.

Well, it turns out that there was even more to the traffic stop.

TMZ obtained the dashboard police cam video of the traffic stop and posted it Wednesday afternoon. In it, the officers also located a back strap for a Glock handgun and ammunition for the gun:

In the video, the officers become very serious (and rightfully, so) when the find the gun part and the bullets. However, the were put more at ease, when there was no gun, and more importantly, recognized Callaway from his id and figured out he was a Browns player.

Callaway was cited for drug possession and driving with a suspended license from Florida. And, he is already in hot water with his employer without having not even played a game.

Mary Kay Cabot, Browns beat writer for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, reported Wednesday that Callaway will be with the team, as they travel to play the Giants on Thursday night.

Callaway saw his draft stock take a hit, not only from the problems in Gainesville, but also when his urine sample at the the NFL Scouting Combine came up as “diluted.” This is an obvious new attempt to beat the drug test by having it invalidated, but the NFL now considers diluted sample results as positives for that reason.

Interestingly, as we wrote about Wednesday morning, star free agent wide receiver Jarvis Landry lit into his teammates in a meeting room on the debut episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” on Tuesday night. And Callaway can be seen sitting and listening in that video, as Landry is railing about work ethic, desire to practice and trying to turn things around.

The show made no mention, yet, of Callaway’s arrest and situation, but still could on a future episode.


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