From time to time, OnlyGators.com will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.
» Returns from the first two days of practice ahead of the 2014 Senior Bowl have been positive for the three Florida Gators in attendance with cornerback and OnlyGators.com Path to the Draft blogger Jaylen Watkins drawing the most rave reviews on Tuesday. “Watkins balled out today,” said Scout.com’s Jamie Newberg. “Had [a] pick, caused fumble & at least five [pass breakups].” Concurred CBSSports.com’s Dane Brugler: “Watkins is one of the better players here that isn’t much talked about. I’m a big fan.” An AFC scout in attendance at the practices told OnlyGators.com that his team already has Watkins pegged as a potential second day draft selection.
» The first day of the inaugural all-star draft for the 2014 Pro Bowl was held on Tuesday with Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey going off the board as the first player chosen at his position. He will play for Team (Deion) Sanders. The second half of the draft will be held on Wednesday with Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden waiting to be picked.
» San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald tore his biceps tendon in Week 6 but played through the injury all the way up until his team fell in the NFC Championship on Sunday. Now done for the season, McDonald is scheduled to have the tendon reattached with a surgery upcoming, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Check out NINE more Gators news bites…after the break!
» Three Gators received Southeastern Conference weekly awards on Tuesday with sophomore Bridget Sloan named SEC Gymnast of the Week, senior Elizabeth Beisel tabbed as SEC Female Swimmer of the Week and junior Dan Wallace awarded SEC Male Swimmer of the Week.
» Speaking of gymnastics, No. 4 Florida improved to 2-0 (1-0 SEC) after opening league play with a 197.075-196.225 victory over the Auburn Tigers on Friday. Sloan picked up the seventh all-around title of her career and also won the vault with by matching a career-best with a 9.95 on the apparatus. UF will host Georgia on Friday.
» Considering Gators women’s tennis has won four-straight, seven of the last eight and 27 of the 33 total SEC regular season titles handed out since 1980, it is no surprise that Florida was tabbed by the league’s coaches as the favorite to win the 2014 SEC crown. What may be a tad of a shocker is that the Gators’ margin was not larger with UF squeaking past UGA 191-184 in total points to earn the preseason confidence pick.
» Meeting with the Florida football team, strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman delivered a surprise – that the team was going to go to the movies to see Lone Survivor. And wouldn’t you know it – there were cameras in the room to capture the moment. It is obvious the Gators were trying to go for one of the viral team celebration videos made famous recently, but a trip to the movies early in the offseason is not likely to get the same reaction as doing something special for the players instead of (or after) a practice…such as rolling an ice cream truck onto the field, having the head coach excitingly announce the team will go bowling and the like. (Yeah, Vanderbilt – among other programs – has kind of nailed this thing as of late.)
» Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong rounded out his staff last week by hiring former Florida offensive lineman (1977-80), graduate assistant (1982-83) and offensive line coach (2002-04) Joe Wickline as his offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. A highly-regarded position coach who had previously turned down the Texas offensive line job a couple years ago to remain at Oklahoma State, the native Texan decided to return to the Lone Star State to coach under Strong. “With Joe it is just hard-nose and he talks about toughness and building toughness in the program and that is what he does,” Strong said when announcing the hire. “Guys pay their dues and guys have been around great systems – and if you look at the system he has been around at Oklahoma State for nine years – they have moved the ball very well on offense. … It’s like me; I have put in my time and want to be rewarded so he has put in his time and he is being rewarded.”
» Gators redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel told The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu last week that he is “almost 100 percent sure” he will be a full participant in spring practice, which was delayed 7-10 days I order to accommodate his availability. Driskel had surgery in early October to repair a broken fibula and was initially given a 5-6 month recovery window. Doctors are currently telling him he is “a little bit ahead of schedule,” which would put him on line to return in just under six months when spring practice starts in the middle of March. He is equally excited to start learning under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. “Some people I’ve talked to that have been around him have all spoken highly of him. I’m very happy. I’m excited to work with Coach Roper,” he said. “I’ll be comfortable [in a spread offense]. I’ve done the zone read. I’ve done it the past couple of years. I did it in high school.”
» Jerry Seinfeld’s popular online show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, recently gave a shout out to Florida’s Gator Growl homecoming celebration, which has had numerous big names headline including Seinfeld himself, Bill Cosby, Bob Hope, Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, George Burns, Rodney Dangerfield, Robin Williams and many, many more over the years. At 10:40 in the video embedded below (click here if it doesn’t work), Seinfeld brings up to Louis C.K. the time he was the opening act for headliner Steven Wright back in 1988.
Jerry Seinfeld: “Steven and I did a gig in the 80s at a college football stadium – called Gator Growl – 80,000 people. George Burns had done it the year before.”
Louis C.K.: “What did George Burns do at Gator Growl?”
Jerry Seinfeld: “20 minutes. … But Steven had a great line. They were asking us, ‘What’s it like as a comedian in front of 80,000 people?’ And Steven said, ‘If you’re swimming in the ocean, it doesn’t matter how deep the water is – all you can do is swim.’”
» Gators in-house writer Scott Carter took a look at the Florida staff addition that received the least press over the last few weeks – 26-year-old Drew Hughes being brought on as the director of player personnel. Hughes, who spent a number of years working as a volunteer at Alabama before taking jobs at Central Florida and N.C. State is now one of the top evaluators at UF. “He’s a guy that I’ve always really wanted to see myself work with,” Hughes said of Florida head coach Will Muschamp. “I’m a competitor just like he is. And being able to learn from him and see how he runs an organization and the evaluation and building a team from a personnel standpoint, I was really fired up about [the opportunity].” Hughes’s first goal? Ensuring the Gators close out the 2014 recruiting cycle strong as National Signing Day is quickly approaching on Feb. 5.
» Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons may be headed towards his first NBA All-Star nod and is certainly enjoying the best season of his young professional career but that does not mean he is above getting the crap scared out of him.