1 » The Florida Gators’ top 2013 baseball commitment, right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers, is unlikely to ever step on the field at McKethan Stadium as he is projected to be a top selection in the 2012 MLB Draft on Monday. Though he is not yet officially a member of the orange and blue, the slim chance that McCullers spurns pro baseball and decides to spend three years playing in the college ranks should give Florida fans something extra to watch for Monday evening. McCullers was named the 2012 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year on Thursday after posting a perfect 13-0 record with a 0.18 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 77.1 innings during his senior season (he also batted .280 with two homers, 21 RBIs and 10 stolen bases as a shortstop). He is widely considered to be the best high school baseball player in the country and has received tons of positive press but could very well not wind up going in the first round due to new collective bargaining rules that limit the amount of bonus money teams can pay out to their top picks. Teams may feel that McCullers, represented by agent Scott Boras, would require a certain high-dollar figure in order to sign on the dotted line and not be a wasted pick (he could always choose to go to college instead). This could have him fall out of the first round and perhaps steer him more toward the Gators. “It’s frustrating, the whole draft thing is frustrating,” McCullers told the Tampa Bay Times. “I’ve done nothing than get better since I’ve been ranked No. 1 forever, and no one in the country had a better year than me on the hill. If Major League Baseball wants to undervalue me, then I’ll show them what I’m really about three years from now.”
Other Florida commitments that could be picked high in the draft and spurn the Gators for minor league contracts include outfielder Lewis Brinson, infielder Avery Romero, OF Max White and OF Jesse Winker.
2 » Former Florida offensive tackle Max Starks is a free agent hoping to sign with an NFL team while coming off a major injury for the second-straight season. Starks hurt his neck two years ago while playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was unsigned at the start of 2011. As Pittsburgh’s depth along the offensive line took severe blows early in the season, Starks got a call, immediately returned as a starter and played out the rest of the year until tearing his ACL in the team’s season finale against Denver in the playoffs. Now trying to make another go of it while recovering from an injury, Starks will likely find a destination at some point though FOX Sports’ Len Pasquarelli reports that it will not be with the Steelers. “A few teams have stayed in contact with veteran offensive tackle Max Starks – who basically rescued the Pittsburgh line last season… – to keep tabs on his rehabilitation. Starks could be a July signing, or a safety net for a club that either suffers an injury or lacks depth at tackle. But he isn’t likely to return to the Steelers again.” Instead Pittsburgh will move second-year tackle Marcus Gilbert to the left side and hope that 2012 second-round pick Mike Adams will be ready to start for the team. Then again, the Steelers also thought that they would not need Starks in 2011 until they desperately needed his services. He has not played for any other team but Pittsburgh, knows the offense and has a great relationship with the rest of the line as well as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Read four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
3 » The Gators are badly in need of wide receivers, and despite the fact that Florida already has three committed as part of their 2013 recruiting cycle, they will be looking for at least one more before closing the books on this class. That is why some are surprised that UF has somewhat overlooked four-star WR Reggie Davis (Tallahassee, FL), who had been quite open about his love for the Gators a few months ago and was undoubtedly ready to commit to the program. Unfortunately for Davis, Florida’s current coaching staff is apparently not as keen on him as former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was during his tenure with the team. As Davis told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, current Gators coaches did not consider his offer to be “commitable” and first wanted to see what he could do at an on-campus camp before giving him the opportunity to join the program. This did not sit well with Davis who already had commitable offers from schools like Georgia; he just so happened to commit to UGA over the weekend. “Why would I do all of that when I still have a Georgia offer sitting here and they have other coaches that know what I can do. Why should I have to go through that when I have a bunch of other schools lined up and waiting for me,” he asked rhetorically, according to the paper. “I’m not trying to sound cocky or nothing, but I’m just saying … it’s my senior year, and I don’t want to have to be waiting for that last-minute call trying to pick up an offer.” Florida’s coaching staff does not offer players based off of third-party recruiting rankings, but Davis has certainly received plenty of love from the recruiting services. Their decision not to bring him onboard is likely a sound one in their eyes but may be more difficult for fans to understand should Davis burn the Gators for some touchdowns.
4 » Guard Maurice Hurt was not expected to see much time with the Washington Redskins in 2012 after being selected in the seventh round and spending the first six weeks of the regular season on the practice squad. However, an untimely injury to a starter boosted Hurt onto the 53-man roster, and he wound up starting the final eight weeks of the season while garnering some praise from head coach Mike Shanahan. “I thought he did a pretty good job run blocking, a pretty good job against pass protection against guys that were very talented,” he said. Hurt told the team’s website last week that he has been seeing some reps at tackle this offseason and could be moved there this year. “It’s just about learning all the new things, understanding the position as a whole,” hurt said. “Playing tackle means more space, more athletic guys. It’s a challenge, but like I said, just like anything else you have to work hard and work on your technique and everything, and then everything falls into place.”
5 » Former Gators offensive linemen on the Steelers – Gilbert and center Maurkice Pouncey – are not only doing well on the field but also making an impact off of it as well. Both participated in a Play 60 Challenge assembly at a local middle school last week while encouraging students to be active for at least 60 minutes a day while also developing healthy eating habits. “It’s about coming out here and interacting with the kids,” Pouncey told the team’s website. “That puts a smile on my face. It’s great to get exercise and a good sweat going. Obesity is a big thing nowadays and these kids have been working hard. It’s awesome to be here. I was always running around playing as a kid. My mom had to lock us in the house. Growing up there was a lot of football outside so that is what we did. I had fun working with the kids and hopefully they had fun with it.” Gilbert added: “A lot of kids like to play video games, sit on the coach and watch TV. I think it’s important to show them there is more out there for them and you have to have them stay healthy, stay active and eat right.”
6 » Unlike Starks, Pouncey, Gilbert and Hurt, former Florida defensive end William Green is still trying to make his mark in the NFL. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cleveland Browns following the 2012 NFL Draft, Green told The Birmingham News that he will do whatever it takes to prove to his coaches and front office executives that he belongs at the top level. “Whether that means me playing special teams or doing whatever, I’ve got to figure out a way to make the team on my own,” Green said. “They told me that I was going to come in, they were going to play me at defensive end, but they weren’t very descriptive. I’m just looking for the opportunity; I’m just looking to help the Cleveland Browns anywhere I can.” He also spoke about his four years with the Gators and how things were not always completely smooth at the end of his tenure. “It was a great experience,” Green said. “I got to play against a lot of guys that are playing on Sunday. I feel I learned a lot, not only about football but as a person as well. I grew from it, it wasn’t all good, but it definitely wasn’t all bad either, and I enjoyed my experience down there and I’m glad it happened. It wasn’t easy because you have a coach for three years and you get used to doing stuff one way and you know your way around the program. When a new coach comes in everything changes, from offseason programs to training camp, everything changes. You just have to learn on the fly and it’s almost like being a freshman again.”