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.
» Florida Gators redshirt sophomore guard Dillon Graham on Friday tweeted that he has “finally [been] cleared” by team doctors after missing most of the 2013-14 season following surgery to repair bone spurs in his hips. Less than a month ago, head coach Billy Donovan said he did not expect Graham to be cleared for contact until August or September. Doctors are likely allowing Graham to work out and practice in non-contact situations at this time. “He’s missed a whole entire year of development and now you’re talking about an entire summer and into the fall without it,” Donovan said on May 22. “So, when he does get back, what is he like as a player and maybe how long does it take to get him back to maybe where he was? I think that’s going to be a long process for him.”
» Florida junior jumper Marquis Dendy on Thursday captured the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championship in men’s long jump. The outdoor long jump title in school history, Dendy’s 8.00m/26-3 championship-winning mark was his best of the season. Actually, all three of his jumps would have won the crown for Dendy, who previously won the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championship in the same event. He did not even need to take the last jump but chose to do so because he was “in the moment” and also wanted to qualify nationally in the event. He returns to the field on Saturday for the men’s triple jump, an event UF has dominated in recent years.
» Dendy is actually the second Gators track & field athlete to win an outdoor title this week, following junior thrower Fawn Miller, who won the women’s javelin championship on Wednesday.
» Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi put together a scathing piece on Florida football and how it handled the forced resignation of wide receivers coach Joker Phillips, presumably due to a NCAA recruiting violation. Bianchi opines that the Gators should simply have been honest about their reason for dismissing Phillips and used it as an opportunity to prop the program up as one with high standards in terms of both winning and character.
» Lawyers representing former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez will look to dismiss murder charges against their client when they appear in court next week. Hernandez’s defense attorneys will argue that the prosecution has only provided circumstantial evidence against their client and not properly established probable cause. Additionally, the lawyers will argue that no forensic evidence has been presented to link Hernandez to the murder of Odin Lloyd. “Basically, all that the Commonwealth showed the grand jury is that Hernandez was in a car with Lloyd and several other individuals shortly before Lloyd was shot to death,” wrote his defense in an explanation. “To compensate for gaping holes in its proof, the Commonwealth sought to portray Hernandez … as an immoral drug-user with violent criminal propensities.” Though getting the judge to dismiss these charges is a long shot – to say the least – the argument is a legitimate one and the first step for Hernandez’s attorneys in trying to avoid a guilty verdict for their client.
» UF president Bernie Machen last month expressed his opposition to the rule that allows graduate students to transfer into an institution without sitting out a year…despite the fact that the Gators added tight end Jake McGee (Virginia) to the football team and forward/center Jon Horford (Michigan) to the basketball program just weeks earlier. “If they really wanted to transfer somewhere else, they should sit out a year,” Machen said at the SEC Spring Meetings, first speaking about graduate students in general. Then he used one of Florida’s transfers as an example. “Why didn’t Horford stay at Michigan another year? Because he had a free pass. Go to grad school at Michigan. They have some pretty good grad schools. It’s really just a way for a school to fill a void at the very last minute or a player going to get more playing time without having to sit out.” As the Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson eloquently stated, “Machen is a lone voice in the wilderness” on this topic. The Southeastern Conference last moth eased the restrictions on these transfers, no longer requiring them to have two seasons of eligibility remaining (barring exceptions).
» New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan took a purposeful and some will say uncalled for shot at quarterback Tim Tebow two weeks ago while praising the addition of new wide receiver Eric Decker. “He did catch eight touchdown passes when Tebow was the quarterback,” Ryan quipped in defense of his starting signal caller Geno Smith being able to complete passes to Decker. Ryan never gave Tebow
a fair any true chance to play quarterback in New York, even as Mark Sanchez struggled and Greg McElroy (third-string) floundered in his place.
» The Seattle Seahawks did not get much out of their trade for WR Percy Harvin during the regular season, but he came up big for his team in Super Bowl XLVIII by totaling 137 all-purpose yards and returning the second half’s opening kickoff for an 87-yard touchdown. Harvin now claims he feels the best he has felt since before starting his college career with the Gators. “I’m just happy to be healthy right now,” he said. “It feels tremendously good to get back on the field and be as one [team].” The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2009, Harvin’s best season came in 20111 when he totaled nine touchdowns (one kickoff return) and over 1,300 combined receiving and rushing yards.
» Here’s former Florida power forward Udonis Haslem being hit in the face with a shaving cream pie by a bunch of young baseball players.
» A great look from People Magazine on how 17-year-old brain cancer patient Heather Braswell, who died 10 weeks before Gators softball was able to capture the program’s first national title, helped fuel the team through the Women’s College World Series. “I Know she was on the field with us,” junior outfielder Bailey Castro said. “It was what gave us a great run.”
» Former Florida first baseman/outfielder Preston Tucker has been promoted to from Double-A Corpus Christi to Triple-A Oklahoma City. A seventh-round selection in the 2012 MLB Draft, Tucker has hit well as a farmhand and was even invited to Houston Astros spring training. In 65 games this season, he has hit 17 home runs (most in the Texas League). For his minor league career, Tucker has belted 50 dingers and 153 RBIs while batting .296.
» Four Gators selected in the 2014 MLB Draft have already decided to turn pro with three signing contracts with their respective franchises. Fourth-round catcher Taylor Gushue inked a $388,000 deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, joining eighth-round right-handed pitcher Justin Shafer (Toronto Blue Jays) and 24th-round second baseman Casey Turgeon (St. Louis Cardinals) in the minors. Eleventh-round RHP Karsten Whitson has already decided to leave school and sign with the Boston Red Sox but is not yet under contract with the club.
» For the second time in as many weeks, a former Florida basketball player is a guest on ESPN‘s SportsNation with Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons joining the program on Friday. Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal was featured on the show last week. Below is a picture of Parsons with host Michelle Beadle, for those of you that like these sort of things.
— Chandler Parsons (@ChandlerParsons) June 13, 2014