From time to time, OGGOA 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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.
» A rough senior season at the center position made many Florida Gators fans skeptical that Mike Pouncey could play the position as well as his twin brother. But after one year as the starting center for the Miami Dolphins, those questions no longer exist as Pouncey has proven that he can perform at a Pro Bowl level (though he did not make it to the game in 2011). Now he is focused on getting even better and told the Sun-Sentinel it all starts with eating better. “I can get away with [eating fast food], but I changed it up this year just trying to eat more leaner stuff,” he said. “I hired a chef, so it’s been working well for me.” Pouncey also feels the zone blocking scheme the Dolphins will be employing in 2012 and beyond will benefit him and the offense; he expects a breakout season for himself. “They say your second year is supposed to be your best year,” he said. “I’m hoping for big things. I’m coming out as hard as I can. I want to take on more of a leadership role this year.”
» Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has been working with the United States U18 National Team over the last few weeks and began action in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship with his squad on Saturday. Donovan’s young squad is already 2-0 in international competition with a 105-42 victory over the Virgin Islands on Saturday and a 110-59 win over Mexico on Sunday. The U.S. will take on Brazil on Monday to conclude first-round action with the semifinals taking place Tuesday and the championship being held on Wednesday. Donovan’s squad needs to place in the top four teams at the end of the event in order to advance to the 2013 FIBA World Championship next summer. “I told them there are three things we want to accomplish. First and foremost, win a gold medal. Second, we’ve got a lot of guys on our team going into college and we want them to get maybe a bit more prepared than some other incoming freshmen for what they’re going to face in college. And third, we want to help them get better as players,” Donovan told the Sporting News before leaving for Brazil.
» Gators linebacker Neiron Ball, who missed the entire 2011 season after a blood vessel burst in his brain and he was diagnosed with a hereditary vascular condition, was officially cleared to participate in all football activities by team doctors on Friday. Ball had previously announced on March 1 that he had medical clearance from doctors to return to action, but head coach Will Muschamp cautioned in April and May that while he had returned to work out with the team that he was not a full participant and was still awaiting an additional clearance. Now that Ball is good to go, he will compete for immediate playing time at Buck linebacker, a position with a major depth issue now that junior Ronald Powell is out until at least mid-October with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
» Florida track & field coach Mike Holloway was awarded his first Coach of the Year honor for the outdoor season by the USTFCCCA on Thursday. He had previously won the award in consecutive years for the indoor season (2010-11). Holloway’s men’s team swept the 2012 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships this season.
Read six more Gator Bites…after the break!
» Though Muschamp has the Gators rolling when it comes to recruiting his 2013 signing class, Florida has struggled when it comes to adding a quarterback despite the fact that he and offensive coordinator Brent Pease have both remained steadfast in their desire to sign a signal caller each and every recruiting cycle. UF’s depth at the position and relative lack of historic NFL success have hurt them in this regard though many quarterbacks are simply choosing to go elsewhere. After losing out on at least two prospects since May 16, the Gators have honed in on Rivals-ranked three-star QB Max Staver (Brentwood, TN), who is considered a four-star prospect and the No. 251 overall player in the 2013 class by ESPN. Staver was in Gainesville, FL this weekend to earn a scholarship offer, and the fact that the coaches told him he is their “No. 1 guy,” according to the Gainesville Sun, means that an offer and perhaps even a commitment may be coming quite soon.
» Former Florida striker and reigning U.S. Women’s National Team hero Abby Wambach did it again for her country on Saturday. Though her goal came at a less dramatic moment and was the first in a 3-1 victory over Sweden, it was nevertheless impressive. The Americans have one more match on Monday (also against Sweden) before returning home for a match against Canada. Then Wambach, Gators defender Heather Mitts and the rest of the ladies are off to the 2012 London Olympics.
» Right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers, a Florida signee and one of the top high school players in the country, agreed to sign with the Houston Astros on Sunday for $2.5 million (nearly double his $1.25M allocated slot value). Houston, which selected McCullers with the No. 41 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, saved signing money on its No. 1 overall pick and was able to use much of that to sweeten McCullers deal and pry him away from joining the college ranks. No other player selected in the draft this year will be paid more money over their allotted value.
» Taking part in a church-sponsored Father’s Day event at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA on Sunday, New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow made it very clear that, unlike some other athletes, he intends to continue living his life in order to be a positive role model for kids. “Last time I said it I got a lot of flak for it, but I don’t care,” Tebow said per the NFL Network. “There are a lot of role models out there; just there aren’t many good ones. To me, that’s so frustrating because you have in today’s society so many famous athletes in baseball and basketball and football and golf, every sport there is. If we come together to be great role models it would be amazing to see how the next generation turns out.”
» Though former Gators point guard Erving Walker is currently more concerned about where he will wind up playing in his first year out of college, he spoke with ESPN’s Andy Katz recently about what Florida has going for it without him next season. “They’ve still got Kenny Boynton, Patric Young, Erik Murphy, and I expect big things out of Mike Rosario,” he said. “Mike got down a bit with me and Kenny being there and [Bradley Beal] coming in, but he practiced hard and competed with us and will be a great scorer. They’ll be right there to make a run at the Final Four.” Speaking of the Final Four, Walker admitted that missing on advancing to that round of competition the last two years was heartbreaking. “We gave up late leads two years in a row,” he said. “It sucks. We could have done more. I always wanted to see what it would feel like. We would have definitely given Kentucky a run.”
» The CFL’s Toronto Argonauts announced last week that former Gators defensive line Joe Cohen signed with the team through the 2013 season. Cohen joins punter Eric Wilbur and linebacker Dustin Doe (Winnipeg), defensive back Dee Webb (Hamilton), wide receiver Dallas Baker and running back DeShawn Wynn (Saskatchewan) and defensive end Duke Lemmens (Montreal) as former Florida player in the CFL.
» Competing in the WWE pay-per-view No Way Out on Sunday, former Gators DE Thaddeus Bullard (ring name Titus O’Neil) and his partner Darren Young earned a shot at the Tag Team Championship after winning a Fatal Fourway match that determined the title’s No. 1 contenders.