FOUR BITS: Patriots, Cooper, McCray, McGarity

By Adam Silverstein
August 7, 2010

1 » Perhaps none of the former Florida Gators who are now rookies in the NFL are having more success than the trio drafted by the New Engalnd Patriots – defensive end/linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, LB Brandon Spikes and tight end Aaron Hernandez. Word out of Patriots camp is that all three are shining and will get on the field plenty. Cunningham and Spikes continue to work with the first-team defense and could be penciled in as starters when the season begins. “Jermaine has picked up things very well,” head coach Bill Belichick said. “I think each day you can definitely see him getting better, more confident, understanding things that happened the day before and being able to process that.” ESPNBoston.com‘s Mike Reiss broke down their progress:

Read more about the Patriots’ rookies and three additional BITS on Riley Cooper, Bobby McCray and Greg McGarity…after the break!

Cunningham: In the perfect Patriots world, the coaches would probably be grooming Cunningham behind the scenes, but he’s been thrust into the fire in the wake of Derrick Burgess’ unexpected decision not to report to camp. At the least, he should be rushing the passer in specific packages and looks like the team’s fastest outside linebacker.

Spikes: It wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s in the starting lineup on opening day alongside Jerod Mayo. His size (6-2, 250), power and on-field maturity have been hard to miss over the past five days since he stepped in for Gary Guyton. Bill Belichick lauded him as an “interesting player to coach” who sees things that others might not.

Hernandez: There has been a lot to like from Hernandez, whose route-running, speed and sticky hands have had Tom Brady looking in his direction often. He should be part of a variety of packages, contributing from the get-go. On Thursday morning, Hernandez got an earful from Brady after not running downfield on a scramble play, which seemed to reflect the mistakes that sometimes come when relying on young players. “Aaron is an athletic guy; he’s fast, he’s got good quickness,” [director of player personnel Nick] Caserio said. “He gets into the defense quickly and catches the ball well.”

2 » Also experiencing his share of success is former Gators wide receiver Riley Cooper now of the Philadelphia Eagles. Though some mistakes have been made in camp, Cooper shined during the team’s Flight Night morning practice with a six-catch performance and terrific over-the-shoulder grab on a bomb from quarterback Kevin Kolb. He has been working with the first-team offense because starting receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are both injured. “He’s been down the field deep behind the defense a lot,” WR Jason Avant told The Morning Call. “I think he’s doing a great job. […] And he’s fast. […] I think he’s going to be a good player in this league and possibly great.”

3 » Cut by the New Orleans Saints in the offseason, former Florida defensive end Bobby McCray was brought back by the team just a few weeks ago and is making the most of his second chance. “If you let your emotions out, the majority of the time it can hurt you,” McCray told the Associated Press. “So if you got something [upsetting] going on, just try to keep it inside, don’t let everybody know.” McCray has been sharing first team left end snaps with fellow former Gators DE Alex Brown. “There’s nothing but great things going on at that left end position because of the competition that’s going on,” team defensive line coach Billy Johnson said. “Alex Brown’s done a good job. Bobby’s done a good job. And we’ve got about three weeks here to do a lot of evaluation and see how this thing comes out.” McCray also spoke about his relationship with Brown. “I’m very happy,” he said. “I got my teammate that I’ve had since 1999 with Florida. Me and him got some great things that we can do together.” Check out OGGOA‘s interview with Brown here.

4 » As expected, University of Florida executive senior associate athletic director Greg McGarity is one of 49 people who have put their name in the hat to be the next Georgia Bulldogs athletic director. McGarity, who is an alum of the school, has been with UF since 1992, most of the time as AD Jeremy Foley’s right-hand man. “I have been very fortunate to work alongside the very best in collegiate athletic at two outstanding institutions, the University of Georgia and the University of Florida, over the last three decades,” McGarity wrote in a letter to the Georgia’s associate vice president for human resources. “I know what it takes to lead and direct an athletic program at the highest level, and am ready to lead the University of Georgia Athletic Association into the future. I look forward to having the opportunity to compete for this position.” U.S. Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) wrote the school’s president to “enthusiastically recommend” McGarity. “He is ready to get back to his hometown and to serve his alma mater in this distinguished position,” Kingston wrote.

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

2 Comments

  1. Marc Mac says:

    Adam,

    While I enjoy keeping up with Gators in the NFL, it seems that lately you have more posts about them than our current team. Will you be posting more about this year’s team now that fall practice has begun? By the way, the videos of spring practice have been awesome to see. I can’t wait to see how explosive the offense is going to be.

  2. Marc-

    Completely fair criticism. A few replies for you:

    1) Because fall practice is closed and there is little coming out about the team on a day-to-day basis, there is not that much to write about regarding the 2010 Gators right now. Additionally, covering the Gators in the NFL (and especially all of the rookies who were just drafted) is quite important and newsworthy, in my opinion. NFL practices are open, and a lot of these guys are adjusting to new roles, teams or just the league in general. I can tell you that the number of people who are reading those stories is in line with everything we are writing about the current team.

    2) During the season, I would only expect there to be a NFL update on Monday night after the week’s games were completed (unless there are injuries or other notable news). While training camp is open to the media in the NFL, weekly practices are not and there is much less to talk about during the week. The current team, of course, is and will always be our primary concern. We try to cover all aspects of the Gators here (non-revenue sports included).

    3) News is cyclical. There is a time when our primary focus is recruiting, football, basketball, baseball, professional, etc. based on what is currently happening. There is a ton of information going on with the pros right now (signing contracts, fitting in to camp, getting injured) and very little about the current Gators. I can guarantee to you that there will be a big transition coming in that regard in about a week’s time.

    Hope you understand where I am coming from. In summation: don’t worry…there will be plenty of current Gators stuff coming sooner than later. In our last 14 posts, seven have been about the 2010 team, for example.

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