FOUR BITS: Tebow, Brantley, volleyball, Herring

1 » Writing for ESPN Insider, columnist Chris Sprow makes a case for why Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will indeed be a successful NFL signal caller – whether or not that ends up happening in Mile High. In the piece, Sprow cites quotes from 1986 that were said about Steve Young but are just as applicable to Tebow and uses ESPN‘s advanced metric “QBR” to point out how effective he is each game.

Ultimately, Young struggled and was traded away from Tampa in frustration; he was viewed as a bust. He didn’t become a starter, then a star, for years. Perhaps Tebow also will be traded at some point, a wasted pick, a project for another coach. But there’s also good reason to think that Tebow can be a very good NFL quarterback because, in the same way Tampa once miscalculated on Young, there’s reason to think we haven’t done a good job of accurately deciphering what a quarterback like Tebow can do. [...]

The bottom line is this: If you want to evaluate Tebow as a quarterback, you have to understand that what he lacks as a passer can be made up for by what he brings with his legs. This isn’t a new argument, but it now has additional context. [...]

Orton is a much better passer but a statue in the pocket, costing the Broncos points with sacks — and Tebow’s 82.1 passer rating in 2010 would have been the best among rookies if it had stretched for 16 games. [...] Tebow, were he to start in Week 1, would continue to be as raw a passer as you can find in the NFL. But this unrefined product is a lot better than some believe, and he might even be more valuable than Denver’s other option.

2 » ESPN also takes a look at Florida Gators redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley and in what ways he needs to improve under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis this season. Specifically, he points to Brantley’s first down completion percentage and touch with balls thrown more than 20 yards down the field. Brantley completed passes on first down with a 110.8 efficiency in 2010 (113th in the nation), 28 points lower than the FBS average (138.8). On deep balls, Brantley only completed 20.8 percent of his passes (5-of-24) including only two against Southeastern Conference opponents. It is also noted that 41.7 percent of Brantley’s deep passes were overthrown.

3 » A pair of Florida senior volleyball players, outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and setter/right-side Kelly Murphy, were named to the 2011 Preseason All-SEC Team on Tuesday. The first volleyball players in league history to be named to the preseason All-SEC Team (2009-11, All-SEC First or Second Team (2009, 2010) and SEC All-Freshman Team (2008), the duo hopes to lead their team to another conference championship this season. The Gators are ranked No. 9 nationally in the preseason poll and begin competition at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Aug. 26 against Boston College.

4 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has officially lost his fourth staffer this offseason. Following the departure of three assistants in the late spring, Donovan’s strength and conditioning coach Matt Herring has decided to leave the Gators to take the director of athletic performance job with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. With Florida for both national championships, Herring is excited about his new opportunity. “I really hadn’t thought about it until San Antonio came calling,’’ Herring told UF senior writer Scott Carter. “The main reason why we even considered it is one, it’s a great organization and we certainly follow them, and then the draw to get closer to family and see my little girl get a chance to get closer to her grandparents and foster those relationships. It was just a tremendous opportunity for us on a personal level. The University of Florida is a fantastic place to be and Coach Donovan and the administration certainly tried to encourage me to stay here, but at the end of the day, they can’t move Gainesville to Texas, and that was the biggest draw.’’

Extra BIT » Incoming freshman golfer J.D. Tomlinson has a unique opportunity next week as he will be competing to win a U.S. Amateur event at the age of 18. Only four former Gators have accomplished this feat thus far, but Tomlinson plans to give it a go before even taking a swing in an Orange & Blue polo shirt.

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Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford: “It was a no-brainer for me to represent my country.”

Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford, having recently completed his fourth NBA season, is in his prime and playing the best basketball of his career.

Averaging career highs in points (15.3), field goal percentage (.557) and free throw percentage (.789) while also posting 9.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in 2010-11, he was named a NBA All-Star for the second-straight season just months after Atlanta locked him up long-term with an impressive five-year, $60 million contract extension in November.

OGGOA caught up with the two-time National Champion, two-time NCAA Finals Most Valuable Player and member of the 2008 NBA All-Rookie Team while he was in Lexington, KY practicing with the Dominican Republic National Team. Horford, who is working out in facilities usually occupied by the Kentucky Wildcats due to his team being led by Kentucky head coach John Calipari, has found himself learning a new system in enemy territory. He spoke with us just after completing practice about a variety of topics including his new contract, reminiscing with the Oh Fours, representing his country and performing some Gator Chomps in the near future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Last time we spoke was a year and a half ago just before you played in your first All-Star game. You went back and posted some career highs this season. To what do you attribute your continued improvement?
AL HORFORD: “There’s really no secret behind that, it’s all about putting in the time in the summer. I always try to focus on something different in the offseason that I want to work on and improve. This past summer I got a chance to work with [veteran skills trainer] Rob McClanaghan, a great basketball trainer who works with a lot of other guys in the league including Derrick Rose. He helped me a lot with my game, but I think at the end of the day it is just all about taking the time and making a commitment to work and keep getting better in the offseason.”

AS: Is there any type of competition between you and Jo[akim Noah]? Obviously you were came out of the same school and were picked high in the 2007 NBA Draft, but you’re also playing the same position and competing in the Eastern Conference, too.
AH: “Nah, not really. Me and Joakim, when we talk, we rarely talk basketball. I’m sure he wants to do good and great for his team, and I do the same, but I think at the end of the day we’re not caught up on so much individual stuff. For us, it’s more about our teams and winning and stuff like that. Obviously he has the upper hand on me because of their team because of the playoffs. I know he was happy about that. We’re not competing individually, it’s [more like] how much we impact our individual teams.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Al Horford after the jump!
Continue Reading » Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford: “It was a no-brainer for me to represent my country.”

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Florida basketball on ESPN Super Tuesday

ESPN and the Southeastern Conference have announced the match-ups set for their 2012 Super Tuesday showcase, and Florida Gators basketball will be featured in four of the contests. Below is the official 2011-12 non-conference schedule with the four additional ESPN Super Tuesday games added at the end:

Date/TimeGator BaitResult
11/6 at TBD (TBD)vs. Barry (Exh.)
11/14 at TBD (SECN)vs. William & Mary
11/17 at 7:00 pm (ESPNU)vs. Miami
11/21 at TBD (TBD)vs. La.-Monroe
11/26 at 9:30 pm (AXS)vs. GeorgetownB4A
11/27 at TBD (TBD)Wisconsin or UABB4A
11/28 at TBD (TBD)vs. TBDB4A
12/5 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at KansasSEC-Big 12
12/8 at TBD (TBD)vs. Yale
12/12 at TBD (TBD)vs. Texas So.
12/14 at TBD (TBD)vs. Jacksonville
12/20 at TBD (TBD)vs. Wake ForestOBBC
12/30 at 7:00 pm (ESPN2)at Florida State
1/3 at TBD (TBD)vs. UConn
1/7 at 7:00 pm (SECN)at So. CarolinaSEC
1/10 at TBD (FSN)vs. Miss. StateSEC
1/15 at 7:00 pm (ESPN/2)vs. AuburnSEC
1/17 at 2:00 pm (CBS)at GeorgiaSEC
1/20 at 7:00 pm (ESPN)vs. LSUSEC
1/24 at TBD (SECN)at Ole MissSEC
1/27 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at AlabamaSEC
1/31 at 1:00 pm (CBS)vs. ArkansasSEC
2/3 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at VanderbiltSEC
2/7 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)vs. KentuckySEC
2/12 at 7:00 pm (ESPN/2)vs. Ole MissSEC
2/14 at TBD (SECN)at Texas A&MSEC
2/18 at 7:00 pm (SECN)vs. VanderbiltSEC
2/21 at 1:00 pm (CBS)at LSUSEC
2/24 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at MissouriSEC
2/28 at TBD (ESPN/2)vs. TennesseeSEC
3/3 at 9:00 pm (ESPNU)vs. Texas A&MSEC
3/7 at 2:00 pm (CBS)at KentuckySEC

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Florida Gators basketball releases complete 2011-12 non-conference schedule

Florida Gators basketball announced the team’s 2011-12 non-conference schedule on Wednesday. Florida will face six opponents who took part in the 2011 NCAA Tournament while also participating in four events scattered throughout the country – the Global Sports Shootout, Florida Citrus Sports Shootout, BIG EAST/SEC Challenge and Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

“We’ve made it a practice to play a difficult non-conference schedule, and this is perhaps the toughest one yet,” head coach Billy Donovan said in an official school release. “That’s something that really helps prepare us for the NCAA Tournament. We’re also looking forward to playing games in front of our great fans from several different areas of Florida, and we host some exciting matchups on our home court, as well.”

Below is the official 2011-12 non-conference schedule:

Date/TimeGator BaitResult
11/6 at TBD (TBD)vs. Barry (Exh.)
11/14 at TBD (SECN)vs. William & Mary
11/17 at 7:00 pm (ESPNU)vs. Miami
11/21 at TBD (TBD)vs. La.-Monroe
11/26 at 9:30 pm (AXS)vs. GeorgetownB4A
11/27 at TBD (TBD)Wisconsin or UABB4A
11/28 at TBD (TBD)vs. TBDB4A
12/5 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at KansasSEC-Big 12
12/8 at TBD (TBD)vs. Yale
12/12 at TBD (TBD)vs. Texas So.
12/14 at TBD (TBD)vs. Jacksonville
12/20 at TBD (TBD)vs. Wake ForestOBBC
12/30 at 7:00 pm (ESPN2)at Florida State
1/3 at TBD (TBD)vs. UConn
1/7 at 7:00 pm (SECN)at So. CarolinaSEC
1/10 at TBD (FSN)vs. Miss. StateSEC
1/15 at 7:00 pm (ESPN/2)vs. AuburnSEC
1/17 at 2:00 pm (CBS)at GeorgiaSEC
1/20 at 7:00 pm (ESPN)vs. LSUSEC
1/24 at TBD (SECN)at Ole MissSEC
1/27 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at AlabamaSEC
1/31 at 1:00 pm (CBS)vs. ArkansasSEC
2/3 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at VanderbiltSEC
2/7 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)vs. KentuckySEC
2/12 at 7:00 pm (ESPN/2)vs. Ole MissSEC
2/14 at TBD (SECN)at Texas A&MSEC
2/18 at 7:00 pm (SECN)vs. VanderbiltSEC
2/21 at 1:00 pm (CBS)at LSUSEC
2/24 at 9:00 pm (ESPN)at MissouriSEC
2/28 at TBD (ESPN/2)vs. TennesseeSEC
3/3 at 9:00 pm (ESPNU)vs. Texas A&MSEC
3/7 at 2:00 pm (CBS)at KentuckySEC

SCHEDULE NOTES

» Donovan’s son, Billy Donovan, Jr., is a guard for Catholic University.
» Ohio State won the Big Ten Championship in 2010-11.
» Florida will play four games in the state of Florida but not in Gainesville.
» As OGGOA first reported on April 28, the Gators’ participation in the GSS is part of a five-team “tournament” featuring a collection of games played at different arenas.
» Florida will play in the FCSS for the second-straight season; UF lost to Central Florida in the series’ inaugural game at the Amway Arena last season.
» Twelve teams each from the Big East and SEC will each compete in the BIG EAST/SEC Challenge from Dec. 1-3.
» Transfer guard Mike Rosario will square-off against the team he left, Rutgers.
» It is the fourth-straight year the Gators will play a non-conference opponent on Jan. 3 (3-0) and second-straight year they will play one on New Years Eve day.

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FOUR BITS: assistants, Frazier, Lochte, Coyle

1 » Not only will members of the Florida Gators basketball team have to get used to a new trio of assistants this season, those assistants also need to build chemistry and get to know each other. The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway, in Lake Buena Vista, FL for an AAU tournament, got a chance to catch up with them and see how things are going. “I feel very fortunate to be part of that staff,” assistant John Pelphrey said. “Those guys are tremendous, both Matt [McCall] and Norm [Roberts]. I just want to play my role to make us be the best we can be and help Billy [Donovan] be the best he can be.” The youngest of the bunch agreed. “It’s been terrific,” McCall added. “[They are] two guys that are hard not to get along with. Just great people, and terrific coaches too.” Roberts explained how the trio has been trying to build a bond. “We’ve done a lot of things with our families,” he said. “We’ve all gotten to know each other in that way, and then being on the road together, talking constantly about recruiting and those things.”

2 » Four-star 2012 shooting guard commit Michael Frazier (Tampa, FL) is as confident as ever in his decision to play for the Gators next year. Also speaking with Brockway, Frazier reiterated that he made the right decision making his pledge two years before he graduated. “My dad told me that I don’t need to waste other people’s time if I know where I want to go,” he said. “I didn’t want to do that because they could be recruiting other guys to help their program. So I just went ahead and committed early because I wanted to be a Gator.” The No. 82 player in the country according to Rivals, he has recently become close with fellow 2012 commit point guard Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, NC), the No. 57-ranked player. “I think we could be a great combo, him at the one, me at the two,” Frazier said. “He can really shoot it. It probably will take some pressure off of me, and we’ll be able to open each other up.”

3 » Just one day after setting a world record and winning his second gold at the World Swimming Championships in China, former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte went on to win two more in the 200-meter backstroke and as the anchor for the United States’ 4×200-meter freestyle relay team. He has now won four medals during the event to go along with his world record time, which marks his third on the international stage.

4 » Just days after her Gators teammates won the 2011 World Cup of Softball as members of Team USA, sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle was named to the 2011 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team. “Representing the USA has always been a dream of mine from a very young age,” Coyle said in an official release. “I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity to represent my country on and off the field. I look forward to being able to compete with and against some of the best young softball players from all over the world.”

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Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» With the NFL lockout now in the books, the Florida Gators four selections in the 2011 NFL Draft will be reporting to work for the first time on Thursday. Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (first round, No. 15), Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert (second round, No. 63), Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Ahmad Black (fifth round, No. 151 and Washington Redskins guard Maurice Hurt (seventh round, No. 217 are all on teams who will be eligible to workout immediately.

» While that foursome is ready and raring to go, Florida also has a number of undrafted free agents hoping to be picked up by teams looking to supplement their roster. Among those available are defensive linemen Terron Sanders and Justin Trattou, running back Emmanuel Moody and wide receiver Carl Moore. OGGOA will update you if and when these players are picked up by teams.

» The WNBA held its 2011 All-Star game over the weekend and also announced its Top 15 Players of All Time at the event. Though she was nominated and up for selection to the list, former Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones was not picked by fans for the honor. The six-time champion (two Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles, two Euroleague titles) is currently averaging 12.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game with the Los Angeles Sparks.

There are 11 more Gator Bites including updates on Calathes, UF-FSU, Beal, Alvarez, Wambach, LeCount, ultimate Frisbee and Bostic…after the break!
Continue Reading » Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Donovan, Kruger at Florida

1 » Named the 2010-11 Gatorade National Player of the Year for men’s basketball on April 4, Florida Gators five-star freshman guard Brad Beal accepted his award on Tuesday in Los Angeles, CA. Beal will be recognized at the 2011 ESPYS Wednesday evening, as will former Florida forward Chandler Parsons, who will be accepting the 2010-11 Capitol One Cup for the University of Florida’s men’s athletic program.

2 » ESPN senior college basketball writer Andy Katz mentioned the Gators and head coach Billy Donovan on his blog Tuesday as he discussed how the team will be backcourt heavy for 2011-12. Donovan told Katz that he is excited about the depth on the perimeter (something Florida has lacked for the last few years) but that he will not task all of his guards with scoring the way they might want to. “We want everyone to understand a good shot,” he said. “I’m excited with the challenges of dealing with the guards.” One of those challenges will be reigning in senior point guard Erving Walker, who Katz says Donovan has challenged to “lead the SEC in assists since there will be more than enough offense on the wings this season.”

3 » Excited that former Gators head coach Lon Kruger has been hired to head up their local Oklahoma Sooners, The Oklahoman printed a pair of stories about Kruger’s time at Florida on Wednesday. The first was focused on his decision to send the 1994 UF basketball team to Australia for two weeks of exhibition games before the season began and how that resulted in solid team chemistry. “We didn’t have any superstars or McDonald’s All-Americans,” former guard Craig Brown told the paper. “We were just a bunch of guys committed to playing tough, hard defense. We believed in the coaching staff. After we got back (from Australia), we knew we had a chance to have a special season.”

4 » The second piece centered on Kruger’s penchant for making student-athletes enjoy playing for him while resurrecting a program recovering from two years of NCAA probation. “When Coach Kruger arrived the program was in disarray,” said former student manager Jeff Guin. “It wasn’t just wins and losses. It was NCAA issues. Few people came to games. No one really cared.” Also included in the latter piece is an interesting statement from Gators basketball historian Bill Koss. “(Rick) Pitino told Billy, ‘Absolutely do not take that job. It’s a football school,’” Koss told the paper. “Billy has told me several times he would not have taken the job if Lon hadn’t accomplished what he accomplished.”

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TWO BITS: Noah to France, Jenkins moving on

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has decided to play for Team France in the FIBA European Championships in Lithuania, ESPNChicago.com reported on Monday. Noah, who has dual citizenship due to his father being French, will participate in the event from Aug. 31 to as late as Sept. 18. With the NBA lockout in effect, Noah’s is certainly a candidate to play overseas until the 2011 season begins.

2 » Asked why he chose not to enter the NFL Supplemental Draft rather than play his final collegiate season, former Florida Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins told The Florence Times-Daily that striking it rich is not his main concern right now. “It’s not all about the money,” he said. “I went three years without money at the University of Florida, so why can’t I do it another year. I’m not in a rush to get the money. I just wanted to come back and rebuild my image.” Attending North Alabama for a year will also likely provide Jenkins with a larger payday when he eventually gets selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, even if there is a rookie wage scale.

He also said that he realizes he was in the wrong and does not harbor any hard feelings for his head coach of just a few months, Will Muschamp. “Everybody makes mistakes; at the end of the day it’s how you rebuild off that mistake,” Jenkins told the paper. “I made a mistake and got kicked out at Florida, but that’s all behind me. There is no issue between me and Coach Muschamp. I texted him like two weeks ago and asked how he was doing and he texted me back. He did what he had to do and I’m not mad at him. I respect him as a man and as a coach.”

Extra BIT » Gators sophomore safety Matt Elam was named to the watch list for the 2011 Jim Thorpe Award on Monday. Handed out to the nation’s best defensive back, the Thorpe Award’s preseason watch list features 37 players, 10 of whom represent the SEC. Former Florida safety Lawrence Wright won the award in 1996.

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