SIX BITS: Leak signed, Thomas and Wright back, Murphy in limbo, Hernandez working, Gators fed

1 » In a story first reported by the Florida Times-Union one day earlier, former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak has officially been signed by the Jacksonville Sharks of the AFL to be the team’s starting signal caller this season. “I am blessed and excited to be a part of an organization that’s committed to excellence and winning championships,” Leak said in a prepared statement released after signing his contract. “This is a great opportunity to be home and closer to my family. I look forward to playing in Jacksonville with support of greatest fans in the AFL.” Now a member of the Sharks, Leak will be joining his fourth professional football league. He played one preseason game with the NFL’s Chicago Bears after being undrafted in 2007, signed with Team Florida of the AAFL (which was stopped before it started), and played for three teams over four years in the CFL. With Jacksonville, he may have finally found a long-term home. “I am very excited to add Chris to our Sharks family,” team head coach Les Moss said. “He was a player I originally targeted before our first season, but was under contract in Canada and could not join us. Chris has never played the indoor game, but his accuracy and skill sets are what attracted him to us and are the requirements to be a top quarterback in the Arena Football League.”

2 » Denver Broncos defensive tackle Marcus Thomas, who missed most of the preseason and his team’s first three regular season games with an injured pectoral muscle, has begun practicing with the Broncos for the first time in seven weeks. Nevertheless, he remains questionable to play on Sunday and may need another week in practice before he’s game-ready. Also returning to practice this week is Chicago Bears safety Major Wright, who was suffering from a head/neck injury that kept him out of last week’s game.

3 » Rehabbing a sports hernia that has kept him out of both practice and game action since early in the offseason, Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphyhas been missing practice again this week even though the team planned to have him back one week ago. Indications coming out of Oakland are that Murphy was improving but is now stuck in limbo. While he’s been out, the Raiders have seen some of their younger receivers step up, turning what was once a guaranteed starting job for Murphy into a fight for field time whenever he does get healthy.

4 » Speaking of recovering from injuries, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is still working to that end after missing Sunday’s game due to injury. Hernandez sprained his MCL last week against San Diego and said this week that he is “feeling pretty good,” which is not necessarily an indication of when he will return. Various reports have him out 1-2 or 4-6 weeks, but Hernandez is optimistic he’ll be back on the field sooner than later. “I just take it day by day, and work with the trainers, and try to get back as soon as possible,” he said according to ESPNBoston.com. “We’ll just try to take it day by day and see how it feels.”

5 » A feature from The Wall Street Journal this week – discussing nutrition in college football as the “last frontier” for which teams can gain an advantage – featured (in part) the Florida program and a thought from one of the Gators’ nutritionists. “It’s the last remaining edge,” Chelsea Zenner said. “Every team at the top has a coach who deserves to be there and every team has great weight rooms and strength programs. The last edge is nutrition.” According to the article, Florida’s nutrition program (which began in 2003) spends $58,000 each year “just on pre- and post-practice snacks for the football team,” which include “five types of smoothies on demand.” There are “two full-time dietitians, a pair of interns and up to a dozen volunteers, with some staffers texting the players to remind them to eat lunch.”

6 » The Florida basketball team will be holding walk-on tryouts on Oct. 5 at 5 p.m., which Gainesville Sun reporter Kevin Brockway notes are being held to fill a spot vacated in the offseason. Apparently walk-on guard Kyle McClanahan left the team after spending three years on the Gators’ bench. OGGOA learned Thursday afternoon that McClanahan left the team with no ill will and simply “had enough” of being a walk-on for three years.

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FOUR BITS: Elam, Harvin, Noah, Hernandez

1 » According to the Associated Press, Florida Gators sophomore safety Matt Elam has settled the misdemeanor alcohol possession charge he was served an arrest for over the summer. Elam, who was caught by a police officer with a plastic cup containing alcohol, entered a plea of no contest on Monday. He will do 12 hours of community service, serve six months of supervised probation and pay a total of $331 in fees to settle the charge. Elam did not miss any playing time and has started all three games of the 2011 season for Florida at strong safety.

2 » Even though Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin had a dynamic kickoff return in the first game of the season and has proven to be the team’s second-most explosive weapon behind running back Adrian Peterson, he is not being used as much offensively has in the past. Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN Radio in Minneapolis pointed out on Monday that Harvin was only used in 44.1 percent (30-of-68) of the team’s offensive snaps in their second game of the season, which is more than 20 percent less playing time than just one week prior. The Vikings’ best receiver and deep threat, Harvin not being in the game has seriously stalled their offense, which is 31st (out of 32 teams) in the league in passing and has only scored 37 combined points in two games this season. His migraine and injury concerns are apparently a thing of the past, leaving many fans of the team to wonder why he is not being utilized more often.

3 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, aside from participating in international competitions, has been relatively quiet since his team was eliminated from the NBA Playoffs last year. Though you may not see him endorsing too many products west of the Atlantic Ocean, apparently Noah’s name is big enough in France to sell some shoes and clothing for the French sporting goods company Le Coq Sportif. Below is a video of the commercial Noah is currently appearing in for the brand.

4 » There may be some more bad news coming for New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who reportedly tore his MCL in the team’s week two contest against San Diego. Though the Boston Globe initially reported that Hernandez would be out 1-2 weeks with the sprain, Comcast SportsNet New England believes he may be out more than a month and up to six weeks due to the injury. The loss of Hernandez would be a big blow for the Patriots, who have found success recently with two pass-catching tight ends and perhaps even bigger for fantasy football owners who were counting on him to continue his dominant 2011 campaign.

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Florida basketball’s complete 2011-12 schedule

Florida Gators basketball on Monday announced the times for all of the team’s non-conference games this season, officially completing the 2011-12 schedule. In non-conference action, Florida will face six opponents who took part in the 2011 NCAA Tournament; it will also participate in four events scattered throughout the country – the Global Sports Shootout, Florida Citrus Sports Shootout, BIG EAST/SEC Challenge and Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

During non-conference and Southeastern Conference competition combined, the Gators will play 18 games on national television including the conference’s season finale.

Below is the team’s complete 2011-12 schedule:

Date/TimeGator BaitResult
11/6 at 7:00 pm (SECN+)vs. Barry (Exh.)EXH.
11/14 at 6:00 pm (SECN)vs. William & Mary
11/17 at 7:00 pm (ESPNU)vs. Miami
11/21 at 8:00 pm (SECN)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 7:00 pm (SECN)vs. Yale
12/12 at 7:00 pm (SECN)vs. Texas So.
12/14 at 4:00 pm (FSN)vs. Jacksonville
12/20 at 5:00 pm (FSN)vs. Wake ForestOBBC
12/30 at 7:00 pm (ESPN2)at Florida State
1/3 at 2:00 pm (CBS)vs. UConn
1/7 at 7:00 pm (SECN)at So. CarolinaSEC
1/10 at 7:00 pm (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 8:00 pm (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 6:30 pm (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.
» Florida will face two pairs of SEC opponents in three-day spans. The Gators will go to Ole Miss on Jan. 26 before playing Mississippi State at home on Jan. 28 and will host South Carolina on Feb. 2 before Vanderbilt comes to town on Feb. 4.
» UF will play nine games in February (28 days) but compete just seven times in January (31 days). The Gators usually play seven games in February and have not played more than eight since at least the 1998-99 season.
» Florida’s will face Kentucky on Senior Day, a game that is also the SEC’s final regular season contest of the season.
» This will be the first SEC regular season without the conference utilizing divisions. Nevertheless, the Gators will play their traditional SEC East opponents twice (home-and-home) and SEC West opponents once.
» Florida has a three-game conference home stretch from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4 and never plays more two consecutive games on the road (Feb. 14 and 18, Feb. 25 and 28).
» The 2011 SEC Tournament will take place from March 8-11 in New Orleans, LA.

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Top recruits visiting the Gators on Saturday

Southeastern Conference play begins for the No. 16/17 Florida Gators football team on Saturday as they take on the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL but another type of competition also will be going on off the field. Both the football and basketball teams will be hosting some of the top recruits in the country in what stands to be one of the biggest in-season recruiting weekends of the year.

Plenty of Florida’s 2012 commits will be on campus to watch the game, but also hosted are players that the Gators hope to grab verbal commitments from sooner than later.

From a football standpoint, four-star offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty of Pittsburgh, PA (who is said to have Florida as his leader) is the headliner, while four-star defensive end Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, FL) and Gainesville native three-star cornerback Chris Bivins will also be taking in the game even though the latter is committed to South Florida. Bivins does not hold an official UF offer as of press time.

The Gators will also have some 2013 recruits at the game, most notably running backs Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) and Adam Lane (Winter Haven, FL) as well as wide receiver Richard Benjamin (Tampa, FL), safety Leon McQuay (Seffner, FL) and cornerback J.J. Green (Kingsland, GA). If two of those names sound familiar, it is because Kelvin is the son of Fred Taylor and J.J. is the nephew of Jacquez Green.

The weekend may turn out to be even more important for the basketball team, which will have two big-time recruits on campus.

Five-star point guard Kyle Anderson (Jersey City, NJ) is the No. 2 player in the nation according to Rivals and will be on campus for an official visit. Florida desperately wants Anderson and many believe it will come down to a two-horse race between UF and Seton Hall.

Readers of OGGOA have informed us that there are plans to make signs during the football game in hopes that Anderson recognizes them and how badly the fans want him on campus next season. He is planning to commit on his birthday, Sept. 20, and the reptiles are happy to have him take a visit close to that date.

Also stopping by for visit is a top-ranked player at a position the Gators desperately need to fill. Four-star 2012 center Willie Cauley (Olathe, Kansas) stands 7’0” and weighs in at 225 lbs. The No. 6 center and 39th best player in the country per Rivals, Cauley is down to a final five of Florida, Alabama, Kansas State, Kentucky and Oklahoma. He wants to make a decision during the early signing period.

The future of Gators football and basketball could receive a huge boost if some of Saturday’s visits turn into commitments for Florida going forward.

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TWO Basketball BITS: Larson’s trial, uniforms

1 » Just days after junior forward Erik Murphy was fully reinstated by head basketball coach Billy Donovan, Florida Gators redshirt freshman F Cody Larson had part of his recent legal issue settled. According to The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway, Larson accepted deferred prosecution for his misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges and will perform 200 hours of community service as his primary form of punishment. Like Murphy, Larson has already completed a substance abuse course and paid restitution to the victims, Brockway reports. Still to be determined is how the conclusion of this case affects Larson’s standing in his home state of South Dakota, where he is still on probation for an incident that occurred while in high school and before he committed to Florida. Donovan has yet to reinstate Larson as a member of the Gators.

2 » Athletes care about their uniform numbers, and now that Florida basketball is beginning preparations for the 2011-12 season, it was time for the team’s newest members to officially receive theirs. The freshman roster is as follows:

» No. 23 – Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO), five-star guard, 6’3″ 207 lbs.
» No. 35 – Walter Pitchford V (Grand Rapids, MI), three-star forward, 6’10” 221 lbs.

Also stepping on the court for the first time this year is a redshirt junior transfer from Rutgers who picked his number last year:

» No. 3 – Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), four-star guard, 6’3″ 191 lbs.

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Donovan reinstates Gators forward Murphy

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan announced via an official statement Thursday that junior forward Erik Murphy has been reinstated from his indefinite suspension and will rejoin the team this week.

“Erik Murphy has served his punishment,” Donovan said. “We’re all disappointed with what transpired, but there’s no question Erik has learned a great deal through the whole process and understands what a great opportunity and privilege it is to play college basketball.”

Arrested in April on a third-degree felony burglary charge for allegedly breaking into a car in St. Augustine, FL, Murphy had the charge reduced to a second-degree criminal trespassing misdemeanor in May and accepted a plea deal that included a small fine and community service among other penalties.

Murphy, expected to start for the Gators this season, was arrested alongside redshirt freshman F Cody Larson, who entered a plea of not guilty and has an Oct. 31 sentencing date. Larson could be in violation of his probation stemming from an arrest in South Dakota that occurred before he committed to Florida in 2010. He was also indefinitely suspended until his legal issue is settled, which may not be for some time.

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Gator Bites for Thursday, September 8th

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 try to catch them with Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» Remember back in April when Florida Gators forwards junior Erik Murphy and redshirt freshman Cody Larson were arrested for allegedly trying to break into a car? Since then the felony chargers were reduced to misdemeanors for both parties and Murphy accepted a plea deal that netted him fines, community service and a few other minor penalties. Larson’s situation, on the other hand, is not even close to resolved. The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway reports that he will have a Oct. 31 sentencing date to determine what legal action will be taken against him. He had previously entered a not guilty plea but could change it on the day of sentencing. As individual Florida basketball drills begin this week and practice starts on Oct. 15, according to Brockway, Larson’s status remains up in the air. The duo is currently indefinitely suspended from the team, though the expectation is that Murphy will be reinstated now that his legal situation is settled.

» Gators baseball received a commitment Wednesday evening as outfielder Max White chose to continue his career in Gainesville, FL. Also a left-handed pitcher, White is recovering from shoulder surgery and chose Florida over LSU, Central Florida, N.C. State, Maryland and North Florida, according to the Sun. “I have always wanted to play for Florida,” he told the paper. “To be in the situation where all of my hard work could possibly lead me to play for them — that is a great feeling. I just want to keep at it and I especially do not want them UF to see me slack off.”

» Florida head football coach Will Muschamp is known for his fiery demeanor on the sidelines. This fan video shot from the season opener against Florida Atlantic shows a mini-tantrum he threw during the game.

Read the rest of the Gator Bites (and watch four videos) after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, September 8th

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Brown, Wambach, Haslem, five others will be UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2012 inductees

Eight former letterwinners – including Gator Greats Alex Brown (football), Abby Wambach (soccer) and Udonis Haslem (men’s basketball) – will be inducted as the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame‘s 2012 class.

The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Wednesday that the honors will be bestowed upon them at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 6, 2012 in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Inductees are normally divided into three categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners. The remainder of the 2012 class includes Gator Greats Hazel Clark Riley (women’s track & field), Kristen Guise Lee (gymnastics), Jeff Morrison (men’s tennis) and Stephanie Nickitas (women’s tennis) as well as Distinguished Letterwinner Larry Travis (football).

Read more about each inductee and their career accomplishments after the break.
Continue Reading » Brown, Wambach, Haslem, five others will be UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2012 inductees

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