FOUR BITS: Tebow, Dunlap, Jenkins, Horford

1 » Just because Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow earned the starting nod for the team’s final three games last season does not mean he is guaranteed to retain that job next year, new team president John Elway said this past week. “Kyle [Orton] is definitely in the equation,” he said. “It’s not a foregone conclusion that we’re going to trade Kyle Orton. At all. We still have to evaluate that. A lot of people think it’s an automatic, but it’s not.” With player trades not able to be completed until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed, Orton would not be traded any time soon no matter what Elway and new head coach John Fox decide is best for the team.

2 » ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday that Cincinnati Bengals rookie defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who concluded the 2010 season with an impressive 9.5 sacks (a franchise rookie record), has left agent Todd France and signed with Drew Rosenhaus. He currently has three years remaining on a four-year, $3.01 million contract with Cincinnati that included a $1.22 million signing bonus, $1.779 million in guaranteed cash and an additional $649,000 available through incentives.

3 » Receiving a commitment from four-star QB Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) on Friday, the Florida Gators were only awaiting word from one more potential signee. That wait is now over as four-star junior college defensive tackle John Jenkins (Perkinston, MS) officially committed to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. Florida has now finished the 2011 recruiting cycle with 19 commitments . Their class (not yet updated to include Brissett) is ranked No. 14 by Rivals, No. 18 by Scout and No. 12 by ESPNU.

4 » Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford was provided an opportunity to live up to his NBA All-Star billing as he was tested with the game on the line Friday. With nearly no time remaining and his team down one, Horford drove the lane and was met by Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, who impeded his track to the rim with a flagrant foul. Landing on and injuring his back, Horford was slow to get up but eventually reached the line and hit both free throws to propel Atlanta to a 101-100 victory.

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SIX BITS: Pounceys, Jenkins, Meyer, Martin

1 » Contrary to his insistence that he would end up suiting up for Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey will not be participating in the NFL‘s championship game on Sunday. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin told ESPN‘s Adam Schefter on Friday that Pouncey has yet to practice this week and, therefore, would not be ready to play. The former Florida Gators star suffered a high ankle sprain (and possibly a broken bone, too) during the AFC Championship against the New York Jets, left the game early and has yet to step on the field since. He is one of two former Gators (left tackle Max Starks) who are on the Steelers; neither will play in the Super Bowl as Starks has missed the majority of the season with an injured neck.

2 » While Maurkice watches the Super Bowl from the sideline, his brother Mike Pouncey is preparing for the 2011 NFL Draft. AOL Fanhouse interviewed the brothers this week and notes that Mike is doing whatever he can to get drafted early (perhaps higher) than his twin brother. The most interesting piece from the article, however, is Mike saying he prefers to play tackle instead of center or guard in the NFL. “You never know where you are going to play until you get to camp, but I honestly hope I get the chance to play tackle at the next level because I feel I am athletic enough,” Mike said. “When Maurkice went in [at Pittsburgh], he started at right guard before they moved him to center. I am just looking forward to the opportunity.”

3 » Four-star junior college defensive tackle John Jenkins (Perkinston, MS) is set to announce his commitment on Saturday but has already decided where he wants to go, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “At this point I feel like I have decided; I’ve picked my school,” Jenkins told the paper Friday. “But I’m just gonna get in one last prayer tonight before I go to sleep before tomorrow. I’ll just pray that I’m making the right decision, which I believe I am, and just go with it after that.” Deciding between Florida, Georgia, Auburn and Miami, Jenkins is believed to have UF and UGA as his final two schools. The No. 6 JUCO recruit in the country according to Rivals, he took his last official visit to Gainesville, FL but was favoring Georgia before taking the trip.

4 » Former Gators head coach Urban Meyer is headed back to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish…for a few hours. A former Notre Dame wide receivers coach, Meyer will be the featured presenter for the 2011 Notre Dame Football Coaches Clinic, an annual event by the university.

5 » Former Florida quarterback/punter/wide receiver Ingle Martin, who had a four-year career as a back-up in the NFL after transferring to Furman, was named the head football coach for Christ Presbyterian Academy high school in Tennessee on Friday.

6 » On Feb. 1, OGGOA first reported that seven former Gators would be participating in the 2011 NFL Combine. The University of Florida made an official announcement today, so we are referring you back to our original post.

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2/3: Donovan on struggling starters, experience

No. 23 Florida Gators (17-5, 6-2 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his media availability on Thursday.

STRUGGLING STARTERS

Though redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, senior forward Chandler Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker have by all accounts had solid seasons up to this point, Florida’s other two starters have yet to find a consistent groove. Donovan is not overly concerned with that fact, pointing out a few nuances to each player’s game.

“He really made a great jump in my opinion coming out of the Mississippi State game,” he said of sophomore guard Kenny Boynton. “In the Mississippi State game, he had some really, really good looks – open looks – and the ball didn’t go in the basket for him. And I really thought that affected him on the defensive end and his energy. He did a phenomenal job on [John] Jenkins. I know he scored 22 points, but it wasn’t from the three-point line, it wasn’t wide-open looks. I think we made him work for it. He got to the free throw line. He had some drives. Even though he was not having a prolific scoring night, he really was locked in defensively to try to do the best job he could on Jenkins.”

For his part, Boynton is getting the message Donovan is sending. “I just try to put the last play behind me,” Boynton said of his attitude when he’s struggling to knock down shots. “Coach Donovan, he doesn’t want anybody out there frustrated or thinking about the last play, he just wants us to play whether or not our shots are falling. Last year was pretty hard for me to do because I wasn’t used to it. This year is easier; [I] just go back and play defense the next possession.”

With senior F Alex Tyus, Donovan thinks the guys he has had to go one-on-one with have caused the biggest problem. “The one thing that’s been hard for Alex is he’s had a lot of very, very difficult match-ups at the power forward spot,” he said. “He’s had some really, really difficult match-ups. Alex has really been trying to focus on defending. Because when you’re going against those kind of guys, and we’re trying to provide some help for him, you probably have a tendency to focus a little bit less on your offense. […] You look at the match-ups he’s had to go against, there’s going to be a dip in offensive production because he’s had to focus so much on playing defense.”

EXPERIENCE DOESN’T WIN GAMES

Asked how the team’s veteran leadership and experience of playing four overtime games (and winning three) this season will help in the future, Donovan simply said it will not by noting that age and “being there” before don’t matter nearly as much as performing to the best of your abilities.

“I don’t think so,” he said of the notion. “Last year’s Kentucky team with all those young guys did pull out close games. There was a thought when I had [Joakim] Noah, [Al] Horford and [Corey] Brewer and they were all sophomores that there was no NCAA Tournament experience … and you have to have an experienced team to go deep into the tournament … and they proved that wrong.

“Just because we’ve won some close games does not ensure the fact that we’re going to win all of them going forward. Anything that’s happened in the past has no bearing on the next time you’re in that situation other than the fact that there’s a level of familiarity. You still have to make the plays that are necessary [to win the game]. You still have to execute, perform and do those things in those situations. Just because you did it last time doesn’t mean you’re going to do it [another] time. You got to execute, focus and do the right things at that time to the best of your ability.”

Parsons neither agreed nor disagreed with Donovan but did point out that the team’s three overtime victories have given the Gators more confidence as a unit. “Having four overtime games and winning three of them really shows something about our team and how we keep playing,” he said. “It’s all about effort, executing our offense, playing defense and getting those big stops when we need them. And then obviously our guys coming up with some big shots.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 2/3: Donovan on struggling starters, experience

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Horford earns second-straight NBA All-Star nod

Former Florida Gators forward/center Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks has been named a reserve for the Eastern Conference in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game.

His second-straight All-Star selection, Horford also played in the 2010 game along with then-New York Knicks F/C David Lee. He scored eight points on 4-for-5 shooting and accounted for four rebounds in 12 minutes of action in the game.

“It’s a real honor to be nominated to that game,” he told OGGOA in an exclusive interview last year. “The coaches really have a lot of weight into that decision, and I felt really special that they picked me over a lot of other guys.”

Horford continues to improve each year and is currently riding career-highs in points (16.1), rebounds (9.9), assists (3.6) field goal percentage (56.7) and free throw percentage (81.3). He has 24 double-doubles on the season and is fifth in his conference in field goal percentage.

The No. 3 overall selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, he was named a team captain this season and signed a five-year, $60 million contract extension in November 2010.

Al Horford for ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive

Photo Credit: Unknown

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TWO BITS: McGriff walks on, Williams signs deal

1 » Gainesville High School quarterback Ryan McGriff has accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and will enroll in the University of Florida this summer, according to The Gainesville Sun. The son of former Florida tight end Mark McGriff and grandson of Gator Great and All-American wide receiver (and outfielder) Perry McGriff, Jr., McGriff will be the third person in his family to wear the orange and blue. He told the Sun that Muschamp contacted in just after being hired in December and that former head coach Urban Meyer had not previously offered him the opportunity.

“It’s not a scholarship, but it’s the next best thing for me at my dream school,” he told the paper. “I’ve lived in Gainesville my whole life, so it’s pretty much a dream come true, actually. I’m moving a mile and half from my house. It can’t get any better than that. […] I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not a big-name recruit. As a local kid, I know what it takes to work hard and earn what you get. I have no problem being the scout team quarterback, helping the defense, helping the offense, learning whatever signals, holding. Whatever I can do to help them be a better football team.”

2 » Waived by the Orlando Magic last week, former Florida point guard Jason Williams has signed a one-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies Williams, who was upset at his lack of playing time this season, will compete to be the back-up PG in Memphis. This is the second time Williams will play for the Grizzlies; he was acquired by them in a trade in 2001 and played there through the 2004-05 season.

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2/1: Donovan on Florida’s fight and survival

No. 23 Florida Gators (17-5, 6-2 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability after Tuesday’s hard-fought 65-61 overtime win against the No. 24 Vanderbilt Commodores (15-6, 3-4 SEC).

12 13 ROUNDS

If you thought Florida looked punch-drunk following their double overtime defeat of Georgia on Jan. 25, Donovan believes that was nothing compared to the physical effort the team had to put forth to defeat Vanderbilt in overtime on Tuesday.

“That was by far the most physical game we have played all year long. In a lot of ways, I felt terrible for the officials because it was a very, very difficult game to officiate,” he said. “The game was as well officiated as it could have been with all the contact. It was a hard game.”

Many fans on both sides might disagree with Donovan’s praise of the officiating, noting that the Gators were abused most of the game and the Commodores were dealt a blow by not having a foul called on sophomore guard Kenny Boynton on a three-pointer from G John Jenkins near the end of the contest. Commenting on the missed foul, Donovan said it was just part of the game.

“Yeah, you know what, and it was probably about 25 fouls by us and them throughout the game. I didn’t get a clear look on it. I don’t know if he did or didn’t,” he said. “To me, if that foul would have been called, that would have been very, very disappointing with all the contact that was going on.”

How much contact was there? “It reminded me of the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks back in the day with [Jeff] Van Gundy and Pat Riley and Alonzo Mourning and fist fights,” Donovan quipped.

SURVIVING A “LATE COLLAPSE”

Florida once again squandered an opportunity to win a close game in regulation, something Donovan chalks up to the game of basketball in general and not the Gators’ ability to handle a lead late in a game.

“I don’t look at it as a late collapse. There [are] good teams out there with good players,” he said. “We got a pretty resilient group. They try to battle back and they fight.”

With that being said, Donovan points out that Florida has improved in these types of situations compared to how they would have handled them the last two seasons.

“Two years ago, in a game like this, I think we would have had a hard time winning the game. We’re getting better in these kinds of games,” he said.

“I think our guys have grown up, in particular our older guys. They don’t have it figured out. They probably think they do, but I can tell you right now they don’t. We’ve gotten better responding to the things that you need to respond to [in order] to put yourself in a position to win the game.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 2/1: Donovan on Florida’s fight and survival

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No. 23 Florida edges No. 24 Vanderbilt in overtime

Winning after suffering a loss for the fifth time this season, the No. 23 Florida Gators (17-5, 6-2 SEC) clawed their way to 65-61 overtime victory against the No. 24 Vanderbilt Commodores (15-6, 3-4 SEC) on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons posted a team-high 18 points and game-high 11 rebounds on the way to his fourth double-double of the season and the 11th of his career. With 15 seconds remaining in the game and Florida up three, Parsons (shooting a career-low 51.7 percent from the free throw line this year) hit two foul shots to ice the contest and help the Gators capture their 12th victory in the last 15 games.

Florida and Vanderbilt both shot poorly in the first half, combining to go 21-for-59 from the field, 6-for-18 from three and 1-for-5 from the charity stripe. Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, also struggling with his shot, hit a trey at the halftime buzzer to give UF a 25-24 lead going into the locker rooms.

A 6-0 run by the Commodores put them ahead early in the second half as redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin headed to the bench with three fouls. That is when sophomore guard Kenny Boynton took over and scored five points as part of a 7-0 run to put the Gators up a game-high eight points, 43-35.

Florida would match their game-high lead with 4:53 to go; however, everything fell apart from there. Vanderbilt took off on a 9-1 run and tied the game at 56 with two free throws from G John Jenkins (a 90.6 percent foul shooter) with 25 seconds remaining in the contest. UF had two opportunities to extend their lead just seconds earlier, but Walker missed a floater and senior F Alex Tyus was rejected by the rim on a put-back dunk.

Walker, holding the ball for the entire final possession, missed a long three as the buzzer sounded and regulation ended The Gators failed to score a single field goal in the final 6:19 of the half, a drought which continued through the first 2:12 of overtime.

With 1:10 to go, Boynton nailed a trey to put Florida ahead two. He fouled Jenkins on a three-pointer of his own on the next possession, a miscue the referees missed.

Vanderbilt, which saw two starters and a key reserve foul out down the stretch, played most of the overtime period with a reduced roster. Jenkins led the Commodores with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting and tied a team-high with six boards.

Supporting Parsons’ 18 points were Walker and Boynton with 15 a piece on a combined 9-of-27 shooting. Boynton went 3-for-8 from downtown and was once gain a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.

Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field, but the Gators out-rebounded their opposition 42-29 (12-6 offensively) for their third overtime win in four opportunities already this season.

Florida hopes build on their latest victory as they host No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday at 9 p.m. The game, which will be preceded by College GameDay being broadcast live from Gainesville, will air live on ESPN.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandin/Associated Press

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No. 23 Florida vs. No. 24 Vanderbilt Gameday

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 9:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 23 FLORIDA GATORS No. 24 VANDERBILT
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 16-5 (5-2) Record: 15-5 (3-3)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -4; O/U 139

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Vanderbilt leads the all-time series against Florida 63-56 and won both meetings last season. However, the Gators are 15-5 in their last 20 games against the Commodores; they are also 18-11 against them under Donovan including 11-3 at home and 8-1 in their last nine matchups in Gainesville.
» Florida has won 11 of its last 14 games with seven victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» A win Tuesday would give the Gators double-digit wins at home for the 14th consecutive year under Donovan.
» Florida is turning the ball over fewer than 10 times per game in SEC play and has turned it over in single digits in four of seven contests.
» Vanderbilt features players who, individually, lead the SEC leaders in points per game, assists per game and field goal percentage.
» The Commodores best the Gators in both points per game 78.8-71.4 (20th-120th) and field goal percentage .463-.458 (65th-81st) nationally. Vanderbilt and Florida are similar in their ability to rebound and dish the ball, averaging approximately 39 boards and 14 assists per game. UF ranks 19th in RPI (.6265) and 13th in strength of schedule nationally compared to VU being 22nd (.6214) and 24th, respectively.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.4 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (43.0%) and three-point percentage (39.5%). He has single-handedly accounted for 45 of Florida’s 122 treys this season. Walker became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points, accomplishing the feat earlier this year.
» Senior forward Chandler Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (10.3) while leading the Gators with 7.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.8 percent this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds a game while being a major presence for Florida.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably UF’s most talented player but is back in a slump after breaking out of one previously. Boynton is only shooting 36 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second on the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game and hits 81.5 percent of his free throws.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are the Gators primary reserves averaging 17.3 and 17.0 minutes per game, respectively. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads Florida in assist-to-turnover ratio (3:1), while Young averages 3.4 points and 3.6 boards off the bench.
» Vanderbilt G John Jenkins…who plays a team-high 34.1 minutes and is his team’s leading scorer (19.1 points per game). Jenkins also shoots 90.6 percent from the charity stripe, hits 41.5 percent of his three-pointers and leads the SEC in scoring average.
» Commodores F Jeffrey Taylor …who is his team’s second-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder while playing the second-most minutes.

1/31: DONOVAN PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » No. 23 Florida vs. No. 24 Vanderbilt Gameday

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