FOUR BITS: Quinn, Black, Strong, Rosario

1 » Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who has mostly been out on the road recruiting since the Seattle Seahawks were eliminated from the NFL Playoffs, has been assigned the Jacksonville, FL area as his primary recruiting grounds, according to The Florida Times-Union. The Times-Union’s Hays Carlyon reports that Quinn visited a number of area high schools on Friday and notes that Florida could be interested in two Yulee High School players over the next two seasons – tight end/linebacker Kelvin Rainey in 2012 and running back Derrick Henry in 2013.

2 » When former Gators safety Ahmad Black presented the game ball from the 2011 Outback Bowl to Ian Lockwood, it was obvious the two (and then-head coach Urban Meyer) had formed a special bond. In Mobile, AL for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl, Black spoke with the Pensacola News Journal about his friendship with Lockwood and how the two became so close so quickly. “He opened the door to the Florida football program,” said Lockwood’s high school football coach Chad Lashley. “That has meant the world to Ian. It just shows the unbelievable character of Ahmad and his concern for other people. With him getting that interception, it was just the perfect ending.” You can read more thoughts from Black and Lashley by clicking here.

3 » Taking the Louisville Cardinals to a 7-6 record and earning Big East Co-Coach of the Year honors in 2010, head coach Charlie Strong appears to be in line for a new contract with a substantial raise, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal, which spoke with athletic director Tom Jurich. “We want to do [give him a raise], but this staff has been busy and they’re doing a great job, so when signing day is over and we get some time, we’re definitely going to address that,” Jurich said. “It’s been great that he’s been able to keep his staff together to this point, and I can tell you those guys are really getting after it and they’re having a great time. They’re on a rocket ship right now, and it’s fun to watch.” Louisville doing what it can to keep Strong now may prevent him leaving until a significantly better job is available a few years down the road. He currently earns $1.6 million per season.

4 » Redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario is biding his time helping Florida improve during practice while he waits out a NCAA-mandated transfer season. An article written for CNN profiling Rosario’s hall of fame high school head coach Bob Hurley, Sr. notes that the player once the star of one of Hurley’s teams and describes him as a “hot-tempered kid who used basketball as a refuge from the life in a housing project.” Rosario recounted his time playing for Hurley. “He started disciplining me like I was one of his sons,” he said. “It was to the point where I was like, ‘Wow, I had never been pushed like this in my life.’ I learned how to be a man and not a boy.”

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ESPN College GameDay in Gainesville on Feb. 5

As reported by OGGOA in December, ESPN College GameDay will emanate from the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Feb. 5 prior to the No. 23/24 Florida Gators taking on the No. 16/14 Kentucky Wildcats later that evening at 9 p.m.

The University of Florida announced on Friday that the show will air live from Gainesville, FL next week, noting that it is the first time since 2008 and third time overall that the television program will be broadcast from inside the arena.

In addition to the two hours College GameDay airs in the morning (beginning at 10 a.m. on ESPNU and 11 a.m. on ESPN), there will be a one-hour pre-game show live from the O’Connell Center at 8 p.m. The program features host Rece Davis and analysts Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and Bob Knight. Feature reporter and former Gators dazzler Erin Andrews will not be in attendance. However, head coach Billy Donovan will likely be interviewed at some point during the second hour of the show.

The first 500 students in attendance will receive complimentary breakfast, the first 3,000 fans will be given rollbannas courtesy of State Farm, and one lucky student will shoot a half-court shot for a chance at $17,500. College GameDay also wants to see more “big heads” in the crowd. Every student who brings one will win a prize with one being awarded a “VIP prize pack.”

Photo Credit: ESPN

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1/27: Donovan on Georgia win, rest of season

Florida Gators 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 on Thursday.

STRUGGLES AFTER JANUARY

Over the previous three seasons, Donovan’s Gators are a combined 18-24 beginning on Feb. 1. Asked about his team’s ineffectiveness when trying to close out the Southeastern Conference slate and head into the postseason, Donovan pointed to the schedule as the main culprit, noting that Florida often plays many of its best opponents (read: SEC East) toward the end. The same goes for this year.

“You got to look at the scheduling and the way it falls,” he said. “We still have to play Kentucky twice. We still have to play Vanderbilt twice. We still have to play Tennessee again, Georgia again, South Carolina again. Not to say that our first five or six games were easy games, because I do not think that was the case in this league. There’s no question the teams that we’re playing going forward, I think everybody would say are probably better than the teams we’ve played up to this point in time.”

RECOUNTING THE DOUBLE-OVERTIME WIN

Looking back on UF’s double-overtime victory against Georgia, Donovan pointed out that – in the grand scheme of things – it may have been emotional but it was just a single win in a very long season.

“It’s only one win. They come pretty quickly from the standpoint of we have to go play a difficult game on the road Saturday,” he said. “I thought we had a great opportunity to win the game in regulation. We made some plays and missed some free throws to really put the game [within their reach].

“We left the door open for them. Our guys were teetering a little bit just emotionally. The game going into overtime, we found a way to get through it and keep it close. When Erving [Walker] made the three, it put them in an emotional thing where they thought the game was over with. We were able to capitalize and go on a little bit of a run.”

PLAYING IT SAFE VS. BEING AGGRESSIVE

Asked about the Gators propensity for taking three-pointers early in the shot clock, especially toward the end of games, Donovan dismissed the notion that it always angers him. Recounting some of the shots Florida took on Tuesday, he explained why quick shots – especially when they are good looks – are not always a negative thing.

“You have to maintain a level of aggressiveness,” he said. “There is a point in time in the game where you’ve got to look at the clock. Two minutes to go in a two possession game, you got to maintain a level of aggressiveness because there’s probably going to be another eight possessions in that game. […] There is a balance and a fine line there. I want our guys to maintain a level of aggressiveness. I’d rather have us being aggressive rather than trying to passively hold on.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 1/27: Donovan on Georgia win, rest of season

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Westbrook, Stewart, Shands

1 » Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey was found to have a broken bone in his left ankle in addition to a high ankle sprain and is unlikely to play in Super Bowl XLV, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Though the Steelers refuse to completely rule out his participation in the game, chances are Pouncey will be watching from the sidelines along with fellow former Gator left tackle Max Starks, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this season with a neck injury. In the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Pouncey had started each of Pittsburgh’s 18 games this season.

2 » While Florida awaits commitments or denials from a number of top recruits, head coach Will Muschamp is making the rounds and getting in the ears of plenty of other players. Muschamp was in South Florida on Thursday meeting with three-star defensive end Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL), who plans to make a decision Monday, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Westbrook is also considering South Florida, Connecticut, North Carolina and Purdue but will be in Gainesville, FL for an official visit this weekend.

3 » The Hartford Courant is reporting that the Gators are also after four-star linebacker Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT), a current Boston College commitment. Apparently “Florida has made a late push” for Stewart, and Muschamp is expected to fly up for an in-home visit on Friday. “It’s a hard situation but also a good situation,” Stewart told the paper Thursday. “I took two unofficial visits to Florida this summer. I have an offer from them. It’s a great honor that they believe you can play for them.”

4 » What did Gators redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus do after arriving back in Gainesville following a double-overtime victory against the Georgia Bulldogs? They headed over to Shands Children’s Hospital and visited 19-year-old cancer patient Victor Wheeler, who is constantly undergoing chemotherapy for a recurring form of cancer known as rhabdomyoscarcoma. For more pictures of their visit, check out this Facebook link.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Williams, Blakely, baseball

1 » With speculation surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey’s ability to play in Super Bowl XLV with a high ankle sprain, one of his teammates has apparently let the cat out of the bag on Pouncey’s status. “We are definitely sad that he won’t be able to be with us in the Super Bowl,” guard Chris Kemoeatu told the Pittsburgh Tribune. “Definitely I feel bad for him. We just have to win it for him. It’s definitely a huge loss for us. We know how big this is for him and him not being able to play is definitely motivating for us to go out there and get that ring for him.” Since first suffering the injury Sunday, Pouncey has steadfastly denied that he will miss the game, saying he knows “how to attack” the injury because he had a similar one during his time with the Florida Gators.

2 » Third and sometimes fourth on his team’s depth chart at the position, former Florida point guard Jason Williams was waived by the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. Williams, who averaged 2.1 points, 1.5 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game, is the least productive he has been in his 12-year NBA career. There are early expectations that he will be picked up by a team in need of a back-up ball handler.

3 » As initially reported by OGGOA on Jan. 17, four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL) has officially undergone arthroscopic shoulder surgery and will miss spring practice. An early enrollee already on campus at the University of Florida, he will likely be able to return to the field in the summer.

4 » Baseball America delivered some high praise to the Gators baseball team on Thursday, ranking them No. 1 in their 2011 preseason top 25 poll. The publication notes that Florida returns eight everyday starters (including four first-team freshman All-Americans), features a power trio in the heart of the order, has two speedsters who can swipe bases, plays great defense, is “absurdly deep on the mound,” has the deepest bullpen in college , offers an excellent coaching staff and “has no discernible weakness.”

Noting that a disappointing postseason performance is the crux of the Gators’ motivation for 2011, Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt also published a feature story on the team. “For all they accomplished in 2010, the Gators’ lasting memory of the season would be the hollow feeling of playing two flat, uninspiring games in Omaha and getting ousted by arch-rival Florida State,” he writes. “After going from a regional in 2008 to a super regional in 2009 to the College World Series in 2010, the next step is for Florida to take home its first national championship.” You can read the rest by clicking here.

Photo Credits: University of Florida

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FOUR BITS: spring practice set, Pouncey’s injury

1 » The Florida Gators announced Wednesday that the team will participate in its first of 15 spring practices on March 16 with the remainder coming between then and the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut on April 9. The 2011 season begins on Sept. 3 as Florida takes on Florida Atlantic at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who has started every game this season but suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship game, remains questionable for Super Bowl XLV. He was seen Wednesday utilizing crutches with a hard cast on his lower left leg, indicating that the injury is quite serious and may indeed keep him out of the big game. ESPN medical expert Stephania Bell, asked about Pouncey’s injury, said moderate high ankle sprains are usually given an “estimate of four to six weeks” though players have come back both earlier and later than that time frame depending on the severity of the injury. Bell also noted that Pouncey being only 21 will help him recover a bit faster. “I think when you look into the context of two weeks, it’s the Super Bowl, and Pouncey doesn’t have gross instability or a fracture based on what we know,” she said. “So it will come down to whether the Steelers get the pain down enough and the swelling down enough that Pouncey can have normal motion in the joint and put pressure through the foot.”

3 » Still recovering from an injured thumb, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah sat down with Comcast Sports Net in Chicago, IL for an “up close and personal” seven-minute interview. You can watch it in full below.

4 » Former Gators decathlete Steve Mesler will be inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on March 27. He will be honored after capturing the gold medal as a bobsledder for team United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada in February. “I thought it was amazing,” Mesler said when he learned about his selection. “You don’t think about putting yourself in the Hall of Fame when you’re competing and training. It’s such a surprise to be honored that way. It still humbles me to think that we did something that puts us in that classification.” Mesler joins names already inducted into the hall like Sandy Koufax, (fellow Florida alum) Dara Torres, Red Auerbach (among many others).

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12/25: Parsons turns it on, Walker’s redemption

Just three days after putting together their most complete game of the season, the Florida Gators (16-4, 5-1 SEC) showed the tenacity and gumption it takes to win a nail-biter against a talented opponent by defeating the Georgia Bulldogs (14-5, 3-3 SEC) 104-91 in a double-overtime thriller on the road. Head coach Billy Donovan, who saw his team score only 45 points two games ago at Auburn (the lowest point total during his career at Florida), also watched on as the Gators scored 104 points one week later (the most during his UF career against a Southeastern Conference opponent).

WELCOME TO THE CHANDLER PARSONS SHOW

For a player who barely made an appearance in the stat sheet after the first half, Parsons really turned things around the rest of the game and came up clutch in overtime. He grabbed 11 of his 12 rebounds after halftime, scored 18 points (including nine of his team’s 17 in the second overtime) and ended up notching his third double-double of the season (10th of his career).

“I was really proud of his effort on the boards for us,” Donovan said after the game. Parsons chocked up his team’s ability to come through when it counted to their conditioning. “That’s [strength and conditioning coach] Matt Herring getting us up at 6 a.m., doing suicides,” he said. “It didn’t come easy. There were some plays on both sides. That was a big-time win for us, another overtime win that we needed.”

For Parsons, it all comes down to what awaits his team. “We’re still in first place, but we don’t want to let up,” he said. “We’re going to get some rest and try to build on this going into Mississippi State.”

WALKER GIVES IT AWAY, TAKES IT BACK

Junior point guard Erving Walker’s entire career in the orange and blue, it seems, is a mix of “Why did he do that?” and “How the heck did he do that?” moments. His performance Tuesday night was a perfect example.

With 1:32 remaining and his team up six points, Walker turned the ball over at the top of the key, allowing Georgia to score an easy basket. He missed a poorly shot three-pointer on the next possession and followed that up by failing to connect on the front end of a one-and-one with Florida up four and 36 seconds remaining. Walker got another chance to make it right as he found himself back at the line for a one-and-one with the Gators up one and 21 ticks left on the clock; he made the first, missed the second, and the Bulldogs wound up scoring with a game-tying layup to send the contest into overtime.

Walker remained out of it, mentally, in the first overtime. He missed back-to-back shots and committed a costly off-the-ball foul that resulted in two made free throws. That is when he decided to redeem himself by absolutely draining a trey from well beyond the arc to tie the game at 85 and force a second overtime.

“I knew I had put my team at risk with the missed free throws,” he said after the game. “I wanted to make up for it and give our team another life.” Speaking about his big triple, Walker added, “I was looking for [Trey Thompkins] and saw he was back. I didn’t want him to block it. When the clock said two seconds left, I let it go.”

Having always remained confident in Walker, Donovan believed Florida’s attitude in the second half was fueled by his heroics at the end of the first overtime. “I think Erv’s shot probably energized us a little bit,” he said. He also admits that, going into the first overtime, the Gators were “kind of teetering a bit” after giving up an eight-point lead with less than three minutes to go.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/25: Parsons turns it on, Walker’s redemption

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Gators need two overtimes to cage Bulldogs

Giving up a lead at the end of regulation only to come from behind to force a second period of extra time, the No. 23/24 Florida Gators (16-4, 5-1 SEC) defeated the Georgia Bulldogs (14-5, 3-3 SEC) 104-91 in a double-overtime thriller to claim sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday evening at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, GA.

Georgia forward Trey Thompkins put-back a missed shot to send the game into overtime, Florida junior point guard Erving Walker hit a dagger three-pointer to force a second overtime, and Gators F Chandler Parsons took over in the final period to complete Florida’s hardest-fought win of the season.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s comprehensive game story…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gators need two overtimes to cage Bulldogs

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