Donovan confident in Gators’ rebuilt staff

It has been a long offseason for Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan. In addition to serving as a court coach for USA Basketball, traveling across the country recruiting some of the nation’s best high school players and preparing for the 2011-12 season, Donovan had to hire four new staff members including three assistant coaches.

“The only guy that liked me half way decent was our trainer [Dave Werner]. That’s because I take him fishing a lot,” Donovan joked during Florida basketball’s media day on Wednesday.

“In hiring, there [were] a couple things that were concerns for me. One, I felt like I needed some familiarity. People around me that knew me, knew Florida, knew the way we were going to do things here. It can be very time consuming when you have to train three new people. When I say ‘train,’ I’m not talking about coaching train them, but terminology on the court, how you go about recruiting, dealing with players, individual workouts, breaking down tape, scouting reports. All those things are things that need to be taught because it’s their first time doing it this way, not the first time in their career.

“The other thing too is, I talk a lot about our team chemistry, how we play together, chemistry on the court, chemistry off the court. I think it’s really hard to sit there and talk to your team [about that] when your coaching staff doesn’t have chemistry. Players see that stuff. I wanted to try to hire a staff where we all were going to try to make each other better, there were going to be great relationships, great respect and great passion.”

Donovan first reached out to an old friend and a familiar face for fans of Gators basketball. John Pelphrey, fresh off being fired by the Arkansas Razorbacks following five years as the team’s head coach, decided to return to Gainesville, FL where he was an assistant under Donovan from 1996-2002.

“From a familiarity standpoint, bringing John Pelrphey back first was very helpful to me because he had been with me for quite some time,” Donovan explained. “He knew me, knew Florida. I knew he could help the other guys.”

Next up was hiring another experienced assistant. Though there was no direct connection to Donovan, former St. John’s Red Storm head coach Norm Roberts became a top candidate. Like Donovan, Roberts is a native New Yorker, and the two had crossed paths as players and on the recruiting circuit. Roberts had been out of work for a year after being released by St. John’s in 2010.

“Getting the chance to hire Norm was a real big steal for us. Norm’s a high-character, a really good basketball coach,” Donovan said. “He obviously has head coaching experience under his belt at the highest level. He’s been a great guy. I’ve known Norm since we both got out of high school in New York at the same time, played against each other a little bit. Never had a close relationship but we knew each other.”

Rounding out the staff is former University of Florida director of basketball operations Matt McCall. Also serving as a team manager, head manager and graduate assistant during the seven years he worked under Donovan (2004-08), McCall left the program to become an assistant coach with the Florida Atlantic Owls under head coach Mike Jarvis. He is now back in a coaching role and with a lot more responsibilities.

“I don’t think it’s any different than when I was hired by Coach [Rick] Pitino at 24 years old at Kentucky. I started off as an administrative assistant and worked my way up and within 2-3 years was on the road recruiting at 25-26 years old. Matt’s been with me for a long period of time. He’s been involved. He was like an administrative assistant here,” Donovan said of hiring such a young assistant.

“He learned an awful lot at FAU. He had a lot to do with the players that were brought in there along with their staff. They won the league this past year. It’s one of those things when you know somebody as a person, someone that you’ve worked with and someone you’ve been around, it makes it a little bit easier. I don’t think there’s any question that he will do a terrific job for us and is more than ready to handle [it] because he knows exactly what’s going on.

“The one thing that’s great about him is he’s got great energy in recruiting. He’s very passionate about it and he’s very good. On the floor, he knows our system. He knows our style of play. He knows practice. He knows all those things. That will be OK for him.”

Donovan is not only thrilled about the character and talent of his new assistants but also how well they are already meshing both on- and off-the-court.

“It’s great to see those guys work together because you have Norm and John who have obviously recruited at a high level for a long time, and you have Matt who has been here and around and has watched us at Florida try to recruit like that,” he said. “Now you’ve got Matt’s energy and enthusiasm recruiting with the experience of Norm and John. The staff, the way it’s mixing and matching, is very good.

“It really exceeded my expectations of what these guys have done to this point in time. Having to get right into recruiting and develop relationships, having to know the players and find out our system and style.”

The hiring process was not over for Donovan after Pelphrey, Roberts and McCall were in the fold. Strength and conditioning coach Matt Herring also decided to leave the program to become the director of athletic performance with the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA. Donovan replaced him by hiring Preston Greene, who had spent his last three years as the assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Clemson Tigers.

“Hiring those three guys was really great. And then hiring Preston Greene our strength coach, I think we added another really good guy,” Donovan said. “I would say that, right now, our ability to work together, recruit together, coach together, I feel like we’re all on the same page and it has been good.”

If Florida’s chemistry on the court can be built the way its coaches have formed relationships off the court, the Gators have a lot to look forward to this season.

Photo Credits: Unknown, Chris Trotman

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Florida basketball 2011 media day – Donovan

With the Florida Gators beginning 2011-12 fall practice, head coach Billy Donovan and the entire team met with the media Wednesday to discuss the season ahead.


It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” Donovan will sign a five-year extension that will keep him at Florida through the 2015-16 season. Donovan explained that he is currently wrapping up an extension with athletic director Jeremy Foley that will keep him wearing orange and blue at least a little while longer. “I think [we’re] pretty close. Jeremy and I have already agreed on that. Jeremy has really always been proactive with me. Dr. [Bernie] Machen has been great. In terms of us on the same page, we totally are. It’s a matter of me just singing it and getting it done,” he said.

“In this day and age in coaching, it’s very rare that you stay at a job starting my 16th year and you still have the same athletic director in place. It has been our relationship that has made this job and this opportunity for me here so special is my relationship with him. I would think that it would happen soon. Probably need to ask him that question. I’m ready to go. With a couple years left on this contract, the other one would probably be a five-year extension. That’s what Jeremy wanted to do and I’m fine with that. Besides my first year coming in here where it was maybe six years or seven years, because we were trying to rebuild, I think pretty much from there it has always been a five-year deal, and that’s what we talked about.”

Donovan’s current contract earns him approximately $3.5 million per year before bonuses. He took home his first Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year award in 2010-11 and took the Gators to the Elite Eight with a senior-laden team.


Florida’s schedule was one of the toughest in the country last year, and the way it was built for this season is not giving the Gators much of a break before SEC competition begins. UF is set to face Ohio State, Syracuse, Arizona, Texas A&M and Florida State in non-conference action before playing at Tennessee on Jan. 7 to start the first division-less SEC season.

“I told Jeremy – we were trying to add one more game – but because of the lockout right now, they weren’t sure which NBA team they were going to add,” Donovan joked. “We’re trying to obviously play a highly competitive schedule. We want to do that. The only time I was opposed to that was after ’07 with all the new faces. Going forward we want to do that. Looking at it on paper right now, at least preseason, I think we maybe have if not the toughest one of the toughest schedules out there. It’s good for our team to find out where we’re at.

“Certainly have a very early game with Ohio State on the road. We have to play Syracuse on the road, Arizona at home, UAB, Florida State, Texas A&M. We’ve got a lot of high-quality games, not even including our league. There’s a lot for our team to get prepared and ready for. There’s a lot that we’ll be faced with early in the season. Our schedule last year being as competitive as it was probably helped our team going into the league, and I’m hopeful the same thing will happen this year.”


Donovan opened his press conference on Wednesday talking about the hot topic of the offseason – the arrests of forwards junior Erik Murphy and redshirt freshman Cody Larson. He explained that both matters have been resolved and the players have returned to the team after their indefinite suspensions but expressed how apologetic the players were for their actions and how they affected those they care about.

“Both guys were very embarrassed and had a great deal of sorrow and regret for what had happened. A lot of times when people don’t know somebody and they see something like that happen, I don’t think that necessarily defines who they are as people. I know they and themselves and their families went through a lot personally over the last several months with what happened,” he said. “Both of them are extremely sorry for what happened. They know that they don’t want to represent themselves, their families or our program in that way. There were obviously some things disciplinary-wise that we had placed on them while the case was going on. Because it did take quite a bit of time, I think that for both of those guys, they have shown a lot of growth and development as people. It’s time for them to move on and get prepared for the season and our team.

“Erik’s got resolved obviously a lot sooner than Cody’s situation. It was an unfortunate situation, and I don’t think anybody condones any of their behavior. They paid a price for that. I’m just hopeful that this is something they learn from and they grow from and they realize that their leash, so to speak, there’s a lot of eyes on them right now and how they conduct themselves, how they handle themselves. Hopefully this is something that will make them better as people moving forward.”


Florida’s defense under Donovan has – especially over the last six years – been one that tried to take the ball out of their opponents’ hands early by pressing throughout the length of the court with players staying tight on the defender. Due to the Gators’ lack of depth in the backcourt, Donovan had to change that model recently in order for his guards – namely senior Erving Walker and junior Kenny Boynton – to remain energized and play the long minutes they needed to. He may be able to go back to his old ways a bit this year.

“I do think that because we have speed and quickness in our backcourt that we really need to try to get up the floor and be more of a full-court defensive team. That’s not to say that we can do it for 40 minutes, but I would certainly like to do it more than we have in the past,” he said. “Any time you get into a situation where you’re pressing like that, you’ve got to have depth in your frontcourt and right now that’s probably one [thing] that we don’t know. What kind of depth are we going to have because every guy in our frontcourt right now is being put into a completely different and new role than they had a year ago. All of those guys are excited and anxious about the opportunity that is in front of them. Defensively I think we do need to use our speed and quickness and try to be somewhat disruptive and try to utilize the depth we have in our backcourt.”


» On the team having plenty of work to do in order to play at a high level: “This is a team that has a lot to develop going forward. Although Erving and Kenny have played a lot together, there’s going to be three other guys on the floor that they’ve never really played with and vice versa. Our chemistry on the court is something that’s got to be developed very, very quickly because of the strength of our schedule and how competitive it is early. That’s going to take a lot of work. Some of the things we’ll do offensively will change. Some of the things we’ll do defensively will change. It’s going to be new for everybody going into this season. The relationship and the chemistry away from the practice court between all those guys is very good. There’s a great deal of respect. They all like each other. It’s different when you step on the floor and now you got to try to utilize each other’s strengths as a player. I’m hopeful that through starting practice here this week that we’ll be able to kind of work though some of those things and improve.”

» On finding rebounds without many big men down low: “The biggest dilemma I have in some of those unique lineups is can we rebound and can we defend form the power forward position if we don’t have a conventional power forward. The one thing that really probably a lot of people didn’t talk about last year’s team is we clearly had the best offensive and defensive small forward rebounder in the league in Chandler [Parsons]. There was nobody at the small forward spot that could rebound the ball better than him. With him gone and potentially playing three guards, what kind of opportunity do we have to get the ball back on second-chance points and how well can we keep teams off the glass on the defensive end of the floor? Those are real concerns for me with our team because we’re not as long and we’re not as big as we were a year ago. But there’s other things that we do better. We had a +5.5 rebounding margin in our league last year, which was a pretty big margin that there were not too many teams that outrebounded us. If you look at when [Al] Horford and [Joakim] Noah and those guys left, we had a void ether for a couple years in the frontcourt. We had a really difficult time rebounding the basketball and competing up front. “

» On if losing to Butler in the Elite Eight is lingering in his mind: “For coaches it always lingers where you look at how close we were. There were some things in that game that hurt us that were probably somewhat of a weakness of our team the entire year. I thought our guys had a phenomenal year winning the league and getting to the championship game of the SEC Tournament and then a game away from the Final Four. The one area that I didn’t think we were great at was I didn’t think we were a great loose ball team. What happens is, when you go in the NCAA Tournament and the further you advance and the further you move on, the more your weaknesses as a team get exposed. One of our weaknesses was we weren’t a great loose ball team. That game, a lot of people talk about Erving Walker’s shot there, that was one shot and one play. We gave up 12 points the last eight minutes of the game on loose balls with an 11-point lead. I hope for a guy like Erving Walker, who has made a lot of big shots in his career – Kenny Boynton the same thing – that would linger for them somewhat.

“I would hope that going into this season that they can look at why we didn’t get to the Final Four and what we need to do to get better as a team. I can tell you, when you get to that point in the season, if you get to the Final Four. I remember walking off the floor after Michigan State. When you keep getting closer and closer to a championship, I don’t know if it ever settles well for you at any point as close as you get. It’s always difficult, especially when you feel like you’re that close. If we did beat Butler, who knows what would have happened going forward. I do hope that it’s not something that is lingering with them in a bad way but it’s lingering with them [in a way] that’s going to motivate them, drive them to be better and to look at this season as far as things we need to get better.”

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FOUR BITS: Johnson, Donovan, Rosario, Auburn

1 » Four-star power forward Brice Johnson (Cordova, SC), told on Tuesday that the Florida Gators have earned a spot in his top two. The No. 49 player in the country according to Rivals, Johnson is also considering N.C. State and plans to make a decision before the end of October. Florida already has three commitments in their 2012 recruiting class – four-star guards Michael Frazier (Montverde, FL) and Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, NC) and three-star G Dillon Graham (Orlando, FL).

2 » Gators head coach Billy Donovan confirmed while speaking at the Ocala Tipoff Club banquet on Monday that he is discussing a contract extension with Florida. He is about to begin his fifth year of a six-year, $21 million contract that expires after the 2012-13 season. “We’re in the process and trying to get some things finalized,” he said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “When that gets done I don’t know. But we’ve had several conversations about it.”

3 » In one other basketball note, the Sun reports that Donovan said redshirt junior transfer guard Mike Rosario has injured a disc in his back, which he does not believe will stop him from playing this year. “He did a really, really good job lifting and getting stronger and putting on good weight. I thought with the injury, he put on some bad weight that he probably needs to get rid of right now,” Donovan said. “I think this preseason has been up-and-down for him in terms of injuries and different things he’s had to deal with.”

4 » Auburn Tigers head coach Gene Chizik said Monday that Barrett Trotter will remain the team’s starting quarterback heading into Saturday night’s game against the Gators. Auburn has the 106th passing offense in the nation because Trotter has completed just 56 percent of his passes this season for nine touchdowns and six interceptions. The Tigers, however, have four receivers with double-digit receptions and Tortter is nearing 1,000 yards on the season.

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FOUR BITS: Larson, Foley, jump pass, Burton

1 » Once Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan reinstated junior forward Erik Murphy one month ago, it appeared quite obvious that he would make the same decision once redshirt freshman F Cody Larson‘s legal situation was settled. Now that Larson has received a longer probation period and a re-invoked 120-day suspended sentence after violating his probation, Donovan official decided he could rejoin the team after being indefinitely suspended since April. “I think both guys have been through a lot,” Donovan said on Monday, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I think both those guys are really, really remorseful. I don’t think the incident is a reflection of who they are as people. They come from great families. […] I’ve seen a lot of growth from these kids since the incident. That’s encouraging.”

2 » According to a report from USA Today, Florida’s Jeremy Foley is the second-highest paid athletic director in the country, earning $1.55 million in pay. He only ranks behind Vanderbilt’s David Williams ($2.56 million), who holds multiple positions at the school including serving as a general counsel and a fully tenured law professor. The Gators paid Foley a retention bonus of $200,000 in 2011, but he will hit an even bigger one on Jan. 31, 2012 when he is owed $550,000. Additional retention bonuses include $150,000 in 2013, $250,000 in 2014 and $100,000 per year from 2015-18 (though he would likely receive a new contract well before then).

3 » If you were irritated that the LSU Tigers ran the jump pass play on Saturday, the team’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales may be to blame. Gonzales, who used to coach receiver at Florida before being overlooked for the offensive coordinator job in favor of Steve Addazio, left UF in a huff to take the same job at LSU. Gators redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard said after the game that he was a bit suspicious of the play call. “That was cold,” he said. “They did it against us. I looked at Billy on the sidelines, and he was laughing. I figured he had something to do with that.” According to some of the Tigers’ players, that play has been available all season. “”It was something that we always had,” tight end Mitch Joseph, who caught the pass, told the Times-Picayune, “but I couldn’t believe we called it this game. It just happened to be Florida.”

4 » One other tidbit stemming from the Florida-LSU game is a small war of words that has erupted between Gators sophomore running back Trey Burton and Tigers star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Asked to compare Alabama and LSU after the game, Burton said he would choose to face the Tigers’ defense again because the secondary was “not as good as advertised” while Alabama was stronger and more physical. Mathieu, learning of this, took offense and tweeted the following on Sunday: “I love the fact that Trey Burton from Florida opens his mouth and says OUR SECONDARY is not good, lol Boy you are Soft as cotton!” Burton wound up sharing Mathieu’s comments and subsequently changed his Twitter avatar – to this.

Extra BIT » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow talks about playing but losing Sunday’s game, in which he replaced Kyle Orton behind center after the half.

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4 BITS: Larson avoids jail, Pouncey gets fined

1 » Florida Gators redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson will not serve any jail time in South Dakota even though his 120-day suspended sentence was revoked earlier this week by Minnehaha County Judge John Schlimgen due to Larson’s arrest in Florida on April 10. According to KSFY ABC, Judge Schlimgen re-invoked Larson’s suspended sentence due and gave him two more years of probation. Larson’s jail sentence will remain suspended as long as he stays out of trouble and follows a number of terms and conditions set forth by the Minnehaha County State Attorney’s Office. If he violates his probation again, chances are the judge will not be as lenient next time. Larson remains indefinitely suspended from the Gators basketball team because his legal status had not yet been decided until Friday. Head coach Billy Donovan will likely reinstate him soon, as he did with junior F Erik Murphy after his case was settled.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was fined $7,500 by the NFL on Friday due to an unnecessary roughness call he got Sunday against Houston. Pouncey was fined for what the NFL determined was a late hit, though Pouncey said he did not hear the whistle and will not let the fine affect him. “I’m not changing how I play,” he said.

3 » Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap was praised by Pro Football Focus as the second-highest rated player at his position in the league. Dunlap does not have a sack yet this season after registering 9.5 in 2010 (including 8.5 in the final six games). He does, however lead Cincinnati with eight quarterback pressures, which is a great sign for the player. “Once you get one usually you get on a roll. Right now though the first one is the toughest,” Dunlap told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I’m getting quarterback hits and pressures. Eventually they are going to turn into sacks.”

4 » On the injury front, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (sprained MCL) returned to practice for the first time on Thursday since getting hurt in Week 2. He is considered “on track” to play. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy, who has yet to play this year due to a sports hernia/groin injury, resumed practicing this week but was limited. Murphy, a starter in 2010 who was looking like Oakland’s most promising receiver, has fallen on the depth chart due to his absence and will have to work his way back up. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham was injured during practice on Thursday. Graham hurt his hamstring and is questionable to play on Saturday. Though he may not be raking in the scores, he has been an integral part of Tampa Bay’s offense up to this point.

Updating the item above, Hernandez is listed as questionable on the Patriots’ injury report, Murphy will miss one more week, and Pittsburgh’s new left tackle Max Starks has earned the starting role for Sunday’s game.

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FOUR BITS: Larson faces jail, Starks returns to Steelers, Noah spotted, Hill arrested

1 » Florida Gators redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson may have had his legal matter settled in the state of Florida (he accepted deferred prosecution for his misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges) but how his actions will impact his legal status in South Dakota is another story. According to, Larson’s 120-day suspended jail sentence may be invoked due to him violating the law. “Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Aaron McGowan filed a motion this week asking a Sioux Falls judge to drop the suspended sentence and consider jail time on the prescription drug charges from last year,” the website reports. “A court date has been set for Friday. That’s when it will be up to a judge to decide if Larson serves any or all of those 120 days.”

2 » After nearly three months away from football, former Gators offensive tackle Max Starks has officially been re-signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the same team that cut him shortly after the lockout ended due to concerns over his weight and status following offseason neck surgery. Starks, a favorite of the front office but reportedly a problem for the coaching staff, returned Wednesday and found his old No. 78 jersey hanging in his locker. “It was good to see everybody and everybody was happy to see me,” he told the Steelers’ website. “It was like old times. There are a lot of old faces and some new faces. It’s comfortable and it’s home. I am happy to be back.” OGGOA spoke with Starks a few weeks ago in an exclusive interview that will be published on the website in the coming days. He hopes to returns to the NFL gridiron as soon as Sunday.

3 » Back in Gainesville, FL working out with fellow former Florida forward Al Horford while the NBA lockout continues, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was caught by TMZ on Tuesday…having some fun in a pool. No, not that kind of fun. If you care to see two pictures of Noah playing beer pong, you can click here.

4 » Former Gators power forward Dametri Hill was arrested on Tuesday for not paying child support and for two previous charges of marijuana possession. According to the St. Petersburg Times, police caught up with Hill at the Tampa International Airport booked him with a warrant for contempt of court. After leaving Florida, Hill played with the San Antonio Spurs for a short time before pursuing professional basketball in seven countries over a 14-year period. He has recently participated in basketball camps as a coach and had hoped to continue living around the game.

Extra BIT » The University of Florida announced Wednesday that the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut spring game will take place on April 7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It will be a busy day on campus at UF with a track and field meet, baseball game and softball game also taking place.

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FOUR BITS: Young, Jaeckel, cheer, Jenkins

1 » Florida Gators sophomore forward/center Patric Young, one of the most important pieces to the team’s 2011-12 season, was named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list on Monday. The Wooden Award is presented each year to the nation’s most outstanding college basketball player and is awarded after the postseason has concluded. Every player in the nation is eligible to win except freshmen, medical redshirts and transfers. Young is one of seven players representing the Southeastern Conference on the watch list and the only one from Florida.

2 » Gators senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel picked up a pair of prestigious weekly honors after standout performances over the weekend. Jaeckel was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday and was honored with the AVCA National Player of the Week award just one day later. Over the course of two road games against Auburn and Georgia, Jaeckel totaled 29 kills, 12 blocks, four digs and two service aces. Florida swept both opponents 3-0 and is now 11-3 with a 4-1 record in SEC competition so far this season.

3 » UF cheerleader Tarin Moses wrote a Sideline Report blog for, which takes readers through a day in the life of a member of the Gators’ spirit squad before, during and after a big contest at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Though the majority of Florida fans already know of the traditions Moses writes about, the entry is an interesting look at the game from her perspective.

4 » Former Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, playing his final collegiate season with the North Alabama Lions after transferring due to multiple rules violations, was named the Gulf Coast Conference Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday because he had an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal during his team’s game on Saturday. It was Jenkins’s third touchdown of the season (punt return, fumble return), and he is also third on North Alabama with 33 tackles through five games. The Lions have started the 2011 season 5-0.

Extra BIT » Offensive tackle Max Starks has not played a game in the NFL this season after being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers when the lockout ended this summer. Due to a massive amount of injuries and an intense need for a player who knows the system, Pittsburgh flew Starks in to work out for the team on Tuesday,‘s Jason LaCanfora reports. Starks was originally cut by the Steelers due to weight issues and concerns stemming from offseason neck surgery. When asked last week if Starks was an option to return, head coach Mike Tomlin flat-out said no.

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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 “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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