4 BITS: Wilbekin, McDonald, Murphy, Hernandez

1 » Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin has led the Cairns Taipans to the Grand Finals in Australia’s National Basketball League. WIibekin, who registered team-highs of 19 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the team’s semifinal-clinching victory on Sunday, is a serious contender for league Most Valuable Player honors. (He was recently named the Taipans’ MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.) Cairns will take on the New Zealand Breakers in the best-of-three Grand Finals, beginning on Friday. As first reported by OnlyGators.com last week, Wilbekin will immediately leave Australia and the United States to participate in the NBA D-League, regardless of the outcome.

2 » Facing a variety of domestic-related allegations, former Florida defensive tackle Ray McDonald will avoid all charges, agent Tom Condon told teams, according to NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport. McDonald, a long-time starter for the San Francisco 49ers, was cut by the team after a second domestic incident in a matter of months put him under a negative spotlight. McDonald was accused of domestic violence early in the 2014 season but was never charged with a crime with the accusation eventually thrown out. Then, in mid-December, he was investigated on suspicion of sexual assault, another allegation that will not result in charges.

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: Wilbekin, McDonald, Murphy, Hernandez

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Readers’ Choice: Lack of depth at offensive line, linebacker could hurt Florida Gators in 2015

For six days from March 5-10, OnlyGators.com has handed a guest editor role over to you, the loyal reader. This is the first in six Readers’ Choice posts covering topics you want to know more about concerning the Florida Gators athletics program.

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There is simply no hiding the fact that Florida has massive holes at two important positions on its roster entering the 2015 campaign, ones that will make it difficult for head coach Jim McElwain to turn things around in year one.

The Gators will enter spring practice with eight scholarship offensive linemen on the roster, two of which have NFL potential – sophomore offensive tackles Roderick Johnson (redshirt) and David Sharpe – and another with starting experience in redshirt senior left guard Trip Thurman. The other five have either seen limited action or never stepped on the field.

Though Florida has plenty of bodies immediately across the line of scrimmage on defense, the linebackers backing them up make for an even thinner position group. Returning for his senior season and leading the way is Antonio Morrison, and the steady improvement of junior Jarrad Davis should help mitigate some losses. The other four scholarship players have spent the vast majority of their time on special teams.

Continue Reading » Readers’ Choice: Lack of depth at offensive line, linebacker could hurt Florida Gators in 2015

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FOUR BITS: Okine, McElwain, Noah, Arnold

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive lineman Earl Okine signed with the Indianapolis Colts this week after spending time in both the Arena Football League and Fall Experimental Football League last season. Okine, who was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans last May, did not make the team’s regular-season roster. He picked up 28 tackles and 5.5 sacks for the AFL’s Orlando Predators.

2 » Florida head coach Jim McElwain made a statement with his 2015 recruiting class, proving that the Gators were not only able to close strong but also add some out-of-state commitments to the fold. Overall, UF locked up five players from the state of Georgia – including rising athlete Chris Williamson – last cycle after not grabbing a single Peach State prospect in 2014. McElwain this week told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Michael Carvell why he has made Georgia such a priority. “I think [it was due to a] couple things,” McElwain said of why UF had success recruiting the area. “There were pre-existing relationships with some guys on our staff who recruited the area in the past. That obviously helps. But for us, our thought is [to lock down] a five-hour radius around Gainesville. And with that being said, that goes up into Georgia, and that will be something that we’ll try to continue to make Gator Country.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Okine, McElwain, Noah, Arnold

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Chaz Green – Path to the 2015 NFL Draft: Taking steps to becoming a professional

Through the 2015 NFL Draft from April 30 to May 2 in Chicago, Illinois, Florida Gators offensive lineman Chaz Green will keep you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft with exclusive comprehensive blog entries here at OnlyGators.com.

Green checks in for the first time following the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine as he returns to Gainesville, Florida to continue the pre-draft process. In this entry, he takes you inside his journey from the conclusion of the 2014 season through the combine.

Coming out of the bowl game, my first priority was finding the right agent because I know that could make a difference for me. The process started right away, and my father really helped that along. I narrowed it down to a few guys and went with Sports Entertainment Group and Adisa Bakari. He had a body of work that I felt like spoke for itself.

After getting to know Adisa and understanding how committed he is to my life after football, the next step in the process was figuring out where to train ahead of the combine. I knew that if I signed with him I would probably head down to Bommarito Performance Systems down in Miami. Neiron Ball, who is with the same agency as me and was a former roommate of mine at Florida, Trenton Brown and Andre Debose are all training down here in Miami with me, so it was a comfortable situation from the beginning. It made the transition a lot easier, and we all developed a bond that allowed us to push each other just like we did with the Gators.

Continue Reading » Chaz Green – Path to the 2015 NFL Draft: Taking steps to becoming a professional

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Ex-Gators S Chris Johnson’s death ruled suicide

Former Florida Gators football player Chris “Juice” Johnson died Friday night near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the age of 22.

The Ocala Star-Banner was able to confirm Johnson’s death after speaking with Duquesne associate athletic director David Saba and Trinity Catholic High School athletic director Tommy Bond late Saturday night.

On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Johnson’s death was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. An Allegheny County medical examiner determined that Johnson committed suicide in his car.

Continue Reading » Ex-Gators S Chris Johnson’s death ruled suicide

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TWO BITS: Scottie Wilbekin, Percy Harvin, Franco

1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin, a rookie in Australia’s National Basketball League, continues to lead the Cairns Taipans towards the organization’s first title. With the best record in team history, the Taipans (21-7) defeated the Perth Wildcats 71-64 on Friday in the NBL Semifinals. Wilbekin, Cairns’ Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year, registered game-highs of 23 points and 10 rebounds while going 7-for-11 from the field, 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and 6-for-6 at the charity stripe. He also posted four assists and two turnovers in 36:38. Taipans coach Aaron Fearne believes Wilbekin should be under strong consideration for league MVP honors, especially if he leads Cairns all the way to a title. “He’s extremely valuable to us and has been a big focus for opposition teams. For a 21-year-old to come out and have the impact he’s had, he should be a frontrunner (for MVP honors) in my opinion,” Fearne told The Cairns Post on Thursday.

A source close to Wilbekin told OnlyGators.com that the former Gators star will enter the NBA D-League immediately upon returning to the United States. He will join the league’s free agent pool therefore be available to get signed by any team.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Scottie Wilbekin, Percy Harvin, Franco

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Florida to open 2015 spring practice on March 16

The Florida Gators announced Friday that their 2015 spring practice slate will officially begin on Monday, March 16.

With new head coach Jim McElwain holding his first set of practices with the Gators, they will all be closed to the public. UF will, however, open select periods of each practice to media members, meeting with the media himself after 12 of 15 practices. He will also make a nine assistant coaches available once each.

Florida previously announced that its annual spring game, the 2015 Orange & Blue Debut, will be held on Saturday, April 11 at a yet-to-be determined time. It will be the second-straight year that the Gators will hold their spring game on the second Saturday in April after generally holding it on the first Saturday in previous years.

The 2014 spring game, which ended in a 23-23 tie, did not air live on television and was only available live online for $3.99. The last two spring games have been abnormal in one way or another due to limited rosters and player availability.

As Florida practices, it will be doing so in the shadow of the program’s new $15 million indoor practice facility, which is being constructed during the spring and summer with a planned launch date of Sept. 4.

OnlyGators.com will offer complete coverage of Gators football through the spring.

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Florida Gators extend apparel contract with Nike

A Nike program since 1999, the Florida Gators recently signed a seven-year extension with the industry leader, pushing their contract through April 1, 2024.

According to the Portland Business Journal, which obtained a copy of Florida’s contract the week of Jan. 15, the Gators will receive “$3.1 million in Nike product this academic year, one of the highest product allowances in the country and up from the $2.1 million it was previously due.” That total will increase by $100,000 every two years, concluding with a $3.5 million allowance for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons.

In other words, UF will receive a combined total of $2.1 million more in equipment and apparel over the next two seasons than was originally agreed upon when it last signed a contract with Nike in 2013, along with a total over the subsequent five seasons that will provide it with one of the highest allowances in the country.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators extend apparel contract with Nike

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