FOUR BITS: Rainey, Hill, ESPN 300, Demps

1 » Just a couple days after voicing his belief in the talent and potential of former Florida Gators running back Chris Rainey, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was forced to waive the player for non-football reasons. “You can see the athleticism, the burst, the speed,” he said Saturday. “He puts a foot in the ground and gets north and south.” Pagano is expected to address the situation after training camp on Monday, though it is doubtful that he will detail what specific conduct rule that Rainey violated. It will be the second time in as many offseasons that Rainey will be released by a team for non-football reasons. Just one year ago, Rainey was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers after an arrest for domestic violence, a charge that was later dropped and expunged from his record. The Steelers also had concerns about Rainey’s off-field activity including a gambling habit that affected him during his rookie season.

2 » Updating an item from Friday, former Gators safety Will Hill spoke with the media about being signed by the Baltimore Ravens, claiming once again that “everything is behind me” in terms of his marijuana use. “[I was] just being irresponsible,” he said, according to the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson. “Yeah, I feel like I’ve learned. I’m ready to play football. [The Ravens] talked to the [New York] Giants and they had nothing but good words to say about me.” Apparently Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome sat down with Hill and was assured that the player’s drug use – which has been an issue since he started playing at Florida – is now in the back window. “It was just getting comfortable with each other and letting him know that the things that happened before won’t be happening here,” Hill added. Though he will be able to practice with the team and play in preseason games, Hill will not be activated for the 2014 regular season until Oct. 13 as he must first serve a six-game suspension, his third for drug use (second for a substance of abuse) since being signed by the Giants three years ago.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Rainey, Hill, ESPN 300, Demps

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Florida gets third decommitment in nine days

For the third time in the last nine days, a 2015 prospect previously committed to the Florida Gators has changed course and taken back his verbal pledge.

On Sunday, three-star athlete Jalen Julius (Orlando, FL) officially reopened his recruitment. Florida was recruiting Julius as a cornerback, though as he mentioned on Twitter back on July 15, “I want to play [wide receiver] at the next level I feel like I would be a dominant player at that position.”

Three days prior to his decommitment, on Thursday, Julius tweeted that he could not wait to arrive in Gainesville, Florida, to participate in the annual Friday Night Lights camp.

Seven months after three-star defensive back Deontai Williams (Jacksonville, FL) became the Gators’ only 2015 commitment, the self-described life-long Florida fan flipped his pledge to Georgia, pulling the trigger on July 19.

Then, on July 21, three-star wideout Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, FL) announced on Twitter that he is no longer committed to UF after originally pledging to join the program on Feb. 24.

Florida, which now has just eight players committed for 2015, will fall from its 32nd spot in Rivals.com’s team rankings. The Gators, however, are ranked now tied for 10th with an average star rating of 3.5.

Continue Reading » Florida gets third decommitment in nine days

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Live alligator in tow, four-star OT George Brown commits to Florida Gators

Updated on Saturday at 5:45 p.m.

If you’re already going to make a statement and commit to the Florida Gators out of the state of Ohio, doing so with a live alligator by your side is absolutely a good idea.

That is exactly what four-star offensive tackle George Brown, Jr. (Cincinnati, OH) did on Friday when he became the ninth member of Florida’s 2015 recruiting class by committing to the program during a ceremony at his high school.

“I definitely got a big reaction,” Brown told OnlyGators.com on Saturday. “A lot of people got in touch with me after the ceremony staying stuff like, ‘You made my mom cry.’ One guy on Twitter tweeted me a picture of his son and said, ‘Since you committed, this is how my son feels,’ and it was a picture of his son doing a Gator Chomp.

“Now people that are thinking about committing to the Gators pretty soon are going to try to one-up me and get a bigger gator.”

Brown (6-foot-6, 264 pounds) is listed as the 13th-best player at his position by Rivals, which also ranks him as the No. 118 overall player in the nation.

Continue Reading » Live alligator in tow, four-star OT George Brown commits to Florida Gators

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Previewing Florida’s 2014 Friday Night Lights


Mixing pomp and circumstance with football drills and relationship building, the Florida Gators use their annual Friday Night Lights camp at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as both a recruiting tool and means of evaluating some of the best high school football players in the country. The Gators often host top-tier prospects over the FNL weekend but also find diamonds in the rough while coaching up the recruits.

The Swamp will once again filled with some of the top young talent in the nation on July 25, so much so that covering every player that plans to step on the field is a near impossibility. Below are a list of 10 players (in no particular order) to keep an eye on either because of their talent or high level of interest in attending Florida.

OT Martez Ivey (Apopka, FL) –
One of the top offensive tackles in the nation, Ivey is down to Florida and Auburn. His trip to Friday Night Lights should help him feel more comfortable with the Gators, but he will not make a decision until he sees how UF plays in 2014 and determines whether the coaching staff recruiting him will be around next year. A big Florida fan, the Gators are ultimately the team to beat for his services but can just as easily beat themselves and send him across the conference to play for the Tigers.

ATH Ray-Ray McCloud (Tampa, FL) –
McCloud has set his commitment announcement for Monday at 6:30 p.m., and his decision to spend the weekend before that choice is made in Gainesville speaks volumes. Florida is the favorite to pick up one of the most talented athletes in the country but is in competition primarily with UCLA and Clemson. He plays running back, wide receiver and cornerback and will likely do so for the Gators, but as is the case with Ivey, will be keeping an eye on how the team performs in 2014 even if he does choose UF.

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TWO BITS: Spikes, Kitchens; Payton decommits

1 » A pair of former Florida Gators linebackers currently playing for the Buffalo BillsBrandon Spikes and Darrin Kitchens – were taken off the field on Monday. According to NFL Network reporter Albert Beer, Spikes’s hip had been bothering him and he retreated to the trainer’s tent shortly after colliding with another player. However, later reports noted that it was not Spikes’s hip that had acted up but rather he was being treated for dehydration. Moments later, Kitchens was carted off the field with what Buffalo News reporter Jay Skurski termed as “an apparent left leg injury” suffered “during special teams work.” Spikes is on an incentive-laden one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Bills, while Kitchens is attempting to make the team after not being selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. Kitchens signed a three-year, $1.53 million contract with Buffalo and is set to earn $420,000 this season.

2 » For the second time in the last three days, the Gators have lost a 2015 commitment. Three-star wide receiver Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, FL) announced Monday on Twitter that he is no longer committed to Florida after originally pledging to join the team on Feb. 24. An underrated prospect who jumped on UF’s offer after he received it while attending Junior Day at the school, Payton is now believed to be heavily leaning towards USC after recently visiting the program. The Gators now have just eight players committed for the 2015 cycle.

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TWO BITS: Haslem re-signs, Williams flips

1 » Former Florida Gators power forward Udonis Haslem re-signed with the Miami Heat on Friday. A three-time NBA Champion who has played his entire 11-year career with his hometown team, Haslem is Miami’s all-time leading rebounder and is the only undrafted player in league history to hold that mark with a franchise. “Udonis Haslem has been a fixture in Miami over the last 11 years,” team president Pat Riley said in a press release. “He’s a team player, an encompassing all-purpose player, that would play just about any position or role in order to win. It’s been such a privilege and honor to have him with the organization, and I’m so happy that he decided to come back.”

Haslem opted out of a $4.62 million player option to return to the Heat, doing so in hopes of providing the team with enough flexibility to re-sign its star players, including LeBron James. Once again leaving money on the table, his new contract is for two years and approximately $5.59 million, according to The Miami Herald‘s Jeff Goodman. As he is set to earn $2.73 million for the 2014-15 season, Haslem has now passed on a total of nearly $16 million in his career in order to remain with Miami.

2 » Seven months after three-star defensive back Deontai Williams (Jacksonville, FL) became the program’s only 2015 commitment, the self-described life-long Gators fan has flipped his pledge to the Georgia Bulldogs. According to 247 Sports’ of Rusty Mansell and Rivals affiliate UGASports.com, Williams is now Georgia’s 15th pledge for the recruiting cycle. Florida is subsequently down to just nine commitments.

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Four-star LB Jerome Baker commits to Florida, becomes Gators’ highest-rated 2015 pledge

Widely considered one of the top two prospects in Ohio and unanimously ranked as one of the 100 best players in the nation for 2015, four-star linebacker Jerome Baker (Cleveland, OH) announced Friday morning that he will continue his career in Gainesville, Florida, playing college football for the Florida Gators.

Baker (6-foot-1, 206 pounds) committed to Florida over Ohio State and Tennessee, spurning his state school in the process. OSU was once considered the heavy favorite for his services.

Credit Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin with building a “very strong bond” with Baker that was simply unable to be matched by his other finalists.

“Coach Durkin did a great job of selling me on what I would do in their defense and that was probably the best tool that he could use. And he showed me what I would do and what position I would be used for,” Baker told InsidetheGators.com’s Blake Alderman ($).

“He showed me how my role as Will linebacker affects the defense and that was great to see. I spent a lot of time with Coach Durkin and him being my position coach, I love talking to him about football and life and everything. He is such a great person to talk to, and I can open up with him and have a conversation about anything.”

Continue Reading » Four-star LB Jerome Baker commits to Florida, becomes Gators’ highest-rated 2015 pledge

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2016 DB Chauncey Gardner flips to Florida

Though there are eight months left in the 2015 recruiting cycle, the Florida Gators proved Saturday night they also have their eyes set on the distant future, reeling in a commitment from 2016 cornerback Chauncey Gardner II (Cocoa, FL).

Previously committed to the Miami Hurricanes, Gardner flipped his pledge on Saturday by making an announcement on his Twitter account.

“I Would Like To Thank Miami For All The Opportunities They Presented To Me But I’m Taking My Talents To Gainesville #Chomp #GoGators,” he wrote.

Projected as a four-star prospect, Gardner (5-foot-11, 190 lbs.) spent Saturday taking part in a football camp at Florida. It only took him moments after receiving a scholarship offer from the coaching staff to change his allegiance, though there are still 20 months to go before he has to sign his National Letter of Intent.

Rivals.com analyst Woody Womack recently evaluated Gardner as he took part in youth football camps in March (Orlando) and April (Sugar Hill, Georgia).

“[Gardner is] very physical in coverage but does so in a way that wouldn’t draw a penalty flag. It’s clear he loves to hit – something that’s not allowed in a camp setting – but even with the limitations, him he still excelled,” Womack wrote in March.

He came away with a similar evaluation one month later: “He’s fiercely competitive, sometimes to his detriment, but once he learns to hone his emotions he has a chance to be a special prospect.”

Gardner is the third player committed to the Gators for 2016, joining two other cornerbacks in Tre Jackson (Baton Rouge, LA) and Tyler Byrd (Naples, FL).

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