SIX BITS: Tebow, Brantley, Horschel, volleyball

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has already had a few eventful days in Florida in the month of July. On Saturday – teaming up with Florida’s Blood Centers, the Van Duzer Foundation and Palm Beach Autographs – the former Florida Gators star headlined a 12-hour blood drive in Fort Pierce, FL. Between meeting with fans, signing a ton of autographs (some of which can be purchased here) and speaking about his charities, Tebow entertained the crowd and kept fans wanting more. His First and 15 Foundation was also a featured part of a brand new playroom addition to Shands Children’s Hospital‘s pediatric cancer facility; the organization donated $156,000 used to buy high definition televisions, video game consoles and the like.

Five more BITS on John Brantley, golfer Billy Horschel and more…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow, Brantley, Horschel, volleyball

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FOUR BITS: Young going for gold, Pagan thinking, Gilbert leading, Bullard eliminated from WWE

1 » Competing with the USA Basketball Men’s U-18 National Team in the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men, Florida Gators four-star power forward commitment Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) already wow’ed his coaches and is now impressing his opponents, too. Below are his stat lines thus far:

– June 26 vs. Virgin Islands – 5/7 for 11 points, nine rebounds in 10 minutes
– June 27 vs. Mexico – 2/4 for four points, eight rebounds, two blocks in 20 minutes
– June 28 vs. Argentina – 4/5 for 11 points, five rebounds in 16 minutes
– June 29 vs. Canada – 1/2 for two points, one rebound, one block in 10 minutes

Young will join his team in the tournament gold medal game on Wednesday at Bill Greehey Arena in San Antoinio, TX, against Brazil. Also of note is former Gators five-star guard commit Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL), who set a FIBA record with nine consecutive three-pointers in the USA’s defeat of Canada. Rivers went 3/6 from the field and 9/12 from beyond the arc while posting a tournament-high 35 points.

2 » Almost immediately after committing to Florida, there were rumors that four-star defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, NC) may change his mind. The Gators’ second-best 2011 recruit overall behind quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), Pagan committed back in April, telling Rivals that head coach Urban Meyer “stood up, did a little dance and gave me a hug” when he accepted the scholarship offer. “I decided that I definitely wanted to lock in my spot with the Gators and be part of this team,” he said in April. “I think I’m firm [with my decision]. I don’t plan on taking any more visits or seeing anywhere else. I’m sure people say it all the time, but this feels like home. Florida makes me feel like I am at home.” Now Pagan calls himself “about 50 percent on Florida, but the commitment is still there. It’s strong,” adding that he will “announce whether I’m going to Florida or look elsewhere before the season starts” on Aug. 27.

3 » Florida Today caught up with Florida redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert and picked his brain about a few topics including what happened at the end of last season. “We had guys thinking they were better than they were and weren’t playing up to their potential,” Gilbert said. “We’ve got this saying, ‘No primos and no rock stars. Go out and do your job.’ Everybody is going to work the same amount, and there aren’t going to be any superstars on the team. I think everybody – especially after watching that SEC game in Atlanta – everybody has fire and desire to handle things in a different way because my feeling is, I didn’t think we were that ready. We had a good game plan in and we had the players to beat Alabama, but we weren’t ready to go out there and get the job done because I guess we had been there before. That’s what it seemed like to me. We weren’t as focused. That week of practice wasn’t as it usually had been. It was different.” As for this year? “It’s our time. It’s our team,” he said. “That’s what [the seniors] go by. So anything that goes on, they say this is your team; you have to make the decision; you have to be the leaders; you have to step up. It’s our responsibility. I think we have the guys still who can do the same thing — get back there — because we have a talented group coming back. I think we can be better.”

4 » Former Gators defensive end Thaddeus Bullard‘s (ring name Titus O’Neil) mission to become World Wrestling Entertainment’s next breakout star ended on Tuesday as he was eliminated from the WWE NXT television program. O’Neil, whose background as a football player and master’s degree recipient from the University of Florida was played up heavily by the producers/announcers, did a Gator Chomp when at the top of the entrance rap and was quite powerful in the ring. However, as some might agree, he was one of the least dynamic personalities on the show and was scripted to both lose matches and make mistakes throughout his short time on WWE television.

Photo Credit: Asheville Citizen-Times

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REPORT: Specialist Christy kicks LSU for Florida

Rivals is reporting that kicker/punter Kyle Christy (Brownsburg, IN) committed to Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer Monday night, according to his father Ken.

Christy, who also has an outstanding offer from LSU, recently stated he would commit to the Tigers if he did not receive another offer before his senior season began.

Being recruited by linebackers and special teams coach D.J. Durkin, who took over the latter job for Meyer this offseason, he likely received – and jumped on – an offer from the Gators to eventually replace either senior Chas Henry or redshirt sophomore David Lerner as the team’s punter of the future. The Gators already have four kickers on the roster including junior starter Caleb Sturgis.

Christy can place-kick, punt and kickoff, may be used in more than one role at Florida and is considered one of the top punters in the nation. He averaged 34 yards on his punts in 2009 and converted 25 touchbacks in 59 kickoff attempts as a junior.

UPDATE: He said the following to Rivals later on Tuesday: “It’s amazing. I never really thought I would be able to become a Florida Gator. I had hoped that if they saw me they would want me. I went there hoping to get an offer and it worked out.”

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Bradley Beal reaffirms his commitment to Florida

When five-star 2011 shooting guard Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL) decommitted from the Florida Gators in April, fans and skeptics began assuming the worst – that fellow five-star SG Bradley Beal (St. Louis, MO) would follow suit and leave the program. Instead, Rivers’ departure has maintained Beal’s commitment to Florida, perhaps even strengthening it.

“It’s still solid as I know of right now,” Beal told Rivals last week. “I still talk to coach [Billy] Donovan every week and talk to the rest of the staff pretty much every week so I’m still solid with them. I like their style of play really. I found a system that really fits me best. The offense is great and I like the defense because it’s full court and it’s always up and down.”

Rivers’ decommitment and naming of the Duke Blue Devils as his new leader was not surprising and most consider his chances of rejoining the Gators’ class as slim. However, his decision has also propelled Beal – a top five recruit in the nation in his own right – into the limelight as the prize of Florida’s 2011 recruiting session.

Beal is currently competing with the USA Basketball Men’s U-17 National Team and scored 29 points on nine-of-18 shooting while going five-for-nine from downtown and a perfect six-for-six from the line in a loss to Russia’s U-18 team on Sunday in Lithuania.

Photo Credit: Wiley Price/The St. Louis American

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Story ends with the Gators; WR Ja’Juan commits

Three-star wide receiver Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL) has verbally committed to the Florida Gators, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Story, who visited the University of Florida last week with his uncle, decided to cash in his offer from the Gators and become the ninth member – and second pass catcher – of the team’s 2011 recruiting class.

With offers from numerous other programs including Miami (FL), Florida State, Ohio State and Notre Dame, Story said that his recent visit showed him “everything I’ve needed to see.”

“It was amazing. I got along well with the coaches. When I talked to the academic man, I liked what they had in store for me,” he told the paper. “I don’t even see why I should go somewhere else. […] I told them I’ve been thinking about it and Florida is a school that can help me with what I want to do in life. I want to earn my master’s degree. That’s a good school for me to go to. They have a nice campus. I won’t get bored with it. I plan on going there for four years.”

Story, who also plays quarterback in high school, joins four-star WR Javares McRoy (Lakeland, FL), who accepted his scholarship offer on June 10.

Photo Credit: St. Petersburg Times

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Going camping: Top recruits visit Florida in June

Over the last two weeks, plenty has been going on with the Florida Gators as far as recruiting for the 2011 season is concerned. Since June 10, the Gators have received in four commitments, including four-star wide receiver Javares McRoy (Lakeland, FL) [article], three-star fullback Hunter Joyer (Tampa, FL) [article], three-star offensive lineman Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT) [article], four-star linebacker Ryan Shazier (Plantaiton, FL) [article].

Additionally, the team got a commitment without an official offer from three-star LB Rahim Cassell (Lakewood, CA) [article], and 2012 WR Latroy Pittman (Citra, FL) [article] is all but ready to pick Florida before his junior year of high school even begins.

However, the Gators still have plenty of work to do in order to enhance the current eight-person 2011 class, and the team made a lot of headway as recruits participated in football camps and took visits to the University of Florida in recent weeks.

Update yourself on some of the top 2011 recruits and targets…after the break!
Continue Reading » Going camping: Top recruits visit Florida in June

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REPORT: Harvin unnamed recruit in USC report

As part of the NCAA’s report on infractions surrounding the USC Trojans that led to a two-year postseason ban, a reduction in scholarships and a forfeiture of wins for the program, former USC now New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush was barred from communicating with the program or assisting it financially.

One of the main reasons the Trojans received such heavy sanctions, Bush has been accused of taking $300,000 in improper benefits from sports marketing agent Lloyd Lake, something that the team’s assistant football coach at the time, Todd McNair, allegedly knew but did nothing about.

In the NCAA’s report, one of the most notable contacts between the two parties occurred when Bush was set to host the nation’s top high school recruit following the Oct. 29, 2005, game between USC and Washington State.

McNair, who attempted to contact Bush throughout the night after he abandoned said recruit in his hotel room rather than taking him out, also called Lake’s phone to find out where Bush was and why he skipped out on the meeting.

Though he was not named in NCAA documents, former Florida Gators now Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin has been identified as that very recruit, according to two independent sources who confirmed this to SPORTSbyBROOKS.

In the past 24 hours, a L.A. media source and NCAA source have independently confirmed to me that Percy Harvin was that recruit.

Harvin that year was the top high school football prospect in the country and McNair had been assigned by coach Pete Carroll as his primary recruiter for the Trojans.

Because McNair was charged with recruiting Harvin – and found out through Harvin that Bush was not with him but rather with a sports marketing agent – his knowledge of Bush’s association with Lake is proven, and his lie to the NCAA about not having such information was exposed.

It should be noted that Harvin did nothing wrong in this scenario as presented; he was simply a recruit on a visit waiting to be taken out by the team’s top player. However, it is a very interesting wrinkle considering: (a) how his being neglected ended up aiding the NCAA investigation and (b) he did not join the Trojans and ended up committing to the Gators less than two months later.

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2012 recruit Latroy Pittman ready to commit?

His junior year of high school has yet to begin, but one of the top wide receivers in the state of Florida for the 2012 recruiting session may already be willing and able to pull the trigger for the Florida Gators.

According to the Ocala Star-Banner, Latroy Pittman (Citra, FL) visited the University of Florida last week for a football camp, received a scholarship offer from head coach Urban Meyer and is ready to speak to his family about committing to the Gators.

“[Getting an offer] was exciting. Something I’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Pittman told the paper. “We set up a date after July 4th to sit down and talk about it again. […] I believe [I will commit] over the summer when my mom and dad go back with me. Growing up around the Gators – I always knew I wanted to play in the orange and blue.”

Pittman, who has also received verbal offers from Alabama, Florida State and Georgia (among others), told Rivals he is “about 80 percent” sure and hopes to play at Florida because “it’s been my dream to play there since I was three.”

“I’m really leaning toward [committing],” he added.

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